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Christmas Cheer Technology

Slashdot Asks: What Are You Doing For Hallowe'en? 273

Hallowe'en is my favorite holiday: I like seeing costumes (and walking around in my own), and seeing what people do to decorate their houses, yards, etc. For the second year in a row though, I've failed to come up with a really good scheme for making my own place appropriately spooky. So, in hopes of loosing some inspiration for myself and others, I ask today what you're doing to spookify your surroundings (or your person) tomorrow, especially if it means using technology in interesting ways. Sensor-activated scary sounds or lights? An Arduino or Raspberry Pi-controlled costume? Elaborate trap-door? Infrasonic hackle-raising subwoofer install? Maybe one year Alek Komarnitsky will switch to Hallowe'en instead of Christmas, and offer a webcam-equipped remote-controllable haunt.
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Slashdot Asks: What Are You Doing For Hallowe'en?

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  • by Nukenbar ( 215420 ) on Wednesday October 30, 2013 @06:21PM (#45286177)

    and hitting on girls a decade young than me in short skirts.

  • by decipher_saint ( 72686 ) on Wednesday October 30, 2013 @06:21PM (#45286179)

    Try to take over the world

  • by AdamStarks ( 2634757 ) on Wednesday October 30, 2013 @06:21PM (#45286181)

    and when little kids walk up, I'll leap out in my Conan the Mathematician costume and roar out the skull-splitting multiplication rules for Quaternions.

    • by Frobnicator ( 565869 ) on Wednesday October 30, 2013 @06:44PM (#45286401) Journal
      There are all kinds of fun things you can do if you want to hang out on your porch.

      One old couple in our neighborhood has a portable fire pit, every year they have marshmallows and chocolate and various types of crackers and cookies, and everybody can make s'mores. Some kids just grab a few marshmallows and a bit of chocolate, other people stand around and chat while warming their hands and treats.

      Another home in our neighborhood often puts together a little spooky maze in their rather large garage, with cardboard cutouts and black lights and such. They have sometimes recruited a few teens to make it into a spook alley.

      Something fun is a bit of basic chemistry. Fill a spray bottle with some methanol with Borox dissolved in it, squirt it over a lighter, you get a bright green flame. (Be careful since the methanol is poisonous if swallowed, but a small amount of vapor while outside is not really harmful. Don't let any of the liquid get on kids or candy, or anything that burns.) Making a bright green fireball is satisfying, and I've already got the ingredients to do this one again tomorrow night.

  • I carry. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Okian Warrior ( 537106 ) on Wednesday October 30, 2013 @06:22PM (#45286195) Homepage Journal

    I walk around with an (unloaded) pistol on my hip.

    Scaring little kids is easy, I go for scaring the adults.

  • by themushroom ( 197365 ) on Wednesday October 30, 2013 @06:24PM (#45286215) Homepage

    It's an every-day activity for some of us, with the scare being when the mask comes off or her hand goes into the treat bag.

  • ...but not "trick or treat"

    (Hey, you gotta earn your treats!)

    • by Dogtanian ( 588974 ) on Wednesday October 30, 2013 @09:01PM (#45287411) Homepage

      Guising...... but not "trick or treat" (Hey, you gotta earn your treats!)

      Are you Scottish or Irish? I'm Scottish, and that's what we called it when I was growing up and celebrating Hallowe'en (*) in the early 1980s.

      While that's undeniably a long time ago now in some ways (i.e. 30 years, a generation or so)- it actually seems bizarrely recent when one considers that in the era of the A-Team and Knight Rider, of Reagan and Thatcher, we still called it guising (and felt obliged to perform some sort of routine), dressed up in home-made costumes and went around with lanterns made out of turnips [wikipedia.org], not pumpkins.

      This wasn't done with the intent of being "traditional" and I was never aware of it seeming forced- that's still how it was then. I'd probably heard of "trick or treat", but would definitely have been aware of that as being an American (i.e. foreign) thing. Ditto pumpkin lanterns- I knew of the association, but while I wouldn't swear that I never saw a real one growing up, the things me and my friends trawled around the streets *were* mainly turnip based. (**) And there definitely wasn't the associated hype or paraphenalia in the shops.

