Worcester Gadget Fiesta


This weekend, 4 of us played with 2 gadgets that are intended to establish new market niches and which embrace “openness”: the XO (aka OLPC, a tiny laptop for developing-world kids) and the Chumby (a tiny wifi-enabled Linux box intended to compete with clock radios).

Worcester Commons webcam on a Chumby

My blog post “The Chumby Is a Waste of Money” is coming soon, but I have to admit that watching the Worcester Commons webcam on this thing was pure fun.


Whatever the faults of OLPC’s strategy, their project already seems to have scared for-profit companies into making laptops for developing-world kids. And boy, the XO is a sweet piece of hardware: playing with it, I got the same thrill as when I first used the Wii and iPhone.

Odd UI: A big plus, in my book. What’s life without challenges?

Interesting apps: Two friends, much less geeky than I, had great fun seeing what they could get this thing to do. If there’s a fine line between confusing and intriguing, this is on the right side of that line.

Durable: I’m very hard on gadgets, so I love the solid feel of the XO. This is the only laptop I’d be comfortable using as a club or cutting board.

Cute as heck: Your iPhone will look sleek this year, old-fashioned next year. A thing of cuteness is cute forever.


We were telling one friend about the arty video game Passage (via Kottke), and Nick got it running on the XO. A cool end to a cool afternoon.

The XO in Darfur
XO vs. Macbook Air
Using the Chumby to build a robot car

One thought on “Worcester Gadget Fiesta”

  1. You’re entitled to your opinion but, please, before you write a blog post entitled, “The Chumby is a Waste of Money,” could you just do 2 things:

    (1) Check out the chumby’s beta “Control Panel.” If you have a chumby, you go to your My Chumby page and, in the lower right-hand corner of the page, you will see a (deliberately, for now) hidden drop-down menu, where you can select “Control Panel Beta.” After doing this and powering your chumby off and then on again, you will see that the chumby has some really great streaming Internet radio features and can also be a really compelling alarm clock, i.e., you can wake up to Tunisian club music from SHOUTcast and then know your local weather and traffic and maybe get a good laugh even before you get out of bed;

    (2) Recognize that this is an unfinished, pre-release product. We will be launching publicly in a few weeks and with some great new features and content that will probably change your view of things;

    (3) Then, if you still think that the chumby is a waste of money, please tell the world you think so :^)

    Steve Tomlin
    Chumby Industries, Inc.

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