Asking For Help With A Tour (Please?)


About me:
My name is Sam and I’m very, very, very, etc…, old (63 years, 11 months, and 29 days). Fortunately, I still have a great learning curve but I have something called major depressive disorder which causes anxiety which, when combined, caused me to develop ‘adult onset attention deficit disorder’. It’s embarrassing but the stoopid stuph is severe enough I am no longer able to work and was forced onto disability almost 9 years ago with an additionally depressing prognosis. It also means if I’m not interested in the subject matter at hand, it can take me a month to read the first sentence in a guide. Even if I’m totally in love with the subject matter, I’m not always able to accurately predict which days I will be able to apply myself and which days I can’t in advance.

But I love to learn new things anyway.

I am a Christian and have a great passion for the Christmas Season and have been building elaborate outdoor decorations with synchronized RGB LED pixel lights for years. I taught myself CAD and we bought a 3D printer.

That got stolen. Then I taught myself how to weld so I could build a nine foot wide, nine foot tall angel with 1,200 pixels to ‘guard’ our Nativity. With the help of incredible software, I was able to teach myself how to program the pixels to such a degree we can literally select one red pixel out of a million and change its color for 1 one thousandth of a second, and not affect any other pixels.

What I need:
There is a thriving world-wide community of Christmas light pros and every one of them is twenty times smarter than I am. BUT, they don’t seem to be able to think outside the box so truly new things are rare. Every year we see in our forums how one of the best in the business had an accident and was severely injured or even killed. So I have designed some safety products, as well as decor items, and I don’t know where to start. When I found Makerspace I immediately realized there are smarter people right here in my back yard I can ask and better equipment I could be utilizing to prototype and then perform appropriate due diligence with the results.

The worst thing that can happen is I can continue fighting my illness, learn new things, and find there isn’t a market for my ideas. Makerspace seems like a dream.

Clearly, I can’t have anything ready before this Christmas, but with the right tools and support, maybe I can help someone not get hurt next year. I mentioned my disability, and it has created one more difficulty that interferes with almost everything I do. Insomnia. I never know if I am going to get as much as an hour’s sleep at night, so I always arrange my schedule to where I don’t make any promises to be somewhere before noon o’clock.

Please do not think I’ve been patting myself on my own back. Ego was the first thing I had to give up when I got sick. Everything I have been privileged to do has come with awesome support from incredibly altruistic people. I may be “disabled” in the eyes of the rest of some doctors and the rest of the world but, in fact, I don’t see how I could be more blessed. If anyone has survived this self-serving diatribe and is willing to take some time some day to show me the facility and explain the possibilities I promise no one will ever be more grateful. The best they can do is to be AS thankful. Not more.

I have no doubt there must be a ton of typos in the dissertation above, probably didn’t explain myself entirely, and sometimes have a tendency to cut and paste without making sure I actually pasted whatever it was, but at my age few people can make me go back and proofread what I’ve written. Hopefully, I made enough sense.

Wishing you all health, happiness, and safety during these difficult days, and thank you for your time and patience with me.


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Hi Sam, i could give you a tour Wednesday about 5:30 pm unless someone else is available before then. Takes about an hour, we have amazing equipment and people.


Understand that some of the pushback will always be there. Christmas is a tradition for so many families. It often isn’t about innovation, but it is about getting a look and feel that brings back memories and reminisce about what felt like simpler times. You are more likely to get adoption of enhanced safety by wrapping it in ways to simply set up of traditional looks, etc.

Some of the simplest safety things I repeatedly see skipped too often, is GFCI. They skip it too as not worth the frustration, but it isn’t something you can get through to them about, and it is already illegal to skip, so you can’t make traction there. But either move away from 120V strings, or keep GFCI on everything, and the electrical safety gets a lot better. I’ve taken a few years off, and slowly tooling back up to move towards pixel props, but with intent to try and preserve a more traditional feel. For me, the biggest challenge will be to figure out what software, and how to best sequence to the feel I am looking for.

