Newton Pages

Posted 2005.10.21 11.15 in Computers/Internet/Technology

Please note: This is an archived entry, I don’t use the Newton any longer, though I have fond memories of it, and of meeting folks at the SONUG gatherings.

I first heard of the Newton in summer of 1998, but was steered off into the Palm camp before I could learn more about the Newton. I also tried out an HPC device, and even a Rex. I never found any to be truly satisfying, however.

Then, in January 2001, I started thinking about Newton again. I found some Newton related web sites, and started researching. I did like the built-in keyboard on the Sharp Mobilon, so I was drawn to the eMate 300. After some time on eBay, I had an eMate in my hands.

I had purchased it online, without ever having seen one in real life, only pictures. I envisioned something that would fit in my purse. Nope. I needed something smaller, purse-sized, so I did some more research.

My second foray into Newtonia led me to the Message Pad 2100. This was the last best Newton, and even today, is the King of the PDA scene in my opinion. With it’s two PCMCIA slots, 162 MHz StrongARM processor, it is fast and powerful. Unlike todays ‘modern’ PDA’s, the Newton uses Flash memory for internal storage. Take the batteries out for an hour, a day, a year, and your information is secure.

Since then, I have been learning more about my new green friend. There is a wonderful community out there, on Newton Talk a mail-list with over 1200 Newton users. Lots ofgreat websites out there, too. Lots of information. I’ve had my Newtons taken apart, tinkered with their insides, and learned to write some simple software for them.

A Sad Day

On November 5th, 2002, tragedy struck, and it hit my Newton right in the screen. I was very sad. To commemorate this terrible event, here is a scan of the shattered screen.

Thanks to everyone on NewtonTalk for advice and suggestions and assistance. I was able to get a backup of all my data out of the broken Newton, and then undertook a 2 hour ‘surgical’ proceedure in which I dismantled the injured MP2100 to it’s barest components, then repeated the process with my back-up MP2000. I was able to use the intact screen of the MP2000, the backlight element from the MP2100 (which was brighter), and re-assembled my MP2100 again back to health.

Perhaps most amazing, was that at the end of the process – which had seen the MP2100 down to just a bare circuit board for over an hour – not only was all my data still intact, but the date was still set and the clock had only lost 30 minutes! Hooray for Newton!

Extended Vacation

At the beginning of 2005, my career took a significant shift into a new direction. The new direction had new requirements and demands which, sadly, my beloved Newton has been unable to completely fill. Also, to be honest, after some 5 years or so, Newton and I were probably ready for a little time apart.

No, I haven’t gone over to the Dark Side of Palm, or of WinCE (or whatever it’s called these days). I don’t know what it is about the older, vintage technology but it just works and works well. So, for now at least, my 1997-era technology has been replaced by 1994-era technology: Currently my PDA / backup brain is an HP 200LX Palmtop computer. It runs MS DOS and is basically a PC-XT that runs on 2 AA batteries.

Retirement

As of October 2005, I have to say, I think my Newton has been retired. The last of my data has been copied onto the LX200 and I haven’t had a need to fire up my MP2100 since August. Until further notice, development on this site and any of my Newton software and hardware has been suspended.

It was a good run, and my MP2100 never let me down. Newton still kicks Palm and WinCE ass!

Update: As of February 2009, the HP Palmtop has been retired, replaced by an iPod Touch – in some ways, it’s my updated Newton…


MP2x00 Overclock

The Newton MP2000 and MP2100 are both pretty fast to begin with, running the StrongARM processor at 162 MHz. Compare that to the first few generations of Palms at 16 MHz. However, there are some times when we might like our Newtons to really fly!

PixSolution makes a commercial product which will speed up your MP2x00, but it’s expensive, requires shipping from overseas, and is basically out of my price range. The product, called Implant, does have advantages though, and is worth considering if you can afford it.

As an avid electronics / hardware hacker and hobbyist, I checked out what could be done on the cheap. I soon found Sine’s web site where he outlined a planned MP2x00 overclocking (follow the ‘Projects’ link). What Sine was discussing is very straightforward, and I found the parts readily available at a nearby electronics shop. This overclock cost me about $10.00 Canadian.

For a look at another angle, and another set of step by step instructions and images, check out Ed’s overclock page.

So, on with the project details.

Disclaimer and Warning: The information provided below is provided for entertainment purposes. By attempting any modifications to your Newton you will definately void any remaining warranty you might have, and could destroy your Newton completely. I am in no way liable or responsible for your actions or how you use the information below, nor am I liable or responsible for any unexpected or undesired results arising from the modifications described on this page. Soldering experience with Surface Mount components is required. This is definately not for beginners. You have been warned.

Theory, and Stuff

The StrongARM processor runs at about 162 MHz. This speed is achieved by means of a tuned quartz crystal and a frequency multiplier. The crystal used in the MP2x00 is a 3.686 MHz crystal. So the crystal frequency is multiplied by about 43.97. The top speed that has been reported for accellerated MP2x00′s is around 220 MHz. Divide that by the multiplier and we need a crystal of about 5.0 MHz.

Newtons accellerated this way, have a few ‘drawbacks’. The sound is sped-up (think Chipmunks). The serial port is unusable, as is the IR port. Some PCMCIA cards stop working (primarily, some modems and some ethernet cards. Memory cards seem to work fine). The time & date are unaffected, though.

So, we don’t want a permanently accellerated Newton, but one which we can switch speeds at will.

To achieve this, the quick -n- dirty method is to just use a switch to choose one crystal or the other. The crystal has two conductors, one needs to be switched, the other can be common. I have wired it this way. In the following image, you will see my modified Newton. You are looking at the back of it, with the IR port at the upper left hand corner.

