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TI vs. Calculator Hobbyists, Again

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the p0wning-the-market's-not-enough dept.

Hardware Hacking 417

Deep Thought writes "Texas Instruments, already infamous thanks to the signing key controversy last year, is trying a new trick to lock down its graphing calculators, this time directed toward its newest TI-Nspire line. The TI-Nspires were already the most controlled of TI's various calculator models, and no third-party development of any kind (except for its very limited form of TI-BASIC) was allowed until the release of the independent tool Ndless. Since its release, TI has been determined to prevent the large calculator programming community from using it. Its latest released operating system for the Nspire family (version 2.1) now prevents the calculators from downgrading to OS 1.1, needed to run Ndless. This is TI's second major attack on Ndless, as the company has already demanded that websites posting the required OS 1.1 remove it from public download [PDF, in French], obviously to prevent use of the tool. Once again, TI is preventing calculator hobbyists from running their own software on calculators they bought and paid for."

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NO NOT MATH (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32942020)

us mathematicians DO NOT use calculators. We don't do arithmetic. Don't tag this math.

Re:NO NOT MATH (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32942080)

Get your hand off it, you'll go blind if you keep doing that.

Re:NO NOT MATH (1)

indrora (1541419) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942144)

You keep deluding yourself then...

Re:NO NOT MATH (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32942298)

s/us/we/ I guess you don't use grammar either.

Why bother?! (4, Informative)

JamesP (688957) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942026)

Go for HP then. (learn RPN!!)

And even then, if I want to hack it, I'd go for a Palm or software in an iPhone/ Android. The processor and raphics in these things runs circles around calculators.

I understand for some occasions (tests, etc) it has to be a calculator, but I doubt it would be allowed to run modified software.

Time for discreet calculators is almost over.

How long since you were in school? (5, Interesting)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942054)

I understand for some occasions (tests, etc) it has to be a calculator, but I doubt it would be allowed to run modified software.

Which represents a TREMENDOUS market for TI, one that they are not going to give up on so easily. You may doubt that modified software will be allowed, but nobody is looking at checksums before you enter a testing room. The assumption is that you have not modified your calculator, and if that assumption is shaken, it will mean the end of a lot of calculators for standardized tests. If I were to try to guess why TI is fighting these hackers, I would say that it is all about the standardized tests, where TI calculators are exceedingly popular.

Re:How long since you were in school? (2, Informative)

Journey72 (1762034) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942076)

Other schools may be different, but at mine, on any test that we took in math class, our teacher would reset our calculators to its factory defaults.

Re:How long since you were in school? (1)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942086)

That was not the procedure on any of the exams I took in high school. We were not allowed graphing calculators in our math classes, but they were allowed in physics and chemistry, and there was just a casual inspection of the calculator to ensure it was not above a certain model number. Perhaps things have changed over the past 5 years?

Re:How long since you were in school? (1)

Journey72 (1762034) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942108)

Well, this was for trigonometry, and we did have some tests where we were not allowed to use calculators.

Re:How long since you were in school? (5, Funny)

Legion303 (97901) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942190)

That's right, kids, in the real world you won't have access to reference materials and may very well need to solve equations in your head to save your life, MacGyver style.

In elementary school I wasn't allowed to count on my fingers because the teacher thought it was more important to know addition tables by rote instead of relying on other learning methods. So I learned to visualize counting on my toes. I wound up with a B.Sc. in theoretical mathematics. They sure showed me.

Re:How long since you were in school? (3, Funny)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942252)

In elementary school I wasn't allowed to count on my fingers because the teacher thought it was more important to know addition tables by rote instead of relying on other learning methods.

Of course. After all, you could lose your fingers in an accident, and if rely on your fingers to count, you'll be lost. :-)

Re:How long since you were in school? (1)

jamesh (87723) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942408)

That's right, kids, in the real world you won't have access to reference materials and may very well need to solve equations in your head to save your life, MacGyver style.

Yes! When the zombie uprising comes along and all the calculators are destroyed (why the calculators? who knows!) you'll be thankful when you're trying to figure out the number of bullets you can afford to sink into each zombie.

Seriously though, if primary school maths is just "how to use a calculator" then it's being done wrong.

Re:How long since you were in school? (4, Informative)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942096)

we weren't allowed used any programmable calculators or calculators which could store info.

