Archive for the ‘Miscellaneous’ Category

More Lights = Less Electric :)

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

The electric bill is in for the two months that the display runs. It’s hard to compare dollars to dollars because our electric rates have gone up significantly this year, but in comparing kilowatt hours to kilowatt hours, our electric usage was down by about 300 kWH in 2009 vs 2008. Add to that the fact that we probably added 5000+ lights compared to 2008, it really shows that computerizing the lights saves a bunch of electricity, simply because they aren’t on all the time.

Maybe I’d be better off color blind

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

I can’t decide what color LEDs I’m going to put into my LedTriks panels. I’ve probably got about a month to decide, as they won’t be arriving until the middle of march, but I’d like to get the order in so they can come from Hong Kong and be here before the PCBs arrive. I keep going back and forth… Do I do the standard Red? Do I use Blue? I like Blue, but how readable will it be? Do I go outside the box and use Orange, Yellow, White or Green. Pink is kind of nice too… but awfully bright. I like the purple, but don’t have a good source for purple LEDs. What I need is a side by side comparison of the various colors, and I have yet to find such comparison. Oh well, I’ll keep thinking about it.

In other news I found the perfect enclosure for the pixels I’m hoping to put on the mega-tree star Gregg Jones is making for me. He’s going to bring it to Light Up Ohio, so I don’t have to worry about shipping it, but that means I won’t get it until the middle of May. The 2 Cup Ziplock Twist and Seal containers will work perfectly. I tried spraying the inside of one with frosting spray, but it didn’t diffuse the light enough. Look like I’ll be using white. It diffuses it pretty well. There’s still some hot spots, but I’ll probably be the only one that notices. The LedTriks and Triks-C PCBs have arrived from Australia. Once I get a few more things finalized, I can place a Mouser order and get cracking on some of this stuff. Lots to do and only 8 or so more months to do it in!!!

Sequences Available

Monday, January 18th, 2010

Because I found it so helpful last year to be able to download other people’s sequences, either just to see how they did something, or to modify and use their sequence outright, I decided to post my sequences for others to use. As I said before, there are parts in there from Richard Holdman, Frank Kostyun, and random_rodder, so I am in no way claiming that the sequences are original.


Teardown at 99%

Monday, January 18th, 2010

I was able to get on the upper roof this weekend and get all of those lights down so all that’s left is the few strands of lights still wrapped in one of the trees. They will just have to wait until it gets warmer because they are a PITA to get out. I also have a big pile of extension cords in the garage waiting me, but I’d say I have half the extension cords wrapped and put away nicely. I’ve got a few unrelated projects ahead of me, but then it’ll be full steam ahead on the 2010 show before it gets nice outside and I have no time to work on it.

Everything’s Almost Away

Monday, January 11th, 2010

I spent the better part of yesterday testing and packing away the lights until next year. I still haven’t put them in their final resting spot, as there are a few strings still up on the upper roof that are waiting for the snow to melt before they come down. There’s also the miscellaneous stuff like sorting all the extra bulbs so they can be found easier and other stuff like that, but for the most part everything is put away.

Now to get building on 2010 stuff 🙂

Tear Down at 95%

Saturday, January 2nd, 2010

Well I went out and braved the 17F temperatures this morning. I know, to those of you in MN with -17F, that isn’t cold, but it was still cold. I got most of the display down. I didn’t venture on the roof to get the upper roof portions as there is still snow there and I wasn’t all about ending up in the hospital after a fall from the roof. I also didn’t completely get the wrapped trees unwrapped. After about 8 strings, I gave up and decided to wait for a warmer day. There’s still about three strings left in the one tree, but I just couldn’t take any more unwrapping. We had already talked about not wrapping them next year, and today firmly concreted that decision in my mind.

Currently everything is sitting in the basement warming up and drying out. There’s also a large pile of extension cords on the porch and in the garage that will need warmed up and put away, but at least they are out of the yard. Once everything drys off I can go through my yearly ritual of checking all the bulbs, fixing bad ones, and putting them away nicely. Then I can finally get onto development of next year’s show.

My wife gave me one more project for 2010 tonight. She want’s the star topper on the indoor tree to be RGB LEDs that change colors, so I am hoping to come up with a small micro-controller based project that can do this and all fit into the star.

First Year Comes to a Close

Friday, January 1st, 2010

Well in about half an hour, our first animated light display will come to a close. While there is a bit of sadness that all of our work will be coming down tomorrow (or whenever the ground thaws in some cases), the thoughts of what is planned next year have already been dancing around in my head. It’s just as exciting as it was last year as I began to plan the display.

What’s funny is that last year at this time, I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but it turned out to be one of the most rewarding and enjoyable hobbies I’ve ever partaken in. Yes, it gets a little expensive at times, but what hobbies don’t I suppose.

I went out to watch the show one last time tonight, and naturally the stuck channel issue that I was having earlier in December, and thought had gone away, presented itself tonight. I tried my usual fixes and thought it was fixed again, but when I went out to watch, there it was, stuck on again. What’s strange is it’s never the same channel that gets stuck. I think once the lights are down, I’m going to hook up the controllers and run some sequences for a few days to see if I can track down what’s causing it. Anyhow, my last viewing of the show was unfortunately marred by this channel, kind of disappointing, but oh well.

2010’s show should add many more improvements if things go how I hope. We WILL have a mega tree, that I can say for certain. The rest is up in the air, but exciting nonetheless.

Our first Award

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

As we finished dinner tonight, there was a knock at the door. It was the activities director for the local nursing home. They had taken the residents out to look at Christmas lights and they allow them to vote. They chose ours as their favorite. Granted we are the only animated display around (that I’m aware of), but still that’s pretty cool. Hopefully they’ll come back next year and be even more impressed.

EDM Transmitters Rock!

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

I went out tonight in the van to watch the entire show, and it is simply amazing what a difference the EDM transmitter is making compared to the Vastelec one. I’m glad I have the vastelec as a backup, but man is the EDM nice. The sound is crystal clear from in front of the house. The RDS functionality appears to be working, however vixen isn’t currently running the batch files that update the song title. I think (hope) it’s a simple fix, but I’ll have to wait until after the show ends tonight to tweak the sequences a bit.

New Transmitter Has Arrived

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

My EDM LCD RDS FM (Lots of Acronyms) arrived today. I put together the “kit” and hooked it up tonight, and it already is making a huge difference. I think if I play with the antenna location and the length of the coax, I can get it better, but for now I’m happy with it. I also got the RDS functionality working, so viewers should be able to see what song is playing if their radio supports RDS. Pretty exciting!