1 (edited by skada 2007-11-14 13:08:41)

Topic: Review after a week with the Chumby

I don't have a blog, or I'd post it there, but this is my blog-style review:

(I wanted to wait a week before I posted this, and now I'm glad I did, as my router was actually the source of most of my problems. I changed the channel on my router and moved it a bit, and all of the sudden the Chumby is near rock-solid as far as the wireless connection.)

Overall, I'm really happy with the Chumby. I first really noticed this when, after a few days of playing with it, I put it in the my kid's room for a day. I missed it quite a bit. It's now on kitchen duty, and it's a great diversion while getting food ready and washing the dishes.

Out of the bag
My first thought when I opened the shipping package and saw the very nice linen bag, was, "what a waste of packaging". I personally still feel this way, although I could see how people may think otherwise. But, I brought this up on the Chumby forums, and was surprised to get a response from Mr. Chumby himself, Steve Tomlin.

The actual device is very nice looking and feeling, and fits in well in my kitchen. It's softer than I imagined. I also like that the Chumby name is subtly stamped (?) into the back of the device. The screen is big enough, though it seems they could have fit another half inch or so without changing the whole shape of the device (though probably not the price...). And, a little thing, but I also like that the name "Chumby" is written on the power plug - makes it easier to find the right plug if you're moving, especially.

Setting the Chumby up was frustrating for me, but that was most likely my fault. I was pleased to see it work with my WPA-secured network, but entering the password took me forever. I'm pretty sure this was because I somehow misconfigured the touch screen, because after I configured it again, it works extremely well. Although, I updated the software on the Chumby in the meantime as well, so maybe the update fixed the touch screen issues... Aside from this, the setup was very straightforward and quick. I was viewing my custom widget selection in no time.

The Control Panel
The Control Panel looks professional and is very easy to use for the most part. My biggest complaint is how you have to get to it (pressing the top button). If I want to see a particular widget, I'd like to see it in the quickest way possible, and I think that would be an overlay on the current screen, with back and forward arrows, and a small graphic of each widget covering the whole screen so that I could easily select the next widget (maybe 6 at a time). Also, changing channels in the current control panel doesn't do what I'd expect - since it covers the whole screen with "changing channel", for some reason I expect the next channel to start showing, but it takes me back to the control panel instead. I think it should actually do this, but I don't think it should cover the screen - maybe just say "changing..." in the channel chooser or something like that.

I'd also like to see channels based on times of day, the ability to dismiss a channel for the day (or a set time) (i.e. Woot - once you've seen the deal, you don't need to see it again until tomorrow), but this has been discussed elsewhere in the forums.

Widget Selection
There's lots of room for improvement in the quality and quantity of widgets. Quality-wise, there are a few standout widgets, like The Weather Channel, My eBay, Email notifier, Stock Quotes, and Archive.org Video of the Day. These are all near-perfect, and make the Chumby worth having even during it's beta period. Pretty much all the other widgets I've tried so far have at least some minor annoyances - the RSS reader, while good, cuts off words in the title sometimes (vs. scrolling, or some other mechanism to read the whole title). It also doesn't let you read the whole article. Even if it's not necessarily convenient to read the whole article on a small, I think it should link to it (I'm sure there are a lot of technical issues to overcome with this. Maybe full email messages, minus attachments, would be a better first thing to tackle). I'd like to have the feeling that if I need it to, the Chumby can give me all my news.

Getting Acclimated
I think it's the kind of thing that takes a while to get acclimated to - I spent days just tweaking what widgets would appear in what channel and for what duration. I initially started with one channel for each family member, but eventually settled on having most widgets in the "default" channel, and separating out the more interactive widgets (videos, games) from the more non-interactive widgets (weather, news, webcams, photos, etc.). Everybody seems pretty happy with this type of setup so far.

Lots of Potential
The best feature about the Chumby, though, is what it could be, with widget selection, additional software, and hardware. The Chumby team seems very dedicated to the product (even answering forum questions on the weekends), and the user community is starting to produce good widgets as well. It's going to be interesting.

Re: Review after a week with the Chumby

I totally agree with the lots of potential part!

too bad my friends don't understand...