Posts categorized “software”.

Disappeared: Apple’s Mac Download page

May 10th, 2010

Chris Foresman at Ars Technica:

A link to the Downloads page was also featured as one of the top navigation links on Apple’s website until a section for the iPad replaced it several weeks ago. Of course, the Downloads page has gone without updates for several days in a row in the past. The most recent month-long update drought, however, has many developers wondering if Apple plans to discontinue the Downloads page altogether.

I like the idea of a Mac “App Store Lite” – because that’s exactly how I thought of Apple’s Download page when I bought my first Macintosh in 2005. As a new subscriber to the Apple way of life, the Downloads page was an easily-browsable headquarters.

In fact, I still go there from time to time and browse through the apps. Most offer a free trial period, unlike the iTunes-based App Store, so there is little barrier to entry. Try an app. Don’t like it? Try another.

The Downloads page disappearing from the Apple title makes sense, given that the iPad is the new focus, and actually gives clarity to Apple’s lineup:

Apple link bar

Here’s an older version of the nav bar, with the Downloads link:

Apple's Download link

Before that, we had iCards and QuickTime and all kinds of nonsense. To me, the Downloads page makes more sense under the Mac heading – since it’s all software for the Macintosh.

(And speaking of organization: I know that FileMaker is its own pseudo company thingy, with its own headquarters and software for both Mac and Windows, but really? Why not lump Bento in with iWork and have FileMaker serve as a pro app, like Aperture?)

The thing is, the Downloads page isn’t found in the Mac section. After digging, I found it on the Support Downloads page in a inconspicuous location:

Apple Downloads link

Even worse: it’s nowhere to be found on the Site Map page. As Foresman points out in the Ars Technica article, the only easy way to get to the Downloads page is via the Apple menu in OS X:

Mac OS X Software

The downloads page languishing and hidden in the remote corners of is not a good sign. It reminds me of what Apple’s doing to AppleTV.

What could it mean?

  • That, just as Ars postulates, Apple could be moving to an App Store for the Mac
  • That Apple has turned their attention away from the Mac, spelling doom and ruin
  • Apple has been so busy with other things that…well…it just hasn’t gotten around to playing with the Downloads page

I’m not a fan of any of those options.

Newton icons grace Brushes for iPad

February 11th, 2010

In the early years of iPhone apps, Steve Sprang, the developer of Brushes, contacted me and told me the story behind a few of his app icons:

Brushes icons

They’re the original Newton Undo/Redo buttons. Sprang wanted to pay homage to the Newton, so he used the icons in his now-famous app.

Here’s the original Newton version:

Newton buttons

As you can see from the above still frame, the Newton icons remain in the new iPad version of Brushes (in the keynote, you can see them at the 42:30 mark).

Sprang developed apps for the Newton, too, back in the day – including Lathe, a popular 3D modeler.

It’s been gratifying to see Sprang’s success with his Brushes app, and great to see he still uses those Newton icons from way back when.

For Newton users, UNNA is our App Store

January 21st, 2010

While the original iPhone was a hit, some would say the success came when Apple offered the App Store – a one-stop shop for everything from games to to-do applications.

The Newton never had such a place. In the ’90s, if you wanted a Newton app, you could either get it in a box, or as shareware, with some software developers offering their wares on the web. But there was no encyclopedic interface for app shopping.

In later years, however, the United Network of Newton Archives (UNNA) has served as a modern day app store for Newton owners. Here you’ll find most of the available Newton apps in one easy-to-browse site (complete with eWorld icons). It’s an organized database that makes finding an app easy. Instead of hunting down an obscure app, you can visit UNNA and probably find what you need.

There are other sources for Newton software, sure. But UNNA offers the most App Store-like interface for Newton apps.

That got me thinking. With all the comparison between the rumored tablet and the MessagePad, how closely could UNNA offerings match what Apple’s App Store offers? Discounting iPhone social media, photo, or video apps, where do UNNA and the App Store reach agreement?

More simply, what can you find in the App Store that you can also find in the Newton app world?

Here’s what I found.


Interested in mapping our your biorhythm cycles? You shop around on the App Store, or you could check out NewtORhythm for your MessagePad or eMate. These apps are for plotting your physical, intellectual, and emotional…uh…potency (?) on any given day based on your birthdate. NewtORhythm would be more helpful if it labeled the plot lines (or if the Newton could handle color), but you get what you get.

The App Store offers plenty of GPS apps, now that iPhones contain a GPS receiver, but so can the Newton with a few add-ons. App-wise, look for GPSView, a landscape-only app that works with a DeLORME Tripmate.


For musicians, the App Store offers everything from metronomes to chromatic tuners. On the Newton, you need a good ear for Guitar Tuner, a “Simple wave based guitar tuner that plays individual samples of a guitar in standard EADGBe tuning.” No fancy dropped-D tuning, but if you want to tune a guitar you haven’t touched in a while (I’m guilty of this), Guitar Tuner is a useful app.