I went to college in the 60s.. (1)

the_rajah (749499) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942440)

Back then we didn't even have calculators and it was tough to write a crib on your slide rule.

I still have my slide rule. You never know when civilization is going to collapse and you can't get calculator batteries for your non-solar powered ones.

Re:How long since you were in school? (3, Interesting)

JamesP (688957) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942098)

I graduated in 2004.

Funny enough, in my university there were ZERO TI Calcs, we would all be in HP48/HP48+ and beginning to see the 49s... (not in US, as you may have guessed)

But I've seen TI calcs (in France), people would use TI-92s and entry-level models, still, there was one HP48 in my class there.

[quote]If I were to try to guess why TI is fighting these hackers, I would say that it is all about the standardized tests, where TI calculators are exceedingly popular.[/quote]

Makes sense... Still, I'd guess they would ban the 'fancy' calculators.

At the same time, people would not check the fact that some people had entire tests solved on their 48G+ (I had the 48G)

Re:How long since you were in school? (2, Insightful)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942118)

I graduated high school in 2005 in the USA, and graphing calculators were actually encouraged in many courses, and allowed on some standardized tests.

At the same time, people would not check the fact that some people had entire tests solved on their 48G+

I saw the same thing on the TI-83, and it was not just tests -- I saw people storing entire textbooks (which surprised me, since I thought the calculators had limited memory). Somehow, this never seemed to catch the attention of the teachers...

Re:How long since you were in school? (1)

jridley (9305) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942286)

Heh, I graduated in 1982, and I was one of the few people who had a calculator. I think I paid > $50 for a 4 function calculator earlier in high school, for my senior year I bought an HP32E which I think set me back a couple hundred bucks. I worked more than a month to be able to buy it. I don't think it had any memory at all apart from the stack and the statistics registers.

I wasn't allowed to use a calculator at all on tests in most classes. OK, I was a smart ass and brought in a slide rule, the physics instructor let me use it, I think because he thought it was funny. It was useful as a double-check.

Re:How long since you were in school? (2, Insightful)

Hellahulla (936042) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942378)

OK, I was a smart ass and brought in a slide rule, the physics instructor let me use it, I think because he thought it was funny. It was useful as a double-check.

Hey I did that, we weren't allowed calculators so brought my Granddad's old slide rule for a joke and was allowed to use it. Thankfully I knew how to use it and it wasn't just there as a funny looking ruler :)

Re:How long since you were in school? (1)

crow_t_robot (528562) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942340)

I went to a University in the US starting in 1996 and graduating in 2000. My first engineering class required the HP48 from day one and it was the calculator we all used for the next four years of Electrical Engineering curriculum. I have still used an HP (use an HP50G now) through my entire engineering career. It appears there have been American universities out there for a while that can appreciate the product that HP produces.

Re:How long since you were in school? (2, Funny)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942148)

"This slide rule has obviously been tampered with! So said the teacher!"

"A slide rule? Luxury! When I was a school boy we only had an abacus!"

"Ha, that's nothing! When I was in school we weren't allowed to count using our fingers!"

(With apologies to Monty Python's Four Yorkshiremen sketch)

Re:How long since you were in school? (4, Funny)

pmc (40532) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942162)

(With apologies to Monty Python's Four Yorkshiremen sketch)

When I were a lad it were the Three Yorkshiremen sketch.

On't radio.

Re:How long since you were in school? (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942328)

Three Yorkshiremen? Luxury! We only had sketches which didn't have any Yorkshiremen at all!

Re:How long since you were in school? (1)

cyp43r (945301) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942356)

Sketches? We used to DREAM of sketches!

Re:How long since you were in school? (1)

siwelwerd (869956) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942426)

Dreams? We had to stay awake all night to keep a lookout!

Re:How long since you were in school? (1)

Mikkeles (698461) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942422)

We only had the original Etch-a-Sketch, which consisted of a flat rock, a chisel, and a hammer.

Re:How long since you were in school? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32942178)

Standardized tests should never include calculators. They are to test knowledge of concepts, not button pushing skills.

Re:How long since you were in school? (2, Insightful)

jamesh (87723) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942460)

Standardized tests should never include calculators. They are to test knowledge of concepts, not button pushing skills.

