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Linux On the TI-Nspire Graphing Calculator

timothy posted about a year and a half ago | from the awesomeness-alert dept.

Handhelds 49

An anonymous reader writes "Developers been working hard for the past few months to get Linux ported to the TI-Nspire calculator. The port is not yet fully stabilized nor quite ready for broad consumption and requires some user-level knowledge of Linux systems, but is definitely worth a try. Experimental support for root filesystem installed on USB mass storage is being worked on, so that Datalight's proprietary Flash FX/Reliance filesystem used by TI's OS isn't a limit anymore. This also means that the native TI-Nspire OS image is not replaced by the Linux system, and Linux can been booted on demand. Support for USB keyboard, X server, directFB, Wi-Fi (with the help of a powered USB hub) and text-based Internet browsing is progressively being added and tested."

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49 comments

And... (5, Informative)

stevenh2 (1853442) | about a year and a half ago | (#42021551)

I bet you TI would do anything to stop it. Remember this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Texas_Instruments_signing_key_controversy [wikipedia.org]

Re:And... (3, Interesting)

fufufang (2603203) | about a year and a half ago | (#42022775)

I bet you TI would do anything to stop it. Remember this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Texas_Instruments_signing_key_controversy [wikipedia.org]

That's because TI's calculators are used in academic exams... Teachers don't want the kids to cheat.

Re:And... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42026561)

I bet you TI would do anything to stop it. Remember this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Texas_Instruments_signing_key_controversy [wikipedia.org]

That's because TI's calculators are used in academic exams... Teachers don't want the kids to cheat.

Wrong. TI wants to sell calculators. Period. They are a business.

And if they really wanted to solve the cheating issue on academic exams, then TI would push for sales directly to schools in order for them to issue the (virgin) devices to the test-takers when needed.

But selling/issuing calculators per test seat does not create near the revenue for TI in the same way that forcing or pressuring every damn student to buy one does.

Cheating on exams using these devices is not the real problem here, which as you can see is an easily solved one. Greed is the real problem.

Re:And... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42027259)

When I was in university a TI calculator was required equipment for the math classes. 10 years later, it was required (by name) for my stepsons high school math classes. This is pretty standard.

If it was easy to use the devices to cheat, universities and schools would soon shitlist it in favor of a different device. Maybe an iOS or android app. Probably 95% of TI's calculator sales would disappear instantly.

Re:And... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42029687)

As if that stopped anyone, anyhow?

We used to program convenience functions, etc for classes. Teachers never even thought kids were capable of that in highschool until a few of us did it.

Then it became "cheating". That's fine - but my point is: people will always find a way around it no matter what's on the calculator.

Also of note: People would put notes on them too but I think that's a bit different than having convenience functions and programs.

As an intellectual challenge - great (1)

Viol8 (599362) | about a year and a half ago | (#42021559)

As something with a worthwhile purpose? Umm , not sure about that one. Slow CPU, bugger all memory or storage , tiny screen and a lousy keyboard. Not really my idea of useful general purpose computer. And do you really want to risk screwing up a rather (for a calculator) expensive bit of kit?

Re:As an intellectual challenge - great (2, Insightful)

V!NCENT (1105021) | about a year and a half ago | (#42021645)

Does chess have a worthwile purpose? Is this made for your benifit?

This is news for nerds, remember. The question should be "Why not?".

Re:As an intellectual challenge - great (2, Interesting)

Viol8 (599362) | about a year and a half ago | (#42021679)

"Does chess have a worthwile purpose?"

Does your comment have a worthwhile purpose? As for why not - this project makes the calculator less useful since it'll be crap as a general purpose computer and now it'll be crap as a calculator too. Which rather defeats the point of most "nerd" projects which is generally to improve things.

Re:As an intellectual challenge - great (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42021711)

the point of most "nerd" projects which is generally to improve things.v

You could improve this thread right now by shutting the fuck up! Seriously.

Re:As an intellectual challenge - great (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42022221)

No, the point is to do things that will impress other people. That means doing neat things that nerds like, or fancy things that will impress the masses.