Small image

Click here for a larger picture (330 K)

Click here for a huge picture (700 K)

In this image I have removed the original crystal, it used to be in the area indicated by the light green rectangle; above the large Cirrus Logic chip and below the small Cirrus Logic chip. With it gone, I have soldered two pink wires to it’s former circuit traces. The one on the left is the ‘common’ one, and the one on the right is the switched one. The two crystals are positioned, as indicated by the blue rectangle, overtop of the StrongARM processor, using the age-old electronics component, sticky-tape. The slide switch is at the top of the image in the purple rectangle, hidden under a blob of hot-melt glue (another electronics standard).

The smaller crystal is one with the same specifications as the MessagePad’s original one. The larger one, as you can see, is 5.000 MHz. You will see that the two crystals are soldered together, the lower pin of the small crystal to the upper pin of the top crystal. The pink wire soldered here is the common one, which goes back to the left-hand trace above the large Cirrus chip, as mentioned previously. The remaining pin on each crystal also has a pink hookup wire soldred to it, and those two wires go up to the top part of the image, where they join to either pole of a miniature slide switch. The common contact of the slide switch, is connected by jumper wire, to the right-hand solder trace above the large Cirrus Logic chip.

Switch pic

In the image above you can see the tiny swich as indicated by the arrow. I just put in a new switch recently, that is easier to activate. The small black dot is the part that slides. To make the hole, I started ‘nibbling’ away at the case plastic just to the side of the large square hole where the mini-din goes. My advice is to be very careful in that area because *Snap* and away went more plastic than I intended. As you can also see, I’ve lost the ‘door’ that’s supposed to cover this area, its hinges just seemed to disintegrate one day.

Schematic

As you can see by this schematic, the circuit is incredibly simple. I must caution though, that while the design is simple, the implementation is anything but. Please re-read the warning and disclaimer above. This is difficult, and there are real risks to your Newton.

Discussion, Pros & Cons

Someone experienced with soldering and electronics, might expect to spend about 30 to 60 minutes on this hack. It requires a steady hand, a good eye, and strong nerves. Actually, two steady hands are preferable.

Someone who has little or no experience with soldering and electronics, should perhaps be discouraged from attempting this as their first project. I would suggest doing some kit projects first, to learn soldering skills.

The benefits of this home-brew overclock, versus the commercial product, are twofold: The price is incredibly attractive, and you have a brute-force no-holds-barred way of turning the overclock off (the switch) when you want to use serial / IR / etc. I have heard of an instance where the commercial product got stuck ‘on’ and the Newton could no longer be linked to a desktop for installing other packages.

One of the benefits is also the main drawback: The switch. There is no way of controlling what the Newton’s processor is doing at the moment you throw the switch. It is possible, very possible, to crash your Newton by switching it while it’s busy. In practice, I do not switch speeds unless the Newton is either sleeping, or at very least, all packages are closed (only the Background running). Sticking to this, I’ve had about 1 ‘crash’ in 50 switches. When crashed, the Newton requires the reset button to be pressed. I have never lost data doing this, and I do not think that the electronics themselves can be damaged by this. (See the disclaimer again! Your mileage may vary!)

A Newtontalk reader has suggested that the small lengths of hookup wire may act as antennas, radiating the crystal frequency and/or harmonics of it. To minimize this risk, hookup wires should be kept as short as possible. The Newton’s case has some shielding which will also minimize the risk of stray RF being radiated out. If you use your Newton in an RF-sensitive environment, you may want to think twice before doing this modification, or refrain from using the modified Newton in such locations. Once again, I do not take any responsibility for unexpected / undesired results arising from the modifications outlined on this page.

Results

As expected, the serial port was unusable. The IR port will only work if you are beaming to another Newton accellerated by the same ratio. Otherwise, it’s inoperable at high speed. My modem card – a generic 56k unit – works fine. My ethernet card – a 3Com 3C589D – works fine, nice and fast. And (joy oh joy) my 802.11b card – Lucent Orinoco WaveLAN Silver – works fine too, roaring wireless speed. Too cool for words.

PixSolution has some freeware available on their website, and one of their programs does a status test that probably is like a ‘diagnostic’ for their Implant product. It has the nice benefit of showing the current clock speed, so I have used it to get the following ‘before’ and ‘after’ screenshots, so you can see the difference in processor speed.

Before After
Before shot After shot

Parts & Tools Needed

Parts available at better electronics shops. Online, try DigiKey.
Y1a – 3.686 MHz Crystal
Y1b – 5.000 MHz Crystal
SW1 – Small, or Surface Mount Slide Switch: SPDT
Fine Hookup Wire
Fine electronics solder – Rosin core (Not Acid core!!!)

The two crystals I used are the ‘parallel, 18pf’ kind (as opposed to ‘serial’). I know there’s a difference, but I’m not sure what it is. For the switch, if you have a choice, break-before-make is what you want. This means that as the switch moves, there is a moment where neither crystal is selected. My experience has shown me that this is preferable to having a moment where both crystals are selected.

