back to article How's this for a stocking filler next year? El Reg catches up with Gemini

Production begins in January on the first new computer form-factor since the iPad – Planet Computing's "modern Psion", Gemini. It has already picked up an Innovation Award from the organisers of the International Consumer Electronics Show next month, where a formal launch will take place. And the project reached $1m in …

The Indiegogo page (linked from Page 1 of the article) lists Dvorak as one of the keyboard options.

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eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

That is all..

Portable device with hardwired Dvorak, now that's a rarity!

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Happy

Re: Dvorak keyboard

A Dvorak keyboard layout is fine. But stick to one keyboard layout. Years ago I had a Z-80 with a hand-wired Dvorak keyboard. That worked fine over the weekend, but on monday I had to retrain to the company QWERTY layout. AFAIR the Dvorak layout was tested on an American warhip where all keyboards had that layout with great succes.

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Re: Dvorak keyboard @harmjschoonhoven

I think you've fallen for a common piece of propaganda; the Navy has no record of the trial, and Reason magazine (though, warning: libertarians, so with their own bias towards proving that markets work) sought a copy they managed to obtain it only from an organisation called Dvorak International and noted that:

(i) it has no listed authors;

(ii) it discards out of hand two prior studies that seemed to have the opposite outcome;

(iii) does not fairly compare the QWERTY and Dvorak results it contains, picking alternative summarisations for each that produce better numbers for the latter;

(iv) the Australian Post Office test of Dvorak, which is much better documented, found no improvement;

(v) the Navy experiment was conducted by: Dvorak himself (!); and

(vi) when the study was repeated after the war by the General Services Administration, they got exactly the opposite result: QWERTY was the better layout.

So they concluded that the idea that a worse standard defeated a better one here seems to be a myth. I can see why Dvorak should be better, with most of ETAOIN SHRDLU on the home row (though I don't know what 'L' did to suffer its banishment to the far corner of the keyboard), but it sounds like the empirical evidence might be a myth.

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Re: Dvorak keyboard @harmjschoonhoven

Upvoted for "ETAOIN SHRDLU." Some of us remember the old days of typography. Others (like me) just remember reading about the old days of typography. Well, I did actually see a typecase in use in a working environment, but I was too young at the time to bother noticing the arrangement of the letters, and wouldn't have figured out why they were arranged that way if I had noticed.

Bonus points if you can name one of the SF authors who used ETAOIN SHRDLU in a story.

Actually, my increasingly faulty memory tells me that one of those SF authors used it in two very different stories. Google confirms one of them, but not the other (which wasn't SF, although it read most of the way through like fantasy). Extra bonus points (and mystery biscuits) if you confirm that memory.

Ob trivia: ETAOIN SHRDLU approximates the order of frequency of the twelve most commonly-used letters in English, so were arranged in that order on a Linotype machine, which meant authors with a background of journalism and/or printing used them in a story. Those relative frequencies makes it a good strategy to use them in that order if you're playing hangman.

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Re: Dvorak keyboard (@ Handleoclast)

Back in the seventies or eighties, there was an "AI"* program that was able to carry out orders and make descriptions and predictions, in the limited context of a universe populated with basic geometric shapes, and it's name was SHRDLU.

*I was able to code a passable clone in my Commodore 128, hence the comedic quotes around AI. 8^)

Edit: There is a reference in Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SHRDLU .

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Re: Dvorak keyboard (@ Handleoclast)

@Mephistro

You'll find there is also a Wikipedia entry for EATOIN SHRDLU, giving its origins.

It seems that the Linotype keyboard has inspired a few things. Whether directly or indirectly is hard to determine. Your "AI" program may have been named directly (as Wikipedia claims) after an obscure typographic fact of Linotype keyboards but may actually have been named (based indirectly on Linotype keyboards) after an SF story by Fredric Brown with the title "ETAION SHRDLU" about a Linotype machine that exhibited AI.

30 {even more obscure journalistic convention]

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Re: Dvorak keyboard (@ Handleoclast)

The Linotype in that story was displaying GIGO, which I'm not sure counts as intelligence. Artificial 4chan?

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Re: Dvorak keyboard

"A Dvorak keyboard layout is fine. But stick to one keyboard layout. Years ago I had a Z-80 with a hand-wired Dvorak keyboard. That worked fine over the weekend, but on monday I had to retrain to the company QWERTY layout."

