[NTLK] Lady Newt - the final episodes

Forrest newton_phoenix at mindspring.com
Tue Feb 11 14:40:13 EST 2020

Excellent work (and storytelling), Frank. Where would we all be without you?


Sent from my T-Mobile iPhone 6S Plus

> On Feb 9, 2020, at 6:16 PM, Aaron H <online at atomiciguana.com> wrote:
> Frank, 
> Not only are you gifted in Newtonian Tenacity, you’re a heckuva story teller too. 
> Thanks for writing that all up, and well done. 
> Aaron. 
>> On Feb 9, 2020, at 5:02 PM, NewtonTalk <newtontalk at pda-soft.de> wrote:
>> Since you explicitly asked for it, here are the remaining episodes of the
>> little-known series "Please, oh please don't leave me!", starring (blush)
>> yours truly. Most of you know what happened so far, but I'll add a short
>> summary of the earlier episodes just in case your memory's as poor as mine.
>> Episode I
>> Her Royal Highness, also known as Christian's Lady Newt, has ended up on
>> Frank's workbench because she's no longer willing to cooperate peacefully.
>> She's comatose and doesn't start up, regardless of what kind of reset Frank
>> treats her to. However, until recently she has been very reliable. Ever
>> since Frank sold her to Christian more than 13 years ago, she hasn't missed
>> a beat. So her owner, like far too many Newton owners out there, was more or
>> less convinced that since his little green friend had never acted up on him
>> in the past, it wasn't going to do so in the future. As a result, the most
>> recent backup available was... well... not all that recent.
>> Without any kind of technical documentation like e. g. a schematic diagram,
>> there's little in the way of systematic troubleshooting. However, an amazing
>> amount of defects are actually visible to the naked eye: Burnt components,
>> tiny tin balls left over from manufacturing and jammed between two closely
>> spaced pins of an integrated circuit, poor soldering, tiny copper traces
>> etched away by leaking batteries or other fluids that don't belong in a
>> Newton, you name it. So Frank scrutinisingly checks Lady Newt's mainboard
>> (henceforth referred to as MLB_1) under his microscope. He finds some stray
>> tin balls at places where stray tin balls shouldn't be, but none of them
>> creates a short, so removing them doesn't change a thing. Near the end of
>> this episode you can see Frank, being out of ideas, replacing the ROM board,
>> which doesn't fix things, either. Episode I ends with a close-up of a
>> tear-streaked Frank declaring MLB_1 officially dead. Followed, of course, by
>> the obvious cliffhanger: Frank straightening himself and slowly walking
>> towards the box labeled "2x00 mainboards".
>> Episode II
>> Frank has found a 2100 mainboard (from now on referred to as MLB_2) labeled
>> "Untested". He temporarily puts it into one of the Newtons from his
>> Frankenstein family and makes sure that it powers up OK. Then he puts it
>> into Lady Newt.  This gives him the opportunity to find out two annoying
>> issues: Her display shows a white vertical line, and her backlight is almost
>> nonexistent. So he takes Lady Newt apart again, replaces the LCD unit and
>> the backlight, and powers her up again. The audience is beginning to think
>> that the happy ending is near. Unfortunately, there's one issue left that
>> must be checked: Does any of the software Christian needs use a serial
>> number based on the unique Newton ID? If it does, it wouldn't be possible to
>> re-register the software. The Newton ID is hard-coded in an integrated
>> circuit on the mainboard, and said mainboard has just been replaced. So
>> Frank would need to transplant this chip from MLB_1 to MLB_2, which he'd
>> rather not do unless it can't be avoided. At the end of episode II Frank
>> sends a list of Christian's software to NewtonTalk, asking if any of it will
>> base its registration key on the Newton ID.
>> Episode III
>> It seems that Frank is lucky for a change. None of the software requires a
>> registration key based on the Newton ID, so Frank installs and registers all
>> of the software Christian has meanwhile dug out and sent him per E-Mail.
