Kiran has a MacBook Air which we just purchased as both high-school graduation (2019) and birthday gift (November). We did the same for her sibling in 2017. When she starts college next year I want her to be somewhat self-sufficient when it comes to tech support. I was thinking through the options for backing up her MacBook Air, and I realised that a Time Capsule would not be a viable solution.

Based on our visit to the college tour, we learned that the colleges she is considering (Oberlin, Smith, Mount Holyoke, etc.) provide campus-wide W-Fi. There are no Ethernet ports in the student residence rooms to connect a wireless access point or router. For the Apple Time Capsule, it could not be connected physically to a router or an Ethernet port. It’s also not possible to connect the Time Capsule to the campus Wi-Fi as a Wi-Fi extender.

The bottom line here is that the Time Capsule has been designed to connect permanently to wired Ethernet, college residence halls do not have Ethernet, my daughter will need an external hard drive to use with Time Machine.

Terhune Orchards, Family, Tractor

Photos for Mac isn’t a long term photo library option – Colin Devroe by an author (cdevroe.com)

If you want to use iCloud Photo Library to sync your photos between devices, and even use it as a way to have a full backup of your photos, I suppose you can. However, after doing that for a few years and then wanting to move away from it – I would not recommend Photos on Mac or iCloud Photo Library as a long term photo library solution.

I’ve been advising friends and family about this for years. I switched from iPhoto (what Photos used to be) to Adobe Lightroom several years ago. The Adobe Lightroom CC mobile app syncs my iPhone photos (over cellular or Wi-Fi) via Adobe’s Creative Cloud back to the Adobe Lightroom CC app. My backup software, CrashPlan, takes care of the rest.

I know some people will be bothered by Adobe’s and CrashPlan subscription but … isn’t iCloud a subscription service?

So … you know that process where you use migration assistant to move an account from one Mac to a new one? With the MacBook this can be done via one of the following methods.

  • Connect both computers to the same local Wi-Fi or Ethernet network.
  • Or connect both computers directly using a Thunderbolt, FireWire, or Ethernet cable.
  • Or connect the new Mac to a Time Capsule or external drive that has a Time Machine backup of your old Mac.

With the exception of Wi-Fi, none of the options work well when you need the USB-C port to connect the external hard drive or Ethernet cable (via an adapter) or USB-C to USB-C but the MacBook battery needs to be charged. I had planned on using Migration Assitant to transfer my son’s account from the family iMac to his new MacBook. The MacBook only has one USB-C port. The 2013 iMac has USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt ports. It seemed to me the most practical migration path was to use a USB-C to Ethernet adapter. I picked on up at the Apple Store in the Quaker Bridge Mall. When I explaiend what it was for, the Apple genius tried to convince that I did not need an adapter. He told me to use a backup from Time Machine. I tried to explain that I would still need an adapter since my 2013 iMac did not have USB-C. Apple doesn’t sell those adapters.

I didn’t have any problems connecting the two Macs via the Ethernet cable but before I could start the MacBook complained that the battery was low and I needed to charge it before Migration Assitant could continue. That meant that I could no longer use the USB-C to Ethernet adapter. I could either wait to do the migration after the battery was charged or I could use the ONE AND ONLY USB-C port to charge the MacBook and do the migration over Wi-Fi. Sigh.

I decided to use Wi-Fi to do the migration while the MacBook charged. I didn’t know how long that would take but I had no choice but to migrate my son’s account info using Wi-Fi. But almost as soon as I started I had to stop. The new MacBook has an older version of macOS than the iMac. Migration Assistant could not continue until after I updated the macOS on the MacBook. Downloading and installing macOS to the MacBook took over 45 minutes.

Once the macOS update complete I was finally able to start migrating the account. According to Migration Assistant the process would take fours hours over Wi-Fi. Both Macs will be tied up during the process.

This experience has me thinking about how my son will backup his MacBook during the school year. Apple would most likely suggest backing up wireless to a Time Capsule. Wi-Fi is included in his residence hall room. There is no need for an access point. A Time Capsule would be useless.

I think the only option is to buy a $150 USB-C dock so that my son can charge the MacBook while he connects an external hard drive for use with Time Machine backup. Backing up to an external hard drive is the practical thing to do.

NOTE: In case you think this is a case of sour grapes consider this: Apple is offering back-to-school bundles that include a MacBook and Beats headphones. The Beats uses a USB to USB-mini cable. You can’t charge your Beats via a MacBook. The iPhone is offered with a USB to Lightning cable. You can’t charge your iPhone via a MacBook. What the fuck is Jonny Ive thinking!

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