If the calculator allows you to focus on the concepts being tested instead of basic arithmetic then isn't that a good thing? Looking up trig tables and doing the multiplication by hand doesn't strike me as a good way of testing the concepts of trigonometry. And while there are many ways of showing an understanding of the concepts other than seeing if you get the right final answer, it's by far the easiest measurement.

If basic arithmetic is the thing being tested then by all means, ban the calculator from that test, but a blanket statement of "standardized tests should never include calculators" is kind of dumb.

Re:How long since you were in school? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32942198)

Back when the TI-85 was first hacked (was it around 1996?), it set off a wave of calculator games at the high school I attended. Furthermore, it was trivial to use the thing for writing down all of your cheat sheet material for easy access during testing, for math and science classes at least. Since then, I would be surprised if teachers/administrators haven't caught on.

Re:How long since you were in school? (1)

Lionel Debroux (807362) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942248)

People deciding the blunder of banning TI calculators from education would be _severely_ incompetent:
* an unfixable exploit which enables hack-ish installation of arbitrarily modified OS on TI-68k calculators has been known for 11 years... but it did not get TI calculators banned from standardized tests for that very reason.

* the factorization of all interesting 512-bit RSA public keys used for signature of OS and FlashApps, and therefore the seamless installation of arbitrarily modified OS (resigned with the deduced private keys) on TI-Z80 and TI-68k calculators, was made in 2009... but again, it did not get TI calculators banned from standardized tests for that very reason.
Nowadays, we're even fixing TI's bugs for them (there's an unofficial patch for the terribly unstable OS 2.53 MP for 84+ - the bugfix was reported months ago to TI, but they still don't provide it to users).

Re:How long since you were in school? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32942280)

What I don't understand: these calculators aren't *that* expensive (~$170) on the scale of other university lab equipment purchased for student use. The school should recommend a model, students can buy and fiddle with it all they want, and when it comes time for exams the school takes a stack of bog-standard ones from a locked cabinet and hands one to each student to use during the test to be recovered at the end. The calculators can be re-used year-to-year. Cheating problem solved.

And if they're recommending a model for students to buy they should be able to cut a deal to get the relevant calculator practically for free from the manufacturer.

Re:How long since you were in school? (1)

Kjuib (584451) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942308)

The only way to get people not to cheat on test is give them nothing to cheat with. Which means either you take their intelligent essence to an alternate reality... or you can just give them a calculator instead of letting them use their own.

Re:How long since you were in school? (1)

MacGyver2210 (1053110) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942386)

For standardized tests I have taken (SAT, ACT, entrance exams, etc) they have always provided us with a calculator with nowhere near graphing functionality. For most standardized tests, a graphing calculator is far more than what's needed, so the testing centers usually shell out a box of $10 calculators.

Most tests I have been to have outright NOT allowed any graphing calcs because you can program most of them as they are. It's trivial to put in an answer-key program in TIBasic let alone Assembly or whatever else they're using to mod these things.

Re:How long since you were in school? (1)

Luckyo (1726890) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942466)

There are quite a lot of schools outside US in EU that also allow various TI calculators for standardised tests. I did my finals in 2000, and one of the worst things from schools perspective even back then was customised software. They required us to give the calculators away a week before the test so that faculty could check for software changes and reset the calculators to factory settings.

Re:Why bother?! (0)

anss123 (985305) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942088)

Go for HP then. (learn RPN!!)

IIRC HP quit the calculator business.

And even then, if I want to hack it, I'd go for a Palm or software in an iPhone/ Android. The processor and raphics in these things runs circles around calculators.

Sure, and a PC runs rings around Cell phones. That does not make them great calculators however, as it's the tiny math related buttons you want.

Time for discreet calculators is almost over.

Can't say I've had use for a discreet calculator since my school days, but there will probably always be a small market for 'em.

Totally agree (2, Informative)

crovira (10242) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942090)

Who the [expletive deleted] would want to mess with a TI?

You're much better off using an HP.

RPN got me into stack architecture, FORTH, Smalltalk and lots of other things.

Re:Totally agree (1)

jridley (9305) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942306)

It's too bad HP doesn't make real calculators anymore. All of them have that cursed = sign on them. They have an RPN mode, but I don't like that they even have an algebraic mode.

I'd buy an older one off eBay but they're pretty expensive these days. I used to have an HP15 but I haven't seen it for years now (cry).

