First, sorry about the lack of build info this year. We’ve been very-very busy with life and just trying to get our show set up. I know at this point I owe everyone the completion of the Mega-Starburst. We expanded the Megatree and added a Mid/Maxitree as-well this year, otherwise not a lot of new builds other than overhauling controllers and differential receiver/PSU boxes.
This Web site, and oakhillslights.com, continue to have issues. I switched Web servers from Apache to Nginx to hopefully speed things up, but that has been a big learning curve for me. I’ve been running Apache Web servers pretty much since they first came out, so nginx is really foreign to me. It’s much more efficient though, and actually easier to manage once you figure it out. I also made the mistake of installing a few plugins I shouldn’t have without researching them more first, and now I have a lot of broken links and images. I’m slowly getting everything online again.
The weather hasn’t been very cooperative since Halloween. We went from rainy/muddy weather in the 80s down to freezing cold windy weather with highs in the 40s.
Over the weekend we finally got all of our show props deployed and connected. To save some money we recycled a lot of pixels, wire, connectors, etc. Some of them were just plain bad and it took awhile to weed them out and track all of the problems down. I actually encountered my first bad X-Connect connector, with ground and data swapped. There were also some older power connectors that aren’t compatible with what we are currently using. They are polarity swapped, which is never a good thing, and I missed a couple. Fortunately 5v pixels are much more forgiving than 12v!
We had a lot of problems caused by some cheap recycled Cat. 5 cable that came from some security cameras that I used last year. It’s super-thin with stranded conductors that broke or shorted in the connectors. I’ve had to discard or re-build dozens of network and differential cables this past couple of weeks. Most of the Cat. 5 is headed to recycling!
I want to plug this again, because it has helped me out a lot tracking down problems for two years now. I think everyone with a light show should invest in one of these (image link):
I use this thermal imaging camera to scan all of our props and cables. It quickly shows any shorts or overloads, especially on a cold morning.
The bad pixel count is already climbing rapidly too. So far I’ve had to replace 5 with stuck or corrupted downstream data, and two that were dead and not passing data at all. We only added about 500 “new” pixels this year, purchased this past Spring, with all the rest being recycled from older stock and dismantling unused props. I still believe most of the failures are “COVID” pixels from 2020/2021, but at this point I don’t know where/when all of them are from anymore. Most failures have been on the Mega and Maxi trees. Their pixel strands are prone to physical damage because their strips are whipped around violently by strong winds, which we have had a lot of so far this season.
The Hattitude Quartet (big round prop above the front porch) suffered a pixel failure already. It is no small task to get it fixed, especially just trying to trace wires.
And of course the deer are at it again. This morning I found two broken pixel stakes.
Still, we got it done! Everything is out now, and the layout is finally confirmed, and all of our sequences have been worked into it…
So that’s it for this update. We are lighting up the roof and the wreaths above the porch at night for Thanksgiving, and will have a no-music Thanksgiving light display starting next weekend. The Christmas show begins at 7pm on Saturday, Nov. 26th, and will run 6-10pm nightly after that. We will likely expand the hours as it gets darker closer to Christmas. We have 58 songs right now for almost three hours of sequences. As we did last year- we shuffle them daily, so there is a different line-up every day. You can see the current playlist at https://oakhillslights.com/playlist/. We added a “Now Playing” feature, so you can now see where we are at on the playlist if you are trying to catch a particular song.