back to article Gemini: Vulture gives PDA some Linux lovin'

Planet Computing’s Gemini is a middling Android phone integrated with a Psion Series 5-style keyboard and clamshell case. Since our exclusive hands-on with a real production device, I’ve spent a few weeks in its rattly, plasticky company. And I’ve also managed to get Linux installed. So what’s it like? The Gemini, for those …

  1. Dave 126 Silver badge

    It would seem that Gemini would do well to promote a companion device. This can be done in a few ways. For starters, even those who want/need a Gemini may not want to carry it all the time - so they will still have a conventional smartphone that is more convenient for phone calls and for taking pictures.

    The other way round is to have a device that displays caller ID... smart watches aren't the only option here. Sony make a small device that has a display and call and media controls buttons that operates as a standalone Bluetooth earpiece or, since it has a 3.5mm socket, clips to your shirt and uses a standard wired headset.

    If we abandon the Gemini and thoughts of full mobile Linux, another option would be the snap-on Qwerty keyboard for Motorola Moto Mod phones, but no full reviews of it are available yet. Early hands-on reviews suggest that it is not without flaws - but then said reviewers didn't have time to get used to it as the Reg's reviewer of the Gemini. This type of approach has the benefit of allowing the keyboard and phone to be upgraded / swapped out independently of each other.

    If I were designing a mobile typing experience, I would have a standalone keyboard that works with any phone, and I would use the weight and bulk of a li-ion power bank behind the phone to keep it stable. A bit bulky, sure, but no bulkier than additional batteries are anyway. It would also divorce the screens longest dimension from constraining the length of the keyboard.

    The whole issue of running full Linux on a mobile one is not really technical, but rather getting drivers not blobs out of ODMs.

    1. Paul

      I use a smartwatch which means I don't need to touch my phone to see who's calling, and a collar-style always-on bluetooth headset means I can quickly pop an ear bud to make or receive a call. To make a call I just dab a button on the headset and say "ok google... call Andy Aardvark mobile" and voila! My phone can stay in my pocket. Being able to safely ignore calls discretely during meetings is very handy, especially if it's a recruiter I want to talk to ;-)

  2. }{amis}{ Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Rear Camara

    It seems a bit unfair to rag on this for not having a rear camera when it's a user installable optional extra.

    https://store.planetcom.co.uk/collections/accessories/products/external-camera-add-on

    1. Sloppy Crapmonster

      Re: Rear Camara

      *Camera

      If I have to pay extra to have a rear camera, it's fair to say it doesn't come with a rear camera, isn't it?

  3. Mage Silver badge

    Linux: all the tools are Windows-based.

    Wut?

    Are they mad?

    1. Christian Berger Silver badge

      Re: Linux: all the tools are Windows-based.

      Well they are essentially tools the chipset manufacturer provides. They do work, though bizarrely not all Windows software can deal with files larger than 4 Gigabytes.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Linux: all the tools are Windows-based.

        Not all Windows file systems can cope with files over 4GB either... just in case one Penguin's last copy of Windows was pre-NTFS.

        1. Christian Berger Silver badge

          Re: Linux: all the tools are Windows-based.

          " just in case one Penguin's last copy of Windows was pre-NTFS."

          Even with NTFS the default Windows ZIP archiver cannot deal with files larger than 4 Gigabytes. So I had to unpack it on Linux, shift it over via an NTFS disk and then copy it to the system disk.

          1. Richard 12 Silver badge

            Re: Linux: all the tools are Windows-based.

            Windows Zip handling is bloody awful.

            It's neat that it integrates into Explorer, but it's so incredibly slow as to be unusable for large files, and has really odd limitations as to which file copy operations work.

  4. Tom 7 Silver badge

    What I loved about my Psion5 was that it fitted in my breast pocket

    what I didnt like it was falling out and breaking while pulling trousers up after sitting on the loo! I will be getting the shoulder holster out when I get one of these - after I've finished a couple of dozen things I need to do with my RPis!

    1. Mage Silver badge

      Re: I will be getting the shoulder holster

      may not be a good idea in USA.

      1. keithzg

        Re: I will be getting the shoulder holster

        If anything it's a *better* idea in the States, where people are less surprised to see a holster bulge under a jacket.

