Chumby, the Next Generation

If you're unfamiliar with the Chumby, you might want to go back to the May 2008 issue of Linux Journal. Daniel Bartholomew showed us all about the cuddly little gadget and explained why we might want one of our very own. The folks over at still sell the original Chumby device, but they've come out with a new model, the Chumby One. I'm rather fond of the numbering scheme they chose, because that would mean the original Chumby is number zero. If the next model is the Chumby 10, they will get extra geek points!

How does the new revision stack up? Quite frankly, it's great. Although it may have lost the rounded edges and squishy case, the Chumby One adds some welcome features:

  • A dedicated volume knob, for quick-and-simple volume control.
  • Rechargeable battery for Chumby uninterrupted mobility (battery not included).
  • FM radio.
  • Beefed-up CPU (454MHz).

I'll admit I always thought a Chumby would be more of a novelty than a useful gadget; however, I was pleasantly surprised to see its rotating "widget" display happily keeps me informed and entertained during my workday. It can stream Pandora (and other) music in the background, display LOLcats and show you the weather. At night, it makes an extremely useful clock radio. Because it has a rechargeable battery, toting it around isn't a problem. If you've been tempted to pick up a Chumby, but were concerned it would just collect dust, you might be pleasantly surprised!


Shawn is Associate Editor here at Linux Journal, and has been around Linux since the beginning. He has a passion for open source, and he loves to teach. He also drinks too much coffee, which often shows in his writing.


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"DIY Chumby" on Old Tablet?

rokky's picture

I have an old Fujitsu Stylistic C-500 tablet in a dock that would be about ideal to roll my own Chumby-like device - similar size, although a 800x600 8-inch (touch) screen is a bit bigger, but that is better for more distant viewing. It has a 500 Mhz Celeron, so would seem to be comparable speed, and it has 256 MB RAM (I have not seen that spec for the Chumby's). It runs CrunchBang 9.04 fairly well, and I was able to configure it to support the touchscreen, although it could use some fine-tuning in the calibration.

What I am looking for to make it comparable to the Chumby would be mainly news, weather, and alarm apps/sites that use a simplified low-resolution view, and, preferably, the "big-button" widget approach of Chumby and smart phones.

It seems that WAP and mobile-oriented web sites could work for the web app display requirement. What about a "big-button" window manager or Desktop Environement (DE)? Anything I could apt-get from Ubuntu 9.04 repositories, and not be as bloated as Gnome or KDE, would be ideal.

I have experimented with LinuxICE, which is an Ubuntu-based packaging of OpenICE and nGhost designed for "carputer" usage (ICE = InCar Entertainment). The nGhost interface has the big-button simplied view that would be ideal, but it seems difficult to plug other apps into without just about becoming an nGhost/OpenICE developer. Also, its included touchscreen support does not support the Stylistic.

TIA for any suggestions.

mono vs stereo?

djfake's picture

How does the sound compare to the classic? Mono vs stereo, I would lean towards the latter...

RE: mono vs. stereo?

nashtr's picture

djfake, I wondered about that too. I read the discussion forums on the Chumby site, and the subject of the stereo vs. mono speakers came up. One of the developers pointed out that the stereo speakers on the Chumby Classic are on the back and fairly close together, so there wasn't much separation anyway. I went with the Chumby One, and I think the single speaker puts out pretty decent sound. The headphone jack is a stereo output, so there's always the option of headphones or connecting an external set of speakers. I wanted the One for the battery option and the dedicated volume control. No regrets so far, it's the coolest alarm clock I've ever owned.

Best Christmas Present Ever

Chris E.'s picture

My mom gave me one of these for Christmas and it was the best present by far. Even if it were only a glorified alarm clock, it's still worth the $110 or so. I love it and want a second one for my Desk so I don't have to port it around.


smpratz's picture

I disagree. LOLcats are the natural evolution of the internet, of computing in general, and perhaps of humankind. Thirty years from now, we'll look back at this decade and see it for the singuLOLity it was.


lefty.crupps's picture

LOLcatz are certainly not a selling point, nor a useful feature!

Chumby One

lipbalm's picture

I bought one of these a few months ago and I am very happy with it. It sits on a counter in our dining room and serves as mini-digital-photo-frame, Pandora radio, clock, and weather checker. We thought it would make a good "smart" alarm clock (which it is), but we decided it made more sense to put it in a central location in our apartment rather than be somewhat more limited on a bed side table.

Were it only just a miniature and extremely capable Pandora radio, I would be happy with the price I paid.

I only have two small complaints:
1) It would be great if I could have it drop in and out of "night mode" at timed intervals (e.g. drop into night mode at 11pm and come back out at 8am). If somebody knows how to do this, please let me know.
2) After handling an iPhone, iPad, Droid (or whatever other capacitive touch device) the chumby's resistive touch screen is somewhat painful to use. My kids with their skinnier fingers are better at it than I am, but the touch input is not exactly predictable or usable in some situations.

switching night mode on/off automatically

Anonymous's picture

Simply set an alarm with no alarm sound, with a action of "turn night mode on/off".

I have mine switch into night mode automaically at 11pm, wake me up with an alarm and turn off night mode in the AM, cycle through all the apps while I get ready to go, then fire up night mode again after I leave for work to save power during the day.

propose it

cga's picture


about the timed night mode, you could propose it as an improvement. this is FLOSS anyway ;)



Happy Chumby Owner

cga's picture


I own a Chumby Classic (that's the name, no 10 sorry :P) and I'm more than happy.

It does all the things you said and it is not only a cool gadget, it is the first "alarm clock" that I can wake up to!!! Nice to wake up with WFMU or Radio Paradise instead of boring "pri pri pri pri".

I preferred the Classic over the One for it's more pleasant and the "upgrade" features weren't much of a difference.

If you people don't have a Chumby yet, go for it!!!