offline worlds

Being on the road during the last week has kept me away from blog­ging. Also, I had pro­blems acces­sing the inter­net / fin­ding an open WLAN hot­spot near­by. Even thought about using this real­ly awe­so­me Back­Track Linux LiveCD which hel­ps to gain access onto locked WEP net­works. Howe­ver, I did­n’t try it becos a) could­n’t initia­li­se the wlan modu­le on my note­book and b) did­n’t have the time to con­fi­gu­re it. I’d love to have this as a vir­tu­al machi­ne on my sys­tem, though. May­be the­re’s an easier way to get this dis­tri­bu­ti­on as a ful­ly loa­ded app­li­an­ce for the vmware play­er.

Spea­king about acces­si­bi­li­ty, I am cur­r­ent­ly try­ing to pre­pa­re my notebook/system for offline use. That is, instal­ling off­line tools that will help me get going whe­re the­re is no or only limi­ted Inter­net access. After all, most Web 2.0 uti­li­ties are nice but they lack one simp­le logic: they only work online and/or requi­re a ser­ver some­whe­re. It would be nice to have this tech­no­lo­gy imple­men­ted in a simp­le ope­ra­ting sys­tem that works much more like a ser­ver. Ins­tead of having a fixed ope­ra­ting sys­tem instal­led on the HDD with various addi­tio­nal pro­gramms, it would be nice to have it run on a vir­tu­al machi­ne — and the instal­led ope­ra­ting sys­tem could be limi­ted down to very basic needs / just pro­vi­de the GUI. Also, I think this will be part of the future — more and more sys­tems being less depen­dent on the actu­al hard­ware, but ins­tead swapa­ble like USB memo­ry sticks. Ima­gi­ne this sce­n­a­rio whe­re you’d take your com­pu­ter with you on a simp­le USB stick (it would run on such a memo­ry stick) and sta­tic data could be added/mounted additionally.

But I digress.

Actual­ly, my dear friend Onno­mo­ja recent­ly went to Sou­thern Sudan and com­p­lai­ned about the lack of inter­net “out the­re in the desert”. Of cour­se, you’d think, of cour­se the­re’s no inter­net out the­re. But then, the­re are a lot of things you’d like to check out while on the road some­whe­re and — being a kid of the­se modern times — we have mean­while beco­me used to just goog­le it or check it out on Wiki­pe­dia and other com­pi­led resour­ces. Hence, what is nee­ded is a way to eit­her sleep for the next 50 years and wait until the earth is ful­ly con­nec­ted, or else check for hel­pful off­line alter­na­ti­ves that are just as acces­si­ble as the inter­net is with it’s various resources.

The fol­lowing two tools seem to be nice for off­line use and I’d be hap­py to read your per­so­nal sug­ges­ti­ons in the com­ment sec­tion to see what kind of tools also do the job off­line when the­re’s no inter­net available.

1. Blog­desk
Blog­desk is a free-of-char­ge (Win­dows) off­line edi­tor for your favou­rite blog sys­tems. Avail­ab­le in dif­fe­rent lan­guages, it comes at a size of ~ 4 MB (WinXP, 2k, 9x) and real­ly hel­ps to pre­pa­re ent­ries when the­re is only a limi­ted times­lot for inter­net access. Com­pi­le your ent­ries off­line and upload them when the con­nec­tion is sta­ble. Modem users will real­ly like this, I think.

2. Lin­go­Pad
I just instal­led this free mul­ti­lin­gu­al dic­tion­a­ry on my sys­tem and all I can say is: WOW! This is exact­ly the kind of pro­gram­me I have been loo­king for — a free, sta­ble litt­le tool that pro­vi­des access to various off­line dic­tio­n­a­ries. Most alter­na­ti­ves are com­mer­cial, some­what expen­si­ve and requi­re lots of sys­tem resour­ces. What I wan­ted is a litt­le tool that instant­ly loads without much hass­le and is as up-to-date as possible.
You know, here in Ger­ma­ny the­re are two gre­at German/English dic­tio­n­a­ries avail­ble online: LEO and Beo­lin­gus — both web­sites run by uni­ver­si­ties (Tech­ni­cal Uni­ver­si­ties of Munich and Chem­nitz) and, unfor­tu­n­a­te­ly, the LEO data­ba­se used for their online dic­tion­a­ry isn’t avail­ab­le for down­load yet. The­se web­sites are gre­at, as they pro­vi­de many many ent­ries for each word — not just simp­le 1:1 trans­la­ti­ons. But then, again, only online. Lin­go­Pad tri­es to chan­ge that, as they are using parts of the TU Chem­nitz dic­tion­a­ry data­ba­se. Great!

lingopad.jpg

And of cour­se, the­re are many other free tools avail­ab­le for off­line use. Just think of email cli­ents or small edi­tors that run direct­ly from the USB memo­ry stick. I won­der why ppl still go online, wri­te emails and actual­ly pay for the time online. Ins­tead, they could rather write/edit their stuff off­line and then use tools on USB sticks to mana­ge their online duties. Just think of various cyber­ca­fés in Kenya and the many USB memo­ry sticks that are cur­r­ent­ly on offer in Nai­ro­bi. Would­n’t it be nice to have an off­line packa­ge of use­ful tools for tho­se users that own no other hard­ware but a simp­le USB stick whe­re they store their data? This would also help to curb the issue of acces­sing cer­tain web­mail pro­vi­ders while in Kenya — some of tho­se pages take ages to load due to various rea­sons and ins­tead of paying for online time (try­ing to open the­se pages and THEN edi­t­ing their emails etc.), they would only pay for the actu­al time it takes to e.g. send & recei­ve emails by using an email cli­ent. Only a few peop­le, I think, are awa­re of the­se pos­si­bi­li­ties. Ama?

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