Anything You Want in a Gadget

Meet Chumby, an open-source touchscreen Internet device that's so customizable (and so soft), you'll want to spend your whole day with it

You pay big bucks for your devices, so why shouldn't you decide what they do? That's the question behind Chumby ($150; chumby.com), a wireless Internet box developed by a group of hackers weary of traditional electronics design-bland, square gadgets like MP3 players restricted to a few prescribed functions. Powered by a 266-megahertz processor, 32 megabytes of flash memory (with an upgrade on the way) and open-source software, Chumby is instead a platform with the capacity to do pretty much anything its users decide it should. If, say, you want regular injury reports for your fantasy baseball team, a reminder to TiVo the Beverly Hillbillies marathon, and status updates on your eBay auctions, you can create Chumby "widgets" to do the work, or download existing ones off the Web. And Chumby's makers encourage you to hack the bugger for any function-home automation, GPS-you can dream up. But even if you don't care to change Chumby on the inside, you can always do it on the outside; its squeezable, soft suede casing is just as ready to mod as its guts.

Chumbify Your Life
****Cost:
$150
Time: 3
Hours
Easy | | | | |
Hard

  • Squeeze the sensor on the top right to get the control-panel screen. Select "settings" on the touchscreen, choose the "network" button, and let Chumby find a wireless connection.
  • Log on to chumby.com to give your Chumby a name (ours is called "Poppy"). Then click the "edit default widgets" link to browse through the list of available widgets, and click on any you want to add.
  • Allow about 10 minutes for your Chumby to be updated with the new widgets you selected. For instructions on creating your own widgets and hacking the Chumby, go to the site's "developers" section.

To view a day's worth of uses for your Chumby, click here.

12:45 p.m.

See how your stocks are doing.John B. Carnett

5:43 p.m.

Preview your commute on a webcam.John B. Carnett

11:04 p.m.

Fall asleep to some downloaded music.John B. Carnett

7:10 a.m.

Wake up to Chumby´s alarm clock.John B. Carnett

8:22 a.m.

Get the forecast before walking Fido.John B. Carnett