Re:As an intellectual challenge - great (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42022727)

Which rather defeats the point of most "nerd" projects which is generally to improve things.

How about improving yourself? While Linux on nspire isn't very useful, the skills learnt in putting it there probably are.

Re:As an intellectual mastubation - great (1)

noshellswill (598066) | about a year and a half ago | (#42024495)

How like a drooling byteboy, to shite on another table just so he can masturbate there undisturbed.

Re:As an intellectual challenge - great (2)

serviscope_minor (664417) | about a year and a half ago | (#42025535)

Does your comment have a worthwhile purpose?

Yes. Try reading the comment.

As for why not - this project makes the calculator less useful since

That's your opinion.

it'll be crap as a general purpose computer

Again, your opinion. It's not a general purpose replacement for a PC. Is there any other generally programmable machine which is as low power, has as long a battery life, screen which can be as easily read in sunlight etc etc.

and now it'll be crap as a calculator too.

I don't see why. One could certainly write a good calculator program for it. In fact, using a general purpose system, one could almost certainly write a better calculator program, or at least one that was more suitable for certain things.

Which rather defeats the point of most "nerd" projects which is generally to improve things.

No, it's to do stuff for the hell of it. Some times one is driven by a desire to improve. Other times one is driven by a desire to see if something can be done.

Re:As an intellectual challenge - great (1)

toddestan (632714) | about a year and a half ago | (#42062077)

And I thought the point of most nerd projects is "because I can".

Re:As an intellectual challenge - great (1)

Inda (580031) | about a year and a half ago | (#42025691)

This was News for Nerds, remember?

There was a branding change a few months back. You'll not see any stuff that matters either.

Re:As an intellectual challenge - great (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42026407)

Does chess have a worthwile purpose? Is this made for your benifit?

This is news for nerds, remember. The question should be "Why not?".

There are times where "Why not?" is appropriate.

There are also times where "Are you a fucking moron?" is appropriate as well.

Chess at least teaches strategy.

What exactly is the "strategy" with calculator hacking? Oh yeah, I almost forgot...it's "Cheat to Succeed".

Yes, a very worthwhile and noble effort there...clearly a straight parallel to the game of chess, where cheating is basically impossible.

Re:As an intellectual challenge - great (1)

bmo (77928) | about a year and a half ago | (#42021721)

Then why do anything fun at all? Why must everything have a purpose?

Your world must be a dreary rainy day in December.

--
BMO

Re:As an intellectual challenge - great (2)

Viol8 (599362) | about a year and a half ago | (#42021765)

Which bit of the subject line didn't you understand?

Re:As an intellectual challenge - great (-1, Troll)

bmo (77928) | about a year and a half ago | (#42021785)

But then you descend into bullshit in your message body.

You're a troll and should be modded such.

--
BMO

Re:As an intellectual challenge - great (1)

Trilkin (2042026) | about a year and a half ago | (#42022167)

Because his opinion doesn't match yours he's now a troll? Is there anybody in the world that isn't a troll to you? You seem to think everybody who disagrees with you is one.

Re:As an intellectual challenge - great (1)

kelemvor4 (1980226) | about a year and a half ago | (#42022579)

Because his opinion doesn't match yours he's now a troll? Is there anybody in the world that isn't a troll to you? You seem to think everybody who disagrees with you is one.

You must be new here, welcome to Slashdot!

Re:As an intellectual challenge - great (0)

squiggleslash (241428) | about a year and a half ago | (#42021761)

Here's an idea, why don't you leave Slashdot and return to studying for your MBA or whatever it is douchebags do these days?

That's Nothing, I've Got Linux on Bread (5, Funny)

ohnocitizen (1951674) | about a year and a half ago | (#42021563)

I ported Linux onto a piece of whole wheat bread. I don't have support for the root filesystem, USB keyboard, X server, Wi-Fi, or internet browsing yet, but it is ready for broad consumption.

