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Christmas Cheer Toys

Alek's Christmas Lights: Humbug 327

Posted by timothy
from the so-whaddya-do? dept.
g00set writes "Alek's Christmas lights story was previously covered on Slashdot here, however the Denver Channel is now reporting that it was all a hoax: 'The Lafayette man said he accomplished the trickery by taking 12 "base" photographs of the house with lights on and off and then constructed a Web page that appeared to show lights going on and off when the Web visitor clicked.'"
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Alek's Christmas Lights: Humbug

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  • by NormalVisual (565491) on Monday December 27, 2004 @07:20PM (#11195260)
    Ho ho hoax!
    • I hope there was extra bandwidth charges brought on by the Slashdot Effect. That'll teach him!
    • His explanation... (Score:5, Informative)

      by josh3736 (745265) on Monday December 27, 2004 @08:10PM (#11195687) Homepage
      Who actually read his explanation? [komar.org] (Yes, I know this is Slashdot, but you can try to RTFA)

      It seems like for all the trouble he went through to set up this hoax, it would actually have been easier to hook up the X10 to his computer and plop a real webcam outside.

      What it took for the hoax:

      • Taking 12 pictures for the various "on/off" states
      • Taking those 12 pictures in varying amounts of snowcover
      • Dynamically inserting airplanes overhead
      • Dynamically changing the position of the garage door by superimposing the garage on one of the 12 pics.
      • Dynamically adding stars in the sky that move over the course of the night
      • Occasionally Adding "cars" driving by
      • When the local news crew took him up in the helicopter, his wife stayed at home flipping the lights on and off.
      • Putting a real (but disconnected) webcam in the neighbor's tree so snoopers would see the webcam.
      For all that trouble, he might as well have just done it up real.

      I guess at least now we know who is really responsible for the moon landing video.

      • Who actually read his explanation? (Yes, I know this is Slashdot, but you can try to RTFA)

        It seems like for all the trouble he went through to set up this hoax, it would actually have been easier to hook up the X10 to his computer and plop a real webcam outside.

        What it took for the hoax:

        [Huge, long and well thought out list deleted]

        For all the trouble you went through to research and type out all this, you could have set up your house with teeceepipped blinkenlights :-)

        Regards,
        --
        *Art

      • by null etc. (524767) on Monday December 27, 2004 @10:34PM (#11196564)
        It seems like for all the trouble he went through to set up this hoax, it would actually have been easier to hook up the X10 to his computer and plop a real webcam outside.

        Haven't you ever seen any Hollywood movies? Doing something like that only requires a few typed commands on the keyboard! You don't even need a mouse!

        And, if he wanted to, he could zoom in on and "enhance" a single pixel until it looked like his christmas lights.

      • by griffjon (14945) <`GriffJon' `at' `gmail.com'> on Tuesday December 28, 2004 @02:16AM (#11197557) Homepage Journal
        For all that trouble, he might as well have just done it up real. ...but where's the challenge in THAT?

        You, sir, need to turn in your geek card.
  • by CodeWanker (534624) on Monday December 27, 2004 @07:20PM (#11195265) Journal
    Thank God the rest of the internet is hoax-free. Now I can get back to my penis enlargement pill popping and free ipod winning in peace.
  • Well... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tekiegreg (674773) * <tekieg1-slashdot@yahoo.com> on Monday December 27, 2004 @07:20PM (#11195266) Homepage Journal
    How many times can you piss off the neighbors before the homeowner's association punishes you, coupled with the desire to please your audience?

    Still though, oh the humanity Alek, couldn't you just leave one string of lights internet controlled next year? Wouldn't be too bad...
    • Just get an X-10 firecracker [x10.com] set, download the BottleRocket [missouri.edu] X-10 linux controlling software, and write a cgi to run on your webserver that allows users to turn the lights on/off. Going through the whole hoax thing sounds like MORE work..
      • Considering how much coverage this thing had, the numbers of visitors would have been huge. It's ridiculous to think that a display like that would be stable with the large number of visitors/hits/controllers he 'would' have had. 1500 people trying to control one webcam simultaneously is a ridiculous thought.

