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EFF Warns TI Not To Harass Calculator Hobbyists

kdawson posted about 5 years ago | from the right-to-tinker dept.

Encryption 405

Ponca City, We love you writes "The EFF has warned Texas Instruments not to pursue legal threats against calculator hobbyists who perform modifications to the company's programmable graphing calculators. TI's calculators perform a 'signature check' that allows only approved operating systems to be loaded, but researchers have reverse-engineered signing keys, allowing tinkerers to install custom operating systems and unlock new functionality in the calculators' hardware. In response, TI has unleashed a torrent of demand letters claiming that the anti-circumvention provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act require the hobbyists to take down commentary about and links to the keys. 'This is not about copyright infringement. This is about running your own software on your own device — a calculator you legally bought,' says EFF Civil Liberties Director Jennifer Granick. 'Yet TI still issued empty legal threats in an attempt to shut down discussion of this legitimate tinkering. Hobbyists are taking their own tools and making them better, in the best tradition of American innovation.'"

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Word to my homies in #TCPA (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29739449)

You're all fucking fat.

Love,

Netham45

Nonsense. (5, Funny)

jeffb (2.718) (1189693) | about 5 years ago | (#29739455)

"Hobbyists are taking their own tools and making them better, in the best tradition of American innovation"? I think you misspelled "Pirates and cyber-terrorists are stealing money from TI's hardworking engineers at virtual gunpoint."

Re:Nonsense. (-1, Redundant)

lieutenant24 (1655997) | about 5 years ago | (#29739535)

I think you misspelled, "I love evil corporations and you should too."

Re:Nonsense. (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29739911)

I think you misspelled, "I am too stupid to detect sarcasm in a text-based medium".

Re:Nonsense. (5, Funny)

TubeSteak (669689) | about 5 years ago | (#29739559)

I think you misspelled "Pirates and cyber-terrorists are stealing money from TI's hardworking engineers at virtual gunpoint."

Now we just need to spice thay message up with a flavorful rap.
"Don't tinker with your pocket thinker"
"It's not cool to mod your calc in school"
etc

/I know it'll never compare to "don't copy that floppy" but it's a start.

Re:Nonsense. (1)

freezway (1649969) | about 5 years ago | (#29739613)

how is it pirating? its like installing linux on your computer?

Re:Nonsense. (0, Troll)

davester666 (731373) | about 5 years ago | (#29739855)

These 'hobbyists' made the jump to criminals once they posted their information for other's to see (as it becomes a DMCA violation to help somebody else subvert the copyright protection scheme).

Re:Nonsense. (5, Insightful)

werewolf1031 (869837) | about 5 years ago | (#29739951)

"An unjust law is itself a species of violence. Arrest for its breach is more so"
~some skinny bald pacifist guy...

Point being, of course, that just because something is codified into law, doesn't necessarily make it right.

Re:Nonsense. (2, Insightful)

milkmage (795746) | about 5 years ago | (#29739659)

whatthefuck?

If I buy a TI or anything else, how is that STEALING from the people that made it. they asked for a fair price, I paid. what difference does it make to them what I use it for once they have their money.

does that mean I can't install linux on my computer without being called a cyberterrorist?

Re:Nonsense. (2, Insightful)

palegray.net (1195047) | about 5 years ago | (#29739719)

I think you missed the sarcasm in the GP.

Re:Nonsense. (4, Funny)

Amazing Quantum Man (458715) | about 5 years ago | (#29739913)

Well, he was going to program his TI to act as a sarcasm detector, but....

Re:Nonsense. (1, Informative)

Brian Gordon (987471) | about 5 years ago | (#29739747)

Communist cyber-terrorists. Who besides elite Chinese cyber-commandos would want to destroy American jobs by giving things away for free?

Re:Nonsense. (1)

Jurily (900488) | about 5 years ago | (#29739865)

Communist cyber-terrorists.

I know you're sarcastic, but what would change if they were communists? Would the principles of freedom and equality not apply to them anymore? How about law?

Re:Nonsense. (5, Funny)

Cyberia (70947) | about 5 years ago | (#29739751)

Ummm... My opinion is that the hobbyists are just trying to fix some bugs in calculators that the *IAA has been running into. Like for example, when they calculate damages. I think the results look similar to this: 3055 songs pirated * 0.99 per song = $309,234,408,345,345,384.94 in damages...

Jailbreaking iPhones? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29739457)

someone show apple this news. :/

Re:Jailbreaking iPhones? (2, Insightful)

rgo (986711) | about 5 years ago | (#29739511)

Although they are blocking exploits on every iPhone OS release, I didin't know that Apple was sending C&Ds to jailbrakers.

