Since I did not find a definitive guide on how to move your data, applications and preferences for my specific case, I am documenting here what I did for so that it might benefit someone else.
I got the point of starting up the laptop and going through Apple's basic setup process. Simple.
However, in that process the computer asks you if you are moving from another computer. It wants to use the migration assistant. I strongly urge you NOT to use the migration assistant. It will bring over what you need BUT it will also bring over alot of junk that you dont need from apps that were installed and removed from your old computer.
My Custom Applications
Besides its better to start with a a clean install of every application. The best explanation I've heard on this comes from my friend Chris Foley (Hat tip to @foleypod).
He prescribes that a clean install is best. Moving applications over from your older system setup, in most cases, will require you to upgrade the software after you move it over.
You will be upgrading code that most likely was installed on a previous version of OS X (10.4, 10.3) and subsequently upgraded by you over time. DON'T DO IT. Clean install ensures that you're getting code that is optimized to run on an Intel chip with oS X 10.6
And that is just what I did.
The strategy was pretty simple. Open you Applications folder on your old computer, review each application and decide what you want on the new machine. Google the ones you want on the new machine and you will get the latest installers that are correct for you machine (as many websites these days read in browser/platform information and can pass along the correct installer).
So I did that for all my Applications large and small.
What about application registrations?
BUT you may be asking yourself, what about registration data? Will I have to type in all that information again?
I did. I basically have all the applications on my laptop right now and as I need them I launch them and get the right data in place. It takes a few minutes more, but its less headaches.
What about preferences?
On some applications, SOME I will bring over preferences. On Adobe's fat install, no. I will make new prefs, too much baggage there. On smaller apps, yes. Apps like Typinator, or CSSEdit. Those I will bring over because they are not bloated apps.
I followed this simple guide from eHow. How to Move Apple Mail Settings and Email on a Mac.
It has you move the Mail folder located here: ~/Library/Mail.
It also has you move ~/Library/Preferences/com.apple.mail.plist
Fortunately for me I can use the iTunes Home Sharing function to use most of what I need. I will copy over any specific artists as I need them. I also have a large library of music on my iPhone too.
Then move files.
The last bit for me it to move over my working files (current projects) and my web development files (all my custom programming). That is taking place right now while I am writing this post.
Looking forward to working on this new machine.
Now I have to realize I can getup and take it with me.