Tools available at electronics shops, even Radio Shack
Fine tipped soldering pen. 15 to 20 watts maximum!!!
Tweezers
Fine probe or needle

Step by Step Instructions

  1. Back up your Newton.
  2. Back up your Newton.
  3. I know it’s non-volatile Flash memory. I don’t care. Back up your Newton.
  4. Remove stylus, both PCMCIA cards or card blanks, and the battery. Remove the screen door.
  5. Place your Newton face down on a level surface, perhaps with a soft cloth under the Newton to protect it’s screen.
  6. Remove the four Phillips screws from the back of the Newton. Put them somewhere safe. Remember which holes they came from. The screws are interchangable, but there are more holes than there are screws.
  7. Remove the back cover. This requires some careful handling. Start at the battery opening, work your way along the bottom and up the hinge side. If you need to, use a slot-screwdriver blade to help pry. Be careful though not to damage the case.
  8. Once the case has popped off, set the back case aside for now.
  9. Now is a good time to decide where to put your switch. I stuck mine near where the Interconnect Port is. I cut away part of the case underneath that little protective I/O door and stuck my switch there. Another option is to stick it in the available open space that was for a phone jack or built-in mini-din port. This is not an option, however, if you have a SER-001.
  10. Locate the existing crystal, using the above image. It will be a short silver-coloured rectangular metal ‘can’ above the large Cirrus Logic chip and below the small Cirrus Logic chip.
  11. This crystal must be removed. This is the single most dangerous and difficult part of the procedure. This crystal is Surface Mount, most of the solder you need to remove is hidden underneath the crystal body. If you rush it and try to pry it free, you will probably tear the copper traces off of the circuit board – And kill your Newton in the process.
  12. The best way is to use a magnifying glass, a needle, and a fine tipped soldering pen. Go one side then the other, heat, pry gently, then switch sides. Expect to take up to about 10 to 15 minutes. One person suggested adding a bit of solder to the tip of your iron, to maximize heat transfer into the existing solder under the crystal.
  13. Once you have removed the old crystal, set it free. Or, if the leads are in good shape, you can opt to re-use it, since you know it’s definately the right speed for the low-speed setting.
  14. Prepare the new crystals, soldering two leads together as I have done, and position them with glue or tape or whatever.
  15. Use your hookup wire, to solder from the two common leads on the crystals, to the left-hand trace of the original crystal.
  16. With your switch positioned, solder hookup wire from it’s common terminal, down to the right-hand trace of the original crystal. Nearly there.
  17. Now solder from the unused pin of your 3.686 MHz crystal, a hookup wire over to one of the remaining terminals on your switch.
  18. This is a good time to actually test things. Set the switch to the terminal you have soldered to the first crystal. Carefully turn your Newton over, plug in AC power, and power it up. If it works, great! If it doesn’t work, remove AC power and inspect your work. Try not to let your nerves or churning stomach distract you.
  19. If all is well, then proceed.
  20. Solder a piece of hookup wire from the unused lead on the 5.000 MHz crystal, and to the remaining empty terminal of the switch.
  21. You can now test this setting. Set the switch for the fast crystal, and power-up your newton. It should power up quicker, and the ‘Chime’ will sound faster and higher-pitched.
  22. If it works, then use some tape or non-conductive glue to cover any exposed leads or connections, to prevent things shorting out. Test it again, and if all works, then you can put it back together. Just reverse the steps for taking it apart.
  23. If it doesn’t work, then once again, inspect it carefully. Look for shorts. Look for solder bridges. Make sure the crystals are wired properly. If all else fails, try soldering your new 3.686 MHz crystal directly to the two traces where the original crystal came from, and test that. If that works, you know you had a wiring problem. If that doesn’t work… well you read the warning and disclaimer, right?

eMate Overclock

Disclaimer and Warning: The information provided below is provided for entertainment purposes. By attempting any modifications to your Newton you will definately void any remaining warranty you might have, and could destroy your Newton completely. I am in no way liable or responsible for your actions or how you use the information below, nor am I liable or responsible for any unexpected or undesired results arising from the modifications described on this page. Soldering experience with Surface Mount components is required. This is definately not for beginners. You have been warned.

Theory, and Stuff

According to the FAQ the eMate runs at 25 MHz. According to the Service Manual the eMate runs at 27 MHz. I don’t know exactly how fast it does run really, but we’re going to speed it up anyways.

The proceedure is identical to that of the MP2x00 Overclock. We have to replace an existing 3.686 MHz crystal with a switch and another 3.686 MHz crystal and a 5.000 MHz crystal.

So if it runs at 25MHz with the normal crystal, it is going to run at 33.9MHz with the accellerated crystal. If it runs at 27MHz with the normal crystal, it will run at 36.6MHz once accellerated. Either way, the eMate is accellerated by a factor of 1.35 times it’s original speed.

The real time clock is not affected by this hack. Sound is sped up, generally speaking, your serial port won’t work right, your IR port won’t work right, and you may have problems using some modem and ethernet cards. Everything works normally of course, when it’s running at normal speed.

I have successfully beamed from my accellerated MP2100 to my accellerated eMate. This works because they are both accellerated by the same ratio: Both using a 5.000 MHz crystal instead of the factory 3.686MHz.

I apologize for the blurriness in the following images.

First image

This image shows the part of the eMate mother board that will be worked on. By the time I took this picture the existing crystal had already been removed, and the two new crystals have been glued to the side of the PCMCIA holder. For perspective, we are looking at the top of the mother board, from the back. On the left side of the picture you can see the headphone jack. The original crystal used to be in the white rectangle which is near the centre of the image, just to the left of the square black Cirrus Logic chip.

Second image

I was careless in removing the crystal from the motherboard, and in doing so, nearly destroyed my emate. The copper traces that the crystal were soldered to, got torn up off the board. So I had to solder the jumper wires directly to the two pins on the Cirrus Logic chip. This was very delicate work, and I really regret my impatience earlier. The leads on the chip are too fine to allow the use of much solder; that would risk a solder bridge which would spell catastrophe, so I used only enough to make a connection. In this image you can see the two jumper wires soldered directly to the small 3.686MHz crystal in order to verify that my soldering on the chip was working.

