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Christmas Cheer Toys

Alek's Christmas Lights: Humbug 327

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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  • 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?


  • 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) Journal
    You really HAVE to give it anyone that can pull this off, especially to /.ers.

    Bravo, bravo...
    clap, clap, clap, clap
  • 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 OverlordQ ( 264228 ) on Monday December 27, 2004 @07:26PM (#11195329) Journal
    Just admit you got tricked at move on.
  • Not really (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jerometremblay ( 513886 ) on Monday December 27, 2004 @07:28PM (#11195341) Homepage
    It's already hard to find someone who RTFA, imagine someone checking REALITY.
  • not quite (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pyrrho ( 167252 ) on Monday December 27, 2004 @07:30PM (#11195364) Journal
    it's not in question any more.

    now they know!
  • No harm, no foul? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by powdered toast dude ( 800543 ) * on Monday December 27, 2004 @07:30PM (#11195366) Journal
    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.
  • Re:Hoax or not.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Total_Wimp ( 564548 ) on Monday December 27, 2004 @07:31PM (#11195378)
    Score one for old media. Maybe we should keep them around after all.

  • 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.
  • 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...
  • 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?

  • 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.

  • by eddy the lip ( 20794 ) on Monday December 27, 2004 @07:55PM (#11195562)
    - Lacked the geek talent and dedication required to pull it off.

    Except that he didn't lack it - go read his web page. It explains how he pulled it off, generating the faked images on the fly from a few pre-shot photos and perl.

    Personally, I think it's a cool hack. Glad someone out there is still doing this stuff...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 27, 2004 @07:55PM (#11195565)
    The larger question is why hoax something that is easy to do? X10 + Linux + Perl + WWW and blamo. Fakeing it just means the guy is an attention whore (IMHO).
  • 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 jdludlow ( 316515 ) on Monday December 27, 2004 @08:19PM (#11195751)

    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.)

  • by anamexis ( 753041 ) on Monday December 27, 2004 @08:39PM (#11195880)
    Uh, not only was 9/11 not a natural disaster, less than 20,000 people died in it, so it would be "since" something before 9/11.
    That said, you may notice at the top of the page that it says "News for Nerds." Anyone can go to one of the hundreds of world news sites to find out what is going on in the world.
  • by scribblej ( 195445 ) on Monday December 27, 2004 @09:22PM (#11196172)
    So you've got a well-deserved +3 Funny, and I've got no mod points, but I see no one has said "good job" and as such, let me:

    Good job, man.

  • Re:Hoax or not.... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ka9qpn ( 586687 ) <ka9qpn@juno.com> on Monday December 27, 2004 @09:29PM (#11196216)
    I love a good con, especially because I don't consider myself clever enough to pull one off. It's only gravy if it's all for fun and nobody gets hurt or their pocket picked.

    Nice job!
  • by John3 ( 85454 ) <john3@@@cornells...com> on Monday December 27, 2004 @09:38PM (#11196266) Homepage Journal
    I agree....qualifies as a hack in my book. Required some techical skill, was harmless, and quite funny.
  • by grommit ( 97148 ) on Monday December 27, 2004 @10:02PM (#11196412)
    Alex, don't worry about the haters out there. They're just miffed that they couldn't pull off this very nice mix of social engineering and image hacking like you did.

    I think what you did was great and I actually enjoyed it more now that I found out that it was a hoax.

    Congrats and I hope you continue on to bigger and better tricks in the future.
  • Re:Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by einTier ( 33752 ) on Monday December 27, 2004 @10:27PM (#11196528)
    You might as well say, "why do we have zoning laws."

    I hate my HOA, but do I understand why it's there. When I was 12, someone was given the land next to my parents' house and they immediately plopped a trailer home down on it. Never mind the fact there were no hookups or anything, they just cleared some of the brush, put up an outhouse, and plopped their shitty trailer home on their new land.

    Needless to say, property values plummeted overnight. It took a determined group of neighbors to buy out the guy and return our neighborhood to normalicy.

    HOA's just take that and zoning laws a little further. Basically, no one can do anything that might devalue your property. Many people see their home as an investment, not just a place to live, and they welcome this. Of course, it means that you have to give up a bit of your freedom as well. Good HOA's aren't that restrictive, and just make sure that you don't put a car up on blocks in your front lawn and never cut the yard. More restrictive ones might tell you how often you're going to paint your house.

    The main problem with HOA's is that they tend to get populated with exactly the wrong kind of people. Who runs for the HOA offices? People with too much free time that like to stick their noses in other people's business. This thought pattern is really hard to overcome and root out once it gets in there, and most people don't realize who's running until it's too late. The busybodies will form a voting block, and the rest of the neighborhood will be just disorganized enough to not be able to get them out. That's when things go to shit. Not really, because the neighborhood looks nice, but neighbors start hating neighbors, and those (like me) who get disgusted with it simply move it. The busybodies like it too much to move, and the new blood takes too long to figure out the HOA isn't their friends.

    Christ. I'm ranting. Look, I hate my HOA. However, I understand that it's a great idea corrupted by misguided people. As much as I hate it, I would have serious reservations about moving into a neighborhood without one.

