the itjerk

my adventures with technology

Tag Archives: channels

chumby one


What's a chumby? A funny-named device that's a cross between a clock radio and data-enabled cellphone? Chumby Industries says, "Just plug in your chumby, connect to your network, and use your computer to create a lineup of favorites from over 1,500 apps in more than 30 categories. Then let your chumby do its thing — streaming everything you like, from sports scores to stock quotes, from video clips to interactive games, from photos to trivia." So yeah, it's a computer-ish device that's connected to the internet. I want one!

A coupon code (HOLIDAY10) from their Facebook page and $90 later, the chumby one (actually their second model) arrived at my door. Very much the size of a small clock-radio, it sports a 3.5" color touch-screen interface, a large volume knob on its side, 5V AC adpater (it does run on battery, not included), and an amazing 2W mono speaker. After flashing it with the latest firmware (1-0-7) via USB, I was able to connect to my home wifi network. From there, I used my computer to create an account at chumby.com and activate my chumby (now called "chumbly"). Next, again through their website, I set off to configure a "channel" with various "apps" by deleting most everything from the default channel, and adding a flip-style clock, the Weather Channel, Spongebob, XKCD, you get the drift…

When on, the chumby continuously cycles through the various apps on a channel; each time the app refreshes itself with new information from the net. Whether rss feeds, stock quotes, word of the day, Facebook news feed, Flickr albums, Gmail, Twitter, you name it, there's probably an app available. And if you can't find what you want, write your own; each app is basically an Adobe Flash animation. The chumby also plays music very well, from terrestrial FM radio (well, not so well in my case), to Pandora, Shoutcast – why it even connects to my Squeezbox server as player "Neptune"; the only rub is I need to compile its playlist from a computer. And because the chumby is basically a linux computer running an ARM processor, you can do all sorts of geeky things with it too! BTW, it has a fantastic "night" mode that dims the screen perfectly.

Okay, it's a gizmo, it's slightly gratuitous, and really should be offered in other colors. The app selection is superfluous, but it's rather strange that there isn't a "children's" category, because my kids love this thing! The chumby is certainly extensible, but a lot of its value depends on intended use. In the bedroom, it's little more than a clock radio – do I really need to wakeup to Facebook or Engadget news feeds? No, though that might be useful in a kitchen setting, somewhere a computer isn't. It is however the best clock radio I ever bought, one that even connects to my Squeezebox server. What fun the chumby is!

On the web:
http://www.chumby.com/guide
http://wiki.chumby.com/mediawiki/index.php/Main_Page

what roku could be…


Don't get me wrong, the Roku HD, at a mere $59, is almost an instant buy. It's a set-top box for streaming digital video. The box connects to your tv or a/v system and facilitates streaming video from the internet, via wireless or wired ethernet connection. It supports Netflix, Amazon VOD, and soon enough Hulu Plus, plus a zillion other "channels" offering everything from sports, music, movies, etc. Too bad their website doesn't have a comprehensive list.

For streaming audio, there's one channel of particular interest to me: MainSqueeze connects your local Squeezebox Server to the Roku. But here's the caveat: the Roku doen't play some audio formats, including Ogg-Vorbis and FLAC. Talk about a heartbreaker!

Will this change in the future? It just seems like too good of an opportunity for Roku to miss, doesn't it? Ogg-Vorbis and FLAC are free, open standards that do not require any licensing fees. Further, the Roku, at just $59 for the entry model, is so much less expensive than the Squeezebox Touch that you could buy five (5) for the same price – one for nearly every room! Ogg-Vorbis and FLAC support usually sets the audiophile scene/buzz on fire, just as the Sansa Clip did when it added support for those formats. It would also give Roku a leg-up on Apple TV, which will never natively support Ogg-Vorbis nor FLAC.

Write Roku and let them know we want Ogg-Vorbis and FLAC support now!

On the web:
Roku Digital Video Player