        1. d3vy Silver badge

          Re: I will be getting the shoulder holster

          I was incredibly surprised on a recent trip to the US to see quite a few people still clipping their phones to their belts like its the 90s again... A shoulder holster would certainly not get a second look!

    2. jgarbo
      Coffee/keyboard

      Re: What I loved about my Psion5 was that it fitted in my breast pocket

      Am I missing something? After five broken 5MXs, a friendly Psion Netbook, I bought a Samsung Note. Fits in any pocket. Runs MS Word, which I can write into with the S-pen, turn scribble into usable text (auto spell), edit, send anywhere. Oh, and the phone, cameras and everything else work perfectly. I save Linux for my desktops & laptops, but the Note's perfect for story ideas, notes, lists, drawing maps, etc, ad hoc or on the move (Old style journo). OK, it's only Android, but the Gemini has the same problems of my five MXs - lousy keyboard and poor QC, broken spring hinges and screen ribbons.

  5. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "Making a call is a tedious process, requiring opening the clamshell to dial the number."

    I think the solution to making a clamshell smartphone is to emulate the old Nokia Communicators and put a basic keypad/display on the outside of the lid.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Nokia-9210i-9500-e90.jpg

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Begging the question, can you make/receive calls/SMS and use mobile data if you're running Linux?

      1. Christian Berger Silver badge

        Good question

        "can you make/receive calls/SMS and use mobile data if you're running Linux?"

        That's a good question, I haven't gotten the provided Linux image to do anything usefull. I'd say "probably yes", but maybe not comforably for the first couple of versions. Again firmware wise this is far from complete.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "Begging the question, can you make/receive calls/SMS and use mobile data if you're running Linux?"

        I'm waiting for mine still so can't confirm for definite. Some of the photos show Ubuntu with Firefox browsing, so data presumably works. On the OpenEmbedded forums, the general feeling is the drivers will be there, but the (user friendly) software not. They reckon you'll be able to make calls/SMS using some CLI tools possibly, so only time until a nice dialler and SMS application is developed.

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          "Begging the question, can you make/receive calls/SMS and use mobile data if you're running Linux?"

          I think using the Sailfish linux via libhybris to use the Android telephone functions you can, but not Debian yet, although WiFi does work.

          It can't be far away though because there are Raspberry Pis doing phone functionality in their debian derivative OS.

        2. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

          @AC re phone and data.

          Ubuntu would be a good place to start for Linux on an Android phone, because Canonical have already done it, albeit abandoned now.

          I have a Nexus 4 with Ubuntu Touch on it, and although it is built on top of an Android kernel, it is supposed to be a full Linux (although the display is Mir and Unity). Opening a terminal session does make it look like a more complete Linux than doing the same on an Android device. Phone and data work fine. I've not attempted to put an external keyboard on it (I can't remember if the Nexus 4 supports On-the-Go USB).

          In order to run other normal apps than the ones in compiled for Unity, it is necessary to have some form of compatibility layer installed to provide something approaching a normal X11 display, but I never managed to get it working. Maybe I should attempt it again.

          1. werdsmith Silver badge

            Re: @AC re phone and data.

            Ubuntu is one of the 4 linux choices already:

            Ubuntu 17.04, Sailfish, Debian, Postmarket.

  6. steelpillow Silver badge
    Happy

    thoughts

    The rear camera is an optional extra. I ordered one but am still waiting for both PDA and camera. From the spec it appears to have no better resolution that the front, but it should be enough for say an A4 document or a party moment.

    Will be interesting to see how much second/third-run hardware does or doesn't improve over the first.

    Those Linux install tools have to be ported though, I don't have a Windows box in the place.

    But I do have a Chromebook and it has similar compatibility issues. I tend to write stuff on it as text files, sync via my Dropbox and then copy-paste into LibreOffice when back at the desk, it's quicker than slugging the Chromebook. But the effin' thing don't fit in my coat pocket!

  7. WonkoTheSane

    "Making a call is a tedious process, requiring opening the clamshell to dial the number."

    What happened to "OK Google - Call Fred!"

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      > What happened to "OK Google - Call Fred!"

      That works if enabled. Or you can press the little silver button, it goes "wop!" and then you say "Call Fred"

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I don't know anyone called Fred. Is there somewhere I can complain?

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          You can have my Fred. He's friendly but bloody useless.