That's why I'd like a hardwired Dvorak that's pocket portable, just plug it into what ever random computer I have to sit in front of when out and about. Having it's own screen and CPU running Linux makes it useful on it's own. If it doesn't already have one, I'm sure I could whip up a "make this a USB keyboard" app. I've written USB keyboard firmware in the past.

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Re: Dvorak keyboard (@ Handleoclast)

Upvoted for "30"

Thanks

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Very nice.....!

Been keeping an eye on this for a while now, just ordered one for myself :D

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...like an old Nokia N 810 then?

That was the best gadget I've ever owned. A Nokia N810 with 2018 specs, with phone, better camera and a version of linux would just tick all the boxes. This Gemini thing looks to be close.

I ran a webserver, PHP and MySQL from one of those - so I could work from my car when I had hours to kill waiting for the wife to finish shopping :)

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More like an N900, one of which I still own for nostalgia's sake. Pretty sure I still have the N810 lurking around here as well...

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Oh wow, memories. I had three N810s (two in use, one spare), then a N900 (and I would still be using it if it didn't stop booting for some reason). Proper Linux on them, with the build chain, so you could (and I did) compile programs on it, and because you had a standard X server, you could run any Linux software on them, even open office.

I had one as a combo LAMP server for testing/debugging, with svn repo, DHCP and DNS. I could connect to it via ad-hoc wifi and work away where ever I was (usually via the other N810).

I had another as a portable desktop, and set up the X server to accept remote connections. I could also forward specific applications via SSH X forwarding. So in addition to using it as a portable machine, I could hook up to a network and use it as a desktop PC via a thin client.

This was really powerful, long before the masses were talking of being able to plug a phone into a screen/keyboard and have a full desktop, I already had it running and usable. Even the slow 802.11b wifi was adequate for basic terminal server use (don't go watching video over it). And because they didn't mess around with the Linux OS much, I could have all the desktop Linux software on it with no modification.

Not to mention I could code in any Linux supported language. I hacked Perl/Python/PHP and C on it merrily.

The N900 had a smaller keyboard, which I didn't like much (I prefer the N810 form factor, fits better in my hand) but they added a phone, and the SMS and phone apps could be called via the terminal, so I made little scripts, things like automatically sending "Happy New year", "Merry Christmas" bulk SMSes to my contact list, Also scripted a few "Happy Birthday" auto texts, and would pipe the fortune program to SMS for certain people so they got a "fortune of the day".

Once my N900 died, I had to go with Android. Android has ever since been a poor replacement, a reminder of how far backwards we went with flexibility, power, hackability and freedom. I tried the chroot Linux on it, but it always seemed unreliable, bug prone, and not worth the hassle of hacking it together.

I never had to worry about My Nokias spying on me, or shoving ads down my throat, but it is a constant (and increasingly difficult) task ripping all that crap out of Android to make it usable (but still not an OS I would trust with sensitive data). It is getting harder and harder to be able to reflash ROMs, unfortunately.

That is why This Gemini has held my interest for so long. It is like the next incarnation of the Nokias I had (and going further back, to the original Psion, Jornada 720 and the Libretto 20). I have already decided to get one, but will probably wait until it hits production before I purchase it. The first piece of tech I am quite excited about in a while!

Oh, and Merry Christmas to all of you :-)

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Needs a camera as standard.

For scanning receipts for expenses.

Otherwise it's looking good.

Just so long as they remember that the Psion's major advantage was, "Software. Software. Software."

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Re: Needs a camera as standard.

I guess some people will still carry a normal smartphone too, and use the smartphone's camera. Hence the WiFi-only version of the Gemini.

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Re: Needs a camera as standard.

It has a face facing camera as standard, the optional one is higher resolution a rear mounted job.

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Unhappy

Re: Needs a camera as standard. For scanning receipts for expenses.

Actually I've long dreamed of something with a line scanner built into the spine for general document digitization.

Still waiting....

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Re: Needs a camera as standard.

