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Chumby is back (chumby.com)
33 points by unwiredben on July 2, 2014 | hide | past | favorite | 21 comments

I find it frustrating that the blog post does not explain what a Chumby is.

Neither does the chumby.com homepage.

Incredibly, neither does the item description in the Chumby store.

I'm sure that this announcement is great news for someone, but is Chumby supposed to be a well-kept secret? Why make it so hard to discover what a Chumby does and for who?

Had to look it up on Wikipedia myself: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chumby

I do vaguely remember it now. Surprised he doesn't just do a Chumby 2 on kickstarter.

Producing new hardware would probably require a bit of renegotiating, and there are likely enough devices out there either in new old stock or unplugged to satisfy demand.

I'd love to see a Chumby distribution for the Raspberry Pi, for example, to support something newer and in production, but that would require figuring out a way to legally license FlashLite from Adobe again.

Interesting, I've got 3.5 Chumbies :-) This is not a good thing for me :-(

The Chumby was a product from Bunnie Studios which was an ARM system with a touch screen, embedded is a bean bag kind of case. It had an application which is basically a flash player (yes on ARM, the only one I know of these days) and it would cycle between flash applications on a "channel." Some times it would cycle through to an advertisement.

It has an accelerometer, speaker, 320 x 240 x 16 touch screen, a couple of USB ports and a wireless network connector. You can wire up a USB serial port to the console if you have something like the AdaFruit FTDIFriend board.

It very much was the classic case of something "before its time" and the business model was kind of dicey. If you didn't want commercials you were out of luck. Once the company shut down they left a server up serving the one App I really liked, "Space Clock" which was a clock like you might see on a Star Trek universe ship (it has a very LCS look to it).

The site has been revived and a new business model has been put in placed, $3 per month subscription for the ability to run 'apps' on your Chumby. I presume it no longer shows ads.

Its sad for me because it has a really crappy clock app now that runs instead of the space clock, and that is going to force me to finish up my OS replacement. The thing is based loosely on the old Beagle board and much of the things that run on that board run on the Chumby. In particular there is a Ubuntu image for it.

I get the subscription thing, but I don't get the price. For $36/year you can run quite a bit of server. A single droplet ($5/month) can serve up several thousand Chumbies (they don't make I/O requests all that often). $3 a year would have made more sense to me, even $5 a year. Anything more than $12 a year and I'm just not going to go there.

The reason I have 3.5 is that the .5 is the 'Chumby Guts' option that Adafruit offered for a while. It was all of the parts, minus the squishy case. At $99 for the parts it was a really good deal for a small ARM linux system with a touch screen. I wish them luck, and I'm glad they are back, but I think they need to rethink that price.

I think there's a little bit off in your summary of the post-demise events, but not much. After Chumby closed its doors someone (anonymous investor?) kept paying the server bills for quite a while, presumably as they attempted to find a buyer for the remains including the customer base. Meanwhile one or more former staff (Duane) kept things going on the forums and could deal with a few things on a volunteer basis as his time allowed.

Once it became clear that a purchase wasn't going to happen, Duane was able to purchase it for what I suspect was a fairly small amount of money. That's the point where the change over to "Space Clock" happened, because as it turned out there were some international addresses chewing down amazing amounts of bandwidth, etc. some of them for no clear reason.

I haven't kept track, but at one point there was a USB-bootable local version of the Chumby software available for download, though apps were problematic. I don't know if it improved beyond the level of "choose your apps by putting the files in the right place and editing GUID-like values in a config file" or not.

My wife still uses her Chumby as a clock, but I was actually thinking about stealing it from her so I can use it as a simple streaming audio alarm clock - that functionality is built right in.

I've been in contact with Duane, I would be really curious as to what the international IP's were doing exactly. One of my Chumbys lived briefly on the Internet and a number of things tried to hack it but for the most part it has been reasonably safe. I did use the SSH option to go in and get a better firewall running on it.

Like you I think the Chumby is a great 'viewer' into things digital. Whether it is the time, my calendar, or whatever. My long neglected project is a Ubuntu with a DirectFB driver and the QT4 widget set. I'm going to have to see what it will take to bring that back. Robert Nelson has an excellent toolchain/process for building images for these things and ARM Linux has gotten a lot better in the last half decade.

When rationalizing the price for the service, you can't include server costs only. Presumably, the market for the Chumby is not expanding, because they're not sold any more. This means that if the proprietor has any hope of continuing to make an offering, they must do so at a price point that recovers their current investment (sounds like there was a significant re-write), and can justify the time and effort they will have to invest going forward. The community will likely shrink over time, not grow.

