Reading phlog.net RSS feeds!
Our Chumby, "Weiner" (yes, you actually name your Chumby during registration*), is now in its (his?) permanent home on the little bed head shelf above my pillow.
Chumby is, *without doubt*, the simplest wifi device I have ever configured or used. Even Linda has taken an unexpected interest in the device and has commented on its ease of use, user-friendliness and uber-functionality. I can almost see us buying a second one for her. Plus one for the kitchen…. one for the guest bedroom…. one for the garage etc ;-)
The purpose of this quick wrap-up isn't meant to be an extensive review of the hardware or interface as this has been done MANY times already (eg here). Rather, I'd like to share some of the stand-out experiences:
Chumby is an internet appliance. They have made it so damn easy to connect to WEP/WPA (et al) access points that anyone could do it. No prompting for crap like key type, or setting up different profiles etc. Just click on the access point you want to use, enter key (if needed) using the customised on-screen hex keyboard and you're away.
Because 99% of Chumby's config is done through a web interface at your PC, it is important that it can identify its unique self to the Chumby servers. Instead of punching in horrible serial numbers etc, the web registration process displays a grid of "off and on" dots (like a paused game of Connect4) which you simply replicate my touching the corresponding dots on Chumby's screen. Too easy. Seconds later you can start loading up widgets to Chumby.
The Command Panel
After confirming acceptance of the update, the latest version of the control panel is injected into your Chumby via the internet tubes. The command panel does everything from providing screen/volume controls through to iPod and streaming media connectivity. If you're game, you can always push the experimental beta command panels onto your device.
This is so simple. Each Chumby can have an unlimited number of channels, each with its own name. Each channel can have an unlimited number of widgets. To add content you just log in to your account^ at chumby.com. and browse the hundreds of Flash-based widgets which are on offer. Changes to your Chumby's content programming are reflected almost instantly as Chumby pings back to the control server to pick up any new/deleted widget configs. It's fun sitting in front of the PC, building channels full of widgets, and getting back to your Chumby to see the content already on the screen. A number of the widgets are ready for user customisation (eg RSS reader, flickr.com, facebook.com, google.com) so there is literally an unlimited amount of content which you can create and add.
The little speakers in Chumby's ar5e offer good quality sound, even at full volume. This was a big surprise. The headphone port is handy for discrete listening when the other half is zzzzzzing. I haven't tried hooking up our iPods yet, but the Chumby-iPod interface looks simple and intuitive. The real delight is streaming media from Shoutcast, Chumby Radio et al Thousands of stations/genres available with a couple of screen taps. Any streaming service or data source which has .m3u, .mp3 etc streaming can be added as a favourite, too. Oh, waking up to a bugle call or klaxon horn alarm - and belting Chumby to shut it up - is something I'm learning to love.
The (touch) screen
Certainly not world-class quality but more than adequate for the purpose. Photos look sweet and it's fast enough to keep up with streaming video frame rates. Screen calibration is accurate and very responsive. The night mode dims the screen to ~5% brightness and loads up a simple grey on black clock. Certainly does not blaze brightly like our Phillips clock radio in "dimmed" setting - thank God!
How we're using it at the moment
Weiner is set up with three channels - one for Linda to experiment with, and two for me. One of my channels is dedicated to information and the other is for entertainment.
The information channel includes Sydney weather obs/forecast, SMH news headlines, gmail browser; gmail calendar; display of the latest image from our home weather webcam; some various clocks which appear at different intervals; and other stuff which I can't remember!
My entertainment channel includes youtube.com; fark.com; Wallstrip.com; this day in history; various games (incl blackjack and a couple which make the most of Chumby's tilt sensors); flickr.com (one for my account and a couple of others based on searches); RSS feed for comments made on my phlog.net blog; some various clocks which appear at different intervals; and other stuff which I can't remember!
* The name can be changed at any time, however. It's just used to help users who have multiple Chumbys.
^ Accounts are free and all widgets are free :-)