Re:That's Nothing, I've Got Linux on Bread (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42021771)

This is plainly stupid. If you port it to Vanilla flavored Cake, then you can have your cake and eat it too. (cakefs)

Re:That's Nothing, I've Got Linux on Bread (1)

Chris Mattern (191822) | about a year and a half ago | (#42021845)

it is ready for broad consumption.

But what about guys?

Re:That's Nothing, I've Got Linux on Bread (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year and a half ago | (#42022125)

In that case, it cannot consume you, that's obvious. Why do you insist on being eaten by bread, anyway?

Re:That's Nothing, I've Got Linux on Bread (1)

Mitchell314 (1576581) | about a year and a half ago | (#42021851)

Where can I find the specifications and parts to make it? Can the hardware be made open source?

Re:That's Nothing, I've Got Linux on Bread (2)

JoosepN (1847126) | about a year and a half ago | (#42021875)

What flavour jam does it use? Mint?

Re:That's Nothing, I've Got Linux on Bread (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year and a half ago | (#42022119)

but it is ready for broad consumption.

...only if you have a really wide mouth.

Re:That's Nothing, I've Got Linux on Bread (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42028773)

This is nothing new—Linux has long since successfully been ported to a dead badger [strangehorizons.com] .

Re:That's Nothing, I've Got Linux on Bread (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42041427)


I ported Linux onto a piece of whole wheat bread.

and it tastes like chicken!

calculator is useless (-1, Flamebait)

xdcx (2711191) | about a year and a half ago | (#42021609)

who da fuck cares? like this is something that is revolutionary? this shit is pointless. there is nothing a a graphing calculator can do that a smart phone can be made to do. throw the fucking calculator in the garbage

Re:calculator is useless (1)

lbenes (2737085) | about a year and a half ago | (#42021747)

who da fuck cares? like this is something that is revolutionary? this shit is pointless.
there is nothing a a graphing calculator can do that a smart phone can be made to do.

throw the fucking calculator in the garbage

This is a big deal for students. Back when I was in HS and college, they did not allow students to use phones or PDAs during math and physics exams, but TI calculators were usually allowed.

Re:calculator is useless (2)

Teun (17872) | about a year and a half ago | (#42021933)

Would the world be populated with your clones the American Indians would still be hunting their buffalo's and the Pyramids would not even be the dream of a king.

Re:calculator is useless (1)

Sulphur (1548251) | about a year and a half ago | (#42022921)

Would the world be populated with your clones the American Indians would still be hunting their buffalo's and the Pyramids would not even be the dream of a king.

Did queen Ti have a calculator?

Finally (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42021795)

What every US student has been asking for for decades: The ability to install a decent calculator on their TI.

Re:Finally (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42025623)

No what every us student has been asking for is for tetris to come pre-installed on their ti. This is beyond pointless the only reason anyone would have is to say yea i put linux on that but i suppose that is the crowd linux has supporting it putting it on anything from a toaster to their tennis shoes to the casio watch they wear just cause they can.

Let me put it this way for 60$ i can get a cheap android tablet and go to the android market and download a port of any graphing calculator i want i am currently running the ti-84 port on my phone... the entry level tablets come with a 1ghz cortex a8 512 mb ram and 8 gig of storage wi-fi and a web browser a ti calculator comes with 20-100mhz processor 2mb-100mb storage and 16k-64mb ram i have a ti-83+ and a ti-83+ silver edition i have not touched since college math class before the advent of the cell phone as we know it today... last time i genuinely used a feature of a my ti was when i took the act and they let me use the damn thing to pretty much type the whole question in and end up with it calculating the answer i scored top 10% in math. Yeah i feel like i earned that using skill at operating a calculator being higher than my math skills...

i say we ban calculators in schools all they use them for is to play games on anyway.

Re:Finally (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42027137)

Aside from having some of the worst English skills I've ever seen on Slashdot... Graphing calculators aren't about the best bang for your buck. They're a focused tool that have a great battery life and are more durable than most tablets. Certainly more durable than the low end lamp of crap they you're talking about. Hell, you're lucky it boots 3 times in a row with what passes as a low end tablet today.
 
