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  • The first recorded date of Christmas being celebrated on December 25th was in 336, during the time of the Roman Emperor Constantine. A few years later, Pope Julius I officially declared that the birth of Jesus would be celebrated on that day.
  • Santa Claus's sleigh is led by eight reindeer: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Dunder (variously spelled Donder and Donner), and Blixem (variously spelled Blixen and Blitzen), with Rudolph being a 20th-century inclusion.
  • Outdoor Christmas lights on homes evolved from decorating the traditional Christmas tree and house with candles during the Christmas season. Lighting the tree with small candles dates back to the 17th century and originated in Germany before spreading to Eastern Europe.
  • That big, jolly man in the red suit with a white beard didn’t always look that way. Prior to 1931, Santa was depicted as everything from a tall gaunt man to a spooky-looking elf. He has donned a bishop's robe and a Norse huntsman's animal skin. When Civil War cartoonist Thomas Nast drew Santa Claus for Harper's Weekly in 1862, Santa was a small elflike figure who supported the Union. Nast continued to draw Santa for 30 years, changing the color of his coat from tan to the red he’s known for today.
  • Christmas 2018 countdown has already begun. Will you be ready???
  • Why do we love Christmas? It's all about the traditions. In this chaotic world we can miss the "good old days." Christmas reminds us of that time.



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About JackStevens

  • Rank
  • Birthday 06/22/1955

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Profile Information

  • Location
    Pittsboro NC
  • Biography
    I'm a network engineer and system admin, have been "over decorating" for Christmas for years, and now doing more with electronic light controls
  • Interests
    Computers (not games)
  • Occupation
    maintaining part of the Internet
  • About my display
    Brightest house in the neighborhood, the wife wants more!
    2006 and prior - static displays
    2007 - about 8,000 lights, some of them controlled by a Mr. Christmas Light controller. http://JackStevens.net/Christmas2007
    2008 - only 6,000 lights, again, with a Mr. Christmas. Decent Nativity scene.
    2009 - 64 Channels of LOR and 14,000 Lights
    2010 - 80 Channels of LOR, working on another 92 of DMX and thinking about 25,000 lights

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  1. JackStevens

    Light o rama

    John - Your question is a big vague, so I'll answer it with a question of my own. What do you want to do? What type of lights do you want? AC powered incandescent/LEDs? DC powered LEDs? RGB? How many lights? The first year I did a display using Light-O-Rama I had a 10' mega tree (8 channels), the 9 bushes out at the front edge of my property, lights up in a couple of (used to be) small sycamore trees, and things like that. I think it was 3 controllers to start. If you want to do RGB, that would be the Cosmic Color stuff (I haven't used it, can't comment much on it) or probably E1.31 (DMX over Ethernet) which the LOR software does well with. So before you decide what to buy, you need to decide what you want to do. And that ain't easy, sir. I use LOR software, 5 LOR controllers, 5 24 channel Renard controllers in DMX mode, and am dabbling with wireless E1.31 controllers. I can do some things with Vixen software (free) and XLights (also free, quite often combined with Vixen) but not proficient in it. I played with Light Show Pro, and won't be using it, mostly due to the licensing fees put in place by the company that bought the original product. I have a lot of incandescent but I'm switching over the LEDs - not so much for power issues but because the LEDs don't fade in the sun light. I have several 10's of thousands of what used to be colored lights that are now dirty white. I used to feel that I could pay for a lot of electricity for the cost difference between incandescent and LEDs, but that's true for a year or two, then the lights need to be painted or replaced. Since you're trying to plan for 2017, and not for next month (it's still November as of this typing) you have time for a little research. Look to find a user group within driving distance of you; here in NC we have ChristmasCarolina.com with a couple of regional user groups around. Pick their brains to know what to do and know what NOT to do.
  2. JackStevens

    Non polarized extension cords

    Got any old strings that don't work or don't work well? Use them as an extension cord. I have deer traipsing through my yard various times of years. They get tangled up in the cords, then to pull the lights off bushes, the wires break. I don't toss them, or at least not the whole string. I salvage the plugs (both ends) and can run wire between them for a non-polarized extension cord. I've also trimmed the wide blade of a vampire plug. Works, but I don't like doing it. If I did it more often, I'd get better at it, but I generally use the salvaged parts of bad cords if I have to have a non-polarized cord.
  3. JackStevens

    Texas Newbie

  4. JackStevens

    Texas Newbie

    Google resistor color code; I'd copy/paste the color code here, but I can't get it to look as good as what you can find doing that.
  5. JackStevens