    • Evidently it's about 12.
  • Oh no... (Score:4, Funny)

    by Xshare (762241) on Monday December 27, 2004 @07:20PM (#11195269) Homepage
    May he incur the wrath of thousands of angry slashdotters! He's in for a whooping!
  • No fooling (Score:3, Informative)

    by eigerface (526490) on Monday December 27, 2004 @07:20PM (#11195273)

    I discovered the same thing at 12 noon Denver time when a night time shot of the house was listed as "live".

    • Easy Fix (Score:3, Interesting)

      by purduephotog (218304)
      Downloaded 3 images. Found out the fixed noise patterns were the same.

      You'd think that, as a camera would operate, the temperature would change and some of the random noise would be different.

      Sad to say, it wasn't.

      Conclusion: Either he had a very good noise removal algorithm... or he was faking the images.

      Proof: None. Just smile, snicker, and keep loading his pages until his bandwidth exceeds his heating...
  • by Scrameustache (459504) on Monday December 27, 2004 @07:20PM (#11195275) Homepage Journal
    You grab the pitchforks, I grab the torches.

    And by pitchorks and torches I meant: Let's find this guy's adress and BURY HIM IN SPAM!

    'tis the season of giving, after all ;-)
  • Big Deal (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bob McCown (8411) on Monday December 27, 2004 @07:21PM (#11195281)
    So the guy said he did something on the web, and turned out he didnt. Isnt this the way most of the dot-com bubble companies operated?
  • Too funny! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DoraLives (622001) on Monday December 27, 2004 @07:21PM (#11195285)
    The whole christmas lights thing is out of hand anyway. WAY out of hand. Maybe this will serve to put a damper on some of the more retarded exploits?

    NAH!

  • LOL (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Neil Blender (555885)
    With wireless and what not, how fucking hard would this be to fact check?
  • Heh... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Pantero Blanco (792776) on Monday December 27, 2004 @07:22PM (#11195294)
    I'm more amused than anything else. It wouldn't make sense to be indignant over an April Fools-style joke.
  • Hoax or not.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by i_want_you_to_throw_ (559379) on Monday December 27, 2004 @07:22PM (#11195296) Homepage Journal
    You really HAVE to give it anyone that can pull this off, especially to /.ers.

    Bravo, bravo...
    clap, clap, clap, clap
  • by melted (227442) on Monday December 27, 2004 @07:24PM (#11195304) Homepage
    So I think Google should pay him with Monopoly money or something.
    • Just admit you got tricked at move on.
    • Google ads on his page weren't a hoax tho

      So? Do advertisers care that the content of a page is factual? They want people to see their ads and buy things. Who cares what's on the page as long as millions of people view it. (Yes, I know that the ads are targtted based on the content of the page. Being fake or not doesn't change that target market though.)

  • Sweet, Nice Hack (Score:4, Insightful)

    by JonahDark1 (63703) on Monday December 27, 2004 @07:24PM (#11195307)
    I think this guy deserves mad props for pulling this off.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 27, 2004 @07:25PM (#11195319)
    Let's just say that I AM NOT AMUSED.

    One would think that a tech/science-oriented site such as Slashdot would do a little bit of backround research before publishing articles that will eventually turn out to be hoaxes.

    I am very, very disappointed at the current level of professionalism shown by the Slashdot crew. I mailed the article to several friends of mine and now, thanks to Slashdot, MY integrity is in question.

    • not quite (Score:3, Insightful)

      by pyrrho (167252)
      it's not in question any more.

      now they know!
    • by CarnivoreMan (827905) on Monday December 27, 2004 @07:45PM (#11195492)
      did you read the FAQ? [slashdot.org]
      "
      How do you verify the accuracy of Slashdot stories? We don't. You do. :) If something seems outrageous, we might look for some corroboration, but as a rule, we regard this as the responsibility of the submitter and the audience. This is why it's important to read comments. You might find something that refutes, or supports, the story in the main."
    • by Black Parrot (19622) on Monday December 27, 2004 @08:44PM (#11195913)


      > One would think that a tech/science-oriented site such as Slashdot would do a little bit of backround research before publishing articles that will eventually turn out to be hoaxes.

