2005_08_23: I warmed up for the holidays with a stamped concrete cam - includes a time-lapse video of 20 tons of concrete being poured ... in 17 seconds! ;-)
2005_09_15: I've turned on a halloween blog - check out what other people are saying and add your own comments.
2005_09_16: Here's an outdoor webcam housing that I built for the D-Link DSC-6620G wireless webcam I bought. Nice (and expensive) webcam, but the image quality could be better if I could just have a little more control over the webcam exposure and focus. Any techies out there have any suggestions on how to improve that?
2005_09_16: 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) be accepting of blinking lights. 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! ;-)
Had hoped to start deploying the halloween decorations this weekend,
but got busy with family stuff, so maybe next weekend.
Since I buy all my stuff the previous year at the 50-75-90%
off sales, so it was fun to dig around in my
basement crawl space and see some of the
junk stuff I bought.
2005_10_02: It was 80°F+ this weekend in Colorado, so I made some progress with putting up the Halloween stuff and it's getting there. I'd actually like some cold/windy weather to knock down those Aspen leaves at the neighbor's house that are partially obstructing the view - it also plays havoc with the webcam focus. I'm going to fire up the Thor-X 10,000,000 candlepower spot light this evening between 8:00-9:00 MDT - be interesting to see how well it lights up the HULK (update: here's me being "blinded by the light" (ala Bruce Springstein) and the low-light setting which provided a better exposure.) Still haven't decided where to put the giant inflateable Frankenstein (acquired for $10 after last Halloween at the 75% off sales) ... but he will definately be on a controllable X10 power circuit so Internet surfers can inflate/deflate 'em. On a lighter note, I have had a number of neighbors give me the "thumbs up" as they walked by. Best quote was one Mom who said her girls had just asked her the other day if "Alek is going to do his cool Halloween stuff again?" - You Betcha - and they actually came by later that day with Dad to check it out.
2005_10_06: Here's an example of an exposure issue I'm trying to resolve on the D-Link DCS-6620G. This picture is shot with "auto" exposure and is what I have been using. It's a bit too bright and the colors are blown out. I can set the exposure manually, but the the slowest setting is 1/50 second ... which is a bit too dark ... although kinda spooky. So the webcam almost certainly can do slower shutter speeds - just give me a darn option to set it! And playing with the brightness/etc. options doesn't work since this appears to be post-image processing and makes the picture look worse. I've also asked D-Link if there is a way to manually force the auto-focus to ignore those pesky Aspen leaves in the foreground, but still haven't gotten an answer back from 'em on either of those questions - bummer because it would be a nice capability for them to enable that the product already has. Finally, I still wish I knew how to rebroadcast the MPEG4 video feed from the DLINK DCS-6620G webcam rather than my current approach of FTP'ing up JPEG's that are refreshed every few seconds. This is a pretty non-trivial problem, but if any techies (or someone from D-Link) can provide some pointers, pls let me know.
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_15: I did some initial stress testing of X10 light controls and despite a few real-world challenges, I was overall pleased - here's a 18 second time-lapse video of the lights flashing and Frankenstein de/inflating. Note that the upper deck/roof lights don't change - X10 signals sometimes don't get to certain circuits, so I'll have to play around with where I plug in the wireless receiver. The bedroom window lights don't change due to SAF - Spousal Acceptance Factor - would be a bit annoying to my wife. BTW, latency is (as expected) about a second or two. And during the test, some neighbors showed up with their kids to check out HULK's Halloween display, so I gave 'em a custom tour and let their kids manually toggle the lights - ended up having 'em pose by Frankenstein and wave to the webcam. They also enjoyed playing with the 10,000,000 candlepower Thor spotlight and turned it on the webcam - darn bright light that blew out the CCD pretty good.
2005_10_16: I fiddled around with the locations of the X10 wireless receivers and 90%+ of the commanded X10 signals are getting through to all circuits. Frankenstein (on X10 ciruit #5) seems to be the most finicky - but hey, having all your air let out of you is no fun. One web site has a "Kill Frankenstein" campaign going to keep him deflated - hey guys, he already died once, so take it easy on 'em! So surf on by in the evenings, and as Tom Bodett from Motel 6 would say, "We'll Leave the Light On For You" ... but you can turn 'em off ... ;-)
2005_10_24: Have been busy with work and my son's 2nd grade science fair project - "How do Rainbows Form" - plus other family stuff. Dirk lost two front teeth the last two days, so maybe he'll go as a Jack-O-Lantern for Halloween. The webcam kinda runs on auto-pilot and has been working well - the Boulder Camera had a story with pictures on page A4 today. Speaking of media stuff, USA Network asked if I could be be part of their upcoming "Great American Christmas" special. Their 15 page application seems like a lotta work, so I declined - more fun anyway having the kids in the neighborhood always coming by to see "the crazy house" ;-)
2005_10_30: Not too much to add the day before Halloween. BTW, last year it was freezing rain/snow ... but current weather forecast is low 50's (after morning snow!), so it should be a good crowd of kids. My wife Wendy loaded up on candy - I sure hope we don't run out. As a followup, Dirk did an awesome job at the science fair, and more importantly, had a great learning experience and a fun time ... so he wants to to it again next year. His last soccer game was yesterday - winter is coming. Dirk (7) and Kyle (4) are going Trick-on-Treating tomorrow night as a fireman and tiger. For those who like statistics, over 100,000 unique IP addresses have looked at misc. Halloween stuff on Komar.Org, and many folks have commented in the halloween blog how much they enjoy the show - I would especially recommend reading entry #137 - very heart warming. The January 10th, 2005 Time Magazine quoted me saying "I figured I could provide some holiday cheer to folks" and I think I've been successful again in doing that.
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" - and I just added some X10 modules and Perl code so you can inflate/deflate those guys too! ;-)