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Android running on the TI nSpire CX Graphing Calculator

The nSpire CX is a color-screen graphing calculator produced by Texas Instruments powered by an 150Mhz ARM-based SoC and 64MB of RAM. Unlike previous calculator models from TI, users, by default, are unable to create native homebrew applications for the device. Luckily, however, the TI community found a way to "jailbreak" the nSpire CX and CX CAS, allowing third-party developers to create apps for their calculators... One of the most notable community contributions, started by tangrs, was a port of Linux to the device, giving users and tinkerers full access to GNU userspace on the device. This is my attempt to contribute back to the community, by porting Android userspace to the nSpire CX and CX CAS model calculators.

You can now run Android on a graphing calculator

Nowadays, there seems to be a misconception that Android can only run on fast smartphones; a misconception that Google is now trying to inform users about. The latest Android release at the time of writing is Lollipop, a release Google claims can run on smartphones "with as little as 512MB of ram." Certainly a good start, But I was convinced *some* version of Android could run on *extremely* low end hardware. So, after a bit of searching, I found the best Android release to run on the lowest end capable hardware I could think of: my calculator. That release is the obsolete, but venerable, Android Donut (1.6). After a bit of porting work, I managed to get a full android stack up and running on my calc and slowly began to iron out some of the major bugs. I've been playing with it for a while now and figured it was finally *decent* enough to release to the general public. However, it should be noted that a lot of functionality is still missing, partially due to bugs, and partially due to the age of Android 1.6. However, I do believe it has exceeded it's goal as a POC port to help me learn more about what makes up Android (and as a fun multiple-weekend project now that I'm out of High-school for the summer ), and as it turns out, is even rather usable.

* Working:
Android Core
Most Android 1.6 Apps
Terminal Emulator
* Buggy:
Wifi (warning, extremely broken and may kill your cat, B.Y.O.WPA.S.)
Bluetooth (Not actually sure whether this works or not as I don't have a dongle)
* Not Working:
Touchpad :C (Using the touchpad dtb seems to break a lot of stuff, so I disabled it _for now_)
Battery Status (Status is emulated using test_battery kernel driver)

* Q: Why are you using 1.6?! That's like, really old!
A: Android 1.6 was the only feasible version of Android version I could run with an 150Mhz ARM processor and less than 64MB of RAM and still call Android
* Q: What do I need to run android on my nSpire CX (CAS)?
A: The bare minimum is (1) Calculator running OS 3.9 or less and (1) Mini-USB-OTG cable
* Q: What's the point of this?
A: I have no idea, but it sure makes me laugh when I think about it
* Q: Will this help students cheat by putting this on their calculator?
A: I very much doubt it
* Q: Can you run a calculator emulator on Android on the Calculator?!?!
A: Yes, yes you can
* How's performance like?
A: Surprisingly, pretty decent, considering... I can even play some 2D games on it
* Can you port Android to *my* calculator? It's a (insert calculator using a z80 here)
A: Um, wat?
* Will this. Run Crysis?
* Where's teh sources?!?!111111
A: Over at teh GitHubs ->

Installing nDroid on your calculator:
1) USB thumb drive, 1GB or greater
1) TI nSpire CX or CX CAS
1) USB-OTG cable that fits the nSpire CX (mini-usb to host-usb)
Recommended) A powered USB hub (Without it your calculator might not have enough power to write to the USB drive and CRASH)
1) Computer running Linux or BSD

Step 1: Jailbreak your calculator

I won't explain how to do this as there are already an abundance of articles on how to do this. Take a look at for details.

Step 2: Format the USB drive correctly

(It should already be known that doing this will destroy any and all data on the thumb drive)

Open up the partitioner of your choice (my favorite is gparted), and create the following partitions as described:
Partition 1: (System partition) ext4 (> 100MB recommended)
Partition 2: (Userdata partition) ext4 (> 500MB recommended)
Partition 3 (optional): (Cache partition) ext4 (> 50MB recommended)
Partition 4 (optional): (SD card partition) FAT (> 100MB recommended)

Example image:

Step 2: Download files

Boot.img.tns [LINK]
System.tar.gz [LINK]
nspire-cx.dtb.tns [LINK]
nDroidLoader.tns [LINK]
startndroid.ll2.tns [LINK]

Step 3: Install TiLP and create directories

You should have already installed this when jailbreaking your calculator in step 1, if not, install it now if you're using Linux, or use the TI software if you're using Windows now.

When you launch TiLP, connect your calculator and create a directory called "Android". Copy over nspire-cx.tns, Boot.img.tns, nDroidLoad.tns, and startndroid.ll2.tns. After that, download ndless.cfg.tns in ndless/, open it with a text editor, and add the following line:


Step 4: Extract system to USB drive

Now that the USB drive has been partitoned, mount the first partition somewhere on you computer and place System.tar.gz in the root directory of said partition. Open up a terminal in that location and type:

sudo tar -xpf System.tar.gz
sudo rm System.tar.gz

After that, you should have some shiny new files and directories on your USB drive!

Step 5: Starting it up

After the files have synced to the USB drive, remove it and place it in the USB-OTG cable. When that's done, plug the small end of the cord into the top of the nSpire CX. Open "documents" on the device, click on the Android folder, and then click on startndroid.ll2.tns. A window should appear and shortly after your should see a framebuffer console. Congratulations, you should now be running Android on your nSpire!

Step 6: Boot up and finish

After about 10 minutes or so (boot ups are shorter on subsequent boots), you should be greeted with the stock 1.6 launcher. Feel free to hack away on your new Android-powered calculator. [NOTE: Until the touchpad is working, the "/" button is up, the "x^2" button is down, the "e^x" button is left, the "10^x button is right, "menu" is menu, "doc" is home, "esc" is back, and "save" is power].



Unofficial Reddit thread:
Android running on the TI nSpire CX Graphing Calculator Reviewed by Ramesh Kumar on Saturday, July 04, 2015 Rating: 5
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