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TI Calculator DRM Defeated

Soulskill posted about 4 years ago | from the graphing-for-justice dept.

Hardware Hacking 234

josath writes "Texas Instruments' flagship calculator, the Nspire, was hacked to allow user-written programs earlier this year. Earlier this month, TI released an update to the OS that runs on the calculator, providing no new features, but only blocking the previous hack. Now, just a few weeks later, Nleash has been released, which defeats this protection. The battle rages on as users fight for the right to run their own software on their own hardware."

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Well... (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33095152)

FU TI!

what (3, Interesting)

mrphoton (1349555) | about 4 years ago | (#33095158)

last time i used a graphics calculator (before I migrated to octave/matlab/maple), the whole point of the thing was that you could program it? And why would anybody spend 100$ on a calculator when you can almost get a laptop for that price today?

Re:what (5, Insightful)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | about 4 years ago | (#33095174)

You cannot bring a laptop into a standardized test, that's why TI cares. The only real business TI has with its graphing calculators is high school (and to some extent, middle school) students, and only because the teachers are under the illusion that the calculators cannot do everything that a laptop can do.

Re:what (3, Insightful)

Peach Rings (1782482) | about 4 years ago | (#33095284)

What, you can still write programs for the included BASIC interpreter, you just can't run your own code on the hardware (no C/assembly allowed). So they have no ground to stand on in terms of testing integrity, and it's obvious that they're unjustly trying to control people's hardware after they buy it.

Re:what (5, Interesting)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | about 4 years ago | (#33095322)

As it turns out, and this was mentioned the last time there was a TI article on /., a common strategy schools use is to press the reset button on the calculator, which clears out BASIC programs and whatnot. It seems, however, that the reset button does not touch the firmware -- which is why TI is probably worried about this situation.

I am vehemently opposed to DRM, but I would not go as far as to claim that the companies pushing DRM want to control their users just for the sake of control. These people are not twirling their mustachios and laughing to each other about their evil plots -- they have a reason for wanting to control their users, and it almost always boils down to making money. TI is worried about losing the only remaining market for graphing calculators, so they will go to any length, including undermining user freedoms, to try to maintain that market.

Re:what (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33095360)

User freedom isn't even involved.
People only buy these calculators for the standardized tests, and the tests are standardized because the calculators are locked-out pieces of shit.

It's just a monopoly perpetrated between educational facilities, TI, and the test makers.

Re:what (2, Insightful)

tomhudson (43916) | about 4 years ago | (#33095642)

So just cut the on-board trace from the reset button. They can press it all they want at that point.

Heck, I can see a new market niche - unresetable calculators. Hey, Ferris, you want to make some quick money to fund your next day off?

Re:what (4, Informative)

Firethorn (177587) | about 4 years ago | (#33095768)

Pushing reset results in visible screen changes. You can both have firmware fake a reset in that case or have the cheating system embedded into the firmware.

If the calculator won't reset, then they're either going to do a closer check for cheat stuff or just not let you have the calculator(hope you brought a backup!).

Re:what (1)

_133MHz (1556101) | about 4 years ago | (#33095882)

A Dual NAND Flash calculator with a hidden switch for choosing between two identical memory banks would be excellent for getting solver apps into standardized tests. Let the instructor reset your main NAND and see all your apps go poof, then switch to the hidden NAND during the test to get all your solver programs back. A reed switch with a flip-flop style latch would be totally invisible from outside of the calculator. Just carry a small magnet and hover it over the magic spot on your calc to switch memory banks.

You could get a console modding guy to do this to your calculator if you aren't good with electronics and/or fine pitch soldering, since they routinely deal with this sort of thing (installing a Dual NAND into a Wii comes to mind).

Re:what (1)

CrashandDie (1114135) | about 4 years ago | (#33096040)

These people are not twirling their mustachios

Well, they're students. When I was a student, I used to twirl my mustachio quite a lot.

Unless that wasn't a euphemism?

Re:what (1)

GeckoAddict (1154537) | about 4 years ago | (#33096052)

There's a really easy solution to the cheating problem, and it wouldn't even require TI to do anything different: have the school provide calculators for use during a test. If the school bought 60 calculators, they would ensure they are clear of any programs, hand them out before the test and collect them with the test. If students cheat on homework, it'll be easily reflected when they don't know how to solve the problems on the test. To prevent student's from looking at previous tests online, use different tests (the teacher should be doing this anyway)

They could even take extra steps like hot-gluing the comm ports so there can't be wires going to a cheating device, and make them look different so a teacher walking around during a test can easily tell if the student is not using the same device they were given (like etch a number into each). Assuming the teacher is even remotely paying attention, students can't swap the calculator, and it'll be pretty obvious if they're doing anything to it.

Now that student's can't use their own calculators during the test, TI doesn't have to do anything to prevent people from hacking at the devices they physically own as long it's difficult enough that a teacher would notice (like plugging in a cable) during a test. And the school only needs enough calculators to share between the math classes, so it's not even that much investment. For tests like the SAT they could add $5 to the fee and they're paid for.

