TinkerTry tech highlights from the 2010s and an optimistic look ahead

Posted by Paul Braren on Dec 31 2019 (updated on Jan 2 2020) in
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    Taken in Wethersfield Connecticut on Oct 23 2019 by Paul Braren with an iPhone 11 Pro Max. I like the outdoors, and I like our planet.

    It seems fitting to write this post today to give this decade a bit of closure, especially since I created TinkerTry back near the start of this decade. It was June of 2011. With back-end development help from my oldest son Andrew, then a high school senior, I began my hobby of writing mostly on evenings and weekends. I quickly realized I was hooked. Here I am over a thousand articles and five hundred videos later. So much has happened in the tech industry, and to me personally and professionally. Here's a technical note or two from each year to set the stage and give some context, followed by some TinkerTry historical flavor below, in italics. If you just don't have the time for such a long piece, I hope you'll at least consider skipping to my closing thoughts below.

    I wish you all peace and happiness for the next decade and beyond!

    2010 - Apple iPad


    We all remember how big a deal this new form factor was, after the immense success of the iPhone. Family members expressed interest, eventually trading in laptops for iPads a few years later.

    TinkerTry was just an idea at this point. I began pondering about what it would be like to blog publicly, having having the fortune of meeting Duncan Epping at VMworld. He was one of my many inspirations, along with William Lam and many others. I had internally done many newsletters and blog posts for 400K+ IBMers to view that were completely lost over time due to budget cuts, and that really bothered me.

    2011 - IBM Watson wins at Jeopardy / 4G Launched


    I recall testing out Sprint vs Verizon, since I happened to have two cell phones for a couple of weeks. I was visiting St. Louis for work, Sprint's HQ. Despite my geographical luck, Verizon still won every test I did while driving around the area.

    I recall bring your family to work day back at IBM. My mom and I watched this Watson event unfold live, as we enjoyed the live stream with about 200 others in an IBM auditorium at the Southbury, Connecticut location. My mom's take the night before, via email, preparing for our little adventure together:

    I did TiVo Jeopardy for this week so I wouldn’t miss this experience. Watching WATSON in action made me feel the déjà vu of watching HAL (I think I’ve got that name right) from the movie “2001.” I also couldn’t help noticing how much space Watson’s “brain” occupies compared to the human brain.

    TinkerTry.com was launched in June of 2011, covering mostly home lab topics. Despite some pretty niche content such as how to use an LSI RAID adapter under ESXi, at least one of my dozens of articles that first year found an audience of over 10,000 readers. The stats were pretty horrible overall, but I persevered.

    2012 - Tesla Model S


    I recall being a bit surprised to spot the first of these no-tailpipe vehicles, but when I checked the price, I pretty much ignored what was happening. This early adopter vehicle fueled by the deep pockets of the wealthy greatly limited the appeal to me, but looking back now, the industry is realizing what a watershed moment this vehicle's release was. I also had no idea that Tesla’s mission is to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy, using the more expensive early models to fund and refine the development of a vehicle for the masses. Even in 2019, the rest of the industry hasn't caught up with the efficiency, safety, and speed of this iconic brand's first widely produced vehicle, the Tesla Model S, see also Tesla Model S gets another 'Car of the Decade' Award: 'Nothing Else Comes Close'.

    You can see a sampler of the kinds of articles I was writing in 2012 right here.

    2013 - DJI Phantom 1

    Reading about quad copters brought me back to my childhood days of launching this model rocket. Seeing the page from the Estes catalog still brings me chills.

    I recall reading about these noisy little guys, not surprising given how into aerial photography I've been since I was about 12. Yes, I was the kid with the Estes Astrocam, launching at Wethersfield High School, hoping to catch a glimpse of our nearby house.

    Those first drones/quadcopters, the price, oh my. Not to mention I live too close to an airport to be able to fly such a thing legally/safely. So I never bought one. Just enjoying lurking.

    Created "TinkerTry.com, LLC" to allow the collection of modest revenues from Amazon Associates and YouTube videos and easier filing of taxes. These revenues were all invested into growing the site, and covering costs. Not breaking even yet, but getting closer.
    The "TinkerTry IT @ home" tag line of "Efficient virtualization, storage, backup and more" was created, and I've remained true to those themes through the rest of the decade.