After verifying that it worked, I then used some 5-minute epoxy, carefully applied, to permanently fix the jumper wires in place to the Cirrus chip, and hopefully prevent them from ever breaking loose. I also used the epoxy to mount my 2-way switch to the mother board, as you will see in the next image.

Third image

In this image you can see the wiring is complete. Below you will see the schematic, it is again quite simple. From the original crystal location, in this perspective, the ‘upper’ contact was used as the common one and the lower contact is wired to the switch.

Schematic

As you can see by this schematic, the circuit is incredibly simple. I must caution though, that while the design is simple, the implementation is anything but. Please re-read the warning and disclaimer above. This is difficult, and there are real risks to your Newton.

Fourth image

The switch was mounted next to the headphone jack, and then a small square hole was cut in the bottom half of the case. Here you can see the position of the slide switch. It is recessed so that it cannot be accidentally bumped. To switch speeds, I simply use the stylus tip to slide the switch one way or the other.

Discussion, Pros & Cons

Someone experienced with soldering and electronics, might expect to spend about 30 to 60 minutes on this hack. It requires a steady hand, a good eye, and strong nerves. Actually, two steady hands are preferable.

Someone who has little or no experience with soldering and electronics, should perhaps be discouraged from attempting this as their first project. I would suggest doing some kit projects first, to learn soldering skills.

The benefits of this home-brew overclock, are of course the speed is increased, and it’s pretty cheap. The cost of two crystals and a switch, really.

There is a drawback though: The switch. There is no way of controlling what the eMate’s processor is doing at the moment you throw the switch. It is possible, very possible, to crash your Newton by switching it while it’s busy. In practice, I do not switch speeds unless the eMate is either sleeping, or at very least, all packages are closed (only the Backdrop running). Sticking to this, I’ve had about 1 ‘crash’ in 50 switches. When crashed, the eMate requires the reset button to be pressed. I have never lost data doing this, and I do not think that the electronics themselves can be damaged by this. (See the disclaimer again! Your mileage may vary!)

Results

As expected, the serial port is unusable while accellerated. The IR port will only function when the receiving unit has been accellerated by the same ratio. Otherwise it too is inoperable at high speed. My modem card – a generic 56k pcmcia modem – worked fine, without any difference. My ethernet card – a 3Com 3C589D – works just fine too, nice and fast! As usual though, your mileage may vary.

PixSolution has some freeware available on their website, and one of their programs does a status test that probably is like a ‘diagnostic’ for their Implant product. It has the nice benefit of showing the current clock speed, so I have used it to get the following ‘before’ and ‘after’ screenshots, so you can see the difference in processor speed.

Before After
Before shot After shot

I don’t know how the PixSolution program works, and it’s been suggested that there is no really accurate way for software to measure a Newton’s clock speed, due to the way the Newton OS works, so these figures may not be accurate. I think the reason they show 20 MHz and 27 MHz is because the software thinks it’s running on a MP130, for which PixSolution sold an Implant accelerator.

Parts & Tools Needed

Parts available at better electronics shops. Online, try DigiKey.
Y1a – 3.686 MHz Crystal
Y1b – 5.000 MHz Crystal
SW1 – Small, or Surface Mount Slide Switch: SPDT
Fine Hookup Wire
Fine electronics solder – Rosin core (Not Acid core!!!)

The two crystals I used are the ‘parallel, 18pf’ kind (as opposed to ‘serial’). I know there’s a difference, but I’m not sure what it is. For the switch, if you have a choice, break-before-make is what you want. This means that as the switch moves, there is a moment where neither crystal is selected. My experience has shown me that this is preferable to having a moment where both crystals are selected.

Tools available at electronics shops:
Torx-8 Screwdriver
Torx-10 Screwdriver
Fine tipped soldering pen. 15 to 20 watts maximum!!!
Tweezers
Fine probe or needle

