About Lee Devlin

I'm Lee Devlin from Greeley, Colorado.

The Pomodoro Technique

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pomodoro timer

Kitchen Timer shaped like a Tomato

I haven’t been doing much blogging over the past few years. One of the reasons is that as a teacher, I don’t really feel like I have any time that I could be writing a blog post that I shouldn’t be doing something related to my job as a teacher. When you’re a teacher, there are always more things that you can do than there is time to do them, and so creating a blog posting is a deliberate use of time that might better be put toward updating assignments or your teaching skills or researching new developments in technology, etc., the list goes on and on.

But I recently came across a time allocating technique that really intrigued me. It’s called the Pomodoro technique and it involves setting aside chunks of time where you avoid distractions and interruptions so that you can concentrate on a single task for 25 minute The Pomodoro Technique Book

intervals. It was developed by Francesco Cirillo back in the 1980’s and is the subject of his book, The Pomodoro Technique. It derives its name from a kitchen timer that looks like a tomato (pomodoro is the Italian word for tomato). I recently ordered a timer since Cirillo feels that the mechanical timer is more effective than an app or electronic device for setting the time since the physical act of winding it puts you in the state of commitment and provides a constant display of the amount of time left. For now, I’m just using a website called tomato-timer.com which seems to be working fine for now.

I’m actually writing this post in the 25 minute allotted time of one ‘pomodoro’.

Although this technique was developed in the 1980’s, it’s even more relevant now because of how easy it is to get distracted today. Back in the 80’s I had a TV that got at most 12 channels. My TV now has hundreds of channels. There was no personal email, no World Wide Web, no computer games, no smartphones, no social media and no YouTube. With all these new technologies that are designed to distract us, it’s amazing anyone gets anything done at all!

So far, I like the discipline this technique imposes on me. When I set a pomodoro timer, I know that I have a limited time to finish the task and then I must stop for a 5 minute break. If you notice that I’m posting more on the blog, it just may be the Pomodoro Technique that is to blame. I’ll keep you updated on how useful I find it.

And I’m glad to report that I got this whole thing written and posted in a single Pomodoro!

Get a Full Stack Web Development Certificate in Greeley Colorado

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Did you know that you can get a Full Stack Web Development Certificate at Aims Community College? It’s true and you won’t have to pay an arm and a leg like you do at some of the bootcamps that teach these skills. Not only that, you’ll earn college credit and that will apply toward an AAS degree, should you decide to pursue that route. The classes required for the certificate are as follows:

The first 4 classes are required for the AAS degree, but if you’re already working in the IT field and just want the Full Stack skills, you can take the CWB classes and you’ll have as good a working foundation as you’ll get from any of the numerous unaccredited $20,000 15-week code bootcamps you see advertising full stack web dev courses. Most of the Aims classes are all available at night or, if you’re a self-motivated individual, you can arrange to take many of the classes online.

You’ll learn what you need to know to create attractive, responsive web sites with HTML5, CSS3, JavaScript, jQuery, MySQL, and PHP. You’ll even become an expert in WordPress because you’ll understand its underpinnings and you’ll know how to fix it if you ever break it.

Some may ask where’s the Angular, the React, the Vue.js that all the cool kids are talking about? How about Node.js? We do talk about those technologies, and you may see bootcamps that focus on those all-JavaScript stacks exclusively because they get away with teaching you a single programming language. And in the area of web development, knowledge of one programming language is simply not enough. For example, 80% of the websites use PHP and SQL on the server side and that’s not likely to change soon. And, once you understand web development basics, you’ll be able to learn those shiny new JavaScript frameworks with an online course or two from Lynda.com or Udemy since you’ll know the fundamentals of JavaScript and how it makes use of libraries.

Cyber Security Specialist Certificate

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Aims Community College Offers New Cyber Security Specialist Certificate

GREELEY, CO – Aims Community College invites the public to learn about the new Cyber Security Specialist certificate to be offered at the Greeley campus.

