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TheLastMillennial

Texas Instruments Bans all ASM Programs/ Games on TI-84 Plus CE Calculators.

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Posted · Original PosterOP

I know I'm new to this forum, but I have been an active member of the calculator community for over 4 years. I'm trying to spread the word about this as much as I can, hopefully achieving a segment on TechLinked, and to give TI enough negative backlash to consider negotiating better terms with the community. I'll keep this article as an overview, but I'll link my in-depth sources at the end.

 

What exactly happened?

Just a few days ago, TI Education announced that the most recent OS for the TI-83 Premium CE removes the ability for the calculator to run any Assembly (ASM) code. With the decision planned to go global, this means that any program written in ASM or C will not run on any CE operating on the newest TI OS 5.5.1 or higher!

spacer.png

Click for animated PNG

(Source: TI-Planet: Français | English)

 

Why did this happen?

One big factor in the decision to ban ASM was due to a video created by a student and a teacher that showed the exact steps to bypass a Test Mode restriction in OS 5.2.2, an obsolete, 3 year old OS. What made the matter worse is they passed the issue off as if it were still present in modern OSes! With the video gaining almost a quarter of a million views, TI thought they'd need to take some drastic measures to uphold their Exam Mode security reputation.

 

Why is this so frustrating?

This is quite a punch in the gut for the community, TI had given TI-Planet (a very reputable TI forum that has been reporting on calculator news for over a decade) a beta build of OS 5.5.0 to review and post about. This build given to TI-Planet had all the benifits of the new Python abilities, however ASM was not banned on this build. To the community, it looks like TI knew we would hate the removal of ASM and therefor gave a different build to us just to drum up support. Then when release date came, they pulled the rug from under our feet and released OS 5.5.1 instead which did include the ASM restrictions

 

TI-Planet, has privately shared security flaws related to Exam Mode TI needed to fix, and kept vulnerabilities a secret as to not cause this exact situation. TI Planet has put so much meticulous care into protecting the hobby of thousands of students and future Computer Science Majors, like me, it's infuriating to see one clumsy video with a quarter of a million views set years of hard work go up in smoke.

 

TI Planet's time trying to protect the community isn't the only thing wasted, the hundreds developer's countless hours spent creating amazing content from overclocking utilities, to math additions like CAS, and games will become obsolete when newer calculators inevitably outnumber older ones. TI does offer alternative programming options like TI-BASIC and Python, but as TI Planet user jean-baptiste boric points out on Cemetech:

Quote

Performance is bad. It's the slowest Python implementation in a calculator. From TI-Planet's numbers, just about the only calculator that's roughly as slow is a Casio Graph 35+E, a monochrome calculator, and only mostly on integer benchmarks.

...

Graphics performance in particular is simply atrocious. TI-Planet clocked the put_pixel() fill rate at 48 pixels per seconds. The next two best calculators are 100x to 200x times faster. The next one is 1000x times faster. Forget about gLib, how can anyone be expected to write a simple ray-tracing or fractal script on-calc when it'll take nearly half an hour just to push the pixels out? Even when using TI's proprietary ti_graphics primitives it's still several times slower than the competition's put_pixel().

Source: Cemetech: English

 

It's also infuriating that TI's consistent reactions of killing a fly with a sledge hammer has done nothing to solve their security, in fact it has only worsened it. I think forum Planet Casio explains it better than I can:

Quote

Almost all calculator models have flaws allowing cheating to varying degrees, and many are vulnerable to modification of the hardware or the [Exam Mode notification] LED. [Currently, there is no enforcement in testing locations that requires you to show up with an updated calculator]. [This means,] in the short term, exposing the vulnerability has only spread it and increased cheating. confused2.gif

... The potential circumvention of the exam mode is ... what has allowed Planète Casio and TI-Planet to point out to manufacturers several annoying flaws concerning the exam mode, without exposing the national exams to more cheating.

Note: I have paraphrased the French to English translation in order to make it sound as coherent as possible.

(Source: Planète Casio: Français | English)

 

Now that ASM is banned and this situation can't get much worse, the community is already finding exploits that allows not only the ability to run ASM code anyways, but ways to bypass TI's insecure Exam Mode (which was only ever 'secure' because the community was careful not to release the exploits to the public). The community is already brainstorming alternatives that will both satisfy TI and the dedicated programming community. We're doing our best to come to terms with TI and avoid creating another cat-and-mouse game of finding and patching exploits (which happened on the Nspire).