Re:Totally agree (1)

Pinky's Brain (1158667) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942342)

I don't understand why people would want to pay for either HP or TI, they are both overpriced for what they deliver.

A Casio FX-9860G Slim is dirt cheap, great processor, decent screen, the absolute best form factor and a complete C SDK. No native RPN, but plenty of add-ons for that.

Re:Why bother?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32942112)

What is a "discreet" calculator? It's shy?

Re:Why bother?! (1)

daremonai (859175) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942346)

No, it's one that you can use to calculate your income/profits, and it won't report them to the IRS. Really a good idea.

Re:Why bother?! (1)

cyp43r (945301) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942366)

It's a calculator and not a device like an iPhone or a PC that can be used as a calculator.

Re:Why bother?! (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32942150)

+1

If you use graphing calcs and own an ipod touch or iphone, I suggest checking out this [iphone-calc.com] .

Its $0.99, ands beats the pants off of the ti83/84 series (pinch zoom rocks for function graphs!)

I did a demo in one of my classes last semester and (not surprisingly) all students which own such devices said they'd rather use this instead of a standalone calc. we're thinking of buying a set of calcs for instructor checkout during exams, thereby eliminating the need to force hundreds of our students to shell out $100+ for a calc they'll use for a semester and then forget about
 

Re:Why bother?! (1)

jridley (9305) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942312)

We donated our TI calc that we had to buy for our daughter in high school (specific model required) to the high school, to loan out to students. If all those students have these calcs that they're never going to use again, why not donate them?

battery life (1)

SuperBanana (662181) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942228)

And even then, if I want to hack it, I'd go for a Palm or software in an iPhone/ Android. The processor and raphics in these things runs circles around calculators.

Battery life in my HP 48GX runs circles around your Android. It sits in my desk, and any time I need it, it works; battery life is dependent on how long you actually use it- there's little standby drain. I cannot remember the last time I replaced the 3 alkaline AA's.

Also, I bet your Android doesn't get faster after you've charged the battery! :-P

Re:battery life (1)

JamesP (688957) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942256)

Try plotting a Root locus [wikipedia.org] graph on a 48GX

I know, the batteries on these things runs almost forever, still, it's way underpowered for some things.

The software is great but it could be a tad better (and the 49's had a better processor, EMULATING the older processor)

HP (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32942038)

Why use TI

HP make better calculators (with RPN), and they encourage the community.

Why? (1)

jlp2097 (223651) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942042)

Seriously - why are they trying to stop this? It's not like there is a huge app store (phones) or a huge market for pirating apps (nintendo ds/psp) where they would lose money by allowing this. Can somebody explain the reasoning behind their unwillingness to allow hobbyist applications to me?

Standardized tests (5, Informative)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942066)

There is a huge market for graphing calculators because of standardized tests, and those tests have specific requirements on the limits of the calculator's functionality. If you can modify the calculator's firmware, then you can make a run around those rules -- the inspections of calculators rarely involve turning the calculator on, and even if it did, it would be trivial to disguised hacked firmware. These standardized tests rely on a perception of fairness and accuracy, which creates a requirement for standard calculator firmware, which means that a major part of TI's calculator business is created by the un-hackability of their calculators.

Re:Standardized tests (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32942142)

Then either don't allow calculators at all or provide standard calculators.

Re:Standardized tests (2, Insightful)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942210)

Look, I agree completely: don't allow calculators. The problem is that you then have to change the entire curriculum around. For example, a typical physics problem will involve computing a few sines and cosines, but without a calculator, students must either:
  1. Learn how to read trigonometric tables
  2. Learn how to compute sines and cosines by hand

Or in other words, we have to expect our students to have a skillset that was abandoned decades ago. Worse, we may have to abandon requiring numerical answers all together, and switch to something more abstract -- the last time that was tried, it was a miserable failure (see: new math).

Or, as you mentioned, we could have the schools give students calculators. This would require a change to the education budget, since schools would become responsible for buying and maintaining calculators; in some areas, such as the city where I grew up, that would be a major expense and a difficult thing to do (politically).

As I said, I agree with you, but I see why schools are not doing these things: it is not convenient.

Re:Standardized tests (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942310)

Or, as you mentioned, we could have the schools give students calculators. This would require a change to the education budget, since schools would become responsible for buying and maintaining calculators; in some areas, such as the city where I grew up, that would be a major expense and a difficult thing to do (politically).