Step by Step Instructions

  1. Back up your eMate.
  2. Back up your eMate.
  3. I know it’s non-volatile Flash memory. I don’t care. Back up your eMate.
  4. Dissassemble the eMate. Disassembly is somewhat involved. I may post instructions here later. For now, you can find them in the eMate Service Manual, available at unna: www.unna.org/unna/apple/documentation/eMate/eMateServiceManual.pdf
  5. You need to get the motherboard out. It’s held down by five shiney silver Phillips screwdrivers. It is also held down on one side by four wires, two red and two black. One pair (at the back, near the AC adaptor plug) are for the backlight power, and the other pair, (on the same side, nearer the keyboard) are for the speaker.
  6. The easiest thing to do is get a permanent magic marker and mark on the board where the Red and Black wires are soldered. Then unsolder them. Then you can get the motherboard off completely. The marker is so you know where to solder them back down later.
  7. Now that you have the motherboard out, locate the existing crystal, using the image near the top of this page. It will be a short silver-coloured rectangular metal ‘can’ next to the small square Cirrus Logic chip.
  8. This crystal must be removed. This is the single most dangerous and difficult part of the procedure. This crystal is Surface Mount, most of the solder you need to remove is hidden underneath the crystal body. If you rush it and try to pry it free, you will probably tear the copper traces off of the circuit board – And kill your eMate in the process.
  9. The best way is to use a magnifying glass, a needle, and a fine tipped soldering pen. Go one side then the other, heat, pry gently, then switch sides. Expect to take up to about 10 to 15 minutes. One person suggested adding a bit of solder to the tip of your iron, to maximize heat transfer into the existing solder under the crystal.
  10. Once you have removed the old crystal, set it free. Or, if the leads are in good shape, you can opt to re-use it, since you know it’s definately the right speed for the low-speed setting.
  11. The eMate has just loads of empty free space. Position your new crystals as you like. I found gluing them to the side of the PCMCIA holder was the easiest, and it keeps them from bumping into other circuitry.
  12. Solder together the two leads in the middle, so the crystals are tied together in the middle.
  13. Use your hookup wire, to solder from the two common leads on the crystals, to the trace of the original crystal that is nearest the PCMCIA holder.
  14. Once you have decided where your switch will go, it should be mounted firmly to ensure it won’t come loose and there is no ‘play’ when you are switching speeds. I have gone with 5-minute epoxy. It sets up fast and is strong and permanent.
  15. With your switch positioned, solder hookup wire from it’s common terminal, to the remaining trace of the original crystal. Nearly there.
  16. Now solder from the unused pin of your 3.686 MHz crystal, a hookup wire over to one of the remaining terminals on your switch.
  17. This is a good time to actually test things, though testing a dissassembled eMate is not as easy as a disassembled Newton. At the bare minimum you need to plug the ribbon-cable for the display into the motherboard, then plug AC power in. Make sure the contrast slider on the motherboard is about in the centre. You won’t hear the chime (because the speaker is not attached) but the eMate screen should show the normal start-up sequence, then ask for pen alignment.
  18. If all is well, then remove AC power, and unplug the screen ribbon cable, then you can proceed.
  19. If all is not well, remove AC power, unplug the screen ribbon cable, then review what you have done. Inspect your soldering. Check for short circuits and solder bridges.
  20. When ready to continue, solder a piece of hookup wire from the unused lead on the 5.000 MHz crystal, and to the remaining empty terminal of the switch.
  21. You can test things again using the above proceedure. Again, you won’t hear anything but you should see the start up screen and all. If not, check check and double check. Remember the warning and disclaimer.
  22. If all is well then you can re-assemble the eMate.
  23. A few things to be careful of. When re-placing the motherboard, make sure the contrast and volume slider-switches line up into the panel mounted plastic sliders. Ensure when soldering the backlight wires and the speaker wires that you have their polarity correct.
  24. Then re-assemble, in the reverse order of disassembly. Don’t forget to hook the keyboard back up.

Other MP2x00 Hacks

Disclaimer and Warning: The information provided below is provided for entertainment purposes. By attempting any modifications to your Newton or eMate you will definately void any remaining warranty you might have, and could destroy your Newton or eMate completely. I am in no way liable or responsible for your actions or how you use the information below, nor am I liable or responsible for any unexpected or undesired results arising from the modifications described on this page. Soldering experience with Surface Mount components is required for some hacks. This is definately not for beginners. You have been warned.

The MP2x00 Blinky Light

My name is Stephanie….and I have a problem. I like flashing lights. Back in the days when I had a Visor, one of the first things I did was install a blinky-light into it. Click here to see my Visor mods. Now I’ve been using my MP2100 and my eMate for about a year, and at long last, I am putting the blinky-lights in. Here’s the process for my MP2100.

I should warn you, that the following procedure involves taking a dremel to a working, functional MP2100, and making a hole in the case for a LED to stick out. Some of you may find the following images shocking. Younger viewers, or those disturbed by graphic images, are advised to look away.

Electronically speaking, this mod is simple like the eMate one. You just have to put a LED in parallel with the serial-port’s TX-data line. In practice though, it is more difficult. The eMate, being made of transluscent plastic, did not require any holes, and had gobs of empty space. The MP2100 is very tight, and opaque, so not only did a space have to be found / made for the LED, it had to have a hole so it would be visible.

led1

Here is where I positioned the LED. It is just to the side of the IR cover, along the side of the MP2100′s casing. After making a hole with a Dremel tool, I positioned the LED and then fixed it in place with epoxy. Once the epoxy was set, I soldered the negative lead of the LED to the metal shielding around the IR circuitry, which is at ground. I then bent the positive lead of the LED back and out of the way, and soldered a small hook-up wire to it.

led2

The other end of the hook-up wire, is soldered to the TX line at it’s source, on the LTC1323 chip on the MP2100′s motherboard. This is a very delicate spot, the pin-spacing is incredibly tight. I couldn’t find any other points on this side of the mother board though, where the TX signal was available. It is very easy to make a solder-bridge here, and because of this one point, I’d rate this a ‘difficult’ mod.

The LED I used is a blue super-bright 5mm LED. It draws 20 ma at 3.6 volts. You should be able to use any 3.6 or 5 volt LED here I think. This will put a small extra drain on the battery, but shouldn’t be much.

led3

So there it is. My MP2100 is illuminated! Now, whenever the serial port is active, the LED is turned on. This does not seem to negatively effect the serial port, I have been able to connect to NCU and NTK Inspector, done backups and installed software through the serial port with this modification in place. As always though, your mileage may vary.

Of course, having a LED is one thing. Making it work, is another. As-is, you can enjoy blinky-light action whenever you use the serial port. That is, docking, or if you use an external modem or use the serial port for other things.

Click here to download

Here is a small ‘test’ program that you can use, to make the light go on and off. Whoopeee! Just click the image to download.
Don’t worry, I have some much neater stuff in mind. Now that the blinky light is possible, and I know how to control it, it’s just a matter of time…

System Patches: Blowing ‘em Away.

I purchased my MP2100 used; when I got it, it had the latest system patch installed already. The MP2100 had OS 2.1 patch 717260. In most cases this would be considered a good thing. System patches provide useful features and fixes that were missing or lacking in the original product.

