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Widget-enabled Internet radio gets faster, cheaper

Nov 12, 2009 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 3 views

Chumby Industries is readying an updated version of its Linux-based “Chumby” web-connected clock radio. Like the original, the “Chumby One” streams a personalized broadcast of web content over WiFi, and it offers a much lower price, a faster processor, far more flash memory, an FM radio, and a battery option.

The Chumby One moves up from the 350MHz Freescale i.MX21 processor found on the original Chumby (pictured at right), now called "Chumby Classic," to an unnamed 454MHz processor, also based on an ARM architecture, says Chumby. Like the Classic, the new version offers 64MB SDRAM, but in place of 64MB of NAND flash, it has advanced to a 2GB internal microSD card.

The 3.5-inch touchscreen appears to be the same 320 x 240 display, and the overall dimensions of the clock radio-like device are only slightly smaller, dropping the width by 1.5 inches to four, while gaining half an inch in the other two dimensions.

Other new features include an FM radio tuner and a volume knob, says Chumby. There is also a battery option that uses a standard rechargeable lithium ion battery, although it is only rated to last an hour per charge.

Chumby One

Like the Classic, the Chumby One is equipped with WiFi and accelerometers, and a headphone jack. In the minus column, the device drops to a single USB port instead of two, and its speakers are downgraded from stereo to mono. The Chumby One also switches to a white ABS plastic casing rather than the Chumby's signature Italian leather wrap, and — OMG! — there are no more "charm" attachments.

Both Chumby devices display a continuous stream of rotating, personalized "push content" channels from the subscription-free Chumby Network. The Chumby website offers widgets such as music, games, movie previews, customized alarm clocks, and various Web-based content, much of it subsidized by advertising. Content partners include Pandora Radio, SHOUTcast, The Weather Channel, CBS, MTV Networks, and The New York Times, says the company.

More than 1,500 applications in 30 different categories are now said to be available, including podcasts, news, gossip, video clips, and sports scores. Other features include the ability to monitor social networks like Facebook and Twitter, and view and share photos from sites like Flickr and Photobucket, says Chumby. Users can also develop their own Flash-based "widget content" using the Chumby's hackable, open-source Linux development platform and share it with other Chumby users ("chums") on the site.

Specifications listed for the Chumby One include:

  • Processor — 454MHz ARM processor
  • Memory — 64MB DDR SDRAM
  • Flash — 2GB on internal microSD card
  • Display — 3.5-inch LCD color touchscreen; dimmable backlight
  • WiFi — 802.11b/g
  • USB — 1 x USB 2.0 high-speed port ("USB Ethernet compatible")
  • Audio:
    • 2 Watt mono speaker
    • Stereo headphone output
    • FM radio tuner
    • Volume knob
  • Other features: Accelerometer; ABS plastic housing
  • Battery — Accepts rechargeable Lithium Ion battery (not included); runs about one hour; AC adapter included
  • Dimensions — 4.0 x 4.0 x 3.5 inches
  • Operating system — Linux

The Chumby was released in small quantities in November 2007, and shipped in volume in February 2008. By April of that year, it had opened up its widget developers site and announced more content partnerships.

In January of this year, Chumby announced two digital photo frame (DPF) reference designs based on its Chumby embedded stack and website. One design partnership is with Marvell Semiconductor, using a Marvell PXA168 processor, and the other is with Samsung, using a Samsung S3C6410 processor.

Stated Jessica Steel, SVP of Business Development for Pandora, "We're excited about this next step in Chumby's evolution and look forward to serving the Pandora audience on lots of new Chumby-powered devices."

Stated Stephen Tomlin, CEO of Chumby, "We've reinvented the clock radio for the Internet age and at a much lower price than our original device, while still offering the same wealth of content and apps. In addition, we have been working with top electronics manufacturers on other chumby-powered devices for the connected home."


The Chumby One is available for order now in the U.S., U.K., Germany, France, Spain, Italy, and Portugal, here, with the ship date estimated as Nov. 26. A limited-time price of $100 is available through November, but in December the price switches to $120. The Chumby Classic is still available for $200.

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