I have often wanted to buy one of those Ambient Devices Judie blogged about a few weeks ago. I’ve also wanted a as well, since they are cute and can do some really cool stuff like play mp3 files or provide e-mail alerts. I don’t want either anymore, thanks to who sent me a Tuxdroid that is not only very cute, but is also based on open source software.
Tuxdroid is a little robot shaped like Tux, the Linux Mascot created by Larry Ewing. He is made of plastic and has a matte finish on the majority of his body.
The front of Tuxdroid is dominated by his prodigious belly and is topped by his cute face with eyes that glow, eyelids that can open and shut and a yellow beak that moves when he talks. On his sides are his flippers which you can interact with and that will move on their own. On top of his head is a button that you can press to activate the currently selected gadget. On his back is a speaker, 2 1/8 inch jacks with one for line out or headphones and another for plugging in a 1/8 inch audio source letting you use the speaker with your MP3 player or other similarly equipped device. There is also a volume control, a plug for an AC adapter and a panel that hides the battery and the programming port for Tuxdriod. Also, hidden somewhere in Tuxdroid’s body is a light sensor, a IR sensor and a microphone.
Tuxdroid will not work without his similarly colored dongle that is the shape of a fish. The dongle has eyes that light up the same color as Tuxdroid’s eyes, a Mini B USB port, a port to plug in Tuxdroid when you are flashing his firmware if you need to. When connected wirelessly, both the fish dongle and Tuxdroid’s eyes will glow a solid blue color.
Tuxdroid also comes with a remote. The remote let’s you use Tuxdroid from across the room.
Tuxdroid uses something called gadgets in his software. Gadgets are little programs that Tuxdroid uses to check your e-mail, the weather, your twitter stream, the current time and more. You access the gadgets both by manipulating Tux’s flippers and pressing the button on his head, or using the remote. You can also access the gadgets from the web interface that installs on Linux. Windows uses a slightly different interface, but the controls are similar. On Linux, you can also access the Tuxdroid API via Python. With this interface, you can script out almost anything. The only downside to this is you need to learn some Python to accomplish this. There is, however a much easier way.
Tuxdroid also provides a interface to create something called Attitunes. These are essentially a set of scripted actions that when put together can be used as a alert movement and sound combination when you receive a e-mail or when Tuxdroid receives a RSS update or updates you on the time. Almost any gadget can provide a automatic update when you receive an e-mail, or when a RSS feed has been updated or when it automatically checks the time or weather. This alert can play one of these Attitunes at the beginning of the alert before the information is given. I used the Attitunes interface to create this short video. I have used this as the alert sound with the RSS gadget retrieving the GearDiary.com feed.
There are also gadgets that will launch Skype or other programs as well as a light detection gadget that will spin Tuxdroid around and have him face what he thinks is the brightest light source. There really is no limit to gadgets that can be created. Since Tuxdroid’s software is completely open source, you can visit the wiki on Tuxisalive.com to learn how you can contribute to making Tuxdroid even cooler than it already is.
Tuxdroid is one of those devices that is just hard to categorize. It does a lot of nifty things but it truly is mostly a toy. It’s a toy that can help you stay up to date with things even without having to touch your computer or even Tuxdroid himself. Tuxdroid is also a excellent opportunity to teach kids some rudimentary programming skills as well as real programming skills when it comes to working with the Tuxdroid API. Tuxdroid is a toy, but it’s also very educational.
My son said it best when he said that “Tux is really cool!” I happen to agree with him and love playing with it when Luke is around. It truly is a great toy!
MSRP: Tuxdroid is currently $149.00 plus shipping at. When you use the coupon code GD50, you can get 50 dollars off of your Tuxdroid making it only $100 dollars.
I was sent a sample of Tuxdroid as a review unit and I thank Kysoh.com for letting me keep the device. I will likely also try work on contributing to the project so don’t be surprised if you see my name on a gadget in the future.
What I liked: Completely open software. You can write your own gadgets and plugins. The included software is very fun to play with and very useful. If you are into hacking hardware and Open Source software, the Tuxdroid could be a very fun toy to have.
What needs improvement: The current Linux software works, but every once in a while Tuxdroid will loose his connection to the dongle. Usually you need to terminate the web server that Tuxdroid uses and unplug the dongle from the system and plug it back in to cure this. Not sure why this happens but it’s a little annoying. I am sure this will improve when version 3 of the software is released or by a firmware update.