An Alaska family has bravely turned over control of their Christmas lights to people on the Internet, who with the click of a button, are able to turn areas on and off at all hours of the day and night.
For the sixth year in a row, Ken Woods, an information technology employee in Fairbanks, has nailed a live camera to a tree outside his home. He has then rigged a dozen different controls, allowing anyone who visits his website to turn a certain area of his lights on or off at all hours of the day.
"The very first year we did it, we did one string of lights on the tree," Woods told ABC News. "It was cool, but then we added a Web camera pointing at the tree and then [the reaction] blew up. A week into it, my wife turned to me and said, 'Next year, these are going outside.' It was super annoying in the middle of the night."
Each year, the Christmas light show has evolved in terms of complexity. This year, Woods and his wife, Rebecca-Ellen, are giving visitors 11 different choices of areas they can power on or off with just the click of a link, including two wreaths, railings, lights on a tree and various rooms on their Alaska home.
"You would not believe the number of people who sit for hours and turn the lights off and on," Woods said.
To pull off a bigger display this year, Woods built a box with 16 available electrical ports to control the switches for various areas of his house.
"Basically, it’s a box that has a tiny computer running inside of it," he said. "Whenever anyone clicks the link, it sends a specific signal to that Web server that then interfaces with a power strip and turns the individual ports on and off."
He said software written for his Web camera then uploads the latest image of the house to the Amazon cloud, which people around the world can then see when they visit his website.
While this sort of project might draw complaints from neighbors, Woods doesn't have anyone living nearby. After all these years, he said he's used to the lights constantly turning on and off at all hours and relishes spreading a little holiday fun on the Internet.
"It’s word of mouth and the Internet takes it from there, which is awesome," he said.