Running Debian on a Graphing Calculator

While the ubiquitous TI-83 still runs off an ancient Zilog Z80 processor, the newer TI-Nspire series of graphing calculators uses modern ARM devices. [Codinghobbit] managed to get Debian Linux running on a TI-Nspire calculator, and has written a guide explaining how it’s done.

The process uses Ndless, a jailbreak which allows code to run at a low level on the device. Ndless also includes a full SDK, emulator, and debugger for developing apps. In this case, Ndless is used to load the Linux kernel.

The root filesystem is built on a PC using debootstrap and the QEMU ARM emulator. This allows you to install whatever packages are needed via apt, before transitioning to the calculator itself.

With the root filesystem on a USB flash drive, Ndless runs the Linux loader, which starts the kernel, mounts the root filesystem, and boots in to a Debian system in about two minutes. As the video after the break demonstrates, this leaves you with a shell on the calculator. We’re not exactly sure what to do with Linux on a graphing calculator, but it is a neat demonstration.

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Linux on a Nspire CAS CX Calculator

It’s great to see Linux running on a device in a way that was never intended. [tangrs] has successfully run a Linux kernel on the ARM based Nspire CAS CX graphing calculator. He’s developed an in-place bootloader that allows a kernel to be loaded from within the stock Nspire OS. It also allows for peeking and poking at memory for debugging.

[tangrs] also managed to get USB host mode working on the calculator. This allows for a USB keyboard and Wifi dongle to be connected. At this point, the calculator can connect to the internet and browse using a text-based browser: Links. The calculator runs a SSH server for remote access, and graphical browsing is in the works.

It looks like this calculator is on the way to being a handheld Linux device. All of the source for the kernel and bootloader are available on [tangrs]’s Github and updates on his blog. After the break, check out a video of text-based browsing using a full keyboard.

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Global CALCnet: your TI-83 just acquired Internet

Global CALCnet lets you connect your TI graphic calculator to the Internet and use your favorite services like instant messaging and Internet relay chat. It also provides the option of worldwide multiplayer functionality for games ported to the device such as Scorched Earth and Tetris. We looked in on [Christopher Mitchell’s] CALCnet in December when it was being used to create local area networks with the adding machines. He’s taken that up a notch with a helping hand from Arduino. An Arduino board is used to connect the serial communications from the calculator to an Internet connected PC via the Arduino’s USB capabilities.

Think this will waste a lot of time in schools? Unlikely since an Internet connected computer is integral for this system to work. If you have a computer in front of you why waste time on the calculator network? Still, how hard would it be to build a WiFi module that can directly connect them to an access point? That may be a moot point as the Slashdot article that pointed us to global CALCnet also links to a calculator port of DOOM. It runs quite well, as you can see in the video after the break. This is a must-have for anyone owning a TI Nspire that can run it.

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TI-nspire hacked

The regulars at the United T1 forums keep them coming, this time hacking the Texas Instruments Nspire graphing calculator. We enjoy seeing the exploits that unlock the backend of these types of devices. The difference this time is that the hacking continues even though Texas Instruments has shown that it intends to protect the security of their devices using the DMCA. The Nspire thread linked above discusses the DMCA concerns just a bit but it seems obvious to us that running your own code falls under the umbrella of the act. The exploit package hasn’t yet been posted, but if you want it make sure you check back regularly before the take-down order comes in from TI.

[Thanks Iceman]