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Hack this 31 August, 2006

Posted by Jay Ball in hardware, I want one, open source.
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Chumby

This is a Chumby (the thing with the screen, not the coffee cup). And, out of the box, it doesn’t do a hell of a lot. OK, it does come with a clock/radio and – this is the important bit – a wireless internet connection.

The internet connection gives you access to an ever increasing range of Flash-based widgets that you can use to add extra functions to your Chumby. Using the touch-screen or squeeze-sensor, you can view photos on Flickr, the latest news from Digg or your day ahead on Google Calendar – and in future, who knows what else. Of course if that was all, it wouldn’t be that interesting (widgets are not exactly new news).

The really interesting thing is that Chumby is completely open source. The people behind it have released software and hardware developers’ kits and are actively encouraging users to hack, mod and generally pimp their creation.

Essentially, if you have the skills, you can do what you want. Write new widgets. Tear out the innards and install them elsewhere (the teletubbie is particularly scary). Or literally re-skin the unit (in leopardskin if you like).

This commitment to co-creation and open source thinking is so smart. The engagement that Chumby is receiving through their blog, forums and development wiki is priceless. They will end up with a better product with more interesting features and a committed community of users who get the chance to showcase their own skills through the product.

While the open source approach is becoming more widespread, it is still the exception rather than the rule. But it is the future – for tech companies, for customers and for agencies. Personally, I can’t wait.

Sources: TechCrunch, psfk, Christine.net

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