      I say "bizarrely recent" because while one could have imagined the traditional Scottish Hallowe'en remaining relatively pure into the era of my Mum's childhood (i.e. early 1950s, most people didn't have TV, US culture was less influential), for it to have survived into the heyday of VHS, home computers et al is sweet, but also quite strangely anachronistic. I'd say I was probably lucky to have experienced that- 15 or so years later, I think the US influence on Hallowe'en *did* start becoming very influential to the point that the idea of a child today having a turnip lantern would seem unusual (and probably get strange looks from his/her friends).

      Strangely, despite the fact that Scottish culture became increasingly Anglicised (as part of the UK) during the 20th century, one thing I didn't realise when I was growing up was that guising wasn't a UK-wide thing, and the English really didn't celebrate Hallowe'en at all then. In fact, I only found this out recently, and ironically that was because they *do* now celebrate it... but they view the increasing prominence of Hallowe'en and its customs as an example of the influence of *American* culture!

      Which, of course, it is- but the "American" Hallowe'en was brought there by Scottish and Irish immigrants, and still retains some (if not all) of its original celtic form. I honestly can't see them going around with turnips though.

      And that *might* be why guising and turnips lasted as long as they did- in the UK, and especially in the 20th century, mass culture came to the "provinces" (*cough*) through the London-centric, Anglo-centric media, and they didn't care about Hallowe'en. So in a sense we were insulated from both the US influence and commercialism and kept our individuality a bit longer. Now we've lost it for a related reason- we're getting the American model via the same Anglo-centric media and retailers who don't have their own traditional Hallowe'en anyway so don't moderate it in the same way they would if they had their own tradition to defend.

      I think I said a lot more than I was originally planning to there...

      (*) I'm so used to the apostrophe-less form nowadays- probably another example of increasing American influence- I'd almost forgotten that this was a quite common spelling when I was a kid. Anyway, any Slashdotter that gets so annoyed by that spelling *deserves* to be annoyed, so "Hallowe'en" it is :-)

      (**) I mentioned this to my Dad recently, in a nostalgic way, and he complained about the amount of work it took to hollow out a turnip(!)

  • I threw a Halloween party last weekend. Tonight? Battlefield 4
  • by klingers48 ( 968406 ) on Wednesday October 30, 2013 @06:28PM (#45286251)
    Being Australian? I can go grumpy old man on those few kids that usually go trick or treating. It's always fun watching blank stairs of incomprehension as I tell them that their mums and dads are bad parents for indoctrinating their children with an Americanized handout mentality as well as bad neighbours for expecting me to cross-subsidize their efforts with candy.

    Get off my lawn. Clean up those eggs and toilet rolls.
    • I just bought a new house, and in the month I have been living there, I have not seen a kid anywhere in the area. I bought a pile of Halloween candy, just in case, but I really hope no one shows up. :)
    • by vux984 ( 928602 )

      Get off my lawn. Clean up those eggs and toilet rolls.

      Figure you should get plenty of eggs and toilet paper with a presentation like that. :)

      Is there not some locally accepted convention to signal nothing here move on. Around here at least, if there's no outside lights, the place is either not participating or has run out of candy, and all but the dumbest kids just skip them.

      • by Col. Bloodnok ( 825749 ) on Wednesday October 30, 2013 @08:27PM (#45287195)

        I simply don't answer the door.

        In the UK, It's only kids (and their parents) who watch too much American crap on TV, who do it.

        Personally, I despise this ridiculous 'holiday'. The last thing we need are more shipping containers, full of Chinese plastic crap arriving at Felixstowe - being imported and sold by the supermarkets - who are desperate to encourage a new yearly orgy of consumerism.

        Modern Halloween is yet another bewildering American concept, borrowed from traditional European practices (mostly from Celtic Samhain, some early Pagan/Christian crossover, bits of Roman stuff), but distorted grotesquely by the lens of capitalistic greed.

        Bonfire night is so much more fun - and I mean a proper bonfire. The fireworks are, and should be, a sideshow. A proper echo of Samhain etc. - the celebration of the end of harvest and the start of a risky, cold, non-productive season. There is something wonderful about a good bonfire on a crisp Autumn night.

        • by Gogo0 ( 877020 )
          i dont care about halloween, but i also dont understand the hate. kids dress up in costumes, walk around with their friends and parents, receive treats, and have a fun time. hardly "bewildering".

          there is obnoxious shit that teenagers do, but thats true for pretty much anything else as well. and while nearly every holiday is tainted with capitalistic greed, i think halloween is probably fairly low on the list. candy and costumes for the most part. the modern version is a holiday mostly a demonstration of alt
          • It's bewildering from a cross-cultural point of view, I mean only that.

