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bootstrapping a newton 2100 for fun (?) and profit (?)

10 min read

tl;dr – our author uses various arcane techniques on decrepit devices to load software onto a newton 2100.  the pinnacle of reliable and accessible methods is reached when, after much preparation and many dead ends, he downloads newton .pkg files onto his nokia 6 android phone, and then sends them over bluetooth OBEX to the newton 2100 fitted with a pcmcia pico bluetooth card.


a little history, my background with newton, a 2100 without easily-lost accessories, etc.

i was a latecomer to the newton platform.  steve jobs canceled the newton in 1998, and i was given my first newton (a 100 or 110) in maybe 2006 (thanks trey!).  that was followed by an mp130 (thanks again, trey!) and then a 2000-upgraded-to-2100 which i bought from ebay.  the 2000 was my pal for many years, off and on.  i still haven't found anything as trustworthy, capable, and portable, for collecting and organizing my ideas, contacts, and calendars.

after i lost my 2000 on a plane in 2016, i was ready to let the old platform go.  i started using my filofax instead.  but my coworker (thanks trevor!) bought another 2100 (this time a real one, not an upgraded 2000) and gave it to me.  this replacement unit was unfortunately less portable and less usable than my old 2000 for two very specific reasons: (1) it was missing important connectivity options, and (2) it did not have the AA battery sled.  this is to be expected, though – these days, the newton-interconnect-to-serial-adapter and the AA battery sled are probably the two most rare and in-demand accessories for second-hand, third-hand, fourth-hand, ..., newton 2000s and 2100s like these.  

without the serial adapter/dongle, and without the newton internet enabler software being installed, my only connection options (to load software, print, etc.) for this newton 2100 were to (1) beam over infrared (which cannot be done from apple's own tools) or (2) somehow load a newton-compatible pcmcia flash card with software using another newton.  plus, without a functioning battery pack, i was tethered to whereever i could plug in, and the unit would lose power as soon as i unplugged.  (nicely, though, the newton will retain what is stored in its [4mb of] flash memory when power is removed – unlike palm devices of the same era!).  so, the unit sat unused for quite some time. 

until last week.  a former member of the newton qa team came to work for an interview, and i dug out the 2100.  another coworker had also handed this guy our office mp120, so for once the two units were together.  and that's when i began to think about getting enterprising.  "maybe it is finally time to make the 2100 useful," i probably thought.

key facts:

  • the mp120 has a built-in serial port.  
  • newton messagepads can beam software packages (and many other types of items) to each other.

if i could load newton internet enabler 2.0 onto the mp120, i could then beam it to the 2100, and use ethernet on the 2100 to load software over appletalk to a powerbook g4, just like the old days.  or, i could email packages and items to myself using mailV.  and i could print over lpr.  just, again, like the old days.

failed approach #1

in which a powerbook g4 12", which cannot run natively in mac os 9, runs newton connection utilities and newton package installer in classic mode but cannot connect to the newton – despite my uConnect usb-to-serial dongle/adapter having only extentions for mac os 7/8/9, and thus no possible conflicts with mac os x (for which there are no uConnect drivers).

upon reflection, i could have tried this configuration again using my keyspan usa28xg (or whatever) usb-to-serial adapter, which may have performed better in classic mode.  there is also the possibility that the issue is in the timing somewhere, and that that puma transfer driver (!) or uConnect or other communication layer has poor timing when running in classic mode, leading to an inability to communicate.

successful package loading approach #1 leading to failed approach #2

in which a powerbook g3 "pismo" is natively booted into mac os 9.2.2 and the newton connection utilities are used to send newton internet enabler 2.0 packages to the newton 120


the newton 120 rejects the newton internet enabler 2.0 packages because the newton messagepad 120 cannot run newton internet enabler 2.0. :(

rain delay #1 for the parade

if i can't load internet enabler 2.0 onto the newton 2100 using the mp120 as an intermediary, i am severely limited in what i can do.  internet enabler 1.1 only supports modem dial-up connections, which in this era would be terrible trouble to make useful.  internet enabler 2.0 supports ethernet cards and even wi-fi.

what to do?