Being a tinkerer though, I got curious to see what my Newton devices were like, without their patches. How they would function, and so forth. But how? If there was ever some software from Apple to allow patches to be removed, it never got out to the public, as far as I could tell. You can’t erase a patch by a brain-wipe reset. It’s in a protected part of Flash memory that is not erased during a brain wipe. Finaly, I came across a note somewhere that you could force a Newton with OS 2.1 to dump a system patch, by replacing the ROM board with another one.

Warning: When I tried this I did not know how dangerous it was and therefore didn’t think twice about trying it. Now that you have read this warning and realize the dangers, Murphy dictates that you are in a lot more dangerous position than I was. Sorry, maybe I shouldn’t have warned you. On the other hand, I have since learned of at least 2 MP2x00′s that have died by the following process, and was told there are more which have succumbed to this.

First, I removed the power, battery, stylus & PCMCIA cards, opened it up, and removed the ROM card. Then I installed the ROM card from my eMate and tried powering it up. It did not start up, which is probably not surprising. Then I replaced its original ROM card and plugged in AC power. After a second or two, it chimed and started up fine. It displayed a warning that the internal Flash RAM had been erased because a different ROM board had been installed. Mission accomplished, the MP2100 was now patch-less. I put it back together and away I went.

The un-patched MP2100 now runs OS 2.1 version 717006. It runs fine, I have not found any trouble with it, and am keeping it this way until I find a reason to change. One noticable difference is the Frames Heap: version 717006 only allocates 250K of DRAM to Frames Heap, which is what you would have with an MP2000. An MP2100 should have 500K of Frames Heap. This is the ‘heap’ displayed on Avi’s Backdrop, HeapShow, etc. However, the MP2100 still recognizes that it has 4000K of DRAM installed (4020K actually). And HeapShow does indicate the total memory is higher. I think the extra DRAM is being used for something other than Frames Heap, and responce is still great. So as I said, I’m leaving it as 717006 until a good reason to re-patch it comes along.


Other eMate Hacks

Disclaimer and Warning: The information provided below is provided for entertainment purposes. By attempting any modifications to your Newton or eMate you will definately void any remaining warranty you might have, and could destroy your Newton or eMate completely. I am in no way liable or responsible for your actions or how you use the information below, nor am I liable or responsible for any unexpected or undesired results arising from the modifications described on this page. Soldering experience with Surface Mount components is required for some hacks. This is definately not for beginners. You have been warned.

eMate Battery Pack: Try a Tray!
The eMate was designed with a special battery package inside. The package holds 4 NiMH AA size batteries. If your battery no longer holds a charge, you can spend a long time looking for a replacement: the packs seem to have been made out of unobtanium. However, there are some websites out there that illustrate how to dissassemble and refurbish this pack, such as this one at PDA Soft, to keep your eMate running after the original batteries have failed. .

Instead of refurbishing my battery pack when it no longer charged, I thought it would be better with a standard AA battery tray. Then I could put in NiMH AA’s, have the eMate recharge them, or even in a pinch slap in some Alkelines if my NiMHs were flat and I didn’t have AC power handy.

Click on any of the following pictures for a larger view.

cut away plasticCut away the plastic at the end here. mount tray hereMount battery tray this way.
closeup of wiringMake sure the wiring is correct! Positive/Red on the left side of the connector and Negative/Black on the right side of the connector. small mounting bolts visible on topThe tray is held in place by two small bolts, visible on top here.

After finding a battery tray to hold 4 AA batteries, in the right arrangement, I had to cut away some of the eMate’s internal plastic to make it fit. I kept the original wires, thermistor and connector from the eMate battery pack. The positive (red) and negative (black) leads I soldered to the terminals of the AA tray. The thermister I kept intact and positioned it in the tray between the batteries.

The battery tray is held in place by two small bolts and nuts. The bolt heads are visible on the top side of the eMate but they are small and IMHO don’t detract from the looks. The tray, by the way, is made of aluminum and was bought from Digi-Key, part number is 192K-ND. The tray is very strong and holds the batteries quite tightly.

This is actually a pretty simple hack I think. You don’t have to solder delicate stuff. The risks are more along the lines of physical damage to the eMate when cutting the plastics inside. This is a hack that I think would be good for intermediates, perhaps even some adventurous beginners. Unlike the overclocking mods.

eMate Lid Switch: Useful, or Not?
The eMate has a small switch on the motherboard which senses if the lid is open or closed. So if you are using the eMate, then close the lid, it should instantly go to sleep. And conversely, when you open the eMate it should automatically wake up. There is also a power button to sleep / wake the eMate. And in the Prefs you can set the eMate to go to sleep after a determined amount of inactivity.

I found that my eMate seemed to have some trouble figuring out when to sleep and when to wake, with these three different sets of priorities. Sometimes when it went to sleep from shutting the lid, the batteries seemed to drain way too fast. I also considered that my MP2100 has always worked fine, and it has the power-switch and the sleep-setting, but no lid to contend with. So maybe the eMate would work fine if it didn’t have to worry about the lid either…

I found and removed the microswitch from the motherboard, and soldered a pair of jumpers where the switch was, so the eMate will think it’s lid is always open. Always. Now it has one less thing to worry about.

Emate switch

The switch is located on the motherboard just to the right of the mini-din serial connector, it is identified as S2. It has six pins. In the above image you can see I have already removed it, and jumpered the top-left pair and the lower-left pair, to trick the eMate into thinking the lid is open all the time. (The wire jumpers did not show up too well on the image, so I’ve added red highlights so you can see where the jumpers need to go.)

If I now close the lid without turning it off, my eMate will sleep after the pre-determined amount of inactivity. I can also turn it off with the power button. If I open the eMate it won’t suddenly come on, until I hit the power button. In other words, the eMate now behaves exactly like my MP2100, as far as power is concerned.

