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You are here: MacNN Forums > Hardware - Troubleshooting and Discussion > Mac Notebooks > Time to go shopping but sooooo confused

Time to go shopping but sooooo confused
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Jan 14, 2014, 02:39 PM
 
Hello

I thought I'd seek the wisdom of the this forum as to what options I should consider when it's time to replace my 2008 Macbook that is happily running OS 10.5.8 and humming along like a champ.

This has been a terrific machine. Only needed to replaced crashed HD a couple of years ago and that was a cinch. I am of the school of "it ain't broke don't fix it", yet I know soon I'll need to be making a new purchase. But I LOVE my mouse pad on this macbook and can't stand how they feel and function on the newer machines. (My friend's 2011 Macbook constantly has the spinning beach turning and he runs Snow Leopard.)

Granted, running Leopard is probably limiting me, but in reality I haven't missed what I don't know about. And my biggest reluctance in getting a new mac is trusting that the move from Leopard to the latest OS will go well. Will I lose use of some of my basic apps, ie. Word, excel, etc? How will several years of emails be transferred successfully? And will they?

Should I consider MacBook Air or MacBook Pro? What about adding an IPad into the mix.

I am a pretty basic user -- writing, emails, internet, the occasional movie--not a gamer or heavy into technology.

It has been six years since my last purchase and with all the changes in Apple it's not nearly as easy at it use to be. Any advice on how to prepare to make the transition is heartily welcomed.

So please help me out and make this shopping trip fun!

Thanks.
     
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Jan 14, 2014, 02:53 PM
 
As much as I love my ipad, there are times I'm glad for a full size keyboard and monitor. So unless you have another working machine, I'd not go for the iPad-only route.

I hate most laptop trackpads, but I think it would be fun to go to the Apple store and try em all out!
     
ClaraT  (op)
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Jan 14, 2014, 09:13 PM
 
Thanks for the response. Yes, I've heard that one can't live by just an iPad alone.
     
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Jan 14, 2014, 10:01 PM
 
Use Migration assistant to transfer everything to the new computer. Office 08 and 11 work fine, and Apple's software is of course backwards compatible, all browsers will have your bookmarks, it will be easy.

Interesting about the trackpads, my experience is different. I like the one on my MacBook Pro so much I got a Magic Trackpad for my desktop and much prefer it to a mouse.
     
ClaraT  (op)
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Jan 14, 2014, 11:12 PM
 
So no need to worry about migrating everything from Leopard all the way up to what is it now. . . Maverick?

Really?
     
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Jan 14, 2014, 11:53 PM
 
I just migrated my wife's Mini from Snow Leopard to Mavericks without a hitch. Apple is really trying to get everyone up to speed with this free upgrade, so it's is compatible all the way back to your system. 10.5.8 is the last upgrade for that OS, you'll be fine.
     
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Jan 15, 2014, 12:15 AM
 
As an insurance policy I would suggest switching to an IMAP email account if you are using POP. If you are using IMAP, you'll never have to worry about losing email when you switch platforms/devices/machines, upgrade, downgrade, whatever, as all of your email will reside on an email server rather than your computer/device.

As people have said, all of your other document can be transferred over pretty easily with the Migration Assistant. I would suggest testing the newest versions of the apps you use to see if you like them. Your biggest complaint with an upgrade like this will probably be applications and interfaces changing, not the OS itself. There have been some OS changes that people have not liked, but most, if not all of these changes haven't been enough to hinder productivity in any significant way... At least, nothing comes to mind. An app that you use being changed significantly could have a profound effect on your work though.
     
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Jan 15, 2014, 12:16 AM
 
As an insurance policy I would suggest switching to an IMAP email account if you are using POP. If you are using IMAP, you'll never have to worry about losing email when you switch platforms/devices/machines, upgrade, downgrade, whatever, as all of your email will reside on an email server rather than your computer/device.

As people have said, all of your other document can be transferred over pretty easily with the Migration Assistant. I would suggest testing the newest versions of the apps you use to see if you like them. Your biggest complaint with an upgrade like this will probably be applications and interfaces changing, not the OS itself. There have been some OS changes that people have not liked, but most, if not all of these changes haven't been enough to hinder productivity in any significant way... At least, nothing comes to mind. An app that you use being changed significantly could have a profound effect on your work though.
     
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Jan 15, 2014, 03:36 AM
 
Just to note: besson's suggestion to switch to IMAP is well-intended but somewhat misleading, and certainly not an insurance or a panacea. Having local backups is MUCH more effective, and I have actually seen a situation where a friend had a snafu destroy years of work-related email on the IMAP server (it's no longer clear what happened to cause this), and the redundancy of IMAP meant that all email was automatically deleted of ALL devices. His only rescue was his phone having been configured to connect via POP, thus retaining all emails (it's possible that the "delete mails after xxx days" setting was the root of this issue, but that's no longer relevant).
The Migration Assistant will do everything IMAP could do, and switching to IMAP before upgrading is not something I'd worry about.

