Linux Powers Christmas Lights for Charity

by Ostatic Staff - Dec. 10, 2009

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, especially if you happen to live within a few miles of Alek Komarnitsky's house and the massive Christmas display he puts on every year in the name of charity. While most neighborhoods have a Christmas overachiever, Komarnitsky is in a special league of his own: His display can be remote-controlled and is powered by open source.

If you want a little dose of Christmas cheer without dropping by Komarnitsky's neighborhood in Colorado, hit up the webcam page. It has three views of the display, and allows visitors to see and control the more than 20,000 lights and inflatable decorations. For those concerned about the environmental impact of the electricity required to run the lights, Komarnitsky also has made donations to to cover Carbon Offset.

The site is powered by a traditional LAMP stack, and the lights are controlled via X-10. The X-10 controls are turned on daily at 4:00 p.m. MST, and the site features a counter displaying the number of times the controls are toggled.

The display is Komarnitsky's way of raising awareness about Celiac Disease, an autoimmune disorder that affects a person's ability to process gluten and other proteins found in some grains, including wheat and barley. Both of Komarnitsky's sons have been diagnosed with Celiac Disease, so he has a personal interest in raising money for research.

Maintaining the site and lights requires quite a bit of work, but it seems to be paying off in awareness and dollars. So far, the lights have helped to raise more than $40,000 for the University of Maryland's Center for Celiac Research.

Joe 'Zonker' Brockmeier is a longtime FOSS advocate, and currently works for Novell as the community manager for openSUSE. Prior to joining Novell, Brockmeier worked as a technology journalist covering the open source beat for a number of publications, including Linux Magazine, Linux Weekly News,,, IBM developerWorks, and many others.