So far, things seem to be working fine. If performance starts to degrade, or if I notice any more improvements, I’ll post them here. I have informally ‘tested’ the battery performance, and it seems to be functioning a great deal better than before.

Update: After well over a year, I have never noticed any degradation in performance on this one, the batteries last consistantly much longer than they did when the switch was intact. Go figure.

This hack requires some delicate work right in the heart of the eMate motherboard. As such, it should be considered difficult, and only for those with intermediate to advanced skills.

Lightin’ Up my eMate
My name is Stephanie….and I have a problem. I like flashing lights. Back in the days when I had a Visor, one of the first things I did was install a blinky-light into it. Click here to see my Visor mods. Now I’ve been using my MP2100 and my eMate for about a year, and at long last, I am putting the blinky-lights in. Here’s the process for my eMate.

led1

So there it is. My eMate is illuminated! How did I do it? So glad you asked… It is pretty simple. I just stick a LED in parallel with the serial TX-data line in the Mini-Din port, and a convenient ground. Whenever the serial port is active, the LED is turned on. This does not seem to negatively effect the serial port, I have been able to connect to NCU and NTK Inspector, done backups and installed software through the serial port with this modification in place. As always though, your mileage may vary.

Of course, having a LED is one thing. Making it work, is another. As-is, you can enjoy blinky-light action whenever you use the serial port. That is, docking, or if you use an external modem or use the serial port for other things. See below for a very small, very simple test program that lets you control the blinking.

led2

You can see in the above image, all I have done is added one part. The positive lead of the LED is soldered to the TX-data pin of the Mini-Din connector, and the negative lead of the LED is soldered to Ground, on the empty square copper pad of C107, right next to where it says C100.

The LED I used is a blue super-bright 5mm LED. It draws 20 ma at 3.6 volts. You should be able to use any 3.6 or 5 volt LED here I think. This will put a small extra drain on the battery, but shouldn’t be much.

This is a pretty simple modification to do. It does not require soldering teeny things. On the other hand, it requires soldering very close to teeny things, and it does require the complete dissassembly of your eMate and removal of the motherboard, in order to gain access to the area to be worked on. So I’d rate this as ‘moderately’ difficult.

Click here to download

Here is a small ‘test’ program that you can use, to make the light go on and off. Whoopeee! Just click the image to download.
Don’t worry, I have some much neater stuff in mind. Now that the blinky light is possible, and I know how to control it, it’s just a matter of time…

System Patches: Blowing ‘em Away.
I purchased my eMate used; when I got it, it had the latest system patch installed already. The eMate had OS 2.1 patch 737246. In most cases this would be considered a good thing. System patches provide useful features and fixes that were missing or lacking in the original product.

Being a tinkerer though, I got curious to see what my Newton devices were like, without their patches. How they would function, and so forth. But how? If there was ever some software from Apple to allow patches to be removed, it never got out to the public, as far as I could tell. You can’t erase a patch by a brain-wipe reset. It’s in a protected part of Flash memory that is not erased during a brain wipe. Finaly, I came across a note somewhere that you could force a Newton with OS 2.1 to dump a system patch, by replacing the ROM board with another one.

Warning: When I tried this I did not know how dangerous it was and therefore didn’t think twice about trying it. Now that you have read this warning and realize the dangers, Murphy dictates that you are in a lot more dangerous position than I was. Sorry, maybe I shouldn’t have warned you. On the other hand, I have since learned of at least 2 MP2x00′s that have died by the following process, and was told there are more which have succumbed to this.

Patching the eMate should have been easy. I opened my MP2100 up and got the ROM card out of it, popped it in the eMate, applied power. Then removed power, removed the ROM card and replaced the original eMate ROM card into it, and applied power. There was a brief message again, that the internal store had been erased because a different ROM card was used. Then the message went away. Then the screen went dead. Then the eMate went dead.

I waited. I hit the reset button. I hit the power button. I hit the power and reset buttons. I held the reset button for 20 seconds. I removed the battery and unplugged the eMate and left it for 60 minutes. I repeated all of the above. I got nervous.

I finaly left the eMate unplugged and without batteries for 2 long, nervous days. Then I applied power.

Gods be praised, it started up!

The eMate, without a system patch, now identifies itself as OS version 2.2.00 which seems a little strange at first. Then I notice that on the ROM card, the two ROM chips are silkscreened ‘V2.2′. Hmmm.

eMate ROM

Other than this ‘cosmetic’ change, the eMate’s Frames Heap is in the same boat as the MP2100: Unpatched, the Frames Heap is down to 250K, where it used to be 500K. (This is for eMates with the Upgrade card. Emates without, would be unaffected.) As with my MP2100, I have not found much difference with the smaller Frames Heap. So I’m going to leave my eMate without its patch. And hey, now I have a ‘rare’ and ‘unusual’ eMate with the mysterious NOS 2.2.00! Lucky me.

About that ‘Mystery’ version 2.2.00…
The eMate’s ROM differs from that of the MP2x00 in that the eMate has Newton Works in ROM, and it also has a few packages that are unique to the education market (Teacher Setup, etc.). The eMate also has a built-in keyboard, which is unique among Newtons.

My theory, and this is only a theory, is that when the eMate ROM was burned, someone decided to number it OS 2.2. After all, it is a different ROM than the 2.1 ROMs, it has some new features and things. But, before eMates started shipping, someone else realized that as soon as a Newton OS 2.2 ‘hits the street’ all those people with MP2x00′s are going to start demanding an upgrade to NOS 2.2 as well. However, you can’t go and add stuff into their ROMs and to ‘patch’ Works in would take about 200K of storage; the ‘patch’ would be unwieldy. So, before the eMates left the factory, Apple quickly added a system patch 737041, which changes the ROM string back to OS 2.1. According to the FAQ, that system patch was created in February 1997 – Over a month and a half before the eMates were released in April 1997!

