Month of Hacks


Every break, I decide I am totally going to be super productive this time, create a list of things I want to do, and then immediately lose all motivation and sleep until noon everyday. This break however, I’m determined to finally complete just a few of the projects I’ve always wanted to do, but never got around to actually doing.

To start with, I bought a Raspberry Pi. I’m not talking about the delicious pastry, but rather this little baby:

Significantly less tasty.

It’s a credit card sized computer, with basically an infinitum of possibilities. I know of esteemed engineers who’ve used it for everything from work to home automation–a la the Smart Homes article I wrote earlier, which you can read here. The Raspberry Pi Zero, the base model, only costs $5. For basically the cost of a sandwich (or a little more, if you spring for the higher models), you can create some of the coolest customizable devices you can think of, like a wall mounted Google calendar or a mobile radio transmitter. Perhaps a little off the beet, this guy used the Raspberry Pi to create a simple instrument to play the drums using actual beets.

In conjunction with my exploration of the Pi, I desperately want to try my hands at some new programming languages. In the 21st century, there are perhaps millions of resources to learn new languages, API’s, or just how to code at all.

Maybe on of the most beginner friendly, Codecademy, was where I wrote my first few lines of (very simple) code years ago. A great, intuitive interface, a really step-by-step and thorough lesson, and with extremely easy to understand and simple explanations, Codecademy is actually a really good place to try out coding. They also have a really wide variety of lessons, including quite a few about API’s.

I personally will be using Learn Code the Hard Way which while sounds intimidating, is probably more useful, because it teaches you from the ground up. Unlike Codecademy, which skips the messy installation, terminal, and compiling, Learn Code the Hard Way forces you to do everything from scratch. So yes, that means no IDE, Integrated Development Environment, (no matter how great Eclipse seems). You have to open up Notepad, write the command line, and start from there. But at the end of the day, it’s these skills that really make you a better programmer–relying on crutches will eventually hinder your ability to code by yourself. It’s better to skip the training wheels and just jump right into it.

I suppose this begs the question: what exactly will I be doing with all of this? And to be honest, I don’t know yet. For now, I’m just learning and exploring. I don’t doubt that whatever I learn with the Raspberry Pi or with the languages I’m going to dabble into, I’ll apply in the future–either in Hackathon, in class, or even in a work environment. At the end of the day, my projects don’t necessarily have to be super successful, or even totally functional, I just have to had learned something.


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