2008_09_05: As noted at the top of the page, the Controllable Halloween Decorations for Celiac Disease raises awareness and encourages people who enjoy the light show to donate to the University of Maryland. My two kids have Celiac so this is personal for me. Read more here and consider adding to the over $25,000 raised so far.
2008_09_10: I continue to use Wind Power for my electricity - wonder how many times I'll be asked this year where the windmill is on my property! ;-) What actually happens is you pay an extra surcharge (about $1 per 100 KWH) on your electric bill which goes to Colorado wind farms. My electric meter spins pretty fast when my thousands of holiday lights are on, so I hope those windmills can keep up! ;-) Along those lines, the holiday display will again be carbon neutral (Al Gore would be proud!) as I will make a donation to cover twice the estimated 2 MegaWatt-Hours of electricity that will be used.
2008_09_17: My holiday webcams have been fairly popular over the years, so for the geeks out there, the configuration this year is again three dedicated servers running Linux/Apache2/mod_perl. One web server will handle the main halloween decorations webcam (and X10 control panel) with the other two web servers handling image refreshes for each of the three webcams. Yea, for maximum load balancing of this real-time application I could add one more server. Each web server has a 100 Mbps connection, so the combined throughput is 300 Mbps powered by a total of 8.8 GHz of CPU power with 5 GBytes of RAM - bring on the slashdot effect!
2008_09_21: One neighbor said her kids are wondering when the "stuff" is going to show up - here's a picture of 'em last year in a double stroller with Homer and Frankenstein. I replied that I'm hoping to have things ready by October 1st.
2008_09_23: In the past, I've had webcam1 for halloween installed next to my driveway, but I'm going to see how well it works across the street at my neighbor's house. This is how it is setup for Christmas, but the Aspen leaves haven't dropped yet, so the view will be slightly obscured. But it's a much better location with a great view of the ON/OFF on the roof. Along those lines, I'll try to get yet another year out of the D-Link DCS6620G wireless webcams. Webcam2 has few more hot pixels on it and webcam3 has a broken gear tooth, so I can't do vertical panning unless I move it manually, but it can just be in the Haunted Office. The D-Link DSC-6620G is a nice (not cheap) webcam, but the image quality could be better if I could just have a little more control over the webcam exposure and focus - here's a summary of the D-Link issues. Any techies out there have any suggestions on how to improve that?
2008_09_25: I've put up the Skulls visible on webcam2 and installed the first strand of lights - the upper roof icicles ... and will be adding some animated time-lapse footage to the scary halloween movie page for those that are interested. More halloween decorations will be going up in the next few days. While up on the roof, one long-time neighbor walked by and said "way to go Alek, our kids look forward to your halloween display every year and we are counting on 'ya!"
2008_09_30: With lots of help from my two sons, about half of the halloween decorations have been deployed so far including some of the inflatables such as Frankenstein, the Grim Reaper, and Homer Simpson. Some neighbors were walking by and said "good job Alek" and raised their hands up in the air just like like Homer does - D'OH! ;-) I turned on the entire system tonight and it worked quite well as Internet surfers had fun with it and shook out a few minor bugs that were easy to fix - overall, a very smooth start for the Holiday season.
2008_10_07: Most of the outside halloween decorating is now done along with the Haunted Office ... which includes Heads-Up Harry who is a big hit with Internet Surfers - quite frightening! ;-)
2008_10_13: When I did "presidential voting" in 2004, a Kerry-Bot came by and tried to electronically stuff the ballot. Wellll, an Obama-Bot came by tonight and voted for the Democratic nominee 1,163 times (in 25 minutes) - at least they also cast 277 votes for the Hulk, but only 1 for McCain. Ironically, this IP address was from Alberta, Canada. So I have invalidated those votes except for one ... which was for McCain - D'OH! ;-) So far, 6,716 votes have been cast for Obama, 7,484 for McCain, and 6,433 for the Hulk (daily voting data) - the Green Party Candidate needs to start making a SMASHING comeback!
2008_10_19: Further auditing of the voting records show that several McCain-Bot's have come by to electronically stuff the ballot for their candidate and I've tossed those votes. There has been a resurgence for the Green Party Candidate, and with two weeks and two days to go, the HULK has taken the lead in the close race with 11,923 votes versus McCain at 11,649 and Obama at 11,404. The technology behind the controllable halloween decorations continue to operate well with few hiccups - most annoying one is that the Grim Reaper has trouble standing tall upon being inflated. I've updated the halloween maps page with the list of 88 countries that have checked out the display.
2008_10_26: So a nice guy in nearby Erie, Colorado was selling his old Dell Latitude 3800 on Craigslist ... and the 750 MHz Pentium III with 512 MBytes of RAM was preloaded with Ubuntu 8.04. So that is now being used for the Halloween Instant Text Messages which are simply displayed using Firefox 3.0.3 and the ReloadEvery extension. Also hooked up to the laptop's serial port is an X10 Firecracker interface that sends the on/off commands to the lights & decorations.
2008_10_28: With a week to go before the election, Obama has 15,489 votes, McCain has 15,480, and Hulk has 15,481 - WOW - it doesn't get much closer than that! I continue to see electronic vote stuffing and have been invalidating those that are excessive; my guess is we'll probably see more of those until the November 4th election. And with all those lights turning on & off thousands of times, it's not surprising that an X10 Super Socket blew - listen to that here along with my explanation.
2008_10_30: The weather prediction for tomorrow night is the warmest Halloween on record ... so expect a LOT of trick-or-treaters along with many web surfers from around the world. And don't forget to vote as it is still incredibly close with the Hulk now in a narrow lead with 17,534 votes, Obama with 17,525, and McCain with 17,516.
2008_10_31: WOW - what a fun night. Over 200+ trick-or-treaters almost cleaned me out of candy as I was too generous early on. I also passed out plenty of shots of Bailey's, Port, and Egg Nog Whisky. And then there were a LOT of web surfers who surfed on by. I've uploaded some time-lapse halloween movies of the action. I'll probably leave the webcams and X10 controls up one more night - heck, we gotta vote for Obama (21,283), McCain(21,220), or the Hulk (21,050). But then Halloween is over and it is time to get ready for Christmas! ;-)
2008_11_04: Obama won the
Halloween voting contest" ... and also the national election.
But the Green Party will be back again in 2012 and Hulk will again making a SMASHING run for President! ;-)