Re:what (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | about 4 years ago | (#33095522)

Writing a program during the exam is just ever so subtly different from entering the exam with a bunch of programs already loaded onto the calculator.

Re:what (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33096022)

Make exams, where programs don't help.
Actually all of the school and university math exams I remembered required a detailed way, how to get to the result, and if there was something wrong on the way, even if the result was right, you got no points at all.
In some of the exams, we were even allowed to use all books and scripts we could bring with us. Didn't help those, who hadn't practised enough or were not good at math a bit, since they just ran out of time or wouldn't have had the right idea, how to calculate something or do a certain proof.

Re:what (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33095710)

The solution is pretty simple, the school buys enough pure calculators for the examinations, and let the kids use their own in lessons and at home. In the grand scheme of things, it's a piss in the ocean and they'll last for many years. Mathematics for kids isn't going to change much now that slide-rules and log tables aren't exactly core syllabus.

Re:what (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33095894)

A calculator is a crutch. It teaches people not to know how to actually do mathematics and only rely on the machine. When I got my BS in physics, the only time I needed a graphing calculator was during my quantum mechanics and mathematical physics classes where I had do large matrix operations. A little TI-36X solar is good enough for everything else. And yes, I do not think anyone should ever use a graphing calculator in a math or science class to graph things. If you need need that much analysis power then Maple, Matlab, or Mathematica should be used. Anything less should be done in your head.

Re:what (1)

mangu (126918) | about 4 years ago | (#33095830)

And why would anybody spend 100$ on a calculator when you can almost get a laptop for that price today?

Hmmm, let's say you can get *half* a netbook for that price.

The answer why people buy calculators is simple: the keyboard. A full computer may be much more powerful, but there are people who just need to do calculations and there's nothing like a specialized keyboard to speed that up.

If the price were right (let's say about $20) I bet there would be a market for a USB calculator keyboard that you can connect to the computer.

Re:what (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33095976)

Battery life? Weight? Size? Reliability? Could you really not think of any of that? You must be an extraordinarily unimaginative individual.

Just lease the stuff to people (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33095166)

Seriously if it's that damned important that people only run TI/Apple/etc sanction applications on their particular hardware why don't the companies just lease the stuff to their userbase?

why? (1)

Monkey-Man2000 (603495) | about 4 years ago | (#33095170)

Of all the devices that unnecessarily have DRM, why a calculator? How can TI possibly think this is helpful? They just seem to be neurotically following Apple's lead when they could make their device so much more useful. Ugghh... (and no I didn't RTFA).

Re:why? (5, Insightful)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | about 4 years ago | (#33095194)

The last time this came up on /., I said that it is probably about standardized tests. A number of people pointed out that when they were in school, calculators were reset to the factory defaults before they were allowed to use them on an exam. What I have to wonder about, though, is what it means to be reset to "factory defaults" -- I doubt that there is a second copy of the original firmware that will be forced to load when the reset button is pressed. More likely, "factory defaults" only means clearing anything the user created, but leaving the firmware intact.

Thus, if users can just install their own firmware, TI risks having the current illusion that teachers are under -- that the calculators are "less of a computer" than any other computer -- being undermined.

Re:why? (1)

The MAZZTer (911996) | about 4 years ago | (#33095218)

I think you can hold some keys when the calculator turns on (or when inserting the batteries?) to reset to factory defaults. Since the calculator wouldn't want to store an entire separate copy of the OS in its limited storage, you could keep some stuff around in theory. I haven't used my TI calc for awhile though; my DSi is more fun. :)

Homebrew status on DSi? (1)

tepples (727027) | about 4 years ago | (#33095572)

I haven't used my TI calc for awhile though; my DSi is more fun. :)

I know there are special DSi flash cards that can run DS (not DSi) homebrew on a DSi. But has the DSi been usefully hacked in DSi mode, with the built-in SD slot and the cameras available to homebrew? Or would it be better to stick with my DS Lite for homebrew? There doesn't seem to be any recent news on dsibrew.org.

Re:why? (5, Insightful)

maxwell demon (590494) | about 4 years ago | (#33095262)

Of course the simplest solution would still be for the school to have, say, 100 calculators owned by the school, exclusively to be used in tests. People don't bring their own calculator, they use the school-supplied one. It would be a one-time investment (calculators tend to work for very extended times).

Another solution would be to only allow calculators without permanent storage. Who needs graphing calculators anyway?

Re:why? (3, Funny)

Peach Rings (1782482) | about 4 years ago | (#33095336)

If you're going to allow calculators at all, graphing calculators are definitely the best option. My TI-89 has scrollback, symbolic computation (I would die without free variables), pretty printing, copy and paste, and algebraic factoring/expansion.

Unless you're in 7th grade or something, all of those make it much easier to focus on the real problem rather than getting caught up in the algebra.

Re:why? (4, Insightful)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | about 4 years ago | (#33095356)

If "getting caught up in the algebra" is a problem, then you need all the practice you can get. There is nothing wrong with being required to work out the algebra in a math course, and in high school physics and chemistry courses, it is rare for the algebra to go beyond basic quadratic equations or systems of linear equations, neither of which takes a terribly long time to work out.