            Halloween in England, at least, had its own traditions - apple bobbing etc, which have mostly died out. I guess we lost interest. Or the victorians became puritanical about celebrating evil, as they would have seen it.

            What makes me angry is precisely the cynical way in which cheap plastic Chinese crap is being sold to us, when 10 years ago, it wasn't.

            • by Gogo0 ( 877020 )
              the thing with american holidays is that most are relatively new and based on some other culture's ancient celebration. changes were made because when great grandpa got off the boat, he didnt have a herring to gelatinize (or whatever) and had to figure something else out. then through generations the original traditions are further diluted. without centuries-old traditions to adhere to, our holidays tend to evolve. maybe 'evolve' is too positive a verb, how about 'our holidays change'? its a shame if via po
              • However, the US (via its media outlets) is imposing this model of halloween via its channels worldwide. I think that's a perfect example of cultural imperialism.

                That's why I see it as harmful.

        • by vux984 ( 928602 )

          but distorted grotesquely by the lens of capitalistic greed.

          Are we talking about the same halloween? A holiday that can be fully participated in by using Mom's makeup, some old clothes (hello zombies), and some bulk wrapped candies. A couple bucks will buy you a pumpkin to carve.

          Halloween is the cheapest holiday going. I think this year is going to run me $30 bucks including candy ($15), costume stuff (reusing some parts from previous years, adding a cape $5, new vampire teeth $3, and fake blood $1), a cou

    • by geekoid ( 135745 )

      Yeah, you kids should live in thee exact same culture I did and never change. Plus, I'll chastise you with my meaningless rant for you daring to have a different culture.

      Listen up dirt bag:
      You foisted Paul Hogan on us, so now you get this Gaelic holiday. Suck it, mate.

      • I'm all for cultural evolution, but do you realise how ridiculous Halloween (or even Hallowe'en) is when it's the middle of Spring and daylight savings time is in effect?

        It's not the same holiday. Not by a long shot.

        • Daylight savings is currently in effect in the US too, you know...

          (it ends this upcoming weekend, after Halloween)

      • By the way, Paul Hogan was revenge for Don Lane. We're even.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Halloween dates from 1745 and is of Christian origin, it was / it is primarily of Irish, Scottish and English Gaelic or Pagan origin. It is certainly not American in origin. Even trick or treating, traces back to the 15th Century UK and European practice of dressing up (to disguise themselves from souls seeking vengeance prior departing the earth on All Hallows Day) and children sharing and eating soul cakes as an act to pray for the souls in purgatory.

      In fact, in the US, Halloween was not brought over by t

  • Our local non-fiction group of the Writer's Guild is meeting at our secret undisclosed location.
  • by Wingfat ( 911988 ) on Wednesday October 30, 2013 @06:29PM (#45286261)
    I have a few Smart Phones i am not using so i Downloaded a few apps and things to make the Cells make Spooky Noises when one ditects sounds. and another phone set closer to my door where it detects movement (using fishing line attached to the phone and the other side attached to a moving lawn spider i have, he is 8' and has moving legs but now when he moves it makes cool spooky noises ) My Sony Smart watch as a live view finder for my other non used Smart phone allows me to see kids coming up the drive way so i can be perpaird to make the fog machine spew out thick fog. I did make a Green Laser Vortext this year too.. Green Laser & small motor to make a mirror spin & Fog Machine & a small fan makes some of the coolest effects. So now i got Two green, two red, and two blue lasers for this halloween haunt going. FYI - blue lasers are great as Super Black Lights!!!!!!! man they make glow in the dark things bright!
  • I have to work you insensitive clod!

  • Don't bother... (Score:4, Informative)

    by Colin Lewis ( 3398815 ) on Wednesday October 30, 2013 @06:34PM (#45286287)
    ... the kid in the LED suit on youtube has already won
  • I live in one of the safest cities in America. It's extremely clean, too. And no one trick-or-treats. The significant other and I did up our entry way and had candy on hand for 3 years running before we just gave up.

    It's the safest city partially because everyone is so afraid of everyone else. We've never known our neighbors and we've lived in this city for 13 years. Neighbors just come and go. It's "nice", but it's weird, too.

