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.

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!


It’s only been a few days since I installed Mac OS X 10.7.  I installed it on the iMac and my wife’s MacBook.  These are the only two computers in the house capable of running the new OS.  My vintage G4 Mac mini is stuck running Leopard and my MacBook — my first Intel Mac — does not have the CPU chops to run Lion.

The installation went out smoothly.  I tossed caution to the wind and installed directly from the Mac App Store.  There was much discussion on Google+ about clean installs versus upgrade — I think those people are Windows switchers — but none of the arguments given were compelling enough for me to spend the extra time to re-image my Mac and re-install all my apps.  It took about twenty minutes to download the installer over my 20Mb/s Comcast broadband connection.  Once the download completes the user gets a message that OS X is being installed.  This is actually not quite true.  I think what is being installed is the installer itself.  This part took just a few minutes before the machine reboots and the real install begins.  During the second “install” my screen went blank and I was left with a very sick feeling in my stomach.  Was my machine hosed? I waited over forty minutes before the blank screen disappeared and I was presented with the new login screen.  Apple could have done a better job keeping the user informed.  I could imagine a lot of less trusting geeks who might have reset the machine at that point, possibly hosing their machines.

Some others suggested that I create a bootable USB image to make it easier to restore or install Lion on other Macs. The thought process is that since Lion is a download only install, a full restore would require first installing Snow Leopard. However, I found that downloading and installing from the Mac App Store to be fast and Apple is offering full restore of Mac OS X Lion over the Internet.

**Multi-Touch Gestures**

The first thing I did once I logged in was launch Safari. It’s the app I use the most on my Mac — on any computer, really. I logged into Google+ — now my favorite social network — and immediately ran into an issue. Swiping down on MagicMouse caused the web page to scroll up. At first I thought the mouse was bad then I remembered that Lion included some features borrowed from iOS, notably, multi-touch gestures. On an iPad or iPhone, swiping left takes the user to the next page of a book or the next screen of apps, while swiping up on the touch screen move the page down. This feels natural — this is precisely what Apple calls the new scrolling behavior in Lion — on a touch screen but goes against years of user training. I welcome the change — I bought a MagicPad in anticipation of this — but I think Apple should have kept the default and expected user behavior. I’m keep the natural behavior switch on for a few weeks to see how I like it. If it gets too annoying I’ll switch it off. Choice is wonderful.

**Full-Screen Apps**

It took me a second to understand how to enable the use of full screen for apps and almost two days to figure out how to turn it off but I love the feature. I had already been running most of my apps in full screen mode using an app called Moom which I bought on the Mac App Store. I’ve noticed that neither the OS X menu bar not the dock is available while using full screen mode. This makes sense when one thinks about how a user experiences iOS apps. It also helps create a more distraction free working environment — this is something I’ve wanted for some time. I can use Command-Tab to switch between apps or double tap two fingers on the MagicMouse to bring up Mission Command or swipe up with four fingers on the MagicPad. One thing I noticed is that full screen apps appear to be running in separate virtual desktops. Using the Terminal app in full screen mode is the highlight of my experience.

**Mission Control**

One of the cool features of OS X that I lost when I switched to a button less MagicMouse was the ability to click two buttons to bring up Expose. I used Expose to fast switch between apps. Lion’s Mission Control allows me use either my MagicPad or MagicMouse to switch between apps — two taps on the MagicMouse or a four finger swipe on the MagicPad. This is much faster and more elegant method of switching between apps than Command-Tab. No need to take my hands off the mouse.


I’m really loving the new Mail app. So much so that it has replaced Sparrow as my default mail app. While I loved the simplicity of the Sparrow mail client its lack of Exchange support was impacting my workflow. On a day-to-day basis Sparrow worked well for reading from my Gmail accounts but when I connected to the office VPN from my Mac I was back in Mail. With the new I no longer have to choose. I find the new Mail interface a pleasure to use and the threaded conversation windows brings it home for me. At a glance I can see the responses to an original message each in its own little box. will save me from corporate email hell.

**Resume, Autosave and Versions**

I have only seen this in action when using Safari. Web sites that were open when I exited the browser are reopened on the next launch. Apps will have to be written to take advantage of these features but I for one can’t wait — especially for autosave. While writing this blog posting in MarsEdit I accidentally deleted some of the text I wrote earlier and could not undo my mistake. If MarsEdit used Autosave and Versions I could have recovered from my mistake by reverting to an earlier version of my work.

**Less obvious features**

Apple claims that Mac OS X has over 250 new features. I clicked around trying to discovers some of them since I couldn’t find a complete list on Apple’s website. I noticed that OS X Lion has borrowed from iOS in other ways. While typing this post OS X Lion suggested corrections to my spelling mistakes as I was typing. Just like in iOS the suggested text would pop-up just above the current text and I could hit the space bar to accept the suggestion. There are some changes to the AirPort Utility. I have a 500GB Time Capsule which I use with Time Machine for backing up my wife’s MacBook. Apple made a small change to the AirPort Utility which allows the user to archive the contents of the Time Capsule hard drive to an external drive connected via USB. I can back up my backup.

I’m still poking around and discovering the nuances of the OS and I’ll post my thoughts and experiences.  I will also be posting more in depth “reviews” and updated how-to articles (with screen shots) over on my tech blog.