    2. Mage Silver badge

      Nokia communicator

      Qwerty, email, fax, web, etc in 2002.

      No need to open as the "lid" screen had a keypad and small display.

      I had the mono x86 and colour ARM versions.

      Sadly the OS on it lost in the 2003 internal Nokia politics.

      1. Christian Berger Silver badge

        Re: Nokia communicator

        Well the Nokia communicator was the ideal form factor, as it kinds removes the problem of needing a phone interface by giving you essentially a dedicated phone.

      2. keithzg

        Re: Nokia communicator

        A lot of mobile OS promise was lost over the years to internal Nokia politics. See for instance their Nokia N9, still ahead of the curve in many ways, which was to be the flagship of a new generation of Nokia products, but its "Harmattan" Linux-based system was dropped for the bright future . . . of Windows Phone. Oops.

        (I'm actually really looking forwards to running SailfishOS on the Gemini, which is a successor/derivative of Harmattan, albeit sadly going over to an RPM base rather than DEB.)

    3. Muscleguy Silver badge

      Won't work on my phone, I have denied the Google app permission to access the microphone. You might be sanguine about your phone sitting listening to you constantly but I'm not.

      I also NEVER use Google for search. I have a Startpage shortcut on my home page instead. On my previous phone on an older version of Android I managed to disable Google and get rid of the search bar though attempts to put anything in the space failed.

      I attempted that on the new phone and bricked it requiring a factory restart. But saying 'OK Google' has no result. I don't consider opening the address book and scrolling it is a terrible imposition. It also enables me to ring someone without everyone around knowing who I'm ringing. I have a shortcut to my wife on the home page as well.

    4. d3vy Silver badge

      From my experience :

      "Ok Google, Call fred"

      "Calling Bob" (That dick from 3 contracts ago whos number you only saves specifically so you could ignore his calls)

      "Ok Google, Cancel... Hang up... Shit, shit... "

      "Hi bob! Hows it going?!

      That might just be me though!

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    I bought one of these. Lady Tea Hound asked me what I was going to do with it, and I had no useful reply. She smiled knowingly, understanding that sometimes people just need kit.

    It's just a cool gadget to own - brings back happy Psion memories. I don't think we should expect anything more of it really.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Hehe I bought one for the same reason... I need a new phone, everything out there is "meh", I pretty much only browse, SSH and message from my current phone and have longed for the return of the Psion 5MX since I was a kid. I could only afford the Siena back then (I was ~15).

      Admittedly I'm also curious about Linux and specifically Sailfish on this device, because Android is lost to Google and privacy invasion IMO. I'm an Android dev, Sailfish 3 will supposedly have Android app support (with far better security than on Android itself), so makes a natural choice. I can take my apps, evaluate the platform and decide if it's worth porting to native Linux/Sailfish apps.

      1. keithzg

        Honestly, as someone who's developed Android and SailfishOS apps, it may not be "worth" porting but by gods is it order of magnitude easier to develop for SailfishOS than for Android, at least for a determined but amateur developer like me.

        Fucking Gradle dependency hell . . .

  9. Christian Berger Silver badge

    It's still rather disappointing

    I mean it will probably improve gradually. So far the keyboard only works with the English layout, which if you have the German version, means that many keys are labelled "wrong" and you need to guess punctuation (which is accessed via a special modifier key). Yes there is an updated keyboard app, but that's only available via a third party "Appstore" which I'd rather not use. Just offering the apk as a download would greatly improve both security and usability of the device.

    On the plus side, the manufacturer offers a rooted image, so potentially it could be possible to get iptables on it so you can filter your outgoing traffic to prevent it from talking to untrusted 3rd parties. So far it works nicely as a mosh client.

    1. Paul

      Re: It's still rather disappointing

      there are different sets of keycaps for different countries, but you had to tell Planet before they made them and shipped them out!

      1. Christian Berger Silver badge

        Re: It's still rather disappointing

        Well I ordered German. However the keyboard support currently is less than stellar. Still miles above any kind of screen keyboard.

    2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: It's still rather disappointing

      It took me a while to figure it out but the German keyboard setup does work. You have to make sure that you don't enable any of the AOSP keyboards. Things then work as expected though you have to learn which symbols mean what. The lack of second modifier key to the right of the space bar can be annoying but typing generally works well.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It's still rather disappointing

        The physical keyboard is indeed the weak point. As the article says, the space bar doesn't work unless you hit it right in the middle. The remaining keys have a disconcerting wobble which means you have to press them in the middle too.

