Misc. Alek info

2004_12_25 Update: here's a page that I'm working on to explain all ... and if you want to "feel good" about Christmas, I spent a few hours getting caught up responding to all of the folks who have Emailed me - some heart-warming Christmas Cheer in there ...

Here is a 8MP picture of Alek (Photo Credit: Jon Wade) - actually from my wife's surprise 40th birthday party a week ago (see below) as I walked back in to the party with the CF card of pictures of her SURPRISE'D as she walked in door; these were added to the TV slide show for everyone's viewing pleasure by 8:00. And just for grins, here is the "original" picture of me waving to the webcam which was used for the processed webcam version and is the shot the folks at Earthcam use in their top 25 most interesting cams of 2004 page - I'm the second entry from the left in the top row.

Name: Alek O. Komarnitsky (initials: AOK!)
Age: 41
Married: To my LOVELY wife Wendy (from Long Island, NY)
Kids: Dirk (age 6) and Kyle (age 3)
Family: Parents are Oleg and Betsy Komarnitsky (Bellevue, WA) and 3 brothers and 1 sister - big family's are fun!
Address: Lafayette, CO (all I'd like to say)
Web Site: www.komar.org (duhhhh!)
Occupation: Computer Jock (Unix Sysadmin) for CSC (Computer Sciences Corporation) supporting Rocket Scientists - literally! 
Education: Aero/Astro Engineering degree from University of Washington (1984) and MBA from CU-Boulder (1991)
Work History: 4 years as an Air Force Officer blowing up stuff, six years at two small software startups, last 11 years at CSC. 

Stress Level: A bit high but hanging in there - see my blog entry 
Biggest Recent Achievement: NOT the Xmas lights - but pulling off my wife's surprise 40th birthday party while dealing with the crush of national press
A few Alek'isms: Biggest BBQ Grill and Longest Car and this eBay auction (scroll halfway down to the kid's picture/explanation)

Browser of choice: Firefox ROCKS!    ;-)
Favorite Newspaper: Wall Street Journal - subscriber for over 20 years
Favorite Section: Page 1 "offbeat" articles (yep, really!)

Sound Bite: I've enjoyed my 15 seconds of fame, but I'm ready to go back to being (normal) father & husband ... and an anonomous geek!   ;-)

Assistants: Jon Wade (digital imaging dude extraordinaire), Myke Komarnitsky (misc. all-around support), and my wife Wendy (who puts up with me!) 


Late Breaking News: Just got an Email from Antarctica - updated main page to reflect this - all 7 continents now!   ;-)

BTW, I mentioned this earlier, but have one of your photo dudes take a look at the EXIF header of any of the "webcam images" (this is the header info associated with an image) ... I left a few "Easter Eggs" in there for the sharpies to find - someone on Slashdot actually did (good for them) and here is what they look like which includes a reference to Indigo Vision - heck, all I know about these guys is that they claim on their front page that they were the "IP Video backbone for the entire security system for the Athens 2004 Olympics" ... sounds like a good company that probably makes a bad-ass webcam like mine! ;-)

Speaking of Slashdot, I probably had the "closest call" at Halloween this year when someone decided to drive by and see the WILDLY flashing lights ... but I live in a gated community (although it's just a single gate that even the pizza delivery guys are able to wrangle past somehow) - that writeup is pretty hilareous given the "truth" (I chime in - was like YIKES!) since if this person had talked past the gate all of a 100 feet, instead of a buncha flashing lights due to Slashdot, he woulda seen ... NOTHING changing - would have been a tough explanation for me!


And here are some pictures of the (cough, cough) webcam - we'll start with a close-up on the couch ... Wal-Mart christmas slide show projecter (got it last year for $10 at 75% off post-holiday sale), $29.99 logitech webcam, coax cable (the ... ummmmm ... wireless!), and a lotta duct tape.

It was located in the tree across the street - all of the still images were shot from the ladder placed right in front of the fire hydrant, so I had the field of view in the ballpark in case anyone "looked" for the webcam where it "should" be ... and rest assured there was a LONG extension cord that was "hidden" behind the bushes that snaked into the neighbors garage - data/images were (of course) sent via wireless as discussed in the FAQ. Here's a zoom-in from the same vantage point (duct tape is a hacker's best friend!) and if you want some more excitement, check out my grass growing page! ;-)

I don't "know" if anyone every looked up in the tree (the TV/Media/Press folks never did) so unknown if this "saved" me ... but nice to have in case.


P.S. I sent these in Email to you, but here they are for reference if helpful.

Q: How were you able to pull this off Alek?
A: Lotta work and good thorough execution that made it seem real. I told you a number of those and there are even more.

Q: Did you lights actually blink on and off?
A: For the helicopter, on special occasions, and definately for the kids at Halloween - the Hulk also growled "HULK SMASH!" when I pushed the button - the speakers were wired into the X10 control and I had the remote when I was passing out candy to the little kids. Otherwise, they are just ON.

Q: What about the technology?
A: TONS of info on the web site, but in summary, many people use technology for advancements, profit, to make things easier - for me, this was using it for just pure fun!

Q: Why did the media pick up on this story?
A: My guess is cool technology, nice family twist, doesn't cost anything (buncha folks said I should charge for the webcam, and the $10,000 offer from the radio station was legit - check their site), it's fun ... and just a "good" story among all the negative news we often read out there.

Q: Are you a mean prankster?
A: Prankster - YES, mean - NO. Rest assured I certainly enjoy doing things like this were people say "oh my God" but always end up laughing. For example, at my brother's wedding, his getaway car had a "flat tire" (I let the air out) ... so people were frantically helping out ... as the Limo I had ordered drove right up for 'em!

Q: Basically every Denver based paper, radio, and TV media outlet wrote about your lights - what now?
A: Don't know (see question below). I'm sure some will be angry with me, but hopefully everyone will take it the way it was intended to be.

Q: Why are you disclosing your Christmas Webcam is fake?
A: Bazillions of people have enjoyed my lights, but it has gotten a little too big ... so I would not only like to go out on a high note, but I want people to know that it was all meant as part of Holiday Cheer and it brought a lotta joy into a lotta people's lifes.

Q: But does Santa Claus still exist?
A: Everybody wants Santa Claus to be real - even when you find out that he is not - but you can still enjoy the myth of Santa, even if you know he isn't real ... my christmas lights webcam is a bit like this.