      I think they're going to hire Dan Rather, now that he's free.

      > I mailed the article to several friends of mine and now, thanks to Slashdot, MY integrity is in question.

      You're not supposed to let your friends know you read Slashdot.

  • by radd0 (558899) <radmanNO@SPAMacid.org> on Monday December 27, 2004 @07:27PM (#11195332) Homepage Journal
    "I apologize to those people who may be angry with me, but hopefully most will see the humor in the whole situation ... and realize that my attempt to bring joy and a smile to people's faces was successful"

    Personally I wasn't too impressed with the site to begin with, hoax or not. It didn't hold a candle to the likes of the Chaos Computer Club's [www.ccc.de] Blinkenlights [blinkenlights.de] project.
  • by Gordonjcp (186804) on Monday December 27, 2004 @07:29PM (#11195347) Homepage
    ... but on a much smaller scale. The idea was that it was a webcam in my kitchen, which you could click on to turn the lights on and off. One guy I know was fooled by it for a week. No-one had the heart to tell him...
  • by NotQuiteReal (608241) on Monday December 27, 2004 @07:29PM (#11195349) Journal
    How much other stuff on the Internet is fake?

    Devistating, simply devistating.

  • by ugmoe (776194) on Monday December 27, 2004 @07:30PM (#11195365)
    Someone obviously didn't read the whole article before posting. (Not a rare occurrance at slashdot)

    http://www.thedenverchannel.com/holidays/4027215/d etail.html [thedenverchannel.com]

    "I got a chuckle out of putting a clock up in the window and having the hands of the clock display the right time (it actually started out 3 minutes slow, but then gained a minute a day, until it was 4 minutes fast, and then reset itself) -- again, all computer trickery!" Komarnitsky said on his Web site Monday.

    The Lafayette man said he accomplished the trickery by taking 12 "base" photographs of the house with lights on and off and then constructed a Web page that appeared to show lights going on and off when the Web visitor clicked, but after performing web server stress testing, he replaced the test images with real-time camera generated images for the holiday season.

    Not everything on the internet is a forgery.

  • IANAL(tm), but I would imagine that with no commerce involved, no parties have any actual damages, and therefore no cause against him. Except maybe chopper 7, I guess, for the cost of the ride they were duped out of. But IMHO going after him would be bad form on anyone's part. Let's chalk it up to a good practical joke at our collective expense, figuratively speaking. He got us but good, and that's that.
  • Alek Comments (Score:5, Informative)

    by xmas2003 (739875) * on Monday December 27, 2004 @07:30PM (#11195369) Homepage
    Hey /.'ers ... it was all fun ... I'm SLAMMED ... will say more later ... but be SURE to read MY story of the events [komar.org] and also what Wall Street Journal guy wrote [wsj.com] ... and then if you want, go to that Channel-7 site [thedenverchannel.com] and cast your vote if I was naughty or nice!
    • Re:Alek Comments (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mrwonton (456172) on Monday December 27, 2004 @07:36PM (#11195419) Homepage
      It is indeed worth reading his version [komar.org] of the story, if not to pass judgment, then merely to see how he pulled it off. Its really quite interesting how much time he put into making the hoax believeable. With no less work, he probably could have made it actually work like it was supposed to...
      • Re:Alek Comments (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Technician (215283) on Tuesday December 28, 2004 @01:48AM (#11197451)
        The epilogue is great. The question arises about how the site being fake wasn't a hoax on the Wall Street Journal.

        It's a hoot.