Re:why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33095794)

Not only would this fix the DRM issue, it would also be more profitable for TI since they would sell 100 extra calculators per school.

Re:why? (1)

tclgeek (587784) | about 4 years ago | (#33095910)

I'm sure glad I went to school in the 80's where I could choose to use my RPN calculator. If I was forced to use a TI it would have taken me twice as long to finish a test.

Re:why? (5, Interesting)

TejWC (758299) | about 4 years ago | (#33095520)

Actually, a friend of mine came up with a genius idea: write a TI-83 emulator on his TI-83.

What he did was make it look like his calculator was not running any program (just showing the main screen) when in fact it is running a program: his emulator. The teacher could test out with a simple math calculation while under the emulator and it would work just fine. However, when the teacher tries to delete any of the programs he had or try to reset all the data, it would do so only for the emulator, not for the real TI-83 data.

So, right before giving his calculator to the teacher before the exam, he would run his emulator. The teacher would clear the memory of the emulator, but then he would then exit out of the emulator and have all of his real programs intact.

Re:why? (2, Interesting)

noidentity (188756) | about 4 years ago | (#33095732)

Awesome story. Reminds me of the Apple IIs in school where we'd make a short BASIC program that did its own command prompt, but gave you confusing responses. Great hilarity.

Re:why? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33095766)

yo dawg! we heard you like to calculate things while your on your calculator! so we put a calculator in your calculator!

so you can calculate.....

Re:why? (1)

Brett Buck (811747) | about 4 years ago | (#33095806)

If you are going to put that kind of thought into cheating on a test, wouldn't you be better served actually learning the material?

maybe they don't want to have there games and othe (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | about 4 years ago | (#33095846)

maybe they don't want to have there games and other non cheat stuff wiped out?

Re:why? (1)

_133MHz (1556101) | about 4 years ago | (#33095960)

IMO if you're putting that kind of work just to cheat on a test, you're already learning a lot of things (programming and/or electronics in case of hardware hacks), things that are arguably worth much more for your personal development than whatever the particular test might cover.

Just fake the UI (3, Funny)

saibot834 (1061528) | about 4 years ago | (#33095654)

In my school, one student who wrote his own little programs in Basic and didn't want to loose them due to an exam, wrote another program that faked the normal UI and displayed a menu where you could 'reset' the calculator even though nothing really happened. You could only tell by one small detail (a tiny bar on the upper right corner, indicating a program was currently running) that it wasn't the real deal. None of the teachers realized that.

And that was done with a normal Basic program. I guess if you code directly in Assembler, you can do much more.

Re:Just fake the UI (2, Informative)

nattt (568106) | about 4 years ago | (#33095684)

We just used to slot some cardboard or sheet plastic in the back of the calculator - Casio fx7000-G so that when the teach pushed a pen in to hit the rest switch, it just hit the plastic and didn't reset the calculator.

Re:why? (2, Informative)

h3nning (602044) | about 4 years ago | (#33095660)

10 years ago when I was at a university they also said that they would reset to factory defaults, this never ever happened, though. Probably because senior citizens are hired to supervise exams here in Norway.

Also, even if they did, the calculator I had could store data and programs in flash, which wouldn't be affected by a factory reset.

The only way a factory reset would have affected me was that I would have had to turn RPN back on.

Re:why? (3, Insightful)

Vahokif (1292866) | about 4 years ago | (#33095310)

It's because a major selling point of their calculators is that you can use them in exams. If you can hack them to cheat, they won't be allowed any more.

Re:why? (3, Interesting)

Joce640k (829181) | about 4 years ago | (#33095758)

They also make the same calculators in versions which are open and programmable so this is just stupid. All you'll end up doing is getting them banned from exams and then you won't want to own one so you just shot yourself in the foot.

at the end of the day: (3, Interesting)

phyrexianshaw.ca (1265320) | about 4 years ago | (#33095176)

The be all and end all reason that TI want's to prevent people from installing software on these calc's is the modern education system.

If you install something a school would consider "cheating" on your calculator, you'll get suspended. the modern system want's to forgo the checking of these devices, (as they rarely have the technical ability to even understand how they work)

it's always a money grab. though I understand the desire to have a common platform, I also think people should be able to modify their calculators as much as they want.

if people CAN cheat at a test, there's something wrong with the testing method. change your test, don't punish people for outsmarting the education system!

Re:at the end of the day: (1)

hughperkins (705005) | about 4 years ago | (#33095214)

> if people CAN cheat at a test, there's something wrong with the testing method. change your test, don't punish people for outsmarting the education system!

That might have been true in the days before google, and vworker.com, but nowadays the answers to common and uncommon questions are a quick search away, and getting other people to answer a question for you is not so hard either, which is not quite relevant for a programmable calculator per se, but directly relevant to the assertion that it is possible to create tests that can't be cheated on.

Re:at the end of the day: (5, Interesting)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | about 4 years ago | (#33095266)

the answers to common and uncommon questions are a quick search away

If you are asking the same question year after year, then sure, that is a problem. The solution is as clear as day: ask different questions on each exam. If a student looks up the answers to previous exams on Google, and from that is able to answer new questions...then what is the problem, exactly? The student learned how to solve the problems they are expected to be able to solve, which seems like a victory for education.

