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Tech we have deployed for Halloween

It started back in 2002. My wife brought home a large inflatable spider, something new for the exterior decor at Halloween. I struggled to find a way of using it that seemed appropriate.

In the end, I decided to give it context by building suitably large, lit spider web in the font yard. It spanned the gap between the house and a very tall Loblolly pine in the corner of the yard.

 

The children came in droves, and were filled with awe. They left with candy, and it was good.

Every year we try something new. We occasionally drop something that didn’t work quite as well as we hoped. This year I’d like to highlight a few things we’ve used that work very well.

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Halloween on the 3300 Block of Beauchamp

Since 2002, we’ve put a vast effort into Halloween. It started one day when Stella came home with an 8-foot, purple, inflatable spider. I could not just plop this guy down in the yard. That lacked context. So, I dyed some sisal rope and built him a home, in the form of a 20 foot tall, illuminated spider web. A nice backdrop against which to give out candy to the kiddos.

Every year we’d tweak the presentation a bit. We added fog machines and lights. More fog machines. More lights. Better fog machines. Still more lights.

We added music! Loud, but not too loud. Enough skeletons to have our own baseball team. Bigger, badder fog machines with built-in dry ice chambers!

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Welcoming the Ubiquit Unifi 24 Port Gen2 Switch

Late last year I replaced my core network switch with a 24 port Ubiquiti Unifi (US-24-250W) managed switch. The Unifi switch was offered on E-bay at an attractive price. It fit into our existing Unifi cloud-key managed Wi-Fi arrangement, so I splurged.

Unifi-Stuff

In general, the Unifi switch was a good upgrade. It let me make greater use of POE. It made Wiresharking SIP traffic more convenient.

Alas, I stumbled upon an issue that I had not expected. It was noisy. The noise was the result of a pair of cooling fans.

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Dicaffeine: Using a Raspberry Pi 4 to Display an NDI Stream

The past couple of years I made a lot of use of an NDI-based video-over-IP strategy in producing the live stream and archival sessions for Cluecon in 2018 & 2019. One of the things involved in that production was displaying an NDI stream, produced in vMix, to a pair of local projectors.

Given budget constraints, I opted to use a pair of SFF Windows PCs running Newtek’s NDI Studio Monitor. I selected some used Lenovo M73 Tiny, which cost me about $200 each on Ebay. With an i5-4570 CPU and Intel HD Graphics 4600, they did the job well enough, each delivering 1080p30 to its associated projector without issue.

Lenovo M73 Tiny

Given additional budget, I’d have opted for BirdDog Mini NDI adapters over the little PC’s. These little FPGA-based devices can be set to decode or encode. Also, they can be powered over Ethernet, giving added flexibility, but at a cost of $500 each.

At the time, there was no way to decode NDI on an device with an ARM CPU, like the Raspberry Pi. That has recently changed. Dicaffeine is a new NDI player for Raspberry Pi. The basic version is free and I’ve been tinkering with it for a couple of weeks.

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