NYT: A Night With Chumby

Excerpt from New York Times Article:

A Night With Chumby

One of the wonderful defining moments of the earlyInternet was the Web cam that was pointed at the coffee pot in the Universityof Cambridge Computer Laboratory in November of 1993. It wasn’t the firstInternet appliance (that was probably the Stanford Artificial IntelligenceLaboratory vending machine), but it gave anyone who surfed to it a little doseof vertigo, that sense that the future was arriving and the Internet wasdistributing it more evenly (to mis-paraphrase William Gibson). Dial the clockforward fourteen years and yesterday afternoon my Chumby arrived in the mail.(No, it’s a not a review system. I bought it). The simplest way todescribe the Chumby is as an Internet-enabled alarm clock. It actually is aLinux-powered, WiFi-connected computer with a touchscreen in a palm-sized beanbag that is intended to replace your alarm clock. You connect the Chumby toyour home's wireless network and then configure it from the company’swebsite by selecting various software widgets and organizing them into channelswhich then cycle endlessly on your Chumby’s 3.5-inch color LCD display.The obvious widgets are weather, news, alarm clock, stocks, and so on. At themoment, there are more than 50 widgets with more promised, and of course youcan write your own. It’s intended to be hackable and is also designed toshow off Adobe Flash animations. Chumby will also play your iPod’s MP3files through its built-in stereo speakers. It sells for $179.95. After a nightwith Chumby, I still think it’s a great idea--with a couple of caveats.Set up with a handful of basic widgets -- the New York Times, Weather.com,Flickr (filtered to show photos of the Trinity Alps), Google News and a clockwidget--Chumby cycled dutifully throughout the night. But if you’renear-sighted, you need large fonts. (That’s settable, but I had to keeprolling over to get close enough to read even the headlines.) I also discoveredthat slow is good. While it was possible to control how long a particularwidget stayed on the screen, some of the widgets cycled headlines too quicklyto satisfy an insomniac. I also found the Chumby touchscreen lacked the directresponse of the Apple iPhone display. It has a plastic surface and feelssquishy and frequently requires a second push to select an on-screen button.Finally, the terms-of-use on the Chumby Website reserves the right for thecompany to insert its own widgets (a.k.a. advertisements) into my widgetstream. Like everybody else in the Web 2.0 era, Chumby is hoping to subsidizeits business and the Chumby network by selling ads. Ads on my alarm clock? Isthis the cool site of the day or a step closer to "Minority Report?"

I love my Chumby

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Comments (2)
  1. Simon Mackay says:

    There are the i-mate Momento 70 and i-mate Momento 100 WiFi-enabled electronic picture frames which can show pictures held on a UPnP MediaServer devices (Windows Media Player 11 / Windows Media Connect, TwonkyVision, etc). The other thing that is so interesting about these EPFs is that they can work as a Windows SideShow device, showing up information like news, stock-market information, etc provided by a Windows Vista box.

    It is feasible to "go further" with the electronic picture frames such as an alarm clock functionality (useful for the frame that exists on a bedside table), provide a soft "nightlight" function or to "pull down" information directly from the Internet.

    There are a lot more other devices like residential security-system keypads that can be extended beyond their ordinary function with the use of a programmable embedded-device framework like Windows Embedded, Linux or Symbian. This could allow manufacturers to make devices earn their keep in a much better way.

    With regards,


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