As for calculators, they should not be allowed on exams at all, or in classrooms. Math is not about pushing buttons, and if every math problem (even in physics and chemistry) a student encountered required them to find a solution without the assistance of a calculator, we would not have to water down math exams just to ensure that more than 50% of the students pass (maybe I am being a bit optimistic about the extra practice...).

Re:at the end of the day: (5, Informative)

Ash Vince (602485) | about 4 years ago | (#33095354)

As for calculators, they should not be allowed on exams at all, or in classrooms. Math is not about pushing buttons, and if every math problem (even in physics and chemistry) a student encountered required them to find a solution without the assistance of a calculator, we would not have to water down math exams just to ensure that more than 50% of the students pass (maybe I am being a bit optimistic about the extra practice...).

You are obviously to young to know that engineers have always used calculators. Before these new fangled electronic things people used slide rules, they could do almosy as much as a modern calculator.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slide_rule [wikipedia.org]

Re:at the end of the day: (1)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | about 4 years ago | (#33095380)

I was not thinking of engineers, to be honest. I was thinking of high school students, since high school is where I saw the overwhelming majority of graphing calculators being used.

Re:at the end of the day: (1)

Hatta (162192) | about 4 years ago | (#33095702)

Slide rules at least require a little knowledge to work. If you can use a slide rule, you understand the logarithm rules pretty well (even if they haven't been taught to you as such yet). Honestly, we'd be a lot better off requiring slide rule use instead of calculator use. Learning slide rules teaches basic concepts. Logarithms, significant figures, etc. The accuracy is good enough for pretty much any high school or college course. And you *can't* cheat with a slide rule.

Re:at the end of the day: (1)

sensei moreh (868829) | about 4 years ago | (#33096004)

I wonder, was there a rule that said you could only use a slide rule with C,D,A,B, and the log scale (I forget its designation)? I had a slide rule with 20 scales - much easier to deal with logarithms. Don't ever recall being told I couldn't use it on an exam. On the other hand, maybe I've become forgetful in my old age.

Re:at the end of the day: (2, Insightful)

Peach Rings (1782482) | about 4 years ago | (#33095378)

The student learned how to solve the problems they are expected to be able to solve, which seems like a victory for education.

Except in 1 or 2 years they'll be completely lost. How do you think someone who googled all the answers to their algebra 1 homework and tests will do in algebra 2 or precalc? Or in life?

As for calculators, they should not be allowed on exams at all, or in classrooms. Math is not about pushing buttons

The important parts of math are abstract, not computational. It's a good thing to get rid of the tedious computation that you mastered back in 3rd grade. Removing calculators would be an artificial barrier to learning, like making students scan through paper volumes of trig tables.

Re:at the end of the day: (5, Insightful)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | about 4 years ago | (#33095454)

The important parts of math are abstract, not computational. It's a good thing to get rid of the tedious computation that you mastered back in 3rd grade. Removing calculators would be an artificial barrier to learning, like making students scan through paper volumes of trig tables.

Except that students are unable to do basic arithmetic these days. It is fine for an engineering undergrad to use a calculator to save some time, but when people are graduating high school and cannot multiply two numbers, there is a very serious problem. Yes, math is abstract, but the ability to compute a result still matters -- when I was a teenager working in an ice cream store, people would sometimes give me some change after I had entered everything into the cash register, and so I was forced to quickly do some arithmetic...and many of the kids working with me could not even handle that. Now I am in grad school, and I still find myself having to do basic arithmetic -- the research I am doing is almost entirely abstract math (cryptography), but when I am standing next to a whiteboard trying to explain something, I sometimes have a need to do some multiplication.

Considering that a high school in the neighborhood where I grew up had the dubious honor of less than 40% of its students being able to pass a basic one-variable algebra exam, there is no excuse for giving the students less practice working out problems without calculators. It would be better if they were able to at least understand the most basic math and not run to a calculator than if they were unable to do any math and need a calculator just to subtract some numbers.

Re:at the end of the day: (1)

noidentity (188756) | about 4 years ago | (#33095688)

Being able to do mental arithmetic is a practical skill like any other. If you don't have a use for it, it doesn't matter that you have forgotten how. I've forgotten how to do long division, but I've had very little need to do so. Even when implementing long division on an 8-bit micro, the binary nature gives it a somewhat different character. I can be the most effective by using the tools around me to automate things, leaving me to do the things that cannot be automated.

Re:at the end of the day: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33095250)

True... Instead of programming on the calculator you could just hide the answers to the test in the programs themselves though // the answer to number 3 is pi r squared

Re:at the end of the day: (1)

TheLink (130905) | about 4 years ago | (#33095404)

How about TI design the calculator to allow people to install software, but have a hardware button to reset everything- e.g. overwite the entire flash with an original ROM? I think Gigabyte motherboards have a "dual BIOS" thing which does that. You want to bring your calculator in, too bad it gets reset to the old original ROM.

Then kids who can figure out how to mod the calculator and still cheat in exams probably would do OK anyway.

> if people CAN cheat at a test, there's something wrong with the testing method.

