Eleven Tips for Migrating a New Mac with Migration Assistant

November 17 2019

I did it. I caved and I bought myself one of the new MacBook Pros with the scissors keyboard switches. (Which hopefully mean I can leave the house with my laptop without living in fear.) But that meant I had to migrate all my files and settings to this new machine.

I like setting things up from scratch and starting with a completely new setup, but that’s rarely feasible these days. Between my Linux VMs, my Git repositories, and even all the fonts I have installed, setting up a new machine would be a laborious practice.

So I used Migration Assistant for the first time. I wanted to write some tips and tricks about this process, because Apple's kbase article isn’t particularly clear. And next time I need to do this, I’ll refer to this post as a starting point.

In the past, I’ve used SuperDuper to handle my migrations. That takes a lot of time and often encounters strange bugs. Rather than go down that route this time, Migration Assistant — which I’ve only ever heard good things about — seemed like a good bet.

But it’s not all smooth, of course. Here are some tips, tricks, and gotchas about this migration.

  1. Everything from your user account appears to get migrated over. This even includes anything you may have installed on the command line, which is great. It included all my virtual machines, which is also great. It does not include the cache, which is also probably for the best.
  2. It does not appear to matter if one machine is on a different OS from the other. I upgraded from Mojave to Catalina and, for the most part, everything went smoothly. (Related: Catalina is nicer than I thought it would be, although I’m unsure how to approach Zsh.)
  3. The fastest way to do this is to boot up your old machine in target disk mode and connect them via a cable. If you just run Migration Assistant on your old machine, the entire process will run over wifi. That’s too slow and unreliable for my liking. Boot into target disk mode and save yourself some trouble.
  4. Target disk mode means you can connect your two machines together with a good old Thunderbolt or USB-C cable. You can use the USB-C cable that came with your Mac. Generally, that’s a good idea. I bought this Thunderbolt cable to make this process faster, but the transfer was never faster than 90mb/s. And you don’t need Thunderbolt 3 for that throughput. USB-C will be just fine. (Because of this, I’ll be returning the cable I bought.)
  5. Most of your software does not need to be re-authenticated. 1Password, for example, was automatic. This was very nice.
  6. Some software, like Office, needs to be re-activated. Office is the only major culprit I’ve found, but I like to fix this stuff right away, so give each of your major apps a first-run experience.
  7. If you use Git, you’ll need to hop into your directories and run git status to force the connection. (Or, at least, I had to.)
  8. I don’t know if this was because of Catalina or because of Migration Assistant, but I had to upgrade my VM software (VirtualBox) to the latest version. The documentation said to uninstall VirtualBox and re-install it. Uninstalling VirtualBox did not work, but reinstalling it did. If you encounter any issues with your local server setup (i.e. Homestead for Laravel or anything like that), your VM software is likely corrupted from the transfer.
  9. Similarly, Creative Cloud breaks when you run Migration Assistant. (It refused to let me log in and kept crashing.) I couldn’t uninstall Creative Cloud because that required uninstalling and later re-installing Lightroom Classic, Photoshop, Lightroom, InDesign, Illustrator, Premiere, and Audition. Ain’t nobody got time for that. It turns out, if you simply run the Creative Cloud installer again, the CC app will run without issue.
  10. None of your wallpapers migrate (boo!), but all your virtual desktops and their settings do (yay!).
  11. Finally: if you run Backblaze, read their kbase article before upgrading or you’ll have a rough time.

Apple’s New MacBook Pro

November 13 2019

As a designer, developer, photographer, and writer, almost everything about the new MacBook Pro appeals to me. I’ve been through four laptops with their terribly butterfly keyboard, and I cannot wait to get something more reliable. The developer in me is so glad to get the inverted arrow keys back, and as somebody who writes a lot of words every day, I’m thrilled to have a reliable keyboard again.

All they had to do to make me happy was change the keyboard, but 64GB of RAM and 8TB of storage(!!!) is an unexpected perk. I’m also glad to see that the price has not jumped (actually, considering they’ve doubled the base hard drive size, it’s cheaper than it used to be).

This is the laptop I wanted Apple to drop in 2016. That we had to wait this long for them to fix the keyboard is unconscionable, but I’m glad to hear that they’ve finally done it.

