by Mark H. Anbinder, News Editor -- firstname.lastname@example.org
Technical Support Coordinator, BAKA Computers
Patient MessagePad owners were rewarded in late January with the release of the long-awaited 1.05 system software upgrade. The upgrade reportedly fixes a number of power management problems, improves handwriting recognition, and takes care of a couple of pesky bugs. Unfortunately, it also sucks away up to 32K of memory that's meant to be reserved for user data.
Apparently, Newton engineers were unable to shoehorn the bug fixes and improvements into the chunk of MessagePad RAM intended to hold system software patches, separate from the 192K of RAM intended for user information and installed software. In an attempt to apologize, Apple is offering a special $99 price for its 1 MB RAM storage card, which typically sells for around $200, to users socked by the memory loss.
The upgrade's need to repartition the MessagePad's memory space also means that upgrading can erase all data stored in the unit, so back up to a storage card or via the Connection Kit software before installing the upgrade. (After you've downloaded the package, the MessagePad's upgrade procedure kicks in and WARNS you of this, but you mustn't ignore it! It's not just another "You know, you really should back up..." warning.)
Another warning for those who have never needed to restore data they've backed up: Restore the "Newton" file instead of the "Newton Backup" file from your Connection Kit. (The file's full name includes the name of the MessagePad's owner, such as "Mark H. Anbinder's Newton.") If you restore the Backup file (as any Woz-fearing user would expect to do) you will restore an OLD backup. I realized this when I noticed the presence of a number of items I'd previously deleted.
If you have less than 32K of available RAM before you begin the upgrade process, you won't be able to restore the entire backup. So, if you have less than 32K of available RAM, don't install the upgrade. You can check how much memory you have left by tapping Extras, then Prefs, then Memory.
According to the 800/SOS-APPL Newton "hold music" recording, the 1.05 upgrade is available now from CompuServe, America Online, AppleLink, and on the Internet from <apple.com> [sic] (most likely <ftp.apple.com>). [I couldn't find it on ftp.apple.com, but it is at the URL below. -Adam]
Users in the U.S. who cannot obtain the software electronically may call 800/242-3374 for a Mac or DOS floppy disk with the upgrade. Users in the U.S. without the Connection Kit may call 800/242-3374 to receive the upgrade on a PCMCIA card. No provisions were mentioned for users outside the U.S. (I would not expect to find them on a recording that only callers in the U.S. could reach), but I expect the upgrade (which for all I know may need to be localized for foreign language MessagePads) should be available from dealers and distributors outside the U.S.
I wouldn't be QUITE so annoyed at the memory sucking if the Newton product manager from PIE hadn't answered the upgrade memory question (asked by yours truly) on last fall's UG-TV broadcast by saying, "There's plenty of space set aside for system upgrades, and we won't be taking away any of your user memory." I've asked for an explanation via email, and will report any answers as I receive them.