Alex Meub

My Favorite Tiny Programming Projects

I love creating tiny programs that solve actual (often minor) problems. As Julia Evans points out, this is not only a great way to make programming fun but actually one of the best ways to learn. Below are some my favorite tiny programs I’ve created.

Finding Campsites

My wife and I like to go camping on the Oregon coast but we had a hard time finding available campsites. I wrote a Python script to notify me the instant it found an available campsite we were looking for.

It was a simple script that ran every few minutes on a cron job. We’ve been able to go camping at some of the most competitive spots using it and it’s one of my favorite examples of a successful tiny program.

Bulk Downloading from Digital Picture Frames

My family uses Aura digital picture frames as a way to share photos and stay connected. Over time I added many photos to frames using the Aura app but there was no easy way to download photos (the app only lets you download photos one at a time).

I discovered how the Aura app API works using a proxy and wrote a quick script that lets me download all the photos from any frame I want. It saved me the many hours it would take to download each picture one by one from the app.

Finding Stuff on Craigslist

I’ve often struggled to find things I wanted to buy on craigslist which made it a great opportunity for a tiny program. I adapted an apartment finder project and created my own craigslist for sale alerts tool which I’ve used for several years. I get alerts via email or Slack when things I want show up for sale.

Analyzing Parking Ticket Data

After seeing so many people get parking tickets outside my office, I was curious to learn more about this. I made a public records request and used pandas with Python to look at the data. I came away with some interesting conclusions which was fun.

Finding Vaccination Appointments

After struggling to find a vaccine appointment, I wrote a simple scraper to help. It checked the Walgreens website for cancellations and saved me the headache of trying to hunt down vaccine availability myself.

Shooting my coworkers with toy foam darts from home

Years ago I bought a USB toy missile launcher that I thought would be fun for office shenanigans. Much later I rediscovered the launcher and found a project where someone had reverse-engineered the windows app. I repurposed it to send commands to shoot darts where I knew my coworkers would be sitting. I was able to ssh into my work computer from home and fire darts at specific people during meetings. Although I didn’t create it entirely myself, it was a fun little project with a satisfying payoff :)