Love my new MacBook Pro M1 Pro 14-inch

This is my first new computer in 8 years. I ordered it right after the presentation on October 19, and it arrived yesterday. I can’t think of a negative thing to say about it. It’s blazingly fast compared to my late 2013 MacBook Pro retina 13-inch.

I ordered the base model, plus upped the RAM to 32 GB (compared to 16 GB on my old computer) and increased the internal storage to 2 TB (compared to 512 GB on my old computer). This was important because I couldn’t even fit my Photos library on my internal drive anymore; it had been on an external SSD. Photos app is much quicker now, and it will make backups going forward easier too.

Using the Migration Assistant it was very straightforward to migrate my data by connecting my Time Machine drive to the new MBP using a nifty, lightweight, inexpensive adapter I got that includes three USB ports and an Thunderbolt 3 compatible Ethernet connector, replacing the old Apple Thunderbolt 2 Ethernet connector I had. It works very well. My network speed is great, and I am able to connect my external drive and my old hub with the Time Machine drive and Carbon Copy Cloner drive to it.

Absolutely no problems so far. It’s beautiful, bright, and did I say fast? It’s amazingly fast compared to my 2013 computer. Everything is like instantaneous.

Here are some photos, with some more details.

The box arrived! That’s Pao’s stuff under the dining room table. The box itself is unusually sturdy, with thick walls. I only mention it because I’d never seen such a nicely constructed cardboard box before.
Removing the seal.
Opening the box. Apparently there’s some controversy over the non-illuminated new black logo, but I think it looks great.
There has also been some debate about the new MBP because it’s thicker than those of recent years. But it’s actually slightly thinner than my 2013 version. Part of this has to do with restoring the kind of keyboard people like and more ports.
It handles fine even with one hand. The weight is about the same as my 2013 model.
Ports on the left side: MagSafe power connector, two Thunderbolt 4 ports, and a headphone jack.
Ports on the right side: An SD card slot, one Thunderbolt 4 connector, and and HDMI connector. So the total number of ports is actually one less than on my old MBP, but the new ports are more flexible.
The charger “brick” – about the same size as my old one, but 67 W instead of 60 W. Apple also offers a larger 97 W charging brick, and people who got it seem to be complaining about how large and bulky it is. I’m good with this one.
Everybody seems to love the new MagSafe cable, which is textured, instead of just a plain plastic covering like the old ones.
Opening the new MBP for the first time. It still has a protective screen sheet on it. The MBP was sent fully charged and chimed and started running as soon as I opened the lid.
I hooked up my Time Machine external drive and started the migration assistant. It took about 5-6 hours to finish transferring 500 GB of data and over 2 million files, but worked without a hitch.
This is the very lightweight, inexpensive, multipurpose cable/adaptor I got that includes an Ethernet connector to attach to my router, and three USB plugs for attaching old drives and whatever. Works great.

Here’s a link to purchase the Uni adaptor from Amazon (note, this is an affiliate link). But I do highly recommend it.

Ethernet speed is at least as good as it was with the original Apple Thunderbolt 2 to Ethernet adapter I had – 760 Mbps download / 861 Mbps upload on my home fiber optic: https://www.speedtest.net/my-result/d/367497809

My new 2021 MBP on the left, and my old 2013 MBP on the right.
Even though the body is about the same size and weight (it’s even a little thinner), the new display is larger (14-inch vs 13-inch) and much brighter. I haven’t experienced some of the new specs like 120 Hz motion yet, but the display really is beautiful. There’s a notch now (which I don’t notice) for the improved FaceTime camera, which I haven’t tested yet.
The keyboard is beautiful. The top row are full-sized function keys, instead of half-height like on my old MBP, and in the top right is a TouchID sensor, which has already come in handy when opening up certain settings that require extra security. No need to manually enter your computer password each time.
Here’s my new MBP on my desk, in front of the external display.

Anyway, I have most things up and running now. I needed to update Chrome to the Apple Silicon version (otherwise it would use Rosetta), and I still haven’t set up BackBlaze to “inherit” my old Mac’s backup. And I really don’t know what’s new in MacOS Monterey yet. But so far it’s great.