A couple other quick thoughts:

  1. We still don’t have great external monitor options for these laptops (I’ve written about this before).
  2. If you have the means (or you work as a colourist for a major film studio), you can look forward to extending this laptop with two — two!6K Pro Display XDR screens. (The dream.)

I look forward to picking one of these laptops up when my budget allows. Probably not that 6K display though, Apple. Please just put the LG 5K display in a nice enclosure with a glass front, ok?


Thoughts on the New Mac Pro and Apple’s Pro Display

June 7 2019

I’m a Mac fanboy, and the new Mac Pro looks astounding. The Afterburner card, as Apple’s calling it, makes it possible to render three 8K video streams of RAW footage in real time. Mind-blowing.

Of course, the Afterburner is a module that can be installed after purchase, or when you order a Mac Pro. Every Mac Pro can be configured to the user’s needs. So while I don’t need to edit three 8K streams of video without proxy files, I definitely need a ton of RAM and some solid GPU options (seriously, Lightroom turns every machine into a jet at takeoff). I could see a future version of myself relying on a version of the Mac Pro Apple unveiled this week.

The display looks incredible too. The Pro Display XDR (seriously, why didn’t they just call it the Pro Display?) looks amazing. But it’s going to cost nearly $10k in Canada to get the display and the stand — because the stand alone comes in at $999 USD. And that’s without the Mac Pro. That’s just the monitor.

For some professional environments, that cost is minimal. But for me, it’s more than it’s worth.

And I get it: I’m not necessarily the target market. The freelancing creative pro is not the upper echelon Apple is going for. But despite that, I miss the days of the Thunderbolt Display. I’d love to see Apple take the 5K display out of their iMacs and put that in a nice enclosure again, just like the old times.

There’s a serious gap in the market where a Retina-resolution, well-designed monitor could exist.

If you wanted a standalone Retina 27”-class monitor, you’d better order the LG UltraFine 5K display. Before it sells out. But it’s also nearly $2000 Canadian, and it frankly isn’t that great of a display. (The screen is lovely, but the enclosure is garbage. I’m currently rocking LG's similar 21.5” 4K display, which is nice, but cramped. Its enclosure is also garbage.)

This all causes a problem: currently, there is no good way to live a single-machine lifestyle. Back in 2012, you could buy a quad-core 15” MacBook Pro and a top-of-the-line display for a few grand. That was a great setup: you got an excellent, fast machine with a great (Retina) display, and a nice way to get work done at a desk, all without the hassle of syncing files across machines.

There isn’t a great way to do that today. The current lineup of MacBook Pros are largely lacking (thanks mostly to the keyboard), and there are no great low-end external monitors. Most professionals who can afford it will likely end up with a desktop in their production environment and a laptop on the go. In between, you’ll be syncing everything between a combination of Dropbox/iCloud/OneDrive, Git, and external disks (hello again, Lightroom). It’s not ideal.

We always say things were simpler back in the old days, but 2012 wasn’t that long ago, and frankly, things were simpler then.

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FastCompany Reveals How Anonymous Data Location Identifies Us →

September 28 2017

FastCompany asked a data scientist to see how much he could learn about two individuals using their “anonymized” geo data from Google Maps.

The short answer? A lot.

With more digging online, Lotan filled out the rest of his profile, which included an enthusiasm for hiking, cafes, and the Vista Ridge Community Center in Erie. “On Facebook, you can see everything else, like their kids and a puppy.”

By now, Lotan wasn’t just keeping track of the places this person frequently visited using anonymous smartphone location data: He had managed to crack their entire identity.

If a malicious actor were to obtain this GPS data–collected by any number of smartphone apps, and collected by big companies and startups, advertisers, and law enforcement, with little oversight–they could use it to manipulate or harass that person, or worse.

And then there’s this:

In 2013, researchers at MIT and the Université Catholique de Louvain in Belgium published a paper reporting on 15 months of study of human mobility data for over 1.5 million individuals. What they found is that only four spatio-temporal points are required to “uniquely identify 95% of the individuals.” The researchers concluded that there was very little privacy even in raw location data. Four years later, their calls for policies rectifying concerns about location tracking have fallen largely on deaf ears.

Clearly, there’s some legislation work that needs to be done about this. But more importantly, the article lists a few easy ways you can protect yourself from being found online, whether you’re using an iPhone or Android device.

