back to article Gemini goes back to the '90s with Agenda, Data and mulls next steps

Planet Computers, the tiny British outfit reviving Psion-style handheld computing, has told The Reg it has received new investment which enables it to produce further models and fulfil its retail ambitions. The company raised over $2m on Indiegogo to produce the Gemini, a modernised clamshell, with original Psion industrial …

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Agenda?

I had* one of those, learning to type with chords was easy.

http://www.computinghistory.org.uk/det/13151/Microwriter-AgendA-32K/

*The batteries died and it lives in a drawer awaiting a repair that will probably never happen :(

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Re: Agenda?

I had one too, the small PC dealer/software house I was working for tried selling them. I still think it was a quick way of writing compared to a lot of touch screens.

I ended up with a couple of them but not sure where they went.

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Re: Agenda?

Look on internet (possibly Instructables) for a young lad who made a chorded keyboard case for Android phones. A few micro switches, some Arduino, a small bit of code...

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Re: Agenda?

The loft? Everything ends up in the loft.

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Re: Agenda?

Nahh - we have large dry cellars and no easy access to the loft (as in a member of the family being able to dump something up there with minimal hassle and no one noticing).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The loft?

Small children help in that department. (I was the one getting the BBC micro out to get the childhood games going again)

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Unhappy

Re: Agenda?

I always wanted one of those, but was never able to find one. Eventually I got a second hand Razer gaming keyboard and wrote some chording keyboard software:

http://cowlark.com/narcissus/

Turns out that writing the software was much, *much* easier than learning how to actually type on the bloody thing.

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I have the Gemini PDA

Its not as good as people think, the keyboard (even after they *fixed* it) is still rubbish and the space bar doesnt always work. You have to smash the shite of off the keyboard to get it to actully type anything.

The design of the Gemini keyboard (as in the way it pushes against the screen when closed) scratches the screen!

Viewing the screen in bright daylight is almost impossible.

The audio jack for headphones has an earthing/connection problem (lots and lots of crackling noise if you move the plug at all).

Its okay for the money I paid for it (project backer) but I would be taking it back if purchased for full price @ retail, its just not ready yet for retail.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I have the Gemini PDA

While this is a harsh review, it is accurate, I too have the device.

I'm not having too many problems with the keyboard, I can type fairly fluently without issue or many errors, if I'm positioned right. Maybe drop Planet an e-mail, from what I've read most keyboard issues are caused by an easily replaceable rubber mat under the keys and Planet have sent some people replacements.

The audio problem I have, fuzz through earphones, but only when the screen is on and no audio is playing.

I kept the screen protector on that came with it, I can see outlines of the keys in it (grease transfer when closed) but it just wipes off.

Not having a problem in direct sunlight, no more than any other Android phone.

But as MrKrotos said, it's not ready for retail, I can live with the above as it was expected for a prototype device that cost me £300, but I wouldn't buy retail price. Rather than working on new models, they should iron out these issues for the v2 device.

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Re: I have the Gemini PDA

Subjective opinions. I love the keyboard and can type very quickly and comfortable on it.

I've left on the screen protector but there is no impression from the keyboard in the finger grease.

The screen is actually reasonably readable in daylight, even in the bright sun we've had lately. I've used it a lot outside recently and this surprised me.

Yes, the audio through headphones has a problem when there is no sound playing it picks up electronic noise from the device but this problem doesn't happen on bluetooth headphones. No crackling noises if I move the jack with the plug in headphones.

If I was going to pick a fault with it, then it would be the default OS. Android. I've gone Sailfish to be rid of it, but these new Apps are for Android only. I may have to wait for Sailfish 3 before I can use them.

I think the device is based on the Elefone S8 Mediatek X27 based phone, which given the Gemini retail price on the website, values the keyboard integration and open bootloader at over £400 which I would have to think very carefully about. At the IndieGogo backer price though, absolute bargain and I am really happy with it.

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Re: I have the Gemini PDA

Although I disagree with most of this review I am aware that there have been significant quality control problems in the Gemini's production during the early days so individual experiences can vary quite a bit.

I have had my Gemini about a month. During that time I have written between one thousand and twenty five hundred words a day on it. Writing is my main business both for my consulting work and my fiction writing. I would guess that apart from checking the mail and looking stuff up on the web, almost all I do on the Gemini is write. My version is WiFi only (no phone) and I did not buy the camera addon. As I suspected, the camera is rubbish according to others.

I find the keyboard to be as good, if not better, that the Psion 5/5mx. I can say that confidently because I have done several typing comparisons with my last two remaining Psions. The touch on the Gemini is lighter and I do not suffer from any problems with the space key, although I see that some people do indeed have this problem. I do not have to mash the keys.

Although the keyboard is cramped, I now find after a month that I can touch type with rapidity and confidence. It does take time to get used to touch typing on the Gemini but with practice it comes.