Re:Jailbreaking iPhones? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29739591)

They're not. But facts wouldn't get in the way of some good old fashioned hyperbole, particularly if it involves whatever vendor you're choosing to hate.

Re:Jailbreaking iPhones? (3, Insightful)

recoiledsnake (879048) | about 5 years ago | (#29739705)

They're not. But facts wouldn't get in the way of some good old fashioned hyperbole, particularly if it involves whatever vendor you're choosing to hate.

Wrong, the crap that Apple pulls is way worse than TI can dream of.

Calculators are not advertised or thought of by most people as mobile computers. TI doesn't advertize "There's an App for that". It's sad that Apple forces developers to jump through hoops just to get an App proved and bans any political or other useful Apps under the name of duplicate functionality. Apple also has a forced developer tax of 30% and hence prohibits downloads from the developer's website. The alternative is to jailbreak, but it breaks when updated and is not for casual users. Apple even says that the iPhone and iPod touch can be considered as netbooks(which are otherwise normal computers without the App store bullshit).

Re:Jailbreaking iPhones? (1)

Brian Gordon (987471) | about 5 years ago | (#29739777)

And anyway you can easily compile a C program to run on anyone's TI-89 without paying TI for signing. All this drama is only about custom operating systems - OS images must be signed - but unlike the iphone they're already programmable.

Uh, why just TI? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29739473)

What about all the similar crap that goes on with other devices? iPhone, XBOX, Wii, NDS, plus loads others?! EFF, why aren't you defending user's rights there?

Re:Uh, why just TI? (5, Informative)

palegray.net (1195047) | about 5 years ago | (#29739491)

How much money have you contributed to the EFF? It's amazing how many people make demands like yours without giving the slightest thought to the expenses involved. In addition, any movement in the right direction is progress. Maybe TI will decide to sue some hobbyists, with the EFF ready to fight for a legal precedent that might finally put a stop to this nonsense.

Re:Uh, why just TI? (4, Interesting)

conteXXt (249905) | about 5 years ago | (#29739543)

Exactly. If the EFF decides to pursue this to the end, it will more than likely give others pause when trying to stop people from USING their PURCHASED electronic devices.

They aren't talking about "hacking IP". They are talking about using hardware, think linux on Intel hardware. If Intel required signed bootloaders, do you think the law would protect them too?

Re:Uh, why just TI? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29739753)

Also it is a lot harder make claims about DRM and piracy and such when you are dealing with a calculator. So this legal fight would be easier to win than eg vs Nintendo who can say "if we don't do it we will lose X amount of money." TI can't exactly claim that they are losing money from this because they don't sell any kind of software add ons for their calculator (afaik.)

Re:Uh, why just TI? (2)

Hyppy (74366) | about 5 years ago | (#29739941)

I 3 the EFF. I don't exactly have the cash to donate at the moment, but hopefully I can intern there when I start law school.

Re:Uh, why just TI? (1)

th3rmite (938737) | about 5 years ago | (#29740033)

Every little bit counts, I've been donating $2 a month straight from my paycheck for the last several years. I know it's not much, but I figure enough drops in the bucket got to add up to something.

Re:Uh, why just TI? (1)

JohnFen (1641097) | about 5 years ago | (#29739629)

Which one of those companies is suing people who hack the hardware?

Re:Uh, why just TI? (1)

geminidomino (614729) | about 5 years ago | (#29739647)

Nintendo is big on the C&Ds...

Re:Uh, why just TI? (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | about 5 years ago | (#29739839)

Really, because it doesn't seem so. Nintendo has rolled out many updates that didn't even bother removing homebrew. The latest update did, but it was soooo easy to work around that it looked like they wanted it to be worked around.

Re:Uh, why just TI? (1)

TheRealMindChild (743925) | about 5 years ago | (#29739655)

Well, with the iPhone, hacking the phone means you can pirate software... and the XBox. And the Wii. And the Nintendo DS. What software is for sale that you can install on your TI calculator? None.

Re:Uh, why just TI? (3, Interesting)

geminidomino (614729) | about 5 years ago | (#29739717)

Not a bad question, despite the flaming and/or dismissive replies.

My guess is that they feel like they have a better chance of winning if TI calls their bluff about calculators than if Nintendo did about Wiis, since the "it's only for teh P1Rasee!" argument is pretty much inapplicable.

 

Re:Uh, why just TI? (1)

Brian Gordon (987471) | about 5 years ago | (#29739791)

How is that bad legal strategy? You don't sue Microsoft over their entire business model, you defend hobbyists from vexatious litigation.