>> Frank has to deal with a couple of software-related obstacles during that
>> process, but before long everything seems to be ready for action. He then
>> runs Lady Newt through his usual thorough test sequence. When she has
>> successfully passed the last test, the audience begins to think that the
>> happy ending is near. Their hope is brutally shattered when Frank tries to
>> turn her off. She always turns back on immediately after being turned off.
>> Even when she's powering down on her own due to her sleep preference
>> setting, which is kind of spooky. The only way of getting rid of this
>> problem is a brainwipe. This is definitely not the expected behavior of a
>> healthy 2x00 mainboard. Episode III ends with a close-up of a tear-streaked
>> Frank declaring MLB_2 officially weird.
>> Episode IV
>> Frank starts a prize competition at NewtonTalk. Everyone who comes up with
>> the correct explanation for Lady Newt's weird behavior is promised a brand
>> spanking new 2x00 pen shipped at Frank's expense. As expected, replies are
>> scarce, so Frank needs to use the little brain he's equipped with to figure
>> out his own solution. Hours of meditation eventually yield a result based on
>> a miniscule amount of intelligence and a huge amount of luck. The problem is
>> caused by Lady Newt having been powerless for more than a minute. The
>> problem only occurs when Eckhart's 2010 operating system patch is installed.
>> MLB_2 will work just fine with Apple's original OS version, even if left
>> powerless for hours.
>> Frank briefly contemplates talking Christian into setting Lady Newt's date a
>> couple of decades back, thus removing the necessity of Eckhart's patch, but
>> decides that this, if accidentally made public, would damage his reputation.
>> Since damaged reputations are very hard to fix at Frank's age, episode IV
>> ends with a tear-streaked Frank, desperately shaking his head and flipping
>> the bird at MLB_2. Followed, of course, by the obvious cliffhanger: Frank
>> straightening himself and slowly walking towards the box labeled "2x00
>> mainboards".
>> Episode V
>> Frank has found a 2100 mainboard (from now on referred to as MLB_3) labeled
>> "Powers up, otherwise untested". He temporarily puts it into one of the
>> Newtons from his Frankenstein family and makes sure that it still powers up
>> OK.
>> Then he fleetingly caresses Lady Newt, who's still equipped with MLB_2, and
>> backs her up to a card because he doesn't want to install and register
>> Christian's software again and again. Being paranoid, he engages the card's
>> write protect switch. Finally he replaces MLB_2 with MLB_3 and restores the
>> backup he just made.
>> The result is somewhat boring: Everything seems to be working OK on the
>> first attempt. Despite Eckhart's 2010 patch being installed, Lady Newt
>> powers off just fine every single time, regardless of the time she has been
>> without power. She has also passed Frank's thorough test sequence with
>> flying colors. The audience begins to think that the happy ending is near.
>> Episode V ends with Frank looking dreamily at his hot-air soldering station,
>> followed by no cliffhanger at all. The audience begins to wonder if this
>> stupid series is ever going to end.
>> Episode VI
>> Lady Newt is ready and eager to be sent back. But somehow Frank is reluctant
>> to take this step just yet. Quite obviously, Lady Newt and her owner have an
>> exceptionally good relationship. Last year Christian publicly confirmed at
>> NewtonTalk that he'd give her filet steak and caviar if she wanted it. Frank
>> is happy that she didn't take him up on that promise, since file steak and
>> caviar would have made troubleshooting much more difficult. However, the
>> mere offer speaks for itself. In one of his recent E-Mails Christian even
>> expressed his intention of treating Lady Newt to a romantic weekend to
>> welcome her back. Although she was still a bit under the weather when Frank
>> read that to her, he could have sworn he heard a faint, but happy sigh
>> coming from her speaker.
>> Of course it's cool to send a dead Newton in and get a working Newton back,
>> equipped with all the software you regularly use. But somehow this would be
>> as if your wife woke up from a coma, fully recovered bodily, but without any
>> knowledge about your common past. Admittedly this might be exactly what many
>> a partner secretly wishes for, but Frank is sure that it's different with
>> those two. So he's contemplating doing something he has never done before.
>> Something that might have never been done at all. Something that gives him
>> the creeps.
