Heaps of email on the Newton
Recently I gave a short report on using the new MP 2000 Newton, based on just four weeks usage and only a short period of using it for email. Since then I have been on a two week combined business trip and vacation using only my MP 2000 for contact with the outside world. I am a little concerned about the number of crashes I experienced, almost all of them when using the Internet connection (NIE). I was getting the same crashes before, but didn't make much of them as I wasn't sure what was causing them.
It seems that trying to do two things at once when connected to the Internet will almost certainly trigger a crash. Given that an email download may take 20 minutes (for a large mailbox), I sometimes try to browse the Web to catch up on some news while EnRoute is checking my mailbox. However, this seems to precipitate a crash within a couple of minutes. Not wanting to hang around waiting for the same mail message to download for the tenth time, I gave up on web browsing while gathering email, and it then seemed to work relatively reliably. One possible cause of the crashes could be running out of heap space; the Newton suffers from a shortage of internal memory in a similar way to the notorious high memory problems under MS-DOS. The MP120 could run NIE, but it was almost unusable due to heap space crashes; the MP130 and MP2000 are both much better.
There is a lot of talk in the Newton groups about the importance of checking for free space on the system heap, but I have found it hard to locate a utility to do this that runs on the MP2000. The answer is a package called GCStat; it is a very simple utility that runs a garbage collection for you to reclaim space on the heap, and displays the number of bytes available on the heap in a small window. I normally run at about 95K free, but as soon as NIE starts up a connection I am usually down to 35K. This should still be plenty.
The 717145 OS update is supposed to manage memory a little better, so I tried again after installing it. The Newton still resets itself frequently when running more than one Internet application at a time; but now it shows an error message saying that I don't have enough memory, and should restart the Newton, before crashing. I think I'll assume that I really am out of heap space, and try not to push the envelope quite so hard in future.
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