I also don’t want to be the boy who shouted wolf — at least, not yet. Much of this is about protecting your data from advertisers, much of whom have obvious intent. But the real problem here is protecting yourself from hackers and other malicious actors who would be interested in obtaining your geo-location for more nefarious reasons.

Nobody is saying that these location-based features aren’t useful (at least, I’m not). But there’s a lot to be said about being careful about who you trust with this data.


The Sony Store

December 9 2016

The Verge has a really amazing article filled with pictures of Sony products from their exhibit in the Sony Building in Ginza, Tokyo.

These products are gorgeous. Here are a few that I’ve borrowed from Verge. All credit goes to Sam Byford, who I’m guessing took all the photographs.

Man, does this all have me reminiscing.

My home town doesn’t have an Apple Store in its mall, and the only place you could buy any of it in the early 2000s was driving over an hour to get to Toronto. Because of that, the closest thing we had to a “luxury technology store” in our area was the Sony Store. There were three of them within a thirty minute drive of us.

I loved that store. No matter which mall we were in, I would head down to the Sony Store and see what stuff they were working on. I did this even after I started using Macs and iPhones, because Sony was always so cool. Even when they were losing their lustre, they continued to experiment with the weirdest, coolest, and most expensive ideas.

The VAIOs were stunning. I wanted one when I was younger. To date, they are the only Windows computers I've ever seen that looked consistently elegant. I never owned one, but friends and family who had the pleasure of using them always told me how excellent they were compared to the rest of the market.

When I took a brief look at Windows laptops a couple months ago, I was sad the VAIO lineups weren’t what they were when I was a teenager. The “good old days”.

I don’t really know what happened to Sony. By all accounts, they did things right for a long time before veering off track. For a long time, even their weird stuff — like the MiniDisc Walkmen, one of which I owned — were really cool. They worked so well, and for their time, they oozed innovation and coolness.

For a couple years, walking around with a Sony Walkman was still the “cool thing” to do when I was in school. Until suddenly it wasn’t. The iPod became all the rage almost overnight.

The thing is, some of these Sony products wouldn’t look out of place in an Apple museum. These are beautiful machines.

I miss this version of Sony.


Thoughts on the New MacBooks

October 29 2016

About two weeks ago, I ordered a specced-out 12” MacBook. I had a good feeling that there’d be new MacBook Pros before the end of the month, and knew I could return the 12” within 14 days if I didn’t like it (or didn’t think it was powerful enough for my work).

This is going to be a little self-indulgent and very long, but buying an Apple laptop is a lot more complicated than it used to be.

To set this up a bit, I should explain a bit of what I do every day. I spend about 50% of the day plugged into a display, and 50% working with the laptop on my lap. Usually, I’m running iTunes, Mail, Codekit, Sketch, Coda, Safari, Chrome, TextWrangler, MAMP, iA Writer, and Transmit. At any given time, I might also be running a good chunk of Adobe’s apps: Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, or Experience Design. OS X, or macOS as it is now called, is integral to my workflow.

I need to replace my aging 2012 15” MacBook Pro. It was the first generation with Retina display, and at this point, it’s got a few issues of its own:

  • My display was one of the ones that suffered with the burn-in problem. I’m using my laptop more and more as a laptop these days, instead of solely plugging it into an external monitor, so that’s becoming a huge annoyance.
  • It’s really heavy and bulky at 4.5 pounds. This was great when I used it as a desktop that could become a portable if need be, but now that I use the machine as a portable that occasionally becomes a desktop (and I carry the laptop in my bag a lot), it’s way too heavy.
  • The video card is dying on the laptop. It’s getting really quirky, especially when it runs Adobe apps. The screen will go black randomly. Sometimes, when I boot the machine up, the screen is black until I reboot it (again). It’s frustrating. As a result, I’m never buying a computer with an independent graphics card again (unless I can easily replace it).
  • The battery is dead. If I’m writing, like I am right now, I can get about five or six hours out of it. If I’m doing any design work or coding, I get about two and a half — at most. I could pay Apple a few hundred bucks to fix this, but why bother? I can’t get them to easily swap out the video card, so it’d be more of a bandaid than a real problem.

Replacing the MacBook Pro meant it was time to look around. Last time I bought a computer, I knew immediately which one was right for me. These days, I’m not so sure.