    So, to answer the question, we're doing nothing special. We'll likely have some w

  • by Obfuscant ( 592200 ) on Wednesday October 30, 2013 @06:35PM (#45286297)
    What I do every year -- try to take over the world.

    Unless some dinky laboratory mice with modified DNA beat me to it. Poit!

  • by GodfatherofSoul ( 174979 ) on Wednesday October 30, 2013 @06:36PM (#45286311)

    For some reason I got the bug to try to wire up LED pumpkins and build a flashing LED circuit. I've not done much with electronics, so I got the alternating flashing antennae done properly after some work. But, I also wanted the mouth to have Knight Rider-style chasing LEDs. I found a circuit diagram, but for some reason the lights run for 10-15 seconds then stop with one light on. Go figure :/

    Here's the circuit diagram [electroschematics.com] I'm trying to copy.

    • It's too late to attempt something like this, but micro controllers are very low cost (a few bucks each) and can drive LEDs right from the GPIOs. You can code in assembly or C and the sky's the limit as far as anything you want to do flashing LEDs. Main downside is you need a $20ish programmer to flash the microcontroller with your software. It's just fascinating to me to have an entire computer in a single DIP package that costs so little. I usually work with PIC microcontrollers.

    • Re:LED pumpkins (Score:4, Informative)

      by NoImNotNineVolt ( 832851 ) on Thursday October 31, 2013 @10:00AM (#45290025) Homepage
      Disclaimer: I only briefly glanced at the diagram. Basically, it's only two ICs: a 555 timer and a counter.

      If you're not familiar with the 555, it's little more than a chip that goes "high, low, high, low, etc." on its output pin. Not as accurate as a crystalline oscillator, but we're not building a stopwatch here. The speed at which this "clock" runs is determined by the capacitors and resistors wired up to it. In this circuit, one of the resistors is variable (a potentiometer), which allows you to adjust the clock speed by turning a knob instead of swapping out components.

      Now, this clock signal feeds into a 4017 Johnson counter. This IC has 10 output pins that go high one at a time, in sequence. For every clock cycle, an output pin goes low, and the next one goes high.

      Your circuit only has 8 LEDs though. That leaves you with 2 extra output pins. Once the counter gets past the 8th output pin, you want it to reset to the first pin, and then continue operating as before. An easy way of doing that is to wire the 9th output pin directly to the reset input. That way, when the 9th output goes high, the counter automatically resets. I'm guessing that this is where your circuit is failing.

      Make sure pins 9 and 15 are shorted on your 4017. Pin 9 is the 9th output, and pin 15 is the master reset input. That's likely to be where this is failing. That, or the clock stops running.
  • The local festivities were Sunday for me.

    One piece of awesome was a robot, really well done, but the kid wearing it broke his arm a couple days before... tore the plastic duct work arm apart, jammed in some stripped back network cable and an old ribbon cable to be a "disarmed" robot.

  • They always get creative. They got tall coconut trees about 6 or 8 in a line near the diamond-link fence. One time, there was a huge spider web strung up between 2 of them, and a simulated 'copter caught in that web, with the pilot lying there on the ground, against a tree, legs splayed (really a dummy all suited up) with a reflectorized visor on his helmet.

  • Here in Vancouver, it's traditional to light off fireworks on Halloween. Fireworks are legal on Halloween night, firecrackers are not (Nevertheless, there are a lot of illegal firecrackers going *BANG* as well....)

    Usually starts off quiet, but by the time the teenagers are out at 9pm it's a bit of a war zone, with our dog cowering in the basement.
  • For Halloween, I'm electrifying my doorbell. Not too much, not fatal or anything, but just enough to singe a few wee fingertips.

    I watch from the second floor window and laugh and laugh. Watch for the videos on youtubes.

    Personally, I hate Halloween. I have enough identity issues that I don't need to be wearing costumes and masks. The only time I put a mask on these days is when a safe word is involved.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Personally, I hate Halloween. I have enough identity issues that I don't need to be wearing costumes and masks. The only time I put a mask on these days is when a safe word is involved.

      You literally sound as fun as a blanket party.