Re:Uh, why just TI? (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | about 5 years ago | (#29739845)

They only defend their gaming console of choice. ^^

Re:Uh, why just TI? (2, Insightful)

muffen (321442) | about 5 years ago | (#29739887)

What about all the similar crap that goes on with other devices? iPhone, XBOX, Wii, NDS, plus loads others?! EFF, why aren't you defending user's rights there?

Hacking or modding any of the consoles you listed will allow you to run copied games. You can see why the companies making the console (and apart from Wii selling the consoles at a loss) doesn't like the modding. However, you can't really claim that you are selling a TI calculator at a loss hoping to make the additional money from software sales, nor can you really claim that hacking the calculator makes you loose any money.

Say what you will about homebrews etc, I think the vast majority who has a chipped Wii is using it to play copied games. I don't think the vast majority of TI calculator owners use it to pirate anything.

RPN (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29739497)

Maybe they are afraid someone will write a decent RPN code for their calc?

Early Calculator Hacks (2, Funny)

lewko (195646) | about 5 years ago | (#29739527)

Or maybe they'll change the startup screen to say "58008" upside down

Re:Early Calculator Hacks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29739599)

Personally I prefer to look at them the right way up, but each to his... oh, wait.

Re:Early Calculator Hacks (1)

Bob_Who (926234) | about 5 years ago | (#29739673)

Or maybe they'll change the startup screen to say "58008" upside down

Or they could all just go to 7734 !

Perfectly valid (-1, Troll)

kmac06 (608921) | about 5 years ago | (#29739541)

TI seems to have a perfectly valid case here. This seems like a clear breach of the DMCA. The law itself is completely unacceptable, but don't blame the company for a bad law, blame the legislators.

Re:Perfectly valid (4, Insightful)

JohnFen (1641097) | about 5 years ago | (#29739587)

It's really hard for me to see how TI has a case under the DMCA at all. They're claiming the anti-circumvention clause, but it doesn't seem to apply here.

The anti-circumvention clause makes it a violation to circumvent copy protection -- but what the hobbyists are circumventing in not copy protection, it's a validation key. Without the key, you can still read and copy the existing OS without a hitch. The key is needed to put you own intellectual property on the device, no to copy theirs.

The key itself was never published by TI, and as far as I can tell was never registered with the copyright office, so copyright doesn't apply to that (even if it can apply to a number, which I doubt.)

So where's the copyright violation? this looks like a criminal (bad faith) abuse of the DMCA to me.

There is a lot of money at stake. (1)

maillemaker (924053) | about 5 years ago | (#29739965)

>It's really hard for me to see how TI has a case under the DMCA at all. They're claiming
>the anti-circumvention clause, but it doesn't seem to apply here.

They are going to claim anything and everything, because there is a lot of money at stake. If people crack one of TI's "exam approved" line of calculators such that anyone can download a new, unapproved OS (or other data) onto it, odds are good that schools will yank that entire line of calculators off of the "exam approved" list.

Bye-bye sales for that line of calculators.

Re:There is a lot of money at stake. (1)

ZosX (517789) | about 5 years ago | (#29740053)

How so though? I thought the the QWERTY pads were actually more of the problem and hence not being able to use, say a ti-92 anywhere. there is really that much of a problem with changing the OS? I mean what could you possibly do on a ti-85 with new software than what you could do before? 3d equations? I mean the basic ones you can code in basic and even assembly on some. what they've done is really cool, but I think maybe this is more about TI being worried about someone opening up their software and eventually even copying it down the line as its internals are now finally dissected. The amount of people that are going to start hacking their calcs is probably going to be pretty small.

Re:Perfectly valid (4, Insightful)

QuoteMstr (55051) | about 5 years ago | (#29739589)

No. The DMCA reads "No person shall circumvent a technological measure that effectively controls access to a work protected under this title".

How does TI's signing system do that? The TI system just prevents people from loading a new OS onto devices that they already own. It doesn't protect access to work.

The DMCA is a bad law, but it's not so broad as to say "everything to which a technology company with a market capitalization of over $10 million objects is henceforth illegal."

Re:Perfectly valid (1)

SCPRedMage (838040) | about 5 years ago | (#29739805)

The DMCA reads "No person shall circumvent a technological measure that effectively controls access to a work protected under this title".

One might try to argue that the "work" being accessed is the OS already loaded; I'd think that that argument would fall flat on account of the existing OS being overwritten by the process, not modified or copied.

One may also argue that the "work" being accessed is the hardware itself. That argument itself is utter crap, on account of the hardware not being protected by copyright to begin with, failing the "protected under this title" portion.

