Wikipedia Offline Clients for iOS

In my quest to be a little more productive offline, I did a quick comparison of the offline, English-language Wikipedia clients for iOS. This isn’t meant to be exhaustive, yet it probably has some value for someone as I didn’t find anything comprehensive online. The comparison was done in June 2015, and oddly it seems that several have been withdrawn in the 4 months since.

Recommended

  • Minipedia: Largest database has only 250k articles (3.2Gb download) but it’s the only one with the Wikipedia summary tables (they’re generally on the right at the top of the article). Easy to evaluate as there’s a free database that has the top 10,000 articles and shows you which articles are available in the databases that are available (there are 6 different sizes). Seems the database has been updated since June too.

The others

  • Prizma. Hasn’t been updated in 2 years but has a trial database. I found the three-pane layout confusing. Claims to have table support but I couldn’t see the all-important Wikipedia summary tables. Full database download is 7Gb.
  • Wiki Offline 2 (Avocado Hills): I was scared off by the App Store comments about broken downloads and the lack of developer activity. Doesn’t have a free trial or any detail on the developer website so I chose not to evaluate.
  • All of Wiki Offline. No table support. 5Gb database. No longer available on Australian App Store and no developer site.
  • Wiki encyclopedia offline (BitMagic). Last update 2012. No trial. 5Gb download. No longer available in Australian App Store and no developer site.
  • Wiki Offline Free (Orient Light). Downloaded but didn’t work - search didn’t work. Free trial available. No longer available in the Australian App Store and no developer site.

Literacy and Earth Orbit

The Thing That Goes Beep shows the amazing progress that the Soviets made in the 20th century.

The Imperial Russian 1897 Population Census counted the percentage of literate people in all Russia as 28.4%. … In 1926, the literacy program was not performing as well as the Soviets expected. Only 51% of the population over the age of ten was now literate. … According to the 1939 Soviet Census, 89.7% of people between the ages of 9 and 49 were literate. During the 1950s, the Soviet Union would achieve a near 100% literacy rate.

And then this…

On April 12, 1961, the spacecraft Vostok 1 was launched. At this point, putting things in space was routine for a nation where the population remembered not being able to read.

Putting someone into Earth Orbit is amazing but the achievement is mind-blowing given the foundation.

As a Westerner, I find it fascinating to hear patriotic stories from a Soviet perspective.

Finding Work-Life Balance

Much has been written about finding work life balance. My 2 cents are simple. You do not reach balance by reducing work. You reach balance by finding a passion that draws you out of work.

Great advice.

From: A Decade at Google

The Night Sky

I got a telescope as a belated 40th birthday present. I had a small telescope as a kid (a generous gift from my parents) and it was sufficient to kindle an interest that lasted 30 years. Don’t underestimate the value of exposing your kids to new hobbies or activities!

The telescope - An 8-inch Dobsonian

Here’s what it looks like. I went into Bintel in Glebe with a $400-500 budget and the intention of buying a reflector telescope (a “traditional” telescope, the same type I had as a kid) but the shop guy helpfully mentioned that once you look at the moon and the planets and a few other objects with a $400-500 reflector, you run out of things to look at. He mentioned that it’s best to get a scope that gathers lots of light and proceeded to show me the Bintel-branded 6-inch and 8-inch Dobsonian. I went with the 8” based on the 90-degree finder scope and that it gathers more light than the 6” - it seems to have been a good choice. I made my decision and when I came back to buy it they didn’t have stock, so I ended up buying from Andrews Communications (the Bintel models are rebranded GSO scopes). The box is big, so be prepared!

Go manual! Quite apart from cost, I made a conscious decision to go with a simple setup. I wanted to learn about the position of objects in the sky rather than press a button and have the scope point there directly. I was happy to manually adjust the scope rather than have a motorised mount (though I’ll probably change at some point in the future - I think it’ll help with keeping the objects in the scope as they move, which will make things more fun).

I’m really happy with my purchase. It’s a little heavy to lug around, but didn’t cost the earth and the night sky is breathtaking when viewed through it.

SkySafari 4 Software

SkySafari on the iPad is an astonishing piece of software. Being able to point at the sky to see what you’re looking at is amazing. It has a great database of objects and the ability to adjust the viewing time (to view the sky as it will be this evening or next month) is amazing. At $4 it’s a no-brainer and comprehensively beats SkyWalk and the other Apps that I’ve seen. It also shows satellites, which are fun topic if you’re viewing the sky near dawn or dusk.

Reading

There’s lots of advice about buying and using telescopes and eyepieces. I found these to be great.

Extra References and Equipment

After a few sessions viewing the night sky, I learnt a few things and made a few changes. You can go nuts and spend a fortune, but I’m trying to use what I have until I know better.

  • Stay warm: ski pants, my Icebreaker base layers, gloves and a small blanket (it’s winter, after all)
  • Viewing is better when you’re sitting: a chair (when looking at objects that are low in the sky) and a bar stool (when objects are overhead)
  • Standard eyepieces are OK for deep space objects (DSOs), but not so good for planetary viewing: A 5mm Orion Edge-On-Planetary eyepiece
  • Deep Space Objects are fun, and seeing more stars on a map helps with navigation: SkySafari Plus (more DSOs and stars to about mag 12)
  • Planning “telescope nights” isn’t just random luck anymore: SkippySky helps me plan ahead based on cloud cover and other factors.
  • Curated lists and charts for Australian skies and background information make it easier to plan, and to discover: Australian Astronomy book

Passion and Profession

From An interview with Dr Ben Goldacre

I have a deep-rooted prejudice which is that if people can talk fluently in everyday language about their job, it strongly suggests that they have fully incorporated their work into their character. They feel it in their belly. There are people with whom you talk about technical stuff and it almost feels like they can only talk about it in a very formal way with their best work face on - as if the information they are talking about has not penetrated within.

I love talking with people that are knowledgeable about their profession. It’s even better if they’re passionate about it. There’s something interesting in every job and you can get the most interesting information if you just ask - builders, surgeons, personal assistants, teachers, and of course IT professionals.

If I ever interview you, know that passion about our profession carries quite some weight… but you don’t need to plan ahead. If you’ve got it, it comes out, and if you don’t then that comes out too, even if you try to manufacture it 1


  1. I hire from both categories… don’t underestimate the value of diligent, competent career workers. 

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