Questions and Answers

Straight from the emails...

  1. Wow! Did you use X-10 for this?

    There are no X-10 components in this project at all. I bought a X-10 system a few years ago and hated the unreliable and buggy nature of the system. After a couple nights of having to get out of bed to turn off the lights (which were stuck on), I took the whole thing back to the store for a big, fat refund.. Besides, the point of Control the is to showcase embedded web technology and hopefully to inspire other hardware/embedded systems designers to push the limits of the web/hardware interface.

    Added 12/3/06 - People have sent me comments saying that they like X-10 citing that it works very well for them. I have heard this from other sources as well and am not intending this little paragraph to be a review of the technology itself. It's simply my reason for not considering this sort of technology. I found the system (when connected with a computer) seemed to get very "confused" often when using remotes and the computer at the same time. It could have been the version I was using. When the system does work, it's pretty neat. From someone who designs these sort of systems - I think it's not for me.

  2. How long did it take you to do this?

    I've been working on this system for over a year now, but a majority of the hardware development was done in November-December 2005. It took about 3 full days to put up lights on the house. Since I don't have a large amount of time to dedicate to the project, I've had to squeeze it into my evenings a few nights out of the week since the beginning of November.

    - I've put about 3 football field lengths of wire into the control box.
    - I got the idea in August 2004.
    - There were about one-half of a mile worth of extension cords around the house when Control the Show was outside.
    - Our electric bill IS higher, but only a little bit. People like to turn the lights OFF!

  3. Where do you live? I want to come and see the show in person!

    We used to live on Old Plantation Circle in Winston-Salem, NC. You could stop by and see the show and even control it with your cell phone with a special interface in 2007. Now that we have taken things indoors (and moved), the show is not available for public display other than on this website.

  4. Will people believe you?

    I don't think this is a problem any more since FOX News came out and broadcast THROUGH the webcam one year, showing an image reporter Chad Tucker on the webpage as the show was under control. I've also conducted numerous interviews where I showcase the technology to the cameras. Finally, countless people have reportedly stopped by my home and called someone to tell them what to turn on/off. The first year we did the show, someone told me of a prior hoax by someone else. The facts should speak for themselves.

  5. Could you build something like this for me?

    Yes, contact me with more information and we can discuss your application. This technology is not limited to Christmas lights. I've done a number of consulting projects as a result of Control the Show.

  6. What do your neighbors think?

    They love it! In fact, they want to get their houses on the show next year. We'll have to see about that. Many of the neighbors helped out in the past, and many thanks to you! One neighbor donated a large pole for putting the lights in the trees. Another hosted the webcam in her garage for three years!

  7. Where do you work?

    Formerly, I worked at Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, NC pursuing a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering with WFU/VT School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences (SBES). I have since graduated and am now a Medical Physicist at Moses Cone Regional Cancer Center in Greensboro, NC. My areas of interest include medical imaging, medical physics, radiation oncology, treatment planning, mathematics, computer science, and device design.

  8. Did you or do you get paid for this?

    No. Some years sponsors helped cover the costs only of runnning the servers and keeping things alive. The primary objective (besides spreading Christmas cheer) was to raise money through the show for the Ronald McDonald House. We are no longer running the charity fund raising, but the site is free fun for all.

  9. Will you be doing this next year?

    We'll see... it's become somewhat of a Christmas tradition around here.

  10. How did you come up with this idea?

    I like to connect things that are real to the internet. I wanted to show people what this type of technology could do in a way that people would be interested. Christmas lights are the perfect thing that people like to play with, so in August of 2004 I started thinking about the design of the system you are using today. I started out with a small desktop system that let people control the lights on my desk. This was a popular thing to do, so I beefed up the tech and connected it to the Christmas lights on my house in 2005.

  11. Was it fun or did it almost make you pull your hair out trying to put the wires and everything in?

    This project took a lot of patience. When you create something very complicated it is important to always keep trying even when you fail multiple times. This project had many points at which I was nearly stumped and ready to call it quits. But a good night's rest and some time to clear one's mind always does the trick.

More questions will come as I receive them...