Aims’ new Cyber Security Specialist certificate is designed to prepare students for entry into the field. Courses will provide a comprehensive overview of network security and knowledge necessary to protect data confidentiality, integrity and availability. Students will learn about threats to computer networks, including vulnerability assessment as well as incident response, disaster recovery and computer forensics. The classes will also help to prepare students to take the CompTIA Security+, Cybersecurity Analyst (CSA+) and the Advanced Security Practitioner (CASP) certification exams.

Computer Information Systems (CIS) instructor Kenny McDaniel will lead the presentation on cyber security, which is the body of technologies, processes and practices designed to protect networks, computers, programs and data from attack, damage or unauthorized access. Attendees will learn how to apply to Aims, including information on financial aid.

“It is an exciting privilege for me to help create this program and instruct students in these courses,” said McDaniel. “With such great demand both nationwide and in Colorado, students have an opportunity to gain the knowledge and experience necessary to begin a career in a high paying field.”

About the Aims Computer Information Systems (CIS) Program

The Aims Computer Science program offers training in web development, networking, database administration, and mobile and desktop application development. Students can earn an A.A.S. degree in Computer Information Systems or Web Design and Development or earn a certificate. More information is available at www.aims.edu/academics/cis.

About Aims Community College
Aims Community College is one of the most progressive two-year colleges in Colorado. Founded 50 years ago in Greeley, Aims has since established locations in Fort Lupton, Loveland and Windsor. Curriculum now includes 4,000 day, evening, weekend and online courses annually in more than 160 degree and certificate programs. Aims Community College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Aims Community College is an Equal Employment Opportunity Employer and an Equal Opportunity Educational Institution. www.aims.edu


How to Convert Video Tapes to DVD Format

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About 10 years ago I helped to develop a product that converted videotapes to DVDs. It was called the HP DVD Movie Writer. It was sold for several years under the HP model numbers dc3000, dc4000, and dc5000. Those products are obsolete now, and the software drivers and application software haven’t been updated to work on the more modern operating systems like Windows 7 and 8. I still maintain the FAQ webpage for it and so I periodically get questions about what to use these days to convert analog video tapes to digital formats when customers find their Movie Writers are no longer supported. I’ll attempt to answer that question in this article. The HP DVD Movie Writer was introduced at a time when few computers had a DVD writer included, so it made sense to bundle a DVD writer with a video capture device along with the necessary software and offer it as a solution.

Converting videos from tape to DVD can be very laborious, and most people are primarily interested in preserving the video in a format that is likely to outlast video tape and be playable on devices that people are still using years from now. The VCR player has been relegated to the closet in many homes years ago and videotapes are gradually degrading, so it’s important to get them copied to a digital format if you want to preserve these videos for your children and grandchildren. You may also want to convert them so that you can upload them to a video sharing service like YouTube.

Most video capture products available today come with software that will help you edit the videos, and that can be fun and produce amazing results, but it requires some effort and a bit of learning to edit a video. The way most home videos are shot make them hard to watch because they have no story line along with little or no narration and so they tend to sit on a shelf forever after being watched once or twice. After watching a few home videos, it really gives one an appreciation for all that goes into making up a video that is entertaining to watch. But it’s still nice to know your old videos are still there ‘just in case’ one day you get ambitious and want to create a nice video for your family to have and share with their children. As time goes by, it will get harder to find a player you can connect up to a TV to play them. Capturing analog video tapes to digital files is essential if you ever want to watch the videos again at some point in the future.

Now that many computers include DVD writers, when people ask me what I recommend for converting video, I generally tell them to use a USB video capture device from a reputable company. Very inexpensive video capture devices are available now, some for less than $10 from no-name Chinese companies that you can buy on Amazon.com or Ebay. I’d stay away from them as they usually come with very poor documentation, no support, and minimal software included. I’d stick with a device from a well-known company that has been in the business for a while like Diamond Multimedia. The Diamond VC500 is one of their more popular products that has been around for a while and in general gets good reviews.

vc500 box contents

The box contains the capture device, a setup guide, an install CD and a video cable.