    2014 - Windows 10


    Finally, some refinement in Windows that allowed much easier cloning and use in VMware ESXi VMs, without the usual BSODs that tended to greet users of any earlier Windows version when restoring bare metal backups to different hardware.

    This meant I sure was using MSDN membership a lot, and I sure was blogging a lot about using Windows 10 in a VMware vSphere VM.


    This was my very first year as a member of the awesome VMware vExpert program!

    2015 - Dell XPS 15


    One of my sons bought one of these Dell XPS 15 laptops, and I was hooked. The slim design, the nice rubbery palm rests, and the thin bezel. Oh my. Only in 2017 did I manage to have one of my own as a VMware employee. That was the corporate version of the basic chassis design, using beefier hinges. It was called the Dell Precision Workstation 5510, and later a limited edition 5520.

    This was also the year that heralded the arrival of NVMe for consumers, and I blogged about it the very first week of the iconic Samsung 950 PRO M.2 arrival. In one of my least SEO-optimized worst mouthful titles ever, yet somehow still a number one Google result when searching for boot from NVMe:
    How to boot Windows 10 from NVMe based PCIe storage, featuring Samsung 950 PRO M.2 SSD in a Supermicro SYS-5028D-TN4T, I was pretty stoked about much faster storage at affordable prices.

    2015 was also when Xeon D arrived. I had my eye on it since it was announced in March of 2015, when I also blogged all about it. I even got my hands on what may have been the very first Xeon D-1541 based system, and unboxed it live, seen here and here, which was kind of a crazy thing to attempt.


    The Veeam Vanguard Program was started, and to my amazement I was honored to become an inaugural member.

    2016 - Apple clashed with the FBI

    Image thumbnail from New York Times.

    Apple clashed with the FBI, and refused to unlock an iPhone. Having had secret clearance for IT work in the Federal Sector, and having followed Edward Snowden's saga, this story sure caught my attention too.

    I bought an Apple Watch Series 2 on sale at Macy's for only $229. Finally, a watch that sets itself as soon as I land in whatever timezone, and my first smart watch. It would go on to last me 3 years until the battery life started to suffer. The screen held up better than any watch I've ever owned, and I used it all the time. Painting, yard work, etc. Apple even gave me $50 trade-in value, when I picked up my Apple Watch Series 5 with the always-on display. Now that's a tech success.

    2017 - iPhone XS Plus


    The iPhone XS Plus arrived, with that notch! Finally a large enough screen that I've wanted in my pocket forever.

    This was a huge year for me personally and professionally, landing a job at VMware as a vSAN Systems Engineer! While it remained difficult to afford a proper (fully supported) vSAN at home, eventually that vision became reality, and I'm pretty darn thankful for that!

    2018 - Facebook Facepalm


    The well earned demise of Facebook's reputation really seemed to accelerate. I’m more glad than ever that I never got on this social network in the first place. On top of the horrifying political stuff, there's also the extreme sleaze of pretending to use your mobile number for enhanced 2FA (two factor) security, instead they use that number to target you with ads too.

    Sadly, my high school friends remain unphased.

    At TinkerTry, I continue to completely ignore the audience I could gain by having any sort of presence on Facebook.

    2019 - GoPro HERO8 Black

    I use very solid RAM Mounts with my GoPro. Click to view GoPro HERO8 Black on Amazon.

    GoPro HERO8 Black with Hypersmooth arrives!

    Finally, a miniature go anywhere camera I could hit the road with. I don't mean stable images, my GoPro HERO7 had those two. I mean stable, as in doesn't overheat and shut down abruptly when recording 4K for more than 10-20 minutes at room temperature using certified compatible MicroSD media. Helped me have some fun on the weekends to produce content like these stable 4K videos.

    TinkerTry Channel - Oct 28 2019 - GoPro HERO8 Black unboxing and initial configuration and testing
    This pic was taken in nearly complete darkness, note the stars in the night sky. I could barely make out the mountain with my own eyes. Click to view the TinkerTry Photo Gallery.