oh, that's right, eckhart köppen's bluetooth stack for the newton, and my pcmcia pico card.

successful package-loading approach #1 leading to successful package-loading approach #2 

in which i load a ton of software onto the mp120 (and, eventually, the 2100) using multiple computers, cables, adapters, and infrared:

i had never been able to make functional the "blunt" bluetooth stack from on my previous messagepad 2000.  i'd even been in email conversation with its author, but my old newton simply errored out where it should have been more helpful and actually functioned.  so i did not have high hopes for this approach.  but it worked.  it f___ing worked.  

ic/vc logo

first, i downloaded the zip files from sourceforge as prescribed by the project pages at  some of the downloads necessary:

i unzipped them using os x 10.4 or higher, because their resource forks were stored in the zip as ._ files.  then i transferred them to my mac os 9-native machine on a firewire 400 drive, and used either newton connection utilities or newton package loader to send them over serial port using my uConnect usb-to-serial dongle/adapter.  on the newton, this involves using the 'Dock' utility.  all packages loaded well.

i then selected batches of these icons to beam, by using the newton technique for multi-select in icon view:  tap-and-hold, wait for the sound, draw a thick lasso around the icons.  multi-select would also have been possible in list view (reached by clicking the 'dot' between the arrows) by just checking the checkboxes for which items i wanted to send.  then i tapped the envelope icon, tapped 'Beam', and lined up my mp120's IR port with my 2100's:  slightly less than 1 foot apart, with no reflective surfaces in between or nearby.  i went into the In/Out Box on the 2100, and tapped "receive" then "beam", and sat still while most of the icons (apps and extensions) transferred without issue.

when beaming was done, i focused on the items now in my Inbox on the 2100.  i selected them, maybe one-by-one or maybe in a batch, tapped the icon which looks like an action, and chose "Put Away," which installed all the packages i'd beamed.

and it worked

it worked

successful approach #2 led to thing that worked #3

in which the cool-looking pico pcmcia bluetooth card is paired successfully with my nokia 6 android phone, and only my nokia 6 android phone:

i reset my 2100 using the reset button on the back, and when it was done booting, i ran the bluetooth setup icon.  i hit 'discover' and put my nokia 6 bluetooth into discoverable mode, and the newton found it.  i paired the devices, then allowed the newton to discover services available on the nokia 6.  it found the dial-up connection (for sharing the phone's internet connection [tethering]), and the OBEX file push capability.  (!)

i then tried to pair with my mac laptops, and was never successful.  but darned if that nokia 6 didn't work great!

thing that worked #4 and package-loading approach #

in which i find the best way to get newton .pkg files onto my android phone such that i can then send them along, over bluetooth, to the newton 2100:

do i want to use os x's bluetooth menu -> send file?  or bluetooth menu -> browse device?  like i used to do with my old nokia symbian phones?  yes.  yes, i do.  but... then... how do i access the files on the nokia device?  they do not show up in any of the apps-which-deal-with-files.  so...? how do i find the files to send over bluetooth?

well, the easiest way is to just download the dang files on the phone itself.  there are plenty of newton sites which helpfully have raw, uncooked .pkg files available for direct download.  once they're in the downloads folder on the android phone, they can be selected, the 'share' button can be hit, and 'bluetooth' can be selected.  while the android device is preparing to send via bluetooth, i switch my attention to the 2100, where i go into In/Out Box, select Receive, and select BtOBEX (thanks Eckhart!).

again, i really have to restate that it's amazing that this works at all, but seeing a brand-new nokia 6 android device sitting next to a newton, sending it a software package over bluetooth, is just miraculous and beautiful to me.

nokia 6 with newton 2100 and pico bluetooth

once the transfer is done, the package will be available in the Inbox on the 2100.  from there it can be Put Away (like a Beamed icon).  putting it away will use IC/VC to install the package.  and ... did i mention? ... it works.  it really works.  

back to appletalk

with nie 2.0 now installed on my 2100, and my farallon ethernet card inserted, and with the lpr package installed, i was again able to print, and to use appletalk-over-ethernet to connect to newton connection utilities on mac os 9 for purposes of backing up and installing packages.  but for sheer ease-of-use, cable-free setup, and not needing to keep a mac os 9-bootable machine around, BtOBEX from is the way to go.  consumer reports A++, would buy again, etc., yadda x 2.