        There are also some problems with the layout. The @ sign should have been on shift-single quote (same as on a standard UK keyboard), rather than the rarely-used tilde. It's easy to hit Tab when you mean A. And when sending a text or Whatsapp, the Enter key just moves to a new line: to send the message you still have to touch the screen.

        But the biggest annoyance is that minus and plus are Fn-combinations. Try typing any Unix command like "ls -l", without a minus key, and suddenly you realise what a pain it is.

        Of course, a real minus key would need to fit somewhere. Given that the long space bar doesn't work anyway, making it smaller to allow space for two more keys would probably be a good idea.

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: It's still rather disappointing

          Second production run is under way this week, so another 1000 or so backers will be getting Gemini.

          Keyboard problem is identified in some sub-standard rubber spring-mats and some new ones have been sent out to some people, a doddle to fit.

          And the feedback from the first batch is going into the QC on the new batch, so expect a few of those teething troubles to reduce.

          Surprised nobody has mentioned the X25/X27 chipset issue. Midway through the campaign the SoC spec was upgraded slightly from Mediatek Helios X25 to X27 with a little bit of extra clock speed and some power management features. But the Chinese SMT contractor used up its old stock of X25s on the first batch so the early backers got a downgraded SoC. This was not even noticed until the devices got into backer hands.

        2. keithzg

          Re: It's still rather disappointing

          Naw, the @ should have been fn+spacebar so my Nokia N900 muscle memory could be pressed back into service ;)

          1. Inspector71

            Re: It's still rather disappointing

            N900.....my best phone ever.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @Christian

      I can well imagine. I mean... Read the article: it basically only shares the keyboard and the clamshell model, that's all it has in common with the Psion 5mx. To me this translates to: they're trying to monetize on the Psion brand. But without delivering the same expectations.

      Sorry, but I find it seriously awkward that I hear no one ever mentioning once how this device managed to handle their appointments. While keeping in mind that this is supposed to be a PDA.

      For some people all the logic stops after they hear the name 'Psion'. Psion got big because it managed to deliver a highly functional product. Sure, you could do TONS with it, the 5mx was especially notorious for that (I even ran Norton Commander in a DOS setup) but it did so while still staying loyal to its primary objective: being a PDA.

      The PDA functionality came first and foremost. The rest (ironically enough also the most impressive stuff) after.

      But this... Sorry but I am not a fan. It sucks at being a PDA; it's basically an Android phone molded into a clamshell model. But as long as people keep calling it a Psion it sells because.. keyboard!

      The 5mx was MUCH MORE than the keyboard thank you very much. And I am a little upset how low some "Psion fans" managed to set their standards. The 5mx was WAY MORE that just the keyboard, but stuff like this almost makes it seem as if that was its main selling point.

      That's what you get when companies try to monetize on another product: the original often gets heavily disrespected because.. who remembers that anyway? Well, I do. And I am still passionate about it. I think this whole project doesn't do the Psion name much credit. It mostly credits the manefactories wallet. Where is that patent protection when you need it?

      Isn't Psion a registered trademark or something? Some kind of protection to keep the real memories alive?

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: @Christian

        Isn't Psion a registered trademark or something? Some kind of protection to keep the real memories alive?

        Both David Potter, and the original Psion 5 designer Martin Riddiford are involved with Planet.

        Planet are developing a port of the original Psion Calendar, unfortunately this will be for Android.

        For my requirements, the only advantage of the original 5 over this new incarnation is the sunlight usability of the screen. It's quite capable of fulfilling PDA requirements, but with full connectivity - 4G, WiFi, BT.

        I noticed you used the word "sorry" a couple of times. Rightfully so.

      2. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

        Re: @Christian

        "Isn't Psion a registered trademark or something? Some kind of protection to keep the real memories alive?"

        Planet doesn't use the Psion brand or trademark anywhere.

        "Sorry, but I find it seriously awkward that I hear no one ever mentioning once how this device managed to handle their appointments."

        The Calendar app that Planet has created isn't ready to ship yet. Perhaps you'll hear more when it does. Until then, assume it handles appointments just like any Android handles appointments.