 

Conclusion:

Like I said at the beginning, my goal is to spread the word about this as much as I can. Although this is only effecting the CE line up of calculators right now, TI has not ruled out releasing updates to older models that also bans ASM.

Quote
Q. Does this mean you will also be removing it from the TI-84 Plus?

A. At this time, we are only removing ASM capabilities on the TI-84 Plus CE, TI-84 Plus CE-T and TI-83 Premium CE.

(Source: An e-mail from TI-Cares posted on TI-Planet: Français | English)

 

Sources:

These go more in-depth than I did in this article. TI-Planet's 20 year history of ASM on calculators is a particularly great read.

Cemetech:

TI Removes ASM/C Programming from TI-83 Premium CE: English

TI-83 Premium CE/TI-84 Plus CE ASM/C Removal: Updates: English

 

Planet Casio:

TI supprime les programmes assembleur sur TI-83 Premium CE et 84+ CE version 5.5: Français

TI removes assembly programs on TI-83 Premium CE and 84+ CE version 5.5: English

 

ticalc:

TI removes access to assembly programs on the TI-83 Premium CE: English

 

TI-Planet:

Mise à jour 5.5 supprime assembleur TI-83 Premium CE & 84+CE: Français

Update 5.5 removes TI-83 Premium CE & 84 + CE assembler: English

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to say the least I got no love to for TI. 130$ for a dam graphing calculator

I don't think I ever updated my ti84 CE software does anyone do it? can it be flashed backwards?


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Maybe I'm not all that smart, but can someone explain to me the love for calculators that some people hold?


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10 minutes ago, handymanshandle said:

Maybe I'm not all that smart, but can someone explain to me the love for calculators that some people hold?

I guess it’s just fun to build games and software without needing a computer or anything. All the code I write I can do right on the calculator itself.

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2 minutes ago, handymanshandle said:

Maybe I'm not all that smart, but can someone explain to me the love for calculators that some people hold?

There’s something mildly charming about seeing Doom run on, essentially, souped up Game Boy hardware. 
 

Seems like TI is pulling a bit of a Sony here (referring to the removal of OtherOS on PS3). A part of me hopes that irate developers will go HAM and blow open TI’s efforts at security, allowing to spoof Exam Mode with little effort. I’ve no love for either TI, nor many colleges, so such a war (should one occur) would be a popcorn moment. 


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Posted · Original PosterOP
Quote

I don't think I ever updated my ti84 CE software does anyone do it? can it be flashed backwards?

That's one of my points in my post above, hardly anyone updates their calculator which means the bug will always be around on older calculators as long as testing centers don't force students to upgrade. TI removed the native ability to downgrade in 2016 or 2017.

 

Quote

Maybe I'm not all that smart, but can someone explain to me the love for calculators that some people hold?

Like Zodiark said, some people just find it fun to bring retro games to a portable device most students have. We love expanding the calculator's capabilities while dealing with the challenge of intense hardware limitations. It's what got me and hundreds of other interested in choosing computer science as a field of study.

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1 minute ago, TheLastMillennial said:

Like Zodiark said, some people just find it fun to bring retro games to a portable device most students have. We love expanding the calculator's capabilities while dealing with the challenge of intense hardware limitations. It's what got me and hundreds of other interested in choosing computer science as a field of study.

More students have phones than graphing calculators, and the hardware limitations are VERY limiting. Hell, unless you have a colour model, the display is terrible for anything more than static images or text or whatever.

 

 

Is it cool? Yeah. But is it as important as everyone says it is? Imo, hell no lol


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2 minutes ago, TheLastMillennial said:

That's one of my points in my post above, hardly anyone updates their calculator which means the bug will always be around on older calculators as long as testing centers don't force students to upgrade. TI removed the native ability to downgrade in 2016 or 2017.

okay so I expect only new ones will actually have new firmware.


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1 hour ago, TheLastMillennial said:

Like I said at the beginning, my goal is to spread the word about this as much as I can. Although this is only effecting the CE line up of calculators right now, TI has not ruled out releasing updates to older models that also bans ASM.

I'm counting on my good buddy BrandonW to fix this somehow.

