The USS Quad Damage

Chumby Review

Is the Chumby all it's cracked up to be?

After much prodding, my dad got me a Chumby for Christmas. I basically wanted an internet enabled photo viewer / alarm clock thingie, and Chumby looked fairly ideal. It’s certainly an interesting toy, and comes with some unexpected things, some good, some bad.

Firstly, the obvious stuff:

* It is internet enabled. You can install flash widgets on it and do things you want, internet-ally. * This basically means you can show your facebook or flickr photos, or watch your friends' photos. * You can also see facebook status updates, as well as twitter updates. * It also has a touch-screen, so you can update twitter as well. It’s also handy for scrolling through pictures in an “iphone-esque” manner. * It also has USB inputs, so it can be used to play back music from an ipod or a more reasonable USB device. * It can also be used to listen to podcasts, internet music, or music over the squeezebox (I’m assuming that uses an open-ish protocol). * Alarms can be set on the thing, which can trigger playback of said internet music or podcasts.

Unexpected good bits:

* It also has a motion sensor, so you can tilt it for doing certain things. The widgets can also take advantage of this. * You can also watch videos ala youtube with it. * It’s an ARM Linux device, and eminently hack-able. Just go to the forums and people are doing all sorts of shit to it. * It has a microphone, but it seems unusable so far. In theory this thing could do video calls over skype. * The packaging is pretty cool, and it comes with these little dudes which you can hang off your keychain or whatever. The chumby itself has a little tab for hanging the little dude.

Unexpected bad bits:

* It has a billion clocks, they are all shit (fixable). * It has no last-fm widget (fixable). * It has no IM applications like MSN or Google Talk (fixable, but I don’t know if it’s a good idea). * The applications have fixed cycling times. This basically means that the google calendar application, for example, will stay there for 45 seconds (or some other configurable time) whether it’s got 1 item to show you or 1,000. This really sucks when an app has nothing to show you, but it’s got to sit there for it’s full time anyway. * There’s no event driven model. If my google calendar has an alarm, it will not alarm (fixable) but if the app is cycled out, it cannot steal the focus to show important events. * It has two brightness modes: Bright, dark. The new hardware (not shipped by Internode) has a slider for the brightness. The flash apps cannot change the brightness mode, and the channel does not have a brightness setting either. * It gets hot when set up to do work. Concerning considering Australian summers. I wouldn’t want it to melt or break down. I certainly wouldn’t want it to start a fire. * It loads a lot. If you switch apps, it will re-load all the details for the app every time. This basically means it’ll eat your internet, especially the flickr feeds. Advised to switch to a simple clock when going to work.