5 Quirky Linux Concepts: Hardware and Software

by Ostatic Staff - Aug. 14, 2009

The world of open source is structured to invite unusual, often downright quirky contributions from people with unusual skills, and that inevitably leads to offbeat inventions. On the Linux front, especially because of easily executed embedded Linux concepts, both hardware and software inventions of the quirky type appear regularly. Some of them are quite useful, some of them are fun, and some are both. Here are five products and inventions based on Linux that Rube Goldberg might have been envious of.

Kristin covered Chumby, the Linux alarm clock, here. Chumbies are Wi-Fi connected gadgets that receive news and entertainment streams based on an open platform and a modified Linux kernel. Chumbies connect to a network and ultimately to Chumby.com. An account on the Chumby website allows you to activate your Chumby and configure it with channels that can be customized with a number of widgets (ranging from e-mail viewers and feed readers to server monitors and games). Chumbies start at $199.95.

If you prefer your media devices hackable, check out the $129 Neuros OSD media recorder and player (recently reduced in price from $179.99). It runs Linux, and all of its firmware is open source. You connect the OSD to your TV and give it an analog video input and it can encode video in many formats, including formats for the PSP or mobile phones. You can find out more at the Neuros site.

We've written about Splashtop and instant-on compact Linux operating systems before. If you're on a Windows PC or netbook, these can take you directly into a miniature operating system in about 15 seconds that can allow you to have access to IM, Skype, e-mail, the web and more. Presto is a free download you can get that takes you into a Xandros-based environment in seconds. As soon as Windows starts to boot up, Presto will ask if you want to jump into it instead. If you're a mobile Windows worker and don't want to wait for a Windows boot everytime you need to do something simple like send a message, Presto could be golden, and it also could be good for older machines or netbooks, where speeds and/or boot times are hideously bad.

While it's not for sale, we covered the Linux-based robotic clarinet seen at left, here. The Robo-Clarinet won first prize at the Artemis Music Orchestra competition for autonomous, embedded musical instrument performances, where it played flawless versions of Flight of the Bumblebee and Bolero on a robotic, not pre-recorded basis. Its renditions of the classic tunes have been described as "torrid."

Livio's $199.99 Linux-based radio is billed as "Pandora Internet radio." It plays back both personalized streams from Pandora, and streams from over 11,000 other stations. It has a knob for volume and navigating the three-line LCD screen on the console, a large speaker, a headphone jack, a remote control, an Ethernet connection, and Wi-Fi capability. Pandora's signature thumbs-up, thumbs-down controls are found on both the front panel of the radio and the remote.