There was only one problem - it was all a fun little Christmas hoax. The lights were real, but a sequence of still images were used to provide the illusion that people were changing them. Alek's wife was changing the lights when the chopper was overhead, but the rest of the time they never changed! Concerned that his prank had gotten out of hand, Alek approached the Wall Street Journal to fess up, and when the WSJ broke the story after Christmas, people around the world got a good chuckle, although there were a few bruised egos in the media.
In response to numerous requests, Alek plans to do it for real for Christmas 2005. Internet surfers actually will be able to turn his thousands of holiday lights on & off and see the results on their computer via a webcam(s). He adds "I'll be sure to have it operational on Christmas Eve so web surfers can look for Santa, but realistically, I doubt we'll get a picture of Rudolph landing on my roof ... but HEY, you just never know! ;-)"
One major potential show-stopper has already been addressed - Alek's neighbors have said they are not only OK with the lights actually blinking this time, but they are willing to let him install webcams on their roof so web surfers can view the action. Alek appreciates the support of the Keller's (quoted in the pre-hoax AP story "He is entertaining ... the Griswolds of our neighborhood") and the Hargrave's (quoted in the post-hoax USAToday story with regards to visiting reporter's investigations: "Nobody looked over to say, 'Where's the Web cam?'")
Issues that Alek is working include selection of the appropriate webcam and powerline control technology. He says: "It's a real technology puzzle, but (as in previous years) I enjoy trying to put all the pieces together and I hope I can pull it off." Jon Wade, quoted in the Wall Street Journal outing "Alek, with his technical wizardry, made it appear" now says "Alek did some pretty innovative work to pull off the hoax, so now he needs to step it up and do it for real - I have no doubt he will find a creative way to make it work."
The January 10th, 2005 TIME Magazine
"I figured I could provide some holiday cheer to folks" and
he hopes he can do that again ... although he wonders if anyone
will believe it this time! ;-)
Here's the top 10 list of issues associated with pulling it off for real.
P.S. I "warmed-up" over Halloween and the halloween decorations webcam was a big success, plus worked out a number of bugs/issues in the hardware and software - stay tuned for Christmas! ;-)