My first inclination was that 12” MacBook. It’s an amazing little machine. Unlike most people, I love the keyboard on it. (I’m thrilled the keyboard is making its way to the new MacBook Pros.) But even at its top-end spec (which was over $2,000 in Canada!), it only comes with a 1.3ghz CPU.

I don’t really understand what all these numbers mean, although like anybody else, I understand the gist that higher is better. I suspected, with my limited knowledge of these things, that the 12” MacBook would be fine for most tasks. And it is, actually. I’ve read a lot of reviews and reports saying the machine is under-powered, but those are largely overblown.

But when things get bad, they get really bad.

Let me give you the quick five-step method to slow down the frame rate on a 12” MacBook:

  1. Run a code compiler in the background that automatically refreshes your development environment every time you make a change to the site’s code. (Codekit.)
  2. Have a local server running on your MacBook with something like MAMP.
  3. Open a 250mb Sketch file and get to work while you code.
  4. Open Photoshop to do some lightweight image editing and create assets for your website design. Leave Photoshop running in the background.
  5. Now use the computer as you normally would for a couple hours, leaving all this running. Things are fine. But suddenly, the computer slows down to about 12fps. This is called “thermal throttling,” and it’s an issue I encountered on day three of using the MacBook as a daily driver.

Thermal throttling occurs on the 12” model because it doesn’t have a fan. So while the laptop can do some tasks pretty quick for a brief period of time, it has no way to cool down when it starts to heat up. Which means that it has to slow down.

Anyway, the 12” MacBook was a no go for me. It’d be great if I had a desktop and only used it on the road, but it won’t work as a daily driver.

So back to square one.

On Thursday, Apple announced the new MacBook Pros. They’re more or less what I wanted: thinner, lighter, still packing more than enough power to do what I want every day.

But I’m a little confused by my options.

Here are your options if you want to get work done on an Apple laptop these days:

  • The 12” Macbook. In Canada, it starts at $1,649. This price has gone up since I purchased it two weeks ago, actually, by $100. Ouch. Unless you’re an office worker or just need a laptop for use on the go when you’re away from your main machine, it’s sadly a little underpowered.
  • The 13” MacBook Air. In Canada, it starts at $1,199. Expensive, somewhat powerful — good enough for just about everybody, I think. I could make do with it. But it has a low-resolution screen. I wish Apple would axe this and lower the cost of the 12” MacBook.
  • The old MacBook Pros. Pass. Too heavy, too bulky, and definitely not the new hotness. If I wanted one of these, I would have bought one two weeks ago. Oh, and their price hasn’t gone down in the wake of the new laptops. They’re even more expensive than before. So why bother?
  • The 13” MacBook Pro, without a Touch Bar. In Canada, it starts at a poop-your-pants price of $1,899. It’s supposed to be the Air replacement (it has a smaller footprint and weighs more or less the same). It’s less powerful than the MacBook Pro with the Touch Bar, and once you spec it up to comparable-ish levels, the prices are on par. So, this seems like an oddly-positioned tweener device. I thought about order this, but when I can pay the same amount for the MacBook Pro with the new Touch Bar and upgraded RAM, why wouldn’t I?
  • The 13” and 15” MacBook Pro, with a Touch Bar. This is the new hotness. In Canada, the 13” starts at a “sell-your-kidney” $2,299. I got the “my-wallet-is-bleeding” mid-tier model with 512GB of storage and 16GB of RAM (a necessity in design these days). The 13” version is, again, smaller than a MacBook Air — and they weigh the same amount.

Of course, I could always go Windows. I actually walked down to the Microsoft Store yesterday and tried out the Surface Book (the Surface Studio wasn’t available for demo yet). It’s a very nice laptop, but I don’t like the way the stylus feels in my hand. I also don’t like the space between the screen and the keyboard, even when the laptop is closed — that hinge is so weird! I’d spend most of my days cleaning dirt, dust, and hair out of the keyboard as a result. Plus, I still hate Windows. So I’m skipping this too.

Am I happy with the options? Mostly. Oddly, it seems to me that laptop prices are climbing — particularly the prices for professional machines. If the prices hadn’t changed from one generation to the next, I think we’d have a great set of new laptops from Apple.

Consider this: you can buy a decent Chromebook for a couple hundred bucks, but top-of-the-line computers from both Apple and Microsoft are climbing towards $3,000 and above. I don’t get it.