I'd say $3/month is pretty conservative. How many Chumby users are there? How many will make the leap to the paid plan? Remember that he's offering the free tier.

This sort of dedication (in addition to him being a great developer, hacker and all around swell guy) is why anyone would be lucky to work with/for Duane Maxwell.

What is this company? The linked blog post does little to enlighten me, and even after reading the chumby.com homepage I'm still unsure. It looks like they sell hardware? For what purpose?

They used to sell hardware devices, similar in design to a digital picture frame. These were internet connected devices that could display different apps or feeds.

They were kind of a mix between Tablets and Dashboards.

The Chumby was cool 4 years ago... When the Chumby services started getting flaky as their business died I replaced mine with an Android tablet in a sound dock. The Android tablet is more reliable, has more apps, and doesn't turn into a worthless brick when the internet goes down. I still have the Chumby in a box somewhere, maybe now that services are back up I can sell it and recover some of my cost.

The use case for chumbies was intended to be different than Android apps in the sense that you have "channels" of rotating information (photos, tweets, whatever) that you can consume in a non-interactive manner (most of the time) which doesn't really map well to Android apps.

While I'm an avid Android user (phone & multiple tablets and even do Android programming as my current "day job"), I still think there is room in the world for the chumby "vision" though if it were to work long term it would be better served by eventually moving the system off of Flash and decoupling the service and apps even more from the existing hardware (it would be better as a software platform that ran on whatever, including (for example) raspberry-pi boards which are in some ways spiritual descendants of the chumby hardware).

disclosure: I worked for chumby until it died.

Well, the reason Android (or iPad) isnt suitable for this is the right app just doesnt exist yet.

Wouldnt Chumby just be more suited to make a $5(expensive!) app for iOS and Android (hell, make it a webservice) that incorporated the previous Chumby feeds?

We did produce a chumby Android app prior to the company going out of business, I think it still exists.

Putting it on iOS was a no-go because of iOS' refusal to support Flash. Even today it would still be kind of iffy on iOS unless it was all based on HTML and JavaScript since AFAIK that's the only way (via UIWebView) that Apple will allow any app to be as dynamic as a real chumby control panel app would have to be, which then becomes a bit of a problem as far as backward compatibility to existing chumby hardware goes since they are pretty CPU/RAM starved for web stuff.

But you're right in that (as I mentioned in the other post) the system would be better served by being a multiplatform software play in the future rather than being stranded on old ARMv5 devices running Flash Lite.

Look up Sony Dash, it was Sony's version of the Chumby. Got it for free with a notebook purchase and it's still running beside my bed however I stopped using most apps long ago. Loved the concept but the execution left a lot to be desired. CPU could never make the flash based apps feel snappy. Still makes a sweet alarm clock though.

One app would load content from any url you specified. Tied it to a script that summarized the status of our servers so I could monitor it anytime.

I desperately tried to buy a Chumby when they came out. "Only shipping to US!" .. Fine, ok - whatever... I'll have it mailed to a friend and pick it up from them.

"Oh, trying to use a non-US Visa/Mastercard?? No no no"

.. Then gave up. Trying to throw money at a company that won't take it, they went bust. Not surprised.

woah. I might still have a couple of the 3" and 8"(?) units around still in the box...

I still have a few unboxed insignia infocasts (3 and 8) and a few drawers full of Chumby Ones, a couple of Chumby 8s and a few chumby classics, in addition to some old prototype boards and even a Sony Dash with sshd enabled (rare, because Sony locked down the retail hardware).

Even while the chumby service was down I would often pull these out to use as special purpose devices (eg. mpd servers for net radio), they are still pretty good small linux boxes that go great with Go development.

I too have a few Infocast 8's sitting around. My Chumby One (white plastic) died a while ago (reboot loop) unfortunately.

Are you aware of what the best current linux firmware is for the Silvermoon (8") platform? The OpenEmbedded versions I've seen are fairly old released from when the devices first went on sale, and I'd love to make use of them.

Unfortunately I don't think there is a newer version of the kernel than that, at least not that anyone has released (it is possible xobs/Sean Cross might have code for a newer build laying around somewhere, but if so I'm not aware); not long after that version was baked the layout of the ARM platform in the linux kernel diverged a lot and the older kernel version was from a time where hardly any of the SoC vendors (including Marvell) were getting anything into the mainline.

It would theoretically be possible to get a 3.x kernel up by forward-porting the divergent patches between that OE kernel and the linux kernel version from that time, but I'm not aware of any current working code for that. Due to the changes in the kernel, it wouldn't be trivial to do.

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