  • Robin's Choclate's salted caramels at my house this Halloween (For the first 150-ish people who show up.) I figure the children should develop a taste for good candy early, then maybe they won't be so tempted by that cheap wal-mart crap that usually comes in "fun" sizes. What's the deal with "fun" sized candy anyway? Apparently I and someone else have a VERY different definition of "fun." Perhaps they define it as "Not getting type 2 diabetes by the time you're 13." By that definition it'd be more fun to no
    • by rsborg ( 111459 )

      Robin's Choclate's salted caramels at my house this Halloween (For the first 150-ish people who show up.) I figure the children should develop a taste for good candy early, then maybe they won't be so tempted by that cheap wal-mart crap that usually comes in "fun" sizes. What's the deal with "fun" sized candy anyway? Apparently I and someone else have a VERY different definition of "fun." Perhaps they define it as "Not getting type 2 diabetes by the time you're 13." By that definition it'd be more fun to not have candy at all...

      Some chick in North Dakota is giving out letters accusing parents of contributing to childhood obesity. If I were a parent and got one of those, I'd help my kids TP that house. We'd be going down to costco for the industrial-sized crate of TP.

      We're giving out snickers bars and dental floss sample packets (got 100+ on Amazon for $40). Not that it'll make much of a difference but what the hell.

  • In fact, forget the blackjack.

  • by BigBadBus ( 653823 ) on Wednesday October 30, 2013 @07:18PM (#45286715) Homepage
    In the past, I used to go on Ghost Hunts [paullee.com]. Yes, you read that right. But now its all heavily commercialized and genuine researchers are being forced out. Damn you "Most Haunted" and your cheque-book negotiation tactics; now placed don't allow access unless you wave a big cheque under the owner's nose!
  • I'll be hiding away in my apartment, hoping no kids come to show their costumes off, because I flat out can't afford candy for them.

    On the flip side, at least this year I won't be *eating* a couple bags of candy (and gaining appropriate weight) because I didn't buy any. It seems the only time kids ever come to my door are the years I didn't buy anything.

  • Fog: Either dry ice in water, or a fog machine.

    Maybe a Plasma ball [amazon.com]

    Various chains have some potentially amusing decorations [target.com].

    Some grocery chains are currently featuring what for most Americans would be exotic fruits [oddee.com], such as dragon fruit, Buddha's Hand, horned melons, rambutan, and others. A number of things you could do with those. If you eat them, make sure it's the right part. ;)

    Maybe some Halloween Sound Effects [amazon.com]

    Remote controls [amazon.com] - always handy.

    Perhaps some party lights [amazon.com].

    Remote speakers.

    Have fun.

  • Beats the lack of work.

  • I'm not a Halloween kind of guy and kids keep knocking on the damned door wanting candy, so I just take my notebook to the bar.

  • It's an annual thing. [lawrenceperson.com]

    Also hand out candy to kids, accompanied by my friendly hellhound, plus atmospheric music and lights.

  • Turning off the lights and letting my big black dog bark all she wants at all the little mooches.
  • Ill be handing out candy to all the young boys and girls. It's the one time of year you don't get arrested for doing that.

    • I get a lot more enjoyment out of Halloween by handing out candy that I ever did as a kid going trick-or-treating. I love seeing the different costumes the kids wear, trying to guess what they are supposed to be, and the expressions on their faces when I pull out the candy basket. I hand out the good stuff - no apples, cookies, or lumps of coal if you come to my house.
  • Hallowe'en is my favorite holiday...

    You sound like one of my wiccan girl friends (I was some how gifted with three without really trying). Boring. If there were a higher power it should be noted that it left the building millenia ago. Halloween, great if your a kid. A waste of time if your an adult with an ounce of brains.

  • Halloween has crept into New Zealand in the last few years, with a small percentage of families out trick or treating. However, there's no perceived meaning to it, and as far as I can tell it's just retailers pushing it as an excuse to sell more crap. To avoid dissapointing the few kids that are about, I lock the gate when I get home from work.

  • Sprint planning meeting with our China team. No candy for me.
  • But I will still be :~( because of my recent grand(male delate/king/pa)'s death.

  • ...for the existence of a Halloween-specific word that's the equivalent to Christmas' "bah humbug".

    The best I've come up with so far is non-verbal: turn off the lights and ignore anyone knocking on the door or ringing the bell, but I like to use my words when I can.

  • We do not celebrate Halloween in my country, you insensitive clod.
  • Home made Spicy Pumpkin Soup, a bottle of Dark Rum and Edgar Allen Poe on Audio Book.

  • It's no mistake that Zombies and Halloween go hand in hand. What better way to spread the pathogen?

We all like praise, but a hike in our pay is the best kind of ways.