Syncing a Newton with a Modern Mac

My Newton MessagePad 2100 remains disconnected from my computer and the world at large while I wait for a) a Newton 2100 Serial Adapter Dongle; or b) Andriano’s Newton-USB dongle. Thus I’m taking this time to play around with my Newton eMate 300 and a few of the available sync programs. To tell the truth, I had heard so many intimidating and frustrating things about synchronising a Newton with a modern Intel-based Mac OS X box that I doubted I’d ever bother with it. Sure, I could always go back to my Pismo and OS 9, but my wife has now claimed that machine, and besides, I want to sync with my OS X address book, calendar, and so forth.

So, my current set-up: a 15″ MacBook Pro, a stock eMate 300, an old-school Mac serial cable, and a Keyspan USA-28X serial-to-USB adapter. One end of the serial cable plugs into the eMate, the other end into the Keyspan, and the Keyspan’s USB connector into my MacBook Pro. Keyspan drivers are downloaded and installed.

First, the most basic sync program: NewTen, by Panic Software’s Steven Frank. This is basically a package installer. I choose my Keyspan connect, set the eMate to dock via serial, and drag a Newton package onto the app. After a little while –remember that a serial connection can be rather slow– the eMate has the package installed. A one-trick pony at the moment, perhaps, but it works well.

Second, Simon Bell’s NCX, also known as Newton Connection. This is an impressive little app that looks to replace Apple’s official Newton Connection Utilities (NCU). While it doesn’t yet do full synchronisation, it currently has the ability to:

  • Install packages through a drag and drop;
  • Import and export NewtonWorks “paper” (text) files as RTF and Notes files as text, plus Calendars and Names.
  • Back up and restore the programs, extensions and data files on the Newton.
  • A pass-through keyboard. This is neat. Whatever you type on your computer comes out on the Newton. Drag and drop text on the window to copy it into whatever program is currently open on the Newton, right where you’ve put the cursor.

The latter has proven handy to drop text right into a NewtonWorks or Notes file right from the Mac’s desktop. The export works well too — I’ve written four articles on the eMate thus far (including this one).

The third program I’ve been trying out is NewtSync, also known as nSync. (*cough*) I’ve already used this program to transfer all 200 of my OS X Address Book entries to my eMate, and am now experimenting with its text, outliner, calendar, and newsfeed synchronisation. It’s still an early release, and so I’m attempting each sync with extreme caution, being sure to back up my data often. Thus far, no problems.

I should note that none of these programs were created by Apple, nor are they sponsored by Apple in any way: these are hard-wrought fan projects, pure and simple. There’s something to be said for the dedication needed to program such things, given that the Newton platform was prematurely canceled nearly a decade ago.

More posts later, no doubt, as I learn the ins and outs, strengths and weaknesses, of each of these applications.

Leave a Reply