Anyways, that’s my theory.


Software

The Newton is the easiest PDA I have ever looked at the coding for. Palm and the others seemed quite difficult, but the Newton just seems that much more simple. The Newton Toolkit allows the creation of simple programs in the Newton Script environment.

All my Newton software is provided as freeware. Use, distrubute and enjoy. If you like it, drop me an email if you feel so inclined.

PassGenR

Network or System administrators often have to issue passwords to people. Ideally, passwords should be random. Net- and Sys-admin folks with logical computer fluent minds soon run out of ideas when it comes to generating random passwords. At least, I do. A handy solution would be a little programme that can crank out random password strings on demand, and can be customized for the length and type of password that is needed.

So, PassGenR was born. Pronounced ‘pass gen er’ it is a very simple password generator. It should run on any Newon device that uses OS 2.0 or above.

PassGenR Screenshot

Download:
PassGenR.pkg Latest Version: 1.02 (Feb 8 / 02)
PassGenR.txt About Text.
PassGenRv01.pkg For NOS 1.x devices.
PassGenR.sit Source code for version 1.02 (for Newton Toolkit 1.6 for Mac)

WineScore

This is a super-simple little programme to aid in assigning a numeric point-score to wines. It’s based mostly on the system Robert Parker uses. It doesn’t save anything, it doesn’t create a database, it just lets you slide some sliders around and it tells you the numeric score that you can write down in your favorite wine log.

This is freeware, a little application I wrote for myself to help me score the wines I’ve tasted in a consistent fashion. If others find it useful, then hooray! Source code is provided if anyone wants to improve on it. Enjoy.

winescore

Download:
WineScore.pkg Latest Version: 1.0 (Sept. 1/03)
WineScore.sit Source Code (Newton Toolkit 1.6 Mac)

Overlord!

Overlord! is a great 2-week Dates overview created by Sean Luke. He originally wrote it for the MP2x00 as a Landscape mode only app. Sean’s Overlord is available from his website, along with his source code.

Sean open-sourced the app, and I created this portrait-mode version of it. This was actually my first attempt at using Newton Toolkit, so through this, I learned to code for the Newton.

At the request of a friend, I have also formatted a version of Overlord that fits on the screen of a MP 120. It only gives a one-week overview, but the all-important Evil Overlord rules have been retained.

Overlord MP2x00 Portrait Overlord MP1x0 Portrait

Download:
Overlord for MP2x00 Portrait Updated 10 Sep 02
Overlord for MP1x0 Portrait Updated 10 Sep 02
Source code for MP2x00 Portrait Updated 10 Sep 02
Source code for MP1x0 Portrait Updated 10 Sep 02

Pagan Ware

I’ve used PDAs of different types and kinds since mid 1998. I’ve seen and used a lot of different software and ebooks in that time, including religeous stuff. One area that I have found to be lacking though, is in software for Pagans. So, attempting to remedy this in my own small way, I have started working on some simple applications that might be of interest to Wiccans, or other Pagans, or just anybody who is curious about such things.

All my Newton software is provided as freeware. Use, distrubute and enjoy. If you like it, drop me an email if you feel so inclined.

Liber Umbrarum et Lux

I have chosen to publish my own Liber Umbrarum et Lux on the internet. This is the ‘Book of Shadows [and Light]‘ that you may have heard of. Every Witch has a Book of her own, at first copied from the Book of another. Then, over time, she adds to her Book, adding things that come to her through her daily life or through exchange of ideas and knowledge with other Witches. Consequently, my own Book contains some things which have been passed down in secret through antiquity. Some portions are more contemporary, found in many modern published books on Wicca. And, some segments are fully original; either my own work, or my writing influenced by others in my coven.

Being a technophile, gadgeteer, or geek if you will, I made the leap in April 2001 to copy my Liber Umbarum et Lux from my handwritten paper copy, into an electronic Newton Book format. Now, I can carry it wherever I go, read it at leisure without attracting stares, and as often as I update it, I will always have a nice index and table of contents.

Liber Umbrarum et Lux screen shotThis will be updated on a semi-regular basis, the version you will find here will usually be the same as the version I have on my MP2100. This is a portrait-version formatted for the MP2100. There is also a Universal version, but it will probably not be as up to date as the MP2100 version.

Download:
Liber-Umbrarum.pkg The latest version, for the MP2100 in portrait mode.
Liber-Umbrarum-Univ.pkg Universal Version.
Liber-Umbrarum-Land.pkg MP2100 / eMate Landscape Version.

Wiccan Sabbats

This is another small programme I have created, to help remember the dates and meanings of the 8 major Wiccan Sabbats. The program is very simple; when opened it displays the info about the next Sabbat due. There are two popup buttons, one allows for displaying information on any of the Sabbats, and the other displays information about a selected group of God and Goddess names that my coven use in our rites.

This software should run on any Newton device using NOS 2.0 and above. Enjoy!

Sabbats Screenshot Sabbats ScreenshotAlthough I have not yet got this program to the ‘finished’ state I want it, I find I am not devoting as much time to it as I would like. So I have posted the source code though I’m only on version 0.6. If you make any changes or improvements, please send me a copy!

Download:
Wiccan_Sabbats.pkg Latest Version: 0.6 (8 Feb 02)
Wiccan_Sabbats.txt About Text.
Wiccan_Sabbats.sit NTK Mac Source Code

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