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Marcin Sochacki (Wanted) Blog, Internet, Technology

» Polish Wikipedia released on DVD!

After a more than a year long wait, the Polish edition of Wikipedia – The Free Encyclopedia was released on DVD disc by Helion. As one of the supporting editors I recently got a free copy of the DVD and a mug, so this is a good occasion to review our job.

The DVD project with Helion Publishing Group was started in June 2006 and most of the articles come from the database dump done at that time. For the following year Wikipedia has obviously grown a lot, new articles were added and old were improved. However, in order to create a decent offline edition, many articles had to be reviewed manually and fixed. It was a never-ending job because about half of the 238000 articles had to be checked. The other half was either created entirely by bots or their sole authors were trusted wikipedians.

The proofreading process was slow and cumbersome; initially only people with a contract from Helion were engaged, but in the end several volunteers also joined in to help. The correction was finished in December 2006 and then most of the time was devoted to technical issues like the installer software, testing and DVD pressing. Finally the disc became available at the end of July 2007. It's a bit of a shame that all the procedures took so long, as the content grows old, but thanks to the experience it should take less in the future. The price is 39 złoty (10 euro) – which is not that low for the Polish market, knowing that all the content is available free on the web. However, part of the income will be donated to Wikimedia Polska Association, which should help Polish Wikipedia grow. It's also worth noting that the Polish DVD edition is only the second such project after the German one. The biggest, English Wikipedia has not yet been fully published on DVD.

The first look on the box gives a good impression. The cover is well done and the DVD disc design is exceptionally nice. The puzzle pieces in Wikipedia logo are slightly convex in touch.

Wikipedia on DVD and a mug

Wikipedia on DVD and a mug

DVD disc

DVD disc

One of the goals for DVD creators was to enable access to the Wikipedia content for everyone, regardless of their operating system. Most of the discs you'll find in shops have pretty strict requirements – in most cases you need to have Microsoft Windows in the recent version, which is naturally non-free. In case of the Polish Wikipedia, all you need is a web browser for basic access, and to run the search application you need Java virtual machine, which is available for all popular operating systems. The encyclopedia works equally well in Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, FreeBSD, Solaris… That's quite an extraordinary approach in the world dominated with commercial software for single platform and it really praiseworthy.

The second important feature of this Wikipedia edition is the possibility to run it directly from disc. You don't have to install anything on the hard drive, which is a useful feature for public library computers for instance.

Let's move on to testing the DVD in Linux. There is a script in the main directory LINUX_START.SH, which we need to execute. By the way – if you see the following message when trying to run it:
bash: ./LINUX_START.SH: /bin/sh: bad interpreter: Permission denied

it most likely means that your DVD is mounted with noexec option. In that case run the script like so:

Linux interface

Linux interface

The search app starts up quicly and works as advertised. Small shortcomings are visible on the screenshot – some captions can't fit in the places provided. This is caused by different widths of characters on various operating systems. A beta version also behaved the same way when I tested it for Olaf on Mac OS X.

When running the Wikipedia directly from DVD, one can sometimes notice a visible lag when loading articles with large number of images. That's because every single object (HTML page, image, math equation) is written as a separate file. There are more than 500000 files total, so it takes a while for the DVD head to find the data on disc. The shortcoming is no longer valid of course, when one copies the encyclopedia to hard disk.

While browsing I also found several other things to improve:

That's all folks. Go buy it if you want and/or join our team of Polish wikipedians.

2007/09/02 18:12 | computers/wikipedia/

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