  • after all of this, i found these ready-made memory card images which can be used to "restore from backup" in newton connection utilities, as a 'lending library' to help folks bootstrap 2000s and 2100s.  brilliant idea;  thanks ron parker.    ...if someone had loaned me a card with this backup restored onto it, i probably would have gotten going in less time, but with less to write about.  aww, shucks.

barely-tried, failed approach #3: practically a footnote in this gripping adventure

the 2100 came with a 2mb flash memory card.  newtons can load software and information onto these memory cards.  when the memory card is inserted in a newton, the packages on it are loaded and instantiated.

unfortunately, there are two types of memory cards for newtons:  the kind that work only in 2000/2100 (and probably eMate), and the kind which work in those as well as earlier models.

inserting the flash card into the mp120 didn't result in the card being recognized, so i was dissuaded from going any farther with this approach:  it didn't work.

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Installing Adobe Illustrator 5 on an Amiga 1200

10 min read

On a sunny and windy Sunday, January 1st, 2017, I was walking around the area of San Francisco north of the panhandle, and found this copy of Adobe Illustrator 5 for the Mac sticking out of a garbage can.  What luck!  It was complete, and had all installer disks, manuals, and a serial number.   Perfect way to spend the holiday -- installing Illustrator on my Amiga 1200!


For those wondering how Mac software would run on an Amiga, please allow me to explain.  The traditional Amiga runs using the same central processing unit as the original Macintosh line: the venerable Motorola 680x0 series, or 68k for short.   Because the Mac and Amiga used the same central processor, it takes just a layer of emulation of certain Mac hardware features to get Classic Mac OS (6.x/7.x/8.x) to run on the Amiga.   Enterprising engineers over the Amiga's lifetime made this possible, originally by combining hardware and software, and later by using software only.  Since no processor virtualization is necessary, Mac programs can often run just as fast.

(My Amiga 1200 has a 68030 inside, and it runs at roughly 50 megahertz.  My Amiga's 68030 has an MMU (memory management unit), so it can map the Mac's operating system ROMs [firmware] into memory. Earlier or weaker Amigas with 68000, 68010, or 68020 processors required add-on cards, like an Emplant, to house the Mac's ROM chips.  These add-on cards also had other niceties, like Mac-native floppy controllers and serial ports, which are difficult or impossible to duplicate using stock Amiga hardware.)

ShapeShifter on Workbench

Two Amiga programs which can emulate the Mac OS with no additional hardware are FUSION and ShapeShifter.  ShapeShifter is a direct descendent of a currently vogue Mac emulator, SheepShaver, which began its life on BeOS[1].  It was released as freeware.

disks and mouse

Software being on floppy disks might be seen by some people as an obstacle.  Even to those initiates who still have floppy-based equipment, accessing the data still is not always straightforward.  I recalled while pulling this box from the garbage can that the  Mac-formatted, 800k double-density 3.5" disks inside cannot be read natively by the Amiga, even in spite of its reputably flexible floppy controller.  This 800k Mac floppy format notoriously requires the floppy drive to change its motor's rotation speed as it accesses different portions of the surface area of the magnetic storage medium inside the disk.  (For those interested -- commonplace modern USB floppy drives can rarely even read bog-standard 720k MS-DOS-formatted double-density floppy disks, let alone these 800k Mac disks.)

Lacking an Emplant board or similarly wacky floppy-reading hardware, I broke out my PowerBook G3 Series "WallStreet" with fully Apple-stock built-in floppy[2], to use Apple's Disk Copy to grab disk images.  I'd then transfer the disk images from the G3 to the Amiga by using my PCMCIA -> CompactFlash -> SD Card adapter.  Compact Flash storage is supported natively in Mac OS 8.6 and higher (possibly earlier, too), and is supported on the Amiga 1200 via its PCMCIA slot and additional software available via Aminet. (Do note that not all SD cards or Compact Flash cards are compatible -- generally older, smaller, slower cards are the ones which will work.)

