Chumby

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A Chumby in the middle of downloading software

The Chumby is a consumer electronics product formerly made by Chumby Industries, Inc. It is an embedded computer which provides Internet and LAN access via a Wi-Fi connection. Through this connection, the Chumby runs various software widgets.

Roughly resembling a small clock radio, it consists of a small touch-screen with a leather and plastic exterior. It uses AC power and turns off if unplugged; a 9 volt battery connector is supplied for backup power. It comes in six colors.

The device is designed to be customizable by users:[1] after agreeing to the Chumby HDK License, users may download schematics and other hardware information.[2] Wired magazine named Chumby one of its top gadgets for 2008.[3] Its software is mostly open source, running on Linux.

In April, 2012, Chumby Industries ceased selling hardware and put Chumby related assets up for sale. Support for the platform ended the following February.

Subsequent to the company's liquidation, the Chumby has been maintained in "Space Clock" mode. The device is communicating with servers being maintained by a former employer who licensed the technology under the company name Blue Octy, LLC, displaying a single clock called "Space Clock". In March, 2013, Blue Octy sent a software update to Chumbys still online, aligning them to the new world of Chumby under the Blue Octy servers and the service will soon be resurrected.

Blue Octy, LLC relaunched the chumby service on July 1, 2014 as a paid subscription service, currently charging $3.00USD per month. An open source firmware is available for free which allows existing devices all the functionality of the paid service at no cost.[4]

History[edit]

Andrew "bunnie" Huang was the lead hardware engineer at Chumby. The Chumby premiered on August 25, 2006 at Foo Camp and was released to around 100 alpha release testers at the event.[5][6]

Shortly after Foo Camp, Chumby announced a free offer, where applicants would receive the same alpha-level Chumby as those previously given away. Applicants submitted ideas for software applications or hardware modifications. One of the goals for the free offer was to have Chumbys in the hands of developers who were willing to begin building applications.[7]

In July 2007, a First 50 was released to 50 random applicants, who received the next generation of Chumbys.[8] This was followed, in September, with an Insiders Release. Interested parties could send e-mail to Chumby requesting release information, and were given the opportunity to join in the Insiders Release.[9] Finally, in February 2008, the commercial release was made public on the Chumby Store.[10] In May 2008, the price was $179.95[11] for any one of three colors, latte, basic black, and pearl. In Japan, Chumby was available through Zyyx, Inc. as www.chumby.jp since October 23, 2008. In Australia, the Chumby was available through ISP Internode.

In November 2009 the Chumby One was released: a similar, all-plastic version of the original in white with blue trim. The major difference was the hard plastic case replacing the soft leather. Other changes include a slightly faster processor, only one USB port on the rear of the device, and inclusion of an FM tuner and physical volume knob. The hard plastic case allowed Chumby Industries to offer the Chumby One at a reduced price of $119.95.

In April 2012, Chumby announced the cessation of hardware sales, having ceased manufacture of their own hardware the previous year and exhausted their inventory.[12] On April 20 it was confirmed that the company itself was being broken up.[13][14] Dedicated fans managed to keep the service running for a period following the company's demise,[15] but on 20 February 2013 Chumby shut down its servers, leaving users with a simple clock that shows time, calendar, and date. A brief message appears on the Chumby Web site, explaining the suspension of service. Alternative open source firmwares prepared for such an eventuality became available at this point.

As of January 2013, Blue Octy was in the process of reviving the chumby technology, with one of the original chumby developers working on the project. Visiting www.chumby.com shows details.

Towards the end of March, 2014, Blue Octy began beta testing the soon to be revived chumby service.

Features[edit]

Close up of the rear of an original Chumby, showing the speakers, two USB ports, headphones jack, power button, and power port.

Hardware[edit]

The Chumby is designed to be modified by users, with schematics, printed circuit board layouts and packaging/outerware designs available. Hardware specifications are as follows[16]

The Original Chumby

  • 350 MHz ARM9-based Freescale i.MX21 controller
  • 64 MB of SDRAM
  • 64 MB of NAND flash ROM
  • 320×240 3.5 inch touchscreen TFT LCD running at 12 frames per second
  • stereo 2-watt speakers, an audio output, an integrated microphone
  • two USB 2.0 ports
  • integrated Wi-Fi
  • a bend sensor for squeeze-based user interface features
  • motion sensor (accelerometer).

The Chumby One [17]

  • Freescale iMX233 454 MHz ARM926EJ-S processor
  • 64 MB DDR SDRAM
  • 2 GB internal microSD card (capacity depends on production date)
  • 320x240 3.5" TFT color touchscreen
  • 2W mono speaker
  • Wi-Fi connectivity (802.11 b/g)
  • FM radio tuner
  • Uses rechargeable lithium ion battery (not included); about one hour on a full charge
  • 4" wide x 4" tall x 3.5" deep
  • 1 USB 2.0 high-speed port
  • Stereo headphone output
  • Volume knob
  • Accelerometer (motion sensor)
  • ABS plastic housing
  • AC adapter included
  • USB Ethernet compatible
  • Dimmable backlight

Comparison Table[11]

