As you explore the world, how many times have you needed an odd bit of information that you didn’t have on hand? Maybe it’s the population of Senegal or the characteristics of a certain type of plant or details on the literary career of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Whatever the information, it’s probably somewhere on Wikipedia (http://www.wikipedia.org), currently the largest online encyclopedia in the world.
You probably already know about Wikipedia and its various offshoots, but what you might not know is that there’s a way you can take all that information on the road with you without having to worry about finding an internet connection. You just need a few things, a piece of software, and Wikipedia itself.
The first thing you will need is a Palm or Pocket PC type PDA. We discussed the Intermec CN3 a few months back as an example of a very high-end ruggedized version of a Pocket PC phone and we’ll likely be examining one or two more in the next few issues. For this purpose, any relatively recent PDA with a memory card slot will work.
The second thing you need is a compatible memory card of suitable size. For the stripped down, text only version of the Wikipedia, you’ll need a two gigabyte card, while the version with pictures requires a minimum of four gigabytes of storage.
Lastly, you’ll need Tomeraider version three (found at http://www.tomeraider.com), a $38 software package made for viewing indexed text files. A trial version is available for download. With this software, you get access to various instructional, entertainment, and informational texts including various dictionaries, guides to outdoor survival, and so on. In addition, it allows you to use an indexed version of Wikipedia.
Wikipedia itself can be found at http://infodisiac.com/Wikipedia/index.html where an older version can be downloaded for free or a recent version with graphics can be purchased on DVD for between $30 and $40. When you’re getting ready to download this, be aware that it is a very large file and will take some time to arrive.
Once everything is installed, using Wikipedia with Tomeraider is fairly straightforward. On starting Tomeraider, you will be prompted to open a file. When you select Wikipedia, the main index appears with a search box in the lower corner. This allows you to do a search of the topics that are available. While not as flashy as the web version, this no-frills search will effectively take you to the topic you’re looking for nine times out of ten.
The most exciting thing about this combination of products is not the interface, but the sheer quantity of information that is readily available to you with a few click of a stylus or the press of a button. Within the index are literally millions of pages of text with information covering every topic imaginable. The convenience and power of this as a tool is tremendous.