A few weeks ago I was wondering if I still needed a Kindle. The one I used often in India hadn’t been opened since we returned to America last December. Everything has changed now that we can borrow physical books for free from our nearby public library. My kids and I enjoy a physical book more than an electronic version.

Then I decided one night that I’d like to read the Game of Thrones books (having never watched any of the shows). Since the library was closed I did what we used to do in India. Open up the Libby app on my phone, check out the Kindle version of the first book in the series using my library membership and have it sent to my Kindle Paperwhite to start reading.

After a day or two of reading I noticed this upgrade message on my Kindle when opening it up:

Upgrade to new Kindle message

Hmm, I normally like upgrading my devices. I’ve had this Kindle for at least 6 years which seems kind of long for a device.

Then I read this recent review from Jason Snell about two new Kindles from Amazon. The higher resolution on the new Paperwhite is appealing. I don’t think I’ve ever used the Kindle around water so the waterproofing isn’t that compelling for me.

The upgrade offer from Amazon seems to be 25% off a new Kindle and up to a $25 Amazon gift card. That could be $57 savings on the new Kindle Paperwhite. Tempting. But that still means I’d have to spend $73 I wasn’t planning to spend on a device only weeks before I was wondering if I even needed.

Common sense won out, and for now I’ve decided there’s no need to upgrade just because my still working but rarely used Kindle is over 6 years old and the new one has sharper resolution. My local public library keeps saving me money even on electronic devices.

After getting my new Mac mini, this is the process I went through to set it up for the first time. I’ve heard that on Macs these days it is really easy and reliable to use Migration Assistant to transfer your stuff from your old Mac to the new one. However, I still like the idea of setting everything up from scratch so there’s nothing unwanted or unnecessary transferred over. I also had the time to do it as I’m still using my MacBook for work and travel so I didn’t need to quickly get the mini up and running.

  • After turning the mini on I skipped the part for connecting to a wi-fi network. I wanted to do some other things first before having the computer connected to the internet.
  • Open System Preferences and make various customizations, like setting my desktop and dock preferences, selecting hot corners, enabling the firewall, turning on FileVault, etc.
  • Set my Finder and Desktop preferences. For Finder preferences I change what folder new Finder windows will show and what items appear in the sidebar. For the desktop I set the icon size and spacing, sort order by kind, and tick to show item info.
  • Connect the computer to my wi-fi network.
  • Run System Updates for any OS updates that might be there.
  • Open Safari and customize the app preferences.
  • Install 1Password.
  • Sign in to iCloud to download and sync the various services I use. Currently that is: iCloud Drive, Photos shared albums, Calendars, Reminders, Safari and Notes.
  • Open the App Store to check for updates and install apps that I previously downloaded and still want to use through the App Store. There’s not many of those outside of Apple’s built in apps like Pages, Numbers, etc. This time I re-downloaded: Day One, Pixelmator, Monity, and Ghostery Lite.
  • Download and install some of the main apps I use regularly. Any other apps I would download and install later when needed. The initial apps I first installed were:
    • Dropbox
    • Alfred
    • BusyCal
    • Chrome
    • Zoom
    • Tunnelbear
    • Banktivity
  • Connect an external hard drive and set up Time Machine.
    • Later on I would also set up Backblaze on the Mac mini but I was still using it on my MacBook. After the mini was all setup I found this article to figure out how to start using Backblaze on the new computer without having to re-upload all my data again.
  • Open Mail and add my email account. I probably would have done this sooner if I needed to get this machine up and running as my main work computer.
  • Open Contacts and add my two accounts I use for syncing contacts since I currently don’t use iCloud for that.
  • Setup iTunes. On my MacBook Pro I had my iTunes library installed on an SD card using a Nifty Minidrive in the SD card slot. I copied the music folder from this drive and used that to add my music files to the new iTunes library on my Mac mini. These are all my old mp3 files ripped from CDs back in the day before I used Spotify. I don’t use playlists much on iTunes and any TV shows or movies I’ve already got backed up on an external drive so those can be added later when needed.
  • Setup Photos. I copied the Photos library file from my MacBook Pro onto an external drive to transfer it over to the mini. I then opened that library file up with Photos on the mini and everything was just as I had it on the laptop. I don’t use iCloud photos other than for shared albums, so I still manually import photos from my phone to the Photos app and just use Google Photos for free cloud backup.
  • Transfer my Desktop and Documents folders. My final step in getting the new Mac mini ready to fully use as my main computer was copying the files from my Desktop and Documents folders on the MacBook Pro over to the mini.