Re:Perfectly valid (1)

langelgjm (860756) | about 5 years ago | (#29739849)

Yeah, neither argument holds water. Tthe owner already has license to access the copyrighted software that is the TI operating system. The garage door opener case [eff.org] pretty much closes off that avenue of logic.

Wait for the next version... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29740009)

> The DMCA is a bad law, but it's not so broad as to say "everything to which a technology company with a market capitalization of over $10 million objects is henceforth illegal."

Don't worry. They plan to fix that whenever they get the chance...

Re:Perfectly valid (3, Interesting)

Quasar1999 (520073) | about 5 years ago | (#29739605)

All sorts of companies produce the exact same hardware and then have a registry bit/flag hidden somewhere to enable the more expensive features. nVidia and their Quadro cards comes to mind... Or Intel and their underclock/overclock crap... the chips are identical, one is stamped with a different number and frozen at a different multiplier.

TI probably has some features disabled or unavailable in their lower-end models, hack the software, and lo and behold, the actual hardware can probably do most of the same stuff the more expensive model can. I can see why they wouldn't want people *SHARING* this information with the general public.

Actually, come to think of it, if TI loses on this one, I'm quite eager to start 'testing' satellite TV signals again... After all, it's just some keys used for signing, right? I purchased my hardware receiver for money, right? Quite the slippery slope, isn't it?

Re:Perfectly valid (1)

John Hasler (414242) | about 5 years ago | (#29739679)

> TI probably has some features disabled or unavailable in their lower-end
> models, hack the software, and lo and behold, the actual hardware can
> probably do most of the same stuff the more expensive model can. I can see
> why they wouldn't want people *SHARING* this information with the general
> public.

So can I. So what? "Inconvenient for TI" is not a synonym for "illegal".

> I'm quite eager to start 'testing' satellite TV signals again... After all,
> it's just some keys used for signing, right? I purchased my hardware
> receiver for money, right? Quite the slippery slope, isn't it?

No. It's fundamentally different.

Re:Perfectly valid (1)

Quasar1999 (520073) | about 5 years ago | (#29739787)


-- I'm quite eager to start 'testing' satellite TV signals again... After all,
-- it's just some keys used for signing, right? I purchased my hardware
-- receiver for money, right? Quite the slippery slope, isn't it?

-No. It's fundamentally different

I take a TI calculator, using keys obtained from internet forums I sign my hacked version (or homebrew, or whatever) and load it onto my device and expose functionality that I am not entitled to access from the hardware.
I take a Nintendo DS, using keys I obtained from internet forums, I sign my homebrew game and load it onto the device. I am now playing games on my DS that are not sanctioned by Nintendo (replace Nintendo with Sony Playstation, Apple iPhone, Microsoft XBOX, etc.).
I now take a DirecTV receiver, using keys I obtained from the internet, I load a firmware version on the device that allows me to tune into channels that I don't have in my 'package'.

Please, humor me, as I'm not seeing how this isn't a quick and logical argument that if I can do the first thing, why can't I progress to the last thing using the same legal arguments along the way? I paid for the hardware in all cases.

Re:Perfectly valid (5, Insightful)

bsDaemon (87307) | about 5 years ago | (#29739875)

Because in the case of direct tv, you're paying for the service, not the hardware. If i go down to Best Buy and shell out $200 or whatever for a new TI-89 Titanium (my classic TI-89 is starting to look somewhat stayed...), then I never need anything from TI again. I take that thing, and I'm done. No real need to plug it into anything; TI doesn't beam the CAS down via CDMA wireless signal like some sort of Kindle thing.

Basically, with the calculator, the hardware itself is the FINAL PURCHASE, whereas with DirectTV, you're basically renting the hardware as a means to access a service, which is what you're actually paying for in the end. Cheating on what you're paying for as far as channels go is clearly wrong. Modifying a piece of hardware that once bought never needs to have any interaction with the mother company again is completely different.

Re:Perfectly valid (1)

don depresor (1152631) | about 5 years ago | (#29740037)

Now that's an easy question:

TI calc, you use the hack to upload a firmware/os that you/someone created and that you're free to use (supossing that it's a open source or free version, I guess that there are no "buyable" new firmware/os for the TI)

Nintendo DS with the hack you can load hombrew, wich is fine and dandy, but you can also load ROMs of comecially available games, with falls right into the DMCA domains.

DirecTV you use the hack to view comercially distributed media (TV series, movies) that you didn't pay for, wich AFAIK falls again into DMCA domains.

Do you notice the trend?