Well, when I was in school, we got calculators through the school which we had to pay for ourselves. They were not graphing, they just could calculate numbers. They did have things like trigonometric functions and logarithms, and even some statistics functionality. They did not have permanent storage. They were certainly sufficient for calculating answers e.g. in physics.

Re:Standardized tests (2, Informative)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942470)

They're called scientific calculators as opposed to graphic calculators, as far as I can tell. I used one of those for my calculus class, they cost $10 to $15 nowadays.

skill set abandoned?? (1)

zoomshorts (137587) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942454)

"Or in other words, we have to expect our students to have a skillset that was abandoned decades ago. Worse, we may have to abandon requiring numerical answers all together, and switch to something more abstract -- the last time that was tried, it was a miserable failure (see: new math)."

I can still do it all by hand, or using a slide rule and interpolating tables is not hard. It
all got us to where we are today, it cannot be denied. Space flight, slide rules and log tables.
Computers... you guessed it, and when batteries fail, what ya gonna do? Call Ghost Busters???

The real test is not how well you can push buttons, the real test is how much you know and how
much you can derive, from the given data !!! NIGGAHS!!!

Re:Standardized tests (5, Insightful)

Miamicanes (730264) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942402)

> Then either don't allow calculators at all or provide standard calculators.

Or require students to use a specific model of calculator, with their names printed on the back. Before each test, collect the calculators, shuffle them, and hand them out randomly. Statistically, absent wholesale class-wide collusion, your problem is solved.

Re:Standardized tests (1)

Lionel Debroux (807362) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942260)

> amajor part of TI's calculator business is created by the un-hackability of their calculators.
On the contrary: it's a fact that their past calculator lines, TI-Z80 and TI-68k, are _very_ hackable. Yet they sold millions of them (and it's precisely their hackability - games - that makes them more desirable for users than a number of other calculator models) !

Re:Standardized tests (1)

jlp2097 (223651) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942292)

So by doing this they are not serving their actual customers but bowing down to the pressure of school / testing entities. Interesting indeed.

As somebody who's not from the US I've never quite understood why TI behaved this way. But they are basically bowing down to SAT and other tests like this. Thanks for the explanation!

Then... why not release a hackable calculator? (5, Insightful)

IYagami (136831) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942444)

I mean, if there is enough market for a hackable calculator, then TI should sell another model which its user could load software into.

Re:Why? (1)

Spazntwich (208070) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942068)

Cheating?

I envy highschool kids these days. Those hoops sure would have been a lot easier to jump through if I'd had access to these sorts of tools.

Re:Why? (1, Interesting)

hedwards (940851) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942134)

I'm curious as to how exactly one can use these for cheating. IIRC the SATs and most standardized tests don't allow you to have a graphing calculator. Any decent math teacher requires students to show their work, which a graphing calculator can't do. At best they can check to see if the answer you got matches what it should, but that's about it.

Re:Why? (2, Interesting)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942218)

You can load up the calculators with textbooks and example problems, or programs that show you step-by-step methods of solving certain classes of problems (not kidding, I saw such a program implemented in Python once).

Re:Why? (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942224)

To start with, you could store information on them which you were supposed to have in your head.

Re:Why? (1)

Spazntwich (208070) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942284)

Think more sciency. Equations, conversions, laws, definitions, charts. Shit, a periodic table hidden in my calculator would have bumped my chemistry grade a full letter. Phase change maps, orbitals, and shit? Balanced redox reactions for any conceivable chemicals? Game over.

As for standardized tests, it's been too long for me to know. They allowed TI-83s the 7 years or so ago that I took it though.

Re:Why? (2, Informative)

Cwix (1671282) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942288)

http://sat.collegeboard.com/register/sat-test-day-checklist#calcPolicy [collegeboard.com]
http://www.actstudent.org/faq/answers/calculator.html [actstudent.org]

Both the SATs and the ACTs allow graphing calculators. The SATs are actually more lenient prohibiting only calculators with a qwerty keypad, the ACTs ban the TI-89/92(+) Series or calcs because of the CAS (Computerized algebraic solver IIRC)

What would HS have been like (3, Insightful)

KingArthur10 (679328) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942048)

I couldn't have survived high school without something to keep my mind occupied. I constantly programmed on my TI-83+, and I couldn't imagine NOT having the ability to script tasks or create random programs for fun. The TI-83 got me into programming, and it's helped me hone many of my logic skills!

