One of the challenges of owning and using a Newton in the modern computing world is its lack of support for Apple’s OS X.
The idea is that, using apps like NewTen, Escale or NewtSync, you can sync your iCal and Address Book entries to Newton’s own Calendar and Names databases. It’s a beautiful idea, and a handy route for us Newton die-hards who want a more modern interface than OS 7+ offers. Who needs a Blackberry or Palm when you’ve got Apple’s original PDA?
I will say that I’ve tried a few these solutions, and none have worked for me. I think that it’s a combination of (a) my USB-to-serial adapter isn’t supported by my iBook G4 and (b) these applications require Newton OS 2.0 to run properly. Stuck at OS 1.3, there’s not much I can do but use Newton Connection Kit on my G3 Bondi iMac.
But some Newton users have used both of these programs with varied success rates. There has been plenty of dicussion in the Newtontalk mailing list about both applications, and some support is out there for Newton users having issues.
So let’s dig into these one by one, and see what each have to offer.
Also called NCX, Newton Connection is a pretty stable utility to:
backup your Newton data to your Mac desktop, import and export Dates, Names, Notes and NewtonWorks, install packages and use your Mac desktop keyboard to enter text on your Newton device. In fact, most of the functions provided by the Newton Connection Utilities (NCU), but without the need for the Classic environment.
All that according to its site. Connect your Newton via serial (or usb-to-serial), wireless, or ethernet. NCX requires OS X 10.4 Tiger to run, but once it’s up, it allows the most accurate depiction of the Newton Connection Utilities environment around. It’s so complex, it comes with a 40-page how-to manual.
One of the best-intentioned applications out there, NewtSync (also called, unfortunately, “nSync”) aims to sync your Newton with native OS X apps like iCal and Address Book.
Says the download site:
Think of nSync as the converse of iSync. Rather than sync just a bit of information to a whole bunch of devices, it syncs a whole bunch of information to one device, a Newton. nSync is a plugin based app that allows us to move information between our Newtons and our OS X based Macs.
nSync automatically comes with support for Address Book and iCal, and it features plug-in support for updated versions of iLife software, to-do lists, and more.
The app connects with your Newton by either modem, Bluetooth, or over TCP/IP, with options to configure each.
nSync hasn’t been supported by its original developer since 2004, but others have picked up the source code and continued to work with it. NewtSync is now on version 0.3.3, but there’s talk of NewTen’s developer, Steven Frank, is working on it.
NewTen (get it?) is based on the UnixNPI open source project, but its focus is very narrow – namely, installing packages on MessagePads in OS X. That’s it. No syncing, no backup, just packages. But, from what I’ve read, people are fine with its ability to do that one simple task. The only issue is it only supports serial connection, meaning you may have to bootstrap your modern day Mac, or “any USB serial adapter that installs a driver into Mac OS X’s ‘/dev’ directory, such as the KeySpan TwinSerial USA-28X.” Download version 1.5.1 here, or the older (and supposedly more stable) version 1.2 here.
Another application based on C++/ObjC from the Desktop Connection Library over at Kallisys, Escale claims to do a bit more than NewTen by offering syncing support and package installation, but its competitive advantage rests in its ability to use your Mac keyboard as a Newton keyboard. Pretty handy. Connect to Escale with a serial port, AppleTalk, and TCP/IP with Rendezvous. Escale is on version 1.0.1 right now.
The Desktop Connection Library hosts other handy software solutions for your Newton, like XML converters.
Make your life a whole lot easier by buying the right USB-to-serial adapter (some swear by Keyspan’s model), or hooking up via Ethernet or Bluetooth with the right adapters. Anyway you do it, it’s going to be a project.
If/when I get my hands on a 2×00 MessagePad, I’ll be sure to try some of this out. In the meantime, however, I’ll be syncing my Newton with my (now) trusty iMac and Newton Connection Kit.
Let me know if you’ve found a better way.