2005_04_01: Tons of Email from folks saying that for christmas 2005, I should really let Internet surfers turn my christmas lights on and off. I'm sure there would be some doubters, but here is how I would do it for real.
2005_10_01: I'm warming up with the halloween decorations webcam. I've listed a few of those below since they apply and you can read the whole saga. BTW, none of this would have been doable without my neighbor's (the Keller's) who have graciousely allowed me to mount the webcam at their house and (along with my other neighbors) agree that my lights are wonderful holiday spirit. I'd also add that Dr. Don Keller did some great Laser Eye Surgery (Lasik) on my wife - if you live in the Denver Metro area, check 'em out at Boulder Eye Surgeons - tell 'em that Alek from Komar.Org sent 'ya! ;-)
2005_10_07: I read about a local campaign to get people to sign up for renewable energy and the Halloween Lights are now wind powered. I actually did this back in Christmas/2002 and some people asked me where the windmill was on my property! ;-) What actually happens is you pay an extra surcharge (basically a $1 per 100 KWH) on your electric bill that goes to Colorado wind farms - sign up here if you are an Xcel Energy customer. My electric meter spins pretty fast when my thousands of holiday lights are on, so I hope those windmills can keep up! ;-)
2005_10_09: Since my holiday webcams have been fairly popular over the years, I ante'd up the big bucks for a 2nd server to handle the images. I also finally switched over to Apache2 and have most everything running under mod_perl which just ROCKS. So while the web site has always been pretty responsive, I'm now really well prepared for any possible heavy traffic. And with KeepAlive OFF in httpd.conf, I bet these two 3.2 GHz Pentiums with a GByte of RAM running Linux/Apache (connected at 100 Mbit/sec) will even be able to handle the "slashdot effect" or other extremely high flash-traffic sites.
2005_10_31: WOW - what a Halloween night! Easily over 100 trick-or-treaters ... so the doorbell was ringing just about non-stop for a while. The kids had some great costumes and said the halloween display ROCKED. The adults (who enjoyed the dixie cups of Port that I provided for them) also had some appreciative words. But right in the middle of the action, FRANKENSTEIN DIED ... but after applying a temporary tin foil fuse ... IT'S ALIVE! Check out all the action in the time-lapse halloween movies. My kids had a great time trick-or-treating ... my wife did most of it with them, but I took 'em out at the end - they agreed to wait while I fixed Frankie. I really do appreciate all the nice comments in the halloween blog.
2005_11_01: I've had requests from the UK to leave the webcam online through Saturday, November 5th since that is the 400th anniversary of Guy Fawkes day which is a big holiday in England ... so sure, what the heck - just don't "blow up" Frankenstein! And as you can see on the webcam, I just picked up some buddies for "Frank" - meet "Frosty" and "Jack" (obtained for 50% off - better than eBay) - and I just added some X10 modules and Perl code so you can inflate/deflate those guys too! ;-)
2005_11_06: Halloween 2005 was a blast, but it's over - see 'ya next year for halloween 2006. All the lights and decorations come down this weekend ... but the christmas stuff will go up in the next couple of weeks ... so get ready for the christmas lights webcam and chime in on the christmas blog.
2005_11_11: Today is Veteran's day which is the day World War I ended in 1918 and honors all serviceman who have fought to keep my country free ... so I can display stuff like my inconsequential christmas lights. I'm not going to get into the political issues of war, but I think we can all agree that "War is Hell." The Rocky Mountain News has a touching writeup titled Final Salute which tells the story of what happens when a Marine dies and the dreaded knock on your door occurs. I had difficulty reading this emotional story because my eyes kept tearing, but (as a former Air Force blue-suiter), I salute our men and women in uniform (and their familes), especially those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.
