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TI vs. Calculator Hackers 463

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the this-never-ends-well dept.
Nyall writes "So a bunch of TI calculator programming enthusiasts got together to factor the keys Texas Instruments uses to sign the operating system binaries for the ti83+ (a z80 architecture) and the ti89/v200 (a 68k architecture) series of calculators. Now Texas Instruments is sending out DMCA notices to take them down."
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TI vs Calculator Hackers

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  • by gblues (90260) on Monday September 21, 2009 @11:35AM (#29492003)

    Texas Instruments makes damn fine graphing calculators, but would it be so hard to write a damn x64 driver? I can't use the USB interface with either my home PC or my laptop because both are running x64 (7 Pro on the desktop, Vista Home Premium on the laptop). And I'll be damned if I go back to 32 bits just to make the calculator happy.

    I did googling and didn't find anything existing; has anyone tackled writing a homebrew x64 USB driver? I think all the information needed is already out there, but I don't have the time/motivation to write the driver myself (especially having never written a driver before).

  • Streisand Effect (Score:5, Interesting)

    by quanticle (843097) on Monday September 21, 2009 @11:35AM (#29492005) Homepage

    You'd have thought that Texas Instruments would have learned when the Blu-Ray consortium tried to stop the spread of the '09 F9 ...' key.

  • by whoisisis (1225718) on Monday September 21, 2009 @11:48AM (#29492173)

    Try TiLP 2 [ticalc.org]. Made by said TI-homebrew community.

  • by maillemaker (924053) on Monday September 21, 2009 @12:19PM (#29492591)

    I've been using HP scientific calculators since the 32S (the one that opened up like a book). At the time, in 1989, they were state-of-the-art, and math teachers had no idea that they could do definite and indefinite integration and differentiation.

    Now, of course, math teachers have figured out that modern calculators are essentially full-blown computers. The last calculus course I took a year ago did not allow any calculators, but the last time I was in a math class that allowed them only TI calculators were allowed. I could not use my HP50G as it was too powerful and would enable me to cheat.

    I think we've seen the end of high-end calculator development because the main market of those devices - college students - can't use them anymore in their classes.

  • by ElSupreme (1217088) on Monday September 21, 2009 @12:27PM (#29492711)
    I had a TI-83 in high school. I wrote tons of programs (although they all just used TI Basic) to do various math functions. I also made a "Memory Cleared" program. I hated clearing all my programs ever 3 weeks when a test came around.

    I didn't use pre-made programs during my tests, I did make programs during the tests to do repeat processes. But I got to keep my Drug Wars and Indycar racer games, along with all my other math programs after the test.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 21, 2009 @12:42PM (#29492895)
    Well, I used an HP48 in my computational methods class and aced the exam. We had to show our work too, so I just programmed the calculator to perform the computations the same as you would long hand, and show each step of the process. All I had to do was copy each screen down as it went. I was finished the 2 hour exam in about 20 minutes. There is no more powerful a calculator than an HP.
  • Re:Worst move ever, (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Jahava (946858) on Monday September 21, 2009 @12:48PM (#29492973)

    What makes them so smart? Is TI selling more calculators because you can play games on them, or because some kid has to buy one to do his homework? I had a TI-85 in high school and played games all through whatever math class I was in at the time, but I would have had one regardless of whether it did anything other than my homework.

    My stance on the subject is that TI would stand to benefit financially to one degree or another from any and all of the following:

    • Enthusiasts who prefer TI calculators because they are easier to explore
    • Increased interest in a TI calculator because an enthusiast has built software for it that doesn't exist on other calculators
    • Increased overall interest in TI calculators due to available software
    • Increased quality of their product by observing the nature and intent of third-party changes
    • Increased usage of their products by third parties (professors, etc.) who have co-opted their functionality into other areas
    • Greater competitive edge through direct exposure to user feedback, also by monitoring enthusiast communities
    • Increased sales of higher-powered (i.e., more expensive) calculators since they are capable of more resource-intensive modifications than the lower models
    • Classes they can sell to schools about modifying their calculators
    • Literature that they can sell on the subject of modifying their products
    • Identification of quality persons from the enthusiast community for future hire

    This is off the top of my head. As one who participated in the ticalc.org [ticalc.org] modding community when it was all Z-shell and assembly hacks, I can say for sure that I benefited from third-party applications and learned quite a lot by programming low-level software. A lot has changed since then, but I can attest firsthand to the benefits of an open TI calculator.

