Making Obama

Been listening to the Making Obama podcast by WBEZ. What a terrific oral history of former President Barack Obama’s pre-Presidential years. Really brings to light a lot of his early public service career and the perspective those who knew him.

Review: Belkin Thunderbolt 3 Express Dock & Macbook Pro

After acquiring a 2016 MacBook Pro 13″, I ran into the dilemma everyone has been facing: how do you handle so many dongles to connect existing peripherals to this new generation of laptops with only USB-C & Thunderbolt 3 connections? My solution for home office use was to purchase the Belkin Thunderbolt 3 Express Dock.

The coolest thing about a proper Thunderbolt 3 dock? A single cable to my 2016 Macbook Pro 13″ for power AND data, with maximum transfer rates I won’t likely hit anytime soon even if I purchased a 5K Monitor!

At $349.95, the Belkin dock is expensive, however I chose it because:

  • The only Thunderbolt 3 dock available as of this writing (July 22, 2017). In fact, I walked into an Apple Store and bought it there. The OWC Thunderbolt 3 dock is supposedly starting to ship pre-orders, but who knows when I would receive mine if I ordered it today. The other one that caught my eye, the Henge Dock Tethered, doesn’t even have a date yet for its Thunderbolt 3 version.
  • The front and rear 3.5mm audio jacks, which is the only Thunderbolt 3 dock advertised anywhere to have two of these in this configuration. I still like using wired headphones at home.
  • I had no need for a SD slot or Firewire 2 or S/PDIF connections. I could have used the extra two USB-A connections, but it wasn’t critical as I have a USB hub in my monitor.
  • I liked the looks of the Belkin dock.

A few tidbits on this dock…


A major attractor to me was the 3.5mm audio out jack on the rear of the unit and a 3.5mm input/output headphone jack on the front of the unit. This allows me to connect my existing speakers to the rear jack and plug in my headphones to the front jack. Couldn’t find any other Thunderbolt 3 dock that supports this, as they all had a single 3.5mm jack on either the front or rear, or separate 3.5mm jacks for input/output.

After connecting the dock to my Macbook Pro and rebooting, I had to go into the MacOS Sound preferences and select USB audio CODEC on the Output tab. The music I was playing instantly switched over to the speakers connected via the dock.

Connect headphones to the front 3.5mm jack and music instantly switches over. Likewise, disconnecting the headphones from the front jack switches back the music to the speakers automatically.

Pleasant surprise: the hardware audio control keys (change tracks, raise/lower volume, mute) all still work on both rear and front 3.5mm jacks! I was worried as connecting speakers to my monitor’s 3.5mm audio jack disables these buttons.


Gigabit ethernet seems to work well via the dock, no issues. I did notice I had to reboot my MacBook after connecting the dock for the first time before it recognized the Ethernet interface. Presumably some sort of driver install thing? Subsequent disconnection/reconnection made the Ethernet interface appear instantly.

Also, in the Network preferences, MacOS automatically assigned the Thunderbolt Ethernet interface to the #1 priority on the list, over Wi-Fi, as one would hope.

Nothing else noteworthy here.

USB-A Ports

There are two rear and one front USB-A ports on this dock. They seem to work as advertised, no issues here. This dock also works fine if you plug in a USB-A hub into one of these ports. I connected my monitor’s USB hub to the dock and everything plugged into the monitor (webcam, hard drive, lighting cable) all worked well from what I could tell. I ended up using one of the USB-A ports on the rear for the monitor hub and the other rear USB-A port for my webcam to ensure it wasn’t bandwidth starved.

USB-C / Thunderbolt 3 Ports

There are two rear USB-C / Thunderbolt 3 combo ports on this dock. Since I don’t have an USB-C cables with the exception of the one that connects the MacBook to the dock, I couldn’t test the other remaining port here. Not expecting any major difference though.

That said, I am disappointed not a single dock on the market has more than two USB-C ports. I would gladly trade the front USB-A port on this Belkin dock for a front USB-C port since that is the wave of the future and that seems like the port that would see the most cable / flash drive changes (and thus, the endless battle of which side of a USB-A connector is correct). USB-C would solve this problem and help nudge folks to transition frequently plugged in devices to USB-C. Seems like Belkin was aiming for helping short term existing cables / flash drives vs. making this dock last long term.


Connecting my monitor to this full size DisplayPort port  caused no issues, assuming you have the appropriate cable. In my case, my cable is a Mini DisplayPort to full size DisplayPort and the monitor supports either connection. Thus, I plugged the Mini DisplayPort end into the monitor and the full size DisplayPort end into the dock. Worked flawlessly.

Support for 4K/5K Monitors

Supposedly this dock supports a single 5K monitor (such as the LG Ultrafine 5K monitor or two 4K monitors (one via DisplayPort, one via USB-C/Thunderbolt 3). I did not get a chance to test this, as I do not own a 4K or 5K monitor.

That said, my Dell UltraSharp U2715H 27-Inch Screen LED-Lit Monitor monitor works flawlessly with this dock and I have future proofed my home office setup, at least until 8K monitors and Thunderbolt 4 shows up.

Power Brick

This thing is massive and gets warm. I have it hidden away, but still sad it has to be this big. It can also apparently power a full 15″ MacBook Pro over USB-3/Thunderbolt, although mine is only a 13″.

