IBM GUI for 4690 ASTRA

Technote (FAQ)


Questions and answers about ASTRA and how it differs from SureVision


Q: How is ASTRA different than SureVision?
A: Functionally, ASTRA and SureVision have many of the same capabilities. Their differences relate to the inner workings of the software. For example, ASTRA uses simple text-based configuration files to create GUI screens, so store staff can design the look and feel of the GUI. SureVision, on the other hand, uses XML. ASTRA is loosely coupled to the 4690 Basic applications, so changes to the GUI do not require the same rigorous testing as changes to the till program. By contrast, SureVision is designed to be tightly coupled.
With ASTRA, navigation of GUI screens is determined by messages displayed on the 2x20 operator display. ASTRA can also vary the options available to the operator through a flexible range of profiles, groups and routing tables. With SureVision, navigation is determined by the same 2x20 messages, as well as lines printed from the receipt printer and input state changes in the application.

To modify the Java™ for POS extension or tight coupling to the 4690 Basic applications, ASTRA customers will require help from IBM services. However, to accommodate post printing, three paths from the 4690 user exit have been exposed, which makes it possible to add lines to the receipt box, change the text on any given button, or trigger any GUI action directly from the till program without IBM services work. With SureVision, some Java extensions for the POS may also be done by the customer.

Both are worldwide offerings. Because ASTRA was developed in EMEA, it remains prevalent in EMEA and has a support team based in EMEA. ASTRA is a P-listed PRPQ in EMEA and AP, while SureVision is an I-listed PRPQ. Similarly, because SureVision was developed in NA, it has a strong base of customers in NA and has a support team based in NA. It is a P-listed PRPQ in NA and LA, while ASTRA is an I-listed PRPQ.
Q: Will ASTRA and SureVision receive long-term support from RSS?
A: Yes. Even though they are PRPQs, our intent is to provide long-term support that is consistent with our investment protection strategy.
Q: Which customers have installed ASTRA?
A: Boots the Chemist, Klaas Kock, Safeway UK, FDB (Denmark), Homebase and Nokia.
Q: If this is a "toolkit," why do I have to pay for every terminal?
A: Because this is a configurable GUI that executes in the POS, not a development toolkit. In other words, this is an incredibly flexible and extensible application, not a standard toolkit.
Q: Do I have to pay for services to implement ASTRA?
A: Out-of-the-box ASTRA enables customers to build their own GUIs with no IBM services required.
Q: ASTRA is available worldwide, but is it suitable for international retailers?
A: Yes.
Q: What languages does ASTRA support?
A: ASTRA has been installed in German, Danish, French and English.
Q. Is ASTRA DBCS enabled?
A. Not yet. A DBCS-enabled version of ASTRA will be released in the future, however.
Q: Does ASTRA support dual displays?
A: As soon as the IBM 4690 OS supports dual displays, yes. This capability will be included with the next release of the IBM 4690 OS.
Q: Can I still use a keyboard?
A: Yes, but it is no longer required.
Q: Can I use a mouse?
A: Yes.
Q: Will ASTRA work with my full-screen (non-touch) application?
A: No, not without modifications that may require services work.
Q: I have an in-house (or ISV-developed) POS application. Will ASTRA work with it?
A: If your POS application is 4690-based, it will most likely be suitable for ASTRA, although some services work may be required. If it is not 4690-based, ASTRA will not work with it.
Q: Will SureVision work with the Specialty PRPQ?
A: Yes.
Q: Does ASTRA require a specific application release or maintenance level?
A: No.
Q: What version/release/maintenance level of the OS is required?
Q: Which terminals will ASTRA run on?
Q: What are the memory requirements?
A: See minimum system requirements below.
Q: Can I use an older IBM touch-screen display, or one from another provider?
A: No, the IBM 4690 OS does not support other touch-screen displays. It only supports the IBM SurePoint Solution (4820).
Q: Why isn't the price capped, as with other applications like GSA and SA?
A: Based on direction from IBM corporate, RSS is moving toward a new product template (IPLA) that does not allow caps. An alternative is to pursue a special bid.
Q: Is there an Enterprise License available for ASTRA?
A: RSS does not offer Enterprise Licenses. Again, an equivalent can be handled via special bid.
Q: Why did RSS release ASTRA as a PRPQ instead of a regular product?
A: To get the product to market as quickly as possible, which will help us meet customers’ budget cycles for 2002 and position ASTRA for roll-outs in 2002 and 2003. This was critical, because there are considerable expenses involved in any GUI implementation (touch-screen displays, terminal memory and in some cases, new terminals). Delaying the ASTRA announce would have caused us to miss these critical budget cycles in most cases.
Q: This offering is focused on customer installation and services — so how will my customer get the appropriate education to ensure a successful rollout?
A: Through a services contract.
Q: What are the minimum system requirements for ASTRA?

  • For 4690 native operation, terminal hardware must be at least an IBM SurePOS 4694, Model 244 with a 266 MHz processor
  • 64 MB memory
  • IBM SurePoint Solution (4820 touch-screen display), or non-touch display with 256 colors, 640x480 resolution and a mouse
Software (one of the following applications):
  • 4690 GSA
  • 4690 SA
Operating System:
  • IBM 4690 OS V2 R3 build level 01A0 or higher
  • IBM 4690 OS V3
  • Microsoft® Windows NT® Rel 4.0 with Service pack 6 or higher (Also requires suitable version of PosWin and Terminal Services for hardware support; does not require such a high level of 4690 OS.)

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