There’s this cute article somebody recommended that semi-sarcastically skips over the last 5 years of MacBook Pros, with various keyboard and port complaints, and praises this new MBP from the viewpoint of many years ago. It’s a fun read, so check it out. I didn’t have any of those intermediate versions, so it’s all good to me!

I do think I will change the new default screensaver though. It looks sort of apocalyptic when swirling.

Anyway, it’s fun to have a new computer after all these years. Now to get some work done!

iPhone AppleCare+ with theft and loss coverage costs much more in the U.S. than in Japan

AppleCare+ is a must for me. It has saved me countless times – and not just with battery upgrades. I think it’s worth the cost. In fact, for my four year old iPhone X, after the two year initial subscription ran out I continued on the monthly subscription and have already had one battery upgrade since then, done by Apple.

It’s also given me two Apple Watch replacements so far, and saved my MacBook Pro a few times, when it was still under warranty.

Anyway, it’s a good security blanket.

I was thinking of upgrading to a new iPhone 13 Pro this year. They are back-ordered, and I still haven’t entered my order. But the camera is much improved, and the screen is so much nicer that I think I might go that way. I’m really into taking photos.

While comparing prices between the U.S. and Japan I was struck by how much more expensive AppleCare+ with theft and loss coverage (an extra option) is in the United States compared with Japan. Take a look at these screenshots from the Apple online shop in both countries.

As you can see, the two year standard AppleCare+ coverage in the US is $199. That’s 22,680 yen. But look how much it goes up if you add theft and loss protection – $269. That’s $70 extra. And that total comes to 30,657 yen.

Now take a look at the Japan prices for the same coverage.

For the standard two year AppleCare+ the cost is 24,800 yen. That’s $217. So the standard AppleCare+ protection is slightly higher in Japan – $18 more. Spread out over two years that’s a $0.75/month difference.

But look at what it costs to add theft and loss protection in Japan – just an extra 2,000 yen = $17! So the total with theft and loss protection is 26,800 yen = $235. Considerably less than the U.S. cost.

Monthly also, if you add theft and loss protection in the U.S. it’s an extra $3.50, which is $84 over two years. In Japan, the monthly extra charge is just 100 yen = $0.88, which comes to just $21 over two years.

My thoughts, all kidding aside, are: (1) there is less personal theft in Japan and (2) lost items are almost always returned to the owner or turned into police stations or lost and founds. I guess that reflects in the insurance coverage costs.

Safe backups – at home and in the cloud

I work at home, so my home office computer backups are critical. My main computer is a Mac and I maintain three backups:

(1) CCC (Carbon Copy Cloner). I highly recommend this software which does a daily backup of my internal drive to an external USB drive. In an emergency I can restore from that, or even boot from it.

(2) Time Machine. This is the standard MacOS hourly/daily/weekly backup of all changed files to another external USB drive. USB drives are very inexpensive these days. This is useful for retrieving old versions of files you changed if you want to revert.

Also note that neither Time Machine nor CCC will backup external volumes. In my case, my Photos library lives on an external SSD drive. Also, iCloud is not recommended for backups – it is a syncing app. And while I also use Google Photos I have the “optimized” option selected, so my full originals are not backed up there either.

(3) Backblaze. This is a backup in the cloud, that also runs continuously throughout the day. The monthly/annual fees are very reasonable and it supports unlimited backups of your Mac or PC, including all drives connected to your computer. Why have a cloud backup in addition to other backups? The other backups assume no problems at your home or office such as earthquakes (like the large one we had last week), or fires, or robberies, or broken drives. You can easily retrieve individual files or your entire drive. I’ve been using them for years now and their service has been excellent.

I unabashedly give you this referral link if you want to try the Backblaze service. If you use it, we both get a free month! https://secure.backblaze.com/r/01a6d3

Backup early, backup often. Just in case.

My most recent Backblaze summary screenshot

My new wireless, bone conducting headphones

First, let me start by saying I’m not exactly an audiophile. My needs are simple – I just want to listen to music during dog walks and when outside without getting all tangled up in cords. And I wanted to be safe and still be able to hear traffic and other sounds around me. And I wanted to be able to answer and make phone calls through a headphone and have it sound nice to both people speaking.