Re:What would HS have been like (1)

siwelwerd (869956) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942360)

Likewise. I first started programming when I was in high school on my TI-89. First in the horrendous TI-Basic, and then I found TIGCC. Not sure what I'd be doing today if I hadn't got interested in programming then.

Whats wrong with the world? (1)

Danieljury3 (1809634) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942050)

Where even calculator manufactures are trying to control how we use things we pay for. Why do they even care how we use them after we pay for them?

Re:Whats wrong with the world? (1)

perpetual pessimist (1245416) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942084)

I don't understand it either. You'd think that the people running the company were far more interested in having control over their customers than in having their customers' money.

Can't someone in marketing break into a board meeting and explain to these cretins that the more versatile a product is, it is usually more attractive to a wider segment of the potential customer base, which tends to result in more sales.

Re:Whats wrong with the world? (1)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942104)

In this case, too much functionality would seriously hurt sales. There really is no market for graphing calculators except in school, and most schools put limits on the allowed functionality of calculators. Thus, if TI allows hackers to modify the calculators and extend the functionality, it means their calculators will be banned from education settings...and there will not be a market for them.

Re:Whats wrong with the world? (1)

Lionel Debroux (807362) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942236)

I'm not really convinced that too much functionality would hurt sales - but it's a fact that the lackluster functionality of Nspire calculators, prior to Ndless, _did_ hurt sales ;-)
It's pretty easy to understand why: Nspires are expensive, and users don't get much for their money. The first version of the OS didn't even contain any form of BASIC programming (!!), and that four years later, the BASIC of Nspires remains sub-par compared to the TI-Z80 and TI-68k BASIC.

As for TI calculators being banned from education... people deciding such a blunder would be _severely_ incompetent:
* an unfixable exploit which enables hack-ish installation of arbitrarily modified OS on TI-68k calculators has been known for 11 years... but it did not get TI calculators banned from standardized tests for that very reason.

* the factorization of all interesting 512-bit RSA public keys used for signature of OS and FlashApps, and therefore the seamless installation of arbitrarily modified OS (resigned with the deduced private keys) on TI-Z80 and TI-68k calculators, was made in 2009... but again, it did not get TI calculators banned from standardized tests for that very reason.
Nowadays, we're even fixing TI's bugs for them (there's an unofficial patch for the terribly unstable OS 2.53 MP for 84+).

Re:Whats wrong with the world? (2)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942156)

Because they want to sell them to schools and students. Only naïve students and administrators would actually buy their somewhat useful, but priced way beyond their utility in today's market, devices.

HP50G (1)

crow_t_robot (528562) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942056)

Learn it.
Love it.
Never look back.

Casio FX-82 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32942350)

For scientific calculating just use a Casio FX-82, which sets you back about two dollars (no kidding). Most models have over 130 scientific functions.

If a problem can't be (easily) solved with that one, there's Mathlab or one of the many clones. I can't imagine someone trying to do symbolic algebraic manipulation on a tiny screen without a full keyboard.

Graphing calculators? I just don't get it, there is nu business case for them, yet everyone thinks they need one.

No, (0)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942062)

TI is not "preventing calculator hobbyists from running their own software on calculators they bought and paid for." They are selling calculators that are exceptionally difficult to run your own software on (a stupid move), but they are doing nothing to prevent you from doing do so should figure out how. If you don't like that don't buy one. None of your rights are being infringed. You got what you paid for and you are free to do with it as you will.

Where is the news? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32942072)

Same thing like any other vendor (except open source ones) is trying these days.

Apple controls software installation through iTunes (and very rigorous rules). Amazon, Apple and Google can remove software from your hardware.
TI is only trying the same stunt ...

THIS IS NOT A PROBLEM !! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32942078)

This is a good thing for all concerned !!

You replace your phone every year so why do you play with that old toy?

preventing hobbyist software? (1)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942116)

the company has already demanded that websites posting the required OS 1.1 remove it from public download [PDF, in French], obviously to prevent use of the tool. Once again, TI is preventing calculator hobbyists from running their own software on calculators they bought and paid for.

