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Wikipedia In Your Pocket, $99 412

An anonymous reader notes the announcement by Sean Moss-Pultz (Openmoko, Inc.) of a new geek device: The $99 WikiReader. All of Wikipedia in your pocket with no Internet connection required. Works in bright sunlight. 3-button interface. You can update the information in the WikiReader either by mail (they ship a microSD card) or by downloading a 4+ GB file.
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Wikipedia In Your Pocket, $99

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @03:47PM (#29735895)

    Finally we have a hitch hiker's guide to Earth!

    • by Yvan256 ( 722131 )

      Damn, foiled again by AC!


    • by jDeepbeep ( 913892 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @03:51PM (#29735935)
      [citation required]
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Rockoon ( 1252108 )
        [citation mostly harmless]
      • Re:citation please (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Tacvek ( 948259 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @07:15PM (#29738901) Journal

        This is just as good a place as any to ask about the support of templates in this device. Important components of some articles are generate by templates. One example is the infamous [citation needed] text, which is generated by the "{{cn}}" template. Other times, important words in a sentence are used as a argument for a template, to produce some from of link automatically.

        Some other mobile Wikipedia solutions, such as one I saw for the iPhone, just ignore templates. That means that important words in a sentence could potentially be omitted. In some cases, entire sections of an article may be omitted. I consider that extremely problematic.

        Assuming they are properly supported, are references supported? In few articles I've seen the feature used for general footnotes in addition to references, and having those disappear could be problematic.

        What about the LaTeX math equations? A lot of mathematical and Computer Science articles become completely worthless if those are omitted, but including them means included quite a few generated images for some of the more complex ones that cannot be rendered as html.

        And what about the ez-timeline extention. Are the images that it generates included?

        What about the hieroglyphics that articles may include by way of the wikihiro extention?

        I would not be willing to use a static mobile Wikipedia that did not support templates, references, tables, external links, LaTeX equations.

        Other people might insist that the categories pages be included, and that time lines and hieroglyphics be supported.

    • by gEvil (beta) ( 945888 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @03:54PM (#29735987)
      Finally we have a hitch hiker's guide to Earth!

      WTF are you talking about? Everything important to say about Earth can be summed up in two words.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Shakrai ( 717556 )

        Everything important to say about Earth can be summed up in two words.

        Is 'manbearpig' three words, one word or two halves of a word? ;)

      • I think they should have stuck with the one... since the universe is apparently blocking our attempts from discovering its secrets.

      • by popo ( 107611 )

        More importantly, the answer to everything in the universe can be summed up in two digits.

        • by xaxa ( 988988 )

          More importantly, the answer to everything in the universe can be summed up in two digits.

          Real geeks use 110 digits. The answer to everything is 101010.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Yvan256 ( 722131 )

            101010. Light side (something) and dark side (nothing). Three of each, like the sides of a triangle. Like two triforces, one good and one evil, balancing each other, Yin and Yang.

            The Universe is at peace with itself.

      • You said, "WTF are you talking about? Everything important to say about Earth can be summed up in two words." I'd say you pretty much summed up earth in the first three letters of your response.
    • Given the content of Wikipedia, I'd say this is "mostly harmless"...
  • While "WikiReader" explains in one made-up word what the device actually is, they should have tried to get bonus nerd points and get the trademark rights to sell it as "The Guide".

  • by pv2b ( 231846 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @03:49PM (#29735913)

    With ubiquitous cellular broadband practically everywhere (that matters) and phones with good web browsers in them, this is a solution looking for a problem.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @03:54PM (#29735977)

      Three points to consider:

      - It's openmoko based, so it's extremely hackable.
      - It uses standard AAA batteries. I can't overstate how important this is to me.
      - No contract, hard copy of reference information, safe to give to a kid.

      This seems like a good gift solution for

      a. hackers
      b. travelers
      c. parents

      • by mmontour ( 2208 ) <mail@mmontour.net> on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @05:01PM (#29737003)

        Three points to consider:
        - It's openmoko based, so it's extremely hackable.

        [citation needed]

        It's produced by some of the Openmoko people but it's a very different software stack that shares little (if any) code with their phones. It doesn't run Linux.

        Source code is available (seems to be at http://code.google.com/p/wikipediardware/ [google.com]) so there is some potential for hacking and community development, but so far I haven't thought of any interesting applications except for an e-book reader. It doesn't have any of the interesting peripherals that come with the Freerunner (WiFi, GPS, accelerometer, USB, etc).