  10. Paul

    there's an active forum discussing the Gemini, especially linux, here:

    https://www.oesf.org/forum/index.php?showforum=192

    it used to be a forum for the Sharp Zaurus, so there's many old-timers who've woken up (like me!).

  11. Natalie Gritpants

    Think it could be simpler

    to build a smartphone flip case with a bluetooth keyboard embedded in the front cover. OK so two batteriess but more choice of phone etc.

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Think it could be simpler

      I think you have to try and build a similar device to see which approach works best. You really have to use the Gemini to appreciate how well it works as a PDA.

    2. Mage Silver badge

      Re: smartphone flip case with a bluetooth keyboard

      No, needs to be a USB dock, like Linx tablets. BT keyboards inherently useless (sleep, wake, pairing etc).

      I have on that works nice on smartphones. Main issue is the plug.

    3. Christian Berger Silver badge

      Re: Think it could be simpler

      "more choice of phone etc."

      Yes, but virtually no phone out there comes with any kind of normal operating system. Even the x86 phones are not PC-compabible so you cannot install $Operatingsystem of your choice.

      Android is not what the people buying it, bought it for. It's a stopgap solution until the actual Linux is there... or until the Pyra ships.

  12. Paul

    Did the reviewer not realise you can fit a camera?

  13. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    It's a great device, but…

    Had my Gemini a little over a month and while I don't use it much I am happy with it as a companion device, and as the notebook you can always take with you. The keyboard is surprisingly usable given its size. Here is a list of things that I think can be improved upon:

    • ambient light detector moved away from the right of the screen because you occlude it every time you use the soft keys.
    • control of the HDMI output so that 16:9 is possible. Currently things like iPlayer mirror exactly the screen which means black bars on the external screen.
    • second modifier key to right of the space bar. You really need one of these if you're using a different keyboard layout.
    • Sound. This has to be my biggest gripe. It could be just my device but I find the speakers incredibly tinny and hissy (even in comparison to the S5's tiny speaker) so much so that I have the sound dialled down to zero. I would not want to use the device without a headset for a video conference, something for which it is otherwise perfect.

    I think all these issues are fixable and are acceptable for something that is essentially still a protoype.

    The Gemini will fit into any jacket pocket and is perfect for taking notes. I'm planning to take mine with me on a long cycling holiday because I will need to be able to do e-mail and use a keyboard, and this this simply wouldn't be possible with a notebook. And a friend of mine has just ordered one just for note-taking.

    Here's hoping that Planet will have the funding to continue to work on improvements.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It's a great device, but…

      "Here's hoping that Planet will have the funding to continue to work on improvements."

      Me too, I've ordered one and my only requirement for satisfaction is that it leads to a v2 device. I know things will be a bit flakey on this device, I just want that keyboard to stick around (and improve) for the next 30 years or so... pretty please!

      (Former Psion user)

  14. ninjaturtle

    They really need to focus on getting Linux running on it. Given their target audience, I find it very strange to expect your users to set up a Windows desktop to get the features they bought the device for (Linux compatibility).

    Some time ago there were rumours Linux would only run on the Gemini as some kind of container within Android though, I do have to say I'm glad they are working on getting Linux running without Android.

    I currently have a Blackberry Key One with a really great keyboard that can probably do all the things the Gemini with Android can do. The only issue with the BB is that it runs Android (and nothing else, jailbreaking is pretty much impossible on the thing)... I was hoping this device would be an alternative, but if it only runs Android properly there's no reason at all to buy it (except maybe the blinking lights) :-(

    Hope they will make some improvements and that there will be another review in a few months when there is some progress

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Given their target audience, I find it very strange to expect your users to set up a Windows desktop

      Then you seem to be ignorant of a lot about making this kind of device. Planet is a tiny company with a shoestring budget. It went with Android because of being able to have a working OS on the MediaTek SoC requiring as little software development by Plant as possible. This means using the tools, drivers and documentation that MediaTek provides. You can probably use ADB if you like but it's far easier to document using the GUI tool. Support for TWRP should, however, make the who process a lot easier.

      Having bought a device myself I'm happy with it as it is for what I want it to do. I know quite a few project managers who would also love something like this and don't give a dingo's kidney what the OS is as long as it can run tools they are reasonably familiar with. And this is a market worth going after in contrast to the notoriously skinflint Linux crowd.