If I'm parsing the "their" correctly, TI is preventing hobbyists from running hobbyist software? Perhaps, but TI is also trying to prevent hobbyists from running a buggy version of TI software. A little objectivity is a good thing.

Not a justification (2, Insightful)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942130)

Why should TI prevent hobbyists from running buggy or out of date software?

Re:Not a justification (1)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942204)

Why should hobbyists be allowed to distribute TIs (buggy or out of date) software without permission?

Re:Not a justification (1)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942230)

Because they want the features that the out of date software provides? Because TI is not distributing it?

Yeah yeah, copyright, and TI should be deified for having created some software and if they say you can't have it, you can't, even if all your friends do.

Re:Not a justification (1)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942268)

So, basically, "because they want to".

Thats not a good answer.

Re:Not a justification (2, Insightful)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942302)

More like, "they want to do something else, and need the old firmware in order to do it." Why should we care about copyright if the copyright holder is not even bothering to distribute the work in question?

Re:Not a justification (1)

xouumalperxe (815707) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942316)

so if I make a porno with my gf for our own amusement, you're entitled to distribute it (if you can get it in the first place) because "Why should we care about copyright if the copyright holder is not even bothering to distribute the work in question?" See the problem with that?

Re:Not a justification (2, Insightful)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942338)

you're entitled to distribute it (if you can get it in the first place)

If I can get it in the first place. Did you give it to me, or did I illegally enter your home and take it?

If you give it to me, ask me to not give it to others, and then I choose to be an asshole and give it to others, then that makes me untrustworthy, but that is about it. You cannot claim that as someone who produced some creative work, you have the absolute right to dictate that some group of people is allowed to have it, and some group is never allowed to have it. In fact, we have a requirement that copyrights expire and that creative works enter the public domain for that very reason: people who make creative works are not gods.

Re:Not a justification (1)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942456)

You cannot claim that as someone who produced some creative work, you have the absolute right to dictate that some group of people is allowed to have it, and some group is never allowed to have it. In fact, we have a requirement that copyrights expire and that creative works enter the public domain for that very reason: people who make creative works are not gods.

No, people who make creative works are not gods, but you seem to be confused - yes, copyrights expire and creative works do enter the public domain, but until then yes the producer (or copyright owner if that copyright has been sold by the producer) certainly has the right to dictate exactly which group of people can have the work, and which cannot.

Part of copyright is the right to not to distribute, and that right is just as valid as being able to distribute.

Re:Not a justification (1)

JohnRoss1968 (574825) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942388)

let make that a little closer to what he was saying...
If you make a porno with your girlfriend then distribute it then stop distributing it ....see how that clears up the problem.

Re:Not a justification (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32942240)

RTFA. If this was just about distribution, why would TI cripple the calculators to prevent loading of said software, hmm?

Re:preventing hobbyist software? (3, Informative)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942140)

Actually, from the sound of it, TI are preventing the hobbyists from distributing software that TI hold the copyright for and the hobbyists do not have permission to distribute - can't really see an issue there.

Re:preventing hobbyist software? (1)

Cwix (1671282) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942364)

Ti is refusing to let you downgrade your OS to the one that came with the damn calculator. Even if they are 100% legal in doing it, its a dick move.

Re:preventing hobbyist software? (1)

Lionel Debroux (807362) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942374)

Please RTFA: TI is doing much more than just preventing us from mirroring their software (which they don't bother doing themselves) ;-)

The problem is schools! (3, Insightful)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942146)

Well, not the schools specifically. But that schools are TI's primary market for graphing calculators, and they have a huge markup due to using outdated hardware, so they're going to want to push them.

Unfortunately, schools require the calculators to be crippled to prevent their use for cheating (which could be non-math related cheating...), thus ensuring that students will learn to lean on devices that they will never see in their subsequent careers in industry or research.

If the portable math-machine really were something that people felt they needed, you'd see iPhone apps that were actually useful: the hardware is far more capable than the piddling processors they're putting in the math-class toys, or you'd see the prices of dedicated hardware drop into the $10-$20 range that scientific calculators have been in for decades.

Graphing calculators, at the moment, seem to have little more purpose than to bilk schools out of money from well-meaning but ill-informed "technology initiatives."