    Really, though, what does TI have to lose? Has the enthusiast community as it stands actually harmed them? If so, I'm not aware of it.

  • Re:Wikileaks link (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dgatwood (11270) on Monday September 21, 2009 @01:02PM (#29493169) Journal

    The DMCA doesn't protect hardware in the U.S., either. Since AFAIK TI doesn't sell copyrighted software that is protected by DRM, this is clearly not a DMCA violation, and unless TI's lawyers haven't read any of the cases that have clarified this beyond a reasonable doubt, it also qualifies TI for perjury charges for deliberately making a false DMCA claim---not that any attorney general will actually have the guts to make an example of them....

    IMHO, all these folks need to do is file a proper DMCA counter notice and then go about their business. Of course, IANAL, and they should consider getting advise from one.

  • Re:Wikileaks link (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Manax (41161) <toertel-slashdotNO@SPAMmanax.org> on Monday September 21, 2009 @01:09PM (#29493263) Homepage
    I might be pissed, but I certainly wouldn't try to claim that they are violating my copyright, or claim that they are violating the DMCA (Ya know, there is that checksum digit in there...) or some other non-sense. I might make the claim (rightly) that they are attempting to commit fraud or identity theft, or facilitating such... but that isn't quite the same thing, now is it?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 21, 2009 @01:15PM (#29493359)

    Aside of bad pre
    I mean If posting a series of hex numbers constitutes a breach of DMCA because they happens to be a TI's public key, so can these numbers be broken and posted on several websites (a web ring)?
    Would still TI claim that I breached DMCA because I used 0xXX on my website?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 21, 2009 @01:43PM (#29493737)

    I had a high school math teacher who did not allow students to use graphing calculators unless she got to clear the memory. I told her that she did not have permission to look into the electronic contents of my calculator, so she had to loan me a calculator from her classroom set.

    A hacked TI would have been useful here, as I could have allowed her to [think she was] clear[ing] the contents of my calculator.

    Oddly enough, she was the only teacher I had, K-20, who was ever concerned about students loading cheat sheets into calculators. I didn't even get "checked" for the PSAT, SAT, ACT, or GRE.

    Here's my big question: my TI-89 is pretty damn powerful, and let's assume here that the teacher is not checking calculators to make sure they don't have any programs on them. Absent hardware modding the calculator and putting a Bluetooth module in it, how do you expect me to "cheat" with a calculator? PDF an entire textbook and store it in the calculator?

    Ultimately, IMHO, cheating by cramming notes into a calculator is an exercise in futility. Teachers probably know it happens, and the time or two I've tried it, I learned more writing in the notes and wound up not needing them.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 21, 2009 @01:51PM (#29493847)

    When something bugs you like this does, go to the top, I say!

    Here are the particulars of the head honcho. Let him know how you feel:

    Texas Instruments Incorporated
    Herbert W. Foster
    Manager, Business Services
    Educational & Productivity Solutions
    Texas Instruments Incorporated
    7800 Banner Drive M/S 3918
    Dallas, TX 75251 USA

    (972) 917-1522 / h-foster@ti.com

  • by SuperMog2002 (702837) on Monday September 21, 2009 @02:02PM (#29494045)
    I liked what my stats professor in college did: All tests were open book and open note, and you were allowed to use whatever calculator you wanted with whatever programs you wanted. The problems were tuned so that you wouldn't need a fancy calculator to do well, but if you knew this test was going to have Z-tests on it and you brought a program that could do Z-tests for you, more power to you. However, you darn well better be able to read the presented scenario and know off the top of your head that a Z-test is what you need in the first place. There was a strict 50 minute time limit, and if you were using your resources for anything more than a quick formula lookup or computation, you were doomed.
  • Re:Wikileaks link (Score:4, Interesting)

    by gr8_phk (621180) on Monday September 21, 2009 @02:30PM (#29494455)

    In what way is requiring firmware to be signed with a particular key not DRM?