Just because the "Mission Impossible" sort of people can cheat in your highschool's test doesn't mean there's something wrong with the test.

Re:at the end of the day: (2, Insightful)

phyrexianshaw.ca (1265320) | about 4 years ago | (#33095602)

How about TI design the calculator to allow people to install software, but have a hardware button to reset everything- e.g. overwite the entire flash with an original ROM? I think Gigabyte motherboards have a "dual BIOS" thing which does that. You want to bring your calculator in, too bad it gets reset to the old original ROM.

that breaks upgradability. if you put a ROM into the calc's with a base firmware, and a problem with that firmware ever pops up, you'll have to replace/recall all those units. whereas FLASH is upgradeable, and you can just send fixes to people.

Just because the "Mission Impossible" sort of people can cheat in your highschool's test doesn't mean there's something wrong with the test.

there shouldn't be a test with questions that can be "Mission Impossible"'d.
A test should NEVER be multiple choice. the only reason multiple choice tests exist these days is to speed the grading, and allow our over populated schools deal with the larger number of students without having to increase staff count. (as always, it goes back to not enough money in the education system)

The way I see it, there's no way to cheat at a real test, ever. if you can go about answering the question by finding the answer somewhere else in the same amount (or less) time that it took the other students to derive the same answer, they've still learned something. it should take understanding of the question to know how to find the reference to the answer somewhere. (which is more than alright: I'd never expect a person to be able to derive me the one millionth point in a Mandelbrot Set by hand. but if they know enough to find me the answer, they're alright in my books.)

whereas a shitty multiple choice test only requires you to know what of the four options the answer is, without even reading the question. there's no learning in multiple choice tests. even smart kids will often default to "the answer is always 'C'" logic from time to time, it's just a fact of life that nobody does everything right ALL THE TIME.

Re:at the end of the day: (1)

TheLink (130905) | about 4 years ago | (#33095862)

>that breaks upgradability.

How so? The Dual BIOS Gigabyte motherboards are certainly upgradeable. In fact one of the benefits of the Gigabyte dual BIOS was that you can more easily recover if your upgrade goes wrong - you can fall back to the original/backup ROM and start the whole upgrade again.

> The way I see it, there's no way to cheat at a real test,

Can you give an example of a real test where cheating is not possible? Even the Mission Impossible people can cheat in an essay test. Or a CCIE test.

With sufficient resources and preparation time you can cheat in most tests. Assuming they don't strip naked, MRI all test candidates, and put each in their own sealed Faraday cage for the test.

Even then you may have difficulty ensuring that the person sitting for the test is actually the person who's supposed to get the certs/grades. After all people have also been known to pay others to sit for some tests.

Re:at the end of the day: (1)

TheVelvetFlamebait (986083) | about 4 years ago | (#33095808)

if people CAN cheat at a test, there's something wrong with the testing method. change your test, don't punish people for outsmarting the education system!

What utter crap. If a student decides to cheat, it's nothing but his own damn fault. He can learn, if nothing else, to exercise a little bit of self-discipline, instead of using the system as a scapegoat. They know the rules, and they choose to break them. If they have an issue with the system, they complain about it before they're sitting in front of the paper, or if it's too late, they should deal with the consequences of their laziness themselves.

It's a funny way of looking at cheating, to call it "outsmarting the system". Most cheats exploit faults known to both administrators and students, and exploiting them is hardly an exercise in either intelligence or even creativity. It's like stealing candy from a candy honesty box.

Re:at the end of the day: (1)

ducomputergeek (595742) | about 4 years ago | (#33095824)

It's not the education system as much as the standardized testing system. Well, unless things have changed in the past 15 years.

Re:at the end of the day: (0, Redundant)

mpe (36238) | about 4 years ago | (#33095930)

The be all and end all reason that TI want's to prevent people from installing software on these calc's is the modern education system.

The solution is actually quite simple. Issue a standard calculator (most likely a fairly basic model) with the test paper.

Obligatory xkcd (5, Funny)

teh31337one (1590023) | about 4 years ago | (#33095188)

Re:Obligatory xkcd (1)

fsterman (519061) | about 4 years ago | (#33095302)

Yeah, and why haven't cheap Chinese clones flooded the market with $20 knockoffs? That's the REAL solution to this problem: then schools and TI will be all about owning their own hardware for standardized testing.

Re:Obligatory xkcd (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33095628)

Quite. Surely Texas Instruments are about 18 months away from having their ass handed to them completely by smart phones/readers? They have better displays, more RAM, faster... you don't even need the calculators "special keys" if you have a touch screen which can have software defined buttons.

No "rights" involved. (1)

John Hasler (414242) | about 4 years ago | (#33095190)

> The battle rages on as users fight for the right to run their own software on their own hardware.

They have the right to run their own software on their own hardware. It's the knowledge of how to do so that they lacked. Now they have it.

TI is still fighting them (3, Insightful)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | about 4 years ago | (#33095216)

The point is the fight, not whether or not a particular device has been cracked. TI (and to be fair, plenty of other companies) are engaged in a constant struggle to prevent users from exercising their right to run whatever software they want on their computers. You might construe it as, "Well you can still run the software, you just don't know how" but realistically speaking, the devices are being designed to thwart the user's attempt to install software without thwarting the manufacturer. That is a strike against us and our rights, regardless of how you phrase it.