    Texas Newbie

    Zach - First off, get a digital volt meter (DVM) so you don't have to guess at things, Printed and researched ratings are great guidelines, and give you a "what should be" but an actual measurement will give you a "what is" Second, a quck diversionary question for you to ponder: If you get some controllers, would you want to be able to control these lights with a controller? If so, keep them separate. You don't really want to try to syncronize the blower motor and lights to music, just the lights. Third, keep in mind you are playing with potentially dagnerous voltages and currents. Not so much the 12 vdc circuit, but the 120 vac / 240 vac / 170 vdc portion. Be careful. OK, what you should do before modifying the LED string is cut it someplace in the wire and do a current measurement. You said 3.4 volts per LED; I'm going to guess they are while LEDs and probably between 12 and 20 ma (milleamps) but they may be the really bright ones at 100 ma. The higher the current draw, the brighter they will be. However, you can get them so bright that you'll let the magic smoke out and they'll then stay dark. That's why a current limiting resistor. You might want to check that 3.4 volts per LED by reconnecting the break in the wire you did for current measurement, and actually measure the voltage drop across one of those LEDs. Measure the output of that AC adapter; you said it's a 12 vdc output. It may or may not be a well regulated output, which means it may or may not vary a whole lot with no load, only a little load on it (LEDs only) or heavy load (motor and LEDS) I hope it's fairly constant. Now for some math. If the LEDS are at a decent brightness at 15 ma (.015 amps) and drop 3.4 volts each, you can put up to 3 LEDs in series (as you said, you have to watch polarity) 3*3.4=10.2 volts. 4*3.4=34.6 volts. Say your AD adapter puts out 12 volts under motor load; you can only use 3 LEDs in series, because 4 won't ligght. But what do you do with those other 1.8 volts? If you expect the LEDs to handle it, you might let that magic smoke out. Using Ohm's law (voltage=current X resistance) and a little algebra - communitive properties, e/i=r, you get an LED resistance of 3.4/.015, or about 226 ohms. 12 volts divieded by 3 LEDs gives you 4 volts, plugging that back in you get .017 amps (17 ma) which the LEDs might handle, dumping the extra voltage as heat for a while before they get too hot and let the smoke out. To keep the current flow the same as what you measured before, 15 ma, you would need to drop that 1.8 volts using a resistor. 1.8/.015=120 ohms. So, wire the LED string something like this: +12 from AD adapter +----------<+LED->---------<+LED->-----------<+LED->-------<120 ohm resistor>----------- - of AC adapter. Resistor color code would be Brown-Red-Brown and use a Silver or Gold last band (10% or 5% variance tolerance) Wattage rating would be "power=voltage X current" or "1.8 X .015" or .027 watts, so a 1/4 watt resistor would give you plenty of safety margin here. If you decide to use 6 LEDs for increased brightness using the idea above, wire up two sets of "3 LEDS and rsisotr" - don't try to share a resistor between LEDs in parallel, because of tolerance differences between LEDs. Hope that helps. -Jack
  6. JackStevens

    Texas Newbie

    Sidetrack73, basically what's happening in the cheap LED strings is the individual LED only comes on for half the AC sine wave. All of us can see the time the LED is off, then coming back on, then going off, then back on........most of us don't realize that we are seeing that, though. Doing a half-to-full-wave conversion means the LEDs are coming on twice as often, appear brighter (because they are on more often) and dim better. There was a group buy for some small PCBs to mount the rectifier diodes on - http://doityourselfchristmas.com/forums/showthread.php?28751-Group-Buy-FWC-Full-Wave-Converter-1-2-to-Full-Wave-LED-string-Converter-board - and these will probably come available again, although the person who did the original design is trying to add the capability to add current limiting resistors to the circuit so you can reduce the number of LEDs in the string - like needing only six or so for an eye on a singing jack-o-lantern, for example, and not having to "black out" the ones you don't use. There will be another group buy soon. I've got this up at ChristmasCarolina.com, but I think you ahve to register as a member there, so I also have it on my own web site - http://pittsborochristmas.com/Half-wave.doc It's basically the same as the above PCBs but without the PCB. The PCB gives the assembly a lot more structural strength and it's less likely to have the heat shrink crack.
  7. JackStevens

    Texas Newbie

    Hey, Zach, welcome to PC! I also purchased a lot of LEDs from Walmart, Big Lots, Lowe's, etc....... They all need to be "fixed" - converted from half wave to full wave. Many can't see the half wave flicker, but long term exposure gives them headaches, makes then edgy, and a few other symptoms. Some of us, me, inclusded, can see the flicker, especially under fluorescent lights - which to me, also have a bit of a flicker - because of phasing issues. There's a simple and fairly cheap fix, although the supplier I get the parts from doubled the price of the core components, which are 1N4007 diodes. (you can use 1N4004 or 1N4406 but they have a lower PIV and are the same rpice). 100% price increase, they went from a penny each to two cents. It takes four of them; I found my biggest cost to this mod is heat shrink. PC is a great idea site, with a lot of higher-level views and suggestions. You might want to check out http://diylightanimation.com/ for some DMX-based controllers (unfortuantely, closed source) and/or http://doityourselfchristmas.com/ for DMX, Renard, and other protocol based light controllers. Both are DIY - you need to know how to solder. Both sites do group buys, where the members get together and place a mass purchase of compotnents to get very good prices. One of these will start over at http://doityourselfchristmas.com/forums/showthread.php?30928-Renard-SS-2014-Group-Buy-INTEREST-ONLY on February 1 for 8/16/24 channel Renard controllers (can run in DMX mode) I have five of the Renard SS24 with DMX firmware as well as 5 LOR controllers; love them all, but really like the Renards 24 channels for about $100 each. There are local forums, too, like http://ChristmasCarolina.com you can generally find me on, and there is The Academy that holds classes on Christmas Lighting right there in your state. Do it for yourself, do it for your kids and wife. Have fun!
  8. JackStevens

