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Newsletter - May/June 2005


Hello, and thank you for subscribing to the ticalc.org bimonthly newsletter. This month, I've decided to spell "bimonthly" unhyphenated, because I finally realized that it actually is an accepted word. After two years of Advanced Placement English courses in high school, one would hope that I would have picked up on that fact in recent months, but then again, I did not pay the same level of attention in those classes as I had in my math classes.

Before I begin my editorial, I would like to congratulate the three new staff members at ticalc.org: Jason Malinowski, Ivan Papusha, and Patrick Stone. Jason and Patrick have taken over handling the file archives of ticalc.org since Joey Gannon's retirement, while Ivan is currently reading and editing reviews. I highly recommend checking out their staff pages (Located in the "About" section of ticalc.org), and perhaps sending them an Email welcoming them to the staff!

For this newsletter, I interviewed Romain Liévin, author of programs such as "TiLP," "TI-Emu," and other fine calculator utilities developed for the computer. During the interview, he brought up some very good points about the ticalc.org file archives: There is a lot of software available for the calculators, but not that many tools and components for developers on the PC platform. Perhaps this is why we have so many BASIC programs in the ticalc.org archives and not enough assembly programs. It is often more difficult for someone to learn how to program in C or a pure assembly language when coming from a BASIC background, but what if there were more tutorials available, or more utilities that developers could access if they needed help? There are certainly a variety of tools available for developers, but not all programmers are aware of their existence.

What we need is a way to encourage more people to program in C and the assembly languages for the calculator. There are some nice tutorials out there on programming in C, z80 ASM, and 68K ASM, but there should be more. There are some nice tools for generating images for calculator programs, or tools for compressing calculator programs, but there should be more. A lot of the tools that are currently available are open source, so what is stopping people in the community from building upon past projects?

I once read in a book on video game development that the best way to advance programs is to share knowledge with one another. Instead of being annoyed with the massive amounts of BASIC programs out there, why not write some tutorials or eBooks on how to program in an assembly language, or C? Or why not create some on-calc tools to help developers work on their programs while they're on the go? There are so many possibilities for tutorials, tools, and components out there, and at the same time, there are so many talented and capable programmers in the ticalc.org community. That's why I challenge the ticalc.org community to try and create more resources that are easily accessible to everyone. Share your experience with your fellow programmers; the rewards of your teachings will surely be known down the road.

I realize that making programming resources more easily available not be possible without some modifications to the ticalc.org site itself. That is why I encourage you to email your suggestions to newsletter@ticalc.org, because it's one of the few ways we know what the ticalc.org community would like to see from the website.

For those of you who just graduated, congratulations. And to everyone else, have a lovely summer, or winter, depending on which side of the equator you are on.

Jonathan Katz


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

"There are several things I would change about future Ti calculators. The first thing I would do would be to add more memory, maybe something in the range of 8 megabytes? That way, programmers and end-users would not only have room for more lists, pictures, and strings, they would also be able to store more programs.

"The second thing I would do would be to create a better language than TI-BASIC for on-calc programming. As unrealistic as this may seem, perhaps a (simplified) Java Environment could be built into the OS, since Java is cross platform. If more memory was added to the calculator, this could be feasible.

"Another thing that could be done, especially something like Java was added, would be to move beyond grayscale and black and white. This could make for more readable graphs, better games, and, of course, graphics. Finally, a port for a 6V AC-Adapter should be added, like the ones on the old-school GameBoys.

"As much as I love my 84+SE, there are definitely things that could be improved about it. Perhaps ticalc.org should submit the results of this to Texas Instruments. As it is, my TI can do anything a PDA can do, except have color." - Thomas Dickerson

"I would definitely have to say I wish they would add real color capabilities, even if it was just 3-bit color. I have occasionally been doing some math problem or another problem (such as stuff with cellular automata) in which color would have helped. And, of course, it would make games better as well." - Zeroko

"I'm trying really hard to not step over the line and make the future TI a PDA here. If I seriously want to tow the line, then I would want a stylus to draw stuff. It saves the hassle of using MS Paint and the frustrations when drawing with buttons on the calculator. How cool would it be to have a stylus for graphics programmers? "I guess that might be asking too much, though. I do think a faster data transfer (to TI Connect or to another TI) would be nice, but my overall point is that TI is getting really close to the limit before it transforms into a PDA." - Ben Yu

This Month's Question: What kinds of resources should be available to help people to become better programmers on the TI calculator platform?

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

Jonathan Katz


Question: What if TI designed people instead of graphing calculators??

Answer: Instead of people being white, black, or shades in between, some of us would be black, very few blue, and some a glittery silver. The silver people would talk 2.5 times as fast and have superior memories.

Whenever someone tried to think of a number beyond 10^99, the brain would overflow and overwrite everything inside the head.

People would talk by plugging link cables into each others' heads. Even after you try to stop receiving his packets, that annoying coworker at the office would use silent linking to continue telling you about his vacation.

The silver-colored people would never need to wear a watch, although after a heart attack they would think the day was January 1, 1997.

Symbolic manipulation abilities would be tested for at sporting events.