Re:Perfectly valid (3, Insightful)

Pulzar (81031) | about 5 years ago | (#29739687)

All sorts of companies produce the exact same hardware and then have a registry bit/flag hidden somewhere to enable the more expensive features. nVidia and their Quadro cards comes to mind... Or Intel and their underclock/overclock crap... the chips are identical, one is stamped with a different number and frozen at a different multiplier.

That's why those types of things are done with fuses, so that's it's virtually impossible to re-enable features that have been fused out. It's certainly impossible to do purely in software.

Re:Perfectly valid (5, Funny)

X.25 (255792) | about 5 years ago | (#29739861)

Actually, come to think of it, if TI loses on this one, I'm quite eager to start 'testing' satellite TV signals again... After all, it's just some keys used for signing, right? I purchased my hardware receiver for money, right? Quite the slippery slope, isn't it?

Yes. Finding keys on smartcards in order to watch TV program you haven't paid for is the same as finding keys on a calculator so you can put your software on it.

Man, you are a fucking genius.

Re:Perfectly valid (1)

logjon (1411219) | about 5 years ago | (#29739933)

-1 really?

Re:Perfectly valid (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29739935)

Well since the TV signals are copyright protected content, hacking the protection for that content would clearly be covered by the DMCA. Woof. That was the sound of your strawman going up in flames.

Re:Perfectly valid (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29740057)

There's nothing disabled or unavailable. The calculators are miniature computers. The higher-end models simply run different software. Now, since the TI-89 series uses a 68000 and the TI-83 Plus series uses a Z80, you won't be able to get anywhere, but if you want to write the features in yourself, go for it. You don't need to change the OS either to do this. You can write an application that interfaces with the existing OS.

Re:Perfectly valid (1)

John Hasler (414242) | about 5 years ago | (#29739617)

As the EFF lawyers clearly explain in their letter to TI, you are quite wrong.

Re:Perfectly valid (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29739643)

if it was THE LAW that if you could not use a wrench in anyway but as directed by the manufacturer would it still be perfectly valid for WRENCH COMPANY to sue anyone they see using it as a doorstop, or anyone who glues a rubber ball onto the end and calls it a mallet?

If the law is wrong, then it's also wrong to take advantage of it.

Re:Perfectly valid (1)

SCPRedMage (838040) | about 5 years ago | (#29739757)

Except that, to my understanding, the DMCA applies to copyrighted material and copyright protection systems. I doubt that TI actually copyrighted the signing key, and even if they did they'd have a hard time proving that this a violation, considering that they (the hobbyists) didn't have an original to copy to begin with. In other words, can the result of a calculation be considered copyright-able?

The "copyright protection system" angle doesn't work, either, on account of this system quite clearly NOT being created to protect copyrighted material.

Re:Perfectly valid (1)

QuoteMstr (55051) | about 5 years ago | (#29739781)

No. In Feist vs. Rural Telephone [wikipedia.org] , the Supreme Court ruled that in order to qualify for copyright, a work must exhibit at least some degree of creative expression, and reaffirmed the notion that facts cannot be copyrighted. Unless some creativity went into creating the encryption key, I cannot see how it can be copyrighted. (IANAL, of course.)

Re:Perfectly valid (1)

SCPRedMage (838040) | about 5 years ago | (#29739953)

Precisely my point; I recalled that there WAS precedent, I just couldn't recall the case that established it.

Re:Perfectly valid (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | about 5 years ago | (#29739859)

TI seems to have a perfectly valid case here. This seems like a clear breach of the DMCA. The law itself is completely unacceptable, but don't blame the company for a bad law, blame the legislators.

Even if you were correct (and, well, you're not) one can still question the ethics of a company for permitting its attorneys to intimidate others using said bad law. You seem to think that just because a law is on the books that that any use (or misuse) of that law is acceptable. It isn't, and TI's upper management should know that. And if it so happens that they're arrogant and stupid, their legal staff should have so informed them.

I can see TI's point (0)

Trip6 (1184883) | about 5 years ago | (#29739545)

The product was not sold as a computer or development platform. It was sold as an end user product with documented functionality as described in the user's manual. Sure enough, when the hacks disable their machines TI will get the support call. Most slashdotters will probably flame me for this.

Re:I can see TI's point (4, Insightful)

MichaelSmith (789609) | about 5 years ago | (#29739565)

The product was not sold as a computer or development platform. It was sold as an end user product with documented functionality as described in the user's manual. Sure enough, when the hacks disable their machines TI will get the support call. Most slashdotters will probably flame me for this.

