christmas lights

SLASHDOT SCREENSHOT - Alek's Christmas Lights Webcam

Welcome to the xmas_webcam at 1936 - webcam operational for another 2 hours, 24 minutes

Use the christmas webcam to view live images of a buncha christmas lights and also CONTROL them - i.e. YOU can turn them ON and OFF via your web browser! The christmas webcam has PAN and ZOOM capability that you can also control. The webcam and webcontrol are ONLY operational between 1800 and 2200 Mountain Time. Each web surfer can only update the webcam 10 times, change the lights 3 times, and play with the pan/zoom 5 times, withen 5 minutes - this limits the load on my server/Internet connection and I'm concerned about the christmas webcam being (ab)used too much and the blinking lights bothering the neighbors! ;-)

Hello from United States (US) : US flag     find out more info about you ... ;-)

1735 Update - HOLY OUTA CONTROL CHRISTMAS LIGHTS BATMAN - as a Slashdot subscriber (highly recommended BTW) I see the /.'ers coming in the "Mysterious Future" ... so we'll have to see how well the webcam holds out tonight - expect erratic behavior!

/. crushed mod_perl outa the gate ... actually, when I restarted Apache, withen 11 seconds, I got a "server reached MaxClients setting" which is set to 150 - I just bumped to 500, but the statically compiled limit was 256, so that's what we got for tonight! BTW, when restarting with that, it hit THAT limit in 9 seconds - load factor currently over 10 - may have to drop back down to 150 so system doesn't spin away ... but we'll see after the initial rush.

Tried to start the back-end webcam daemon process back up (which means more work is done on the CGI too) and the loadfactor numbers skyrocketed to "210.64, 91.92, 48.42" - yikes - but the initial rush is starting to slow down a bit ... so I might try again after 1900 MST - UPDATE: Just turned it on at 1930

Message for Someone else used the christmas webcam less than 1 second ago - throttle engaged

Message for Previous image displayed - try again for real-time update

Message for My neighbors must be wondering WHAT THE HECK is going on about now! ;-)

148 other web surfers (TOTALLY BEYOND INSANE!) have used the christmas webcam in the last minute:
      Note that everyone can "BATTLE" for control of the webcam and lights!

Message for Welcome back to the Christmas Webcam

Querying various sensors (read how these work) :

Temperature is 30.9°F ... Looks like no rain in the last hour ... Humidity is 70% ... Pressure is 30.68 inches Hg ... Wind Direction is 80 and averaging 7.1 mph with gusts to 12.3 mph ...

Change Zoom:     1.0     2.0     3.0     4.0     5.0
Change Lights:     2        3        4        
<=== Click anywhere on the image to re-center webcam with changes

The "ONLY Update Webcam Picture" does not pan/zoom the camera, nor does it change the lights - it only asks the webcam to "reshoot" the picture. While the lights themselves won't change (unless someone else is playing with them at the same time - a REAL possibility by the way!), what you may see is an occasional car drive by, people stopping to gawk at the lights, our garage opening, etc. Use the controls below to pan/zoom the camera and turn the lights ON & OFF.

Email Santa if you see anything 'interesting' and I'll add to the webcam cool pictures page! ;-)

Webcam Usage Stats (1800-2200) -   Update_Webcam: 6,860   Change_Lights: 26,340   Change_Webcam_Pan_Zoom: 46,090   Webcam_Overloaded: 27,208

Control the Webcam - Pan & Zoom it!

Setting        CHANGE         Default       Range   One-Click Change
Bearing180.0165.0 - 195.0          
Elevation 10.00.0 - 20.0          
Zoom 1.01.0 - 5.0          

You can PAN the webcam - i.e. move it to the left/right and/or up/down. The bearing shows the (true) compass heading, so lower numbers slew to the left and higher slews to the right. The elevation is the verticle angle of the webcam - higher numbers are up. The webcam also has a ZOOM feature - i.e. take a closer look at something. The easiest approach is to just click on the image where you want the webcam to move. Optionally use the arrows to slew the webcam 5° in the selected direction or use the +/- buttons to zoom-in/out by 1X. Finally, here are one-click buttons that will cause the webcam to zoom in tight on the item of interest:

Control the Lights - turn 'em ON & OFF!

X10 ZONE                       Current         Change to
(RPS 'THROW')StatusON     OFF
1ON  -          -
2 (ROCK) ON        
3 (PAPER) OFF       
4 (SCISSORS)ON        

The current state of the X10 zones is shown to the left. Also look at the picture above and the light count/amperage table below. Then simply toggle a zone (or zones - you can do more than one) to whatever you want, and then hit "Change Light Setting" which will send X10 commands to change the lights, and then refresh the picture ... and hopefully not annoy my neighbors too much!