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Posted · Original PosterOP

Kelvinhall05: Programming these calculators is very important. For example, the community is a stop gap that prevents bugs TI missed from effecting you negatively. You may not expect us to be doing much but we're doing all we can to improve TI's calculators. Also, what jagdtigger said ^

 

GDRRiley, that'd be correct, unless someone on an older OS upgrades, only newly manufactured calculators will have the restrictions. Unfortunately, these new calculators will eventually outnumber the unrestricted ones.

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I say it's time for the community to stop working with TI and start releasing every security exploit they can. I think they should change their mentality to say screw it its a calculator so who cares how many security exploits it has. 

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1 hour ago, GDRRiley said:

to say the least I got no love to for TI. 130$ for a dam graphing calculator

I don't think I ever updated my ti84 CE software does anyone do it? can it be flashed backwards?

If school didn't force students to buy this specific one, watch the price drop to under 35$ And that is still making a nice profit

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Just now, GoodBytes said:

If school didn't force students to buy this specific one, watch the price drop to under 15-20$ And that is still making a nice profit

there are 2 that most schools allow there is a casio and this TI.

oh yeah, a low res screen, small battery, plastic case, old CPU.

I've always found it crazy overpriced. I can get a full smartphone for less.


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I've been out of the calculator business for a long time now, but it's still a shame to hear. Never got into 83/84 territory, but had some fun messing around with Lua and C/ASM on my Nspire.

 

It's interesting to hear about support for Python.


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Posted · Original PosterOP

The Washington Post made a great article back in 2014 that covers why TI is so popular and expensive. It's still relevant today: The unstoppable TI-84 Plus: How an outdated calculator still holds a monopoly on classrooms  (Internet Archive version for those with adblock)

 

31 minutes ago, Dirtnapper said:

So is it wrong to have never updated my calculator ?

If you never knew about any exploits, then it's not wrong at all. In fact I'd suggest not upgrading past OS 5.3.0 because TI started introducing restrictions in OS 5.3.1. OS 5.3.0 gives you the best features and fewest restrictions. You can find the OS on TI-Planet's site.

 

26 minutes ago, tikker said:

I've been out of the calculator business for a long time now, but it's still a shame to hear. Never got into 83/84 territory, but had some fun messing around with Lua and C/ASM on my Nspire.

 

It's interesting to hear about support for Python.

Even Ndless (the Nspire jailbreak that allows ASM) is in danger of being squashed out for good. The new Nspire CX II calculators are quite different from the previous generation and can't use any language but Lua. Python is coming sometime in the future but if it's anything as poor as the TI-83 Premium CE's implementation, it wont be a proper substitute for ASM/C either.

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Love their 486 DX4-100, hated the Ti-84.


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You know what's even better than a segment on TechLinked? Benchmarks.

 

A set of products, each with different characteristics, but all capable of running a common set of workload with measurable performance data points.... With Python no less. It's actually perfect for a Linus Tech Tips video:

  • Relatable: anyone aged between 15 and 40 has most likely used one for a couple of years.
  • Jokes potential: come on, it's graphing calculators, that stuff basically writes itself.
  • Unexpected turn of events: who would expect graphing calculators to have color screens and run Python nowadays?
  • Plot twists: if you thought AMD is wrecking Intel big time, wait until you see a NumWorks utterly destroy a TI-83 Premium CE Edition Python.
  • A moral lesson at the end: a household name is not a guarantee of bang for your buck. Now where did I see that before...

And most important: cheap. It's a couple of graphing calculators. Plus it would be a nice follow-up to that graphing calculator water-cooling experiment.

 

Hey Linus! The YouTube bingo card is filled up! The power of the algorithm compels you!

 

The set of calculators to benchmark (do double-check my list, there are similar models without Python support):

  • NumWorks (model N110 preferably)
  • Casio 35+E II (which should be a fx-9860GIII in North America)
  • Casio 90+E (which should be a fx-CG50 in North America)
  • TI-83 Premium CE Edition Python (not entirely sure if there's an international counterpart with Python support)

If you can cozy up with manufacturers, official Python support is known to be in the works for the HP Prime (model G2 preferably) and the TI Nspire CX II (CAS or not).

 

Suggested benchmarks:

  • Integer (I suggest prime number determination and Bitcoin hash-rate)
  • Floating-point (Riemann integral maybe?)
  • Memory (TI-Planet has a script to allocate all the memory and print the capacity, do reset calculators beforehand)
  • Fill rate (NumWorks has a nice Mandelbrot fractal sample, porting a bare-bones ray-tracer should be easy and TI-Planet has a cross-platform tech demo rendering of a radar)
  • Turtle drawing speed at speed(0)

And if you could put a small jab at TI for removing C and assembly features on the TI-83 Premium CE through software updates, thereby jeopardizing a rich history of video games and utilities, screwing over customers and every single developer who sank countless hours writing them, it'd be perfect.

