Chumby – A Hacker’s Microcosm

I got a Chumby as a holiday gift; it’s really cool and really hackable.

The good:

  • Hardware and software is open-source.
  • Runs Linux.
  • Very easy to hack: SSH, BusyBox, lighttpd, Ruby, etc.
  • Two USB ports.
  • Audio out (internal speakers sound amazingly good for their size).
  • Built-in microphone (haven’t figured out how to use it).
  • Can play FLAC files from USB drive.

The bad:

  • It’s very difficult to get it to show pictures off a USB drive. The only way apparently is to install a local HTTP server and use a widget: http://www.discarded-ideas.org/chumby/photoframeusb
  • Flash widgets/apps only — Flash is not open-source.
  • Switching between widgets and channels is fiddly.
  • One button is not enough considering widgets take up the whole screen modally.
  • It needs more RAM. 64MB is just barely enough.

Below is the “Virtual Chumby” showing my “Clocks” channel:

Overall it’s a very cool device. Right now it’s in the bedroom but it’s too useful to sit there as an alarm clock.

At some point I’d like to try to interface a small webcam to it.

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