I would be very surprised if a calculator hobbyist tried to get support for a modded device. And it is pretty easy for TI to say the warranty is void so STFU in that situation.

How many ubuntu users make support calls to Microsoft?

Re:I can see TI's point (1)

stuckinphp (1598797) | about 5 years ago | (#29739711)

>>> How many ubuntu users make support calls to Microsoft? You would be surprised.

Re:I can see TI's point (1)

JohnFen (1641097) | about 5 years ago | (#29739607)

Not flame, just point out that you're wrong according to established law. Courts have clearly ruled a number of times that you can do whatever you want to equipment you legally own. Courts have even ruled that you can reverse-engineer software.

TI might not like it, but tough cookies. It's not their device once you've purchased it.

Re:I can see TI's point (1)

Trip6 (1184883) | about 5 years ago | (#29739783)

TI isn't trying to stop the hack. They're trying to stop the publishing of the instructions of how to do the hack. Different discussion.

Re:I can see TI's point (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | about 5 years ago | (#29739877)

TI isn't trying to stop the hack. They're trying to stop the publishing of the instructions of how to do the hack. Different discussion.

Which is, in effect, exactly the same thing. They're attempting to suppress legal (and probably Constitutionally-protected) expression. Not smart, nor is it ethical.

Re:I can see TI's point (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29739615)

"Computer" and "development platform" are fancy words for "calculator" and "programmable calculator", respectively.

Re:I can see TI's point (4, Insightful)

geminidomino (614729) | about 5 years ago | (#29739671)

I have an automotive screwdriver that was sold as an automotive screwdriver, not a...a... window...keeper-open...thing.

If Sears/Craftsman has a problem with that, tough. Same concept.

TI-84 (1, Offtopic)

XPeter (1429763) | about 5 years ago | (#29739551)

Oh man, the TI-84's are great.

Thought not considered hacking, me and my mates have found the best use for these small powerhouses. Since both Honors Chemistry and Honors Trig require extensive memorization of theorems and things a like, we load them all onto the calculators and then on the exams it looks like we're solving equations, as opposed to cheating :)

Some would argue this should be posted as AC, but posting as AC is for pussies.

Re:TI-84 (1)

sahonen (680948) | about 5 years ago | (#29739689)

You think you're the first to discover this? I was doing it 10 years ago and it wasn't even new then.

because TI makes a shitload off of exams (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29739573)

How many people have to buy the overpriced calculators because they are required for an exam.... by required I mean "approved" for use on an exam. Think about it, a calculator costing $100 dollars? What year is it again? If you could program them yourselves suddenly all those "approved" calculators aren't so trustworthy not to solve the exam for students.... although honestly if a calculator can solve the exam then probably the exam isn't testing much...

Mind probe in time for Christmas (1)

cellurl (906920) | about 5 years ago | (#29739577)

Once TI backs down, others will smolder. Then I can finally modify my Tektronix 465 scope to become a mind probe. Once its calibrated of course.

Streisand Effect (4, Insightful)

cosm (1072588) | about 5 years ago | (#29739621)

When will companies realize that kicking and screaming about an issue they can't legitimatize will kick them in the testicles? Will T.I. really lose oodles of greenbacks because Joe geek likes to mod his calculator to play Mario or run Linux or watch porn (last item questionable). I highly doubt people hacking their calculators will cut into revenue, if anything it will increase it by bolstering interest in the extended possibilities of their products.
Technophiles do not like to buy equipment they are legally castrated for modding or learning about the inner-workings.

When profit is valued more than satisfaction of customers...oh wait..*status quo* *status quo*.

The answer to the original question lies our government and legal system's ability to cease giving them the fucking pacifier every time they cry wolf.

Corporate America Must Be Tamed (2, Insightful)

Bob_Who (926234) | about 5 years ago | (#29739633)

Thank you EFF for confronting the corporate greed machine where it concerns this electronic frontier. Now we need to find lawyers to confront them on every other issue where citizens and consumers are ripped off and enslaved by corporate monoliths and their shareholders. People come first. Not Corporate interests. Wake up America. We need better elected officials, apparently.

Working as intended (0)

shermo (1284310) | about 5 years ago | (#29739683)

From my slashdot-learned knowledge of the DMCA this seems to be exactly what the DMCA is designed to prevent.

Re:Working as intended (3, Insightful)

langelgjm (860756) | about 5 years ago | (#29739803)

Well, stick around some more, because it's not what the DMCA is designed to prevent.

As others have pointed out, you can only invoke the anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA if the technological protection measures are controlling access to a copyrighted work. Simply bypassing a measure alone is not a violation of the DMCA.

