Ask HN: Quixotic Side Projects

12 points by daltont 2 months ago

What are some of your more futile side projects that looking back on, you are wondering "what was I thinking".

ONE of mine in the early 2000s was a signed Java applet that could launch other applets in a shared VM. Applets were added by having the user drag an HTML page into it and it would parse the HTML and find the <APPLET> tag. This was back in the day when I had a desktop that had 256MB RAM and Java VMs would be 30-50MB while running.

torstenvl 2 months ago

My current quixotic side project is a form-driven document templating system, something in between Mustache and HotDocs. RTF token-replacement works fairly robustly; working on finding field tokens in existing documents now. Future will be expanding support to DOCX and a nice GUI for template library management and form questionnaires (currently uses a CLI).

I don't know of a home/office alternative to HotDocs, so I decided to make one. It'll never have the enterprise features those things have, probably never be fully scriptable, but maybe small shops want to automate some of their paperwork too. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

eternityforest 2 months ago

Close to all of my side projects, save for my home automation server.

(No particular order)

* Lighting control using UART over CANBus transceivers, with a collision detection and retry mechanism so any node can send whenever.

* A custom 915MHz network protocol with Golay code to increase range without needing real LoRa

* A system for automatically deploying Squirrel programs onto ESP32s(Based on another custom protocol of course)

* "Hey, I know, let's build stuff that takes power on XT60 cables and make up a bunch of cables and splitters and battery packs!"(Perhaps the dumbest of them all)

* "I think I'll write my own backup solution"

* A custom notetaking solution with a P2P distributed database embedded in it, you just copy the sync code between devices and they stay in sync

* A protocol for making local services securely accessible remotely, similar to Nabu Casa(It was the base layer of the notetaking sync)

* Another attempt at a P2P database, which was like secure scuttlebutt except it had mutability and true without-a-trace deletion. I think I called it a "Doubly ordered pseudochain" or something.

* Many, many, custom hardware projects. I currently have zero in use aside from a few adapters made from modules.

* A random number generator for tue very smallest 8 bit chips, made by pure trial and error. Of all the stuff I've done, for some reason this one actually seems to be used in a few places in super niche applications.

* A low code game text adventure IDE with a terrible custom language.

* A mad libs style text generator. Nothing wrong with that, except the first version used a custom json parser in C and ran on PICs. Way saner than most of the rest.

emh68 2 months ago

I'm pretty sure my current project is my worst. I've been making a web forum platform from scratch, and I've paid for a bunch of 3rd party integrations (like cloudflare, mailgun, etc.), and have bought a dozen or so domain names. It's futile because forums are incredibly out of vogue right now. But it's a fun diversion.

  • CrypticShift 2 months ago

    It depends on what you mean by forum. Yeah, a lot of subject-based forums are being "redditified", and other switched to the real-time Slack/Discord model.

    Also, I see a lot of community-based products, where forums are just a component (example : outverse [0] ).

    But I don't think simple forums platforms are (or never will be) out of vogue. There may even a be lack of diversity right now.


    PS Actually. I always wanted a forum with a UI like Hacker News or Radiohead Message board [1]. I like that bare and outlined design. Does a similar OSS forum exist?



muddi900 2 months ago

All side projects feel like tilting against windmills, until they don't.

My current is turning an old python script to a server side app. It went in the opposite direction. It started out simple and productive, but then turned into a quagmire.