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Newsletter - March/April 2005


Hello, and thank you for subscribing to the ticalc.org bi-monthly newsletter! Spring (or Fall, depending where you live) is here, which means for some people, major exams are just around the corner, and perhaps graduating and finding jobs. Whatever it is, good luck to everyone!

Being in an engineering program and studying computer science, I have been exposed to many interesting ideas and concepts, even though I'm just a freshman. One thing I have noticed is the desire for portability in electronic devices that still have the efficiency that a non-portable device has. For instance, my laptop could easily rival a lot of home computers on the market, but it has one major drawback: it requires a lot of power to operate. Carry this idea over into the calculator world. There is definitely a lot of great technology available to add to our precious TIs, perhaps slapping on another CPU, or, of course, bumping up the clock speed of the CPU. But at what cost? Will our batteries drain more quickly they used to, trying to meet up with the demand for power in the system? I personally would like to see the next generation of TI calculators to be faster and have more system resources, but I would also like to see if they could have another power system. A calculator with rechargeable batteries, such as those in a PDA, would definitely allow calculators to step up in computational speed, and of course, getting the full number of 256! displayed on the home screen of my calculator that much faster would be an additional perk.

Well, I think that's enough of my semi-random thoughts. Every month, I call out to the community to encourage participation in the newsletter. And I believe that since publishing the last edition, the call has started to be heard. I have gotten more feedback on the newsletter than I have in the past, and I also received a record "Food for Thought" responses. I would like to give a big thanks to the community, and also encourage you to keep it up for future newsletters!

In the coming weeks, the new ticalc.org staffers will be revealed, new archives will be uploaded to ticalc.org, and hopefully we will see some amazing new programs! Enjoy the newsletter, E-mail any comments to newsletter@ticalc.org, and see you next edition!

Jonathan Katz


Last Month's Question: How important is it to have software-based calculator security?

"In part it depends on where you live. I have heard of several people's calculators being stolen, however have never heard or seen any first hand. If someone did steal one and there was a password protection installed, there could be a possibility that they wouldn't think to remove the batteries and force a reset, but that wouldn't stop them from selling it online. And furthermore I doubt they would decide to return it to you if they couldn't get past the password.

"Password protection programs are nice features to bug your friend that always borrows your calculator, or maybe even prevent your teacher from turning on your calculator (pending the program you use) to see if you have programs loaded. So they can serve their purpose, but I don't see the need for them, nor have I used one on several years.

"What I would like to see is a permanent way to insert your name into your calculator, most likely at initial use. This would probably have to be put directly into the OS by TI, which means it might never happen, but it could be a great identifier if someone should decide to scratch off your name on the back." - Morgan Davies

"One of the first projects of many TI-BASIC programmers is some sort of password protection program; upon releasing it, the author is often flooded with comments pointing out the insecurity of such an approach. Mirage OS contained the first strong password protection, though savvy users quickly discovered how to get around the protection. Other assembly programs devoted to protection of calculator programs, data, text, and images have been created, including encryption programs, menu-access blockers, and programs that restrict access to the entire calculator. The fact that so many programmers spend time creating such utilities shows how important such security has become in the computer world and how this has become so much an element in our daily lives that it seems only natural to carry such security concerns into what many throughout the community think of as quasi-PDAs. However, the average user needs little or no security. Very rarely does the casual calculator user store any information or data, let alone text of a sensitive nature, on his or her graphing calculator. Programmers may want to keep others from modifying or deleting works in progress, but this only has a chance of occurring if the calculator in question falls into the hands of someone else. Although calculator security has been thoroughly explored, it is a field that currently has very few practical applications. As the tasks graphing calculators are capable of multiply, especially the much-promised but as yet rarely used test-based Internet capabilities, security may become more of a concern, but at the present it is a minor issue." - Kerm Martian

"Over the three and a half years that I have been a calculator-oriented person, I still can't quite figure out why people needed such security. Sure, people love to make bad jokes on us honorable programmers, clearing the memory of and sometimes even stealing our calculators, but whose fault is it to broadcast one's own programming abilities, thereby branding oneself a target? If anything, much as you and I love our black, plastic digital toy, keeping that thing in our lockers when we don't need it is still, by far, the best security ever." - Ben Yu

"Software-based calculator security is a big issue these days with calculator theft at its peak. Texas Instruments should seriously consider making a feature in TI Connect to add a password protection routine in the Boot Code.

"On the other side of the calculator universe we have the evil hackers attempting to block teachers from deleting our precious games! Krolypto seems to be the main offender found barricading teachers from resetting the TI-83 Plus. Sadly, it only takes a precise battery flick (commonly known as pulling the batteries) to erase hours upon hours of high scores in Tetris.

"While our advanced assembly programmers are utilizing password protection for beloved APPs such as MirageOS we've the trusty and ingenious BASIC programmers making password protection routines. Fortunately for us n00bs we can unlock the program and delete the password.

"So, will TI save the deprived nerds from bigger and smarter nerds stealing their calculators? Will someone strive to make a foolproof security APP or even remake TI OS for the 83+?" - Tim McMahon

This Month's Question: If you could change something in or add to the design of future TI calculators, what would it be?

E-mail your thoughts to newsletter@ticalc.org, and your response may appear in the next newsletter!

