on the cheap and sleazy side (www.cheapandsleazy.net)
The Gemini Writer Revisited
Pesky Data Aggravation
It's been about seven months since Charity wrote her review of the Gemini Writer for my (cheap and sleazy) website. Ever wonder how she's been doing with her Gemini since that article appeared? If so (or even if no), wonder no more! Charity's back with an update.
If you're on the fence about buying a Gemini, don't buy until you've read this first!!
Okay, I still love my Gemini keyboard. My wrists and shoulders aren't hurting. Too bad it still doesn't help me with my speed. Stripped of the excuse of carpal pain, I'm forced to face facts that my brain overheats and stalls well enough on its own. It just takes a little longer is all.
Anyway, most of this article is a rant about PDAs. So far the "Court Reporter Package" has not proved fully worth it. The packages offered by the Neutrino Group are:
Basic: Writer, 3D tripod adapter, wide keys of your choice, carrying case
Captioner: Basic plus battery, built-in wireless
Court Reporters: Captioner plus PDA, StenoSync (with one year free upgrades), 128meg SD card, 128meg CF card, SD card reader, Appforge license (Crossfire), PDA stand
StenoSync belongs to the Neutrino Group and Crossfire, the interface software between the keyboard and the PDA, is from AppForge and a $500+ single-user license.
* Packages are what are currently offered by Neutrino; my machine is last year's package** and prices.
** No, I haven't yet gone onto Neutrino to download updates. I admit to some negligence, but not much. When I was poking around their site some three for four months ago they were updating it and nothing was downloadable and there wasn't even a hint of free upgrades to StenoSync (so there).
KOFRB/G/PHAOEU/A*SZ: This is from my past year with the Gemini. Some problems may already be addressed by the Neutrino Group with their newest writer and battery and software.
When (The Battery) Life Ends
-- the Gemini When Hooked Into the PDA Only
You know your Gemini battery is near dead when your keyboard starts "babbling" minutes before the green power light begins blinking. By babbling I mean:
24eus | THEUS
1ubG | SUBG
*s | S
Extra symbols are thrown in; letters that normally display as all caps come out lower case; and numbers substitute themselves for top row keys and AO keys. I've had classes where during readback I've had to do some quick mental twisting and double processing to interpret the garbage when this happens. And when the battery is really dying, pull the power cord fast because 'crosstalk' becomes 'crazy talk' that is upchucked to the screen without your hands even on the keys.
-- the PDA
I mentioned in my first article that this was my first PDA. So far it hasn't impressed me enough to drop my Daytimer(TM). While it's nice to play games and review pictures taken on my digital camera, which happens to also use a CF card, its battery life sucks.
The placement of the power-on button is outside the protective cover so twice an accidental bump has caused the PDA to power on and drain itself dry by the time I get to school. And when that happens, I have to reinstall both the Gemini software and the Crossfire platform. So registration with AppForge, the Crossfire people, is very important. If you didn't save a copy of the software first time you downloaded it from their site ....
CAN'T WALK AND TALK AT THE SAME TIME
I was getting garbage. At first I wondered if the buffer was full so I'd reboot the PDA like I'd reboot my computer. You know, hit the red reset button. For those of you who already know the quirks of a PDA, you can laugh if you want and maybe I'll eventually get there too, but what I considered a "hot boot" didn't work. I didn't know -- or likely I didn't read the manual closely enough -- but that means to the PDA: 'ERASE ALL NON-FACTORY INSTALLED SOFTWARE AND REINSTALL ORIGINAL SETTINGS.'
In other words, calendar, address book, notes, customized start-up options, owner registration -- all gone. Reinstall MS ActiveSync, Gemini StenoSync, and Crossfire. Again.
What eventually sank in was that the reason I was getting garbage was that the PDA battery was less than 100%.
Now when it's hooked into the Gemini and the Gemini battery or power cord, the PDA does not rely on its own battery. If you're using the Gemini battery, expect your battery to last maybe 5 hours instead of 6-7. I hear a new, longer life battery is out but no indication of what it's useful life is and I haven't got around to asking the Neutrino Group.
What am I talking about? This:
It's lunch break. I unhook the PDA from the Gemini and take it with me so I can review notes for a medical class, maybe play a game of powerball. I get back to class. PDA battery is at 90%. Rehook the PDA to Gemini battery (or power cord).
Garbage. The PDA is trying to recharge itself. It can't handle note taking at the same time. It hallucinates.
CAN'T HOLD ITS COLOR
The note screen has the nice option to change background color from white to yellow, blue, green, or red. I like yellow because on such a small screen it's better contrast for reading steno notes.
However, once you switch back from readback screen, the color is gone and it's back to white.
STENOSYNC (PPC) SOFTWARE
I've never gotten the PC-side version of the StenoSync software to work quite right and the manual is non-existent. Meaning, here's the steno file, why isn't the PC software picking up the whole file correctly and allowing me to print only the section of notes I want? It's suppose to. I'm missing something and I'm too irritated to puzzle it out.
Again, file output, if saving to your computer, dumps to your root drive (C:\) with the dangerous naming convention of FILEXXXX.000. In any other tech-speak, such a name would mark the file as an artificial file created by the computer out of random, unclaimed bits of data after a CHKDSK sweep. A trash file. So, make sure the file saves to CF or SDRAM card, plug card into reader, plug reader into school computer (because my laptop is not going to hook into network printers) and import it as an ASCII file into WORD. What comes up:
Perform 'search & replace' of @'s with spaces to get your steno notes -- much easier to format notes into neat, multiple columns for printout. The DigitalCAT software I'm currently using claims it can print up to four columns of steno notes on a page but really only manages two. I miss the PDA when I'm printing out a plus50-page stack of two-column steno notes.
CAPPING THE WHINE BOTTLE
I should've just gotten the basics. The extra $1400 didn't even get me a decent paperweight. I wish the external battery had some sort of power level indicator like my external notebook battery does.
I really wish the PDA wasn't such a baby that needs to suckle on a power cord every two hours because it's lighter than carrying a notebook and handy for reviewing reams of steno notes while waiting at a bus stop, laundromat, long ticket lines, or any time I've got a spare moment. And even if my notes aren't good enough for real-time, they're good enough for me to read and transcribe from.
HOWEVER, even if the PC-side software never works right I'd prefer to use the PDA. But until there's some solution to the power issue, I won't.
Maybe in a year or so when I've stopped being so irritated with it, I'll recharge the PDA and reinstall the software and give it another go.
reality.bites (at) yahoo.com