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Welcome to Cemetech!
Since 2000, Cemetech (pronounced KE'me'tek) has been teaching programming and electronics and developing software and hardware.
Among Cemetech's specialties are TI, HP, and Casio graphing calculators like the TI-84 Plus, TI-Nspire, HP Prime, and Casio Prizm, embedded and DIY electronics, and computer and web programming. Cemetech provides a safe, friendly space for people to learn, show off projects, and share knowledge and expertise.
Our staff of friendly volunteers
hang out on our forum and IRC and SAX chatrooms, and are happy to help.
For the sixth year in a row, Cemetech is excited to bring you a Back to School guide, helping you figure out the best graphing calculator to get for school and how to use it. In both 2011 and 2012, we published trios of guides, showing you which calculator to buy, how to get programs and games onto your calculator, and how to learn to program your calculator. In 2013, 2014, and 2015, we held your hand through Which Graphing Calculator Should I Buy?. This year, we once again present a guide to selecting from the baffling array of graphing calculators now available to high school and college students. We'll help you figure out which calculator is right for primary school, high school, or college students, whether for yourself, your child, or your students.
The landscape of available graphing calculators in 2016 is largely the same as in 2015, so we based our selections on the same democratic vote by Cemetech's we conducted last year. In that poll, we asked our members to vote on the best calculators in three categories: (1) High School Math and Science; (2) CAS (College); (3) Programming.
As you'll see in the discussion below, the recent TI-84 Plus CE released last year and updated in gold and white this summer was a very popular contender. TI's TI-Nspire CX CAS and HP's HP Prime also earned high marks. All three of these calculators are accepted on standardized tests like the SAT, and of the three, only the TI-84 Plus CE is allowed on the ACT. Like last year, we're no longer recommending the TI-84 Plus C Silver Edition and TI-84 Plus Silver Edition, both of which have been effectively banished to obsolescence. Although the TI-Nspire CX is a fairly popular high school math and science calculator, we feel that the TI-84 Plus CE is a better, easier-to-use choice, and the general student, teacher, and programmer consensus appears to agree.
If you (or your child) are an primary or high school student, your teachers may recommend a TI-84 Plus CE or a TI-Nspire CX, in which case you should follow their advice. Remember, all models mentioned herein are accepted on the SAT, and most on the ACT, so none win or lose big on that count. For high school students getting a new calculator, the TI-84 Plus CE is our favorite choice.
If you're looking to take college classes in higher math, science, or engineering, the TI-Nspire CX CAS or the HP Prime are the calculator for you.
If you're a programmer, or you want to encourage your student to be a programmer, the TI-84 Plus CE is the best options. It allow BASIC, ez80 ASM, and C programming. The HP Prime also has a very fast BASIC language, and the Casio Prizm was the original C-programmable calculator.
Good luck with the hectic rush that is Back to School, and I hope this guide helped make at least one decision easier. If you need help picking a calculator, getting games and educational programs for your calculator and onto the device, or you want to learn to program, just stop by Cemetech and chat with us. We're always happy to help.
The Final Verdict: Now that the three major graphing calculator companeis all offer color-screen calculators, the quiet disappearance of the battery-conserving black-and-white graphing calculator has inexorably continued. Like last year, we are no longer recommending the TI-84 Plus Silver Edition and the TI-89 Titanium, as much as we respect those erstwhile models. Of course, if you already have a TI-83 Plus/TI-84 Plus (or Silver Edition) or a TI-89, you don't need to upgrade to a color calculator yet. If you need a new calculator, we recommend the TI-84 Plus CE, TI-Nspire CX CAS, or HP Prime. Read the full article for details on which of these calculators is best for you. »
For years, Cemetechian gbl08ma has been a mainstay of the Casio Prizm community here on Cemetech. As a skilled C programmer and systems hacker, he has proven his mettle with widely-used projects like Utilities for the Casio Prizm and the powerful Eigenmath CAS port. He has now shared a new project that he has been working on over the past year, called Clouttery. Clouttery is "the smart, cloud-enabled battery monitor which works with every device", enabling you to see the battery level of all of your internet-connected devices from a unified web console.
gbl08ma kindly explained what motivated him to pursue this project: his own pains points. Some of the best tech we've seen has come out of the innovator's own pains, and that certainly has been the case in this community as well. Not only did he have devices that didn't provide enough current and historical data on battery levels and usage, he also noticed the proliferation of actual and so-called "Internet of Things" devices that people don't remember to recharge. As many of us have no doubt noticed, tech savviness also seems linked to how aware users are of their devices' needs, and gbl08ma wants to make it easy for everyone to have their devices charged and working when they need them. Finally, gbl08ma cites the novelty of a cloud-based battery management system, having previously put superb work into an already-solved problem with his tny.im link-shortening service.