I have no problem whatsoever in full and bright sunlight using the Gemini. The screen is quite usable, something that a lot of my other devices cannot say. Mind you, if you put on a pair of Polaroid glasses the screen will appear black. That's a characteristic of screens like this and my phones display the same phenomenon

I am seeing no key impressions or marks on the screen. I did see them faintly before removing the temporary screen protector the Gemini came with. That temporary screen protector by the way is made of very soft plastic and was picking up finger nail and stylus scratches. The glass screen is pristine.

I can't comment on the headphone issue because I have never tried that function. However, it is being widely reported.

From my point of view, the one fault that drove me to distraction at the beginning was a lack of rubber supports under the unit when typing. The Gemini would not sit well on uneven surfaces, would skitter about just enough to throw off my typing, and ran the risk of getting scratched if there was any grit on the typing surface. I put some small plastic bumpers made for electronic equipment on the bottom but they are a bit large so I am hunting for some smaller protectors I can put on.

I don't mind the price because it is a business expense and I fully intend to buy a second as a spare and backup in a few months once I see that the later versions have the kinks worked out, or a full Second Version appears as has been rumoured, but not confirmed,

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Re: I have the Gemini PDA

I, too, was a backer and I, too, find the Gemini disappointing. The claims of Linux and Sailfish support were vastly overstated. Yes, there are versions of both for the Gemini, but they depend on many large MediaTek blobs and the Googledroid kernel. Linux is all but useless with no pointing device and no pure console mode. The chief effect of my Gemini in my case was that I have now gotten GPD Pocket, put Linux and KDE on board, and am now appreciating it more knowing how bad things can be as witness the Gemini.

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Boffin

Re: I have the Gemini PDA

if you put on a pair of Polaroid glasses the screen will appear black.

That's because LCDs rely on a pair of polarising films to work. If you tilt either the screen, or your head, 90° you'll be able to read it again.

I guess this is because they've re-purposed a phone screen, which is designed to be mainly used in portrait orientation), and have it in a landscape mode. I suspect getting a screen made with a landscape polarisation would be a pointless added cost.

N.B. Polaroid is the camera manufacturer, your sun glasses are polarised (or polarized for our US chums).

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Top wish = backlit keyboard?

Don't people touch type, by feel? Well... a small LED light that plugs into its USB would be another option. It comes as USB-C though?

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Re: Top wish = backlit keyboard?

Sure we do, but finding the right key for one of the [FN]+ shortcuts needs light.

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Alert

Re: Top wish = backlit keyboard?

No, a keyboard with maybe one more key per row. It's USA centric, not good for UK, never mind any European language.

Better than backlight (and I did a demo 12 years ago) is four thin plastic plates under keys. Then each key lights normal, shift, alt-normal and alt-shift. Then friendly for all European languages. Dual English-<other native alphabet> would have different keycaps, with key caps user changeable (like you decide to move to Russia, Korean, India, Arab country).

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Re: Top wish = backlit keyboard?

Sure we do, but finding the right key for one of the [FN]+ shortcuts needs light. practice.

Fixed.

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Further out maybe they should be considering enterprise management controls for fleets of devices

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GUI?

Flat is ghastly

Semitransparent/Perspex is ghastly.

What about decent Win 3.1 to XP style GUI design?

It's what I hate about Android and Win10 and some Linux distros. Where the hell do you click? What is labels or buttons? Which tab is active? What text is simply text and which has links or popups? Is something on or off? Ban stupid slide switches.

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Re: GUI?

There are a choice of 4 OSes. Ditch Android. It's total shite.

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Facepalm

Re: Android

Yes, it's like Win10 GUI and a mix of Win2.0, Win3.0 & Win95 functionality. You are lucky if an application can use external storage, printer, local network server & Copy/Paste even if the 3rd party File manager does.

I found that many USB things (even an Ethernet adapter) work on Android but only default settings (no settings interface), or inadequate control of settings (USB Keyboard layout/language).

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Holmes

The top six requested features

...

5. Larger battery

6. A better list indexer.

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Mushroom

Is that the same Janko Mrsic-Fogel who is CTO of RCL?

He must be busy...

Did you ask him about the Vega+ while you were talking to him?

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The very same.

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Anonymous Coward

It does seem very un-Register like not to use this meeting as a way of asking about RCL. The fact there is no mention in the article of the RCL link is strange. Makes me feel suspicious.

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It syncs with Google and Apple servers

Fuck Google, fuck Apple

you can ask the Gemini voice assistant to "Ask Alexa what is the time?"

Or I could just look at that thing on my left wrist.

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or the clock in the corner. Next to the button to activate the voice assistant.

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Joke

>Or I could just look at that thing on my left wrist.

Wow an Apple Watch user!

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Ask Alexa to ask Google to ask Cortana what was the time when I started asking this ridiculously long question, coz Google and I are not on speaking terms, and Cortana is a biatch.