Amiga 1200 with PCMCIA Compact Flash SD card adapter

My initial go at creating disk images using Disk Copy were not compatible with Disk Copy 6.1.3 on my Amiga ShapeShifter's System 7.5.5.  I'd transfer the images over, use ResEdit to set the type and creator codes properly, and then after mounting the disk images I'd meet with disappointment:  in some cases, the images would mount, but operations to copy files off of the mounted images would fail.  I'd go back and try a different compression option, or a different Disk Copy version, and after transferring and again setting type/creator code in ResEdit, the images would not mount at all, and would fail seemingly in the checksumming phase.

At this point, crestfallen, left wondering if there was a hardware problem afoot, and unsure if there were problems with my (otherwise seemingly fine) emulation environment, I went to bed and decided to tackle this another day.  That other day happened to be the very next morning, when I remembered 'DART' -- Apple's ancient, super-secret, disk archiving and retrieval tool.

DART icon

DART had been my go-to tool for quickly, safely, and reliably archiving double-density (and even single-density, if I recall) disks from my Atari ST, various MS-DOS formats, and even my Roland MC-50 MIDI sequencer.   The images created by DART are mountable by Disk Copy versions above 6.x.

DART interface

DART not only sports a beautiful interface -- it also is clearly optimized for batch-level, powerful, scripted and/or automated floppy disk capturing, requiring only a few keystrokes and no mousing.  It also comes with a HyperCard stack for automation, if you're really a martyr power user.  And it also worked -- DART saved the day.

DART about

After capturing the disk images via DART, transferring them over, and properly setting the type/creator codes -- oh!  I am nearly missing two special details about this operation!  Let me introduce ShapeShifter's MacHandler and the Amiga's multitasking.

MacHandler is a filesystem which mounts your ShapeShifter emulated hard drive as a virtual disk on your Amiga Workbench, allowing you to read and write files there while the emulation is alive and running (!). 

Amiga OS, in all of its multitasking glory, just runs Mac OS as another task in a window or on its own screen.  This lets you continue to use Amiga programs in the background or foreground while you wait for single-tasking Mac OS to single-taskingly complete some single task

In additional engineering beauty, ShapeShifter's MacHandler also allows you to:  (1) toggle between accessing the data and the resource forks of files, and (2) change the type/creator codes on your Mac volume simply by changing file notes, which are an AmigaDOS capability similar to file comments or metadata on other platforms.

DirectoryOpus on my Mac volume

Changing the file note in Directory Opus is as simple as hitting the "Comment" button and changing TEXT/text to DMd3/DART, the type/creator for DART.  (The screenshot above is for the same files shown below.) 

Disk images in ShapeShifter

After changing all type/creator codes, the disks are double-clickingly mountable by Disk Copy in Mac OS.  But will they work?

Darn tootin', they sure do!  I was super-pleased to find that the disk images mounted fine, and worked where the previous images had failed.  One new point I'd noticed was that the system slowed down and made mouse pointer motion jerky while disk access was happening -- a point I attribute to having chosen 'high' compression instead of 'fast' compression in DART.  If I had to do it over again, I believe the space savings were pointless, and I would have chosen 'fast'.

With all disk images mounted, I ran the installer, chose a custom install with all options enabled (living large, with 16 megabytes of RAM and 159.9 MB available), and prepared breakfast and coffee as the installer commenced. 


Upon first launch, I serialized/notorized/personalized my new installation with my valid, legal, educational serial number. 


(Side note: my friends, who saw the box the day I found it, made it a conversation piece.  They asked: "this is an educational discount package -- are you going to need to show your school ID?"  "To whom?" I asked. "The internet?  This program is from 1993."  I already knew the serial number was inside.  Before internet validation, I would have had to show my ID to the retailer where I was buying the software package.  If the retailer was mail-order, I'd probably have needed to fax them a copy.)

