I recently received an email from Chumby Industries about the launch of their new gizmo - appropriately named a Chumby.
It's about the size of a large grapefruit with a 3" touch-screen LCD screen in the middle. It's running Linux and the purpose of the device is... well, as I see it to be the latest must-have geek item AND be useful and fun too. From their site:
The chumby is a compact device that displays useful and entertaining information from the web: news, photos, music, celebrity gossip, weather, box scores, blogs — using your wireless internet connection. Always on, it shows — nonstop — what's online that matters to you.
The Chumby is closely tied to the chumby.com website in that once you connect your Chumby wirelessly to the Internet and "activate" it, there is really close connections between the web site and the device. This connection comes in very handy in that the major mojo of the Chumby is to display/play flash-based "Widgets." To do this, you create "Channels" on the web that are then sent to your Chumby. A cleverly designed, one-button-to-access Control Panel lets you configure which Channels are show, and when.
The user forums are active - as expected of an open-source device - and I expect them to be on fire as this thing gets cooking. I think they released at precisely the right time, and hope to heck they have the quantities warehoused to handle the demand this thing will generate.
So "Yober", which is my Chumby's name (reminiscent of my uber-creative design friend and all-around great guy Michael Gilmore), is loaded up with my Flickr photo collection, a cool clock, a cartoon strip and soon to be much more. Set-up was very simple, with my wireless network being recognized automatically. As expected, there was a clever and simple on-screen UI for entering a WEP key. Very well thought out.
By the way, I've had the privilege of knowing, working around and working for the Chumby CTO Duane Maxwell for a number of years (hey, San Diego ain't that big!), including at exobox (former IdeaLabs company working on embedded technologies for devices - hmmm...) and Linspire (Linux OS publisher). Duane's a personable and clever man, and to me looks at the world in a slightly bemused and curious way. one of the smartest people I've ever met and I'm glad to see him involved in a truly fun new device like this.
My wife thinks I'm crazy and pointedly inquires how much this new gadget cost. I don't tell her straight away, and only eventually in very broad numbers... ;-)
So... my advice is to enter your email at chumby.com and get in line. You'll pay a typical high premium for being the first Chumby on your block, but it's well worth it.