Sunday, September 28, 2008

2008 mockup

I worked on a mock-up of the 2008 animated display today. I only sepnt an hour on it, but I think it's shaping up.
I'm thinking we can do both the shutters and the window outlines this year. It seems we will have enough power. The question is "will I have enough time to program all those items." The large palms will be a challenge.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Must Maintain Order

I've been working all day on the excel spreadsheet for the '08 display, and I'm beginning to go a little crazy. Here's how it works and what the problems are...
We have 6 of these big gray power boxes installed in our house that we use only for Christmas lights. These gray power boxes (GPB) are simply large power strips that have little computers in them. Simple stuff.
Now, the way we make the lights blink to the music is by plugging the GPBs into a computer. Then, we use powerful software to control the lights and the music. We also use software to transmit our music over a local unused radio frequency (87.9FM). We spend our summers programming all the blinks to music we like. Simple stuff.
So, back to the excel spreadsheet. We use the spreadsheet during planning and set-up; right now, it's September and we're in the planning stage. We make a spreadsheet because we need to calculate how many amps will be running through each zone of the display at any given time during the show. Here's where my headache begins.
Given the sketch of how we want this year's display to look, I need to
  • calculate how many strings of lights are needed
  • calculate how many feet of extension cord is needed
  • map out where the strings will lay in the yard so that they can all be plugged into one of the 6 boxes
  • make sure that the lights are distributed evenly among the 6 power boxes
  • calculate how much power the 6 boxes require to run all the lights
The only thing that's preventing a total meltdown is the fact that I can manipulate Excel really well. I feel better now. ;)