In this case, they obtained keys that allow them to install custom software on the device. Where that software comes from may be a copyright issue, but that is not relevant to the overall matter of whether obtaining and using the keys is a violation of the DMCA. These keys control whether the hardware accepts given software; rather than controlling access to copyrighted software, the keys, in a manner of speaking, control the software's access to the hardware, so it's not a matter for the DMCA.

Re:Working as intended (1)

shermo (1284310) | about 5 years ago | (#29739863)

Yes, I did actually RTFA after I posted that and it explicitly states that the DMCA doesnt' cover this situation.

That's what I get for posting before RTFAing but at least I'm fitting in right?

The problem is losing trusted status (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29739697)

The DMCA is totally ridiculous, but it's the only thing TI can grasp onto in this situation. TI graphing calculators are the de facto standard for many high school and university level math classes. It's easy to verify that one has had the memory erased when it's in an untampered state. Of course there are somewhat sneaky ways to make it look like it's been erased without close inspection, but performing the reset in front of someone made it almost a certainty. If the hack causes schools to move away from such an "untrustworthy" device, TI stands to lose many sales of those overpriced gadgets.

Innovation (5, Funny)

sincewhen (640526) | about 5 years ago | (#29739707)

in the best tradition of American innovation

But how can this be innovation if no-one is making any money from it?

How do you copyright factors of a number? (4, Insightful)

Myria (562655) | about 5 years ago | (#29739721)

The numbers they are distributing are the prime factors of the RSA key used by the calculators. The factors were determined by a general number field sieve [wikipedia.org] calculation; this was effective because the keys are only 512 bits long.

The public key itself - the modulus - might be subject to copyright. However, the prime factors were never copied from TI - they were mathematically determined from the modulus. Attacking them because they distribute numbers mathematically derived from a copyrighted number is new legal territory.

If numbers derived from a calculation on a copyrightable number are themselves "derivative works" in the copyright sense, it would cause far-reaching problems well beyond calculators. For one thing, it would be illegal to distribute SHA-1 hashes of copyrighted material without permission.

Re:How do you copyright factors of a number? (1)

Urza9814 (883915) | about 5 years ago | (#29739821)

"If numbers derived from a calculation on a copyrightable number are themselves "derivative works" in the copyright sense, it would cause far-reaching problems well beyond calculators. For one thing, it would be illegal to distribute SHA-1 hashes of copyrighted material without permission."

It would be illegal to distribute _anything_. Hell, Maxtor could sue me for everything I create - after all, I'm just modifying the data they originally had on my hard drive.

Re:How do you copyright factors of a number? (1)

PrimaryConsult (1546585) | about 5 years ago | (#29739829)

Ah, like an Illegal Number [wikipedia.org] ...

Re:How do you copyright factors of a number? (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | about 5 years ago | (#29739931)

But how can I avoid using the illegal number if it is not published? And if the illegal number is published in legislation then that would certainly be very convenient. Saves having to host it elsewhere.

As Illegal Prime numbers... (2, Interesting)

Cliff Stoll (242915) | about 5 years ago | (#29739831)

A prime number can represent information which is forbidden to possess.
See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Illegal_prime [wikipedia.org]

This goes back about a decade to the AACS encryption key controversy.

Re:As Illegal Prime numbers... (1)

careysb (566113) | about 5 years ago | (#29739867)

"I can even work out your personality problems to ten decimal places if you think it will help" HHGTTG

Re:As Illegal Prime numbers... (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | about 5 years ago | (#29739945)

"I can even work out your personality problems to ten decimal places if you think it will help" HHGTTG

His name is not something I can know

- Wintermute.

You don't (2, Interesting)

langelgjm (860756) | about 5 years ago | (#29739897)

Not really. The argument about the AACS key was not that the number itself was copyrighted, but rather that the number was the means to circumvent the protection measures controlling access to a copyrighted work. Thus, distribution of the number was a violation of the DMCA.

I'm not aware of anyone claiming that the number itself was copyrighted. Some people have suggested that line of argument in this case, but if TI really wanted to pursue this in court, they'd have to register the signing key with the copyright office (you have to do this prior to starting litigation). I'd really like to see them try to register a small number!

Re:How do you copyright factors of a number? (1)

arhhook (995275) | about 5 years ago | (#29739851)

If numbers derived from a calculation on a copyrightable number are themselves "derivative works" in the copyright sense, it would cause far-reaching problems well beyond calculators.

09 F9 11 02 9D 74 E3 5B D8 41 56 C5 63 56 88 C0

What?

