It's the Christmas season, so you know what that means: completely insane, over-the-top lighting displays. Yes, they get crazier every year as front-yard hobbyists figure out how to put more and more tech into their shows to make them even more impressive. One of my personal favourites is "Alek's Controllable Christmas Lights for Celiac Disease," so named because they exist as a fundraiser for Celiac disease research and because you can actually control the entire setup via the Internet. Yes, starting at 5pm MST every afternoon, Alek's entire setup becomes controllable via his website. You can turn specific sets of lights on and off, and you can inflate or deflate giant characters, such as Christmas classics Santa, Homer Simpson and Elmo. You can also type text messages in to be displayed on a monitor in "Santa's Workshop," which has its own cam.
The entire setup runs on 17 different circuits, has 17,100 lights, and uses 65 amps of power. Before you start ranting and raving about this hurting the environment, you should know that the whole shebang runs on wind power. In addition, Alek purchased a carbon offset to double the environmental friendliness of the setup. And as soon as they get cheaper (hopefully by next year), he plans to start using energy-efficient LED lights.
And it's all for a good cause! Both his sons have Celiac disease, which is an autoimmune disorder. So if you get some kicks out of playing with these lights, the least you could do would be to toss a few bucks to the U of Maryland in his name if you have the means. It's the season of giving, after all. [Alek's Controllable Christmas Lights for Celiac Disease]