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45 minutes ago, boricj said:

You know what's even better than a segment on TechLinked? Benchmarks.

 

A set of products, each with different characteristics, but all capable of running a common set of workload with measurable performance data points.... With Python no less. It's actually perfect for a Linus Tech Tips video:

  • Relatable: anyone aged between 15 and 40 has most likely used one for a couple of years.
  • Jokes potential: come on, it's graphing calculators, that stuff basically writes itself.
  • Unexpected turn of events: who would expect graphing calculators to have color screens and run Python nowadays?
  • Plot twists: if you thought AMD is wrecking Intel big time, wait until you see a NumWorks utterly destroy a TI-83 Premium CE Edition Python.
  • A moral lesson at the end: a household name is not a guarantee of bang for your buck. Now where did I see that before...

And most important: cheap. It's a couple of graphing calculators. Plus it would be a nice follow-up to that graphing calculator water-cooling experiment.

 

Hey Linus! The YouTube bingo card is filled up! The power of the algorithm compels you!

 

The set of calculators to benchmark (do double-check my list, there are similar models without Python support):

  • NumWorks (model N110 preferably)
  • Casio 35+E II (which should be a fx-9860GIII in North America)
  • Casio 90+E (which should be a fx-CG50 in North America)
  • TI-83 Premium CE Edition Python (not entirely sure if there's an international counterpart with Python support)

If you can cozy up with manufacturers, official Python support is known to be in the works for the HP Prime (model G2 preferably) and the TI Nspire CX II (CAS or not).

 

Suggested benchmarks:

  • Integer (I suggest prime number determination and Bitcoin hash-rate)
  • Floating-point (Riemann integral maybe?)
  • Memory (TI-Planet has a script to allocate all the memory and print the capacity, do reset calculators beforehand)
  • Fill rate (NumWorks has a nice Mandelbrot fractal sample, porting a bare-bones ray-tracer should be easy and TI-Planet has a cross-platform tech demo rendering of a radar)
  • Turtle drawing speed at speed(0)

And if you could put a small jab at TI for removing C and assembly features on the TI-83 Premium CE through software updates, thereby jeopardizing a rich history of video games and utilities, screwing over customers and every single developer who sank countless hours writing them, it'd be perfect.

I would like to see this. Bonus points for Doom benchmarks. 


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4 hours ago, GoodBytes said:

If school didn't force students to buy this specific one, watch the price drop to under 35$ And that is still making a nice profit

You could replace all of this with a single website. Total cost to use = FREE.

 

They're so milking the system. Public education is such a racket. 🤬

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This makes me sad. It's been about 10 years since I was in the calculator community, but I remember when TI first started attacking them. They were blocking Brandon W's apps and they even threatened legal action because of some of the software being made.  That's when updating first became a bad thing. Thankfully they lost the lawsuit, but I never imagined they'd completely block assembly.


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9 hours ago, handymanshandle said:

Maybe I'm not all that smart, but can someone explain to me the love for calculators that some people hold?

I can imagine people who actually use this for serious work grow sentimental value for the darn things. College students who probably love tinkering them in their free time (if any)/ And isn't that why we're all here? Love for the tools we use (that we occasionally play games on)? 😛

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10 hours ago, handymanshandle said:

Maybe I'm not all that smart, but can someone explain to me the love for calculators that some people hold?

Quickly throwing something together in TI-BASIC is great if your job or schoolwork can benefit from it. I had an issue where I needed to record the slab edge length on a building I was working on for energy calculations, but even in my building modelling software there's not a quick way (or any way) to do this reasonably. Out came my Ti-85 that sits at my desk, and I wrote a program to add multiple lengths in feet, inches, and fractional inches, and output a decimal feet total that I could input into the energy calculation software. Probably 15 minutes of brainstorming a method, programming, and testing it for accuracy/repeatability, now that piece of software gets used any time I need to do those calculations; It's saved me hours of time.

 

But that's just one example, I've been doing Ti programming since I was in middle school with everything from quadratic solvers to geometric volume calculators, long before they were convenient applications included with the calculators. Also, Doom.

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