      That said the source for what they have is available and with the help of suffficiently skilled and dedicated developers then there should be nothing stopping the development of a reasonable Linux port, though some of this will be down to how cooperative MediaTek is. Possibly even more interesting is the Sailfish port, though that is likely to cost money so freetards beware.

      As an investor in the project I was far more interested in the hardware released with a usable OS than the largely predictable debates about which particular Linux would be best.

      1. Mage Silver badge

        Re: released with a usable OS

        Debian is a usable OS (or Linux Mint now). Debian was fine on a prototype ARM 4G VOIP only PDA/Smartphone ... in 2007.

        Nokia had a useable Linux OS Tablet before Intel got involved and messed it up. Though they should have PAID Trolltech for a GUI at the start instead of 3 iterations, then buying Trolltech for QT and messing it up. Too much money and politics in Nokia then. Though Google and Apple both bought in the GUI for their phones.

        There have been any number of Linux based phones. The problem was never the OS but either uninspiring HW or poor marketing or both.

        1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

          Re: released with a usable OS

          The problem was never the OS

          Depends what you mean by the OS. Getting it to run all the services on a particular SoC requires support from the manufacturer. But you then have to think a lot about the GUI toolkit you're going to use and frankly, most of the Linux GUIs are not suitable for a mobile device. Sailfish is the notable exception and they've been doing this for years.

          Android on the Gemini isn't perfect – a lot of apps just assume it's a tablet so you find elements being rendered on a part of the screen that isn't there! But at least the hardware is supported.

      2. Christian Berger Silver badge

        "Planet is a tiny company with a shoestring budget."

        Well yes, of course... but so is "Open Pandora" who are working on the Pyra and already released the Pandora, both made with open SoCs so a propper Linux was available from the start. (way before Android)

        What Planet is doing is shipping their devices before they are ready. I can understand why someone would do that, but it's a strategy that will lead to some unsatisfied customers. After all it can be more frustrating to have a device you cannot use and eventually will have to update, than not having a device at all.

        To their credit they have done some things to even make Android usable, namely offering a rooted version of it. If they would now release the apk of their new keyboard app, the device would be good enough to critique.

        1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

          What Planet is doing is shipping their devices before they are ready. I can understand why someone would do that, but it's a strategy that will lead to some unsatisfied customers. After all it can be more frustrating to have a device you cannot use and eventually will have to update, than not having a device at all.

          You can't please everyone. Personally I think having a usable device with gremlins now is better than something that might be perfect but never arrive. Going with MediaTel was definitely a gamble but overall I think Planet managed to process pretty well. Don't know anything about the Pyra but I hope it does well as more of these devices will be good for the post-PC market.

          1. werdsmith Silver badge

            Pyra is not the same sort of target, it's a hackers device which has the looks of a slightly chunkier DS XL, whereas the Gemini is sleek pocketable thing with a Psion keyboard.

            I think the problem with linux on these things is the SoC blobs that are not open and so making an accelerated GUI is not cheap, and one for a mobile device even less so. Even 15 million selling Raspberry Pi still haven't got the Videocore IV accelerating their desktop properly yet after 6 years.

            If Planet lose customers because the customer didn't understand that crowdfunding a 4 person startup would get them a beta device, then those are customers that Planet really don't need.

            Software updates will appear and incrementally improve the device and it will be a great journey.

            There is a Sailfish now available for it, but there is a promise of Sailfish 3 in Q3, and I would be very happy to pay for that if it means that I can get rid of Android completely from the thing.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Boffin

    But can it run Crysis?

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Congratulations! You are the billionth person to demonstrate your originality by making the Crysis comment. Do you also post memes of Michael Jackson eating popcorn like it's didn't get old 10 years ago?

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This is the second review of this device

    and nothing seems to have changed, it is still 95% android phone with a keyboard attached and an app to pretend it is anything to do with Psion.

    Now if they had managed to get linux fully working then it might be more useful than a phone but I would suggest that it always going to be an issue, being as the SOC vendors typically have android in mind and do not want to release the information to/or make linux drivers.

    previous review https://www.theregister.co.uk/2018/02/21/planet_gemini_pda_production_hands_on/

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This is the second review of this device

      "and nothing seems to have changed, it is still 95% android phone with a keyboard attached and an app to pretend it is anything to do with Psion."

