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Christmas Cheer Hardware Hacking Build

Ask Slashdot: Best Wireless LED Light Setup for 2015? 68

An anonymous reader writes I want to get a jump-start on next year's Christmas by wiring up my mother's gnome garden for a Christmas light show. I need a setup that can use wireless LED lights and speakers, the lights using a custom sequence set to music, that can be controlled remotely indoors to go off on a schedule, say every hour. Do you know of an off-the-shelf setup that is cheap and works seamlessly, especially for someone with little to no coding or custom building experience?
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Ask Slashdot: Best Wireless LED Light Setup for 2015?

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  • by mckwant ( 65143 ) on Monday December 29, 2014 @03:54PM (#48691493)

    Bah, humbug, AND get off my lawn.

    • by msauve ( 701917 )
      You'd think he could just have his mother give every gnome a flashlight, then train them to put on a coordinated display.
  • Wrong site (Score:5, Informative)

    by plover ( 150551 ) on Monday December 29, 2014 @03:55PM (#48691495) Homepage Journal

    Try asking on http://www.hackaday.com./ [www.hackaday.com] Lots of people there doing exactly that kind of stuff.

  • As someone who went DIY and built one of these (Highly modified, including FM transmitter) about 5 years ago, it's good of you to start now, it takes much more time than just putting some lights in and set it up. Not sure what exists now but remember you need to power each "Station" so not sure how much wireless gains you. There are forums for people devoted to these things, and I suggest starting there. It will also matter on how many channels you want as well as how custom you want the sequences to be. Th
  • See what new technology is available, THEN start planning what you will do! ;^)

  • Light O Rama (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I use a Light O Rama setup http://www1.lightorama.com

    It is not wireless but is very easy to setup and can be used with regular Christmas Lights.

    They have a software suite that is pretty easy to use and you can do some pretty cool stuff with.

    • Yep.

      Light-O-Rama is the go-to choice for pre-built kits for newbies (or professionals who need UL certification). The well-beaten path is to begin with LOR, learn about what's possible by joining communities like Planet Christmas, and hone your sequencing skill - not too flashy, not too dull, and just below the threshold where your neighbors formally complain. After that, once you're comfortable with the idea of running a few hundred channels and a few tens of thousands of lights (or in short, once you're a

      • I'm glad that there's a COTS solution for this, but I suspect that a lot more control could be had with an actual logic controller or mini computer. Other than the soundboard/mp3 playback function (are there any good linux applications for this? I know there are many MP3 players that can be invoked from the console (eg, via an SSH session) but the soundboard would be a bit of an issue) a Raspberry Pi or a BeagleBone with a few diodes, transistors and resistors could drive a shitload of lights in obscene co

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Sarten-X ( 1102295 )

          TL;DR: There's a lot more to the craft than just wires and a board. This started as a short post, but turned into Light Shows 101.

          I've been on the fringes of the community for a few years. If you're willing to touch a soldering gun, you can do far better than a single-board computer, though I'm sure I'm going to annoy some Slashdotters for suggesting such blasphemy.

          First, consider your requirements: Lights, elements, power, control, sequencing, and sound. We'll tackle them in that order.

          Lights are actually

    • by Wrexs0ul ( 515885 ) <mmeier&racknine,com> on Monday December 29, 2014 @07:46PM (#48692953) Homepage

      I started down the fancy Christmas lights path last year after seeing a 12-string CCR tree based-on LOR (light-o-rama) that this guy made:

      http://www.superstarlights.com/Sequences/Videos.php [superstarlights.com]

      LOR Technology is pretty simple and your IT knowledge will translate pretty well to get it setup. The gist is you're using a LOR network protocol over RS-485 (long-range serial) that itself is using CAT5/6 cable to work. This network needs a control node that's either a hardware device or (like most people) a computer running the LOR software package, both of which can work with an audio component.

      The neat part about starting here is that there's translation hardware between LOR and the more widely used DMX protocol when you're ready to step-up to fancier shows. DMX gears tends to be cheaper because there's more of it (and more things you can control), but it'll also need a fair bit of comfort with stuff you can start-off learning by point-and-click in LOR. I've been playing with some DMX stuff this year that'll be in the show for December 2015, but didn't have the time to get it perfect on this go.

      One thing to keep in mind: more fancy = more bandwidth. Single flashing strands don't use much traffic, but when you start looking at 150 LED strands where each pixel has RGB+intensity I'd recommend against going wireless.

