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August 14, 2007 2:29 AM   Subscribe

How to build a fast offline Wikipedia reader using open-source tools in two days
posted by forwebsites (27 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
You got me all worked up, man. This requires, like, actual programming. I thought it might be something I could throw together with a couple of minutes and a soldering iron.
posted by tehloki at 3:09 AM on August 14, 2007


You'd still need to go online to double-check any fact you were using for anything other than your own amusement.
posted by rhymer at 3:19 AM on August 14, 2007


You could just check your handy portable Britannica-on-a-Linux-iPod or your worldbook-running-on-a-microwave.
posted by tehloki at 3:20 AM on August 14, 2007 [2 favorites]


I really want something like this in a bookshaped touchscreen with 'don't panic' printed on the cover.
posted by darkripper at 3:36 AM on August 14, 2007 [2 favorites]


The Wikipedia backlash meme has just about run it's course. It was a fun exercise in combining anti-intellectual luddite feelings with sneering elitism and character assasination, and, hey, bra-vo, it worked, Wikiality, woo! Colbert, a millionaire member of the traditional media slanders competing new medium, and gets his viewers to do it, too! Film at 11. Everyone's now an edgy cynic, revolution in the air, down with Jimbo, hooray! I can see how it's hard to let go.

Meanwhile, the rest of us are using it to look up stuff again.

I mean, if you really don't want to know the difference between a left outer join and a right outer join after less than three seconds worth of searching, that's OK. Oreilly will gladly take your fifty bucks for a poorly indexed SQL manual to protect you from Wikiality. Have at it, tiger.
posted by Slap*Happy at 3:48 AM on August 14, 2007 [9 favorites]


What's really cute about this is that USB flash drives are now easily available in 8GB, and this whole thing will fit in less than 3. Wikipedia on your keyring!
posted by flabdablet at 3:49 AM on August 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


The Wikipedia backlash meme has just about run it's course.

This doesn't really have much to do with backlash. It's a fairly honest appraisal of wikipedia's limits. As a member of the (boo-hiss) old media, I could wind up in court if I write something untrue. Of course I still use wikipedia; it's a good first port of call. But I do double check pretty much everything I use from it (for example biographical details). And, from experience, I'd be nuts not to.
posted by rhymer at 4:09 AM on August 14, 2007


/. filter?
posted by nielm at 4:17 AM on August 14, 2007


I could wind up in court if I write something untrue.

lol
posted by DU at 4:23 AM on August 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


I wish I had this last time I went camping. The tarantulas will eat me, but I can eat the bright green hissing spiders, or vice versa?

"By installing the developer tools (Python, Perl, Php (the big ones) and xapian and django (the little ones)", plus a LAMP system, a C++ compiler, all the basic libraries I am sure will be missing or conflicting, a good Subversion install, and to actually understand what I am doing, working knowledge of C++, perl, *nix. These are going to be a very long 2 days.

When will this be available as a nice package that you just install into yout thumb drive, and autoupdates once in a while?
posted by Dataphage at 4:24 AM on August 14, 2007


From the more informative Slashdot post. "(6) Orders of magnitude faster to install (a matter of hours) compared to loading the 'dump' into MySQL — which, if you want to enable keyword searching, takes days."

Even in the link above the guy indicates that most of the two days was taken up by looking around for the tools he needed, not by actually creating the local copy.
posted by oddman at 4:38 AM on August 14, 2007


You could just check your handy portable Britannica-on-a-Linux-iPod

I have Britannica on my laptop, but I find it's a waste of time next to Wikipedia, which I really really want on my laptop. Generally, if I need depth of information, I wouldn't be consulting an encyclopedia, I'd be consulting something with more depth, and so when I need a question answered, Wikipedia always seems to have the answer in the first paragraph of the top-search-result page, whereas Brittanica has it hidden in the middle of a waffling entry on a closely related subject that takes a lot of searching to find.

I think the main differences are that wikipedia is written by people like me, so it orders the presentation of the information in a way more far intuitive for me to find specifics, and it's newer, so the articles are written from a more modern perspective than the legacy-texts of Britannica.

I don't know if I'm tech-savvy enough to pull off this scary-complex sounding proceedure to get an offline wikipedia, but I might try to find out the hard way :)
posted by -harlequin- at 4:46 AM on August 14, 2007


What's really cute about this is that [...] this whole thing will fit [...] on your keyring!

