Gemini PDA first impressions

I loved the Psion range of PDAs back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, for a while I had a Revo which was perfect for keeping a calendar and such on-the-go, but it eventually broke down and was replaced by smartphones.

My first smartphone was the Sony Ericsson P800; the OS was Symbian, the successor to the EPOC OS of the Psions, but now with just a touch screen and no keyboard. The follow-up units in the P series all had keyboards, and so did my first Android phone, Sony Ericsson’s X10 Mini Pro. But after that it has been touchscreen only. Nice for watching movies and reading web sites, but a nightmare to write longer texts, like this, on.

Enter the Gemini. Launched as a crowdfunding project on Indiegogo in February of 2017, I fell in love with the idea immediately. With the same form factor as the Psion 5mx, with an almost-full keyboard just large enough to type on with more than two fingers, and designed by ex-Psion folks, it looked like the device I had been missing since the Revo died.

Sometimes a laptop is just too big, and the netbooks from a few years ago were simply just too cheaply done, but this form factor is just perfect for typing on the go, like onboard a bus like I am just now.

I got my device earlier this week, and already it has replaced my laptop on several occasions. There is room for improvements, sure, the keyboard is not quite perfect yet and Android might not be the best fit. I have not had time to install the Linux dualboot image just yet, but I expect to spend most time there, as long as the 4G data works there.

All in all, I am very happy with the device. I backed it immediately after reading about it in The Register, as number 10. There are now over 5000 backers, so there seems to be a market for a device that has been missing from the market for 15 years.

Fixing battery drain on my Samsung Galaxy Note 3

I have a Samsung Galaxy Note 3 that I am quite happy with. I have had it for a couple of years now and have no plans of switching to a newer one in a while. Recently, it has started acting up and draining the battery very rapidly. I thought the upgrade to Lollipop (Android 5) would fix that, but it just made it worse. After trying out quite a few things I started researching it and found that an app called “Unified Daemon(EUR)” was using up both a lot of battery power and network bandwidth.

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Searching for more information on the ‘net, I came up with forum thread describing this very issue. Apparently, the app purpose is to update the weather forecast, news and stock tickers. I don’t really use any of them, although I did have a weather symbol on the S Cover screen, so how it could end up downloading hundreds of megabytes of data I have no idea, something must be very wrong with it.

To test out if it was indeed the culprit, I went into the settings and disabled the daemon in the App Manager yesterday. And, indeed, today battery usage was down to normal again, and when I came back from work I had 50 % battery life left despite having placed a couple of phone calls, played some games and browsed some web sites. Had I tried that yesterday the battery would either have been empty long before, or I would have had to recharge it during the day.

Not quite there yet

As I mentioned before, I recently got an LG smartwatch with Android Wear. While I do find it kind of useful to be able to see what is happening on the phone without having to unlock its screen, it is also fairly obvious that the technology behind all of this is still in its infancy, and has its flaws.

One of the things they tout is the voice-control functionality. Just say “OK Google” and what you want it to do, and it is supposed to do it. I write “supposed to” as it doesn’t work that well for me. I do find that it more often than not understands the words I speak to it, even if I have to speak in English, which is not my native language (I remember back when OS/2 Warp 4 came out with voice recognition in 1996, it took quite a lot of training for it to understand my accent). Swedish is simply not supported by the voice recognition. Although it sometimes seems to understand some Swedish words, it seemingly cannot be commanded in Swedish. But then again, English doesn’t always work for me either. When I try to ask it “Show me the weather”, I more often than not get a Google search with “” as the top result. Not very useful. Every now and then it does actually show me a five-day weather forecast, but then with temperatures in degrees Fahrenheit, which is obviously completely useless (and there is nowhere to configure the units; according to LG support, it should follow the phone settings, but my phone is set to the Swedish locale, which uses Celsius, and the watch is set to UK English, which does the same).

I installed RunKeeper again, and at one time I did manage to get it to track a bicycle ride for me, although I do think it got categorised as a (very fast) walk. After that, I haven’t been able to get it to track anything, at least not by voice commands.

The watch is supposed to have a step counter, and while it does show me the number of steps for the current day, it always seems to forget the number of steps from days before. They are (almost) always listed as zero. And the pulse monitor thing always shows me the exact same pulse.

So, there are quite a lot of bugs in it. But I do like the general idea. Hopefully, there will be software updates to fix these bugs. Then I might get a smartwatch that is useful for more than just checking who is calling or who just sent that last text message or placed that last Wordfeud word.

Does anyone have any better experiences with these smartphones? Any tips on what I should do to make it work better.

Habits form quickly

I bought myself a LG G Watch R smartwatch earlier this year. While some of its functionality has been disappointing (step counter not remembering steps, voice commands not working as expected), I have become used to having it on. Today, I switched back to my old Casio watch, which is not quite as smart, even if it does keep correct time by reading the Frankfurt time signal, and has a battery that lasts for years, not just hours (I have to charge the LG every night).

But it is interesting how fast habits form. After replacing the smartwatch with the old dumbwatch, the instinct when the phone buzzes from a message is to look at the watch face to see what it is, rather than at the phone itself.

BTW, since I really did like the Casio watch, this watch face in the Android Play store really won me over.