        One "problem" when I talked to the Wall Street Journal is that Charles Forelle was concerned I was pulling a "double-dupe" - i.e. I claim to the world that there was a webcam, but to them, I said it was fake ... but maybe it really was real, so the WSJ gets eggs on their face - I hadn't thought of that, but WOW, that would be quite the hoax. Good skepticism - we need more of that in the media!
        So then the issue was how can I PROVE to Charles that it really is fake since he is on the East Coast. I suggested he have a trusted person come by the house some night, and (while Charles was on the Internet watching the lights flash on and off), his friend could park in my driveway - not only would the car not be visible on the web, but the lights would not be changing. Charles said he would try "something" but would not tell me (again, good for him!) ... and another thing we did is I enabled the webcam dedicated to his IP address ... during the day! Needless to say, my house looked pretty dark on his computer screen despite it being 1:00 in the afternoon here. And then I did some stupid geek tricks like make tonsa cars drive by, lotsa people, have the garage door go crazy up/down, and have the entire United Airlines fleet show up in the sky over my house. While he got a good laugh out of all of it, I'm sure he independantly did some confirmation - yet another reason why I've been a WSJ subscriber for 20+ years - these guys do good news!


        I hope he puts some of the airplane overload photos on his site. I would also think it would be fun to leave the "webcam" up 24/7.
        • Re:Alek Comments (Score:3, Interesting)

          by xmas2003 (739875) *
          Ahhhh ... someone who actually read down to the bottom of the overly lengthy page ... but yea, this really DID become an issue as stated and glad you enjoyed the writeup on it.

          And you better believe I turned on the "Airplane Invasion" option (along with a few other "tricks") and while I turned it off for the night, expect it back on in the morning.

          BTW, I thought the /. crowd would have more of a sense of humor - the FARK guys are hilareous! ;-) [fark.com]

    • Google Ads? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by JUSTONEMORELATTE (584508) on Monday December 27, 2004 @07:52PM (#11195540) Homepage
      Alek, how much did you make from the Google Ad placement last year?
    • Ahhh, I get it. You were karma whoring :)

      Alek is the best karma whore on ./, bar none!
  • Revenge (Score:3, Funny)

    by nizo (81281) * on Monday December 27, 2004 @07:32PM (#11195383) Homepage Journal
    Now the news guys need to get together and start calling him and saying how pissed they are that they lost their jobs for not checking the facts, and right after xmas no less. When he is finally reduced to a gibbering crying mess they can tell him, "Just kidding". I bet he would get a big laugh out of that lemme tell ya.
  • by Brandon One (760352) on Monday December 27, 2004 @07:33PM (#11195398)
    So for three years running (and this Halloween?) this guy had millions of hits onto his site.
    All the while he was raking in the dough from his Google AdWords banners.
    I wonder how much money he has made.
  • Read what Alex himself has to say about the hoax. [komar.org] Pretty interesting to hear it from the man himself instead a news agency ticked off at him for fooling them.
  • Hook. Line. Sinker.
  • by enosys (705759) on Monday December 27, 2004 @07:39PM (#11195457) Homepage
    I'm surprised nobody noticed. Camera images generally contain some noise. The noise changes even when nothing else changes. It can be especially pronounced in the dark.

    Plus what about weather conditions? Plenty of local people must have seen the site. What about when it was raining or snowing and the webcam wasn't showing that?

    • This is Denver. I live maybe 5 miles away from this guy but I'm sure we occasionally have markedly different weather. (E.g., merely overcast vs. several inches of snow on the ground and more falling.)

      I once left a dark and gloomy Boulder (just NW of Denver) and met somebody in south Denver, about 40 miles away. The sky was mostly clear, just some clouds over the mountains. She was shocked when I commented on the weather.

      Did the weather just clear? Nope, it was still dark and gloomy when I returned 3
  • by ch-chuck (9622) on Monday December 27, 2004 @07:41PM (#11195464) Homepage
    It's like when little kids in the 3-6yo range walk up to a video game that's in attract mode and start playing with the joystick - a lot of times they'll think they're actually playing the game when it's just the demo running.

