Topic: Chumby Reviewed

Posted in my blog. No url provided to avoid any hint of advertising even though I have no ads on my site. I'm also lazy and I didn't want to rewrite it. ;-)

Day 1

I typically don’t do un-boxing type reviews but there really wasn’t any box so I guess I’ll let it go this time. For those of you who are asking what an un-boxing review is, just Google anyone doing a product review and you’ll see what I mean. To be perfectly honest you have to admire any company who can make shipping and handling interesting. I also think my history in the PC industry, and seeing systems well before they hit the market, left me with the following viewpoint. If the packaging is that good that you want to admire it, A) you paid to much for that product or B) The company needs to spend more R&D on building a better product and less on packaging. So let’s begin.

The package arrived in a huge clear plastic bag that the UPS guy probably used to keep it from getting wet. Inside was a pretty none descript cardboard box. Upon opening the box I found the Chumby burlap bag wrapped in that thin foam wrap and my order details. After taking the wrap off the burlap bag something inside of my Engineering brain liked the nontraditional container because I knew not a lot of time was wasted on coming up with some new fan-dangle container. Enclosed inside the bag the Chumby and two more bags. One bag had the power supply the other little charms. A further look inside had me find the owners manual, which detailed very well how things were going to go when you first turned the system on. I plugged it in and checked things out.

After a somewhat short delay the unit boots up and you are greeted by both a cartoon depiction of the Chumby factory and the voice of the CEO (I think). To be honest the sound isn’t all that bad for the size of the speakers. As you can see from my obligatory Red Bull can for size reference, the Chumby is quite small. On the top is a button that can be felt through the leather casing. On the back resides the power button, power adapter plug in, two USB ports and the two speakers. If you want more info on specs see their website. After setting the date and time the system tries to connect to a wireless system. Mine was off at the time so it found nothing. I had no time so I shut it off and that was it for Day 1.

Day 2. With the wifi now on I started up the system and this time actually tried to configure the unit. Time? No problem. Date? No problem. Wifi connection? Huge massive total pain in the butt hope to never do that again problem. I have a netgear wifi unit, which runs only WPA with a 63 char password. I had to enter in the password 4 times before I finally got it right. On my laptop I just copy and paste the password into the appropriate text box. With Chumby you need to enter each char in using one of three scrolling bars. One for All Capitals, one for all lower case and one for numbers and such. Making it 1000x worse, you can only see the first 5 letter/numbers of each row. So to type in, lets say, “Za9�  you would need to scroll to the left using only screen touch buttons, then select Z, then select “a�  from a second row and the number from the third row. Painful, painful, and painful. Why can’t they figure out someway to have you copy and paste from a USB stick? If the system can read a .wav file from the USB and use that to sound an alarm why can’t you read from the stick to copy and paste? I then went thru the registering process, which has you setting up your online info on the Chumby site. Each step was explained and well laid out. Zero issues. Very well done. Before I knew it my little Chumby was showing me the weather for our area, the latest Patriots news and the latest F1 news using their widgets. Life was good. Then I tried the alarms and they worked great. Well there is one catch. Come to find out the alarms don’t work in sleep mode. Sleep mode is the state, which you put the Chumby in so it doesn’t cycle through all your different screens. Instead it goes dim and just shows the current time. One would assume that this is some form of power savings, which I can understand, but the idea of the alarm clock bringing the system alive would just rule.

I’m not the biggest flash fan so I will not provide an embedded link. So I’ll just tell you what’s running on it in the way of Widgets. The things starts with the NOAA weather for our area, then to my google calendar, Sun/Moon clock, Slashdot rss feed, Digg Tech rss feed, Yahoo Patriots sports, GPUpdate rss feed, Engadget rss feed, digital clock w/date, Distrowatch rss feed, and the Christmas Countdown. Adding to that I ripped two songs onto an older 512 usb drive, Sevilla by Andrés Segovia, and the Turkish March by, who else but Mozart. By renaming the songs you can get the Chumby to play the songs off the stick instead of the built in boring (but industry standard) buzzer, bugle and something else.

I’ve received one update so far and guess what it used to “ship�  me the file?? Bit Torrent. Ha! That’s another legal and intelligent use of a great protocol. Overall the device scores pretty high on the geek scale. It’s built totally on open source Linux that they make available to you so if you really want to go hacking crazy you can. Also, if you want to make some changes to the hardware, you can, and are encouraged to do so. Unlike some other companies who shall remain nameless, this company not only understands that once you buy something it’s yours to do as you please with it but, they are giving you the tools to take the device in directions never even considered before. I completely applaud what they are doing and hope it becomes a great success for them because the more people who can get their hands on this fun little device the more it will improve.

Somewhere Richard Stallman is very happy.

To summerize
Love it

Would love to see the alarms bring the system out of sleep / night mode. Ie. goto bed put in sleep mode. Alarm pulls system out of night mode and goes off, plays said wav. After you hit end alarm the system would start showing widgets.

Have smart RSS feeds. If no updates skip widget and goto next.
Skip ahead to next widget. (Saw alot of good talk on this subject in forum)

Need to improve
Entry for long WPA pw keys.

"Individuality is fine just as long as we all do it together" Frank Burns