2005_11_19: I have moved all of the lights upstairs from the basement into a staging area by the front door. My folks (and brother) were Santa's helper's last year and fortunately, they are coming into town before Thanksgiving, so I'll put 'em to work. We've had great weather here in Colorado and I already have about 5,000 lights up - a LOT more to follow. I also have been periodically turned on the webcams (yes, there is more than one this year!) for operational testing purposes and to solicit user interface feedback - read more on my "tech stuff" page. It's been operating real smooth so far - biggest "problem" is when one of my kids unplugs the webcam ... ;-)
2005_11_21: With my folks in town, I'm taking a couple of days of vacation, and the weather is quite nice ... to we're making some great progress. About 10,000 lights are up ... a LOT more still to come. DHL delivered ChristmasCam #3 (yea, I ante'd up the big bucks - the guys at D-Link were only able to loan me one - let me know if you'd like a slightly used DCS-6620G webcam after the holidays) and it's now online. One setback is I'm having problems getting a reliable 802.11g wireless signal across the street to the neighbors ... may have to buy a can of Pringle's Potato Chips! ;-) Special thanks to Dominic of Vidahost who has graciousely offered to mirror some of my Halloween and Christmas Videos and help insure that Komar.Org remains "snappy" for Web surfers - more info in my tech stuff writeup. Oh yeah, for those that don't know, a Pringles Can also makes for a decent directional wireless antenna.
2005_11_26: 20,000+ lights are up and still a few more to add. Weather has been awesome, but there may be some snow late tonight or tomorrow. I've added the directional antenna and this definately improves connectivity with ChristmasCam #1. Also, web traffic is picking up (about triple of what it was last year at this time) so it should be an interesting Christmas at Komar.Org! Finally, I have added some text at the top of the page about my fund-raising effort for Celiac Disease (which my kids have) and you can read how to donate here.
2005_11_29: Ended up with 26,000 Christmas Lights ... finally "beat" Clark Griswold! Has been great fun working with the University of Maryland Center for Celiac Research ... and we have already raised $1,117 for them with (hah, hah Mr. Scrooge!) Christmas Lights.
2005_12_02: So I'm about to hit the sack tonight at Midnight ... and BAM ... the web server is hammered. Turns out I'm the main story on DIGG.Com. The lights usually go off at 10:00PM ... but I figure most of the neighbors should be sleeping so lets turn on 26,000 Christmas Lights at Midnight and let 'em blink like crazy all night long! Over 10,000 DIGG'ers came by - check out the time-lapse video! Celiac contributions are at $1,717 - lets hope some of them donate for Celiac Research.
2005_12_03: First real snow this year - got about an inch of icy snow - Frosty the Snowman is looking forward to more later this week. However, Frosty & Frank were pretty caked over and weren't able to stand up when inflated, but were back in action after I knocked it all off.
2005_12_06: Some articles in the local Longmont Times-Call and the Washington Post - glad to see that they emphasized the Celiac fund-raising - $2,722 raised so far. BTW, you are NOT done once you have the lights up. I was outside in single digit weather fixing some mini-lights ... and you have to take your gloves off for that. Some unusual things I have had to do is the Hulk gets a bit saggy with the cold weather, so I fired up the air compressor to pump him up. I had to replace all the light bulbs in the inflateable Frankenstein since the strong winds in Colorado the last few days basically bashed 'em on my driveway. Otherwise, the Gemmy inflateable are hanging in there - nice products. And one of my X10 Super Sockets is starting to "buzz" which means it is about to die due to excessive use - should be fun re-wiring an outdoor metal electrical outlet at 5°F. And oh yea, the quote of the day was from my wife who happened to be on her computer while I was playing with the kids and came running over to say "ChristmasCam #2 is down!" - what a supportive honey. Yea, that webcam flakes every once in a while ... ironically, it is inside the house ... whereas ChristmasCam #1 across the street which is exposed to the elements has been rock solid. The web servers (five of 'em in total) continue to handle the almost one million hits/day just fine.
2005_12_10: James Meadow from the Rocky Mountain News writes (on the front-page) the entertaining and informative "Lights back on Web in flash" and be sure to also read the accompanying hilarious piece by Tim Skillern titled "Can we prove this is a hoax?" Let me tell you, the Rocky guys were GOOD - very professional and thorough ... and even (occasionally) cracking a smile as they grilled me, ruining the stereotype of the dry, humourless media type. In addition to numerous phone calls and Emails, various folks from their organization swung by a total of 5 times (all caught on video by the ChristmasCams) with one of those being a "secret, nighttime stakeout of his house." Great skepticism and fact-checking on their part - the world needs more of that. Top notch reporting (reminds me of my dealings with the Wall Street Journal last year) and I've highlighted this definitive report by the Rocky Mountain News. I was glad to see them mention the fund-raising effort for Celiac Disease Research, and my Christmas wish is that this type of increased awareness about Celiac Disease will result in other parents not having to go through what we did with our first-born and eventually a cure will be found.