        I do appreciate the AAA batteries and the sunlight-readable screen. Those are the reason that I'm still using my Palm III to read science-fiction magazines.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Zeussy ( 868062 )

        This seems like a good gift solution for

        a. hackers
        b. travelers
        c. parents

        d. Trivia Night husslers

    • I found the problem for the solution! It's called "Airplane Mode". I suspect a related problem may also exist in the wilderness, on the ocean, or places with underdeveloped network infrastructure!
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      it strikes me as a good solution for people who don't (and don't want to) pay $150/mo in phone plan charges.

      or for people for whom battery life is a concern.

    • We don't all want to pay for data plans.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Well it found a problem. Specifically, my problem.

      I was reflecting on how I would like to throw some money their way, but don't really want to donate and don't really need CD's.

      I don't have a dataplan on my phone and don't want one.

      This device is perfect. I will own one.

    • by FlyingBishop ( 1293238 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @04:18PM (#29736351)

      yeah, there's no use for an encyclopedia with detailed information on all edible plants out in the middle of nowhere where there's no cell access.

      and you couldn't possibly find yourself in a situation where you need information but can't access your wireless, despite being in a 'covered' area, cell phone coverage is, practically, perfect.

      Oh, also, power outages. Infrastructure is all well and good, but having all the knowledge you need about the world around you at your fingertips regardless of the state of the outside world is great.

      I'd say the places that matter the most are precisely the places that don't have cell access.

    • by erice ( 13380 )

      Don't travel international much, do you?

      When you can get cell service (i.e., not in a wilderness area), you often can not get data.
      When you can get data, it won't be affordable.
      If you haven't converted to local plan (sim locked phone?), you may as well just leave your phone turned off because international roaming fees will eat you alive.

    • by fiannaFailMan ( 702447 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @05:00PM (#29736987) Journal

      No wireless. Less space than a Nomad. Lame.

  • Great! Now I can regale and browbeat others with authoritative sounding misinformation wherever I go. Cafe discourses and dinner discussions will never be the same again!

  • by tylersoze ( 789256 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @03:50PM (#29735925)

    It's called an iPhone. :)

    • Mine's called k700i... But I often refer to it as Bob.

    • There have been various Rockbox and iPodLinux packages available for this for several years. You can get an old iPod or other device and burn your own for a fraction of the cost of this new device. Maybe not as efficient, but certainly cheaper. I'm going to do this on an old iPod Mini.
    • by sowth ( 748135 ) * on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @04:18PM (#29736361) Journal

      How much did your iphone cost? Does it run on batteries you can buy anywhere for cheap? According to the website this device runs on AAAs.

      This sounds like a great little cheap device. If I can make and load my own articles (the site said something about updating with a flash card), then it could be useful for me. If this is programmable (open source mentioned) and has a touch screen like it appeared (video had someone typing search in a touch-screen keyboard), then it could have all sorts of uses. If you are rich enough to buy an iPhone, then obviously this device is not for you.

  • So this is ... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by CannonballHead ( 842625 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @03:52PM (#29735955)
    An encyclopedia in the form of an e-book for $99. Sorry if I'm not too excited...
    • If it truly is an eReader for $99 that's actually pretty sweet, but otherwise, yeah, a bit of a snoozer. I can jump online with my CDMA phone (YES; I'm going GSM soon) and peruse wp at any time. AND transfer a 4G file to update the thing? Forget that. Makes it useless. Here's a hint guys: INCREMENTAL UPDATE. Hardly cutting-edge technology. Get it together, inventors.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        I was using it very loosely... as in a non-paper book. :)

        IMO, not only is the hardware somewhat lacking, I'm not sure I even want a wikipedia reference. Why not something somewhat authoritative? Wikipedia is alright and all, but there are definite issues with it once you get outside of certain to pics. Not that other encyclopedia's are perfect, but at least they have trained/educated editors and researchers that are presumably paid to be good at it.

