March 96 - Newton Q & A: Ask the Llama
Newton Q & A: Ask the Llama
Q Now that Newton 2.0 is shipping, what has changed?
A A fair question, and one that's been much on my mind. Newton 2.0 solves some
of the problems previously presented in this column in much better ways. So
I've gone back over old questions to see what has changed. I'll start out this
time by revisiting those questions that have new answers. (Questions that dealt
with subsystems whose APIs on the Newton 2.0 OS are drastically different will
not be covered; most of these have to do with routing, which has undergone a
significant change for the better, while some have to do with
Q How do I create my own class of binary object? (Issue 18)
A In the Newton 1.x OS you had to use SetClass on a string object to make some
other binary object. In 2.0 you can just call the new function MakeBinary. So
the line of code to define the canonical CharID object (see the original
answer) changes to
DefConst('kDefaultCharIDOBj, MakeBinary(4, 'CharID));
I would like to add a [button|view|Llama] to [Notes|Dates|Names| etc.]. How can
I do that safely? (Issue 19)
A In the Newton 1.x OS there was no supported way to add items to the built-in
applications. In 2.0 there are a few ways you can do this.
For general changes, you can add new stationery to Notes, Dates, and Names. For
example, you could add graph paper to Notes. You could also define new card
styles or views of a person in Names.
Names and Dates also let you add whole new classes of things. For instance, you
could add a Pet type of names entry that would appear in the New pop-up menu
along with Person, Company, and Group.
The Dates application has an API to add new types of meetings. It also lets you
add items to its Info button.
In addition, there's a general API to register buttons that can show up in the
"blessed" application's status bar. It's up to each application to decide
whether and how it will display registered buttons. You should no longer use
the unsupported keyboardChicken hack.
Note that on the Newton 2.0 platform there's still no support for adding
buttons to built-in slips. For example, if you wanted to add something to the
alarm picker for a meeting, you would need to add a new type of stationery
that's a superset of the alarm picker.
Q I've written my own IsASCIIAlpha, IsASCIINumeric, etc. functions. They seem
to be really slow. Why is that? Here's my IsASCIIAlpha: [code not repeated
here; all the functions work on strings] (Issue 20)
A Most of the comments from the original answer still hold. However, in the
Newton 2.0 OS the string could be a rich string; that is, there could be an ink
character inside the string. That means the compare functions have to check
whether a particular character was kInkChar.
Q When I try to add an index to my soup I sometimes get an exception -48019,
but not always. What's going on? (Issue 22)
A In early versions of Newton, if you added an index on a slot, and an entry in
that soup had a value of nil for that slot, you would get an error. As of the
Newton 2.0 OS this is no longer a problem. You can add an index even if there
are entries with nil values for the slot in the soup.
Q I have an application that uses ADSP to connect to a server on the desktop. I
want the server to handle multiple Newton devices connected simultaneously.
Unfortunately, if a connection fails after it's opened, the server doesn't seem
to be able to identify it as a new connection when the Newton device
reconnects. This causes problems in the server's ability to handle multiple
connections. Can you help? (Issue 23)
A In the Newton 2.0 OS this no longer occurs. The Newton device will generate a
new ID for the connection.
Q Since there are changes between Newton 1.x and 2.0, what features in 2.0 can
I rely on? What is the core set that defines Newton 2.0?
A At this time there is no published core set of NewtonScript-level features
that you can rely on. We're confident that you can rely on the features of the
NewtonScript language and major components like the view system and
communication endpoint interface. However, you can't count on individual protos
or even the internal applications being there. Since we license Newton
technology to other companies, they could produce a Newton device that doesn't
include Names, Dates, or other built-in features. They may also produce Newton
devices that have features that aren't present in Apple products.
