The Museum of Hoaxes
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Bonsai Kittens, 2000
'Solar Armor' freezes man in Nevada Desert, 1874
Jernegan's Gold Accumulator Scam, 1898
Tourist Guy 9/11 Hoax, Sep 2001
The Cottingley Fairies, 1917
The Olympic Underwear Relay, 1956
Rachael Ray cooks her family and her dog
September Morn, the painting that shocked the censor, 1913
The Great Wall of China Hoax, 1899
Can a bar of soap between your sheets ease muscle cramps?
The Return of the Web-Controlled Christmas Lights
Status: Real
image Last year Alek Komarnitsky thrilled internet surfers with his web-controlled christmas lights. Visitors to his site could remotely turn the lights on and off, and view their handiwork via a webcam. Millions of people checked out his site. Then Alek confessed to the Wall Street Journal that the entire thing was a gigantic hoax. His christmas lights weren't controllable via the web. He had simply rigged up some software to make it look that way. Well, Alek's back, and this year he says his christmas lights REALLY ARE controllable via the web. The Washington Post reports:

Now Komarnitsky, a computer consultant and self-professed tech geek, wants the world to believe that this Christmas he has turned his hoax into reality. Using his technical skill, he says, he hooked up three webcams that feature live shots of his 26,000 Christmas lights, updated every few seconds. As the clincher, his Web site ( http://www.komar.org/cgi-bin/xmas_webcam ) has buttons that he insists really do allow his Internet visitors to operate the lights.

I, for one, am inclined to believe him. I've been in intermittent contact with him throughout the year after contacting him about using a picture of his xmas lights in my book, and he seems like a nice guy to me. I know that's not a good reason to trust someone, but more importantly, he's also invited reporters to check out the set-up. Plus, he's using the popularity of his site to help raise funds for celiac research.
Categories: Technology
Posted by The Curator on Thu Dec 08, 2005
Comments (8)
Alex,

Thanx for the writeup. Good point that just because I'm a nice guy doesn't mean it is real! wink

BTW, I offerred to do a real-time demo with the Washington Post writer that easily verifies it's real - i.e. call me on the phone, I stand in front of the webcam, and HE tells me what to do - but (like most reporters) he was on deadline. Note that he never takes a position if he/WP believes it is real in his writeup - too much work I guess, but I do appreciate him writing about the Celiac fund-raising effort.

I'd suggest some of the local reporting is more valid for assessing authenticity ... there are couple of 'em already at http://www.komar.org/xmas/2005/news/ you should see one by this weekend from a major Denver daily - they grilled me - good for them.

And optionally take a look at the time-lapse videos at http://www.komar.org/xmas/movies/ - yea, I could have faked those, but damn, that would have been a LOT of work.

The webcams and light controls were 100% fake/simulated in 2002-2004 ... but are 100% real in 2005. Ditto for the almost $3,000 that has been raised for far for Celiac Disease - you can verify that easily at the University of Maryland's web site at http://www.celiaccenter.org/news_xmas.asp

Happy Holidays Alex and I continue to love your site ... although my wife might wonder why I'm looking at Brazillan SandGirls on there! wink
alek
Posted by alek  on  Thu Dec 08, 2005  at  12:48 AM
Alek,

I work for a distibutor and one of the lines we carry is X-10 which I believe is what you use.

Seeing as how you are raising money for a good cause I think I might be able to get you some components (free of charge) if you plan on adding some features in the future.

I will also drop you an e-mail but currently am swamped with work so that might be in a day or two. Feel free to email me, my personal e-mail is in my profile, I will include my business e-mail when I e-mail you...ok, how many more times can I say "e-mail" in this post LOL
Posted by Chuck  in  Rhode Island  on  Thu Dec 08, 2005  at  02:05 PM
Alek, do you neighbors hate you? I don't think I would like it much if the house accross the street from me had christmas lights that turned on and off all the time at random intervals.
Posted by Razela  in  Chicago, IL  on  Fri Dec 09, 2005  at  04:46 PM
Actually, my (great and understanding) nighbors like it ... especially the kids. Yea, I was concerned about the blinking lights (since it actually DOES blink this year!) ... but it's not as bad as you think and a huge hit for the neighborhood ... and Internet surfers! wink
alek
Posted by alek  on  Fri Dec 09, 2005  at  06:16 PM
You guys might be interesting in reading the Rocky Mountain News article that hit the front page today. Not only did they go to great lengths to validate it is real this year (great skeptisism), but their writeup is pretty hilarious - see the 2005_12_10 update at http://www.komar.org/xmas/2005/news/
Posted by alek  on  Sat Dec 10, 2005  at  01:19 PM
Alek, you have nice neighbors. I can see that kids would find it fun, especially because they could probably mess with your lights and watch them in person. Of course, if I was living near you I would probably invest in some extra thick drapes for my bedroom windows. Of course, I would also think it was amazingly cool, so I doubt that I would complain. Perhaps your neighbors think like me.
Posted by Razela  in  Chicago, IL  on  Sat Dec 10, 2005  at  03:14 PM
i Never found ANYWHERE on there to actually controlt he lights jsut to look at them.
Posted by tim  on  Sun Dec 11, 2005  at  03:50 PM
to the right of the four webcam images are the controls that supposedly operate the Christmas lights as well as 3 inflate/deflate buttons for Frosty, Frankenstein and The Hulk (the latter two being quite Christmasy in my opinion) wink

and as it states on the page, the controls are operational AFTER 3 PM MST

perhaps you just need to scroll the page over to the right.
Posted by Chuck  in  Rhode Island  on  Tue Dec 13, 2005  at  02:36 PM
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