Circuit   X10-Zone   Amps   Lights   Description - red means it is ON
Garage-1      1       0.8      154   Driveway Lights, Red Bells
Garage-2      2       8.1    2,400   Green Tree, Bushes, Mailbox
Panel-1       2       9.7    2,300   Juniper Nets, Upper Icicles, Column
Westside      2       2.5      750   Back Fence Icicles
Window-L      2       1.0      250   Lower Level Window Novelties, Clock Lights
Window-U      2       1.0      250   Uppper Level Window Novelties
Balcony       3       3.5      750   Balcony lights, Santa
Panel-2       3       6.5    1,900   Side Fence, Baby Tree, Juniper Blue Lights
Panel-3       3       9.9    2,400   Lawn Ornament
Back-Deck     4       9.5    3,150   Roof, Chimney, Left Curtain, Garage Icicles, Soldiar
Panel-4       4      10.9    3,050   Arch, Tree, Deer, Right Curtain
TOTALS       11      43.5   12,304   TOTALS

Questions/comments/whatever about the Christmas Webcam version 3.1
Send Santa an Email and read his responses

© 2002-2004

2004_09_01: My halloween decorations are the warmup for christmas - check 'em out!
While you are waiting for Christmas, consider using your PC's idle CPU cycle to help Stanford's medical research - click here for details

2004_10_01: The halloween decorations are up and the halloween webcam is quite the hoot! ;-)

2004_11_05: The Halloween "warmup" is over and it was outa control as there were over a million hits from almost 150,000 web surfers - I'm a little worried about what is going to happen at Christmas. I've taken all the Halloween stuff down and packed it away for next year, but starting work on my Christmas Stuff - come back after Thanksgiving to see that extravaganza!

2004_11_17: I have activated the environmental sensors (check out the local Colorado weather) and the near-real-time Christmas 2004 Web Stats. I'm a little behind schedule with the Christmas Lights deployment, so might not have things up until the first week of December.

Thanksgiving: Happy Turkey Day! Christmas Webcam is now using mod_perl ... this is a huge gain in terms of web server performance, but the real test will be if the Slashdot crowd comes by again this year. While mod_perl is unforgiving of poor code (I forgot to close a lock file in one corner case - yikes!), not much tweeking was required. Some misc. ApacheBench testing shows that mod_perl can sustain about 5 times the number of connections (under heavy load) than cgi_exec using the exact same code. Yea, I shoulda done this a long time ago! Read more in the Christmas FAQ which also talks about the other program (running as a daemon) that handles the lights/webcam/etc. (it communicates with the CGI using UNIX signals) and that remains throttled at one update/second - X10 is not a speedy protocol. And if you are interested in buying some Christmas Lights, check out the auctions over at eBay. And on a less technical note, my folks flow into town (and brother Myke surprised 'em) today. Fed 'em a buncha turkey and fixings ... and after a walk, they all decided football/naps were "better" than putting up Christmas Lights ... so hopefully I can put 'em all to work tomorrow - looks like the weather will stay decent for a few more days. Here's a picture of the christmas helpers ... and SOME of the lights! ;-)

2004_11_28: Got the lights up before the big cold front came in ... so my Pink Flamingo's are a bit chilly in the snow. I installed some new Beta webcam software last week and it's looking good, so have fun with it ... my neighbors have been "warned" that the light show is about to start up! ;-)

2004_12_01: I've added a handful of "cool pictures" from the webcam.

2004_12_02: The folks at MajorGeeks.Com (true recognition!) have linked to the site and the USA Today Hot Sites Crew like it too - maybe because The HULK was caught reading USA Today by Christmas Lights?

2004_12_04: Holy Christmas Lights Overload Batman! Kim Komando mentioned my site to her (gulp!) 3.5 million fans Saturday morning - it was one heck of a "light show" tonight! We had company over (served the infamous BBQ Shrimp) and my stud-muffin waterski friend Jon thought it was NUTS as there was thousands of hits/hour and typically 50+ people trying to change the webcam/lights at the same time (remember it is throttled to one/second - X10 is a slow protocol, plus the webcam is optimized for image quality over refresh rate). On a related note, mod_perl ROCKS - web server broke a sweat, but not much of one, so I think I might stand a chance against the Slashdot crowd this time. On the analog side of things, I did have one inline light fuse pop and take out 6 strands of 900 lights (yea, I know, only connect 3 strands togather) ... but hey, when you have 17,000 lights, it probably wasn't even noticed! ;-)

2004_12_05: Ummmmm ... while mod_perl continues to ROCK, I have a bit of a memory leak in the daemon program that handle the communcations and interface between the CGI and the analog stuff. It basically just sits in an interupt loop waiting for signals (USR1) from the CGI, gets the requested actions, then "talks" to the lights via X10 and other sensors/webcam via Ethernet, and provides the image and info back to the CGI ... but after bazillions of actions, the process size increased 800 MBytes - yikes! I restarted it, but it is growing again tonight so I'll need to look into this ... once again, stress-testing is good! ;-)

2004_12_06: Not only can web surfers turn the christmas lights on and off, but my kids like doing it via the X10 remote control! ;-)

2004_12_09: Seemed like we had a little more light changing than normal earlier this evening, so I finally took my laptop and (cruddy) microphone outside with me and recorded what it sounds like when 17,000 Christmas Lights are flashing on and off - the X10 Super Sockets have mechanical relays and you really CAN hear 'em click-clack-click. I'm amazed these have stood up so far - over the years, I've only had one overheat/fail (when FARK came by for Halloween/2004) and they just keep on clicking!

2004_12_11: Wil Harris from the British Inquirer wrote a funny article about my Christmas Lights/Webcam ... and commented about the "disasterous burn-out in 2003!" And I hadn't heard of it before, but Heise Online must be a fairly popular site as they are sending a buncha surfers here. And I've finally gotten around to creating a page with audio/sounds of the Christmas Lights (yes, you can actually "hear" 'em) which includes (thanx to Santa Elv), a hilarious jingle - Salutes True Men of Genius ... Mr. Too Many Christmas Decorations Guy.