Best answer (1)

erroneus (253617) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942184)

Write your own hobbyist OS. Someone needs to disassemble the 2.1 OS then translate it into accurate and detailed pseudo-code. After that, another team needs to take the results of the first step and write it again using the pseudo-code as the map. Once that works achieving a high level of compatibility, then focus on improvements that will better enable functions and features.

Alternatives and other issues aside, a real hobbyist solution is to build one's own OS.

Re:Best answer (1)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942242)

The calculators are locked down and check digital signatures on software, hence the problem. It is not just that the new software is missing features; the calculator is designed to stop you from adding those features on your own. Avoiding the new firmware is fine, but when someone buys a new TI calculator, it is going to come with the new firmware.

Re:Best answer (1)

Lionel Debroux (807362) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942304)

Exactly, mod parent up.
While we can (and do) build our own OS for TI-Z80 and TI-68k calculators, especially since we factored the RSA public keys used for signature (but before that on both series, in a more hack-ish way), TI has taken significant extra effort for preventing us from doing the same on Nspire calculators. Multiple layers of signature with 1024-bit RSA keys, to begin with.

And we're already working on reverse-engineering OS 2.1 ;)

Why??? (1)

halfdan the black (638018) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942220)

What's the point of TI going to such measures to lock down the calculator? How does people running their own programs hurt TI? TI does not sell apps do they? Look at one of the big selling points of devices like the iPhone: the ability to buy and/or develop your own software for it, the choice of thousands of third party apps make the iPhone and other similar devices very appealing.

So, what does TI have to gain by locking down the calculator???

BTW, I used to be a big calculator use, both HP and TI, but now I've found a very nice and far more capable replacement: a nice netbook, running Ubuntu with Mathematica!

Re:Why??? (1)

Lionel Debroux (807362) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942336)

> How does people running their own programs hurt TI?
Agreed, it helps them selling more calculators (because TI-Z80 and TI-68k moddable calculators are more desirable to users than a number of other little programmable models).

> TI does not sell apps do they?
They did, many years ago. But they stopped doing so.

-1 TI (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32942278)

Yet another reason to get an HP. Just looking around the office, Most engineers use HPs. Looking at the breakdown therein, the more competent engineers tend to us HP while the warm bodies tend to use TI. There are a few exceptions but not many.

What about TI's freedom? (0)

Z8 (1602647) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942294)

Once again, TI is preventing calculator hobbyists from running their own software on calculators they bought and paid for.

So what? As everyone else said, there's no point in buying a TI to do real math and graphing—just buy a laptop and put Sage/Octave/R/whatever on it. The point of a TI is that it's a portable device with presumably circumscribed functionality well known to teachers and proctors. Whether or not I think this is the way exams should be conducted, why shouldn't TI feel free to pursue this market?

Clearly it would be bad if every device were like a TI calculator or iPhone, but as long as they are niche players, I see no problem in their actions. If anything it's the Ndless community that's being counterproductive here.

Re:What about TI's freedom? (1)

Lionel Debroux (807362) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942326)

> If anything it's the Ndless community that's being counterproductive here.
I wouldn't call making calculators more useful to users (it's not just about games - see, on TI-68k calculators, lower-level access to the OS does enable us to do more powerful functionality and do it faster) "counterproductive" ;-)

TI is taking after Apple. (1)

SimonSaysBleed (1773972) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942324)

I've been around the calculator community for a few years now, and I have enjoyed many of the community's creations. It is a shame to see TI attempt to crush their most devoted customers...

/\cock (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32942330)

and pErsonal

I thought TI had seen the light... (3, Interesting)

yeremein (678037) | more than 4 years ago | (#32942498)

When I was in high school, Zshell (an exploit that allowed running native Z80 assembly on a TI-85) was all the rage. The exploit and various apps (mostly games) spread virally throughout the school. I did some Z80 assembly programming myself, and it was a learning experience arguably more useful to my career than anything I learned in high school...

Years later at college, when my old 85 had been handed down to a younger sibling, I found I needed a graphing calculator for a physics class. I bought a TI-89 and was impressed to see TI allowed it to run native software, no hacks required. (There were still hacks, to get around a few limitations such as code size, but even these limitations were relaxed in later firmware versions.) I spent far more time programming the calculator than actually using it as a calculator.

Now they're back in their lock-it-down mode? Shame. It always disappoints me when manufacturers go out of their way to make their devices less useful--and in this case, a less capable learning tool, for budding programmers anyway.

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