The App Store has no shortage of list management apps, including grocery list apps that help organize your next trip to the supermarket. The Newton comes with its own default to-do list app, but for food you can use Newt Grocery. There are other list management apps, like the (originally-named) Lists, so you can find something you prefer.

For the weekend chemist, the App Store features plenty of affordable periodic table apps (and games) to satisfy your inner iodine. Periodic Table for Newton OS 1.x devices.

Power Translator

Parlais Parlez vous Francais? Non? iPhone language translator apps are great for traveling overseas or in your nearest city’s Chinatown. The Newton has Power Translator, with 60,000 words in English, Spanish, German, French and Italian. You can even add and alter words in Power Translator’s dictionary – great for foreign language students looking for a more colorful vocabulary.

SmallTime stop watch

For fitness training or food eating competitions, you can pay $0.99 for a stop watch app on the App Store, or you can use the free and super-simple SmallTime (above) – an app so small I almost didn’t spot it. To start the timer, simple tap the little circle with your stylus and the countdown begins. That’s it. Nothing fancy.

And speaking of fitness, the Newton offers a few exercise apps to get your New Year’s resolutions off to a good start.


Night sky gazers have a wealth of apps to choose from through iTunes. If all you need is a simple star chart, the Newton’s StarChart.

The iPhone is the perfect personal information management (PIM) tool, but before the iPhone, the Newton carried Apple’s PIM title with all kinds of apps.

And if you need the simplest of simple tools, the iPhone can help with flashlight apps. So can the Newton if pointed in the right direction.


Feel like having some fun? The iPhone has become a competitive mobile gaming device. Back in the day, however, the Newton had its own selection of fun, monochrome gaming titles – like nBattleship (above).

Deep Green for Newton

Some games, like the Newton’s Deep Green chess app, made a successful transition to the iPhone.

There are a ton of other examples, from Newton system utilities to apps for getting online and getting some work done, where UNNA mirrors the App Store – even if UNNA offers neither the breadth nor depth of available software.

On the other hand, the openness and flexibility of Newton developers, plus the lack of an approval process from Apple, leaves the doors of the Newton app world wide open. Here we are, more than a decade after Apple killed off the Newton, and smart people are still developing software for the MessagePad. No app store makes Newton software harder to find, but at least it’s still there to discover. Apple can’t leave the latest version of NCX floating in approval process limbo.

Minus a jailbrake, will that be possible after the iPhone is gone?

Newton Connection Tools helps UNNA

December 14th, 2009

Newton Connection Tools

Andy Galluzzi, developer of Newton Connection Tools for Windows, is now giving the full $45 registration cost of his software to support the United Network of Newton Archives (UNNA).

The Newton Connection Tools license key and the donation to UNNA are intertwined, Galluzzi says on his web site:

The first time you connect, the software will disconnect immediately and you will see the newton information screen. Here you have to export your newton information data (a file nwi will be created) and send me that file . Morgan (administrator of UNNA) gonna tell me who has donated money, and with your newton information data and Morgan confirmation of the donation, I will send you the license code.

A bit complicated, but at least it’s in support of a site we all need and rely on.

Newton Connection Tools is much like NCX, but for Windows, allowing for Outlook syncs, package installation, and backups. Newton users with Macs have a few options to sync their MessagePads with their computer, everything from Apple’s original Newton Connection to NCX, Escale, and more. Windows users, from what I understand, have fewer options with their Newtons – especially with the newer versions of Windows. There doesn’t seem to be a bit support base, at least developer-wise, on Windows – as opposed to the Mac, where enthusiasts are everywhere.

Taking all that into consideration, Galluzzi’s efforts are even more appreciated.

[Via NewtonTalk mailing list.]

Packager fixes OS X .pkg files

December 7th, 2009

Packager for Mac OS X

Every once in a while, Mac OS X (and OS 8-9) jaggies up a Newton OS .pkg file, rendering the package un-uploadable for apps like NCX. Those little creator codes that have caused a ruckus post-Snow Leopard are partly to blame.

That’s where Packager, a Mac OS X app, can come in handy. Packager takes the .pkg file and returns it to its natural, Newton-ready state.

Two types of packages

Here’s an example. I grabbed an astronomy app called Moon Phase and downloaded the package file (above right). As you can see, it doesn’t look any different from a Keyspan driver installation package (above left).

Package confusion

Sometimes, Mac OS X 10.5 doesn’t know what to do with a Newton package file when it’s downloaded (above). This is where you take the file, drop it on Packager’s app icon in your Applications folder, and let it do its magic.


Here’s that Moon Phase package file, post-Packager, but now it’s recognized by NCX and ready to be installed.

Michael Vacik, Packager’s developer, released an update last year. He had a site that hosted the app, too, but it appears to be down now. The Packager version on UNNA seems to be version 1.3.