If you like computer/micro controlled LED pixels you are in the right place. Most makers have a deep love for blinky/flashy. I used to put up a 50’ MegaTree and did addressable LEDs back when the data rate was very low and the timing was critical. It took a fairly fast PC to run the tree, now that can be done with a $8 micro.

Let’s chat about how to get you making.

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Hello there Lampy,

Thanks very much for the offer. Hearing about your lights (50 FEET!?!) really helps cheer me up and I needed that today. I use Falcon controllers and over the years I’ve simply worn them out or accidentally destroyed them. I do a very good job of tearing things up–unintentionally of course–and earlier this morning I found out that David Pitts who makes those things is out of stock.(50 FEET!?!) Since I’m self taught, I boxed myself in where I simply don’t have time, not to mention poverty, to learn new equipment, protocols, or processes. I’m kinda like that with anything I try to learn on my own until I’ve had time to absorb enough to be a more advanced amateur instead of just a clueless one. Unfortunately, the dedicated laptop for our lights has been trying to get ded all year which was making me very late anyway. I guess God has His reasons.

(50 FEET!?!)

So, no lights for us this year. Maybe I needed a break.?!!.?!??

I would love to talk at your convenience. Appropriately, it has been suggested that I not leave my phone number exposed in a public forum, so if you still feel like talking to me after reading all my tangents, just PM me and I’ll get it to you.

How many pixels did you have in that 50 foot megatree? How many strands? Power supplies, controllers, etc must have been a lot of phun.

Thanks again for reaching out. My depression is particularly bad so far this week so I was 100% honest when I said anything positive, big or small, is especially appreciated right now.

Be safe, take care of your family, and I look forward to visiting. I need to tell you I don’t always keep my fone on me (anxiety), so if you have time to call and I don’t answer just listen to the speech about screening my calls or the other voice mail and leave a message. I’ll call back whenever you tell me to.

Thanks again,

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Randy, thanks very much. From what I see online it looks like the words “amazing equipment” may not do it justice. I’m really looking forward to it.

Unfortunately, VERY unfortunately, I have another birthday Wednesday and my family is threatening to make sure I know it. Despite my begging, I think they’ve made midnight to midnight plans.

I hope they’re not thinking this is my last one!

If I haven’t had the chance to visit by next Wednesday, would you be available then?

Thanks again for your kindness. Be safe, and I truly am excited to see what the facility has and meet extraordinary people such as yourself.

Best Wishes,

Sam, welcome to the forum and hope you end up joining. Perhaps you can teach some classes for those of us that would love to learn more about doing lights.

Also, you may want to update your earlier post and remove your phone number. As a publicly available site, you may find your number harvested and sold to spam callers.

Suggestion, send it to those that need it directly via a private message.


That’s awesome. Thanks for writing as much as you did. I know I talk and write too much, so when someone takes the time to put as much detail in a note to me I really, really appreciate it.

You’re a lucky man to be able to take some time off. I just found out none of my controllers are going to be available this year, so being late putting it up became a moot point.

I can honestly and legally claim ignorance on the finer points of virtually anything I teach myself. I will get myself overwhelmed and sometimes I don’t come back to pick up more than the basics for a long time. I will say, however, that way back when all I had was LOR controllers I still knew to set up a dedicated 50 amp breaker. Since all I know about electricity is also self taught, I really appreciate your advice. I’ve been planning for years to run permanent conduits through the yard, but maybe I’ll see a squirrel somewhere and and then my mind has left for other pastures. I think I mentioned the problems I have with depression and anxiety, but this attention deficit thing is a million times more frustrating. I can go to Home Depot and forget how to spell GFCI before I leave without anything.

You’re right about simpler and more traditional displays. I’m seeing some really creative new stuff with nothing more than roof line LEDs this year.
Over the years I’ve accumulated a few wireframe figures and in addition to safety ideas, part of what I need to figure out with Makerspace is whether or not anyone might be interested in some of my original designs. I want to explore unique and different materials other than wireframe. Of course then I’d have to know how I would build them.

Do you mind my asking what software you use?

I’ll leave it there, because I can write all day and that wouldn’t be fair to anyone. But thanks again for the courtesy and insight into what you’ve done. I can already see this group is full of men of good character such as yourself.

