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There’s no better way to show your geek cred on Christmas than hooking up your Christmas tree to the internet. While it’s certainly not a new idea, I was eager to try out my own spin on it this holiday season. The Lonely Christmas Tree lights up whenever you receive an email, hopefully adding a little cheer to your holiday season.

This project uses an internet-connected Arduino. There are many ways to get your Arduino online, and I decided to use the Ethernet Shield because I had one handy. You can connect yours through your computer or make your project wireless with a WiFi shield or the XBee Internet Gateway. On a set interval, the Arduino will connect to a PHP-enabled web server which will, in turn, check for new email. The PHP web server will return the count of messages to the Arduino, which will turn on the tree when it sees that the message count in your in box has risen. Thanks to the PowerSwitch Tail, controlling the A/C electricity is a snap.

Once you’ve uploaded the code to your Arduino, you can modify the PHP script to return any kind of count to light your tree up. As you can see from the video above, I worked with the YouTube API to light up my tree as new comments are posted to that video and it really does work! What would your internet-connected Christmas tree respond to?

This was first published on Dec. 15, 2011. The Networked On-Air video can be found here

Matt Richardson

Matt Richardson

Matt Richardson is a Brooklyn-based creative technologist, Contributing Editor at MAKE, and Resident Research Fellow at New York University’s Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP). He’s the co-author of Getting Started with Raspberry Pi and the author of Getting Started with BeagleBone.


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