At first, I just didn't get it--the Chumby, that is. This little LCD display wrapped in a hug of padding looked like a bizarre cross between my car's antiquated GPS device, the throw-up of an OSX dashboard, and a big plushy hunk of love. To its genius, that's exactly what the Chumby is... and so much more. And did I mention that it's open-source as well?
Contrary to most of the open-source hardware projects I've mentioned on Maximum PC, the Chumby is ready for your attention the moment you pop it out of the box. But that doesn't mean that you can't tweak and tinker beyond its simplistic exterior. Although cracking open the soft, loveable digital toy will violate your warranty, the official Chumby site is more than happy to give you a listing of the device's full hardware--schematics as well. From there, only your conscience toward ripping open friendly, plush, communication devices stands in your way of complete hardware transcendence.
If hardware hacking isn't your thing, however, the second best part of the Chumby is the comprehensive list of software widgets that you can display and interact with on the device. To find these, you can go the official route and download apps directly off of Chumby's main site or you can scour the internet for custom, USB-deployable software to stick into your device.
Just what do these tweaks entail? Click the jump and find out--featuring examples you can play with too!
We've longed bemoaned the real-world write performance of most SSDs, which often falls short of the much speedier read speeds. Even worse, surmises HotHardware, is the potential for an SSD's write performance to degrade over time.
"The flash memory used on today's SSDs is comprised of cells that usually contain 4KB pages that are arranged in blocks of 512KB," writes HotHardware. "When a cell is unused, data can be written to it relatively quickly. But if a cell already contains some data -- no matter how little, even if it fills only a single page in the block -- the entire block must be re-written. That means, whatever data is already present in the block must be read, then it must be combined or replaced, etc., with the new additional data, and the entire block is then re-written."
The good news is most manufacturers are attacking the problem head on via firmware. One such example is OCZ's implementation of the Indilinx firmware, which the company plans to include on all Vertex series drives. When the drives are idle, Indilinx and other similar SSD firmware sweep through an SSD's cells looking for and removing so-called "garbage data."
HotHardware got its hands on one of OCZ's new Vertex drives outfitted with the Indilinx firmware and the results are pretty surprising. After "dirtying" the drive with chunks of data, performance degradation became apparent while running the ATTO Disk Benchmark. But after letting the drive sit idle for 5 minutes, performance numbers were nearly restored to new condition.
While we're big fans of the proven awesomeness of open-source software, we don't automatically download every free application that's labeled as an open-source project. What make more sense is the use of open-source as the tool that effects some kind of massive or otherwise unreachable change in a common device. Case in point is open-source firmware, named not for any philosophical belief behind its creation, but because few would want to heft the banner for these changes themselves. After all, creativity comes from a wide range of sources and inputs--as does software testers. You sure wouldn't want to be the one person working on third-party iPhone firmware, bricking device after device in a quest to add additional functionality that Apple didn't first design.
But that kind of unintended funcitonality is the sole benefit to open-source firmware. Throw those aspirations of community membership and open-source allegiance out the window: You want to increase the power of your device akin to a Sim tinkering his or her hardware to gain mechanical skill points. There's no shame in that. In fact, you can accomplish much by adopting third-party firmware in place of standard manufacturer packages. For example, building increased sound codecs into your MP3 player of choice, or adding on-screen level meters to your digital SLR. You can even turn your router into a bridge, perfect for extending the range of your neighbor's wireless signal so you can thieve his connection from additional locations in your apartment. You can also brick your device.
We jest, but only partially. For the danger of running third-party firmware--safe as many of the packages can seem to be--is that you could render your device of choice unusable. It happens to "real" firmware upgrades; it can happen to "unofficial" firmware upgrades as well, only I venture that you'll probably find more problems in the latter scenario than with a manufacturer's tried-and-tested update. But still, the benefits can often outweigh the risks, especially if you're looking to extend your legacy devices with additional features. An entire ocean of open-source firmware fixes awaits your perusal -- we take a look at some outstanding examples of open-source firmware, and teach you how to install them on your own gadgets!
We love point-and-shoot pocket cameras for their small size and ease of use, but we lament their relatively paltry feature sets when compared to more expensive DSLR models. The good news, for owners of the popular Canon PowerShot cameras, is that your consumer-grade gadget can be upgraded with custom software to endow it with professional features like RAW image recording and live histogram feedback. CHDK (Canon Hack Development Kit) is an easy-to-install software package created by a savvy group of programmers to supercharge the Canon PowerShot. We show you how to safely install and configure this free firmware add-on with no risk to your camera.
For as long as Sony’s PlayStation Portable has been on the market, it’s been a juicy target for hackers. With burly hardware (for a handheld) and a gorgeous screen, it just begs to play homebrew, and lots of PSP owners have cracked their devices to do just that. Unfortunately, Sony has had other plans for their handheld, and has released dozens of firmware updates and several hardware revisions to make it harder to hack the PSPs handheld.
As such, there’s no one hack that works on all PSP, and in fact some PSPs are completely unhackable. There is, however, one fairly easy method that works on most consoles, which is what we’ll illustrate in this article.
Third-party router software has been around for a while, but we can’t help but keep recommending it to users who want to add undocumented features to their home network. Our favorite router firmware package is still Tomato, which we favor for its compatibility with a wide range of router brands and models, user-friendly interface, and powerful feature set. We’ll show you how to upgrade your router’s firmware to the newest version of Tomato and then configure the Quality of Service settings to manage your network traffic.
For most people, an MP3 player serves a pretty narrow purpose: it plays music, maybe a video here or there if you’ve got a newer model, and might have a handful of applications. All in all, though, MP3 players are rarely treated as anything more than tiny, portable jukeboxes, which is a shame, because as gadgets they’ve got the potential for so much more. That’s why, in this article, we’re going to show you how to install custom Rockbox firmware and breathe new life into your trusty old MP3 player.
Rockbox is an open source replacement firmware for MP3 players. It supports a wide range of MP3 players, including many (but not all) players from Apple, Archos, Cowon, iriver, Olympus, SanDisk and Toshiba. Before reading any further, check out the chart at the top of the Rockbox homepage to see whether your specific model is supported or not.
Good news for Gigabyte fans who like to tweak their systems but fear one bad move (or BIOS flash) could ruin the whole experience. The motherboard maker has begun offering its DualBIOS technology on its entire lineup of motherboards and not just the high-end boards.
Gigabyte refers to its DualBIOS as a "hot spare" for your system, and that's essentially what is. DualBIOS boards contain two BIOS chips. Should the primary chip fail for any reason -- say a power outage during a BIOS update, or a particularly nasty virus infection -- the secondary BIOS automatically kicks in the next time you boot your system.
Gigabyte initially only offered its DualBIOS technology on premium boards, but look to see it on both entry- and mid-level mobos going forward as the company tries to increase its market share.
We've been following closely ever since some Seagate hard drive owners started complaining late last week that their hard drives were failing "at an alarming rate." Following a flood of complaints on Seagate's support forum and plenty of media coverage, Seagate responded with a firmware update that was supposed to solve the issue and prevent future lockups from occurring for owners who hadn't yet been affected. Turns out the new firmware wasn't quite ready for prime time, and Seagate had to pull the update after learning it was bricking users' hard drives. Oops!
The latest straight from Seagate is that the company has now released yet another firmware update that both will prevent future problems and undo the damage inflicted by installing the original firmware 'fix.'
As it turns out, both Seagate and Maxtor-brand SATA drives can be affected by firmware problems. So, how can you find out exactly which models may be on the naughty list and when Seagate has a firmware fix that's ready for prime time? Join us after the jump for details.