Jonathan Katz


Question:What do I do when I have a question for a particular part of the ticalc.org website??
Answer:Since there are so many aspects of ticalc.org, such as archives or reviews (or the newsletter!), you may not know which staff member is managing which part of the site! However, there is a very easy way to figure out how to contact someone, and the information is provided at this webpage: http://www.ticalc.org/about/contact.html

The contact page lists all the E-mails available to reach ticalc.org staffers, as well as what kinds of E-mails you should send them. For instance, you don't want to send a question for the file archivers to the "reviews@" E-mail address. If you want to contact a particular staffer, then you can find their E-mail addresses on their individual staff at http://www.ticalc.org/about/staff/

Jonathan Katz


Signs you're addicted to Z80 assembly:

- You wonder why Star Trek: The Next Generation has an episode titled 'ret'.

- When performing pencil and paper addition, you think to yourself: "Eight plus seven is five, set the carry flag..."

- In math class you conclude your solution to the limit of 5/x as x approaches infinity with "Z = 1"

- You balance your checkbook in packed BCD.

- When reviewing other people's essays, you write your comments in the right margin after each line and always start with a semicolon.

- People don't actually die; they just DI \ HALT.

Michael Vincent


Email: morgan@ss.ticalc.org

Interview Log
JonWhenever you turn a corner at ticalc.org, you will find the name Morgan Davies somewhere. When did you first become active in the ticalc.org community, and how come?
MorganIn 9th grade, a friend from my high school would show me all the programs he made for math and science tests. I became really jealous of him right away. He would always finish tests a lot earlier with his programs. He told me of a site that you could upload your programs to (ticalc.org) and said he got a few from there. The main problem was that I had no calculator at the time. In my sophomore year, I got my 86 and really got into "Super Mario," and we started making worlds for each other to beat. He said I should upload them as a joke, but I took it to heart and searched out ticalc.org. My first files here were the six Mario worlds I made.
JonWhat other programs have you submitted to the archives?
MorganMore than you! :-) Just kidding. I try to focus on stuff that can help people get through school a little easier. Thus, I've made mostly math and science programs which do all the math for you. I've actually had professors from universities, many high school students, husbands getting the programs for their wives, and even people I actually know all comment on how much the programs have helped them, which only keeps me going to make more of them. I actually do quite a bit of custom programs for people who email me, but usually don't end up uploading them. The best email I ever received was from the Professor at an university who wanted to know where he could download "Physics Solver" so he could give it to his students. Apparently he uses the exact same text book from which those programs were based on!
JonThere is a rumor out there that I am better than you at Mario. Is that true?
MorganAny time, anywhere, little man! You may be able to kick my butt physically, but when it comes to Mario, there is no higher being! :-) Seriously, I don't claim to be the best at Mario; I just love playing it. And since this is my fifteen minutes of fame, I would like to express my desire for someone who has excellent programming skills to make "Kommander Keen" for any TI calculator. That game is awesome and I cannot believe it hasn't been done yet! So Jon, when are we going to see the super cool programs you have been promising me for the 89?
JonHey, this is your interview, not mine!
MorganWell, I'm not waiting until you leave or stop doing the newsletter to get your interview in!
JonUh-huh. Anyway, what have you currently been up to in the world of calculating? Anything of great interest?
MorganHaha, actually no, nothing lately. The last thing I made was a few months back for a science class at school. It was for 20% of my grade. Basically it was a program where you could create your own questions for testing yourself in preparation for a final. It had multiple-choice, true/false, and even a "Name that Insect" section with pictures and everything. Of course it was for an Entomology class, hence the insects. But in theory, you could create any types of questions you wanted and test yourself "on the go" for any class, or even better have others make them for you to test with. It was a lot more than 8K bytes on my 86, so it had a quite a few problems, and I never ended uploading it. Oh, that program got me an A in the course! :-)
JonWell, you seem to be a very accomplished calculator programmer, but I'm kind of curious what you do when you're not programming, anything in particular?
MorganThis morning I woke up and played several hours of Warcraft online. :-) Actually I am involved in an Ultimate Frisbee club that plays two or three times a week, pretty much any chance we can get. That is a lot of fun and I do encourage everyone to look up a local team in their area; it's a great sport! I'm usually working to pay for school or hanging out with a few friends. I also do bowling, another great sport, at least twice a week as well.
JonThere is also a rumor you could bench press me. Thoughts on this?
MorganYes, actually I could bench your scrawny little body. I hit 235 lbs last week and just do weight training to stay in shape, nothing serious!
JonAll kidding aside now, what do you like about ticalc.org? Is there anything else you'd love to see added?
MorganThere are two things that I would like to see at ticalc.org from the admins! One would be the ability to display a small picture on either your account page or author page so we can start identifying these great people just in case we see them along the side of the street. I lay awake at night wondering if I passed Bill Nagel on the street at night! Secondly a new optional sidebar box for the front page that could display the total number of files in the archives with a number of how many have screenshots/reviews/ratings and so on. I've always been interested in those statistics. The last thing I want to see is from the community. I would like to see more files rated! Imagine if we could get them all properly rated, this would finally weed out the crap. The admins of ticalc.org have already set up the system for weeding through the good and bad files; they're just waiting on us now to give them the ratings to finish this thing off. If you have some revolutionary idea to make rating a file much easier thus making more people rate files, I urge you to send it to webmaster@ticalc.org. The most they can do to your idea is say no.
JonFinally, anything else you would like to add??
MorganOh I'm full of stuff to spew out at any given time. Mostly I want to say thank you to Magnus Hagander. He put up with me for what seemed like a very long time at ticalc.org, and I pretty much just let him down. And to the community, without this guy right here, ticalc.org would be gone in an instance! The very survival of ticalc.org relies on this man and his struggle to keep this site going! Send him an email and thank him if you get the chance!

Jonathan Katz


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