        When I wrote research papers in college, it seems to me

        • Re:So this is ... (Score:4, Insightful)

          by oh2 ( 520684 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @04:14PM (#29736297) Homepage Journal
          There is a lot of research about wikipedia and its veracity going on. You can look at Episteme [eupjournals.com] for instance that did a themed issue about the social web where Wikipedia figures prominently. I have also read research papers where they establish that the information in Wikipedia generally is as good as or better than encyclopedica brittannica. Dont knock the wikis.
    • Beats paying a grand for every edition you have to throw away when it becomes dated. Beats buying a Kindle. Beats paying for data on cellular. I might buy one just because you're not excited.

    • An encyclopedia in the form of an e-book for $99. Sorry if I'm not too excited...

      I bought a nice new 30-volume Britannica in 1983 (leather-bound dead trees). It cost considerably more than $99, and is no longer up-to-date. It still resides on my bookshelves, but rarely gets consulted any more. This is one of the few cases where the ebook is actually superior to the dead-tree version, as it can be kept up-to-date, while the dead-tree version progressively loses relevance over decades.
      My only gripe about this ebook is that a few GB seems too little. I have not tried to httrack wikipedia'

  • by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <eldavojohnNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @03:53PM (#29735967) Journal
    Love the idea but I'm a little cautious of Wikipedia's search engine. Not sure if they're rendering the php the same way and using MediaWiki's built in search engine but I have problems with that if they are. For instance if I search for hottest pepper [wikipedia.org] the answer is the seventh result. On Google, it's the second result but also found in the first (being on the page for Scoville scale on Wikipedia).

    The time this would be really useful to me is when I get into arguments at bars or restaurants with friends. I'm a bit concerned about how well the search part of this device will work for that, I'd probably need to rethink a lot of my searches to start at an obvious Wikipedia page and then lead me to my answer.

    Probably wonderful for just reading through Wikipedia on a bus or plane though, too bad it doesn't seem to have the images, videos or audio.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I can guarantee you they're not actually running MediaWiki on PHP. It would make no sense to run a web browser and a web server and a database server just for one embedded device. It's probably just some basic firmware reading data off a flash chip.

    • The search is just going off of the words used in the article. You'll notice all the results before the answer when you searched for "hottest pepper" contains text that says "one of the Xth hottest peppers in the world". The answer (Naga Jolokia pepper) uses the phrasing hottest chili (and thus if you search for "hottest chili" it is the top result).
    • The time this would be really useful to me is when I get into arguments at bars or restaurants with friends.

      My friends would laugh at me citing Wikipedia. Real Geeks use authoritative references.

      You know you're in a Real Geek argument when the geek in question has a better library on the topic than any library within 100 miles (except maybe a college specializing in the topic), and half the books are on the table, floor, and any other handy horizontal surface during the debate.

  • a 4G+ file? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by loftwyr ( 36717 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @03:53PM (#29735969)
    Have these people never heard of a diff? How about just letting me download the changes! The Wiki can tell them what they are.

    That's worse than useless if I have to redownload all of wikipedia to keep it up to date.

    Luckily I have a smart phone with internet access.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Tyler Eaves ( 344284 )

      The file on the device is probably compressed in a way that makes a diff impractical.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by PCM2 ( 4486 )

        That still sounds like a design flaw. In the worst-case scenario, the problem should be that the device doesn't have enough CPU and extra storage space to uncompress the archive and apply the diffs. Even in that case, I should be able to offload the current archive version to my PC, apply the diffs there, and then load it back onto the device.

        • Really, in the end blame Wikipedia for not producing diffs. Storm in a teakettle...
          Is 4GB really such an imposition these days? That's about 40 minutes of downloading. How long do you think making many many changes to a heavily compressed 4GB archive on your PC is going to take...never mind two-transfer of 4GB of stuff over USB or whatever.

          • by PCM2 ( 4486 )

            Is it really 40 minutes of downloading for the kind of people who thing this device is more attractive/affordable than a mobile phone with a data plan?

    • I thought Wikipedia had several terabytes of data, so maybe 4gigs *is* just the changes.

      Could be totally wrong tho.

      • Re:a 4G+ file? (Score:4, Informative)

        by Abstrackt ( 609015 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @04:34PM (#29736583)
        A compressed image of Wikipedia is about 4 gigs (last time I downloaded one anyway). That's just the text of the articles though. From what I hear, the pictures add about 600-700 gigs. Now, if you include revision history, discussion, etc. then you'll get into the terabytes, but if you're just building a local mirror you can fit the whole thing on one drive.
  • Don't Panic (Score:4, Funny)

    by lothos ( 10657 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @03:53PM (#29735973) Homepage

    Finally, the HHGG in your pocket.

