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Alarming MessagePad Bug

by Mark H. Anbinder, News Editor -- mha@baka.ithaca.ny.us

A problem that's been informally acknowledged by Apple tech support could cause a loss of data for Newton MessagePad users. Apple is working to fix the problem, which they believe is a bug in the MessagePad's handling of alarmed recurring events in the built-in Datebook application.

The bug manifests itself as a state where the Newton splash screen comes up and stays up. Eventually it realizes it's been on too long and goes to "sleep" but then immediately turns back on and again sits with the splash screen up for a while.

Neither hitting Reset nor leaving the main battery out for a few minutes typically helps, but both are certainly worth a try. Starting but cancelling the hard reset process (by holding down the power switch and pressing reset, then selecting "cancel" when warned about data loss) has also apparently worked in some circumstances. In most cases the user must perform the hard reset, which wipes all data in the MessagePad. If the user has a recent backup, this is only an annoyance, if not, it's quite a pain.

According to the gentleman at Apple, this seems to occur in some cases that relate to using alarmed recurring events. An Apple internal document suggests that users who must have an alarm on a recurring event should first make it a single event, add the alarm, then add the recurrence setting again.

The support engineer did not know whether the upcoming 1.05 system update will include a fix for this bug; the update is expected to be released before the end of the year.

I recommend that MessagePad owners without a ready means of backup obtain one immediately! Apple's Connection Kit software is effective at backing up the information, and even provides the capability to access and modify data in the event your MessagePad is elsewhere (for repairs, vacations, or what have you). The next version of the software will provide more thorough import and export capabilities, but even the current (1.0) version is useful. The Connection Kit software is available for Macintosh and Windows, and allows you to connect your MessagePad to Mac or Windows machine via serial cable (included) or to a Mac via LocalTalk.

Each copy of the Connection Kit can be installed on only one computer, but can back up the contents of more than one MessagePad, so sharing wouldn't be a bad idea. (I can see it now... Newton dealers will soon be offering MessagePad backup services! "Come on in twice a week and back up your data!")

-- Information from:
Apple Technical Assistance Center