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!
Open-source beer. Were it only as easy as walking to the store and picking up a free case of alcoholic something that's been built and licensed by a team of geeks. At the very least, we can all can build our own booze-making machines following a handy set of open-source software and hardware instructions. But the fun doesn't stop there.
What is open-source hardware? I've chatted about this before. In short, open-source hardware is be a combination of software code and hardware instructions (or, really, just the latter) that's given to you for a set price (not necessarily "free as in beer") and license for use. You're free to use the instructions to develop carbon copies of that which you wish to build, or create derivative works of said hardware, provided you offer up your diagrams/code/instructions under the same licensing as you received it.
Now that's out of the way, let's check out the open-source home brewery kit along with a few other crazy projects from the OSH world!
As we close up yet another month of freeware goodies, it's important to look back and reflect on some of the awesome programs that received a version bump in the past 30 days. It was tough to nail down five free applications that not only upgraded themselves to a new iteration, but ones that successfully packed new and interesting features into their latest builds. There's no overarching theme this week save for that. It's a grab-bag of awesome new software to install; if the lack of a unifying concept horrifies you, don't worry. I'll list out all of this month's freeware roundups in the article below, which you can use as a guide of-sorts to travel back to safer downloading waters.
Click the upgrade button (okay, the jump) and check out the best of this month's updated freeware!
Business cards have largely been untouched by all the technological advancements around them. But all that is about to change as efforts to bring business cards up to speed are underway on a war footing. James Alliban's, a London-based Flash developer, lit up the internet after he unveiled his augmented reality business card last month.
Just as he was preparing to launch a company to tap the commercial potential of his project, another similar project surfaced. Jonas Jäger, a German design student, has trotted out his own AR business card solution, which is avowedly inspired by Star Wars.
He is currently developing a frontend tool that will let users “create a presentation file for your portfolio.” The user will have to print the unique QR-code – containing the URL of their presentation – and the AR-marker on the back of their business card to breathe life into to it. He has promised to release the source code under the Creative Commons License.
A coalition of some of the biggest names in the OSS world have banded together to create Open Source for America, a brand-new advocacy group that's going to try and highlight the advantages of open-source software to help achieve the goals set out in President Barack Obama's push for an open-data government. But as we pause to "ooh" and "ahh" at the list of companies and open-source celebrities contributing to the new group--Novell, the Mozilla Foundation, the EFF, Tim O'Reilly, and Mark Shuttleworth, amongst many others--let us not forget the uphill battle that the concept of "openness" tends to face in the government sector.
I just can't find myself getting that excited over open-source software when we still have fundamental issues of transparency and openness in governmental data. There's a wealth of information out there that's free and easily accessible to the public. But that doesn't mean that legislators, agencies, and departments are going out of their way to make this information as useful as it could be. In fact, it was only as recently as two months ago that the U.S. Senate itself opened up its own voting records for third-party applications and mashups.
Click the jump and put on your safety helmet--we're going data diving!
With a mighty "yehhh," the city of Vancouver, British Columbia, passed a motion to adopt open standards in its local government this past May. I find it to be a wonderful development--not just because I write about open source. Rather, I think that the move is a twofold triumph: It allows governments to free themselves of pricy, proprietary software burdens while simultaneously opening up more areas of government for access by conventional citizens.
It's no secret that programs like HOST and CRADA are helping the U.S. bring new, open standards of communication and accessibility to the forefront of the discussion. I'd nevertheless like to see more cities working the answer from a bottom-to-top approach, adopting motions like Vancouver's--or, for that matter, using Vancouver's exact template--to call for the integration of open-source ideas and programs wherever possible in local government.
It's not an idle dream, as various cities in the United States have already started to dip their toes into open waters. If our brethren to the north can take the plunge into open source sans hesitation, why not us as well?
Click the jump to learn more about Vancouver's open initiative!
Google's announcement of Chrome OS hasn’t quite riled Intel’s feathers, if Michael Chen, director of Intel's embedded sales group (Asia-Pacific), can be taken for his word. As Chrome OS will primarily be targeted at MID devices, netbooks and nettops, it will always be on collision course with Moblin. For those of you who don’t know, Moblin is an open source OS that Intel developed for the above named device categories. "Our long-term goal is providing hardware for devices with different operating systems... more competition will drive up more innovations and that's good for consumers." Michael Chen said. Intel’s lack of concern is not entirely unprecedented, for companies usually greet a rival’s product with either customary skepticism or dubious unconcern. (Certified fake screenshot below)
If you're like me, your USB key should come with its own flame retardant coating. That's because I tend to use my little four-gigabyte device to great excess on a near-daily basis. It's an easy fix for transferring files from a desktop PC to a laptop, and it's great for carrying batches of files I need to access (especially if I'm without an Internet connection, making Dropbox useless). If I'm heading over to a friend's house, I can slap a movie on the drive for us to watch on an attached PC or home theater device. I can throw down a game or two if I'm going to be travelling and don't feel like reading about overpriced devices that will pet my cat for me. USB keys are more than just a geek's trusty friends. They're uber-tools in their own right.
Application suites for USB keys are another popular way of extending the functionality of your desktop into the portable realm. Install these batches of software and you can take your favorite programs along with you wherever you go--perfect for when you're using a computer that isn't yours, yet you would prefer to be able to access to a better range of apps than Windows' default programs. Better still, you can stick these batches of applications on smaller USB keys to extend the life of these sub-gigabyte devices. The storage might stink, but the functionality will rule.
Click the jump to check out five, freeware application suites that will dazzle up your USB key faster than you can say, "universal serial bus."
Just over a year ago, Finnish mobile firm Nokia acquired Symbian, a move that put the handset maker in direct competition with Google and Apple for mobile internet market share. But despite a vested interest in sticking with its Symbian platform, word on the web is that Nokia is developing a mobile phone powered by Google's open-source Android OS.
Nokia's decision came after seeng its global smartphone market share drop from 47 percent in 2007 to 35 percent last summer and 31 percent by the start of 2008. That's a frightening trend for a company which makes about four out of every 10 mobile phones being sold.
The smartphone maker has been doing everything it can to remain relevant in the mobile sector, including forging an alliance with Intel to develop a new breed of Intel Architecture-based mobile devices.
Dealing with your data is a critical part of the Windows experience. "No, really," you ask? I know, I know. But the kinds of file operations you perform on any given day represent the bread and butter of your operating system. You drag your pictures around, copy and paste your documents to other places, maybe send a file or two over email. It's simple stuff. That's not a value judgment, just a comment about the basic functionality that everyone uses on a modern OS.
When you're ready to step out of this minor league of file management and head into the majors, you'll find a host of freeware applications waiting to hit a pitch or two. These applications take the common elements of your Windows file operations and inject them with a dose of raw energy. For example, you can customize and jack up the very process of copying files from one directory to another. You can also beat back Windows' default system for batch file renaming and instead transform a large number of files with very specific titles and extensions. You can even map out just how much space your files take up on your drive, giving you the perfect opportunity to catch up on some spring cleaning across your battered hard drive.
While these kinds of processes are a mainstay of this week's roundup, I'm also taking a look at two additional programs that pack additional functionality into your operating system as a whole. So what are you waiting for? Quit your file transfers, click the jump, and get ready for a brand new world.