2012 – So Far So Good

Well it’s been a while since I’ve posted on here. There’s been a lot that I’ve done to the display that I simply haven’t been motivated to document and post. I would like to do so because It’s fun going back and reading about my first year, but eh, that’s neither here nor there.

I began hanging lights the first weekend in November. It took a lot longer than I remember, probably because I didn’t put anything on the house last year, but wasn’t really done setting up until the weekend after Thanksgiving. I ran the show for the first time November 24th with 4 songs. I’ve since added two more and am working on a 7th that I think will make it in. There is an 8th that I would like to do, but I wouldn’t hold your breath.

So far everything is working quite well. I was still using my own sequence player that I wrote in PHP last year and had plans to use xLights this year as I just can’t convince myself that PHP is the best tool for the job, however during setup I was having problems with xLights and lag on high numbered universes of e1.31, so I went back to my player and it’s been flawless. Sometimes I wonder why I keep trying to find something better. I am still having thoughts about writing my own in c++ or c# so I can have more features, namely web based control so I can control the show from my phone or tablet. My PHP one works, but there aren’t many extra processor cycles left for PHP to do the heavy lifting.

I put 25 Xenon strobe lights in the front of the megatree, but when I raised it up, they all spun around towards the back of the tree, so they don’t deliver the punch I might like. I wasn’t about to take it back down, so they will have to do for this year. Next year I will hang them in the back so they point towards the front. I strung 24 strobe lights in the trees in the front of the yard on December 2nd and those look nice when they are firing. The megatree has 5 channels of strobes to offset them starting up, but probably three would be sufficient. The trees in the front only have 3 each and I chained them off each other and the effect is nice.

The smart strings on the roof have worked better than I had hoped and they look amazing. It’s just a lot of channels to try and program for any decent effects. I’ve written a few effect scripts to do the heavy lifting for me, but it’s still hard to come up with stuff so for the most part they are just all one color at a given time. I was worried about the SSC’s getting wet, so I put them all in ziplock bags. Next year I will try and zip tie the CAT5 dongle closer to the SSC so the bag will fit down lower on it, but so far they seem to be working to keep the water out. If I were do do it again, I would have the cables coming out one end of the PVC instead of both ends.

We had quite the downpour last night and it tripped the GFCI that was running the Smart String Hubs, which in turn relay the DMX to the rest of the display, so the display was dark when I got home from work. There were a few strands of the mega tree on which concerned me, but I’m guessing with the lack of DMX coming out, it was just a stray signal that got on the line. This afternoon I reset everything and it seems as though nothing was damaged. We’ll see tonight, however, when it’s easier to spot problems. I keep toying with the idea of getting rid of the GFCI’s altogether, but I keep coming back to the thought that if there is current leaking somewhere, it might be causing damage to the equipment and I’m better off if it does trip off. Going to have to look into that a lot more. It would sure be nice to keep the lights on in the rain!

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