Nah you don't need that, the missus has a digital camera with it's own wifi hotspot to transfer images around. Just use one of those (also good for remote triggering of the camera with any handily available phone)

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Two things stand out as speed bumps along the way to getting this accepted, by me at least:

1. If I'm on the phone, I like to be able to quickly glance at a message coming in, or a call waiting. With this device, you have to open it up to check the screen. A really minor point I know, but it did occur to me that it might make it slightly awkward.

2. It's a device for communication. So why no front facing camera? The rear-facing camera I can see as maybe optional, but I like to make video calls to people sometimes. Seems like a serious omission to me.

But apart from that, the convenience of the form factor and keyboard built in probably does over-ride those two points I made. The USP of this device is the form factor. It doesn't actually do anything my phone can't. It's like a Nokia Communicator, but modern.

I used to own a Psion series 5 mx and it was an excellent tool at the time. The form factor was amazing even in 96. The ability to carry just one device for simple note-taking needs to be emphasised or it won't sell though.

I know someone who used a 5mx until last year for taking patient notes - he's a psychiatrist - and he loved it. Only problem was getting the notes off the thing. He has hundreds of files, and each one needs to be tediously exported to word, one at a time.

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To answer your second point: a camera for calls has always been part of the package. See https://c1.iggcdn.com/indiegogo-media-prod-cld/image/upload/c_limit,w_695/v1505160608/koqlvsl2jqrm7ypq7kiu.png

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When I first saw this I thought it would be a good companion to a smartwatch. The watch makes up for the lack of an external screen by showing notifications and having convenient music controls and such.

There is a selfie-cam in it, specifically for video calls - they've demo'd that at a few events.

I have one on order, and plan on replacing my Blackberry Priv with it. The only thing that concerns me is using it for navigation - some sort of fairly funky dash mount will be needed, I think.

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Unhappy

" like to be able to quickly glance at a message coming in, or a call waiting. "

Umm.

The lights on the front can be customized for whatever.

I'd expect you can set them up for caller on hold, text, IM

Wheather you can flag individual numbers as "High Priority" PHB/Dealer/BF/GF/Legal married partner, is another matter.

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Thanks - I obviously missed that. That's looking really useful now.

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" It's like a Nokia Communicator, but modern."

The key difference between this and a Communicator is that the latter had phone keys and display on the outside. It's not clear how this will make calls in anything like the same convenient fashion.

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"It's not clear how this will make calls in anything like the same convenient fashion."

The answer is probably the voice control button. Press that and tell it who to call. I wonder if it will speak the ID of incoming calls.

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Re: " like to be able to quickly glance at a message coming in, or a call waiting. "

Alternately, you could adapt some of the available freeware apps to blink out the message in Morse code . . .

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Thanks

Dear Andrew,

a quick note of thanks for pointing this product out early in the year and providing updates. Such a refreshing idea in this age of identikit smartphones. Kudos to Planet for their openness about design and development. I'm looking forward to receiving my Gemini fairly soon but would point out to any potential customers that all Indiegogo is somewhat risky: you might end up empty-handed. This is not to suggest that Planet is anything other than serious, just that you have virtually no recourse if things don't work out.

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Re: Thanks

Sheesh, am I that drunk? Already?

I could have sworn I just saw somebody thanking Andrew Orlowski for one of his phone(ish) reviews. I must have stumbled into a different universe when I staggered to the toilet. Back in my old universe, Andrew usually gets slagged for his phone reviews. :)

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Re: Thanks

T'is the season of miracles.

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Re: Thanks

Andrew usually gets slagged for his phone reviews

Only the Windows Phone ones. In general the phone reviews are excellent.

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ISP

Terminal

So long as there's some way to use it as a serial terminal I'm in.

Still need to do that often enough...

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Re: Terminal

It'll have a pair of usb c ports. I've already seen usb-c to db9/rs232 serial port cables (Tripp-Lite makes one).

You can boot directly into linux, or run linux on android. There's also serial terminals apps for android itself, though I've never been too impressed with those. However, that might be because I usually don't have a good keyboard on android. My main use of android serial has been by connecting to a bluetooth serial port attached to a raspberry pi. It's kind of fun to have a headless pi, pull out your phone and watch the pi boot up, then log in and get it working with wifi in a new location.

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Unhappy

Interesting display. But not a word on the elephant in the room.....

Batteries.

One of the nicest things about Psions were they could run off regular batteries.

I know. Consumer expectations...Can act as a phone as well..

