Wikipedia on the Go has arrived

Originally uploaded by bjortklingd

Just two weeks ago I was predicting the arrival of downloadable wikipedia for smart phones. Well it has arrived. The Series 60 Weblog has made available a downloadable wikipedia that can be installed to any S60 platform enabled smartphone.

This is happening to me a lot recently, ideas that I come up with are been invented or created not long after I utter it. Either I am hyper-intune with the current internet connected world or Dilbert writer Scott Adams is onto something when he suggests we are nothing more than badly programmed computer generated holograms. There was even an argument for the latter recently stating that it is statistically more likely that we are computer constructs than living beings.

“But my favorite theory is that I’m nothing but a hologram in a computer program built by my ancient self, before the planet was destroyed by some disaster. The reason I can glimpse my future is that I have all of the qualities of the real me who wrote my program. In other words, I can accurately imagine my future because it is playing out much like I would have authored it myself.”

It kinda reminds me of the type of logic used in the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. Specifically the case where the population of the universe is reasoned to be zero:

“It is known that there are an infinite number of worlds, simply because there is an infinite amount of space for them to be in. However, not every one of them is inhabited. Therefore, there must be a finite number of inhabited worlds. Any finite number divided by infinity is as near to nothing as makes no odds, so the average population of all the planets in the Universe can be said to be zero. From this it follows that the population of the whole Universe is also zero, and that any people you may meet from time to time are merely the products of a deranged imagination.”

Trivia night destroyer – wikipedia on the go

In 1951, or so the story goes, the Guinness book of records was conceived when Sir Hugh Beaver realised that there was no reference book available to answer the question which is the fastest game bird in Europe, the golden plover or the grouse?

Nowadays the Guinness book of records has been superseded by wikipedia and the answer to all question current and arcane, “TO THE WIKIPEDIA!” is a cry heard all to often when a polite conversation degrades in to a slagging match. For the record glass is not a very slowly moving liquid and you can’t see the Coriolis effect in a toilet bowl flush (also dropping sugar into a draining sink does not help determine rotation).

However till now to answer a questions of this type required a computer and an internet link. Which meant that in the rarefied environment of Pub Trivia it has thus far been limited to what was been carried around solely in the competitors heads. This is slowly been eroded away, first mobile phones arrived, so you could ring a friend near a computer to get and answer. Then phones became GPRS enabled allowing internet access which will work, but is expensive. These are slowly been replaced by wifi enabled phones, but then this is currently limited as there may be no access point available (the rule rather than the exception in my experience). Thus far, even though the technology exists and has for a while it is patchy, cumbersome or expensive.

So the solution is simple, instead of trying to get to wikipedia over expensive or patchy infrastructure, why not just bring it with you? An enterprising gentlemen, ttsiod, has written a program that allows him to access a local copy of wikipedia on his laptop. No matter where he goes in the world he always has access, albeit to a static version of the people encyclopedia.

Not many people know that you can download the entire contents of wikipedia, it’s current compressed size is 2.9 GB. After hacking around with few open tools ttsiod is able to browse and keyword search his local wikipedia. Admittedly his current implementation isn’t for the faint hearted. However, how long will it take to port to an even more portable device, like the iPhone (with 8 GB of space) or other smart phone, the N95 for example has a microSD slot and disks sizes already up into the 4GB space.

It will only be a matter of time before all that knowledge can be bubbled down and people will be able to carry the font of human knowledge in their pocket. At that point in time any office argument will be solved in seconds and all trivia night questions are a predictive text search away. Can you smell the future? Are you excited? Are you scared?

Update : Imagine no longer, 2 weeks later, the future is here.