I need a "stuck in the school library" hobby.
March 2, 2011 11:55 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a project that can be done mostly on the computers at my school. I'm usually there for 8-9 hours waiting for a ride, and my schoolwork takes me around an hour to finish. I'd like to put the rest of that free-time towards something productive.

I'll be using the school computers so I can't download any programs, but I do have flash drives to cart stuff around. I could probably borrow a laptop from a friend if absolutely necessary, but I'd like to try to avoid the complication of only being able to work on it when I can borrow something.

I wish I could give examples of what I'm looking for but I'm not sure myself. Just some type of long-term project with an end-goal that I can make measurable progress on while I'm sitting here all day. The project doesn't really -have- to involve computers, but space outside the library can be limited at times so I'm not sure how a physical project would work out.

I'll list my interests just in case, but feel free to disregard them b/c I'm up for trying new stuff too:

- I love problem solving. I also <3 math.
- I like things that I can build upon and I like working towards an end product.
- Umm... yeah, I can't think of any other interests that actually translate into something that can be done with computers.

Things I'm not interested in:
- Reading (Did this with all my free time in highschool and don't want to go back. x.x)
- Learning an instrument (I'm already learning one but it's too big for me to lug around to all my classes.)
- Writing (see the note on reading)
- Academic endeavors (like the online learn math sites, learning a language, etc. I don't mind learning new skills to do an actual project-like thing, but I don't want to, for example, learn calculus just for the sake of it.)
- Photography (I already do this.)
- Puzzles and cranes
posted by biochemist to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (22 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
You need Project Euler.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 12:00 PM on March 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

What about learning another language? If you have a decent thumb drive you can have rosetta or another program run right from it.

What about picking up a job ? You could do medical billing/coding or transcripting without much of a background at all.
posted by MansRiot at 12:03 PM on March 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Learn to knit/crochet or something? And once you get experienced enough you could do it while watching TV or movies on the computer.
posted by phoenixy at 12:05 PM on March 2, 2011

Best answer: Mechanical Turk, maybe?
posted by backwards guitar at 12:05 PM on March 2, 2011

Do the computers have programming compilers installed? If they do and you're interested in learning how to program, you could easily find some well-defined projects for you to complete.
posted by Tooty McTootsalot at 12:09 PM on March 2, 2011

If you're stuck someplace for 8-9 hours waiting for a ride, why not look for a job that you can work in that spare time to earn some money to buy yourself a car to drive yourself home?
posted by phunniemee at 12:14 PM on March 2, 2011

Response by poster: re: the job suggestion... I've been applying to jobs for about three years now and haven't been hired anywhere. As much as I'd love to find one, it just isn't happening.
posted by biochemist at 12:15 PM on March 2, 2011

you could use the free time to learn some html, css, and basic web programming.

if you find yourself interested in it after that:

1. offer to build a few simple websites for people for free, maybe using something like craigslist to advertise your services.
2. use the sites you have built to build a web portfolio for yourself.
3. eventually improve to the point where you can charge money for them.
4. profit!
posted by ghostbikes at 12:21 PM on March 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think programming is the obvious choice here. It will allow you to create something of your own choosing, and teach you some valuable skills in the process.
posted by zug at 12:24 PM on March 2, 2011

Can you elaborate on what your major is or any career goals? This might help us figure out what sorts of things would have the most benefit. [No offense to anyone, but I was in the health professions... if someone suggested computer programming, I probably would not have listened]

What computer programs are available on your library computers?
Does your university have any other resources? A gym?
Intramural sports leagues?
Any clubs or social activities you might consider joining?
Community service events?
Also, could you walk home in that time?

Other than that:
1. Resume writing could be a useful skill and maybe you could market that...
2. Drawing (either digital or paper).

(Sorry about the onslaught of questions... Just wanted to get more you-specific suggestions)
posted by watch out for turtles at 12:37 PM on March 2, 2011

I don't know if it is a good idea or not, but what about asking the librarians if there's anything that needs doing.

I hear that knitting takes up time and makes neat things.

What about looking through the books in the library for a project - academic libraries have lots of crazy art/tech/etc books. The library at my graduate school had a large collection of graphic novels.
posted by sciencegeek at 12:39 PM on March 2, 2011

You don't want to read, write or learn anything? Okay, aside from those activities, the main things I do with computers are socialize (email, facebook, etc.); buy, sell or swap things and play games. A browser-based role playing game would be a long term project and your goals are very measurable.

Other suggestions:
-Along the same lines of Mechanical Turk, look into making small amounts of money by writing articles for eHow or other places that will pay you to take surveys.
-Learn to fold kusudama (origami balls). This is a pretty portable art project.
posted by soelo at 1:17 PM on March 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: To answer some questions:

I'm a nursing major although I've been thinking of switching back to pre-med. I guess you could say ultimately I'm undecided. I'm also really into music.