Drawing in color would be impossible. Clever people would sketch in black and white and create flipbooks for grayscale.

In order to reach greater enlightenment and mental capacity, one must pray to the creator long and hard. If the prayer is answered, the creator will sign a new base code and download it into your brain. Should you die in the middle of this operation, you are permanently scrambled with no hope of the afterlife.

And last but not least, ticalc.org would have the best archive of repeatable psychological experiments in the world.

Michael Vincent


What kind of bears graph equations on their TI-83 Pluses?

Polar bears.

Why did the assembly programmer get fired from his part-time job at the party store?

He kept PUSHing supplies into customers' faces and then POPing all the balloons.

What key on the TI-83 Plus do bored teenagers like best?


Michael Vincent


Email: roms@lievin.net

Interview Log
JonIt's very hard to go to ticalc.org without noticing TiLP, one of the most popular files in the archives. How come you decided to create the TiLP linking software?
RomainI decided to create it while I was a student. I began to write it in 1999. I was a young Linux user and no linking program was available for use with my TI-92. Thus, I decided to write my own program. My original goal was to support TI-92 only, but I added more and more calculators due to requests from users. This was a huge amount of work, because no specification on TI protocol was available. I had to reverse engineer a protocol, write documentation for it, implement protocol, etc. I also had to develop my own analysis tools.
JonHow time consuming was it to do all this?
RomainI have been working on this project for five years now, and I'm still working on it, while TiLP-II is in development. While I was student, I spent all of my free time working on TiLP and on TiEmu. TiEMu is my second project. TiLP required the most work, but basically because there were some others parts, like device driver development for Linux and Windows (USB), that required additional work.
JonCan you reveal anything yet about TiLP-II and what it might have?
RomainTiLP-II is an almost rewrite of the framework of TiLP (i.e. the ticables, ticalcs, and tifiles libraries which manages cable, calc and file support). TiLP itself will not have any more "basic" features, but will abilities such as being able to resume an interrupted transfer. When TiLP grew up, most of code has been split into three libraries for ease of maintenance and reuse. TiEmu uses the TiLP framework, and this saves a lot of time for me!
JonIt's been awhile since we have seen a new TI emulator come out, especially with the dominance of VTI. What is the story behind TiEmu and where is it heading?
RomainTiEmu begun to be develop when Thomas Corvazier (now retired) and I simultaneously wanted to develop a multi-platform TI emulator for Linux and Windows. We decided to join our efforts and to take over an existing project: XTiger. However, Thomas abandoned the project a few months later. Thus, I worked solely on it for a while, specifically three-fourths of a year. Once TiLP was almost finished, I decided to restart this project as TiEmu II. A few months after, Kevin Kofler of TIGCC was interested in this project for GDB integration. Kevin began to develop TiEmu as well, and he is working on his branch (3.00) while I am working on the main one (2.00).The current one (2.00) has all the feature of VTI and more, but Kevin is doing a great job on TiEmu 3.00, which integrates GDB (GNU debugger) and allows debugging of programs.The TI community is closed to have full and free opensource tools for three platforms (Linux, Windows, and Mac OS-X!):- TIGCC: development of program- TiEmu: testing of program- TiLP: transfer of program
JonDo you have any goals that you wish to achieve by developing projects like this?
RomainOne of my goals is to provide useable tools and components to the TI community. For example, the libti* frameworks are components, whereas TiLP and TiEmu are tools. Actually, I am somewhat angry to see that many people develop program targeted for handhelds, but there is almost nobody developing programs on the PC for the calculators. It is very hard to find testers, helpers, and developers.
JonWould you recommend anything to the ticalc.org community in order to improve upon that?
RomainTiEmu, TiGCC, TiLP will always need people for (in required skills order):- testing- writing documentation- drawing icons, logos, etc.- writing patches- direct involvement with developmentHelp is always welcome; there are so many things to do!
JonWhat sorts of tools do you use to manage projects like this?
RomainIn the case of TiEmu and TiLP, these projects use the SourceForge.net environment which make this possible and easy to manage. People can easily reports bugs, feature requests, add patches and documentation, etc. I explain all this on my website (http://lpg.ticalc.org). I would also like to add that many people want to use software without doing anything to help out the developers. This is the reason why my friend stopped Mac OS-X port of TiLP. People should keep in mind that we are spending a lot of time developing this software, and we are not paid for this.
JonLet's get back into the past a little bit. When did you first begin to program?
RomainI begun to program when I was twelve years old. My first computer was an ORIC with a 6502 processor (1MHz). I programmed in ASM and BASIC.
JonLooking ahead, are you planning on developing any future projects?
RomainI don't have new projects in mind from a programmer's perspective, but I am building a house for my wife and my baby!
JonWhat do you like about ticalc.org community, and is there anything you would love to see added to the site?
RomainI have always felt that ticalc.org is as great site as possible, because it is well-designed and very professional! I have no criticisms for you!
JonFinally, is there anything else you would like to add?
RomainWe always need contributors/help/money/hardware donations to our projects, TiEmu and TiLP! I would also like if Texas Instruments released its specifications and more information about their actual hardware.

Jonathan Katz


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