$100 Portable Wikipedia


OpenMoko, the company behind the FreeRunner open-source phone, released their latest product today: WikiReader. It’s a small mobile device for browsing Wikipedia. Rather than use a wireless network to pull data off of the web, it has local copy of the database on a 8GB microSD card. This approach has been used before, and it lets the WikiReader be compact and really cheap. It uses a Kindle-esque touch-screen display that allows it to run on 3 AAA’s for about a year. The device itself costs just $99, but you can choose to receive updates by snail mail for just $29/year. Alternatively, you can just download the +4GB file and dump it on the card.

Like the FreeRunner, this project is also open-source. The code isn’t available yet, but they say it will be released soon. With luck, the device will be really easy to hack.

78 thoughts on “$100 Portable Wikipedia

  1. So looking at the source code, this is a minimal (!!) Linux kernel, with a Forth application doing the leg work. Compression is with LZO.

    My suspicion would be that it boots from the SDCard, so alternate devices would not work (unless they contain some memory feature).

    The compilation of the data is done through a series of scripts to harvest, parse, catalogue the data. I’m guessing that this could be done with any content, such as WikiTravel for example.

    Looks ‘sweet’, but I’d like to see how good the screen is before shelling out $100

  2. Some pictures on there website are indicating LCD… WHY??? If they just concern of power… e-ink would be the much better option. The new epson driver for e-ink makes really progress in terms of speed.

    Furthermore, I don’t think wikipedia text only is really helpful. Any scientific content will hardly unsusable without pictures…
    They only left them out but do not change the text…
    Many content will be like, “as you can see on the picture blablabla”… but there will be no picture. I would propose download the whole wikipedia including picture and rescale and reduce the picture to grayscale to save space… if it comes to be <16GB thats fine

    So whats left as other mentioned … a little device which is easy hackable due to the embedded Linux. 99$ for something with this potential is not a bad offer. However, WE NEED E-INK !!!

    @rasz: Actually I described the only PDA which really was a Personal Digital Assistance.

    PSION 5MX Pro….

    Why nobody comes up with this form and quality again….

  3. in after dont panic, i need to buy a zipit z2, they are $50, support micro sdhc(ie, bigger than 2 gigs) and run linux out of the box, can be reflashed to a more user unfriendly gui as well, but why hasnt it been done yet?????
    seriously people, why dont we all have zipitpedias?

  4. You critics seem to be forgetting about the battery life on this thing, vs. a Nintendo DS, PSP, etc.. I think this is a great idea. This would be especially handy in emergency situations when power and internet connectivity are unavailable. Or the day civilization crashes to a halt and the lone survivors need access to scientific information. True, I think $99 may be a little high for the type of hardware being sold. I think $50 to $60 would be more reasonable.

    I would, however, be interested in seeing what kind of games I could write for it!

  5. This looks like it has awesome potential. Sure, it needs work–I can think of a whole list of features it would need to have before I’d spend $99 on it–but it’s a step in the right direction, especially with that battery life!

    As for the list, let’s see… Picture support; maybe a built-in hard drive with a few hundred gigs of space; e-ink screen, to cut down battery life, making up for the hard drive’s consumption; Ethernet jack/Wi-fi to automatically update the Wikipedia database when an internet connection is available; other wikis besides Wikipedia; etc.

    How hard can it be? :D

  6. If I’m going to pay money for something I’d want a real, researched, and fact checked encyclopedia for hardware I already own (like Britannica for Mobipocket). Free Wikipedia for windows mobile on a SD card would do as well.

    And sorry but no, Wikipedia is NOT just as good as a real encyclopedia. It’s just easier.

  7. I own one of these and really like it.

    First of all, it uses two AAA batteries, not three.
    Second, it uses one SD card, not two.
    Third, the screen is about as readable as the original Palm Pilot.
    Finally, you can update it for $29 which gives you a new SD card, or you can download it for no charge and update it yourself. It’s not the same file you can download from Wikimedia but it is free.

    The “Random” button is my favorite feature of this device.

  8. I don’t see the need for a specific device for that purpose. I’m using WikiPock which does exactly the same thing (offline Wikipedia access) from my BlackBerry (and btw in different languages)

  9. I received my WiKiReader yesterday. I love it so far. It has amazingly rigid build quality and looks like it can easily take some abuse. There are a lot of reasons why someone would want something like this. First off, my cellphone is doing good to last a full work day on a single charge, loading up wikipedia on its browser if not on 3G can be really slow and cellular connections can be spotty. Even in big cities it can get spotty depending on the load the surrounding towers are having to deal with. Yes, it would be nice if they update its firmware in the future to allow for images to be displayed and greyscale dithering done on the LCD for them. But its not a huge loss. Its wonderful to be able to see something, wonder about it, pop this out of my pocket and in an instant have the entire article about it. It does its one thing, and does is extremely well. If you don’t find it interesting or useful, then you arent in the market for it. So stop bitching about whatever X features it doesn’t have.

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