Illustrator launched

Upon first launch, ATM (Adobe Type Manager) also gets in your face for personalization.  I tended to that by opening the ~ATM Control Panel, and deliriously discovered I was lacking a serial number for ATM in my Illustrator box.  Had I left some additional paperwork back in the garbage can?  Maybe.  Someone had clearly been scrounging before I came along.  But luckily, I had stashed these ancient copies of HackUser from 1999 in some of my personal archives.  Once I got one of those HackUsers up-and-running (they require classic Mac OS), i was able to find a listing for "adobe type manager super edition 3.6" or similar, and register my ATM control panel as well!

ATM registration

Watching the sample graphics from Illustrator 5 load on my Amiga 1200 is like watching an  animation progress before me.  Each graphic object from the document gets rendered and dithered individually.  This is due to one drawback to Mac emulation on a "breadbox" unexpanded Amiga:  the graphics systems between the two platforms are very different.  The Amiga stores pixels in its graphics memory using a game-friendly arrangement called "planar," but the Mac stores pixels in a less clever, less complex format nicknamed "chunky."  This has the unfortunate side effect that every update to the emulated Mac display must convert between these formats, costing CPU time. 

(The more colors I make my display [monochrome, or 4 colors, or 8, or 16, or {god forbid} 256 colors], the longer I will have to wait to see every screen update.  Expanded Amigas with add-on graphics cards can handle chunky pixels natively.  Expanded Amigas also can have 68060 processors installed, which were faster than the last 68040 processors Apple included in their 68k-based Macs.  The 68060 processors were benchmarked as being faster than the original series of PowerPC processors in early Power Macs -- so, for running 68k-based software, you actually are living very large with an 68060-based Amiga with a graphics card.  Software just flies -- more zippy than early Power Macs, just as some later Power Macs seem zippier in Mac OS 9 than recent Intel macs running the Mac OS X or macOS of today.  And faster than the fastest Quadra, too, my friends.)

Font dialog for Garamond

Where will i go from here?  I intend to follow the tutorials and read the manuals for this edition of Adobe Illustrator, and see if i can finally come to terms with this program which has always kind of frustrated and vexed me.  It seemed the flow to get things done with Illustrator was less intuitive and more roadblocky than with Creature House's Expression, with Macromedia FreeHand, with Lighthouse Design's Diagram!, or with ClarisDraw.  I intend to learn Adobe Illustrator the way Adobe wanted me to, using the official materials -- and if my initial toe dips into the documentation are any early warning, my assessments seem nearly true.  It seems Adobe Illustrator, even at version 5.0, was heavily recipe-based, with great results being accomplished by using tools and filters in specific, engineered fashions.  But these are the very recipes followed by the digital designers of yore, who cooked up the garish and delightful graphics of the brochures and glossies which heralded to us the internet's mass-market arrival in the mid 1990s.  These were the tools in their hands...

[1] BeOS was an alternative operating system which gained some popularity as a safe haven for Amiga expatriate programmers and refugees following Commodore's bankruptcy and the decline of the Amiga platform.  It too lives on in various forms, such as Haiku and Zeta.

[2] "If you have PowerBook G3 with a floppy drive, why are you transferring these floppies over to run this software on a significantly slower, hobbled, semi-emulated computer system?"

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Scala MM400 NTSC a no-go

2 min read

I keep trying to get Scala MM400 to work in NTSC, but I keep hitting a dead end. Sadly, the version of MM400 I bought from Software Hut so many years ago is simply PAL, and all efforts to source the NTSC version have come up dry.

The telltale sign that any version of Scala I try to run is the PAL version:  the UI either shows up in a wacky-wild super-low-res mode on my A1200, or when I promote the mode in ModePro, the UI always goes off the bottom of the screen.

I read one ancient Usenet post stating that the NTSC version was not available. Another later post says it was -- but I cannot find this nor the NTSC upgrade disks.  There's also this request about Canada.

Versions I've tried:

  • The "SCALA MM400 NTSC BETA 55," a.k.a. OTTMM455.DMS, is actually the PAL version.
  • The NightShade CD-ROM version is the PAL version.
  • The "SCALA MM400 Upgrade", available for download as a two-disk set, states it is the PAL version on disk 2 -- and when unarchiving and running the program, the screen mode is faulty as described above.

I hereby, with this post, officially give up on ever finding an NTSC version of SCALA MM400.  Cheers, mate.