My Early Christmas Gifts

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

I found a cure for the pandemic lockdown blues. Online shopping. I started clicking the buy button back in early November, bogging down Safari with megabytes of product page HTTP cookies. But after buying gifts for my spouse and grandson, I found it difficult to stop.

I felt a sudden urge to buy the iPhone SE 2020. I mean, that iPhone XR stretching the lining of my pocket just seemed so heavy. And how could I sleep at night knowing I could never upgrade my 2012 MacBook Pro to Big Sur? Clearly, it was time for a new Mac.

As a result, Christmas came early for me. I may not have bought the latest cutting edge tamales, but I got what I wanted, and I don't have to wait for 25 December to play with my new Apple toys.

My New iPhone SE 2020

The science museum in Seattle has a set of tables and chairs that are twice as big as normal. When I climbed into the chair, I felt as tiny as one of Santa's elves. My head was only inches above the table's surface.

I felt that same diminutive sensation when I upgraded to the iPhone XR back in 2019.

I had used a smaller iPhone for six years, starting with the iPhone 5 in 2013, and then the original iPhone SE in early 2016. Smartphones were trending larger, but the original iPhone SE packed most of the iPhone 6 features into the slim iPhone 5 form factor.

The ginormous iPhone XR made me feel like I was a kid holding a grownup's phone. It was heavy enough to use as a weapon. If I managed to squeeze it into the front pocket of my jeans, sitting became a real challenge.

I missed the home button immediately. Even after eighteen months of use, the swipe up home gesture felt awkward.

And although Apple supposedly put in a fix, my pandemic mask continued to confound Face ID. I discovered the inadequacy of Apple's fix when Apple Pay failed during a recent visit to a local coffee shop. As the baristas noisily prepared shots of espresso and steamed milk, I was unable to hear VoiceOver prompt me for my passcode. Compounding the embarrassment, I'd already told my coffee buddy it would be my treat. Touch ID never had this problem.

I wanted my small phone back. I wanted my home button and Touch ID again. So when the iPhone SE 2020 came out, I was overjoyed.

Switching over to the new phone went well. Settings from the old phone are automatically migrated if you leave your old phone turned on and keep it nearby. These settings include Bluetooth pairings, and having my Bluetooth keyboard automatically paired with the new phone made entering my Apple ID Password much easier.

I'd love to use the phone without a case, but it's too slippery. I bought a clear plastic TPU case, the most minimal case available. It makes the phone noticeably thicker, but preserves the design aesthetics.

Am I happy with my early Christmas gift? Yes! Here's why I love the iPhone SE 2020.

  • It's the same slim size and weight as the iPhone 8. I put this phone in my pocket and hardly know it's there. It is smaller, thinner and lighter by far than my old iPhone XR.
  • It has the A13 processor, a step up from both the iPhone 8 A11 chip and the iPhone XR A12 chip.
  • I've got my home button and Touch ID back.

The iPhone SE doesn't support 5g, but that's not an issue for me because I'm usually on a wifi. As other AppleVis members have noted, the iPhone SE 2020 has a less-capable battery. Like the lack of 5g support, this is a problem I'm willing to overlook. I don't remember the last time I spent the night somewhere that didn't have a power outlet.

Thanks for the iPhone SE 2020, Santa! As for my old iPhone XR, I cleaned it and put it back in its original box. It will make a nice Christmas gift for my coffee buddy.

Jurassic Laptop

Long ago, before the proliferation of today's thin computing devices, primordial laptops roamed the earth. We know their characteristics from fossil evidence: hard disks, noisy and heavy; bulky CD/DVD drives; and a row of enigmatic tactile function keys.

After Apple's release of the PowerBook 100 Series in 1991, the following twenty-one years of evolution refined and streamlined the laptop, reaching its pinnacle in the incredibly popular 2012 MacBook Pro.

Do you remember it? The futuristic aluminum finish … the Intel processor and graphics … the two unblinking USB-A ports … the built-in Superdrive? It reigned supreme, the king of laptops. I had the 13-inch model, light as a feather by standards of that era.

