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TI vs. Calculator Hobbyists, Again 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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TI vs. Calculator Hobbyists, Again

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  • by betterunixthanunix ( 980855 ) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @08:35AM (#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.

  • by JamesP ( 688957 ) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @08:46AM (#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:Why? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by hedwards ( 940851 ) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @08:53AM (#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? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by betterunixthanunix ( 980855 ) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @09:15AM (#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).
  • by yeremein ( 678037 ) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @10:13AM (#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.

  • Re:Why? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by hedwards ( 940851 ) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @10:18AM (#32942522)
    OK, that does make a lot of sense. And you're right about the SATs, now that I think about it, the restriction was on calculators that had a QWERTY keyboard on them.

    But then again, I recall having a professor in college that let us have unlimited notes, books and pretty much everything except each other and the internet. On the basis that you wouldn't finish the test if you were making too much use.
  • by Lehk228 ( 705449 ) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @10:24AM (#32942550) Journal
    they used the menu in the calculator, the on my TI-86 i had created a replica menu that lookd like the home screen of the calculator and the only differenc were a set of busy dots in the top right corner.

    i wasn't using this to cheat, but to keep the games i had from being deleted since the hours in between tests were one of the primary times i wanted to have my games with me.
  • It's sad (Score:2, Interesting)

    by RScullion ( 323613 ) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @10:28AM (#32942572)

    It's sad that TI are having to do this. When I was at school we basically had the choice between Casio and TI85 graphing calculators. Casio were far more popular until people discovered how to run assembly mode programs (and games) off the internet. Then everybody wanted a TI. TI even supported this at first by adding assembly mode into the TI86.
    Unfortunately by the time I got to finals at university, graphing calculators had been banned because of the ability to store (and hide) extra programs and information. I guess that by locking them down, Texas are trying to prevent this becoming more widespread. Texas are in a no win situation. They don't want to go after their customers but if they don't they might not have any customers at all!

  • Re:Why? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mystik ( 38627 ) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @11:08AM (#32942756) Homepage Journal

    In HS, when wee were doing matrices, I got bit by the 'show the work' requirement.

    So I wrote a program onto the calculator (TI-85) That would 'show the work' that I could transcribe to my test.

    *I* didn't consider it cheating, because If I could describe the algorithm to a computer in a programming language, I felt that I had sufficiently mastered it, and any additional assignments were simply busy work.

  • Solution (Score:2, Interesting)

    by kanweg ( 771128 ) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @11:56AM (#32943042)

    TI could create another model for modding.


  • by BrokenHalo ( 565198 ) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @12:18PM (#32943150)
    When I went to school, we used books of tables or slide rules. (I still have a nice log-log decitrig rule, but that's another story).

    But when I went back to university a few (OK, ten) years ago, my profs made a point of not knowing or caring what calculators we used. The only restriction was that it should not have a QWERTY keyboard.
  • My HS math teacher spent her spare time designing her tests carefully so that no calculators were needed. If you got down to the end of a question, and you had messed up and ended up with something that *would* need manual calculation, you didn't have to work out the calculation--you'd just lose the point(s) on whatever theoretical part you screwed up, and that was it.
    No calculators were ever allowed---nor were they needed.

    I learned one hell of a lot of math.... including vector calc and laplace transforms senior year (finished ap calc bc junior year along with 11 other kids, so that teacher wrote course material for a calc 3 class).

  • by Runaway1956 ( 1322357 ) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @03:08PM (#32944260) Homepage Journal

    So, you had to convert from dactylonomy to what? Phalangonomy?

Loose bits sink chips.