It turns out that Christmas lights are more than just pretty objects used for decorating trees; they make great indicators to see who's online. In time for the holidays, a Microsoft employee hacked a string of the lights to serve as a status indicator so he can see when his colleagues are in the office.
Andrej Kyselica devised this hack by using Microsoft Lync (an office communications service), which he uses to connect to his instant messenger contact list. He picked up some G-35 lights and hooked them up to a .NET Micro Framework controller. Then, after hacking the G-35 lights, he developed his own driver called Fez Panda to individually manage each bulb (for each person). The lights will then show the status of each person in the office.
When contacts are available but not in the office, they glow purple. If they are available, they'll show as green, and if they are not at work, then there is no light at all. Other statuses glow yellow or red.
This is a very neat way of showing the entire office people's current status, and would definitely light up an otherwise dull office. Check out Andrej's video to see the hack in action.
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This story, "Christmas-light indicator tells if friends are online" was originally published by PCWorld.