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.

YANN – Yet Another Newton Newbie

eMate 300In 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?”

Continue reading “YANN – Yet Another Newton Newbie”

Returning to Life

First, to all those who have inquired, yes, I am still alive, in the same way a hibernating bear is. That’s due to sheer exhaustion, to being stretched far too thin over the past six months or so. The new job, the new home, Conor (nearly three years old), Danny (nearly a year old), and a few lingering after-effects from previous contracts and jobs have been draining all my energy, and it’s only lately that I feel like I’m finally able to yawn and stretch, poke my nose out the door, and sniff the promise of Spring.

The new job up in the Northwest Territories is going very well, and I’m very happy to be part of a great team. Starting in any new workplace is often cause for trepidation, if not outright caution, but I’m pleased to find myself among some of the best people I’ve ever worked with. The weather here in Yellowknife may be cold at times (-40C, in fact), but the people up North are some of the warmest individuals I’ve ever met.

I’m not quite sure why I’m posting here today after such a long absence. (Yes, I have been around, in spirit if not in body, at I think it’s because I’ve finally reached a turning point of sorts. My life, much like the land around me, is starting to thaw. And where there’s thawing, there’s life waiting to happen.

Another One for the Road

I’m just packing up the final bits of my computer gear as I speak, but I just had to write this one last post.

Where I (currently) live, in Newfoundland, Canada, people have a lot to be thankful for. It’s one of the most beautiful places in the world, with seemingly endless tracts of breathtaking rugged seascapes, adorned with icebergs and spinning seabirds and pods of whales, striking a connection with elemental nature that’s almost unparalled. There’s a longstanding cultural heritage ripe with music, art and storytelling, and a down-to-earth mentality that cherishes family, neighbours and even visitors. Here in Carbonear, the weather is warm (but not too warm) and the area is lush and verdant with giant beautiful maple trees nearly a century old. And while there’s a high unemployment rate, the people throughout the province are among the friendliest in the world, often inviting complete strangers into their homes to share a story and a cup of tea.

But there are also idiots. Yes, we have those too.

Last night, towards midnight, I was finishing up packing for the night when I heard a loud bang. I didn’t think too much of it, since the Canada Day fireworks had been sounding sporatically for the past couple of hours. But soon I heard the sirens and suspected there was a problem nearby. A half-hour later, I let the dog out and noticed police lights spinning on a house across the street. I shuffled into my sandals and went out to see what was happening.

There were three police cars, an ambulance driving away, and a crowd milling around a vehicle. A closer look revealed an older mid-sized car whose front end was completely demolished, a large nearby maple whose trunk bark was completely ripped off, and a young girl crying in the back seat of a police car.

It turns out that this girl, whose blood alcohol was several times the limit, and who had been driving without insurance or even a license, had hit our neighbour and crashed into a tree. She then tried to make a getaway, but the car didn’t make it more than a few feet. The neighbour was flung onto a nearby lawn and was suffering from two mangled legs, a badly damaged eye, and no doubt a series of other injuries. He was rushed to the Health Sciences Centre in the capitol of St. John’s. I knew him briefly from a school where I taught — he had just retired from teaching at the age of 52, and had bought a canoe for his holidays. She wound up with a nose bleed.

As I walked back to the house, I noticed the tire tracks. She had driven through a puddle on the opposite (left) side of the road, and swerved to the right, where she hit the neighbour and then the tree. There didn’t seem to be any skid marks.

I certainly feel for the neighbour, and I’m trying to feel for the girl. She’s young, and at that age we’re all a little stupid and obnoxious. (She’s the same one we often hear roaming drunkenly with a pair of teenage boys in the middle of the night, whooping and screaming and swearing as she passes by the house.) But I can’t help thinking she needed this to happen. It’s a lesson to be learned, and it’s rather ironic that a dedicated school teacher was nearly killed in the process.

Please, folks, if you’re going to drink for the holidays, remember to do the right thing and set a designated driver. It’s one thing to play games with your own life; it’s quite another to jeopoardise someone else’s.