2011_09_25: 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 $60,000 raised so far.
2011_09_26: 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!) to offset the estimated 2 MegaWatt-Hours of electricity that will be used.
2011_09_27: My holiday webcams have been fairly popular over the years, so for the geeks out there, the configuration this year is two dedicated servers running Linux/Apache2/mod_perl. One web server will handle the main halloween decorations webcam (and X10 control panel) with the refreshing of images from the three webcams split between the two servers. Each computer is a dedicated host with a 100 Mbps connection, 4 GBytes of RAM, and is a quad processor Intel P4 at 3.2 and 2.4 GHz. I.e. not quite the latest and greatest ... but HEY, I'm on a budget as it all comes out of my pocket.
2011_09_28: Commenting is turned on for the Halloween Blog.
2011_10_10: With some help from my kids and their friends, most of the Halloween stuff has been taken out of storage and we've started testing/fixing things. Always fun to fire up the giant inflatable Pumpkins, Grim Reapers, Spiders, Witches, Homer Simpson, and Frankenstein - IT'S ALIVE! ;-)
2011_10_13: While I still have a bunch of stuff to put out, I turned on the webcams and X10 controls for a couple of hours tonight, just to get things going and "exercise" the code, etc. A few blips, but everything seemed to work pretty well.
2011_10_16: Just about finished with the Halloween setup for 2011. Most of the leaks on the HULK brothers have been patched (except for one arm on the seam) and I have tossed them up on the balcony today. This is one of the last steps in the setup since it's a little difficult to get around them! ;-)
2011_10_17: One behind-the-scenes new item is an XTB-IIR/III X10 signal booster from JV Digital Engineering. X10 is the powerline protocol that actually sends the signals in my house wiring to control stuff when Internet users click ON/OFF. Because of the large number of circuits, it's always a challenge to the find the "right" combination of TM751 transceivers (on the "right" circuits!) to hopefully maximize reliability ... and sometimes things would just flake out with circuits/zones "stuck" - who turned on the Microwave Oven?!? ;-)
The XTB-IIR/III seems to have addressed most of those issues with a single box in the Haunted Office. While there is still one circuit which is erratic (in the master bedroom), that's easily solved by placing a lone transceiver there. Besides that, everything has been rock solid. If you are an X10 user, I strongly encourage you check out JV Digital Engineering - Jeff Volp makes some great products (the craftsmanship is exquisite) and is a genuine pleasure to work with.
2011_10_18: Wellllll ... after yesterday good news, it was very discouraging that (after 5+ years), Webcam #2 died and doesn't seem fixable ... two weeks before Halloween! :-( Wile I can move Webcam #3 (in the Haunted Office - it has a broken gear so has to be manually pointed) to Webcam #2 (looking at the front lawn) ... but now we're short a webcam and people can't see the Haunted Office and the Instant Messages on the laptop - BUMMER!!!
2011_10_19: I was incredibly lucky to be able to borrow an older D-Link DCS-5300 webcam from Andrew Batson at Brass Key Colorado Real Estate Property Brokers who I had helped setup a webcam for when he built his house. While the field of view and image quality are slightly different than the DCS-6620G (plus the camera forces a timestamp on the image) it works "good enough" so people can watch what's going on in the Haunted Office and the Instant Messages on Laptop. A HUGE thumbs-up for Andrew!
2011_10_26: October has been incredibly warm and sunny ... but we finally had our first cold spell and about 10" of very wet heavy snow came down today, snapping many branches and knocking out power to lots of homes. Fortunately, I wasn't one of 'em ... and after shoveling out the lights and inflatables, they were back in good shape ... ready for the 60°+ temperatures we'll see the next week up to Halloween - gotta love Colorado Weather! ;-)
2011_10_28: Recall just over a week ago that one of my webcams brick'ed and Andrew Batson was able to loan me his webcam for a short-term fix. Jon Wade donated a webcam to help out ... so we back up to "full-res" images on all three webcams. Jon, who enjoys living in Steamboat Springs, Colorado also gets a HUGE thumbs up!
2011_10_30: The weather forecast for Halloween night is sunny and 65°F ... so should see quite a few trick-or-treaters. I have 600 pieces (!) of candy for the little kids and quite a few liquid refreshments for the "big" kids - hopefully this will be enough! ;-) It gets cooler the next day and snowing the following day ... so rather than leave the display up for the day after Halloween, I'm going to take it down before the chilly weather comes in - gotta start getting ready for Christmas ... HO-HO-HO! ;-)
2011_10_31: It was sunny and 70°F today with minimal wind, so perfect night for trick-or-treaters. I'd estimate almost 200 people came by, and fortunately I had enough candy for the kids and libations for the adults. As typical, lots of people watching online - screenshot here - and you can relive the entire evening in one minute time-lapse videos from the webcams on the Halloween Movies page. Fun for everyone and especially me seeing all the smiles.
A big storm is blowing in tonight, so I shut
down the display and hustled to get everything inside before the (eventually
a foot) snow starting come down. See 'ya next year!