    This was also the year that marked the arrival of nighttime photography, in the form of the very impressive tech inside my iPhone 11 Pro Max. See also my sample photo gallery.


    This year I started a new whole new chapter in my career at Dell Technologies, what an great opportunity to bring some of my IBM/x86 hardware experience and VMware software experience forward! Instead of carrying a second phone around, I simply asked for just the SIM, and now I have 2 phones in one! When the signal for one carrier's data is weak, it fails over to the other. Awesome, thank you eSIM technology! turns out Dual SIM capabilities arrived with the iPhone XS/XS Max/XR last year.


    At TinkerTry, I continued to write about whatever catches my attention and inspires passion. With Intel floundering in its attempts to mass produce anything smaller than 14nm CPUs including Xeon D, my attention temporarily wandered toward other green technologies that have a big impact, such as how we move humans around safely, while helping reduce our carbon footprint. It just so happens my two challenging job changes in 2019 meant I also needed to drive over 25,000 in one year, much of that invested in customer visits. This also moved my career ahead, providing for my family. Gladly, the problem of how to replace about 30 years of favorable Honda Civic experiences (each lasting 10 to 15 years) was solved handily with a way more efficient (and fun) Tesla Model 3. Finally, an electric vehicle that now starts at the same price as the average American car, but a lower long-term cost of ownership. Read more at TinkerTry.com/Tesla and see more on YouTube. If you feel sorry for reliable stalwarts like Honda, don't, have a listen to what the CEO is saying to defend his inertia. Meanwhile, VW seems to get it, and maybe even Detroit’s Ford. There’s also Germany, The Netherlands and Norway too, phew!


    I'm more optimistic than ever that folks all over the world are actually starting to realize that humans have affected our climate, and that we can do something to meaningfully reduce our own families carbon footprint.

    Home Servers

    With home labs and home servers that may be left running 24x7, that means compact and efficient servers. I've found some amazing form factor innovation recently that I hope to be able to share at TinkerTry very soon, stay tuned. AMD is sure making things interesting with EPYC lately too, and this should be the year for yet more advancements in NVMe storage tech too, along with more articles featuring products that help your in sysadmin of your home lab, including WipeDrive by WhiteCanyon, VMUG Advantage EVALExperience, new SuperServer BIOS testing, and more. Much more.

    Transportation Tech

    As far as safe daily transportation of your family, it can mean getting an electric vehicle instead of a gas powered one. Kind of timely that I was cowering in my electric car just last night, pondering how strange and scary it was to be witnessing what may well be the most intense winter thunderstorm I've ever experienced my lifetime, waiting it out while watching from the relative safety of my electric car. This is New England in December? Hmm. I know it's just one weather event, one data point, that's not climate change. Data like NOAAs relentless rise of carbon dioxide is far more compelling. But still, the emotion.

    December 30 2019, Newington, Connecticut, extreme winter thunderstorm experienced up close.

    The Future

    Now that solar and wind power are more economically viable than coal plants, and now that younger generations seem to innately understand that their ancestors have messed up our planet pretty bad, I'm increasingly confident the political and economic will is finally there for us to really start turning the corner. I can only hope to be writing another post like this in 10 years saying that I was right, and that a catastrophic global temperature rise seems to have been largely averted.

    Part of the reason for my optimism is the incredible story told in the aptly named podcast called The Energy Transition Show, by a guy I had the honor of giving his first electrical vehicle ride to after the Connecticut Electric Vehicle Roadmap Technical Meeting, the fortuitous full story here.

    Click to have a listen to this amazing free episode.

    Here's one of his many inspiring and deeply technical episodes, in an abridged/free version:

    OK, things got a little too deep there, taking myself and my little blog way too seriously. Don't worry, I still know how to have fun, and my focus is still largely on experiencing a variety of emerging technologies, then sharing details with you about the ones that work out well.

    First, right now, it's time to hang out with my wife and celebrate the end of one decade and the beginning of the next. I'm very grateful for my many blessings.

    Happy New Year, everybody!


    See also