on the cheap and sleazy side (www.cheapandsleazy.net)
Three Views of the
Gemini* Revolution Grand
Viva la Revolution!
As my regular readers are aware, I have three reviews of the Gemini here on ol' Cheap and Sleazy, by one of my former classmates from my (now closed) CR school.
These articles were written between 2005 and 2006, and a lot has changed with the Gemini since they were written!
Jason Pardikes, the head man in charge of the Neutrino Group, the developers of the Gemini Writer, took me to task recently when I recommended to a potential Gemini customer that they read the three reviews of the writer here on ol' Cheap and Sleazy. He pointed out that those articles were three years old, and the Gemini has gone through a few changes since that time.
"Isn't it time for another review?" he asked.
So, I did some looking around, and found three happy Revolution Grand users in Veronica Kubat, Rhoda Collins and Mirabai Knight. I explained my dillema and they all were nice enough to write a review for ol' Cheap and Sleazy ... and Rhoda, being a bit of a photo bug, supplied a few pictures of her golden ("It matches my car," she says) Revolution Grand.
First up is Victoria Kubat:
I've been using the Revolution Grand since July of 2008. I purchased the machine out of necessity because of wrist problems that precluded me from using my standard steno machine which I had used for 25 years. I had seen the original Gemini eight or nine years ago before I had encountered any wrist issues and had determined to purchase one when I needed to obtain a new writer. That time came last July (2008).
The upper back strain, neck strain and numbness in my pinky and ring fingers that I suffered from on a regular basis after hours of writing have all been eliminated, even with bouts of tendonitis. This is a direct result of using an ergonomically correct steno machine, the Revolution Grand.
The Revolution Grand is an ergonomically correct steno machine with an extremely light touch.
Combine the light touch with the ability to write with no added stress from bending in an unnatural position (as you have to do on a regular steno keyboard), and, at the most, you have a truly pleasurable writing experience.
At the least, you won't have to think about your writing.
You will not notice fatigue in the shoulders or forearms from stress because the Revolution Grand eliminates the stress created from writing with bent and twisted wrists.
Your elbows will not need to flare out from your sides as they tend to do when writing on a standard (say "flat") steno keyboard.
Your pinky and ring fingers will not go numb after six or seven straight hours of writing. This is because you are holding your wrist in the anatomically "at rest" position while you write.
Points to remember:
• You fit the machine to your body. You do not have to conform your body to the machine to write.
• The touch is very light, thus eliminating stress and affording a comfortable experience.
• The Revolution Grand is a reliable writer with several backup options.
• The technical support is reliable and readily available.
• Neutrino offers many colors to choose from and options for several different configurations: (captioning, reporting, student, etc.)
The biggest advantage is the ergonomics. I cannot stress enough the need to eliminate the physical stress that is created on the body when turning, twisting, bending and generally contorting oneself into position to write on a standard steno keyboard.
When you turn your wrists flat horizontally, your elbows naturally want to stick out. This increases the stress on your shoulder girdle which increases upper back strain and neck strain when sitting in a single position for a long period of time.
You also compress the wrist joint on the pinky side of the wrist when you hold both hands in front of the body and then have to align your fingers on a flat straight keyboard. This increases the compression on the nerves and tendons which run down the pinky side of the wrist. This increased pressure can cause inflammation which increases incidences of tendonitis. Tendonitis puts you out of commission for almost six weeks. Once a tendon is inflamed, it does not heal unless kept at complete rest and not used at all. This is what I experience from time to time, so I speak from experince.
When you use the Revolution Grand, you can place the two pods separate and apart on the track to eliminate the need to have both hands directly in front of you. You angle them to keep your wrists straight, which eliminates the need to bend and compress the wrist joint on the pinky side of the wrist (by the wrist bone). This also eliminates the tendency for the elbows to be held out and away from the body, thus greatly reducing the stress on the shoulders to hold the weight of the arms out from the body or, in the alternative, the tendency to keep holding them close to the body.
Both of these actions increase the stress on the shoulders, neck, and upper back. These things simply don't happen when using the Revolution Grand because of the ball joints to which the two separate pods are attached.
If I wished, I could get a longer cord between the pods and hang one on either side of my chair and write with my hands at my side. True, it would be hard to see the keys, but you get my point.
There are several ways to do backups using the Gemini. You can run your CAT software on the tablet AND the StenoSync software that comes with the Court Reporter setup, and that gives you two backups.
You can connect to a laptop and run another StenoSync on there and have a third backup. There would also be an Audio recording with ‘each’ of these, as they are running. You can also connect an external hardrive and have the StenoSync be backing up on that as it is writing, on both the tablet and the laptop.
That would be two more backups.
And, since you can copy the job from your tablet over to your laptop when you get home, if you leave it on the tablet, you have another backup of that job if something were to happen to your laptop.
The battery life using the tablet runs about 1.5-2 hours, similar to a laptop battery. This enables you to be able to pick up your machine in a jury trial and go into the Judge's chambers and ‘have’ your laptop, per se, with you as the CAT software continues to run on the tablet. There is no communication issues with other Bluetooth devices when running the equipment. The communication is flawless.
In summary, with the Revolution Grand you get a reliable machine with a very comfortable touch which works with your body to eliminate increased stress from conforming your body to your machine.
I don't know what could be a better tool to use for our profession than that.
25 years and counting because of the Revolution Grand
Here's Mirabai Knight's impressions of the Revolution Grand:
Revolution Grand Review
Back in steno school, I started out on a Stentura 400 SRT. Then I later discovered that the closed captioning company I worked for at the time owned a Stentura 8000 LX that had been gathering dust in a closet, and they lent it to me.