Comparison Chumby One Infocast 3.5 Original Chumby 8 Infocast 8
Resolution 320x240 320x240 800x600 800x600
Screen 3.5" 3.5" 3.5" 8" 8"
Manage content channels from device
Free subscriptions loaded and updated by Chumby No No Yes
Event scheduler UI No No Yes
Upload photos and videos to favorite photo-sharing sites No No Yes
External media support Yes Yes SD, MMC, CF, USB
Updated sharing features No No Yes Yes
WebKit browser (chumbrowser) No No Yes
Accelerometer (motion sensor) Yes No
USB port 1 USB 2.0 high speed port 1 USB 2.0 high speed port 2 USB 2.0 high speed ports
FM radio tuner Yes Yes No No No
Wi-Fi connectivity (802.11 b/g) Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Processor 454 MHz ARM processor 454 MHz ARM processor 350Mhz Arm9 800 MHz Marvell ARMADA 166 Marvell Mohawk
RAM 64 MB DDR SDRAM 64 MB DDR SDRAM 64 MB DDR2 SDRAM 128 MB DDR2 SDRAM 128 MB DDR2 SDRAM
ROM Internal microSD card firmware Internal microSD card firmware 64 MB of NAND flash ROM Internal 2GB microSD FLASH storage

Hacks[edit]

Hacking the Chumby hardware was encouraged by the manufacturer.[18] Schematics and other hardware information may be downloaded after the user agrees to the Chumby HDK License.[2] For example, users on the Chumby Forums have experimented with and documented some battery hacks, allowing the Chumby to be operated without AC power for short periods of time.[19][20]

There also exists a Chumby Hacker Board that mostly resembles a Chumby One motherboard. There are some differences to hardware connectivity. Chumby Industries did not officially support the board.[21][22]

Software[edit]

A Chumby being held and displaying a Google News story

Chumby units run a modified Linux kernel. The software originally installed on the device was designed to play a set of user-customizable widgets, small Adobe Flash animations that deliver real-time information. This is possible, because an embedded version of Adobe Flash Player is installed. The animations have the ability to control and interact with the low-level hardware, thereby enabling functionality such as smart alarm clocks that bring the hardware out of sleep, a Web-based picture viewer, a Web-based camera, online RSS feeds, and physical user interface features, such as gesture recognition by squeezing the soft housing.

The software for the Chumby automatically updated when something new became available. The updates came from the free access to the Chumby network, and a modified BitTorrent client was used to upgrade the open-source portions of its firmware.

Multimedia limitations[edit]

Although the prototypes did not support video playback,[23] all versions since May 2007 use Flash Lite 3[24] which allows for Sorenson, FLV, H.264, VP6 and On2 video playback.[25]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ (Walker 2008)
  2. ^ a b "Chumby HDK License Agreement". Chumby Industries, Inc. Retrieved 2008-06-08. 
  3. ^ Dumas, Daniel; Charlie Sorrell (2008-12-22). "The Top Gadgets of 2008". Wired. Retrieved 2008-12-22. 
  4. ^ "offline firmware". Retrieved 2014-05-22. 
  5. ^ Michael Arrington (2007-06-23). "Chumby: One Year Later". Tech Crunch. Retrieved 2008-03-11. 
  6. ^ "Why we gave away chumbys at FOO Camp". chumblog. 2006-08-26. Retrieved 2008-03-11. 
  7. ^ "Free chumbys available (soon). "Widgetoons" wanted!". chumblog. 2006-09-13. Retrieved 2008-03-12. 
  8. ^ "Chumby’s "First 50″ Program". chumblog. 2007-06-29. Retrieved 2008-03-12. 
  9. ^ "Chumby’s "Insider’s Release"". chumblog. 2007-09-11. Retrieved 2008-03-12. 
  10. ^ "Chumby launches to the public today". chumblog. 2008-02-25. Retrieved 2008-03-12. 
  11. ^ a b "chumby store". Retrieved 2008-05-22. 
  12. ^ Murph, Darren (2012-04-19). "Chumby halts hardware sales, long-term support looking mighty unlikely". Engadget.com. Retrieved 2013-06-07. 
  13. ^ Nilay Patel (2012-04-20). "Chumby no more: employees at Technicolor, technology waiting to be sold". The Verge. Retrieved 2013-06-07. 
  14. ^ "Chumby calls it quits after tricky move from hardware to software". VentureBeat. 2012-12-04. Retrieved 2013-06-07. 
  15. ^ Chris Welch (2013-01-14). "Chumby platform could die in February as funding for open source project dries up". The Verge. Retrieved 2013-06-07. 
  16. ^ "Linux gadget to replace the clock radio?". LinuxDevices.com. 2007-06-14. Retrieved 2008-03-11. 
  17. ^ "Chumby Wiki". Wiki.chumby.com. 2013-02-03. Retrieved 2013-06-07. 
  18. ^ "Hacking hardware for chumby". Chumby Industries, Inc. Retrieved 2008-06-08. 
  19. ^ "Please clarify 9 Volt issue". Chumby Industries, Inc. 2007-12-31. Retrieved 2008-06-08. 
  20. ^ "DIY 5 hour battery pack-$25". Chumby Industries, Inc. 2008-05-20. Retrieved 2008-06-08. 
  21. ^ "Sensor tutorials". Ladyada.net. 2012-04-27. Retrieved 2013-06-07. 
  22. ^ "Chumby One vs. Chumby Hacker Board? (Page 1) — Chumby Hacker/OEM boards — chumbysphere forum". Forum.chumby.com. Retrieved 2013-06-07. 
  23. ^ "Developing Widgets for Foo/Katamari". Chumby Industries. Retrieved 2008-03-10. 
  24. ^ "Some questions?", thread on official Chumby forums
  25. ^ "Developing widgets for Chumby". Chumby Industries. Retrieved 2008-03-12. 

References[edit]

External links[edit]