    It is not protecting copying of the firmware, it's preventing the running of unsigned firmware. It's probably not preventing the copy of applications either. It's simply preventing "unauthorized" software from running on the hardware. It's a lock, not copy protection. See the garage door opener case for an example where this is not protected under the DMCA.

  • by arkane1234 (457605) on Monday September 21, 2009 @02:36PM (#29494519) Journal

    "Just saying..."?

    wow.. just.. wow...
    Here I thought that some dizzy bitch on some newscast saying that would be enough to make everyone realize how stupid it sounds.
    I stand corrected.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 21, 2009 @04:21PM (#29495981)

    TiLP [ticalc.org] works just fine

  • Re:No HP??? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by naoursla (99850) on Monday September 21, 2009 @07:14PM (#29497897) Homepage Journal

    I'm going to try to check your work.

    We can construct a parse tree for a sentence by recursively grouping two groups into a single group. I believe the following is the correct parse tree for your original sentence.

    {I {(can't believe) [that [they ((would be) (so shortsighted))]]}}

    You want verbs to be the operators. "believe" and "be" are the verbs. "can't" and "would" are auxillery verbs. Those would be unary operators that act on a simple verb. But since a verb is acting as an operator, it is tough to enter a verb and then an auxillery. I'll treat the entire verb as a single unit (if I had a 'operate' button instead of requiring a symbol to operate then we could break apart the verb phrases). How does "that" fit in? I'm going to make "that" a unary operator to complete the predicate target. While I'm at it, "so" is an operator on a noun.

    I -> (literal)
    they -> (literal)
    shortsighted (literal)
    so -> ("so" + "shortsighted")
    would be -> "they" + "would be" + "so shortsighted"
    that -> "that" + "they would be so shortsighted"
    can't believe -> "I" + "can't believe" + "that they would be so shortsighted"

    I they shortsighted so would be that can't believe!
    vs
    I that they so shortsighted would be can't believe!

    Pretty close, but I'm going to have to take points off for not considering grouping operations other than S-V-O.

  • Re:Wikileaks link (Score:3, Interesting)

    by russotto (537200) on Monday September 21, 2009 @07:54PM (#29498247) Journal

    In short, unless TI uses DRM software resident in their firmware to protect OTHER titles from copying, this clearly falls WELL outside the realm of the DMCA.

    If I were an evil and nasty copyright lawyer, I could find a DMCA 1201 hook to hang this on. Even if I couldn't get DMCA 1201(a), I could go for DMCA 1201(b)

    (1) No person shall manufacture, import, offer to the public, provide, or otherwise traffic in any technology, product, service, device, component, or part thereof, that -
    (A) is primarily designed or produced for the purpose of circumventing protection afforded by a technological measure that effectively protects a right of a copyright owner under this title in a work or a portion thereof;
    (B) has only limited commercially significant purpose or use other than to circumvent protection afforded by a technological measure that effectively protects a right of a copyright owner under this title in a work or a portion thereof; or
    (C) is marketed by that person or another acting in concert with that person with that person's knowledge for use in circumventing protection afforded by a technological measure that effectively protects a right of a copyright owner under this title in a work or a portion thereof.

    I'd claim the firmware signing key prevented people from making unauthorized derivative works of the copyrighted TI firmware, by preventing such unauthorized works from running.

    It's a stretch, but the courts (and juries) are sympathetic to big corporations who look like Authority, not eeevil hackers, who look like people trying to weasel around the law.

    Now, the DMCA takedown is a different matter. The keys are (supposedly) randomly generated; they can't possibly be subject to copyright. DMCA 512 covers only regular copyright violations, not DMCA 1201 violations. So the DMCA takedown was bogus.

  • by toddestan (632714) on Monday September 21, 2009 @09:46PM (#29499245)

    Probably the factorial function, as that's about the most computationally intensive thing you can do on a non-programmable scientific calculator. Try 69! as that's the biggest you can do assuming that the calculator maxes out at an exponent of 99. Usually takes several seconds to several tens of seconds on slower calculators to run.

It is the quality rather than the quantity that matters. - Lucius Annaeus Seneca (4 B.C. - A.D. 65)

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