More Ramblings from a Los Angeles Programmer

November 12, 2007

My very own Hitchhiker’s Guide

Filed under: daily life, technology, uk life — Tags: , , , , — Josh DeWald @ 9:32 am

So I recently bought one of the new iPod Touches (basically, an iPhone without the GSM radio, camera or mic).

It’s cool that it plays music and all, but that’s not what I bought it for. I really was impressed by the way the browser worked and that essentially full-fledged Cocoa applications could be installed onto it.

What I really got it for was so that I can have my dream of an internet-enabled hand-held encyclopedia. I want The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. And now I’m that much closer.

It turns out that there is a “school edition” of Wikipedia, which is a static dump of Wikipedia content that’s been slightly edited and chosen for entries that “appeal to children.” Don’t let that dissuade you, it has an entry on MKULTRA. In their words:

It is about the size of a fifteen volume encyclopaedia (24,000 images and 14 million words), and includes essentially all topics in Wikipedia rated “Good” or higher by Wikipedia itself at date of production. Volunteers at Wikipedia have also suggested more than a thousand other articles considered valuable and relevant to this project which SOS Children volunteers have checked and tidied up.

They have a 750MB download available at Once you de-compress it, you’re left with the exact same thing as what is at the Schools’ version site. Until we truly have ubiquitous, and free, Wi-Fi access (including during flights), this will be an awesome set of information to have on hand.

Unfortunately, Safari on the iPod/iPhone does not support viewing of local files directly with a “file:///” protocol. It reports “Cannot view the page because it is a local file.” It’s a good thing I had already “jailbroken” my iPod, so I just had to install the ‘lighttpd’ web server.

After copying the files to my iPod at /var/root/Sites using WinSCP (you can use any scp program though) into a ‘wikipedia’ directory, I was able to browse to http://localhost/wikipedia on my phone. And voila!

I assume this all works on the iPhone as well as the iPod, as most of the apps are actually meant for the iPhone.

I know this isn’t what Apple intended, yet (they are coming out with the official SDK in February), but if I wasn’t able to do something like this I would not be as pleased with my purchase. I don’t care if there are actually tons of other ways to have a hand-held encyclopedia, how many of them are also a music-playing, mail-synchronizing, calendaring web browser?


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    Pingback by iPhone Native Look and Feel Wikipedia « More Ramblings from a Los Angeles Programmer — November 17, 2007 @ 4:28 pm

  2. I was so crazy-excited about this idea, I didn’t know you could download the whole thing like this. So once you said you got it working on your iPod, I was determined to do the same. Except that I don’t have an iPod. I have a Palm T|X, which is still a 320×480 landscape/portrait touchscreen with wifi and a browser.. so why not right? After some searching and mucking around, I found that you are able to browse local html files in the Blazer (palm os default) browser! w00t! potential! You just have to know the exact path to the file(s). So I yanked my 2GB SD card out of my Wii and threw wikipedia on it.

    works like a freakin charm. omfg I have an entire encyclopedia IN MY POCKET!?! DAMNIT THATS COOL. And I’ve already put it to use.

    I’m also going to be hacking on the stylesheet, as the font is wayyy bigger than it needs to be, and I can clearly read much smaller font on that screen.

    thanks for the most kick ass tip of the week!!

    Comment by neil — November 19, 2007 @ 9:50 pm

  3. Glad I could help 🙂

    That’s pretty awesome that it works on the Palm! I wonder how much battery lighthttpd uses (not much I imagine) so that’s sweet that it’ll let you view the files locally.

    I’ve totally used it while walking places, which is really the point.

    I also want to write some stuff to add new entries to to the downloaded version and update the indexes and whatnot.


    Comment by Josh DeWald — November 19, 2007 @ 10:11 pm

  4. You might have seen this but I’ve been waiting for something like this for a while. Not sure if I like the keyboard at the bottom.

    Comment by Repete — December 7, 2007 @ 6:55 am

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