      Wow the tone here... You realise this is a crowd-funded device - built by a team of 3-4 people? The Psion keyboard designer and the Psion keyboard make it related to the original Psion far more than the app bar, which like the Psion-esque Agenda app, is a nice touch.

      They have an Android build, because like you say, that is easiest. 3-4 man team remember? The hardware is the focus here and what's important to me as a backer. I fully expected the software to be a bit flakey, but know that in a year or so, that'll be less of an issue.

      Sailfish 3 will be coming at the end of the year, several other distros are at various stages of working. As a backer who has yet to receive the device, I have no concern that the software will mature.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Wow the tone here

        The tone is because this item has already been reviewed on this very forum and now it is reviewed again with little differece apparent.

        So 3-4 people with atleast $2,155,555 can't employ someone to write the linux driver set and apps?

        This is the sad difference between say the Raspberry Pi and every other SOC rival, namely that the RPi had access to the vendor hardware interfaces and a competent dev team to get the device working under linux from release with a regular schedule of updates.

        So, I would suggest that if you want to make a portable linux device then the first considerations when choosing a SOC is linux driver support and open hardware interfaces, if you want to run Android then get a phone, keyboard optional. This Chimera is neither one thing nor the other and so software compatability is always going to be an issue, something that should be apparent to anyone who wants to call themselves technically competent.

        So yes, you can put this in your shirt pocket but it won't be the device that looks like a tool

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: Wow the tone here

          Raspberry Pi with their access to Broadcom and Videocore 4 information have not achieved full acceleration on the desktop. That's with many more people, more millions and Eric Anholt.

          They might have shelved videocore 4 in favour of 5 though, the potential of there being a game-changer in the pipeline.

          Nobody with any sense expected to the Gemini to have perfect Linux at launch, but do expect that a community effort will develop the linux offering over time and provide a lot of fun along the way. And with Jolla behind it, who knows how good this could be. They did sell a few thousand despite IndieGogo's reputation and they are still selling them.

          It's really interesting to see that some people don't get it, and I understand that it won't be for everyone. But it seems some of the folk that don't get it don't understand that there are people out there with different opinions.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Wow the tone here

            (edited)"Nobody with any sense expected the Gemini to have perfect Linux at launch"

            why not? linux is not the issue, it works - Gemini compatability with either linux or Android is.

            "It's really interesting to see that some people don't get it", no I understand that some people have more money than sense and given that it is them buying this thing then "the community" is just going to be waiting until someone else does everything required to make this a working product.

            I did actually look at the specs for the device and the hardware if fully accessible and optimised could be useful but the lesson from every other SOC is that any community requires open hardware documentation. Thus your community is going to do what every other before it has done and wait for someone else to do it badly and grumble a lot.

            1. werdsmith Silver badge

              Re: Wow the tone here

              I did actually look at the specs for the device and the hardware if fully accessible and optimised could be useful

              To you. Please understand you are speaking for yourself, not the world. The thing IS useful to me, very useful.

              You are not right or wrong, just have different requirements than other people. Imagine that.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                @werdsmith

                "To you. Please understand you are speaking for yourself..."

                no I am speaking to those that recognise that a mobile phone with a keyboard is nonstandard in Android (some things work other do not because the app developers do not always consider it worth adding keyboard support to their apps). Having a keyboard attached and trying to forcing landscape use is also a problem as many android apps default to mobile layout, i.e portrait which is a bugger trying to find their display mode switch when up moves the pointer left and right is down unless you have a touch screen and use it like a mobile (defeating the whole purpose) which is then a bugger to type on as the physical keybord prevents the virtual one coming up. I suppose I should add that ESC will normally close the current window when using a keyboard to be nice.

                "just have different requirements than other people. Imagine that."

                I would be interested to know what your requirements are that a android mobile would not meet better, given that a lot of the android software will be too annoying to use. If your requirement is so you can show it to other people who also do not recognise a fail so they can say "hey cool" then that is an expensive retard confounder when you could instead buy a balloon and put a marble in it for less than a £1.

                So given how much of a fail android with a keyboard is then you would imagine that getting linux to work correctly would have been a priority, my thinking is that they didnt check linux support first and now are cobling together linux drivers for other devices in the hope that will be enough.