Are there better alternatives at the same price point today? A few but not many and every one of them allows students to cheat. That's a big problem.

Is there really any practical use for this... (-1, Redundant)

Brad1138 (590148) | about a year and a half ago | (#42021817)

Other than to say, look what I did?

Sharp Zaurus (1)

Dwedit (232252) | about a year and a half ago | (#42022505)

Once people get QT ported to this thing, you will have reinvented the Sharp Zaurus. Just with more buttons.

Why this isn't necessarily a good idea (3, Interesting)

digiZen (535342) | about a year and a half ago | (#42023319)

There are a couple of things that make TI calculators different from your average hackable smartphone or Raspberry Pi device.

First, they have terrible specs. The TI-NSpire, which is the creme-de-la-creme of these calculators has 20 MB of RAM. Compare to a recent Galaxy S3 smartphone - 2 GB, or even a $35 Raspberry Pi - 512 MB. The CPU is also woeful in spec, as is the flash, etc. They're also locked down to their dumbed down operating system which is extraordinarily limited, even when you consider the lack of the device's hardware prowess.

Second is the fact that these TI calculators are allowed on the SAT, ACT, and other standardized tests. This in my opinion is the reason for the awful specs. That they are allowed is precisely because the calculators are limited. It would be much easier to put a whole bunch of cheating software on a Galaxy S3. Heck, I could see apps like that in the Android marketplace for sale for $9.95! Or imagine - you could "ask an expert" during the test and have the answer transmitted to you over the smartphone's 4G coverage. Doesn't it make sense that the TI calculators have no built-in-networking, not even Bluetooth?

TI has to balance the fact that people want to cheat their way through these tests or math class and yet give them a nice calculator, one that can aid students in relieving the drudgery of basic arithmetic and maybe even have features that make people's lives easier. But again, this cannot come at the expense of having a platform that's ready for cheaters.

So in my opinion, this concept of putting Linux on the TI N-Spire is probably not a good idea, for a number of reasons. First, TI will likely try their darndest to prevent the calculators from being loaded up with a custom OS that could then be loaded up with cheatware. Moreover, if cheatware became easy to load, the people that run the SAT and ACT test would look to disqualify the TI from being used on these tests. This would then hurt the people that are honestly looking to use the calculator as intended on those exams.

If you're looking to hack on a piece of hardware, buy a Raspberry Pi, load a custom ROM on your smartphone. You're not doing anyone any favors by hacking Linux to run on the TI calculators except cheaters, and even that would only last a short while.

Why this is a good idea (2)

serviscope_minor (664417) | about a year and a half ago | (#42025579)

There are a couple of things that make TI calculators different from your average hackable smartphone or Raspberry Pi device.

Indeed, another whole class of device with didderent specs to play with!

First, they have terrible specs. The TI-NSpire, which is the creme-de-la-creme of these calculators has 20 MB of RAM. Compare to a recent Galaxy S3 smartphone - 2 GB, or even a $35 Raspberry Pi - 512 MB. The CPU is also woeful in spec, as is the flash, etc.

Not terrible, just differet. A PIC12F675 has a whole 64 bytes of user memory, but it's still extremely useful.

It's not meant to be a full sized PC or a full sized smartphone. It will also last very much longer off the batteries than either of those two, has a screen which works well in any conditions, is robust etc. The PI doesn't even have a screen or case, it's a totally different class of product.

You don't always need a fast computer in the place you want a computer. Sometimes you just want one at all. The specs of it put it many orders of magniture above what I can do in my head.

They're also locked down to their dumbed down operating system which is extraordinarily limited, even when you consider the lack of the device's hardware prowess.

Not any more, which is rather the point :)

Second is the fact that these TI calculators are allowed on the SAT, ACT, and other standardized tests.

This is someone else's problem. I don't even live in a country where SATs or ACTs are used.

You're not doing anyone any favors by hacking Linux to run on the TI calculators except cheaters, and even that would only last a short while.