    Does it come with a towel, or do I need to provide my own?

  • According to the rules of open source... all derivative works must also be open source.

    This is hardware. Does that mean that the design, specifications and technology used are also open source?

  • "That's IT?!"

    "Well, it's a large galaxy, and there's not a lot of space in the book."

    Really, someone should start a HHGTTG-pedia based on HHGTTG canon, and WikiPedia standards for alternate content.

  • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @03:56PM (#29736033) Homepage Journal

    The form factor is a bit wonky. Adding just a little more functionality would have made it worth twice as much. Right now it looks like you have to depend on the community to provide delta-updates, they want you to dump 4GB. There are numerous tools [makeuseof.com] for gathering your own wiki subset.

  • Updates (Score:2, Interesting)

    Their website is going to host 4GB update files for this gizmo. I can imagine them crawling under bandwidth costs shortly. Why not use bittorrent?
  • by lobiusmoop ( 305328 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @04:00PM (#29736109) Homepage

    Obligatory xkcd [xkcd.com]

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I have an iPhone. I already have Wikipedia in my pocket.

    Of course, thanks to AT&T, its more like "I usually have Wikipedia in my pocket." :-)

  • The Website (Score:4, Funny)

    by oahazmatt ( 868057 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @04:06PM (#29736189) Journal
    The website looks like it was put together in a matter of minutes. I'm having "Netscape Composer" flashbacks.

    I clicked "Media". I stopped looking for information when I saw the picture of the old man "researching" Megan Fox.
    • You should have stayed there for just a bit longer.

      Then you would have also noticed the white, bespectacled woman in her 50s "researching" Snoop Dog.
      And that 6-year-old WikiReader poster child reading about string theory.

      I did not click on the links to see the videos though.
      I prefer the version I got in my head, where Will Smith bursts in and shoots that kid before it starts some shit. [youtube.com]

  • Got a Kindle already (Score:3, Informative)

    by Profane MuthaFucka ( 574406 ) <busheatskok@gmail.com> on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @04:07PM (#29736207) Homepage Journal

    Wikipedia online plus Google, the interwebs, and books too.

  • They could have done more with the device at that price point.

  • lame joke (Score:4, Funny)

    by Daimanta ( 1140543 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @04:14PM (#29736299) Journal

    Is that the largest encyclopedia in the world for just $99 in your pants or are you just happy to see me?

  • Too little, too late, too expensive.

  • in large friendly letters, of course.
  • Project Gutenberg (Score:4, Informative)

    by vlm ( 69642 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @04:39PM (#29736645)

    Somebody please hack it to contain the complete works of Project Gutenberg, or at least a worthwhile subset.

  • by Tekfactory ( 937086 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @04:46PM (#29736763) Homepage

    Seriously, my iPod touch has the capacity to store the 4GB data file and render the content just fine.

    So why can't I have an offline copy of Wikipedia AND take Diff files of the changes and updates when I am near a Wifi hotspot? Its got the capabilities to do play music, video, and display images so why isn't this the better form factor?

    Also a refurbed iPod touch is $149 with a color screen and rechargeable batteries and it does more than just read Wikipedia.

  • by 7Ghent ( 115876 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @05:42PM (#29737705) Homepage

    1) Huge compendium of human knowledge.
    2) Runs off of commonly available, easily stockpiled batteries
    3) Runs for a whole year off of one set of batteries (swap Lithium for alkaline, it should run for a decade)
    4) Sunlight-readable
    5) Compact, sturdy and durable

    Hell, at those kind of power usage levels, you could hack a small solar cell into it and it should work anywhere you've got sunlight. Imagine a complete breakdown of civilization as we know it. Books are heavy and inconvenient and make good kindling. Without electricity, compact digital forms of information retrieval become impossible. What do we use to rebuild civilization after a couple generations of this send us back to the dark ages? This thing! It's PERFECT.

  • Get It for Free (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @06:58PM (#29738727) Homepage Journal

    Anyone with an Internet connection can download the complete Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] in a compressed file about 5GB (decompresses to about 3TB), or even as SQL or XML. You could probably delete all the non-text content (eg. rm -R /*.jpg) to get something small enough to put on a 4GB Flash card for any smartphone.

    And you could get the updated snapsot a lot more frequently than with this subscription.

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