WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. - B.J. Sintay
wife, Ashley, enjoy watching the world control their Christmas lights.
Through the couple's Web site, computer users can use a mouse to work 24 switches that control sections within the strings of 30,000 red, white and blue lights that decorate their house and yard on Old Plantation Circle in Winston-Salem.
Most Internet users keep the changes pretty simple.They often turn on all the sections of lights one-by-one, then hit the switch that makes everything go dark, said Sintay
"They just did it," he
said, gesturing during a recent interview at his
turns the system on about 5 p.m. each night, and it operates until 1 or 2 a.m.Sintay
configured a computer control that's connected to the Internet.It sits in a control box that he
figures holds cabling that's about three football fields long.
Viewers on the Web page sign up to control the lights for one minute.When they get into the top five, they can watch the show, and when it's their turn, they use their mouse to click 24 switches.When they click a switch, the lights change while they watch on the Web camera.
Setting it up was frustrating, and Sintay
almost gave up.
You could change the whole house color if you wanted to," Sintay
started telling people about it and got the operation running Dec. 8.Word quickly spread by e-mail.
When WGHP/FOX 8 did a story about the Web site, the computer system crashed because so many people came on at once.Keeping up with the volume has been a big problem for Sintay
, and he
has been looking for a corporate sponsor to help him buy more servers."We'll have a thousand people try to get the camera image in one second, and that computer isn't fast enough to handle that kind of request," he
Some people may not believe what they see.One man e-mailed Sintay
and told him that it was a hoax.
One viewer e-mailed Sintay
to let him know that he
had just seen him carrying out his
is familiar with technology.He is a doctoral student in biomedical engineering at Wake Forest University, and he researches medical devices to treat cancer for Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. He
also owns a small computer company, and he
loves developing online technology.He
got the idea for the Web site in August 2004 while thinking about ways to use the Internet to physically control something, as opposed to using it only to handle information.He
started by letting co-workers use the Internet to control two lights on a desk.He
also tried to have a Web camera monitor an Etch A Sketch controlled by Internet users, but he
wanted something bigger.His
goal was to expose people to technology's potential and to raise money for the Ronald McDonald House
, an organization to which his
thought that the Web site would be a good way to raise money.Sintay
wasn't expecting the Web site to be so popular.He
wants to plan something even bigger for next year.
Before that, however, he
wife and his
wife have to cope with the next hurdle: a big power bill.