Looking for a small project to keep you occupied while the in-laws are in town? If you happen to have an Arduino board and a Christmas tree (well, of course) handy, then this little seasonal hack could be the perfect time sink, as well as quite useful.
The Lonely Christmas Tree by Matt Richardson is a hack that connects a typical Christmas tree with an Arduino board that can connect to the internet. Once online, the Arduino board serves as a PHP-enabled web server that periodically checks for new email. When you do, it will light up your tree.
Of course, you can use this technique to serve up other notifications: For example you could set it to light up when you receive a new direct message or reply on Twitter, wall post on Facebook, comment on your blog--the list is endless. It also doesn't have to end with lighting up a tree: what about those festive lights in the garden perhaps? It's a little hack like this can be used all year round, not just at Christmas.
Check out Matt's instuctional below, which uses the example of YouTube lighting the tree whenever he recieves a new comment:
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