Gemini PDA: the second coming of the Psion 5?

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charlie.stross
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Fri May 12, 2017 7:02 pm Post

Okay, this goes way beyond a reasonable wish, into ha-ha-you-must-be-kidding territory, but ...

Those of us in the UK and of a certain age harbour an unreasonable nostalgia for Psion's PDAs, first the Series 3s and then the Psion Series 5 circa 1997 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psion_Series_5). These were not today's touchscreen machines, but actual pocket laptop computers optimized for typing on; at roughly 350-400 grams weight, when closed they were about the size of a modern phablet with booster battery. They were also the smallest machines ever to offer a real touch-typing experience.

The old keyboard-based PDAs vanished from the market around 1999, but not everyone has forgotten them. And there is now a new one in the offing, the Gemini PDA, currently on IndieGogo (it made its funding target), due out in November: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/gemini-pda-android-linux-keyboard-mobile-device-phone.

The physical design is by the same people who designed the Psion 5 PDA. But the guts are all new: modern high definition touchscreen, bluetooth/Wifi/LTE/4G, 64Gb SSD, and a ten core ARM CPU. It's intended to dual-boot Android and some flavour of Linux — probably Sailfish: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sailfish_OS. (Sailfish is a descendant of MeeGo, a collaboration between Intel and Nokia which leveraged Nokia's work on MaeMo, which was their attempt at a linux-based replacement for Symbian — itself the ultimate evolved descendant of Psion's EPOC/32, the OS the Psion 5 PDA ran.)

If the Gemini used an Intel processor and ran Windows 10, like the GPD Pocket and similar netbooks, getting Scrivener to run on it would be straightforward enough. And if it ran Android, the answer would be obvious, too (i.e. "nope").

But this architecture ... looks a bit like an edge case. (Clears throat.) I know that there's been some success running Intel Windows executables on ARM/Linux using WINE, but I suspect there are a lot of gotchas lurking in the woodwork.

Anyway, it's obviously not going to be a core commercial item of interest to Lit'n'Latte unless Planet Computers are wildly successful beyond anyone's imaginings, and it may well not be possible at all unless the OS distribution they pick supports attempts at running Intel/Windows binaries under WINE. But I thought the idea of something in the form factor of the Psion 5 running Scrivener was just too good not to highlight.

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devinganger
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Fri May 12, 2017 10:16 pm Post

RDP on those to a cloud session of Windows with Scriv? Requires Wifi but might get the job done.
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Devin L. Ganger
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ilottg
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Sat May 13, 2017 9:11 am Post

I adored my Palm Vx. Wonderful machine, so light and small. Once I troubleshot and diagnosed a critical server error remotely using my Palm Vx and Nokia 8210 connected via infrared and sending emails to the tech guy on site.

I have to tell you that, regrettably, the sun has set on those wonderful machines. Accept it and move on. No developer will ever develop for those again.

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charlie.stross
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Sat May 13, 2017 5:11 pm Post

illotg:

1. Palm != Psion. Not even close. Utterly different form factor and use case.

2. Gemini != Psion. It's an updated take on the same form factor (a keyboard-oriented PC-like device you put in your pocket). (I will note that Nokia successfully sold such devices for over a decade in the shape of the Communicator range — the first true commercially successful smartphones.)

3. What I'm speculating about is the possibility of running the Linux binaries of Scriv under WINE with Intel emulation on ARM Linux, so that I can have a full-blown desktop Scrivener environment in my pocket, everywhere, all the time. (Scriv for iOS is good, but it's not the desktop version.)

(I am under no obligation to "accept it and move on" when the "it" in question is an ill-informed misunderstanding of what I'm asking for.)

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devinganger
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Sun May 14, 2017 1:34 am Post

Did you mean "Linux binaries of Scriv under WINE" or Windows binaries under WINE? Assuming the latter since for now the Linux port is dead, pre-iOS support and corresponding file format change if I remember correctly.

How good is cross-CPU emulation these days, specifically the full Intel beastie on ARM? That would be the first thing I would be eyeing -- if you can get it to *work* will it work *quickly* enough? Is this sweet little creature going to have the right kind of ARM processor that will work efficiently with the various emulator packages?

And what do you do for mouse in this solution? I can see how having it in full-screen composition mode would be nice but at some point I would think one would need a mouse or pointer solution, no?
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Devin L. Ganger
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idc
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Sun Jan 14, 2018 10:11 am Post

I haven't tried this, but someone in the Gemini forums said ExaGear Desktop might be a solution. I've also ordered the Planet Gemini pda and am looking forward to receiving one in the next few weeks and seeing what I can run on it. Scrivener is a program I would *love* to have running. A keyboarded machine with a decent battery life that lives in one's pocket is one of the holy grails. I still have my Psion Series 5 mx and use it for a number of things. Lack of connectivity sadly restricts that number though. For certain people who want to be able to type serious work rather than just mush social media stuff around on a touchscreen the pda is a very cool form factor.

Am
Amcmo

Mon Jan 15, 2018 9:37 pm Post

I think you would have to assume any involvement by L&L to be a non-starter.
They are totally focussed on developing V3 for Win on one team and maintaining/improving V3 MAC and V1 iOS on the other.

If the Android version (potentially reasonable size market) is a year or more away due to commitments above, a potential market of a few people on another format isn’t about to happen. Just no business case, and much as Keith is a nice guy, he does have a business to keep profitable.

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idc
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Sun May 27, 2018 6:37 am Post

Well my Gemini PDA arrived at last and I am typing this on it. Those with an interest in a full review should try googling. It is very much a writer's machine, being a pocketable clamshell device with the best-in-class Psion 5 keyboard attached to a modern phone screen and hardware. Plus a good sized battery: I'm writing this with 50% battery left after not charging the machine for two days--of course I've only been using it lightly for those two days.

While the hardware is excellent (Planet Computers seem to have fixed some initial QC problems with the first production run machines), the software is still being polished. Actually, if you're an Android fan, it may already be good enough. But this is intended to run linux as well as Android (Sailfish OS is also promised in the near future), and the Linux software is currently only in technical preview. My own interest is in Linux or Sailfish--basically anything a little more privacy oriented than Google's offerings.

The gemini would be brillliant with something like Scrivener.

So, acknowledging that there is currently no intention in the short term to make Scrivener run on an ARM linux or Android machine, can anyone recommend me a second best writer's tool that I might be able to use in a similar fashion?

Thanks.
Ian