      Happy learning, and post a video!

  • by xxxJonBoyxxx ( 565205 ) on Monday December 29, 2014 @04:03PM (#48691557)

    >> I want to get a jump-start on next year's Christmas by wiring up my mother's gnome garden

    This is mom. While you're out of the basement can you take out the trash?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Have a look at DMX512, it's a control standard for stage and architectural lighting. It's basically a wired standard, but it has wireless adapters. Since it's a standardized interface there's bound to be loads of interface hardware and control software. I don't know a lot about it myself, but a friend of mine uses it for his friends' band.

  • What is the point of "wireless"? You still need to power the lights.

    You haven't said just what kind of "LED lights" you want to control. You mean a string of lights from CVS or Home Depot? You mean some individually-addressible, color-changing lights? Something else?

    Since I have Insteon in home home, I'd just use these to control strings of lights:

    http://www.smarthome.com/inste... [smarthome.com]

    • by afidel ( 530433 )

      What is the point of "wireless"? You still need to power the lights.

      You haven't seen the LED light strings powered by PV panels and a LiPo battery pack? I'm planning to use some of these for some trees along the far side of my driveway, being able to sequence those lights would be cool.

  • by NEDHead ( 1651195 ) on Monday December 29, 2014 @04:17PM (#48691631)

    Just tell the damn gnomes to do it or you'll kick them out.

  • If whole neighborhoods switch over to wireless light displays for the holiday season, I'm sure hackers will have fun war driving by with their laptops.
    • Some DMX wireless solutions are not WiFi. Only Artnet, E1.31, and related DMX over Ethernet protocols are able to be carried on consumer wireless links. Most hardware commercial solutions are spread spectrum frequency hopping. Links are more like paired Bluetooth than WiFi. As such they are in common use where high reliability is needed.

  • In the performance industry, we control lights using a protocol called DMX (there are a couple other protocols out there, but DMX is by far the most common.) You could use something called "dimmer packs" to control standard LED Christmas lights. There are free software packages such as FreestylerDMX. You would still need to run power, but you can buy Wireless DMX receivers to avoid DMX cables. Cheap however? Well that depends on your definition of cheap. You can buy dimmer packs pretty cheeap...$40 ea
    • As parent said, almost all professional lighting, for stage and displays, uses the DMX protocol. Mobile and club DJs also. You can get a decent programmable DMX control board, like DJs use, for $100-$200 from a site like Cheaplights.com*. You can instead choose a USB-DMX converter for about $39. You don't need the expensive type of USB-DMX converter.

      Be open to the possibility of running a wire or two to your DMX-controlled relay packs. In general, wireless is required for things that move around, such a

    • 1 wireless receiver can carry 512 channels. It is permitted to daisy chain a string of DMX devices off one wireless receiver.

  • I haven't seen what you want on this site, but then I haven't been looking. There is a HUGE range of different areas there, so spend a bit of time having a look.
    http://www.instructables.com/ [instructables.com]

    No connections to the site, just amazed at some of the stuff people come up with. For anyone interested, subscribe to their RSS feed.
    Random subjects from today;
    Like lava lamps? Got a spare mason jar?
    http://www.instructables.com/i... [instructables.com]
    This sounds delicious;
    http://www.instructables.com/i... [instructables.com]
    Always wanted to know how to make a

  • You also need to find yourself a copy of "The Lost Christmas Eve" and an FM transmitter. Federal law requires that you be playing track four from that album at all times while operating any kind of christmas light display.

  • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Monday December 29, 2014 @06:33PM (#48692515) Homepage

    Look up DMX lighting. Everything that is the REAL stuff is DMX controlled. If you want it easy to do and reliable, that is your answer.
    Wireless is not going to happen, you are already running wires for the power, or were you expecting to erect a giant Tesla tower to power all the lights?

  • Are you looking for a diy or a more off the shelf setup?

    The most straightforward way for off the shelf might be to use a dmx (not the rapper) controlled lighting system. Very common and well documented protocol used to control lighting for commercial and entertainment setups. There are also a few others. Since it is also used extensively in the entertainment business, there might be software off the shelf that will sequence the lights and music. You can easily find usb-dmx controllers for well under a hund

  • Gnome garden? bah! I want to get a jump-start on next year's Christmas by wiring up my mother's kde garden
  • Since the Corsair RGB keyboard came out I have discovered that there are processors dedicated to managing signs.

    You should look into those.

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