ALG groupies will know that every year, I try to kick the light costume up a notch. The first light suit was a meager two or three strings of normal, incandescent mini-lights pinned to some black sweats. I pulled the lead-acid battery out of the UPS (uninteruptable power supply) that Grande Cable installed in my closet to protect all the fiber optic cable crap they mounted on the side of my house (don’t worry Grande, I put it back when I was done with it) and I hooked it up to a bulky inverter. The whole setup weighed about eight or ten pounds and would run just long enough to get to the Trail of Lights race from the parking lot, linger a bit, do a fast walk/slow run race and get back to the car.
In following years, I upgraded to LED lights, brought on LakewayLightGuy(aka Richard Davis), got a smaller inverter, and added many more strings (LakewayLightGuy’s bigger C7-style strings actually outshine ME now!) and a rudimentary sequencer. Last year, we went to one-piece jumpsuits and I added the spectacular Autonomous Cape.
So anyway, what to do this year?! Although I’m already busy getting this year’s luminescent Halloween costume together – not to mention blogging about it – I know from experience that if I’m going to add anything to the Christmas outfit, I need to get an early start on it, especially if it’s significant. After all, half of my November is usually taken up getting the house lights up 🙂
Well, I think significant might be an understatement…
Initially, I had some thoughts about connecting the light-sequencing program to the suit and cape. I tried my home-written light-sequencing program out (the one I use on my house) on Cherie’s Dell Mini and it seemed to have more than enough horsepower to run it. That just leaves the somewhat complicated task of building a mobile light relay box or something. So, this guy at work, Jay, got me looking at some hobbyist automation stuff. I’ll go into more detail in a subsequent post but, to make a long story short, I got all motivated and decided to do a mesh-networked, software-sequenced setup that coordinates both light suits, the capes, and hopefully a couple of new light staffs. Here’s a schematic:
If all goes well, I’ll have a Dell Mini inside my suit running the sequencing software which will drive an Arduino microcontroller that will be mesh-networked with all the endpoints (suits, staffs and cape). My plan is to have the sound broadcast via bluetooth to one of the two light staffs, which will have a cannibalized set of bluetooth speakers inside it. It’s going to require a couple hundred bucks in off-the-shelf electronics, some custom-built electronics, and a bunch of software enhancements to drive it all. This is all pretty ambitious, so I may only pull off part of it but, if successful, I think it will be a hell of an upgrade for 2010!
I’ll post more geeky details for anyone interested soon.