Thursday, December 31, 2009

Christmas Decorations 2009

Two years ago I first created my Mountain Dew Christmas tree, consisting of around 200 Mountain Dew cans, construction flags, a 7ft piece of PVC pipe, and a Christmas Tree stand. After I had finished putting it together for the first time, decorating it seemed like a lot of extra effort.

This first version of the tree in 2007

This year, I decided to get a little more creative with the decorations. After having purchased a couple extra strings of LED Christmas lights and being given the star and tinsel from my grand parents old tree, I set to working sprucing up my once bare aluminum tree.

This year's version 2.0

I also made the decision at some point to have the tree be controllable from a computer. I had obtained a few old MIDI Leprecon LD-360 dimmer packs and decided to put one to use. Each unit has 6 channels which each receive a MIDI address. You can then send MIDI commands from a computer or MIDI keyboard to change the intensity on any of the channels. I had a M-Audio Audiophile USB sound card with MIDI output which I plugged into an old laptop and stuck in a cabinet. Then I found a command line based midi program which could send raw Note ON and Note OFF messages to the dimmer pack. I whipped up a small program which would run the command line program with the variable from the VB program's faders.

The "Server Cabinet" next to the tree

Example of some Leprecon dimmer packs

The laptop server powering the tree, running the VB application

Although pretty crude, it worked extremely well for my purpose. I also created two simple batch scripts which would turn all the channels on and off, and made them scheduled tasks to turn the tree on in the evening (around 4pm) and off later that night (around 1am).

Having received an Arduino for Christmas this year, I intend to remove the PC from the equation for next year, allowing the tree to be controlled via micro controller from the network.

All in all, I very much enjoyed setting up my tree again this year, and intend to make it a tradition to try and do so every year.

For more pictures of my Mountain Dew Christmas tree, including some of the original construction pictures, visit my Flickr set here

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