  • 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."


  • by Medieval ( 41719 ) on Monday December 27, 2004 @11:32PM (#11196806) Homepage
    I guess you're unfamiliar with a small, mostly unheard-of school called MIT?
  • by ScrappyLaptop ( 733753 ) on Monday December 27, 2004 @11:41PM (#11196858)
    Uh, actually they ARE the same. X10 Ltd. created the standard and licensed it to the likes of Radio Shack, RCA, et all. Then in 1997, they started marketing devices that used the standard they created via x10.com.


    and in greater depth:

    http://www.hometoys.com/htinews/oct04/articles/rye /history.htm

  • This hacks me off (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Restil ( 31903 ) on Tuesday December 28, 2004 @12:16AM (#11197078) Homepage
    I run a similar site, even linked from that one. I have SO much trouble trying to convince the average techno-illiterate people of the world that computer controlled lamps ARE in fact not only possible, but extremely simple to implement. And up until now, I've tried to instill in them the fact that it'd be too much trouble to fake it and it'd take too much work.

    Now it's gonna be just that much harder. Argh.

    Do we really NEED another internet hoax? If the average clueless idiot wants to forward endlessly the Snopes fodder of the week, fine. Let the scourge of the internet propogate as they will. Forward their chain letters, buy their spam, and bug me endlessly about how my internet controlled lights MUST be fake, simply because they've never heard of X10 before. But someone who's obviously smart enough to know better has ruined it for the rest of us. And he seems pretty damned proud of himself too. Makes me sick.

  • In other words (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bluGill ( 862 ) on Tuesday December 28, 2004 @12:54AM (#11197248)

    By restricting your neighbors freedom of expression so you can get a neighborhood of houses that all look exactly alike you think your life is better.

    Personally I'd like to live next door to someone who is creative enough to paint his house strange colors. I want nothing to do with the neighborhoods I've seen where every house looks the same, down to the flowers in the garden out front. To each his own I guess.

  • by Feelvoid ( 99543 ) on Tuesday December 28, 2004 @02:51AM (#11197670) Journal

    (AdSense policies span more than one page.)

    Actually, he may not be able to disclose the dollar amount he received, although I'm not sure how to interpret it and I don't feel like making the effort. Here, check out Item b from Google AdSenseTM Online Standard Terms and Conditions [google.com]:

    Confidentiality. You agree not to disclose Google Confidential Information without Google's prior written consent. "Google Confidential Information" includes without limitation: (a) all Google software, technology, programming, specifications, materials, guidelines and documentation relating to the Program; (b) click-through rates or other statistics relating to Site performance in the Program provided to You by Google; and (c) any other information designated in writing by Google as "Confidential" or an equivalent designation. It does not include information that has become publicly known through no breach by You or Google, or information that has been (i) independently developed without access to Google Confidential Information, as evidenced in writing; (ii) rightfully received by You from a third party; or (iii) required to be disclosed by law or by a governmental authority.


  • Re:In other words (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Saeger ( 456549 ) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (jllerraf)> on Tuesday December 28, 2004 @03:29AM (#11197780) Homepage
    I agree. The world's a boring place without "eccentrics". Unfortunately, most people find security in conformity.
  • by BlueWonder ( 130989 ) on Tuesday December 28, 2004 @08:05AM (#11198455)
    That being said... Alek, you suck. :)

    Why? Is it so hard to admit you've been tricked?

    I for one find it admirable that he managed to trick many people (including myself) and the media. In fact, this is a better hack than it would have been if it had been real.

    It's also a valuable lession: be sceptical about everything you see, especially on the internet.

  • by SpacePunk ( 17960 ) on Tuesday December 28, 2004 @11:59AM (#11199614) Homepage
    Uh, yeah. Try this... have 1500 people use the same yo-yo at the same time. Does it work? Is there a special principle that would make it work?

    Wanna know what simultaneous control of a camera for 1500 people would look like? Just take a webcam and mount it on top of a spring then whack the spring. 'Democratic' camera control? perhaps, but it wouldn't be true control, but that's another concept entirely.

    This item surrounded 'expectations' by the viewers. I'm sure there were many that 'expected' it to be a real item. I have no doubt there were those here on Slashdot that went to the site and thought "this is really cool" without realizing that their sole control of camera and lights was a technically laughable 'expectation' given the number of simultaneous users. The expectations arise out of the lack of most basic understanding of the technology. That's what seems to have pissed people off about the whole thing. Those that think they are 'l331' got sucked into the whole thing, which I find extremely hilarious. I saw the story and just rolled my eyes because it's immediately apparent to the technically skilled that the whole sole control concept of this kind is not physically possible. One person controlling one cam, yes. Many controlling one cam, no. Those that have protested this the most are most likely those that got sucked into it the hardest. Just look at the posts here on Slashdot. There seem to be some really upset people that this whole thing was hoaxed while others find it extremely funny. The mission, if you choose to accept it, is to pick out the ones that went to the site and 'wondered' at it.

A bug in the code is worth two in the documentation.