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Tut, tut

Tut, tut. So many negative vibes, Moriaty!!

As a great admirer of Data on the Psion, I'd love it on the Gemini. The Agenda, less so. If I couldn't remember an appointment, I'd be unlikely to look it up on the machine. But where are these two nostalgic utilities to be found? The Android Play Store is full of Android specific crap.

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E-Ink Overlay Screen please.

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I would be happy with an e-ink main screen.

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How is the Debian support coming along?

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Are you watching this RCL?

This is how you do an IndieGoGo campaign correctly RCL. Maybe you should hire these guys to rescue your flailing Spectrum Vega+ project *coughcough twoyearslateandcounting coughcough**

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Re: Are you watching this RCL?

They're probably watching closer than you think. Janko is quite involved with the Vega+ (CTO of RCL).

A friend has a Gemini and retreated back to his very well maintained Series 3mx for writing on. He describes his Gemini as 'like a cheap Chinese smartphone hinged on to a not so bad keyboard' (none of the usual issues). Again the disappointment is being on Android. Also mentioned the buzzing audio issue and gone back to using his Nokia Xpress Music on the train.

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Re: Are you watching this RCL?

Tell him to flash debian or sailfish. It's a world of difference.

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Do design rights expire? http://oldcomputers.net/zeos-ppc.html

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Unhappy

When they said "Agenda" for a moment there.

I though they'd re hosted the Lotus personal organizer package.

Obviously not.

The only system I've seen where the system actively tries to help you, instead of just sitting there, dumb as a stump.

Oh well.

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The original

All this reminiscing led me to the loft to dig out my original 3c. Sadly dead now, I probably shouldn't have of left those batteries in when I put it away 15 years ago.

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Waiting for V2

Great news about investment, I'm waiting for V2. Small company, first product will have lots of wrinkles (been there, done that!!!).

External eink status display would be my first choice of extra features, followed by something like Widi for external displays.

Keyboard backlight might be useful, cheap easy addition, nice to have.

Furthermore, I agree with others, flat UIs suck, bring back 3d buttons, so I can see what's a button / clickable / pressable and what's not!

On the subject of crap UIs, no ribbons please!!!

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Sounds like an interesting product,

And I wish Gemini success. I do like using a real keyboard... banging away on glass just doesn't give the same effortless satisfaction of a real interface. Palm was OK for what it was, but for real work you need real tools.

One thing Id like to explore is spinning a PDA from a Raspberry Pi, small touch panel display, and a decent Bluetooth keyboard. Attach Pi to the rear of the monitor, filling all remaining surface area with LiPol batteries.

You would get near desktop power that would fit in your pocket...

Also, check this out: gutting and modernising a Psion:

https://hackaday.com/2016/05/01/upgrading-a-20-year-old-pda/

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You can download Agenda on other devices to see how it works

Only thing is it doesn't pop up a soft keyboard, so you need a hardware or BT one.

Link.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: You can download Agenda on other devices to see how it works

They may regret giving the custom apps away for free, allowing a rival to undercut them on hardware yet run the same software.

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Coat

Runs Android therefore Not Interested

that is all...

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I haven't had time to *really* get into my Gemini until this week because I was under heavy deadline pressure, but over the next month I intend to see what I can do with it, writing-wise.

Interestingly, Termux provides a pretty comprehensive Linux CLI environment under Android on the Gemini. If you're used to the classic UNIX command line, being able to load up NeoVim with a bunch of plugins, git, Python, ssh, clang, and all the usual tools makes it feel rather familiar (while keeping Android around for the driver support that isn't completely there yet under Debian).

termux-setup-storage lets you access files off your SD card or other configured storage under Android. I'm using DropSync to synch a bunch of work projects (mostly big documents written in markdown) with my main macOS and Linux systems; with a 400Gb Sandisk micro-SDHC card installed I've got plenty of elbow room (for music and films and general entertainment when I'm not working). If you want a modern productive IDE you could dip a toe in the water with SpaceVim (although personally I took one look at it and fled screaming back to my old school setup).

Word processing ... forget Microsoft Word. It works, but it's a bit pants at keyboard navigation: instead, TextMaker HD has reasonable keyboard support and most of the features of an older desktop Word, including editing multiple files and change tracking. (But? It's still Word-document-centric; for most work, I'm sticking to NeoVim.)

Anyway: using an Android system as a basis for a Linux CLI text or coding experience may seem a little perverse, but it's possible and even fun. And this is the best kind of pocket linux fun you can shove in a jacket pocket.

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I bought jotterpad thinking it could access rtf files but it can only export to them. The dev team promises that functionality is coming soon. If not I'll give TextMaker a go. Thanks for the recommendation.

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This post has been deleted by its author

So another gadget with features I can now do on my phone and I can make a phone call too. I think ill stay in the now not 25 years ago

I loved my Palm 5 and 3vx which I bought from my own money, but now my phone does all that and more.

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