    Where To Buy Vampire Plugs

    I guess I helped confuse the issue. I was reacting to Toozie21's comment about not wanting to buy 50 plugs. I was giving him a reason to do so. The group buy won't include the female plugs for the 24 outputs; they are obtained outside the group buy, just like the controller cabinet is. I have five of the SS24 controllers, as well as 5 LOR CTB16PC controllers. All the SS24's use vampire plugs on their outputs. The LOR controllers would have, if I had realized I could buy them for that price, instead of using Dollar Tree extension cords.
  9. JackStevens

    Where To Buy Vampire Plugs

    Correct. A Renard SS 24 has 24 110VAC channels; two controllers would use up 48 of the 50 vampire plugs in the bag, leaving two left. Group buy on the Renard SS 24 (can run in DMX mode) will happen starting Feb 1.
  10. JackStevens

    Where To Buy Vampire Plugs

    There's going to be a group buy announced shortly (Feb 1) on Renard SS series. Two of the Rendard SS24's will eat a back of 50 and give you back two as change.
  11. JackStevens

    Where To Buy Vampire Plugs

    Radiant Holidays is taking re-ship orders; he generally tries to fill up a container coming from China. http://radiant-holidays.com/radiant_holidays/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=7&zenid=f1368dbb8c6bd9626e470af31f110308
  12. JackStevens

    Linux Light Controllers

    OK, I'm going to guess you actually mean "Lynx" controller, as sold by RJ over on http://diylightanimation.com If I am not correct in that assumption, I apologize, and will have to ask you for more clarification of your question, as "Linux" is an operating system, although many device controllers have Linux embedded in them. The Raspberry PI can run Linux as a controller. Assuming I'm correct, #1 - The Lynx Express is a 16 channel 120 AC controller, 8 amps per channel, using DMX protocol and RS485 voltage/current level connections; you'd need either a USB dongle or an e1.31 compatible controller. It is NOT open source. There are DC versions available from RJ as well, but they aren't called Lynx. 2. Cat 5/cat 5e/Cat 6; RJ's controllers use pins 1 and 2 of an RJ 45 to carry the data. 3. cost varies depending if you get in on a group buy or buy it on your own from RJ, and wherever you buy components from. It's an assemble-it-yourself board, similar to the Renard boards listed on here. Ratings are 8 amps per channel, not to exceed 15 amps per bank of 8 channels. There are 2 banks of 8 channels each on a Lynx controller. 4. The answer to this question is "yes., the controller has 2 power cords or 1. Each of those 2 banks of channels (15 amps per bank, remember that!) can have its own power cord, or you can tie both banks together and run it from a single power cord, but then you limit yourself to 15 amps for the controller, not just per bank. Do I have a Lynx controller? No, but I do have a couple of bare boards that I may populate one day. That would be dependent on needing the amperage per channel, if I ever need that and can't use one of my 5 LOR controllers, which have the same current ratings. Would I recommend one? That depends; do you have some modicum of PIC programming experience or have someone available locally who does? They're OK boards, but personally I prefer to run Renard boards in DMX mode; as well as the 5 LOR CTB-16-PC controllers I have, I also have 5 Renard SS24 controllers, as well as a couple different DC controllers.
  13. JackStevens

    Need Help With "flying Reindeer".

    You might try a barbeque rotisserie motor. They should be readily available at this time of year.
  14. JackStevens

    Looking For Company/service To Repair 16+ Wireforms

    I'm not sure why you can't get there......it just popped up an untrusted security certificate on me, though, and I was just on the site yesterday. Here's their contact info. Welcome to The Holiday Light Store Located at 2720 S Wilmington Street Raleigh NC 27603 Call 1-866-458-LITE (5483) Local 919-828-4222 I'm sure right now their wireframe display room is about as hot as it gets. I walked through it about two years ago late September and all the displays had been on for a while; outside was in the high 60's, inside about 85.....but they were just starting to switch over to LEDs at the time.
  15. JackStevens

    Looking For Company/service To Repair 16+ Wireforms

    DennyD, Are you referring to this place? http://holidaylightstore.com/outdoor-lighting/repair-and-refurbishment They're good people, but like said before, shipping would probably be cost prohibitive. They can send you parts so you can repair your own; light clips, lights, etc. but that' would mean you'd still have to do any frame repairs and repaints yourself.