Chumby Widgets

I was glad to see a bunch of widgets appear in a new chumby “widget laboratory”. How do I learn about new widgets, and add them to my chumby? Sadly, it’s harder than it could be.

There are bunches of feeds and even a widget showing the freshest additions (“recent widgets”). But to add widgets, you need a computer. That makes chumby great for pushing info to somebody else (photoframe style) but not suitable for computer-free use.

On the chumby you can:

  • delete widgets
  • switch between your own personal ‘channels’
  • rate widgets
  • receive widgets from your ‘chums

You need a computer to:

  • add widgets
  • configure widgets
  • change the order of widgets in a channel
  • create a new channel
  • comment on widgets

So far there are a roughly 200 publicly-available chumby widgets. Some picks:

  • Post Secret
    Oddly mesmerizing. Better if you increase the time. Pleased a teenage friend on Thanksgiving Day.
  • Chumby Chat
    Why I love it? I got wished “Happy Thanksgiving from Michigan” by an utter stranger.
  • Flash Lite Chumb-ilities
    Chumby was the first Flash Lite 3 device to market, and I’m hoping this list of chumby’s abilities will bring us more content quick. From Flash developer Scott Janousek.

Want to make a widget? Here are some recommended resources:


Synch me, will you?

Here is the dream of the chumby:

I don’t need to “get a life,” I have too many already. I just need to reconcile, to “synch,” them better.

We’re hoping that the chumby will help reconcile real and Net lives for some people. … It’s meant to be passive. It’s “sort of” what’s going on in your Net life, with the occasional alert for when you do need to put your real life on hold and engage completely with your Net life …Frankly, I don’t know if it will really accomplish this goal or not (maybe I’ll now be staring at my chumby in the living room and still missing the puppet show), but it’s an attempt. [Chumby Corporate Blog]

My experience so far is mixed. Which parts of my net life are actually passive? Or could be? I’m still figuring that out.

Setting up a good mix of widgets will take time–and a fair bit of experimentation. Until then, Chumby’s more of a time sink than a life synch.

Why I bought a chumby

While I was waiting for my chumby to arrive, some friends asked “what are you gonna do with that thing?” Here were some of my ideas:

  • Awareness of email/IRC/RSS when I’m away from my computer. (I spend *way* too much time in front of the machine. It’s physically uncomfortable, and can be socially disruptive.)
  • Streaming audio or video content–perhaps pulling out stuff marked “towatch” or “tolisten” in my, and checking them off the list. (I’m a very text-based person so just never, ever get to those.)

My dream tool would also

  • Be a tool for searching, without using a laptop. (Not what I’m expecting of the chumby.)

Other factors:

  • The “ooh, cuddly, touch-me” vibe. (plus)
  • Lack of a battery is a big downside. (minus)
  • Hackable, with instructions for crafters, Flash designers, software developers, and hardware modders. (big plus)
  • Linux in a beanbag? 🙂

Chumby arrives

My chumby arrived after 5 days in transit (including the weekend). Billing information went into UPS the same day I ordered it, and it left China the next morning. I’ve been tracking its UPS journey through Hong Kong and Korea, via Alaska, to the continental U.S.:

Chumby leaves China

While I was waiting, I tagged a bunch of widgets to try. Just a few of them are in my first channel. I’ll be cycling through and rating widgets, deciding which to segregate into separate channels, and what chumby-uses I find most fun and most useful.

Oh, chumby, I await you.

Unpacking the chumby looks fun: TDavid’s video takes you from boxcutter to welcome screen.

Order attempt #2, here we come. (Don’t ask!)
Meanwhile I am waiting with anticipation…

Score: Universe 1, Chumbylover 0

Getting a chumby

I ordered my Chumby on Wednesday. Shipping will probably take 3-5 days. While I’m waiting, I’m checking out the blogosphere.

Julie Strietelmeier, Editor-in-Chief of the gadgeteer, wanted “the world’s coolest and most feature loaded clock”. She pans the chumby as a clock but says “as an internet device, the chumby is a lot of fun.” Her review is the best single-page source on the chumby. Check it out for:

  • hardware specs
  • great pictures from every angle (including a picture of the package contents)
  • alarm clock features (yup, that’s *really* her main interest!)
  • widget examples

Want to recommend another review of the chumby? Add it to the comments or tag it for:chumbylover on

beanbag + touchscreen + hack-me = Chumby

What’s a chumby? It’s a beanbag with a 3.5″ LCD color touchscreen. Chumbies run linux and have wireless internet.

I’m struck by three things:
(1) “The chumby is “open” for tinkering in every way: hardware and software specifications are available online, plus the pattern for crafting new cases.” –So the user has control
(2) These devices are cheap ($179.95)
(3) They are *so* cute–take a look at some hacked Chumbies