I have to wonder if Hemingway kept notebooks, and if he did, were they filled with such prattle as written by novice writers? Did he burn the early ones? Did he edit, tear, burn the bits that made him sound like a writer unsure of his footing, or like a mere mortal listening to the sound of his own voice and seemingly unaffected by either work or idea? Or did he commit his thoughts to single sheets, to be scrutinized the next day under the gaze of a single malt and then either threaded into a new draft or balled up to be consigned to the dank basket at his feet?
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.
In two articles for DIYPlanner, one about the MessagePad 2100 and another about the eMate, I mentioned how I’ve got the decade-old Apple Newton bug. Given that the site is mostly about paper-based fetishes, there’s only so much I can say there without upsetting the apple cart. (No pun intended.) Here I can say a little more.
It’s a little bizarre: I normally receive a half-dozen email per article, in addition to the 6-12 comments left on the site. These Newton articles not only generated a lot of comments, but some 30 email, and were picked up by The Unofficial Apple Weblog and –giving me a brief and unexpected laugh-out-loud instant in a supermarket check-out line– on the MacBreak Weekly podcast. Most of the email posed the same conundrum: “I’ve always wanted a Newton, too…. Should I buy one on eBay?”
For a year or so now, I’ve been evaluating quite a number of digital brainstorming tools in order to find one that best serves the way I think, the way I make associations, and the way in which I like to fiddle with vague and ethereal ideas before they become solid. I’ve tried plain text editors, wikis, various mind-mapping tools like NovaMind, FreeMind and Inspiration, outliners like OmniOutliner, and “notebooks” like Mori, AquaMinds NoteTaker and Circus Ponies Notebook, but none of these seemed to possess the right mix of power, visual layout, rapid entry, and emphasis on text.
And, oddly enough, the answer has been right under my nose for a while. I had been trying to force Eastgate Systems’ Tinderbox into becoming my digital Commonplace Book, but it was a poor fit for me. I required so much multimedia and OS X services support that I felt like I was trying to force a square peg into a round hole, and eventually I decided upon using DEVONthink Pro. While I have not regretted that decision for a moment, my inner geek still lusted after Tinderbox, having had fleeting glimpses of the power that lay untapped beneath its surface.