2005_12_11: My wife won a free airplane flight a while back so I got to take my boys up last night in a Cessna 172 courtesy of Specialty Flight Training out of the Erie Airport. We had a nice flight with Bill Elliott who was a great pilot - lined it up perfectly for the flyby pictures, but you guys kept turning the lights off! ;-) Dirk and Kyle had a blast seeing the house from a 1,000' up. Some pictures of the boys1 & boys2 and and some so-so house1 & house2 pictures - definately an unusual point of view. And while I was up in the plane, my friends Jon and Wendy (who visited us this weekend) had a novel/unique use of Christmas Cam #3 in Santa's workshop. They used it to to show off their newborn to friends back east. While they went out last night, I watched their two year old son ... and he didn't like it when web surfers turned the Stepping Santa OFF ... but I gave him the wireless X10 remote ... and he enjoyed turning it back on. Stepping Santa ROCKS! Jon thought it was pretty funny that someone on the Christmas Blog (Entry #224) pointed out that his kid picks his nose! ;-)
2005_12_12: The Christmas Webcam hits the front page of Fark.Com at 4:30PM Monday night - very popular web site because it's so funny thanx to Drew Curtis. This put a bit of a load on the primary web server, but with 4 other servers helping out (500 Mbps aggregate bandwidth!), the incoming masses were handled quite well. Since this was so much fun (and I know there are overseas Fark readers), I asked my neighbors and got permission to leave the 26,000 christmas lights on (and off and on and off) all night long as more Fark'ers came by than I have Christmas lights! More importantly, the UofM folks report that thanx to a spike in donations last night for Celiac Disease Research, we are up to $3,098 - thanx guys. And remember the picture of me with the wireless X10 remote from last year ... well, here's that same picture but this time I'm holding a D-Link DCS-6620G wireless webcam. Yep, it's real this year! ;-)
2005_12_16: I analyzed the web stats from the first 15 days of December and there have been 18,255,169 hits on Christmas related stuff at komar.org scattered among the 5 servers supporting this effort.
2005_12_17: A fire truck showed up at the house last night and several folks quickly commented in the blog about it - entries #315-318.. Here's some pictures from ChristmasCam's 1 and 2 ... and here's the time-lapse video. Fortunately, it was NOT an over-amperage at my place, but a false alarm at the neighbor's house. They did say my lights looked nice! ;-) Kate Larsen from the Boulder Daily Camera chimes in this morning with a front-page leader of "Web Light Show No Longer a Hoax" and a sub-title of "Christmas scene now raises money for charity." She spent a bit of time on the phone and interviewing me in person on this story (see video) and (unknown to me until I read the article) also did a secret visit to the house - nice job! Kate mentions denver radio station alice that offered me $10,000 last year (I turned it down) - their latest reason for not wanting to ante up for charity this year is we couldn't track anyone down ... that has the authority to sign the checks!"
2005_12_20: Yes, the 12 foot inflatable Santa is ALIVE! I picked him up at Lowe's (originally $80, marked down to $60, and then 50% off). I was going to save him for next year, but my boys went wild when they saw the box, so I tossed him out there and he is controllable with Zone 5. He takes a WHILE to inflate, so try to leave him on. The monster Santa shows up well on ChristmasCam #1 especially when I zoom in.
2005_12_25: Merry Christmas to everyone. Needless to say, my kids were up early this morning and had a great time. And with permission from my great neighbors, I had left the webcams on all night long Christmas Eve per requests from overseas surfers ... plus I was wondering if they might catch a glimpe of the Big Red Guy coming by our house for two good boys. It worked - check out the Santa Tracker which includes my 12/31 letter to Boulder Daily Camera.
2005_12_28: Web traffic is dropping off (no surprise) and as planned, I'll be turning things off on January 1st. $3,531 donated so far for Celiac Disease.
2006_01_02: Final Web stats for the holiday season was 814
GBytes transferred via 27,481,476 hits from 552,314 unique visitors - yowser!
Another data point is that the 26,000 christmas lights were connected with
1,008 feet of extension cords.
Finally, lets not forget ONE New Years Eve Kiss from my wonderful wife! ;-)