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TI vs. Calculator Hobbyists, Again 417

Posted by timothy
from the p0wning-the-market's-not-enough dept.
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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TI vs. Calculator Hobbyists, Again

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  • NO NOT MATH (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 18, 2010 @07:28AM (#32942020)

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

  • by KingArthur10 (679328) <arthur.bogard@ g m a i l . com> on Sunday July 18, 2010 @07:34AM (#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!
  • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @07:50AM (#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...

  • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @07:52AM (#32942130)
    Why should TI prevent hobbyists from running buggy or out of date software?
  • by zippthorne (748122) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @07:55AM (#32942146) Journal

    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."

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 18, 2010 @08:05AM (#32942178)

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

  • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @08:12AM (#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.

  • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @08:29AM (#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?
  • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @08:37AM (#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.

  • by Hellahulla (936042) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @08:46AM (#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 :)

  • by Miamicanes (730264) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @08:52AM (#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.

  • by IYagami (136831) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @09:02AM (#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.

  • by jamesh (87723) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @09:05AM (#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.

  • by Aboroth (1841308) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @09:47AM (#32942654)
    Well now in social situations when somebody asks you how many chicken nuggets you want, or how long you have been with the company, you don't look like a retard when you put your hands up and start counting fingers.

    Seriously? You can't see the value in forcing kids to learn how to count in their heads? And you can't tell that your teacher helped you figure out how to improve your mental visualization?

    Just. Wow.
  • by bsDaemon (87307) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @09:47AM (#32942656)

    The calculators will be destroyed by the zombies to strengthen the brains of the humans, thus increasing their nutritional value to the zombies. DUH.

  • funeral drone (Score:5, Insightful)

    by epine (68316) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @10:47AM (#32942964)

    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.

    Nicely done. You got a passing grade in the free market school cheer ("Viva caveat emptor!") and DNF in every aspect of the situation worth discussing. You've clearly set yourself ahead well ahead of the obese peloton walking their bikes up the intellectual incline with loud proclamations that TI has no moral right to make a stupid decision (which as you rightly point out is their eternal privilege).

    With any nose at all for controversy, you might have wondered out loud who TI regards as their real customers for this product. In a shocking development, it might not be the high school students (or parents thereof) who actually shell out their hard won cash. There's a challenging concept to swallow for a transactional reductionist.

    TI might regard their customers for this product to be school board administrators who hold the power to set curriculum standards which induces teachers to set exams that are biased toward the success of students buying a particular TI product, abused of most of its generative learning potential by the grasping grubbiness of TI corporate headquarters.

    In an educational system that prizes testability over learning, perhaps this is exactly what the true customer demands.

    But as you point out, if you don't like it, you don't have to buy one. It's not like the customers of the school board (ostensibly the students) have any say in the educational product they consume, supposing they actually got together and groused publicly. It is their disempowered cash after all, that turns the main propeller.

    But then, as your stellar argument has it, if the school system is corrupt you don't have to attend. There's the beauty of libertarianism. You've got a perfect retort for everything, in the world as it ought to exist.

    Of the ten or more creative ways to look at this situation, caveat emptor drives the hearse.

  • Re:NO NOT MATH (Score:3, Insightful)

    by tagno25 (1518033) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @11:10AM (#32943110)

    we mathematicians DO NOT wee calculators. We don't do arithmetic. Don't tag this math.

    that would be s/us/we/g

    s/us/we/ would be
    we mathematicians DO NOT use calculators. We don't do arithmetic. Don't tag this math.

  • by NormalVisual (565491) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @11:19AM (#32943158)
    Plus you get the entertainment value of watching the face of the one kid that *did* hack his calculator as it's taken from him and given to someone else.
  • Re:NO NOT MATH (Score:3, Insightful)

    by digitig (1056110) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @11:19AM (#32943160)
    Um, no. Without set theory you don't have math. Without math you don't have arithmetic.
  • Re:No, (Score:3, Insightful)

    by drooling-dog (189103) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @11:52AM (#32943376)

    Well, no one is suggesting that TI doesn't have the right to cripple their products if they so choose. People here are merely pointing out that they are doing so, and criticizing them for it. That way we can all be informed consumers, and refuse to purchase the product if we so choose. So isn't that a good thing under your free market principles? Or are you upset because you think TI has some right to operate under the cover of darkness, and customers who are fooled have no right to complain publicly?

  • by Antisyzygy (1495469) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @12:17PM (#32943540)
    I think that most scientists, physicists and mathematicians are using matlab, mathematica and C/C++ to do the majority of their calculations these days. I work exclusively with C/C++ and matlab. A graphing calculator has nowhere near the capability of Matlab, but I suppose it is much more expensive for a license. However, most companies and universities will get you a license to do your work.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 18, 2010 @12:34PM (#32943664)

    > 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.

    A much simpler solution, used by my old high school, was to do a factory reset on all student's calculators before tests.

  • by Paradigma11 (645246) <Paradigma11@hotmail.com> on Sunday July 18, 2010 @02:16PM (#32944336)

    And then the face of the kid who gets somebody else's calculator where the equals button doesn't work. And maybe the face of the kid who is tech savy and figures out he got the cheaters hacked calculator, as he may ethically ponder - cheat myself and get a better grade, or turn in one cheater who without their cheating instrument will probably be toward the bottom, but if they are turned in they may be removed from the curve all together.

    If he is smart enough to reverse engineer how the hacked calculator works in the time of the exam he most likely won't need to cheat anyway.

  • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @03:10PM (#32944748) Journal
    Actually, there's an option 3: Allow answers with sin(x) components. Let the student leave them in until the final step. With a calculator, they'd then generate an approximation. Without one, they'd just provide the accurate answer. For common sines and cosines (e.g. quarter of a circle), they should be expected to know the answer without a calculator. For other values, they can just leave vulgar fractions and sine values in the answer - they've already demonstrated that they know the concepts, and having them enter the values into a machine and then copy out the answer doesn't give you anything more.
  • by FoolishOwl (1698506) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @03:21PM (#32944814) Journal

    Could somebody tell me what force you guys in America needs graphing calculator in class in the first place?

    Texas Instruments is that force. I'm surprised that wasn't obvious.

  • by bsDaemon (87307) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @09:25PM (#32946826)

    The sad part is, I don't know whether I was marked insightful for the math part or the zombie part... meh.

  • by vegiVamp (518171) on Monday July 19, 2010 @06:14AM (#32948896) Homepage
    Got a good tutorial somewhere for binary arithmetic ? I'm familiar with the notation, but blisfully unaware of how to do actual maths :-)

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