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The Best Tech of 2020 – A New Mindset on Ownership

Dec. 28, 2020

Listen to this post. Narrated by me!

Something I both love and loathe are end of year tech lists. Since affiliate income has proliferated online, nearly all of these lists are filled with products the writer has never used or even seen in real life. The lists are filled with items that are either in the perfect range for quality affiliate payouts or that are already so popular they sell themselves.

There are a small fraction of lists that actually include honest intentions. These are the ones I love. This goes for end of year podcast lists, too. Most of these lists are just what is popular and the authors have never listened to just about all of the shows listed.

So, this is my attempt at one of those trustworthy lists. To be fair, I won’t list any specific items. I set out originally to list out the specific apps, services, and hardware I used that I love. Yet, I think something different happened this year.

The transition to WFH, homeschool for the kids, plus moving across the country after being laid off has put a different perspective on my favorite tech of 2020. I’m sure plenty of lists will say unironically Zoom or any of the multitude of virtual communication platforms that enabled remote anything, from fitness to work to book clubs. For me, being in this house 24 hours a day for months on end allowed me to truly experiment with my tech configuration, home lab, and network.

This year I finally learned Docker and other container technologies by increasing my self-hosted home lab to essentially replace all the cloud services I personally use. I had dabbled in this space for some time, however being home meant there was less and less reasons why my data needed to leave my LAN.

As a part-time prepper, I had always imagined some sort of catastrophe that would require us to severely reduce our budget and eliminate our unfettered access to the internet. I guess you could say I’m less of a prepper and more of an archivist. When I lost my job and we moved from Phoenix back to Seattle, plus the failings of our countries leaders, my focus on owning what I found valuable only increased. Why pay for Spotify when one missed payment takes it all away? Why subscribe to Netflix when $17 is worth two meals? Why pay a fee to store my files remotely just to move them from one device to another? Why upgrade devices when the fleeting enthusiasm wears off before the garbage picks up the empty boxes on trash day?

All these subscriptions fuel only the economy of the problem they created. Exclusives, windowing, partnerships, and bundles have nothing to do with giving you a better product. They only exist to artificially inflate the mirage of scarcity. Somehow we’ve been tricked that this model is better, that leasing is better than owning. While at the same time, not only paying dozens of small subscription fees for minimum viable products, our personal information is for sale to anyone with a checkbook.

What my 2020 experience has taught me is to not count on being magically provided with the circumstances I prefer. I’m not going to wake up one day and have the house/boss/hobby or whatever else exists in my dreams has magically appeared. I have to build the future I want, no one is going to give it to me and I should stop expecting it.

So I’m off to research, build, and deploy the tech I want around me. It won’t always be perfect. Hell, it won’t always be good. The important thing is that its mine and an acquisition, price hike, or DMCA request can take it away from me.

My favorite tech of 2020 are the people building projects that allow this to happen. The best tech of the year are my ZFS pools full of data that with or without the internet I can still access. What hardware I truly enjoyed were the replacement batteries that extended the life of my mobile devices.

From now on my budget only has room for devices with upgradeable RAM and hard drives. There’s only room for items with replaceable batteries. My money is only for those with unlocked bootloaders, open-source drivers, and copy-left licenses. Because I want to know that what I find valuable is something I actually own.

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Twitter: @domcorriveau

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