Clouttery currently has clients for Windows and Android, a Chrome extension, and a web management interface. No doubt you're curious about what Clouttery actually lets you do:
Lets you know the battery levels and charging status of your devices, from a single place, even if they are miles away.
Stores and displays the battery history for all of your devices.
Can provide alarms whenever the battery level of a device goes below or above a certain threshold (when discharging/charging, respectively).
Calculates statistics for the batteries, such as charge cycles and calibration count.
Analyses the battery history and lets you know about potentially damaging usage patterns.
gbl080ma is actively working on this project, and some of the upcoming features seem particularly exciting:
Learn about the battery consumption habits of your gadgets and learn/be taught about your needs, so it can plan ahead of you ("If you want to have your phone usable by 6 pm, you need to stop playing games now. Oh, and enable the battery saver")
Detect and warn about malfunctioning/dead batteries
gbl08ma has identified potential customers across the swathes of people with many internet-connected, battery-powered devices, people who enjoy statistics and graphs, and people who tend to be forgetful about keeping their many devices charged. Some in our community will no doubt knee-jerk criticize that this project is closed-source and may be a paid service in the future. We, however, applaud gbl08ma's entrepreneurial spirit, wish him the best of luck, and look forward to seeing his progress in the future.
One of the many joys of SIGGRAPH is getting to explore all of the new visualization technology first-hand. Among the coolest things we saw was OptiTrack's demo, combining advanced real-time motion-capture technology with virtual reality.
For those unfamiliar with the terminology, motion-capture (or "Mo-cap" for short) records the movements of a set of points through a 3d space, usually to translate a human actor's live-action performances into a CGI character in a film, or to produce animations which can be reused for video game characters. What both of these applications have in common is that the motion capture itself can take place long before any audience sees the resulting animations attached to a digital character, allowing any computationally expensive processing stage (or manual fixing of animations due to any hiccups in the capture process) to be hidden by the inherent time delay.
OptiTrack, on the other hand, works in the relatively new field of real-time motion-capture, which delivers highly accurate results with essentially no time delay between the capture process and the visualization it is driving. The demo we played with gave us the opportunity to play virtual-reality basketball with a real basketball, with a partner who appeared as an android in game, but was being animated by the actions of a real human in the same room.
OptiTrack has published an official demo video, but we thought you'd have more fun watching Kerm and I try it for ourselves.
We've highlighted several of the challenges we faced while playing basketball in the VR/motion-capture setting, but it was certainly an amazing technology and we can't wait to see how it develops in the near future.
If you recently saw our review of the gold TI-84 Plus CE, you already know that we're suitably impressed with the new gold and white TI-84 Plus CEs. We recently heard that TI is running a month-long contest in which you can win your own gold or white TI-84 Plus CE, as well as a videoconference with mathematician and pro football player John Urschel, plus a $500 Amazon gift card. As with TI's "ilyTI" contest (and unlike the earlier "Calculate Your Color" contest), you enter by posting on Twitter or Instagram. Assuming you have a publicly-viewable account, you take a picture of math at work in your world, post it with #MathFTW and #TIContest, and you're entered for the daily drawing of a TI-84 Plus CE as well as the grand prize. Among our ideas are how we use calculators in our academic and professional lives, showing how math is important to our jobs, and perhaps a creative application or two of math to our recreation. If you come up with some particularly cool ideas, we hope you'll show them to us here in the attached thread!
According to the press release, this contest is part of a partnership with John Urschel, a professional football player who is also pursuing a Ph.D. at MIT in Applied Math. Since we're always interested in how we can inspire students to explore STEM fields, we appreciate TI Education president Dr. Peter Balyta's sentiment that TI is "excited to [...] show students that mathematics is rooted in reality[; ...]math underlies every aspect of life and it can help you solve almost any problem." Good luck to those of you entering the contest!