09 F9 11 02 9D 74 E3 5B D8 41 56 C5 63 56 88 C0

TI - Oh just Shut Up (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29739769)

If you're going to be such a pain - I think you should stop using any and all free software now! give it all back.

What about the need for uniformity? (5, Insightful)

matzahboy (1656011) | about 5 years ago | (#29739885)

Although a Ti-83 can definitely be enhanced by a custom OS, the usefulness of a Ti-83 would greatly decrease for students if custom OS's existed. On many standardized tests, including the SATs and ACTs, the tests specify which calculators are permitted for the test. They have a very specific list, based on which ones they think are not too powerful and would give an unfair advantage to a test taker. All ti-83's are allowed on either test for example. But if the makers of the test knew that people could have ti-83's that had undocumented, unfair functions (such as symbolic algebraic solving as in the ti-89), the test makers would most likely disallow these calculators. Why do you think TI still sells the Ti-83 plus, a calculator created in 1999? Certainly hardware abilities and processor speeds have greatly increased in the last 10 years. The reason is that test makers will not accept calculators with very powerful abilities. They want the student to solve the problem and not the calculator. When browsing calculators at education.ti.com, each calculator has a page called "exam acceptance" (ex. http://education.ti.com/educationportal/sites/US/productDetail/us_ti83p.html?bid=2 [ti.com] ). That is because TI sells a large number of its calculators to students. The custom OS's could greatly hurt TI's reputation in the eyes of its biggest supporters: the test makers.

Re:What about the need for uniformity? (2, Informative)

cdrguru (88047) | about 5 years ago | (#29739943)

Oh come on, is that the best you can come up with? "undocumented, unfair functions (such as symbolic algebraic solving ...)"

How about a reprogrammed calculator that simply stores answers? Looks like a calculator but is in fact a data retrieval device that holds all your crib notes. I'd say that is clearly a lot more useful to the exam taker in terms of cheating and would certainly be something that would be disallowed in an exam. Just like pulling out your iPhone would get you ejected from most serious exams.

Re:What about the need for uniformity? (1)

matzahboy (1656011) | about 5 years ago | (#29739967)

When you take most tests, the test takers take this in to account and force you to reset your calculators, deleting all of your programs that you could have stored your notes in. There is no way to check for a different OS

Re:What about the need for uniformity? (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | about 5 years ago | (#29739981)

When you take most tests, the test takers take this in to account and force you to reset your calculators, deleting all of your programs that you could have stored your notes in. There is no way to check for a different OS

The college could always provide calculators for the examinations. Then students could buy and use whatever they like.

Re:What about the need for uniformity? (1)

matzahboy (1656011) | about 5 years ago | (#29740043)

Maybe, but how many colleges and high schools have the money to buy hundreds of Ti-83's a $100 or so each? I live in a upper middle class neighborhood and they don't even provide tissues!

Re:What about the need for uniformity? (3, Interesting)

Ranzear (1082021) | about 5 years ago | (#29740063)

When you take most tests, the test takers take this in to account and force you to reset your calculators, deleting all of your programs that you could have stored your notes in. There is no way to check for a different OS

Except this is easily circumvented by faking a memory reset in the calculator's own programming. There are even assembly-programmed 'calculator in a calculator' tricks through ZShell and other means to even make the calculator appear to have wiped itself clean and empty, even a fake and working 'memory' screen and an apparently complete working emulation of the base calculator (Xzibit would be proud). One little button combo or phrase and the calculator exits the fakeout to access whatever you like, and can even be put back to the emulation by a panic button.

I noted this recently in another thread. (2, Insightful)

maillemaker (924053) | about 5 years ago | (#29739947)

The "legal list of allowable calculators" is precisely why the scientific calculator development is pretty much stagnant. I have an HP50G but it is basically a repackaged HP48 with a marginally better screen. But even the 48G was not allowed in the last math class I took that allowed calculators.

I started using an HP28S in college back in 1988. Back then, many teachers did not know what the calculators were capable of. Of course, I had one professor who did, and in fact LOVED them, and so made the tests that much harder to be used in conjunction with said devices.

Anyway my point is the calculator manufacturers are definitely in a pickle. They can't make their calculators too good, or their primary market - college students - can't use them.

If people can hack the OS of "approved" calculators, you can, as you note, basically sneak in anything in what appears to be a normal calculator.

5138008 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29739899)

"All I wanted to do was program in pictures of boobies rather than type 5138008..."

Why does HP care? (-1, Redundant)

CFD339 (795926) | about 5 years ago | (#29739995)

Someone enlighten me here. I'm trying to figure out the business reason why HP would care about this, and would not want people to buy more of it's calculators.

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