>> Episode VII
>> Lady Newt's long-term memory lives in two Flash RAM chips. Of course, these
>> chips might have been erased or even destroyed the moment MLB_1 died. But
>> maybe they haven't. There might be a fully functional brain slumbering in
>> MLB_1, harboring all the common memories of Christian and his little green
>> friend. Of course, ripping Lady Newt apart yet again isn't an option. Frank
>> is not going to compromise her current health. But if he can figure out a
>> way of transplanting the Flash RAM chips from MLB_1 to one of his
>> Frankenstein Newtons, he might be able to back Frankenstein up to a card and
>> restore said backup to Lady Newt. That way not only her programs would be
>> back, but all her data. For all intents and purposes she would be what she
>> was immediately prior to her untimely death. Given the fact that the
>> backlight is now much brighter, the display no longer has an annoying white
>> line and the bottom part of the case is no longer cracked, she'd be even
>> better than that.
>> However, the prospect of soldering these chips is terrifying. Really, really
>> terrifying. They come in a 56 lead TSOP pinout, meaning they have two rows
>> of 28 pins each that need to coexist peacefully in less than 14 millimeters.
>> Pins are but 0.15 millimeters wide and 0.3 millimeters away from their
>> neighbors. Even a slight tremble of your hand would appear like a severe
>> case of Parkinson at the magnification required for this kind of soldering.
>> So Frank decides to practice with organ donor boards before deciding to
>> attempt the real thing.
>> It being impossible to heat up 56 pins at the same time with a mere
>> soldering iron, Frank buys a tweezers soldering iron kit on eBay. The
>> description says that it'll allow him to easily heat up all the pins at the
>> same time and then, since it's basically a heated-up pair of tweezers, just
>> as easily lift the chip up. Unfortunately, things turn out to be much
>> different in the field. It takes ages to heat the chip up, and it is
>> impossible to lift it without bending at least half of the pins into
>> oblivion and shorting the rest out.
>> So next it's the hot air station's turn. This is when Frank comes across an
>> additional problem. Removing such a chip with a hot air station requires a
>> lot of heat to be present at the same time at every single pin. Ideally
>> you'd use a nozzle that's about as wide as the chip you want to remove. This
>> much heat, however, will also unsolder and often move many of the tiny
>> components nearby. This isn't much of a problem as long as it happens on the
>> organ donor board. Most likely you'll never want to get that board back to
>> full working conditions anyway, so it doesn't matter if components move or
>> disappear. All you want is get the chips off the board fast and without bent
>> pins, using as little heat as possible to make sure they won't die from
>> excessive heat. After practicing a bit, Frank successfully removes the Flash
>> RAM chips from MLB_1 and puts them in a safe place.  
>> The organ recipient board, however, is another cup of tea. You don't want
>> components to dislodge, disappear, or fly all over your board. After all,
>> you need to keep that board in full working condition. You can try wrapping
>> it in aluminum foil and cutting out the area around the chips, but you still
>> can't be 100% sure that everything you wanted to stay in place has actually
>> done so. So Frank decides on a different approach. He'll cut the pins, one
>> by one,  off the chip's body, remove the pin-less body, unsolder the pins
>> separately from their soldering pads by means of a very tiny soldering iron,
>> and finally remove the tin from the soldering pads with desoldering wick.
>> Without further ado Frank grabs yet another untested mainboard from his box
>> and puts it in Frankenstein. After all, he needs to be dead sure that the
>> board will power up and write to at least one of the card slots after the
>> transplant. Frankenstein powers up just fine and willingly obliges to
>> produce a test backup. Frank begins attacking the pins with his scalpel.
>> Unfortunately, since the chips' height is less than a millimeter, he needs
>> to cut close to the board's surface. Had Frank taken that into account, he
>> might well have succeeded at the first try. But he has recently been exposed
>> to a momentary lapse of reason, so he does not only cut the pins, but also a
>> fair amount of the traces connected to the soldering pads. Which, of course,
>> is only visible after cutting the last pin and removing the now pin-less
>> bodies.
>> Episode VIII
>> Surprisingly Frank, who usually follows Monty Python's excellent advice to
>> always look at the bright side of life, isn't angry that he has just killed
>> a perfectly healthy Newton 2100 mainboard. After all, you can never have too
>> many organ donor boards, can you? With a smile that almost looks genuine he
>> grabs another board labeled "Untested" from his box and puts it into
>> Frankenstein.
