Julia Evans on tiny personal programs

Julia Evans:

So here are a few examples of small personal programming projects I’ve done. I’m not going to talk about “learning projects” where my goal was to learn something specific because I’ve already written a billion blog posts about that.

I’ve written countless tidbits of code to solve personal problems. Some of them end up becoming real projects that I publish publicly and others never see the light of day.

Julia and I share this project in common though…

When the second COVID vaccine doses opened up, all of the slots were full. It turned out that the website’s backend had an API, so I wrote a script to poll the API every 60 seconds or so and watch for cancellations and notify me so that I could get an earlier appointment.

I wrote a small app that ran on Eliza’s MacBook that would check for open vaccination slots at various locations in our area. When an open slot was detected it would sound an alarm in our house – even waking us (okay, it woke Eliza) up in the middle of the night – to make an appointment. It resulted in over 100 of our friends and family getting vaccinated.

Side note: After writing this app I had an uneasy feeling that I was somehow scamming the system. The app didn’t fulfill the appointment, just alert that there were slots available. Still. I heard of so many older people that were unable to get appointments because they couldn’t act quickly enough on their own. So I didn’t release this code for fear that it would totally soak up the queue. That being said, the vast majority of the people we got vaccination appointments were people that were not technically savvy enough on their own to get one. So that made me feel slightly better. But I still wrestle with whether or not I should have created this.

I love that Julia wrote a script to scan things with her scanner. Most scanning software, even the excellent Silverfast that I use, can be a pain. I’d love to write something simple on my own to speed up the process. So I’ll be looking into that maybe next winter.

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