Technology scribbler, gadget geek, two-fingered typist, Mac user & all round computing nerd...

Chumby, what the heck is that?

Posted by DarrenG on December 29, 2009

I received a Chumby for Christmas, a Classic model to be precise rather than the recently launched ONE but more of that later.

The Chumby is a difficult device to pidgeon hole. It’s a small Linux powered web connected gadget to which you can add up to a 100 ‘widgets’ from a list of thousands available at Chumby’s website.  It is also a streaming web radio and clock/alarm.

It has a 3.5″ colour touch screen, stereo speakers, two USB “A” ports and a unique soft leather shell.

In the canvas bag that it is supplied in comes an international 12v powere adapter with UK and Euro pin adapters, a small getting started guide book and another smaller bag containing three little chumby charms which you can if you choose attach to the side of the Chumby.

Once connected to power and switched on it is a simple matter to configure it to connect to your WLAN and authorise it with Chumby. Then you need to proceed to and add some widgets to your Chumby’s default channel.

The widgets are free and created by Chumby and a growing band of independent Chumby developers.  They encompass a huge range of activities.  There are widgets for hundreds of different clocks, social media apps including Twitter and Facebook, news streams, weather, picture viewers with Flickr integration, games, horoscopes, the list goes on.

Once you have chosen a selection of widgets you can configure how long they appear on your Chumby and also enter usernames/passwords etc where required.

That’s it!  Within a minute or so your Chumby will start displaying your chosen content.  A hidden push button atop the device when pressed takes you to the device control panel where you can quickly delete a widget, lock one so it is visible all the time, switch to radio streaming and other settings.

It all works superbly.  It isn’t a device you ‘need’ but it one that is great fun to have.  Mine is in the lounge and cycles between various clocks, Facebook, Twitter, BBC News, Local Weather and a selection of calendars.

The games are basic but fun and with apps such as Twitter and Facebook you can create and send messages direct from the device using the on screen touch keyboard.  The stereo speakers whilst small are very effective and the Classic can be bought on a range of different leather shell enclosures.

The two rear USB ports can be used to charge devices that use USB and is also available to run development software.  As much of the OS and system is Open Source and Chumby encourage hacking, the possibilities are endless and if you were so inclined you could program this to do whatever you wished.

Which brings me onto the ONE model.  This has a cheaper plastic shell, an FM radio, more internal memory and the provision for a re-chargeable phone battery to run it for short periods away from mains power.  It loses one USB port and is Mono only but cheaper. Personally I liked the oddball leather soft case design of the Classic.

Both models are available in the UK from  Veda.


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