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Published April 7, 2018

The Gemini PDA is a highly versatile device, and part of the versatility that made it so incredibly popular with Indiegogo backers was its ability to run different versions of the Linux operating system.  Linux is highly useful for many IT Pros and developers but installing it is not a process for the faint of heart.  If you feel brave enough and are confident you know what you’re doing then here are instructions on how you can install Debian Linux on your Gemini.

IMPORTANT: Please follow these instructions precisely, as incorrectly flashing your Gemini PDA can render it unusable.

Prequisites

There are a few things you’ll need to install Debian Linux on your Gemini and you’ll want to keep everything organised.  Make a folder on your PC. We will put all files here, so give it a recognizable name (GeminiPDA, for instance).

Download the following items to the folder you have created

Unzip the Android Firmware and Debian Linux Firmware (.zip) files by opening them and clicking the Extract Files button on the ribbon that appears in File Explorer.

Step-by-step Installation Guide

  • Install FlashTool Drivers: Open its folder, then open the “Install” sub-folder, and run the install.bat file

  • Open FlashTool: Open its folder, then open the flash_tool sub-folder, and run the flash_tool.exe file

  • If this is the first time running the FlashTool, it will give a warning about about a missing scatter file. You can dismiss this to continue.
  • You’ll now see five tabs next to an image reading MT6797. The tabs are called Welcome, Format, Download, Readback and Memory Test.
  • Go to the ‘Readback‘ tab, you’ll see four buttons reading Add, Remove, Read Back and Stop. click the ‘Add‘ button.  A line will appear in the open field below.
  • Click the ‘Read Back‘ button, connect your device to your computer using USB-C cable and (re)start it.  The NVRAM backup will then be saved to the FlashTool folder.

  • Click the ‘Download’ tab
  • You’ll now see Download/Stop buttons and below that, three rows. Click ‘Choose’ at the end of the ‘Scatter-loading File’ row

  • Open the ‘Gemini_Debian_TP’ folder and open the ‘Gemini_Debian_TP_Scatter’ text file
  • (Optional: TWRP. Only flash this is you want to use custom ROMs or have an easy way to backup and restore your complete device.)
    At ‘recovery’ location path, click and select TWRP’s recovery
  • (Optional: root access. This will allow read/write access to /system. If you do not know what root access is, or why you would need it, do not flash it.)
    At ‘boot’ location path, click and select rooted boot-verified.img
  • Below the three lines, there’s a selection box reading ‘Download Only’. Click on the box. On the drop-down menu, select ‘Firmware Upgrade’ instead of ‘Download Only’
  • Click the ‘Download’-button at the top of the tab
  • Make sure your Gemini is turned off and then connect it to your PC with USB-C cable, you will hear the “da-donk” sound when the connection has been successfully made
  • The selected firmware items will now download to your device. Wait until FlashTool is finished and dismiss the prompt when it’s finished

You can now boot your Gemini into Android, Linux (and optionally, TWRP). Booting into each of these requires a separate operation, clarified below.

Android: by holding down the ESC key for a few seconds, until the device vibrates
Linux: hold down ESC until after vibrate and only release 1-2 seconds after screen turns on
TWRP: hold down silver side button + ESC until 1-2 seconds after screen turns on (this may be different for some international variants of the Gemini)

If you want to flash LineageOS, transfer the “lineage-14.1-[build date]-UNOFFICIAL-geminipda.zip”-file onto your Gemini PDA and boot into TWRP, as specified above. Once there, click ‘Install’, select the mentioned .zip-file and swipe to install. Reboot after it finishes.


Wytse teaches mathematics in high school, to both junior and senior levels, and has many years experience with the Android ecosystem.  He considers himself an ‘enthusiast’ in generally anything tech.

5 Comments

  1. Vasanth Vasanth

    Can I make a phone call / SMS on the debian install, even if i completely flash the android?(is that even allowed?)

    I just found this wonderful piece of hardware and I’d prefer to use just linux on it.

    • peepuk peepuk

      The community has to come up with solutions for phone calls, SMS ,4G and MALI GPU; that will take some time.

      The reason is that hardware manufactures usually don’t like to support open source drivers for their products, especially for phone related stuff. Phones are for big companies much more interesting (financially) if they can spy on you.

      The first solutions will probably all use the current android-kernel and use a compatibility wrapper for the hardware drivers.

      Luckily Planet Computers are as open as they can be (boot loader is open source).

  2. Very nice guide.
    The booting process detailed in the guide only works for the very first Linux image. Since then it has been changed to the following:

    Android-only firmware
    – Press Esc (On) for a few seconds to turn ON the unit and boot into Android
    – Press Esc (On) and side button and keep pressed both buttons until the screen turns ON to boot in recovery mode. At this stage the recovery mode is disabled and you will see a droid image with a red triangle and a “No command” text.

    Dual boot Android-Linux firmware
    – Press Esc (On) for a few seconds to turn ON the unit and boot into Android
    – Press Esc (On) and side button at the same time until the screen turns ON to boot into Linux
    – Press Esc (On) and keep pressing the button until the screen turns ON to boot in recovery mode. At this stage the recovery mode is disabled and you will see a droid image with a red triangle and a “No command” text.

  3. Bob Dunlop Bob Dunlop

    Can the install be performed using linux tools? OpenOCD or JTAG spring to mind.

    Don’t have any Windows devices in this household.

  4. Milan Votava Milan Votava

    NVRAM backup:

    “•If this is the first time running the FlashTool, it will give a warning about about a missing scatter file. You can dismiss this to continue.”

    In my case, if I don’t specify the scatter file, I get an alert “Please load a scatter file before execution” when pressing “Read Back” button. The read back process can’t be initiated. Only if I load a scatter file prior the read back, I can complete the backup. Is the assumption that you don’t need the scatter file correct?

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