I sold the 400 SRT and began using the 8000. But transcribing 40 hours a week at work plus 6 hours a week in class plus several more hours of practicing started to really take its toll on my wrists. I got twinges up and down the sides of my hands, I'd wake up either sore or numb from my forearms to my thumbs, and I started to really get worried that I was doing permanent damage to my body and my future career. With the money I got from selling the 400 SRT, I bought a Gemini 2, and all my troubles stopped. As soon as I felt that telltale twinge, I would just adjust the angle a little bit, and I could keep writing indefinitely without any pain at all. It was a lifesaver.
As I left steno school and went through my first year as a CART provider, though, the Gemini 2, for all its virtues, started seeming less than ideal. It had stacking problems, and there was no way to adjust the sensitivity other than a dial on the bottom that went from 0 to 6 and didn't seem to do anything. It made a loud clacking noise that was sometimes commented on by people sitting near my client. It had no internal battery, so it always had to be plugged in -- a problem in classes where the students were expected to move around the room. Finally, after two years of solid use, the keys started randomly popping off, and I knew I had to upgrade.
I never even contemplated getting a non-Gemini writer. My time with the various Stenturas had convinced me that keeping my hands locked into a horizontal position would be torture. I had to have something fully adjustable, and the Gemini's the only one in the court reporting/captioning field. I chose the Revolution Grand, the Captioner's Package. I didn't need the audio recording or extra backup features, and I had already bought a tablet UMPC some months earlier, so I ordered the TabletKiosk holder, but not the computer itself. Jason Pardikes was always very helpful and communicative, though the writer did take longer to arrive than originally stated; I ordered it in early September and had hoped to take the November CCP on it, but it didn't come until mid-November.
When it came, though, it was so worth it. The touch was feather-light, it was utterly silent, and the built-in Bluetooth was an absolute dream. Students who were shy about having to use CART could now sit in the front of the classroom, reading off my laptop screen, while I sat 15 feet away in the back of the class, reading my output off my UMPC (connected with Bridge 2.0). Students could get up and give presentations, reading off the UMPC, while I stayed in my seat and read off my laptop. Bluetooth also drastically cut down the amount of time it took to set up the writer -- and no more wrestling with the USB-Serial converter cable! I only discovered a slight connectivity problem when I had to hook up the machine with the USB cable rather than wirelessly: the USB port was positioned in such a way that when I tilted the writer to my ideal angle, the tilting mechanism completely blocked the Gemini's USB port. So in order to get that cable in there, I had to tilt it less than I might have liked. This was very seldom a problem, though, since I've used Bluetooth 99% of the time since it arrived.
Even though the touch was much shallower and gentler than the Gemini 2, I soon found myself wanting it shorter and lighter still. I tried adjusting it myself, but getting it to the depth I wanted resulted in a sharp decrease in accuracy. Stacking errors skyrocketed and the number bar nearly stopped working entirely. Also, even though I had been very careful when opening and closing the top panels to access the sensitivity controls, one of the screws got permanently lodged in its shaft, and I had to snap it off to remove the cover. I emailed Jason about this, and he told me to send the writer to him. I overnighted it and he got it back to me in two days, vastly improved. The stroke is deliciously shallow, but the accuracy is all there. Stacking is much less of a problem (show me a machine that never stacks, and I'll show you an IBM Selectric), and it takes only a light touch to activate the optical switches. Now, I never had a problem with the Gemini 2's spring-driven, button-like feel; but the Gemini Revolution's traditional "Dual Assisted Stroke" mechanism is really like butter. I like it much more than either of the two paper writers I've written on.
I haven't tried out any of the modern paperless writers, but I can't imagine that they stroke any more smoothly than the Gemini.
One more thing: The first time I took the CCP on my new Revolution, I passed with 20 errors. It truly is my dream machine.
And finally, Rhonda Collins shares her thoughts on the Gemini:
I have been a Gemini user since 2003. At the time, I was looking for a different machine and heard good things about the Gemini from different forums.
I got the Gemini 2, base model, no PDA or anything, as my first machine (I still have it and use it to write emails/etc when I am at home). I sold my SRT400 to help pay for it.
I loved it! I had dreamed of it for a few months before I could afford to get it, so had the keyboard completely apart upon setting it up.
I used the G2 thru the rest of my schooling. I graduated in December of 2005. I started working and used my laptop with my machine. I do have an Olympus digital recorder for backup too. I also backup like crazy: Paper or paperless, I would still do the same backups.
I upgraded in February of 2008 to the Gemini Revolution. It was SO nice! I really enjoyed the Bluetooth and the tablet.
I decided to move up to the Grand in January of 2009. This is perfection to me! The machine has come full circle and is just so nice, it is hard to find words, truly! The key touch is so smooth and nice. The keys are more like a traditional machine too. I am also having less stacking with the Grand.
The tablet Kiosk is great! I don't have to take along my laptop any more. I have the model with 512MB of RAM and 25GB hard drive space. Have had no communication issues. I can run both the Steno Sync software that comes with the CR package and Case Catalyst at the same time using the Bluetooth connection. There is no interference with any other Bluetooth devices that may be in the room, either.
I have had one issue with the Bluetooth, but that was my fault in packing my machine: The cable connecting the two keyboards was loose. I just check that before each job now.
I use a red carry bag that I found. I can also carry my bag without a rolly cart now, as the whole system weighs much less. That works great when it is snowing.
I did have to call Jason to get the Stenosync up and running and he was more than happy to help. If I have any thoughts or suggestions, he is always excited to hear them, no matter how crazy they may sound, lol. And he has a great level of patience walking me through steps.
Rhoda Collins, CR in NY State since December, 2005
*Jason Pardikes: "The only thing is that while our customers keep calling it a Gemini we don't. It's a Revolution Grand. It's kind of like calling a Mira a Stentura Mira."