1) Various academic programs as well as some compilers. I couldn't tell you what half the stuff is. xD Stuff like "Putty."
2) There's a gym and instrument practice rooms. I'm sure there are other resources I don't know about.
3) I'm a member of one but they met off-campus so it's been inconvenient getting there. Haven't joined another for that reason.
4) I'm not sure what this is... sorry!
5) I could walk home in 4-5hrs but I'd rather spend the time here honestly. Not having a ride home isn't really a bad thing, I'd just like to use the time productively.
posted by biochemist at 1:17 PM on March 2, 2011

If you like math, perhaps you could tutor other students. The Math Dept and the Student Support Dept. may help you here. Many schools maintain a list of tutors. Also, you could tutor students in other subjects.

Take more courses, so you finish school faster.

Look for typing or editing projects. Any part of the school that is working on accreditation might have documents to work on, faculty sometimes need typists or people who are good at fixing their formatting problems. Put up some of those fliers with a tear-off for your name & email.

Learn to fix computers, especially virus and malware removal, and make some money.

Spend a little time walking, or doing other exercise.
posted by theora55 at 1:21 PM on March 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Programming is fun. You can put portable python on a memory stick, and if you use something like Pygame it's really easy to get some rectangles on the screen and move them around in response to inputs from keyboard, and once you've done that it's impossible not to come up with things to try, like making a bouncing ball or a game of Pong, Snake or Pacman. There are a ton of tutorials on the internet, and I am not embarrassed to say that I've used the ones aimed at children when I've been stuck on things before. You could aim to make a 2d platform game or to copy a game you like. It's really rewarding and really twigs my problem solving brain.

Alternatively, if you use Office software (like word processors, spreadsheet programs etc) a lot in your course you could learn to make macros using Microsoft Visual Basic (which works in openoffice as well) to speed up tasks you do a lot. That'll definitely be on your school computers.
posted by teraspawn at 1:23 PM on March 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: If you're internet oriented you might enjoy creating or improving Wikipedia articles on topics of interest to yu. There's a bit of a learning curve in terms of learning the rules [both of the culture there as well as just learning to edit a wiki] but you could start off doing proofreading or other small edits and then look for an article that needs to be improved upon. If you're somewhere with access to reliable source material [hello library] this would be useful to yourself--you'd be learning about topics--and the larger internet community.

Wikipedia editing is not for everyone but I enjoy doing it when I have some uninterrupted time and a project in mind. I spent one winter going through all the Vermont town pages and making sure that if the town had a home page, it was listed on the Wikipedia page. Here is a page of nursing stubs which are short articles that people have started that need a lot more fleshing out.
posted by jessamyn at 2:15 PM on March 2, 2011

Project Gutenberg proof reading is pretty fun. I did it for a while when I had a job that wasn't keeping me busy.

Poke around some open-source projects on-line and see if you can find one you like, then volunteer your time on that.

Personally, if I had that kind of time, I would look into working in an on-campus lab (great for med-school type stuff), find some students to tutor (probably for $$$$) or ask my profs for some extra credit work.
posted by chiefthe at 2:30 PM on March 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

You could also edit Simple English Wikipedia. I have done this before and it really changed my writing style. I've gotten much better marks on essays since!
posted by teraspawn at 2:52 PM on March 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

I would talk to profs you've had, especially for lower-level classes, and ask if there is anything you might be able to volunteer your time to help them with (research, grading [if that's allowed without you being an official TA or RA], running scantrons, organizing their books or papers, etc.). With that much time, you could really be valuable, and it will look good on your resume so you can combat your difficulty getting hired for paid employment.
posted by elpea at 3:31 PM on March 2, 2011

I think offering to help out your profs is the most useful idea. It'll help score you points to network later. If they hear of a job, they're going to be more likely to offer it to someone who's helped them out in the past and has proved reliable.

If you want to earn a little extra money, mypoints.com (gift cards) and swagbucks.com (redeem points for Amazon) are good. It's not a lot but if you're not doing anything else, it's easy and more than what you had before.

If you want to help charities, you can do click thrus.

Big listing of all kinds of charity click thrus.
posted by stray thoughts at 4:00 PM on March 2, 2011

Is there anything else nearby campus? If there is something like a nursing home or a free clinic, you could volunteer there which would give you some experience in your field. Look for other places to volunteer too. Any public transportation available that could take you someplace for volunteering?

Is there a service you can offer to people on campus - do people need babysitting just for a few classtimes? Editing papers? research study participants?

Another idea - see if you can find someone else you lives near you and carpool home.
posted by CathyG at 4:40 PM on March 2, 2011

There are quite a few people suggesting programming and I'll ring in that it's a good idea. Even if you are unable install something I'd suggest you get a free micro instance through amazon web services, log into it using a program called Putty you can keep on your flash drive, learn an editor, then a language.

Also similarly related you could choose a subject you dislike and make it a goal to understand one one of the more advanced concepts that require you building a foundation in the process.
posted by EsotericAlgorithm at 12:09 AM on March 3, 2011

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