The stuff I do

Programmatically update Zoom's virtual background

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Recently I created a script which automatically downloads NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day and sets it as the wallpaper of my computer. This was fun but I also wanted to set the picture as my virtual background in Zoom so that I have another pretext to bore my coworkers with space stuff my teammates could also enjoy the cool astronomy pictures of the Nasa.

The issue was that when I dug into Zoom's documentation I couldn't find a reliable way to change my own virtual background without using the GUI. So I went with a hacky solution which seems to work well for my use case.

The solution is not perfect and I only tested it for my particular use case, but the result makes me happy so here it is:

When I couldn't find in the different SDKs and APIs offered by zoom a way to change the user's virtual background I first thought that I was missing something and decided to check the Zoom apps marketplace looking for apps which would already do what I want.

It turned out the only relevant apps I could find were ones which add new Virtual Background to the ones available in the app but never set a background for the user.

That meant that I had to find a different way, a hacky way 😈

On Linux, Zoom stores its data in $HOME/.zoom/data/ and in this directory there is a subdirectory named VirtualBkgnd_Custom which is quite interesting.

When the user sets a virtual background the image is actually copied to this directory and renamed with a random uuid.

The interesting thing is that Zoom doesn't do any validation or caching of any kind: You can just replace this image, restart the app and voila the virtual background has been changed.

cp myNewBackground.jpg $HOME/.zoom/data/VirtualBkgnd_Custom/{d04bd4b9-57d8-44a1-9cd7-31cea7945157}

So with a chunk of javascript and a tiny bit of shell I made this repo: A nodeJS program which downloads the picture and changes the wallpaper and the zoom background added to a cron table and the job is done. I took some shortcuts which probably make the tool only work on my machine, but maybe I'll make it more robust one day when I get a new computer or reinstall my system.

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