I’m sure everyone’s list for doing this would look quite different depending on their needs and uses. This worked for me and was fun to set up. It’s been a while since setting up a brand new Mac so I wanted to write this down to help me remember it. Also I’m curious to see how much changes the next time I end up doing this whenever that may happen.

A few months ago I moved back to America after working overseas in India and I was ready to replace my 2012 13″ MacBook Pro Retina. It has been a great laptop and I never thought I’d get over 6 years of use out of it. I’ve been using MacBooks at home and work since 2007 and first considered purchasing a MacBook Pro or MacBook Air. But all the reports I’ve read about the MacBook keyboard problems didn’t give me confidence to invest a good amount of money in one of those.

I decided to shop for a desktop Mac instead. I wasn’t going to be traveling as much for work and it seemed to offer more for your money than a laptop plus no keyboard issues. I assumed this would be an iMac as those looked great. The only problem was they hadn’t been updated in a long, long time. So I waited and hoped they might get an update before the summer or fall. When I saw the news in March that the iMacs were finally updated I was ready to go spend some money! But then I noticed the updated ones didn’t have the new T2 processor all the new Macs have had since the iMac Pro was released at the end of 2017. And all the models started with spinning disk hard drives and not SSD. Upgrading to a faster SSD was going to be expensive.

This led me to reconsider my options. I thought again about the new MacBook Air, especially since it has Touch ID built in. But I came across another of those keyboard complaints that almost make you want to switch to a Windows device. Then I looked at the Mac mini page. Apple does a pretty good job making that little box look appealing. I hadn’t considered it before because I didn’t like the idea of having to buy all the peripherals like monitor, keyboard, mouse, etc. separately.

When faced with a decision of picking various options that I wasn’t sure about, I did the most natural thing I could think of: make a spreadsheet and compare all of them side by side. I compared a Mac mini and 27″ iMac with the same processor and a 512GB SSD and 16GB of RAM. I added in the additional costs for the mini with a 27″ 4K monitor, keyboard, mouse (later decided on the Magic Trackpad), and webcam. I noticed AppleCare was slightly less for the mini than the iMac ($99 vs $169). There was a $50 discount for this configuration of the mini at Adorama, and no discount yet available for the new iMacs on either Adorama or B&H Photo. My price comparison had the mini at just over $200 cheaper than the iMac.

I also compared the features and ports available on each computer. Things in favor of the mini were the T2 processor, two more USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 ports and an HDMI port. For the iMac there was an SDXC card reader and it offered a better GPU and screen. To me, the items on Mac mini side carried more weight. I don’t fully understand all the technical benefits of the T2 processor, but I felt like if I’m buying a brand new Apple computer in 2019 then I want their latest technology in it. The mini seemed to offer that now and unfortunately the iMac doesn’t. It may be a better buy next year if it gets updated, but I didn’t want to wait another year.

Something else I liked about the mini as I considered my options was how flexible it may be in the future with adding updated peripherals to it. If Apple ever makes a new monitor with Face ID built-in that isn’t outrageously expensive then I could update my screen and keep the original one as a second monitor. Having two more Thunderbolt 3 ports is helpful in not needing to buy a dock and being able to add additional fast SSD storage on an external drive down the road. I like being able to buy a new Mac in 2019 with USB-C ports but not need to buy any dongles since the mini (and also my monitor) have USB-A ports.

In the end I decided to go with the Mac mini and so far I’m happy with my purchase.