Friday, 19 June 2009

Hacking the Chumby

A few weeks ago I was given a Chumby. What is a Chumby? Well it's a nifty little Linux based internet enabled device that plays Flash Lite widgets. The Chumby has a small 3.5" 320x240 colour touch screen, a couple of USB 2.0 ports, stereo 2W speakers and a headphone socket. The processor is a 350Mhz Freescale MX21ADS (ARM926EJ-Sid(wb) rev 4 (v5l)) and on board is 64 MB SDRAM and 64MB NAND flash.

It also has a squeeze sensor and a motion sensor (accelerometer) - the latter is used for interaction, such as games Widgets.

Hacking this device is fairly straight forward, there is a hidden button on a configuration screen that selects a hidden options menu. This has an option to allow one to enable SSH, and once enabled one can SSH in as root and start playing! To keep SSH enabled even after a reboot one needs to touch the file /psp/start_sshd.
Another hidden option enables a simple Web Server. I've hacked this to allow me to check the system status, it's rather crude, but it works!

The Chumby Website allows one to select from over a 1000 widgets - you simply add these to one of your personal Chumby channels and the device downloads these Flash Lite widgets which are free to use. There are a huge range of widgets, ranging from internet radio players, clocks, RSS news feed viewers, webcam viewers, games, photo viewers and more beside!

As for hacking, there is a Wiki with plenty of information on how to download the GCC toolchain and kernel source - with which one can start porting apps. It's early days for me - I've only rebuilt the kernel and ported bash, but I'm looking to do some hoopy things, such as get a C64 emulator ported - there may be enough horsepower on this device for it to work. Watch this space!

Chumby References:

Chumby Industries


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