Also, the actual dock gets warm to the touch.


The Belkin Thunderbolt 3 Express Dock does the job for me, abet at a steep price. Belkin has the advantage of first to market and so far this is as rock solid as a solution as you would hope for. Plus that single cable!


Women’s March

I’m so inspired by today’s Women’s March in Washington, a day after Donald Trump became President, that I’m thinking of ways to get active in politics. Not sure how, where, when. But it’s going to happen.

Time to contribute and build the real America of the 21st Century.

2016 was an interesting year

I’m sitting here at my house, at noontime, on December 30, 2016…36 hours until the New Year strikes and 2017 arrives. It has been a monumental year for me personally on many levels, with my daughter being born at the top of the list, several promotions at work, and continuing personal growth. It has also been a worrying year, with the political landscape taking a troubling turn and many fascinating people passing away.

I didn’t truly realize how burned out I was from my previous gig and the first couple months of my current gig until I took my month long paternity leave in July. Being able to unplug from everything and focus 100% on my family changed me in a profound way. Knowing that now I was responsible raising a human being, I strived to redouble my own efforts for learning and personal growth. As you can see from my Goodreads list, my read books steadily climbed in 2016. 21 is well short of my 50 goal for the year, but it is probably the # of books I have read in the past 4 years combined. Next year I will hit 50.

Career wise, I have had several promotions at my current gig and I am currently building three teams. We have lots of job openings on our site, btw.

Political wise, I worry for America. President-elect Donald Trump goes against everything I believe in from a moral and policy standpoint. I am exploring ways to get involved in local politics somehow and add one small voice speaking against his policies and for something better.

I will close out with my family. My daughter is everything to me. It is often me who wakes up first thing in the morning when she awakes and her smile when she sees me and hears me say “Good morning!” is something that will never grow old for me. Today is her six month birthday and I look forward to many more with her and my wife, who has been an amazing mom herself.

Life Has Changed

Two months ago tonight, my wife was going through the final hours of labor. She delivered our beautiful daughter, Rose, at exactly the stroke of midnight. My life has never been the same. It is also never more apparent then right now, as I sit in a hotel room in New York City on my first business trip since her birth.

It is hard to quantify how life has changed. There are the tangible things, like our grocery and household goods budget going up, a new car purchased, and the # of diapers she has gone through. It is certainly easy to feel the lack of sleep, although Rose is doing as well as you could hope for in that regard by sleeping about ~6 hours straight overnight. It isn’t the old 8 hours I’m used to, but it workable.

But how do you quantify staring into her eyes, when I said her name for the first time? Hearing her squeaking cry? The first time she “baby talked”? Those tiny tears dripping from her eyes down her cheeks. The every 3–4 hours to feed her? The massive burps. How she melts into your arms and all is right in the world.

I miss her. But I do this for her. And I will be home soon.

Barack Obama’s Last Stand

When was the last time the candidate of the incumbent President actually wanted the President to campaign for them? I’m really fascinated how the best campaigner in recent memory will take on Trump. Good writeup on this.

I hope for our sake Obama has one last great campaign left in him.

Book Recommendation: NutureShock

With my rapidly (just over one month if everything is on schedule) approaching Fatherhood, I have been reading more about parenting. I highly recommend the book NutureShock, which is a fascinating explanation about how children learn best (which often goes against conventional wisdom), backed up with clear facts from studies with sound practices.

Spending my mornings learning

I fell into a trap a few years ago that I have been slowly digging myself out of, bit by bit. Being all consumed by my working life, I left little room for reading and learning. I don’t claim to have resolved this issue, but I do feel I made substantial progress this week with one tweak to my morning routine.

The root cause of the problem: I wasn’t prioritizing reading and learning in the morning. For years I tried to do this at night. But with the fast paced, high stress, and definitely mind consuming work that comes with being a part of two very successful startups (Dyn & Fastly) in the past seven years, I was simply fried at the end of my work day. My mind would endlessly drift any time I tried to read a book or focus on a learning project in the evening.

I had tried shifting my reading to the morning before, but I could never make that schedule stick either. Maybe it was because I don’t drink coffee. Maybe sometimes I take a little bit longer to get out of bed to make my way to the couch where my iPad normally sits…if I made out that far before I had to rush to get ready for work.

This past week I have tried something different: placing my iPad next to my bed and reaching for that device in the morning when I wake up, not my iPhone.

Something about this workflow change has made me priorities. When I wake up in the morning now, I prop up my pillows and reach for my iPad. I immediately open iBooks and start reading, even in my semi-awake state. With this, I have already finished two books this week I had been reading for over a month with little progress previously.

Because my mind is activating quicker from reading in bed during the morning, when I make my way to the kitchen to begin breakfast, my brain is begging to learn more. So I now turn on a podcast in the morning when I make/eat breakfast, usually one that focuses on teaching its listeners something. In my case, for the past week I have been catching up on the awesome Seeking Wisdom podcast. My notes file this past week has filled with little tidbits and thoughts from these morning podcast sessions.

In the end, this seems to be going well because of a simple workflow change: placing my reading device (an iPad) next to my bed, which somehow triggered my brain to want to read. Let’s see if this continues!