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Nightstand clock gets open-source, Wi-Fi boost

Posted: 14 Aug 2009 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Chumby? Internet appliance? processor? open-source? widget?

Warm and cuddly aren't the terms that normally come to mind for electronic gadgets but Chumby Industries wants to make their device inviting to consumers and potential developers alike. The Chumby is a $200 Wi-Fi-connected personal Internet appliance that gets its information and applications through Chumby's website following a simple online registration process that opens up access to so-called "widgets." These widgets can be selected and downloaded to an individual Chumby via a Wi-Fi broadband connection once the device's identity is known to the host website.

the packaging

Unwrapping Chumby's packaging.

Chumby's widgets consist of small applications such as games, news headlines, weather, Internet radio, current stock prices, music, short movies, social-media websites, picture files and customized alarm clocks. Additional free widgets can be downloaded to the registered Chumby at any time by logging into the Chumby network and making further PC-based selections.

A Wi-Fi access point must be available at all times to play/use the widgets that are paid for by Chumby Industries and sponsoring companies who may offer special products for sale. Chumby can also be used to monitor incoming e-mail on any POP3 account, track eBay auctions or play an iPod through Chumby's on-board stereo speakers. At press time, over 1,000 widgets are claimed to be available for the taking, covering 30 different application categories.

A distinguishing attribute to the Chumby is its very open hardware/software environment. By making details available on all the inner workings, Chumby Industries actively encourages users to hack the device and develop new uses for the platform. While many electronic devices have their own supporting software development kit (SDK) environment for third parties, few are as open as the Chumby's, which provides access to everything from the hardware schematics to an open-source Linux-based software client.


The Chumby is a $200 Wi-Fi-connected Internet appliance that gets its information through Chumby's website.

Not your usual night clock

Departure from tradition on the hardware side starts with the outward design of the Chumby. A soft leather cover stuffed with polyester batting surrounds the device's internal PCBs and 3.5-inch touchscreen LCD interface.

The overall effect is something akin to a big beanbag with a color display slapped on the outside. In fact, along with the batting material, an actual beanbag sits underneath the skin to add to product heft and help it sit in stablebut squishyform on a night-stand or kitchen counter. Even the packaging is different, with the Chumby shipping in a drawstring canvas bag versus the usual cardboard box.

Side 2 of the board

The heart of the Chumby (side 2 of the main board) reveals an STMicroelectronics MCU, a Sipex transceiver and a Hynix/ST NAND Flash. (Click to enlarge.)

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