The laptops that followed took more radical evolutionary paths. Their hard drives were replaced with SSDs, thunderbolt subjugated the USB ports. The CD/DVD drive vanished as if they'd been struck by a meteor. No one thought a laptop with a touch bar could thrive, but they seem to have found their ecological niche.

I was not surprised when Apple dropped support for my 2012 MacBook Pro with the release of Big Sur. But in spite of its age, it's still a capable computer. I plan to use it for years to come, running Debian Linux.

(As a side note, the evolution of computer technology is a truly fascinating subject. Did you know that every modern computer, every iOS device, and every ultra-thin laptop of today can trace its lineage to a computing machine called the ABC, developed in Ames Iowa in the early 1940s? For the curious, I recommend The Man Who Invented the Computer by Jane Smiley, available from Apple Books.)

My New Mac Mini

I wanted to move to Big Sur, but I wasn't ready for an M1 chip. That's why I purchased a refurbished 2018 Mac Mini.

Let me say up-front. I'm sure the M1 systems are awesome computers. But as someone who uses Windows and Linux in addition to Mac OS, I'm reluctant to buy a system that runs only one operating system. A refurbished Intel-based Mac Mini might not be for everyone, but it was the computer for me.

Buying an Apple refurb was like buying a brand new machine. Opening the box emoted exuberance comparable to disassembling an elegant Chinese puzzle. Every component snuggled in its space as if grown in an H. R. Giger bio-mechanical world. After unpacking the computer and cable from their shape-matching cavities, I congratulated myself on what felt like a successful anatomical dissection.

The joy of removing this beautiful product from its artistic packaging was followed by an agonizing wait for the delivery of a thunderbolt to VGA adapter. You read that right. VGA. Counting the Mac Mini, I have four computers that share a common keyboard, mouse, and monitor through a VGA-based switch box. As a VoiceOver user, I don't need a monitor, but I occasionally find it convenient to use my remaining crappy vision. Besides, I understand the Mac Mini needs to at least think it's connected to a monitor and therefore requires some kind of adapter regardless.

Once the adapter arrived, I decided to use the US Thanksgiving holiday to get my new computer up and running. I figured the Mac could work its way through set up while I worked my way through a plate of food.

Does anyone else have trouble selecting a wifi network during set up? As I arrowed through the list of networks in my neighborhood, focus seemed to jump randomly out of the list of networks and into the password field.

Migrating my settings from my old computer is just a bit confusing, and I do it so rarely that I never become comfortable with it. But after a few dead ends, false starts, and long waits, I was finally up and running.

Once on the Mac Mini, I discovered AppleScript could no longer control VoiceOver, inhibiting my script to announce the time. This was easy to enable in VoiceOver Utility. After I used the new system for a while, I discovered none of my security permissions had transferred. I'll assume there's a good reason for this, and that it's not a bug.

Otherwise, things are running fine. I'm writing this article on my Mac Mini. I'm a happy Apple customer. Thanks for my 2018 refurbished Mac Mini, Santa!

A Christmas to Remember, but Never Repeat

Many of us, myself included, have experienced real loss over the past year. A phone or FaceTime call with family is no substitute for a holiday dinner with all the fixings. It's a challenge to feel the spirit of the season while in quarantine. This Christmas will be one to remember—and hopefully never repeat.

While there's no upside to a global pandemic, I managed to use my extra free time to get my shopping done early, not just for my family and friends, but also for myself. The only thing I'll need to remember is to sit out milk and cookies on Christmas Eve.

For all of you in the AppleVis community, I wish you a safe holiday season. May the circumstances not hinder your warmth and good cheer.

Blog Tags



Submitted by Bobette on Monday, November 30, 2020

Paul Martz’s new Applevis article was excellent. It makes me want to ditch my iPhone X and run out and buy the SE. nice job, Paul.