Cute? How about a crown of human endeavour and industry?

Also, what Slap*Happy said.

I'd appreciate if there was an automated sort of version for the lazy/non-technical crowd, though.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 4:53 AM on August 14, 2007 [2 favorites]


Now that's what I call Best of the Web! Great post!
posted by RussHy at 4:57 AM on August 14, 2007


You mean there are times when people are actually disconnected from the Internet and can't just use Wikipedia directly?

Weird.
posted by Zinger at 5:06 AM on August 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


I could wind up in court if I write something untrue.

Only if you're in the UK.
posted by smackfu at 5:30 AM on August 14, 2007


I am.
posted by rhymer at 6:03 AM on August 14, 2007


Weird. It's like this guy never heard of the KiwiX tools for creating a fast Wikipedia offline reader, or the ready-to-run version.
posted by majick at 6:44 AM on August 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


The Wikipedia backlash meme has just about run it's course.

As Wikipedia becomes more important in our society it's flaws and problems become more serious. The backlash will continue to get worse as Wikipedia becomes more popular and a more important part of culture.

Citizendium has address some of the glaring problems (anonymity, authority), but it still shares the problem of the honor system which has created a "Culture of Honor" which is inherently uncivil and ultimately anti-intellectual.
posted by stbalbach at 6:45 AM on August 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


The other wikipedia thread on the FP has some interesting stuff to say on this matter.
posted by rhymer at 6:54 AM on August 14, 2007


(Sigh. "...KiwiX tools for creating...")
posted by majick at 7:00 AM on August 14, 2007


Favorited! Thanks.
posted by nzero at 9:30 AM on August 14, 2007


forwebsites: ...using open-source tools...

tehloki: ...a soldering iron...

Sweet! Where did you get an open source soldering iron??
posted by nzero at 9:38 AM on August 14, 2007


You mean there are times when people are actually disconnected from the Internet and can't just use Wikipedia directly?

I'll bite: Yes. Lots and lots and lots of them.

I spent a couple of hours in a coffee shop on Sunday. I was trying to write some stuff. I had some drafts in Google Docs, but guess what: The wifi in the coffee shop was either maxed out on ports or didn't have enough power, and I couldn't get online.

I have been saying for A DECADE now -- yes, holy shit, it's been a WHOLE DAMN DECADE since the last wave of thing-client nonsense rolled around -- that thin clients are a mistaken concept, unless they have some kind of caching mechanism. And wouldn't you know, Google is now down with that, as are many of the other "software as service" vendors.

So, all that carping aside, I do think we're finally entering a time when devices that require a connection in order to work right are viable. It will be just a few more years before many major US cities have civic broadband. (Though in the tradition of the old rural phone coops, the small towns might actually get there first.) Caching, though: IT's not just for "no broadband" -- it's also for "not-safe broadband." And there's lots and lots of that out there.
posted by lodurr at 10:49 AM on August 14, 2007


You'd still need to go online to double-check any fact you were using for anything other than your own amusement.

Sure, if I'm a journalist writing about diabold voting machines and how they effect Scientologists. But there's way more inside Wikipedia than that. If I need to quickly look something up about the C Preprocessor, or need the math to do a Line-plane intersection, it's all in one place.

As for using it for my own amusement, then it's the best collection of pop culture knowledge ever assembled. Sometimes you need to know what Homer's pet lobster was named, and old media just isn't there for you. :)
posted by Gary at 1:56 PM on August 14, 2007


Sweet! Where did you get an open source soldering iron??

Wikipedia of course!
posted by -harlequin- at 10:03 PM on August 14, 2007


I was starting to work on something similar last month, but decided to settle on something called "Wikipedia for Schools", from http://www.soschildrensvillages.org.uk/charity-news/wikipedia-for-schools.htm . One 792 megabyte download, and unzipping of that 792 Mb file on Win98SE to my 100-gig external hard-drive, and I'm ready for all my finding-out-the-density-of-mercury-while-my- internet-connection-is-down(-and-backup-dialup-connection-
and-internet-via-my-cellphone-are-down) needs.
posted by DataPacRat at 1:34 AM on August 15, 2007


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