  • Isn't everything on the Internet true? This sure is a crazy turn of the trend!
  • How can you be mad? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Specks (798579) on Monday December 27, 2004 @07:48PM (#11195512)
    Although it was a hoax. It's a clever one and very harmless. I just can't help but feel amused by this. Nice one Alex. Now I can't remember if he had any banners on the site but he could have made some good cash if he did.
  • Let's show him up (Score:3, Interesting)

    by utlemming (654269) on Monday December 27, 2004 @07:48PM (#11195515) Homepage
    The BSD Daemon in me wants to code up a little project to do what his sight was supposed to do. Sure the neighbors would be annoyed. But something about really doing it and being able to prove it would be a little satisfying. Pride -- yup. Oh well. Maybe we'll see the Christmas Light project on Source Forge soon....
  • by 10000000000000000000 (809085) on Monday December 27, 2004 @07:54PM (#11195553)
    you should always demand a girl be present in the webcast who will answer your live questions.

    that way you can verify that she is actually there with the christmas lights...

    in fact forget the lights... and the questions.
  • by morcheeba (260908) on Monday December 27, 2004 @08:03PM (#11195623) Journal
    I tried to visit his house [slashdot.org] when he had the haloween lights up, but found it was in a gated community that was closed to visitors after 7pm. His house is a bit out of my way & I was a bit annoyed that this heavily-promoted house wasn't on public display, so I never returned. I wanted to see how often people where flipping the lights -- the webcam didn't refresh often enough to show that.

    His response [slashdot.org] to my post was interesting.. it seemed legit and appropriately paranoid about strangers knocking on his door (which I would never do!!).
    • Read near the bottom my hoax page [komar.org] ... I talk EXACTLY about this situation - good for you to "check it out" ... you'd put 99% of the Press to shame!

      P.S. I really DO have two kids and yes, please do not come knocking on my door - you were quite cool about the whole thing ... and I really DO mean that ... if you believe me! ;-)

  • IMHO... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Alioth (221270) <no@spam> on Monday December 27, 2004 @08:05PM (#11195645) Journal
    IMHO, the hoax (and how he did the hoax) is actually more entertaining than if it had been the real thing. It's interesting to see his attention to detail (right down to fiddling with EXIF headers to make it look like it was generated by a webcam, rather than photos he took earlier).
  • by cliveholloway (132299) on Monday December 27, 2004 @08:21PM (#11195770) Homepage Journal
    Thank you, I'll be here all week (except Friday, coz that's a holiday :)

    cLive ;-)
  • by Fantastic Lad (198284) on Monday December 27, 2004 @11:20PM (#11196750)
    When I read the original story I thought to myself. . .

    "Huh? 10,000 Slashdotters all jostling to flip half a dozen toggles on some guy's house lights? As if that could possibly work. Talk about bottle necks! So either this is a Fool's plan, or it's a hoax and anybody who believes it has been Fooled, --as well as demonstrating themselves to be immature enough to still believe that they are the center of the universe where all rules including band-width averages only apply to other people. (Bad things can't happen to me because I'm special!). --Either way somebody somewhere is playing the Fool, and how the heck did this rate being posted on Slashdot?"

    I almost posted something to that effect, but then I figured, "Aww. Don't be a humbug. It's Christmas. I'm sure the editors are just being cute."


    -FL

  • by xmas2003 (739875) * on Tuesday December 28, 2004 @03:14PM (#11201383) Homepage
    I enjoyed reading reading through the comments from everyone - you guys were a bit tough on me, but I think that is partially because the referenced link was the Channel-7 one ... and whether you believe me or not (ummmm!), they STILL don't have the story right almost 24 hours later [komar.org] ... and this is also interesting reading [komar.org]

    Interestingly enough, the FARK guys linked my Hoax page [komar.org] which includes a pointer to the WSJ article [wsj.com] and those FARK guys wrote some HILARIOUS comments [fark.com] - so I wonder how many comments above were biased by the original press report?

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