The key is to test the features you rely on. If you find that some of the
features you need are missing, you can either run in a less-featured mode or
just not open your application. As a simple example, suppose your application
runs only in a limited set of screen sizes and aspect ratios. You can give your
base application view a viewSetupFormScript that looks something like this:
myBaseView.viewSetupFormScript := func()
local screenSize := GetAppParams();
local aspectRatio := screenSize.appAreaWidth /
// very simplistic test, no MINIMUM even!
if aspectRatio > 1.0 then // landscape
local maxHeight := kMaxAppWidth;
local maxWidth := kMaxAppHeight;
else begin // portrait or square
local maxHeight := kMaxAppHeight;
local maxWidth := kMaxAppWidth;
if screenSize.appAreaWidth <= maxWidth AND
screenSize.appAreaHeight <= maxHeight then
self.viewBounds := RelBounds(...);
// other setup stuff
// cannot operate at screen size
AddDeferredSend(self, 'Close, nil);
global functions and variables, you can use the GlobalFnExists and
GlobalVarExists utility functions. To find out whether a built-in application
exists, you can check the root view with the appropriate symbol:
// check for Dates
if GetRoot().calendar then
// check for Names
if GetRoot().cardfile then
// check for Extras
if GetRoot().extrasDrawer then
protos, you can try to access the proto and catch a frame reference exception.
If the exception occurs, the proto is not present.
In general, it's a wise idea to do all your existence testing as your
application is launching. Set flags in your base application so that you test
for existing features only once.
Q Is there a hardware-unique ID that I can access on a Newton device?
A At this time there's no built-in hardware-unique ID, nor is there an API for
accessing one if it existed. However, this doesn't rule out having such an API
in future Newton devices.
Q I'm using a Newton 2.0 protoSoupOverview and I want to change the font style.
How do I do that?
A This is one of those things that are obvious once you make the connection.
You use the Abstract method of protoSoupOverview (and protoOverview, for that
matter) to build the shape that's displayed for a particular soup entry. Notice
that you're returning a shape, with all that entails. The chapter on drawing in
the Newton Programmer's Guide says you can include a styles entry in a shape
array, allowing you to specify things like font style. See the DTS Sample Code
Checkbook on the Newton Developer CD for an example.
Q I noticed that some of the built-in applications have keyboards in their
slips -- for example, the new name editor in the Names file. Is this stationery
based? Is there a magic slot I can set? Is there a proto?
A Those keyboards are just views based on protoKeypad that are laid out as a
child view of the slip. All you need to do is lay out your own protoKeypad and
set up the definitions appropriately. There is no supported magic slot.
Q I'm trying to use a protoListPicker to display a soup structure that has
nested frame entries. I can't get the listPicker to work. Am I doing something
A No. The default listPicker proto doesn't work with items that are accessed
via path expressions. However, if you make the following three changes, your
listPicker should work fine.
First, you have to specialize the GetObjSlot method of your pickerDef:
GetObjSlot: func(item, fieldPath)
if ClassOf(fieldPath) <> 'pathExpr then
// if not a path expression, return the inherited value
return inherited:GetObjSlot(item, fieldPath);
// otherwise, if there is no item, return nil
if not item then
// there is an item, so get the real value, since the item
// could be a NameRef or an Entry
if IsNameRef(item) then
local val := EntryFromObj(item);
val := item;
// assuming we have a real thing, access the real data via the
// path expression in fieldPath
if val then
if you specify a validation frame in for your listPicker, the nesting of that
frame must match the nesting of your soup entry.
Finally, modify your pickerDef so that the column that displays the data based
on the index path uses the appropriate index path.
The llama is the unofficial mascot of the Developer Technical Support group in
Apple's Newton Systems Group. Send your Newton-related questions to NewtonMail
or eWorld DRLLAMA or to AppleLink DR.LLAMA. The first time we use a question
from you, we'll send you a T-shirt.*
Thanks to our Newton Partners for the questions used in this column, and to
jXopher Bell, Henry Cate, Bob Ebert, David Fedor, Jim Schram, Maurice Sharp,
and Bruce Thompson for the answers.*
If you need more answers, check out http://dev.info.apple.com/newton on the
World Wide Web or look at Newton Developer Info on AppleLink.*