ReadWriteReflect offers a look back at major technology trends, products and companies of the past year.
Here at ReadWrite, we strive not only to see technology as something that shapes our world, but as something we can access ourselves, to make our lives better and more fun.
That’s the spirit behind ReadWrite tutorials, which are sometimes silly, sometimes practical, but always designed to teach you something new about technologies we rely on every day.
The tiny, customizable computer Raspberry Pi is affordable at about $30, so early this year I bought a designated one just for monitoring my aquarium. Tutorials one and two outline how I use my Raspberry Pi and a waterproof temperature sensor to text me information about the fish tank and let me know when it needs my attention.
I have also expanded on these two tutorials in a book, Make: Raspberry Pi and AVR Projects: Augmenting the Pi’s ARM with the Atmel ATmega, ICs, and Sensors, produced by Maker Media. The basics are the same, but the book also describes how to feed the temperature data into a MySQL database and interpret that into a graph you can access online.
Is your New Year’s Resolution to finally build your app this year? If so, I recommend WinJS, which has simplified the art of quickly producing an HTML5 app you can share online with friends, family, or anyone who you want to impress.
We all know it’s not safe to check secure sites like your bank account on public WiFi, which is where a Virtual Private Network comes in handy. With a VPN, you can experience secure browsing no matter who is providing your Internet.
I built this tutorial while I was myself learning how to build a VPN, so the part I am most proud of is that it includes a lot of troubleshooting based on real problems I experienced. Even better, the comments section has become an incredibly helpful FAQ since this was published.
These five mini-tutorials outline techniques I use over and over whenever I do a project using a Raspberry Pi computer, or a Python project in general. From learning the ins and outs of the SSH (secure shell) protocol to establishing a static IP, these five tutorials go over basic skills every Raspberry Pi owner should know, but that some advanced tutorials tend to skip.
For a jolt of confidence that anyone can truly become a programmer, I recommend learning to use an Arduino, the tiny, cheap microcontroller that knows how to communicate with sensors and outside stimuli the way your regular computer can’t. In just a few lines, this tutorial shows you how to make an Arduino communicate with an LED light, or with your regular PC.
I love my personal Twitter bot, which takes my tweets and garbles them in a way that will never stop being silly. Case in point:
Spent a bunch of time fixing errors and answering questions in my sleep last night.
— Otaku Journalist ebx (@LaurenInEbooks) October 19, 2014
To build your own, all you need is a new Twitter account and a phone number that isn’t already connected to Twitter (I recommend using Google Voice). My tutorial shows you how to connect an app to the Twitter API and get up and running in about 20 minutes.
Twilio Developer Evangelist Matt Makai and I teamed up to create two silly apps that are just for fun, but will also teach you quite a bit about using Python. (Matt also helped me with the Twilio integration on the fish tank text message tutorial further up.)
Yo was one of 2014’s one hit wonders, an app I was convinced anyone could make! And with Matt’s help, I proved it. We show you how to create your own Yo to annoy your friends, and you can use any word or expression in place of “Yo.”
The drinking game, titled Picture Roulette, was a result of the Flickr API not working the way we expected it to. Since Flickr is only as accurate as its users doing the tagging, sometimes a search for “turtle” might net you pictures of ice cream. Hence, a drinking game in which you are rewarded if your guess is correct.
I use GitHub to store my tutorials and, despite the drama this year, I remain a fan. However, I agree that we all need to do our part to keep GitHub’s community nontoxic and friendly. This tutorial is about contributing to projects in a way that should be most rewarding and effective, and I talked to GitHub’s Matthew McCullough to make sure that was the case.
I’m not casting judgement on whether it’s a good idea, but now that Twitter has made its emoji library open source, you can set them up to function anywhere on the Internet, including on your own website or app. I used and clarified Twitter’s own how-to in order to make this tutorial especially beginner-friendly.
Of course, ReadWrite is far from the only place to find helpful tutorials. For both Halloween and the winter holidays, I compiled other people’s tutorials so you can make some truly festive high-tech projects. Our resident graphic designer, Nigel Sussman, contributed fully accurate technical drawings that make the Halloween hacks a cinch.
As always, email me if you try a ReadWrite tutorial and have questions or comments. What tutorials would you like to see on ReadWrite in 2015?
Lead photo by Lauren Orsini, secondary photos by Lauren Orsini, Get Emoji.