First I tried the Apple AirPods Pro. They are definitely nice. The sound is beautiful. But there were a couple of things which bothered me. One is that in the store, even in transparency mode, I couldn’t hear what the salesman was saying. And while it seemed to be the most comfortable of ear buds I have tried, I wouldn’t say they were really comfortable. I wasn’t confident about them staying in either. Version 2 are an improvement over the first version though. The stem is shorter, so you don’t stand out like some alien with them on.

There were a couple of others recommended by people on social networks. So I visited Akihabara last week and dropped by an earphone speciality shop on Chuo Dori.

First I tried the Jabra Elite Active 75t earbuds. All the Jabra earbuds have a great reputation, and people in forums highly praised these. However I found them to be (1) uncomfortable and (2) the surrounding sound blockage was too much even with the open mode. Still, they are high quality earbuds for people who don’t mind earbuds. If things in your ear don’t bother you, I think they can be recommended.

Another highly recommended model was the ADV Model Y – it doesn’t have active noise cancelation, and is a lot less expensive. But again, I found them uncomfortable. Still if you are looking for something very economical, and don’t mind earbuds, you might consider those as well.

I guess I’m really just not a stick-something-in-my-ear person.

But I didn’t want to carry around a bulky, heavy over-the-head, full headset for dog walks. I wanted something light and small and easy to just slip on and use. Something easier even than my Apple default earbuds (which seem to automatically tangle their own cords). And something safe to use while walking around.

While in the earphone shop I also tried another recommended headset, the AfterShokz Aeropex and wow! It was my first time to try bone conducting earphones. I was amazed.

First, the music I listened to sounded beautiful. If you look at true audiophile reviews they will caution that the music quality isn’t nearly as good as true professional headsets. Some recommend it for things like calls while driving and audio books. I get that. As I said, I’m not a real audiophile. If the bass is turned up I usually think music sounds great. So take my music impression with a grain of salt. They sound better than the standard Apple earbuds though for sure.

Unlike all the earbuds I tried, I could safely hear surrounding sounds.

While in the shop I tested with a phone call to a friend and we both heard each other perfectly. So I got them!

Out and about with my Aeropex bone conducting headphones – light and unobtrusive. Not in or over my ear!

I’ve also since tested with FaceTime calls to my sister (Cathy is awake 24 hours a day for this kind of tech support) and making phone calls and leaving myself phone messages to hear what they sound like. When on a FaceTime call with my sister it was like she was sitting here.

They are light – just 26 grams – and fit very comfortably, even with me wearing glasses and a mask. One huge improvement over AirPods is they have an 8 hours use time with a 10 day standby. I’ve only charged them one time since getting them, and currently when I turn them on the headphones say, “Power on. Charge medium.”

They charge with a USB connection, so I believe on a very long airplane flight it would be easy to recharge. AfterShokz provides two special charging cables. On the headphone side the connection is magnetic so it’s super easy to connect.

The controls are also very simple for things like pause, skip ahead, answer calls, change volume, pairing, etc.

Just slip them over your ears – not in them – and you hear sound via bone conduction.

This part was almost dreamlike. On dog walks not only do I barely notice they are there, but when I listen to music it’s like I’m in a movie and it’s my background music. The feeling is one of calmness and a certain elation. Almost like feeling high (in a Colorado Rocky Mountain High sense). I’m discovering more music lately as well with my three month trial Amazon Music Unlimited subscription.

Other specs are: dual noise-canceling mics for clear calls (I’m amazed how well those work, considering how far away they are from my mouth); IP67 Waterproof Rating – Completely sweat and waterproof earphones for workouts, fitness and running. I even saw some videos on YouTube of people dropping them in water.

Anyway, as I said, I’m not an audiophile. What I am is a typical daily user, dog walker, and somebody who wanted to make more use of music on my iPhone while out and about. I wanted something lightweight, without cords, unobtrusive, that wouldn’t fall out, wasn’t outrageously expensive, and something I didn’t have to stick in my ears.

I find the AfterShokz Aeropex great for that. Maybe for very long international plane flights I’ll consider something over-the-ear with extremely long battery life later (it’s a 14 hour flight from Narita to Boston), but for day to day use I find these great so far.

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