From IFTTT to Node.js: A baker's dozen of tech tutorials

13 of the best how-to videos YouTube has to offer for learning Web services, tools, languages, and more

Has the summer heat driven you back indoors? Is half your office on vacation? Finding yourself with a bit of free time this month? How about learning something new? I've gathered up 13 how-to videos on getting started with some fun (well, to me anyway) Web services, tools, languages and more. I'll start with easy stuff and then head into more complex topics. These videos won't turn you into an expert, but they'll get you started on the path to becoming one.

This slideshow "From IFTTT to Node.js: A baker's dozen of tech tutorials," was originally published on ITworld.

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IFTTT is a free Web service that basically wires other services together in many different ways with the goal of making your life a little easier. It's not at all hard to use, but if you're anything like me, that description will leave you feeling a little underwhelmed. This WorkHacks video does a much better job of selling the service, which is actually pretty awesome. It's just hard to describe.  


These days, more and more Web developers are using jQuery rather than rolling their own JavaScript, and why not? It's a mature, well-tested, well-documented library that lets you create dynamic pages with just a few lines of code. If you're just getting started with Web scripting, this series of tutorials is a gentle introduction to jQuery that doesn't assume prior knowledge of JavaScript.


Processing is a scripting language and development environment that focuses on graphics and drawing. I'm sure someone involved with the project will be offended by this, but I think of Processing as programming's Spirograph. YouTube user cadjunkie does a nice series of tutorials to get you up and running. This is his Processing 201 video, and most readers will be comfortable jumping in at this point, but if you really want to begin at the beginning, here is the start of his series.


Lua is a scripting language that I'm familiar with because a lot of game developers use it in their games and often it is exposed as a way to mod the games. For example, World of Warcraft uses Lua to script add-ons. Lua isn't limited to games, though; lots of more serious software also use Lua. The tutorial I've included is the third in a series, but if you're completely new to programming, you'll probably want to start at the beginning.


So now that you know Lua, let's put that know-how to work. Codea is an iPad app designed to let you write and run programs right on the iPad. I'm jumping in at the end of this tutorial series because Codea itself comes with enough example programs to get you up and running, and this video is a bit more interesting than the really basic earlier ones in the series. Don't have an iPad? Check out the next slide!


Here's another project that'll put your new found Lua skills to work. Love2D is an open source 2D game engine that uses Lua as its programming language. This time I'm linking to the first video in a series since it does a good job of helping you set up your environment. Unlike the platform-specific Codea, Love2D is free and runs on Windows, OS X, and Linux.

Light Table

Light Table is an in-development interactive IDE that lets you modify programs as they're running. This video shows how it can be used to give you a deep look into what's going on in a JavaScript program. While you can use Light Table with any language, it works best with JavaScript, Clojure, Python, HTML, and CSS for now.


Unity is a game development system that has been gaining a lot of traction lately because of almost universal support. You can port a Unity game to anything from a tablet to, soon, game consoles. Best of all, there's a free version that anyone can download and play around with. Unity is a big system, and if you really want to learn it, you'll probably want to check out the tutorial section of the Unity site. But this video manages to give a good feel for the system in a little more than 10 minutes.


Feeling a bit artistic? Check out Blender, an open source 3D modeling program that is, admittedly, infamous for its obtuse UI. The tutorial I'm including (making a coffee cup in Blender) is based on Blender 2.64; the current version is 2.68, but hopefully you'll still be able to follow along without too many issues. For a somewhat drier but longer and more systematic tutorial, check out Blender Tutorial for Beginners by Sardi Pax.


Google has been pushing its Dart language as a new language for building Web applications. The video I'm linking to is the first in a series of short, super simple examples. If you're more serious about learning Dart you can check out A Quick Tour of Dart (82 minutes) by Google's Gilad Bracha. Another interesting video is Kevin Moore's Building Interactive Content with HTML5 Canvas and Dart in which he talks about building an HTML5 game using Dart.

Amazon AWS

Recently I was tasked with setting up my first Amazon AWS EC2 virtual machine to use as a webhost, and I wish I'd watched this video by Greg Wilson first. It's a bit out of date (for one thing, you can use a Micro instance for 1 year for free now if you use an AMI tagged for free use) but in a way, that's a bonus. The interface was a lot less crowded in 2010 than it is now, but you should still be able to follow along. Setting up a micro instance is actually kind of fun when you know it isn't costing you anything and you can start over with the click of a mouse.

Google App Engine

A 7.5-minute video that walks you through all the steps of establishing a Google App Engine account, downloading eclipsing and installing the proper plug-ins, and finally getting your (admittedly flat HTML) site online for public viewing? It's incredible how packed this video is with info. It's good enough that I can forgive the strange, sped-up voice. PHP developers might also like this session on Google App Engine's new PHP support from this year's Google I/O.


The idea behind this slideshow was to provide you with quick videos that give you a feel for various technologies, but some topics just don't lend themselves to quick videos. Node.js, for instance. It's a hot tech but too big to cover in a quickie video. The one I'm including is Microsoft's Bruno Terkaly building a chat app in about 20 minutes, and it's OK, but if you're really interested in learning Node.js I'd suggest Jeff Kunkle's Node.js explained (30 minutes, all theory) and then Introduction to Node.js with Ryan Dahl (106 minutes, lots of hands-on). Dahl is actually the creator of Node.js, so even though the video is a few years old, who better to learn from?

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