Worth the Wait: Chumby Lands at a Desk Near You

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Photos by Jon Snyder

Meet Chumby: a wireless gadget that pulls information off the web and puts it on your desktop. Chumby is like a widget box, serving up a constant stream of photos, sports scores and anything else that can be loaded into an RSS feed. There’s been a lot of hype about this thing. After years in development hell and numerous false starts, it’s been hailed as a revolution in internet access and also slammed as a half-baked gimmick. A gimmick it is not. After plugging in the plush device, we found the Chumby to be the perfect desktop companion, perfect for internet radio and watching eBay.

Chumby works by patching into your WiFi connection, pulling content from the internet and displaying it in creative ways on a 3.5-inch touchscreen. Content arrives in widget form, and arrives in any flavor you can possibly think of — from news aggregators and stock tickers to Lolcat feeds to something called PandaCam. These DIY web-trawlers serve up a custom slice of internet pie wherever you’ve got a WiFi connection (and a power outlet). A few sites and blogs publish their own stuff, but Chumbyland is as dependent on its user base as it is on developers. Can’t find what you want? Conjure up your flash kung fu and create your own customized widget. It doesn’t run Doom (yet), but a quick search of the extensive forums shows that we’re not the only ones asking.

The system does have some kinks. When our router went haywire,  Chumby took a hit of bad WiFi and got strung out, choking on the digital chaff and spinning its wheels at start up. A quick trip to live chat support got us all the help we needed, and resuscitating our Precious was a breeze. —Nate Ralph

WIRED Streams internet radio, or music from your iPod or USB drive. Interspersed ads are unobtrusive. Soft and pretty. High-concept idea executed extremely well.

TIRED
Touchscreen is finicky. Limited widget scheduling, so daily content gets repetitive.  Power adapter connection makes Chumby cuddle-time awkward.

$179, chumby.com

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