I finally replaced my old regular cell-phone which was literally being held together by a rubber band with a fancy new G1, my first Internet accessible phone.
I had to call the T-Mobile support line to get data added to my plan and the person helping me was disconcertingly friendly. She asked about my weekend plans and so I felt compelled to ask her the same. Her plans involved replacing her video card so she could get back to World of Warcraft and do I enjoy computer gaming? I couldn't tell if she was genuine or if she was signing me up for magazines.
I was with Sarah in her new car, trying out the phone's GPS functionality via Google Maps while she drove. I switched to Street View and happened to find my car. It was a weird feeling, kind of like those Google conspiracy videos.
The phone runs Google's open source OS and I really enjoy the application API. Its all in Java and URIs and mime-types are sort of basics. Rather than invoking the builtin item picker control directly you invoke an 'intent' specifying the URI of your list of items, a mime-type describing the type of items in the list, and an action 'PICK' and whatever is registered as the picker on the system pops up and lets the user pick from that list. The same goes if you want to 'EDIT' an image, or 'VIEW' an mp3.
I wanted to replace the Google search box gadget that appears on the home screen with my own search box widget that uses OpenSearch descriptors but apparently in the current API you can't make home screen gadgets without changing parts of the OS. My other desired application is something to replace this GPS photo tracker device by recording my location to a file and an additional program on my computer to apply those locations to photos.
I signed up for the pre-release beta and purchased a Chumby last year. Chumby looks like a cousin to a GPS unit. Its similar in size with a touch screen, but has WiFi, accelerometers, and is pillow like on the sides that aren't a screen. In practice its like an Internet alarm clock that shows you photos and videos off the Web. Its hackable in that Chumby Industries tells you about the various ways to run your own stuff on the Chumby, modifying the boot sequence (it runs Linux), turning on sshd, etc, etc. The Chumby forum too has lots of info from folks who have found interesting hacks for the device.
When you turn on the Chumby it downloads and runs the latest version of the Chumby software which lets you set alarms, play music, and display Flash widgets. The Chumby website lets anyone upload their own Flash widgets to share with the community. I tried my hand at creating one using Adobe's free Flash creation SDK but I don't know Flash and didn't have the patience to learn.
Currently my Chumby is set to wake me up at 8am on weekdays with music from ShoutCast and then displays traffic and weather. At 10am everyday it switches to showing me a slide-show of LolCats. At 11pm it switches to night mode where it displays the time in dark grey text on a black background at a reduced light level so as not to disturb me while I sleep.
I like the Chumby but I have two complaints. The first is that it forces me to learn flash in order to create anything cool rather than having a built-in Web browser or depending on a more Web friendly technology. The second complaint is about its name. At first I thought the name was stupid in a kind of silly way, but now that I'm used to the name it sounds vaguely dirty.