I remember balking at the price for my 15” MacBook Pro in 2012. The price then, with the extra storage space I got in my model, was just over $3,000. The laptop I’m getting now is nearly the same price, and has arguably fewer features: I’m not getting a video card, there are fewer ports, and MagSafe isn’t a thing anymore.

I don’t think Apple has lost its direction. I think Microsoft is finding their mojo, and everybody’s competing to make a really great laptop for pro users, instead of a laptop that delivers exclusively on specs. For the old guard of PC users, this all seems confusing and gimmicky. To me, it’s just plain old expensive.

But I need a new laptop. So here I am.

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September 11 2016

Last week, Apple announced they were removing the headphone jack for their new iPhone. It wasn’t the first time they removed an “essential” feature; most of us remember losing the floppy drive, disc drives, Ethernet ports, and even the traditional file system (on iPad and iPhone).

News like this usually doesn’t pan out well, but this time it was particularly tone-deaf. When Marketing SVP Phil Schiller said they were removing the headphone jack because they had “courage,” I think the internet broke. I’ve never seen Twitter turn anything into a meme so quickly.

But it wasn’t the first time Apple had used that line.

Full credit to 9to5Mac for noticing this first, but Steve Jobs once said something similar. Here’s a link to the YouTube video that’s been making the rounds this weekend. If you can’t watch it, or don’t have the time for it, here’s a quick transcription (again, courtesy of 9to5Mac):

We’re trying to make great products for people, and we have at least the courage of our convictions to say we don’t think this is part of what makes a great product, we’re going to leave it out. Some people are going to not like that, they’re going to call us names […] but we’re going to take the heat [and] instead focus our energy on these technologies which we think are in their ascendancy and we think are going to be the right technologies for customers. And you know what? They’re paying us to make those choices […] If we succeed, they’ll buy them, and if we don’t, they won’t, and it’ll all work itself out.

Apple didn’t have to say anything different when they debuted the iPhone 7 last Wednesday. Steve already said it perfectly.

I don’t think Apple is doomed, and I don’t think they’re any worse for wear without Jobs. These marketing blunders can happen to anyone. Apple is the world’s largest company, and they put good design at the core of everything they do — but sometimes, they can’t get their own story straight. Jobs was great at that.

The thing is, Jobs knew it’s not always what you say. It’s how you say it. There’s a lesson to be learned here, and it’s pretty simple: choose your words carefully.

Even Apple picks the wrong words sometimes.

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Thoughts on Todo List Apps

December 15 2015

Most digital todo lists suck. I’m sure you’re aware of this. I’m certain you’ve probably spent hours combing through tips on LifeHacker about how to organize the chaos of your life with “this one simple app that will blow your mind.” Or maybe you’re like me and you’ve bent over backwards to fit your workflow into somebody else’s expensive dystopian view of getting things done.

I don’t need to tell you that task management apps suck.

But I need to share this because nobody is saying it, and we’re all pretending like we’re organized, but the truth of the matter is that the people who make these apps must have nothing to do — because their apps don’t work for busy people. So this post is for them.

I only need one thing from a todo list: to tell me what I should be working on right now. And when I’m done that, what’s the next thing I can do?

That’s it. No gimmicks. It’s that simple.

Yes, all your extra features, like sub-tasks of a sub-project inside a project within an area of responsibility in the context of ‘Phone Calls’ are all well and good, but if you cannot give me a high-level look at what needs working on today, don’t bother.1

This isn’t just about what’s due: it’s about what’s important, what’s in progress and what big-picture project I should be working on. If I need to finish a project by Friday and it will take three days, then it should show up in a special Today view as early as Wednesday and not leave the Today view until it’s done, even if it’s overdue by three months and a day.

My task management app should be about managing what’s important, making changes to the unimportant on the fly, and getting crap done.

For reference, this is where I’m storing all the crap I need to do now.

Note: This post was originally called ‘I Tried Every Todo List App So You Don’t Have To’. I changed it for the sake of brevity, not because it’s untrue. I think I did try almost every todo app on the market for iOS and the web.

  1. If you plan on making a todo app, the second-most important feature is not fiddle-daddles like sub-projects and nesting. It’s making your information hierarchy really bloody obvious. Even some of the most famously simple task management apps fail at this. ↩︎
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