For classic Mac users, try Thomas Tempelmann’s Mac PKG Fixer, or PackType (UNNA app package) by Steve Weyer, whose app page is also gone.

For WIndows users, try the command-line-operated, dirty-sounding Pkg Stripper by Roger Milne.

Newton keyboard? There’s an app for that

December 1st, 2009

Well I’ll be.

The secret is, you have to have a jailbroken iPhone and a few connectors (details at the source page), but man – look at that thing in action.

Lots of luck to anyone who tries it.

[Via Thomas Brand.]

Newton connects with Snow Leopard

November 5th, 2009

Newton connects with Snow Leopard

Newton users may wonder, with the release of Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, whether their MessagePads and eMates would still play nice with the new operating system. You get a new Mac (as I did) with the latest install, and you might worry – is it going to work?

I’m here to report: everything works fine.

Keyspan USA-28x

I started by download the Keyspan USA-28x driver to my new iMac for the serial-to-USB adapter. Things got weird when Snow Leopard recognized the Keyspan adapter as some sort of dial-up device (above). This wasn’t the case, obviously, but I pressed on just to see if it would work.

Newton Connection (NCX)

I went with Simon Bell’s excellent Newton Connection for Mac OS X (NCX) for the software connection, using a Newton eMate 300.

Since I’m working through the serial connection via USB, I select “serial” in the Newton’s Dock app and – whala. NCX and the Keyspan adapter give me a connection on Snow Leopard.

NCX screenshot function

First, I wanted to try the new screen shot function on NCX – something that was only possible before in a few roundabout ways, like with Newton Toolkit.

In NCX, head to File > Screen Shot, then press the little camera (above) and wait a few seconds.

eMate screen shot

And bam, you get a little window pop-up with a screen shot of your Newton. Pretty handy.

NCX package install

Next, I tried doing what every Newton user does at some point: install a package file. In this case, I picked a periodic table app from UNNA.

Newton package install

This worked exactly as before.


So everything, from the screen shots to the keyboard function – which, for me, worked faster than on previous Macs – works great with OS X 10.6.

Trying NewtSync on Snow Leopard

The real test, and the one I’ve had issues with on my eMate since forever, is syncing Address Book and iCal names and dates to the Newton. I’ve had no luck at all so far, besides a few to-do items syncing from iCal to the Newton’s Dates app, and I don’t guess it’ll get much better on Snow Leopard. I tried using NewtSync (above), but had no luck syncing anything.

The important message to take away is that, with software like NCX, it’s possible to connect your Newton, install packages, and do a few other tasks no matter which version of Mac OS X you’re using.

This may not always be the case. There could be some future OS X release that cripples any potential Newton-to-Mac connection. I would think it’d be in the areas of data syncing or unavailable drivers for serial adapters. But the newer MessagePads and eMates allow for Bluetooth compatibility, which shows no sign of going away.

Google Chrome’s throwback icons

November 3rd, 2009

Chrome freezes

I love how Google Chrome’s icons are a throwback to Susan Kare’s classic Macintosh icons.

This is the only one I’ve seen, but there are others that mimic the Sad Mac icon, too.

Newton quote of the week: retail boxes

October 27th, 2009

“Efforts by Palm, Microsoft, and Symbian to encourage the development of third party software for their mobile platforms, much like Appleā€™s early 90s attempt to market the original Newton MessagePad, largely just copied the desktop PC software model of letting developers ship retail boxes of software on their own. The result was less successful than the PC desktop, with generally poor quality and often unfinished software titles available at only relatively high prices.”

Prince McLean at RoughlyDrafted Magazine.

The early days of the Newton featured this boxed-software model, but as the Internet came of age Newton users could find apps online. Now sites like (and sometimes eBay) are the only places to find available apps for the Newton.

These days, if you want something for your MessagePad or eMate, you’ve got to hunt for it.

Everyday examples of Newton use

September 14th, 2009


For probably one of the most fascinating explorations of every day uses for your Newton, visit the conversation kicked off by Chris C. at the NewtonTalk list (hit the “Next in thread” link to go from e-mail to e-mail), called “A Day in the life of…”

For a down-and-dirty view, see Don Zahniser’s story. He talks about running a small farm and using Dateman (for to-dos), Notes (grocery lists and garden yields), Works, and more.

Morgan Aldridge has a good breakdown, too, showing which apps he uses throughout the day – everything from PocketMoney to Bills To Pay.

The entire thread is great for discovering apps you’ve never tried out, and practical uses for them in day-to-day life. I found a few I want to try. Browse around the United Network of Newton Archives ( to download some of the apps.

Back when I used my Newton for personal information management (PIM) and notes management, I stuck to the basics like Notes, Dates, To-Dos, and a few games here and there. That’s what is nice about the Newton: you can pick it up and use it as-is.

[Via NewtonTalk.]