>> Capacitor C59 kindly waits until Frankenstein has powered up and the test
>> backup is in full swing. Then it explodes spectacularly, emitting smoke and
>> smell that only Watts and Volts can produce. Frank thanks his guardian angel
>> for making the developers at Apple place this component under the ROM board.
>> Had it been located elsewhere, it might have blown up into his face. Frank
>> opens all windows within reach although it's cold and windy outside, removes
>> the exploded capacitor and replaces it with that from the mainboard he
>> killed a moment ago. You can never have too many organ donor boards, can
>> you?
>> Just to be on the safe side, Frank puts Frankenstein below a sturdy
>> cast-iron grill pan, plugs its AC adapter in a power outlet and lets
>> Frankenstein simmer for the next 30 minutes. Then he tries making his test
>> backup for the second time. This time it ends successfully. Frank cuts the
>> pins again, this time making sure the scalpel won't touch the board. He then
>> removes the pins separately from their pads just as planned, cleans the
>> solder pads using desoldering wick, and finally applies a generous amount of
>> expensive flux to both the pads and to the pins of the chips he has removed
>> from MLB_1. Then he aligns each chip on its pads, puts his index fingers on
>> it to keep it in place, and solders its top left and bottom right pins so
>> that it won't move while soldering the other 54 pins.
>> The latter turns out to be a tad on the difficult side because the diameter
>> of Frank's thinnest soldering tin is larger that the distance between two
>> pins. After removing the occasional bridge between adjacent pins, though,
>> each pin is soldered, cleaned with alcohol, and generally looking good. So,
>> quite satisfied with himself, Frank turns Frankenstein on. Unfortunately,
>> Frankenstein's way of saying hello is a flashing backlight, which is his
>> kind and considerate way of letting Frank know that he (Frank) didn't quite
>> succeed while messing with his (Frankenstein's) Flash memory.
>> Episode IX  
>> At this stage of a project you basically have two options. You can
>> reluctantly admit that you neither have the equipment nor the skills or the
>> balls to meet such a challenge successfully, and then proceed to your garden
>> to pull up weeds. The other option is clandestinely flipping the bird at the
>> mainboard, dreaming of a huge helping of decent single malt whisky, deciding
>> against it because you might still need to solder tiny pins and even tinier
>> wires under your microscope, and finally whip out your multimeter. Frank
>> decides for the latter.
>> 112 measurements later he knows that every pin is securely connected to its
>> respective soldering pad. So the most likely reason for Frankenstein's
>> unruly welcome is a short between two adjacent pins. This gets confirmed
>> after another 108 measurements. One of the two chips has a short between pin
>> 44, a data line, and pin 43, the positive supply voltage. Unfortunately,
>> this short isn't visible, so it must be below the chip. Since Frank isn't
>> all that eager to unsolder and resolder the chip a second time, he simply
>> unsolders pin 44, bends it up so that it no longer touches the soldering
>> pad, cuts the trace between the pad and a via, removes the via's solder
>> resist coating, and finally connects the bent-up pin and the via with a very
>> thin wire. Then he switches Frankenstein on again.
>> Episode X
>> Frankenstein powers up just fine. After a while he politely informs Frank
>> that his internal store's signature has been altered and that a hard reset
>> might correct the problem. Since that would be the worst mistake ever,
>> Frank, without further ado, makes the backup it took him so long to prepare.
>> The rest is history. Frank restores the backup to Lady Newt. Since he
>> doesn't want to snoop around in Christian's private data, he only checks the
>> owner info, which lives in the same chips as the private data. The owner
>> info shows Christians full name, so things must have worked out as planned.
>> This episode ends with Frank, carrying a tiny parcel, waiting at the post
>> office. When it's his turn, he seems reluctant to hand it over, but he
>> finally does. Then he takes out his Newton, opens Notes, and jots down the
>> following:
>> Defying the impossible can be a lot of fun. Especially if you win.
>> (attributed to Frankfucius, anno 2020)
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