Re:TI is still fighting them (1)

Gnavpot (708731) | about 4 years ago | (#33095424)

The point is the fight, not whether or not a particular device has been cracked. TI (and to be fair, plenty of other companies) are engaged in a constant struggle to prevent users from exercising their right to run whatever software they want on their computers. You might construe it as, "Well you can still run the software, you just don't know how" but realistically speaking, the devices are being designed to thwart the user's attempt to install software without thwarting the manufacturer. That is a strike against us and our rights, regardless of how you phrase it.

I will try rephrase the grandparent's statement to make it more clear to you:

Fighting to crack a certain device is not fighting for a right - it is fighting to be able to excercise the right you already had.

Cracking the device does not give you more or less rights than you had before cracking it. If you want to change the rights, you have to influence the legislators.

Re:TI is still fighting them (1)

Gnavpot (708731) | about 4 years ago | (#33095438)

And once again I fail at using quote tags.

Re:TI is still fighting them (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | about 4 years ago | (#33095612)

And once again I fail at using quote tags.

If you are going to quote the full parent in one block anyway, why are you not just using the "Quote Parent" button? It's both easier and less error prone.

Re:TI is still fighting them (1)

noidentity (188756) | about 4 years ago | (#33095752)

Wow, never knew such a "Quote Parent" button existed in the full interface. I use the simplified one, due to what OS/browser I have access to, so I don't see that. Nice to know, anyway.

Re:TI is still fighting them (1)

John Hasler (414242) | about 4 years ago | (#33095646)

> ...the devices are being designed to thwart the user's attempt to install
> software without thwarting the manufacturer.

And the users are knowingly buying the devices.

> That is a strike against us and our rights, regardless of how you phrase it.

It has nothing to do with your rights. The fact is that 99+% of the users don't give a damn about installing software. They just want to use the things. If it doesn't do what you want don't buy it.

Re:No "rights" involved. (1)

phyrexianshaw.ca (1265320) | about 4 years ago | (#33095248)

it's been proposed a number of times at TI that they allow for people to do as they please with their Calculators, move the software to a Read Only removable flash card, and allow people to put their own cards into the things, then offering schools the ability to purchase the "standard firmware" flash cards for a gov't subsidized rate.

but anything that involves schools spending more money is seen as a "bad thing" by taxpayers. (who then turn around and scream that we don't spend enough money on education..)

Niche market (2, Interesting)

zogger (617870) | about 4 years ago | (#33095226)

Looks to me like a potential good enough niche market for some startup (or a cooperative) to build and sell a really open calculator. And I would guess said designers and builders could come from within that same community, ie, engineers/students/scientists who are already using these high end calculators. That pool of people has the necessary skillset taken as a whole. Electronic pocket calculators have been around a long time, the basic design must be well understood by now. And it seems like if you weren't trying to keep it locked down, the design would be simpler by some not insignificant degree.

Re:Niche market (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33095306)

Pretty clear, schools and testing organizations say which calculators can be used on standardized tests,, if it can be programmed it will not be allowed in the room. So if TI wants a calculator in this segement of the market it must be effectivly locked.
Now it is a separate issue as to how screwed up the education segement is.. but that is a separate argument.

Government (0)

DaMattster (977781) | about 4 years ago | (#33095282)

Given the recent legal victory that makes jailbreaking iPhones neither a criminal nor tort act, I'd say TI is being awfully brazen. I think this needs to be brought up in front of the same commission that reached said ruling. Unfortunately, TI has a monopoly in the graphing/programmable calculator area and I fear that they might throw patent-litigation threats in the face of anyone trying build a competitive, open-source equivalent.

Re:Government (1)

phyrexianshaw.ca (1265320) | about 4 years ago | (#33095626)

the issue there is that the Iphone is not targeted at a market that won't allow upgradability.

the TI's are designed as "standard instruments" that schools are expected to know how they work, what they can do, and what they are allowed for. if you bring an iphone to your SAT, and spend half the exam texting people for answers, they're going to throw out your test. (even though in my opinion there's very little wrong with that.) where as you bringing your TI-83 to a math exam is.. almost expected.

TI Should really let them be hacked (2, Insightful)

flipper9 (109877) | about 4 years ago | (#33095292)

What if the kids did hack their calculators, install inappropriate notes, and cheat on their exams? It would be inconvenient for the teachers to reflash/reformat/reset each calculator, and be sure that the student wasn't still cheating. The teacher's only solution would be to purchase additional TI calculators for exam purposes only. A win-win for TI!

Re:TI Should really let them be hacked (4, Insightful)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | about 4 years ago | (#33095340)

The teacher's only solution would be to purchase additional TI calculators

Or they might wake up and realize that graphing calculators do not solve any educational goals. Then TI would be screwed, as teachers began requiring their students to actually understand math instead of just understanding how to push buttons.