Very Best Wishes,

Thanks for the advice. I’ll get right on that, true story. I would be very happy to teach everything I know about lighting, but I already know there are plenty of people there far more experienced than I am. Most likely smarter and definitely better looking than me, too. Plus, if I taught a class on everything I know, showing how to spell LED and cautioning them not to lick bare wires may not be a lot of help.

Thanks again for the input and suggestions. I’m headed back to my post and take your advice.

Best Wishes,

Since this was back in the day before pixel strips with high density it was a pretty low pixel count. I think it was 4 inch spacing on the wire with 24-32 strands. Was 2 computer PSU’s of 30~ish amps. Used the predecessor to Renard and Grinch controllers. I think Vixen was the software.

Sam if you are free this weekend public tours are 10-2, i could give you a tour at 3 Saturday, or 1pm Sunday.

I can’t imagine how many Christmas lights it would take to need a 50amp circuit.


Back in 2007, I got involved in some local advocacy about alignment of a trail along the shoreline of Lake Lewisville. Somehow that got me invitold to attend a kick off meeting for a volunteer run animated light show. Somehow I became a co founder and one of two project leads. I wound up doing a Halloween light show at home to learn the software, which lead to a home Christmas show, and for a few years, home was a beta test of what we did for the volunteer run show.

Then the co lead/co founder moved to Houston. At that point, I no longer had time for my home show. And my volunteer time grew to the point where I was using 2 weeks of vacation each year just on show set up, and the number of volunteers helping kept dropping. The 10th year I worked with the city to train a contract company to take it over as a city operated holiday attraction. In a way it was a shock the way the transition wasn’t well communicated, but in the end it was a huge relief.

It had gotten to the point where for at least 4 months each year, any time not at work, or asleep was spent on that show. Even 4 years after stepping away from that volunteer show, I still haven’t recovered from all the impact from that much time invested. So the break in doing animated lights has been a relief in so many ways.

The software started with LOR 1.5, and the perpetual rumors of 2.0, which became S2. At some point, we added a 32 strand pixel half tree, and Madrix, at which point I wrote some Perl scripts to take sequences from the old 16 strand x 4 color half mega tree and populate the LOR sequence to drive the pixel tree as per the old sequence, then we could update in LOR, or turn the tree over to madrix.

Pretty much all the metal elements of the props, excluding the snowflakes, I welded up for the show over the years.

As I start thinking about picking back up the home show, most of the old home props were faded, worn out incandescent. And it seems like going straight to pixel should be cheaper than 4 color bundles of LED strands. And I’ve been thinking about what props should be remade in Coroplast, or plasma cut aluminum with some welding, conventional steel wire frames, or even 3D printed parts. So there is a lot of thinking, planning, learning, skill development, and possibly tool acquisition to do.

So one of those questions is what software will let me manage a reasonable pixel count, but let me manage traditional looking sequencing. Newer LOR versions, something else?

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Guess I’m a little late, but thank you for the offer. I didn’t realize somehow I disabled the notifications so I just found the post again.

I’m not as healthy as I want to be due to my depression and anxiety. Friday, I discovered my last Falcon controller for my Christmas show is beyond reparation so I’ve got myself in a bind.

With your permission, I’d like to check back with you later once I get through this episode.

Thanks so much for your time.

BTW. I deeply admire your accomplishments. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how much joy you gave to young and old alike.

Like a true dumbhead I managed to turn notifications off and just found the post again. If you have time, please check the response I wrote to the gentleman below and it will explain my battle with mental illness a bit (major depressive disorder, anxiety, attention deficit disorder). I don’t make excuses, but I know when an explanation is necessary. Thank you for your time and generosity. I’m just beginning to realize how much missing the Christmas season is going to affect me.

I will be in touch with all that have offered their altruism as soon as my illness subsides enough I can make sense when I write.

Thanks again very much for your willingness to help.

Whenever you are ready for a tour give me about a days notice, im free most lunch times, any night it rains, and usually sat sun afternoon