Chumby One: handsome successor to the cutest computer ever

The Chumby One — the successor to the incredibly innovative Chumby device — is just about ready to ship, and is available for $99. Chumby is a cute, squeezable hand-held device that is wide open — everything from the circuit board designs to the software is open-licensed and freely downloadable. The idea is to produce an adorable, versatile device that any hacker, anywhere, can improve, so that all Chumby owners can get more out of it. I have a couple of them at the office and I love playing with them. The new version looks amazing.

In addition to being about half the price of the original chumby, the new device added some features: it has an FM radio, and it has support for a rechargeable lithium ion battery (although it's not included with the device, you have to buy one and install it yourself). There's also a knob so you can easily/quickly adjust the volume. But I don't think those are really the significant new features. What really gets me excited about this one is that it's much more hackable. The most significant improvement is that the firmware is stored on a microSD card.

The microSD card isn't replaceable from the outside — this is to prevent non-hackers from pulling it out and wondering why the device isn't booting anymore — but if you take the back panel off (screws this time, no glue seals), it's fairly easy to access. The key here is that no longer do you have to worry about bricking your chumby device: if you screw up the firmware, you just pull it out, mount it on your dev box, and dd a new image onto it. Also, microSD is a "managed" NAND device, unlike our previous generation device which used a raw NAND device. This means that we don't have to rely on a MTD layer for the filesystem, and instead we can directly drop ext3 onto the device. While we still mount the root partition as read-only to harden the device against accidental damage, unlike our original cramfs implementation, you can trivially remount it as read/write and modify the linux on the device. Also, our OS image takes up only a small portion of the total device capacity, so there's actually over a gigabyte of extra space on there for you to load extra applications and libraries.

chumby One (Bunnie Huang's blog)

Chumby Store