The VC500 costs around $35 and has software included with it that lets you capture and edit the video as well as produce the DVD. Capturing simply converts the video on your analog tapes into digital files, known as MPEG files, which typically end with the extension MPG. For preservation purposes, this is the most important step, that is, getting the videos into a digital format. Editing involves cutting up the mpg files and add things like title blocks, transitions between segments, dubbing in music or narration, and in general, making your videos more watchable. It’s what we take for granted when we watch a commercially produced video. A well-edited video is a joy to watch.

DVD authoring is what allows you to set up a navigation menu and chapters so that when you put the DVD in the player, you can more easily select which part of it you want to watch. You don’t have to split up the video on the DVD in chapters, of course, it just makes it more convenient to watch, especially if you have multiple events stored on the same DVD or if you want to be able to watch it in segments.

The software included with the Diamond VC500 is compatible with all modern version of Windows from XP to Windows 8. One of the programs the VC500 includes is Showbiz from Arcsoft, and that’s the same software HP shipped with the HP DVD Movie Writer. I found it easy to learn and use and it can do everything you will need from capturing and editing the video to authoring the DVD. Showbiz has been around for a long time and has all the features you’d need if you want to edit the video as well.

vc500 software splash screen

The install CD has an easy-to-use menu to help install the software on your computer.

The items included with the VC500 include the software installation CD, the video capture device which attaches to a USB port, an AV cable that connects to your VCR or analog video source, and a Quick Start Guide. When you insert the installation CD into your computer, you will be prompted to install up to 3 programs. I first installed the driver, then the software called EZ-Grabber, and then Showbiz. There was also a program called Dyyno Broadcaster that was installed, but I don’t think that I will use it. It appears to be an on-line video sharing site like YouTube, but with a program to make it easier to share your videos with others on the Dyyno website. You need to set up a login on that site if you want to use it. In reality, I believe you could get by with just installing the driver and Showbiz, since Showbiz has the ability to capture video like EZ-Grabber as well as editing and DVD authoring. But EZ-Grabber may be easier to use if all you want to do is get the files in digital format for playback on a computer.

Arcsoft's Showbiz 3

Arcsoft’s Showbiz 3 is an easy-to-use video capture-edit-DVD authoring package.

If you have a lot of videos, make sure to have plenty of hard drive space available since capturing video consumes about 3 to 4 GB per hour of video. You can capture in lower resolution to save space, of course, but for the best quality capture, I’d recommend MPEG2 720×480 quality since that is the native format of DVDs. There’s not much point in trying to capture analog sources at HD quality since they are not high resolution sources and so it won’t help make the image look any better. And I wouldn’t worry so much about editing the videos or making DVDs right away, just get them all captured to MPG files, rename them to something that will let you know what’s in the file possibly with the year they were shot such as “1992-hawaii-vacation.mpg” and that will help you to organize them into easy-to-find files for when you do want to create your DVD masterpieces. And I’d recommend you keep the original mpg files even after you’ve made DVDs, since that way you can always cut and splice segments of video together to create new DVDs should the need arise.



When you burn a DVD, make sure to use the write-once media, not the re-writable media, even though re-writable media sounds like it’s more flexible. The name for write-once media is DVD+R or DVD-R. Rewritable media is called DVD+RW or DVD-RW and it’s really better for storing computer data like a backup that you may need to overwrite in the future than it is for making playable DVDs. The rewritable DVDs are not as compatible with DVD players as are the write-once DVDs because their reflectivity is lower. Also, make sure to get a known brand of media like Verbatim, Maxell, or Sony because name brand media is supported by most DVD writers. Store and no-name media brands of media may be cheaper but do not always record or play back reliably.

I wrote up this entry because I got a lot of questions over the past few months about video preservation so I wanted to give people a link I could point them to so that I’d have an up-to-date recommendations for a product that I know works and provides an economical solution for analog-to-digital video conversion. Some people use a service for converting video tapes to DVD, but you’ll probably spend as much per tape you have converted as you will for the VC500. So if you get a capture device you may learn a valuable skill and have some fun in the process. Who knows, that next viral video may be on your shelf, just waiting for you to capture it and upload it to YouTube for audience to appreciate it. 😉