Re:TI Should really let them be hacked (1)

flipper9 (109877) | about 4 years ago | (#33095370)

Agreed. I can see the usefulness of a basic calculator for math and simple operations, which can be found in extremely cheap china versions for less than $1 each. One solution my professors had for the complicated calculations problems on exams was to make the math extremely easy, as what they were testing was your ability to do the calculation, not whether you could calculate 1.84523*32.344/422.33... so they'd make it into a problem where the math was more like 2*6/4.

Re:TI Should really let them be hacked (3, Insightful)

cherry-blossom (1863326) | about 4 years ago | (#33095518)

Yep- How many students get through calculus in high school using a calculator only to get screwed in college calculus when they can't use one.

Ahh TI calculators (2, Interesting)

areusche (1297613) | about 4 years ago | (#33095304)

I had the best time using my TI-84 on tests and the SATs. I had several physics and math programs that made completing pointless busy work so much faster along with showing the formulas most of the time! My favorite program was this "Fake Clear" program that would trap the "Memory Reset" function and allow for a user to use the wipe function without deleting any programs after typing in a set of numbers to unlock it.

Was it cheating? Did I do something unethical?

I don't know, nor do I care. I could recreate my steps and completely understood the math behind it.

I've been out of school for so long now and frankly I hope that these hackers give the fat finger to TI and the College Board. I have nothing but disdain for those two organizations

Re:Ahh TI calculators (1)

PRMan (959735) | about 4 years ago | (#33095576)

You can use calculators on the SAT? Since when? My favorite trick was using the black marks on the side of the Scantron page to measure the graphs. Because if they didn't say Not To Scale, they were.

Now get off my lawn!

Not to Diminish the Achievement... (1)

Greyfox (87712) | about 4 years ago | (#33095320)

But why put the effort into making a piece of hardware better when the manufacturer clearly doesn't want you doing that? Why not start a project to create your dream calculator on a more open platform? If you went with Android or Iphone, that would be one less device you have to carry around and you could install it on one of the pads for the platforms (Good graphing calculator on an iPad... :-)

Re:Not to Diminish the Achievement... (1)

daveisfera (832409) | about 4 years ago | (#33095362)

The issue is that you can't take a phone into some areas, like into a test, and that's where a product like this comes into play.

Re:Not to Diminish the Achievement... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33095388)

Because they're commonly used for standardised testing. YOU try to convince a high school teacher you aren't going to cheat on your internet enabled multi application device.

Re:Not to Diminish the Achievement... (1)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | about 4 years ago | (#33095596)

But why put the effort into making a piece of hardware better when the manufacturer clearly doesn't want you doing that?

Because we do not care what the manufacturer wants us to do with our hardware? We bought it, we'll use it however we want to, regardless of what the manufacturer says.

Oh wow... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33095346)

Wow... Haven't thought of TICalcs in forever. I just dug up some of my old assembly.

Afrosoft Bounceballs [ticalc.org]

Wow, did I really comment every line?

And how about the binary

Download Description [ticalc.org]

BounceBall is an *oldsk00* pong clone. In the author's oppinion, it is very fun (obviously). The game is only 898bytes, and has extensive documentation in the source code. Good to learn by.

I really wrote like that back in 2000?! Wow... And someone downloaded it 5 times this week?!

It's kind of like what they said about tattoos. What I thought was good 10 years ago, I think is absolutely horrible now.

Solution (2, Insightful)

Vahokif (1292866) | about 4 years ago | (#33095348)

They should sell two models with exactly the same capabilities, except one should be as locked down as possible and the other should be totally unrestricted and have a wildly different color scheme so you can tell them apart. This way hackers get to hack and examiners can be sure if they're not using the calculators to cheat.

Re:Solution (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33095468)

The TI-89 isn't permitted for the ACT or SAT tests. Naturally, one of my favorite things to do was take the board inside of my TI-89 and swap it with the one inside of my TI-84. Now I have an 89 that looks like an 84. Cheating? Damn straight it is. Now tell me what's going to stop me from swapping my colored cases...

Re:Solution (1)

rennerik (1256370) | about 4 years ago | (#33095900)

That's actually not true. The TI-89 *is* allowed on the SAT; the TI-89 Plus is not (the one that has a QWERTY keyboard). I used my TI-89 on the SAT not too long ago and there were no problems. They also don't reset your memory either, and there are programs out there, like the SAT OS [calc-tech.com] which aims to help you with the SAT math sections by solving things for you, and it's perfectly acceptable. You still need to know *how* to solve things.

Re:Solution (1)

noidentity (188756) | about 4 years ago | (#33095712)

Uhhh, yeah, how many seconds until a hacker swaps the shells of two so that his hackable one looks like the unhackable one?

Re:Solution (2, Informative)

Vahokif (1292866) | about 4 years ago | (#33095880)

Well they can do that now. There must be a way of making a case that you can't open without breaking it.

Re:Solution (1)

langelgjm (860756) | about 4 years ago | (#33095892)

You could make them different form factors so that the shells aren't able to swapped without cutting off critical parts of the calculator :-)

Problem (1)

TheVelvetFlamebait (986083) | about 4 years ago | (#33095828)

Same problem as before. People hack the DRM, student start cheating again.