Submitted by Dawn 👩🏻‍🦯 on Tuesday, December 1, 2020

You sound like me! I bought myself something for Christmas early too. But not something materialistic. Instead I went and paid $5 for an ebook for my kindle app for a book that's in one of my all-time favorite series. That just got released recently.
I think we all deserve to buy ourselves @ least one thing for Christmas this year. Whether it be a new phone, or an ebook or something else digital. Think of it as your reward for putting up with the horror show that was 2020. I'm not saying go beyond your means. But buy what you can afford. Whether it be a new tech toy or an album from iTunes from a favorite artist that finally came out or whatever.

Submitted by Khushi on Tuesday, December 1, 2020

have a safe, healthy and amazing holiday season everyone at applevis :)
possibly I can count it as a christmas gift though I don't celibrate christmas.. I bought 2 audio books this christmas and mine was early too. as someone who loves books and being bookish, that's the perfect gift I'd ever have :) that too because I'm not an audible member and those books were on sale!
amazing and interesting read as always.
I do love christmas songs, though. have been listenning to them since 29th November.
:) they make me miss reading all the christmas chapters I have ever read in books and possibly some day I can witness an actual christmas because after all its fasinating :)

Submitted by Morgan Watkins on Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

Howdy Paul,

This was a warm, fun and truly thoughtful piece. It started out making me smile with the knowledge that you have a grandson and then went to your feelings about the iPhone Xr, which I happen to share. I also thought you did a great job of "selling" the SE2020. I also have an older Mac mini, but I now use my iPhone for all things computing.

And, I absolutely share your sentiment about 2020 and the impact it has had on everyone. I really liked the way you shared your feelings and your best wishes to all.

Paul, this was a superb blog. Thanks for sharing it with all of us.

Warm wishes,


Submitted by Jessica Diaz on Wednesday, December 2, 2020

So, when my amazing iPhone 11 pro broke in Oct. after getting smashed under a recliner, I was desperate for a new one. Can we say everything I do even logging in to my work PC is through my iPhone? I thought wow, it might be nice to have an iPhone home button again. Swiping sometimes doesn't work and sometimes I wonder if face ID gets confused or do I really look that different when I try to use it around the home. Well, the SE 2020 was such a good buy I took the plunge. Man did I miss my face ID after only a day. The home button for me seems such a step back. I just sold my SE 2020 to an awesome friend and got the 12 mini. That is the perfect size for me and will serve me for many many years. Love that you got your tech toys early though. We need a little joy right now.

Submitted by PaulMartz on Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

Wouldn't it be great to have a phone that uses both - or either - Face ID and Touch ID? Continuing on my theme of computers evolving over time, I don't think we'll have to wait long. The devices of the future will be smart enough to know us from multiple biological metrics. We truly live in fascinating technological times.

Submitted by Ekaj on Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Paul, thanks for this excellent blog post. I'm definitely going to try and get that book linked to in this post. As for me, I just might be in the market for one of those new Macs. I read a review elsewhere on here last week, and they sound promising. A sister of mine and her tutor called Apple Support a few weeks ago about an issue with her Mac, and the guy told them something that I think applies to me as well. I'm paraphrasing here, but he basically told them that Big Sur is probably the last major update for both of our current Macs. I got mine at the end of 2013, and she got hers in 2015. They are both MacBook Airs, with hers being an 11-inch and mine being a 13-inch. I think the other thing to keep in mind here is that this sister is not as good with computers and AT as me and our brother. No offense of course is intended, but this is just how it is due to circumstances totally beyond her control. I have an iPhone 7, and I've gotten mixed responses when I asked whether it is necessary to upgrade to a different model in order to have a memory increase. The 3rd-party apps that I currently have on my iPhone are awesome, but I have a few more apps in mind.

a lot better.
and that's the reason I want to carry on with my IPhone 6s for as long as it can serve me till this news comes. though I'd like a small size like 12 minny or the current one I have cause I dislike large/big phones.
I know one thing. the phone wil last me as long as I want to. its just the battory will trubble me.