Met him briefly at Maker Faire and I made sure to thank him for all his excellent work.
Starting a new project with an ARMv5-based processor today seems really stupid to me, even more so than in 2009. But maybe I'm just hyper-sensitive about obsolete hardware because a community that I care about has been burned in that area before. I'm talking about PDAs designed specifically for blind people. I explained more about that in a mailing list posting here:
I'm tempted to buy one of Olimex's i.MX233 boards to find out if the audio capabilities of that chip are better. But as I said, starting any new project today with an ARMv5-based processor just seems wrong. Technology moves on, even in applications that don't require a screen. I doubt that an ARMv5-based processor could run a modern speech recognition engine, even if only to listen to a wake word for something like the Alexa Voice Service or the Dashbot.
The chumby was basically just a small, touchscreen ARM based Linux system, before the raspberry pi made that cool (and super cheap). I've hacked on them quite extensively professionally (I was a chumby employee) and personally in Flash/haxe/C/Python and even golang, and lots of others outside the company did as well.
One of my favorite bits of work at chumby was helping NPR Labs (their director at the time, Rich Rarey, was a chumby fan) with this project:
The prototype for this was the bigger 8" chumby (the Best Buy branded one at the time), hooked to a braille reader. I wrote drivers for the braille reader and an ActionScript player extension (I've seen the source code to the Flash player and lived to tell the tale!) so they could interact with it from ActionScript code. You can see a photo of the older chumby-based version here:
However, I'm also pretty skeptical that chumby re-imagined (without a serious shift in how it was targeted) would be successful if released today. The chumby (basically an Internet-connected alarm clock and radio and by the way, some random apps) made a lot of sense prior to the iPhone/Android revolution in smartphones, but not so much after that.
I have two of them and back in the day I followed Bunnie's guide here to get a browser going on it:
Not aware of anyone making available newer, working patches since then either... I don't even have any working chumby 8" devices anymore.
> I don't even have any working chumby 8" devices anymore.
Do you want one?
I have the same issue you do where I keep things around just in case I might someday make a project with them. I actually got rid of a bunch of my old chumby devices (plus a lot of old freescale developer boards and miscellaneous embedded devices) specifically in a purge to get rid of such things, so I don't want to relapse!
I've found (as you mentioned) that if such a project does turn up I'm better off just buying a newish device like whatever the newest raspberry pi is and using that... more expensive than using scavenged parts, but lots less wasted time trying to get a modern kernel up, etc.
Just bought mine from the publisher as an ebook + hardcover package for about $10 more than Amazon price for just the book, includes early access with code EARLYBIRD: https://www.nostarch.com/hardwarehacker
OP is ~450 word announcment summarizing each half of the new book - if you're interested (hardware manufactring and hacking), you'll already know it and can skip the ads.
Amazon Affiliates get credit for purchases for up to 24 hours, including "an aggregate view of what people bought and in what quantities" (as of 5 years ago, but I believe this is still the case).
I personally believe that added value is worth rewarding but this particular blurb didn't add much. @deutronium provided more value by linking to the actual publisher's early-access e-book page elsewhere in the thread, but that wouldn't make Cory/BoingBoing any money.
Either way, I appreciate being made aware of the book's impending existence!
I'm really looking forward to getting my copy :)
The amount of thought put into the design and implementation is remarkable and inspiring.