The ability to run software on their hardware (2)

noidentity (188756) | about 4 years ago | (#33095484)

You have a right to not buy TI products. TI has a right to sell you whatever crap they want, as long as they don't misrepresent it. What they're fighting for is the continued ability to run their own software on the calculators. That is not a right.

Compulsory education (3, Insightful)

tepples (727027) | about 4 years ago | (#33095674)

You have a right to not buy TI products.

School systems have a right to require TI products at the high school level. Children do not have a right not to go to school.

Re:The ability to run software on their hardware (1)

Hatta (162192) | about 4 years ago | (#33095742)

You have a right to not buy TI products.

Not always. In my school district a TI-83 purchase was mandatory for pre-calc.

Re:The ability to run software on their hardware (1)

icebraining (1313345) | about 4 years ago | (#33095750)

Actually, it is. They bought the calcs, they have the right to run whatever they want on them.

They don't have the right to demand TI to remove the DRM, though.

this line indicates the subject of my post (1)

nwmann (946016) | about 4 years ago | (#33095680)

Unless the calcs are somehow wirelessly updating the OS then STFU you don't have to update the OS. Those of you who wish to write your own apps for the calculator have at it, just don't update your OS dumbshit.

Re:this line indicates the subject of my post (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33095820)

"Just don't update your OS" doesn't work if your calculator came with the new OS.

simple, no calculators! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33095704)

I am convinced that it is possible to design tests for almost any subject which do NOT require calculators (e.g. the physics GRE)! I also had a few profs in grad school who were adamantly against any kind of technology on tests (no phones allowed, no calculators, etc.). Quantum and E&M in particular come to mind.

ground rules on each test were something like this :
- final answer is symbolic
- leave fundamental constants symbolic
- if you MUST do a computation round the constant to the nearest integer (e = 3, pi = 3, etc.)

Any problems with actual physical numbers were given on the test and rounded (e.g. distance to moon = 4e5 km)
Problems were designed and tested (by a TA) without a calculator. You were graded based on the final answer, but MOSTLY based on all of your work leading up to that answer. Computational problems with "real" numbers were left for homework.

Keep in mind that everyone in these classes obviously KNEW how to do the simple algebra the CAS on a ti-89 can do.... but that's not the point. It's about test security. Once you have access to one of these devices, you have people loading custom firmware (w/ hotkeys and backdoors), swapping out cases (e.g. the guy with the ti-84 story above), etc. etc.

Pity there isn't a judge with some ballls..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33095762)

That would rule, If the end user actually purchases said hardware, (whatever it is), they have the right to do whatever the hell they please. Now if you want to try LEASING consumers something that the maker retains ownership of, go right on ahead! Watch Apple and all the other hard lock companies fall all over themselves to try to: 1. Explain that shit to the 90% of the sheeple who don't get it. and 2. Watch their marketshare fall as copycats who actually let you control the hardware leave them in the dust.

Legislating from the bench? Yep, just wish one freakin judge would have the sack to do it.

You are doing it wrong. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33095842)

Perhaps TI should un-DRM their calculators, and the test proctors should supply calculators for the test.
TI sells more calculators:one for each student (who might do low level programming too) and 50 to the proctor.

I'd rather have an HP-50G (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33095982)

...since RPN rules, and the HP sw stack is far superior to TI's.

Anyways, graphing calculators with alot of builtin mathematical functions are sometimes just alot handier to use than pulling out a nb and firing up mathematic/matlab/octave...

Hell, I sometimes even use the calc when sitting right at a desktop...

Drawback of this one is even though they moved on to a faster ARM CPU it still emulates their old CPU arch(Saturn), so they wouldn't have re-write all the builtin calc sw... (I'm still using an old 49G with an actualy Saturn CPU...)

Bring back Slide Rules (2)

flyingfsck (986395) | about 4 years ago | (#33096030)

We used Slide Rules - yeah, I'm that old. A Slide Rule is more environmentally friendly than a calculator. It doesn't use any mercury, lead or batteries...

WTF do kids needs graphing screens for in an exam anyway? They cannot submit the stupid graphs. So what is the point? An Abacus would work better.

My experience... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33096046)

I had a TI-82 my senior year in high school, and a TI-89 I got when I was a senior in college taking Calculus II. I still have the TI-89, and it works beautifully, even though I don't exactly use it to its full extent.

I had one math teacher in high school who was that type of teacher everybody has at least once--rude, unprofessional, malicious, and rigs her classes to make students fail. We're talking calling students "stupid" in class and separating classrooms into the "smart side" and "dumb side". Of course, her 30+ years of "experience" made the principal publicly fawn over her, even though the whole school practically erupted in cheer when she retired.

In any case, she did not allow graphing calculators on exams unless _she_ got to wipe it. I told her that she did not have permission to touch it, so she had to loan me an empty TI-82 from the school's collection.

That was the only time--high school and college--I ever had an instructor insist on inspecting calculators before an exam.

Having been a high-school teacher myself (not math; PC Support), I have a simple philosophy: if you can program [or hack] a calculator to help you through an exam, it's pretty obvious you know the material on the exam.

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