Tag Archives: music

Holiday Display Technology

How did we get from Christmas lights with big C9 bulbs that threatened to burn down our tree to extravagant computer controlled LED light displays complete with choreographed music and projections? How did we get from stuffed scarecrows at Halloween to motion detected performances on our doorsteps? Holiday decorations have taken advantage of innovations to make the holidays even more festive or scary, depending on the purpose. This blog post will explore some of the latest in holiday technology that you may need.

Retail Display Technology

Large retailers such as Macy’s and Saks Fifth Avenue go to great lengths to create elaborate holiday displays. Now, thanks to Google, you can view a number of retailer holiday displays without leaving your chair. Using StreetView technology, engineers have filmed window displays and formed an interactive experience. This is a new technology developed by Google marketing for retailers that already advertise with Google.


The first holiday light display was put up in the late 1800s as a way to replace burning candles on trees. Some of them required generators since electricity was not yet prevalent in some areas. Commercial light sets became available and affordable around 1917. Aluminum trees were introduced in the 1950s and 1960s but could not be used with lights so instead used a rotating color wheel to splash color onto the ornaments. The mini-bulb in the 1970s brought back traditional lighting inside and out and was more energy efficient. While the mini-bulb is still used, LED lighting is making a push into mainstream lighting displays. LED bulbs can now be programmed to change colors and create ever more extravagant light displays. These can be paired with an app to to direct a light display remotely. Who knows if your holiday lights may be hacked in the future?

Festive Laser Lights

Over the last couple of years, laser light projectors have started to augment or replace traditional outdoor holiday lights. These are basically red and green lasers that are projected onto a home or trees. The laser projections are fractured so that you get multiple points of lights. Originally these came as static displays but they are available now as motion lights with options for different patterns in red or green or both. These could replace static LED or mini light strings that have to be installed and taken down every year. It remains to be seen how your neighbors will accept this product, especially if your motion light pattern accidentally shines on their house or car. Also, there are warnings not to shine these up in the air within 10 miles of an airport. New this year are full spectrum white lasers and the option to display more than just red or green. This can extend the light display to Halloween, Fourth of July, or other holidays. The technology continues to be refined and the quality and accuracy of these displays are improving.

Choreographed Light Display

Choreographed light displays have been a big hit on YouTube over the last couple of years. These are lights synchronized with music played either over a loud speaker or through an FM radio signal. The controller can be something as simple as a Raspberry Pi. Judging from videos online, the sophistication and sheer volume of lights used in these displays seems to be growing. Perfect for the competitive techie.


We have come a long way from candles on the Christmas tree to light and music extravaganzas in neighborhoods. Ever bigger, brighter, and more sophisticated. I don’t know where we go from here for the next cool lighting tech but I value your opinion. Let me know what you think.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

Filling the Cybersecurity Talent Pool

I seem to see a new article weekly raising the alarm about the number of unfilled cybersecurity jobs. A 2015 report from (ISC)2 projects the shortfall to rise to 1.5 million worldwide by 2020. A recent Harvard Business Review article highlighted the gap in the number of skilled cybersecurity professionals and offered some insight into how we can bridge that gap through educational programs and by hiring non-traditional employees. My aim with this post is to start a dialogue on creative ways to attract fresh minds and new faces to the field.


First of all, what traits are most desired in a security professional? I would submit that a strong sense of curiosity is important. Those creating hacks and spreading malware are certainly curious about how much trouble they can cause so it stands to reason that those tasked with detecting intrusions should also be curious. The next question is are people born curious or can it be learned? The authors of a 2015 Fast Company article suggest that we are all born curious but many lose their sense of curiosity, and it can be regained through discipline.

It is also important to have a keen sense of patterns. I believe that everyone seeks out patterns in order to make sense of chaos but some have an innate sense of irregularities that others cannot see. As pointed out in the Harvard Business Review article, machine learning is augmenting that pattern searching and discovery but it will still take human intelligence to find security anomalies.


In order to train and retain more cybersecurity professionals we are going to have to change our thinking on where they come from. They don’t necessarily all come with a four year computer science degree in their pocket. Some do have that credential to be sure and they excel in the field, but we are going to have to cast a wider net in order to fill the gap. When I think of the traits of curiosity and pattern recognition I think of trained musicians. Is it possible that someone could be a security expert during the day and a musician at night or vice versa? Do we need to look closer at how we match up hobbies and vocations? Can the lines be blurred between the two?

Harvard offers an eight week introductory online course in cybersecurity through HarvardX. This is one of several online courses that allow a prospective professional to test the waters. This is a great way to match up potential security enthusiasts with information on the field. A graduate of this course may decide to go on and take advanced courses either online or at a nearby college training center. This will hopefully lead to certifications and a job offer in the field. As employers facing a skills shortage, it is important to be flexible in who we seek and how we view their academic and professional background. Perhaps expanded internships are in order for the right candidate.


These ideas can apply to other fields facing employee shortages but I think it is important to stay flexible on who we view as potential hires. If we continue to look at a narrow pool of candidates this gap is only going to grow. Let me know your thoughts.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.