That's pure rubbish. This entire thing is by hackers for hackers. It has nothing to do with cheaters. Maybe at some point in the future, cheaters will figure out how to load Linux, how to make it work, how to install a cheating program and then use it.

Well that's sad.

If it's available as a standard calculator, then the exams should provide one of these in the hall, and not rely on students bringing in potentially hacked hardware.

How hard would it be to hack a smartphone into the hollowed-out shell of a TI calculator anyway?

Re:Why this is a good idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42026177)

...How hard would it be to hack a smartphone into the hollowed-out shell of a TI calculator anyway?

Good point. How hard would it be to take a smartphone and load Linux on it, and leave calculators to what they do best?

Sorry, but your argument still fails. Pointless development is pointless. A calculator is not a useful platform for Linux.

Re:Why this isn't necessarily a good idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42037149)

The one reason I'd love Linux on a calculator is the idea of having a AA battery powered computer with a decent keyboard. Forget rechargeable phones, I want something that if the batteries die, I can pop in another set and keep going. On my TI-82 I could type reasonable quickly. (Text or the menu-based BASIC) The calculators have MUCH bigger keyboards, easily touch-typed with thumbs that blow away smartphone keyboards, some of which you practically need a stylus for if you have normal sized male fingers. That said, this calculator doesn't take AA.

Give me a small 80x25ish black and white lcd screen w/ crappy refresh, a decent keyboard, fits in my pocket, takes a usb stick or sd card and runs on batteries and I'll be happy. I've got an old TRS-80 based one piece "laptop" like this with BASIC built in... except that it's too large and has far too little storage.

On the go, replaceable batteries are king.

Something else of the sort is coming out...
http://www.linuxtoday.com/infrastructure/2009051301235NWHW
Still, only 4 hours of power off 8 AAs?

but a low-spec system would let the batteries LAST. Forget Linux even, a lightweight calculator based OS (with a good notepad app) would rock.

My TI82 doesn't have enough memory (though it still works years later and batteries last FOREVER).

RPN? (2)

lastx33 (2097770) | about a year and a half ago | (#42023435)

Maybe I could run an HP emulator on it then? RPN or RPL on a TI would be very cool - probably not to TI though.

You're Missing the Point (2)

JHebes (2776619) | about a year and a half ago | (#42024101)

Why? Because we can. TI's are always going to be terrible. That's not the point. The fact that someone can get Linux running on such an abstract platform is where all the fun comes from. Hacking on an Android device or RBP isn't fun because you're doing what they're intended for. Doing so on a TI is because you're pushing it to do something it wasn't meant to do.

Re:You're Missing the Point (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42026261)

Why? Because we can.
TI's are always going to be terrible. That's not the point. The fact that someone can get Linux running on such an abstract platform is where all the fun comes from. Hacking on an Android device or RBP isn't fun because you're doing what they're intended for. Doing so on a TI is because you're pushing it to do something it wasn't meant to do.

And I can pick up a dried pile of cow shit and throw it across the room at 30MPH. That's pushing shit to do something it wasn't meant to do.

And with both, you end up with the same result. People standing around looking at a pile of shit and questioning either your sanity, or your sobriety.

Sorry, but there are a lot of viable platforms where efforts are worthwhile. A shitty calculator isn't one of them.

I'm all for innovation with Linux, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42026097)

...this is just utterly pointless.

Seriously, this discussion would be a completely different one if we lived in a world without desktops, laptops, tablets, open-source routers, or any of the other multitude of platforms that can provide some considerable benefit with applying Linux.

Instead, we have developers working hard for "months" to try and put Linux on a high-school calculator.

Being able to cheat on exams (let's not bullshit here) or play cheesy video games isn't exactly what I call a worthwhile endeavor, which are the most likely end results from calculator hacking.

Obligatory (2)

Jon_S (15368) | about a year and a half ago | (#42028055)

What, this story has been up for a whole day so far and nobody has yet imagined a Beowolf cluster of these?

What's Slashdot coming to these days?

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