Sunday, March 10, 2013

Chumby is dead. Long live Chumby!

It's time to get blogging again. Sure I'm active on Twitter, post those requisite photos of my kids to Facebook, and write more than my fair share of posts on my company's Yammer feed. However, this is where the longer form explaining it all really happens. Recently, happenings in the gadget world got me thinking I need to put on my blogger hat once again.

Chumby One
The Chumby One, running Zurk's Offline Firmware.
Many of you know that I have always held a special place in my heart for the Chumby line of desktop gadgets. Ever since their unveiling back in 2006, I have liked the idea of a simple desktop internet-connected clock/radio/widget device.

Sadly, while the devices sold okay over the years and even spawned versions from Sony and Best Buy, the company shut down in 2012. There are many of reasons for this. I even gave a eulogy of sorts for the Chumby company and outlined some of my own thoughts about what happened. Luckily, one of the former Chumby staffers founders, Duane, kept the Chumby servers running for many months so those of still using our dear old Chumbys could still get our widgets and music streaming.

Then abruptly, though not surprisingly, the Chumby servers shut down recently. This seemed to be the beginning of the actual end of Chumby...but not so fast!

In January 2013, one of the volunteers initiated an effort to create a company to acquire all of the remaining assets of Chumby Industries for the purpose of maintaining the service. That company, "Blue Octy, LLC", completed the transaction in mid-February.
They created a temporary stub service that will allow the following devices and apps to boot to a clock:
  • chumby Classic, chumby One, chumby 8
  • Insignia Infocast 3.5" and 8"
  • Insignia Connected TV
  • WOWbox 3.5" and 8"
  • chumby Lite (Android)
  • chumby for Sony Tablet S (Android)
The Sony Dash is supported directly by Sony now and no longer runs off the Chumby servers.

Full text of the the Chumby announcement is available on At this point there is no timeframe for when the full service will be back, but at least you can get a basic clock and even Pandora and other streaming services still seem to work as well.

Alternatively, and what I've decided to do with my Insignia Infocast 3.5" and Chumby One, is to run Zurk's Offline Firmware for Chumby. This runs off a USB stick to insert into the device and you can customize the widgets and settings using XML files as well as Zurk's very cool browser-based dashboard.

I am both anxious and excited to see what happens next. While I still expect my Chumbys to become expensive paperweights one day, I do not think that is going to happen just yet.

Chumby is dead. Long live Chumby!


Anonymous said...

Duane was a founder, not staffer

Joelsef said...

Thanks for the correction. Edited above!

Nathan said...

It seems that Duane has been optimizing the Chumby database and has gotten about 60% of the coding done for the 3.5 inch devices, after which he'll start on the 8 inch devices. The Infocasts will be supported, even though Insignia's contract is over. However, Dashes won't be supported, as they're completely closed. He says he's gotten several of his 3.5" devices connected to the test server and pulling widgets. As I can't edit XML files, this is a good development for me.

Nathan said...

And... They're back up! For a subscription of $3/month.

Joelsef said...

Oh my!

Anonymous said...

$3 a month! That's too much. I miss the customized Alarm Clock I was using (Star Trek LCars) but I'll deal with the default Chumby one for now.

I wonder if the old offline firmware still works after this update. Maybe I could spend $3, download the apps I want then take it offline forever.

Joelsef said...

Think of it as $36 a year, and it works for all of your clocks. Same price as a Pandora subscription.

I would jump on it more easily if it was $1 a month, but I understand they need enough funding to pay the bills, so I may end up subscribing. I do love my Chumbys. :-)

hGriff said...

I never will understand why they thought running the device from a remote server was a good idea, it's more than powerful enough to pull it's widgets from a local flash drive. Even more puzzling were the ads. Yeah, I realize they had to pay for the service some how, but serving the standard helping of shady insurance, mortgage refinance, and USA-centric PSA/TV ads to the world was a stupid idea from the start.

I guess since everyone else is running devices (that could easily run locally) on remote server, Chumby thought they could too...

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