  17. Rustybowow

    Why

    No really why does this exist?

    1. Adrian 4 Silver badge

      Re: Why

      Because it has customers ?

      Perhaps they've got imagination, or at least hope.

      What puzzles me is why the reviewer loaded Linux and then tried Libre Office. I mean, it's a perfectly acceptable word processor, but hardly a USP for running linux. And pretty likely to be crap on a small device of any flavour.

      Someone who buys it to run linux is likely to be far more interested in what it's like for ssh than some gui text editor thingy.

      1. steelpillow Silver badge
        Megaphone

        Re: Why

        Things I used to hammer my old S5 on:

        1. Voice notes to myself while on the move.

        2. Email

        3. Typed notes, from shopping lists to maybe a couple of pages of a book, whatever, also while on the move.

        4. Graphics. Yes, drawing on a touchscreen is a massive experience the world will one day wake up to. Was THE killer app for my kids.

        5. Reading bigger documents, spreadsheets, etc.

        6. Web browsing (even monochrome was better than nothing).

        Presumably we can add integrated phone/video, movies, camera, voice transcription and all the other reasons we never put down our smartphones.

        And you ask why!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    2. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: Why

      No really why does this exist?

      There are two and a quarter million dollar shaped reasons on Indiegogo. (and increasing every day)

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    REBOOT THE NOKIA COMMUNICATOR!!!! NOKIA DO YOU HEAR ME?!?!?!??!

    I should never have sold mine.

  19. doublelayer Silver badge

    I want one...that works

    I want this to get somewhere. However, everything I've heard so far is making me not want to buy this one. I'm hearing bad things about the keyboard; that worries me because that's the reason I want it. The wobble is something of a problem, but I'm also concerned about the nonstandard layout. Given that I'd be writing code and issuing terminal commands, I will need some punctuation that I can get to easily. If the keyboard can't do that, then I should just go back to portable keyboards (I have a cheap minikeyboard that at least has all the keys on it, even if they put "-" and "=" on the bottom left). It also doesn't make a lot of sense to have no output mechanism on the outside of the case. My suggestion would be one of those tiny non-touch screens like the flip phones used to do. Use an efficient LED display, and use it for caller ID, clock, and some notifications. That can't be all that expensive.

    I too want this device for linux usage, although I'd probably still be somewhat interested if android was the only choice, but the review so far indicates to me that none of the necessary features are there. Maybe the Gemini 2 will work better.

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: I want one...that works

      If there is ever going to be a version 2, it will be necessary for people to buy the version 1 to get the startup off the ground. Which is why I got one. I am confident the V1 will improve with the community involvement.

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

  20. Mike Flex

    Nerdtards galore!

    "I spent more time than was strictly necessary pretending that the Gemini was an offshoot of Knight Rider's KITT."

    This is el Reg; there's no need to tell us where KITT comes from.

  21. sloshnmosh
    Thumb Up

    You had me at "removable"

    "The removable 4220mAh battery is under the keyboard"

    1. robgreb

      Re: You had me at "removable"

      It's replaceable, not removeable.

      That is, you can pry the battery out of its glued-in slot, remove the connector wires and fit a new one. But it's not carry-a-spare-one-in-the-pocket removeable.

      The battery life, unfortunately, isn't anywhere near that of the old Psion.

  22. morbid

    No mention of Maemo?

    They hinted at this possibility a short while ago. I'm supposed to receive my device next month, and I'm hoping to be able to dual boot Sailfish and Maemo.

    The Communicators were nice... also the paint on the 9300 would eventually start flaking off (like 3-4 years later) so you could scrape it and have a transparent case (which looked cool).

    Another side-note: My LG V10 got the boot loop a few months back, and I had to dust off my old N900 to use until the V10 got fixed. The responsiveness of it is still something no android device I've used has been able to match.

  23. 0laf Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Loved my old Psion 5. The keyboard was a thing of wonder on such a SFF device.

    I nearly went in with Gemini but too many horror stories around indy funding (Speccy etc).

    At the moment it sounds like I'd be a bit disappointed with V1 but I hope it does well enough to spawn a V2 device where they will get these bugs ironed out.

  24. Tigra 07 Silver badge
    Terminator

    Judging from that backlight...

    Did you mean to say Cylon instead of "Psion"?

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