So any word on battery life (with or without phone option)?

Any word on battery replaceibility?

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CT

Re: Interesting display. But not a word on the elephant in the room.....

From their website tech specs:

"Removable Li-Ion 4220mAh battery"

but with one caveat

"We are working hard to achieve the above technical specifications for Gemini"

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Re: Interesting display. But not a word on the elephant in the room.....

Comparison with a Psion isn't really realistic because full-colour screen as opposed to passive LCD and radios. But the spec suggests that the device should be good for at least a day's real work: ie. at least several hours with the keyboard. Should outclass a lot of other devices with similar size but the productivity boost is the real winner.

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Re: Interesting display. But not a word on the elephant in the room.....

> Removable Li-Ion 4220mAh battery

This is "removable" in the sense that "you don't need to take it to a shop to get it replaced", but not in the sense of "you can carry a spare one and swap it on the go". It involves pulling off a ribbon cable I believe.

However, they do plan to make a clip-on battery expansion pack.

One of the reasons for the size chosen is that there are limitations sending anything much larger through the post.

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Now I see that it has a built-in front-facing camera, I really want one. I'll wait for the reviews though. It could be a useful adjunct to a smartphone - a different form factor that might wow the business world.

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Linux

Want one ... but will it sell?

I can't think of any Penguinista who wouldn't want one of these. But will it sell in the mass market? For now, I'm looking forward to buying one on the cheap after it fails. But I hope I'm wrong!

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Re: Want one ... but will it sell?

I would imagine the exact opposite will happen with regards to price if it fails: I reckon it will rise sharply as it becomes a collector's piece, a unique device with a following.

Just look at the Motorola Photon Q, a phone from 2012 that is STILL today in 2017 the best landscape slider that exists. People still mod these to include a SIM slot (it was only available on one network, with an embedded SIM).

It's just getting slow with the newer OSes and bloated websites of today with its dual core 1.5GHz Krait and 1GB of RAM.

If there continued to be more phones like it, it would have basically no value today. The Gemini fills a slightly different need, since it is much larger, but I feel like for most people who wanted a phone with a decent keyboard, it's going to be close enough/be the only modern alternative anyway.

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Re: Want one ... but will it sell?

"...I can't think of any Penguinista who wouldn't want one of these..."

Are you prepared to 'root' the device?

Would you know how to 'root' the device?

Neither can I think of any "penguinista" who wouldn't want one of these, as long as it were a TRUE LINUX DEVICE, and not something that runs Linux under Android.

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COG does not move

The foot extending does change the COG of the device.

Opening the lid will move the centre of gravity outside the base of the device. Extending the foot moves the support so it is outside the centre of gravity and thus stablizes the device.

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Re: Janko Mrsic-Flogel?

Was my first thought when he joined Planet. Seems his new friends are not letting him wreck things this time round.

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Blimey

That looks amazing. If only I can convince my better half.

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Stupid ****ing IndieGoGo code

I rushed straight over tonchipbin $25 but the sodding IndieGoGo backend rejects my perfectly accurate postcode, probably because it's \w\w\d \d\w\w and they are fuckwits who think all UK "zip codes" start with two letters and two digits. Sorry chaps, I'd like to help, but you evidently picked a shit crowdfunding site.

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DJO
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Re: Stupid ****ing IndieGoGo code

I have a postcode where both numbers are single digits and had no problems on their site. Perhaps the problem is at the other end?

Even still it is often possible to add leading zeros if necessary.

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No double-quote or period keys?

Am I just overlooking them, or are the double-quote and period keys actually missing from the keyboard layout? Using the terminal or writing prose/code would be a pain without them, especially for people who can rapidly touch-type…

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Re: No double-quote or period keys?

"Am I just overlooking them, or are the double-quote and period keys actually missing from the keyboard layout?"

Presumably double-quote is where it normally is, shift-2. Is that the period on the / key? Confusing if it is. But for something intended to run Linux where have \ and | gone?

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Re: No double-quote or period keys?

Zoomed in, it looks like the period is unshifted "?" (not the . on the ?)

" is shift+2, normal for UK keyboards

\ is Fn+3 - not quite as convenient for Linux users, but not a hardship. And / is shifted too, in the interest of balance :-)

| is Fn+1

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