Besides, if you're using a Mac.com or me.com account for mail, you're already on IMAP.

-------------------

I agree that the post-2008 trackpads are MUCH nicer — keep using it *exactly* as before, just don't think about it, and the main difference is that the feel never changes. It never loses the pleasant roughness the way the plastic trackpads did, and the clicking doesn't go all wobbly and weird the way the button on the MacBooks did. (I still have my late 2006 MacBook.)

10.9 killed my scanner for a bit — in 10.7/10.8, it worked fine in Image Capture; as of 10.9, I'm forced to go through Canon's ancient scan software, which is complete shit.
     
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Jan 15, 2014, 03:45 AM
 
Originally Posted by Spheric Harlot View Post
Just to note: besson's suggestion to switch to IMAP is well-intended but somewhat misleading, and certainly not an insurance or a panacea. Having local backups is MUCH more effective

As we've discussed though, the only local backup system that I'm aware of that will allow you to recover mail from the copy stored locally is Time Machine + OS X Mail.

I agree though, there are no guarantees that IMAP mail will provide absolute insurance, but I would say that on average it is far safer than POP. I don't know how Exchange handles backups.

I also realize this is out of the scope of the original post here, but hopefully this is useful because I know that email is the first concern that many people have when switching technologies.
     
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Jan 15, 2014, 11:13 AM
 
Nowadays, the default recommendation is a 13" MacBook Air. Since your current machine also has a 13" screen, making this recommendation is even easier. It's a great machine. However, I would recommend that you have a look at the 13" Retina model in a store, because the screen is really, really amazing.

I've used Migration Assistant for over 10 years. My user account has been migrated over 10 versions of OS X (starting from 10.0.3 to 10.9.1), and I haven't had one single problem. However, make sure to have a backup of your data (e. g. via Time Machine).
I don't suffer from insanity, I enjoy every minute of it.
     
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Jan 15, 2014, 01:04 PM
 
Originally Posted by besson3c View Post
As we've discussed though, the only local backup system that I'm aware of that will allow you to recover mail from the copy stored locally is Time Machine + OS X Mail.
As applicable to this Thread. End of Story.
     
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Jan 16, 2014, 04:16 AM
 
Originally Posted by ClaraT View Post
I am a pretty basic user -- writing, emails, internet, the occasional movie--not a gamer or heavy into technology.
Since you are in 10.5 Leopard, do you use the RSS reader support built-in feature of Mail.?
If so, please note that this feature has been discontinued since 10.8 Mountain Lion and all your RSS feeds will be lost.
     
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Jan 16, 2014, 04:54 AM
 
Honestly, you are the only person I've ever encountered who used that feature.
     
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Jan 17, 2014, 08:26 AM
 
Originally Posted by OreoCookie View Post
Nowadays, the default recommendation is a 13" MacBook Air. Since your current machine also has a 13" screen, making this recommendation is even easier. It's a great machine. However, I would recommend that you have a look at the 13" Retina model in a store, because the screen is really, really amazing.
Since I am also exploring the options for a new Mac portable, I suppose I can write in this thread instead of starting a new one.

Although the rMBP has an amazing display (I have seen it in person), I have excluded it from my list because of the terrible issues of this technology. It was perhaps not ready, I don't know, but the end result is that the issues are so widespread that I would not risk spending so much for such a computer.

This leaves me with the Macbook Air 13" as the only option. The problem is that its CPU is really weak, on paper at least. I see that it can scale up to 3.3 GHz (Core i7) but it is not clear under which circumstances this happens and how happy the very thin Macbook Air would be with all this heat.

On the other hand I don't really need much CPU power. It is just that sometimes this power has to be there for the occasional demanding task. Usually I am working with many applications at the same time, so I understand that I have to max out the memory. I wish I could go up to 16 GB but in the possible configurations I see that this goes up to only 8 GB. Can I do a memory upgrade myself?

The applications I have in mind are: cartography (with sometimes hefty GeoTIFF files - hundreds of MB each), rather basic image processing, perhaps some vector drawing, diagramming software (like OmniGraffle), Pages-Keynote, MS Office for Mac, browsing with many (10-20) tabs open, X11, compiling some code to install packages under X11, one or two virtual machines (Windows) under VMWare. What do you think, could the high-end Macbook Air handle all this at the same time? This kind of load could be shared between two accounts, an administrator one running the compilers for package installation, and all the rest in another normal user account.

Also, how could I install a recent Windows version in VMWare? Do I need the optional optical drive?

Thanks!
     
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Jan 17, 2014, 09:04 AM
 
Originally Posted by Pierre B. View Post
This leaves me with the Macbook Air 13" as the only option. The problem is that its CPU is really weak, on paper at least. I see that it can scale up to 3.3 GHz (Core i7) but it is not clear under which circumstances this happens and how happy the very thin Macbook Air would be with all this heat.
In effect it works very well. The latest Haswell CPUs are very good at sipping power, and that means that there is less heat as well, leaving lots of room to use all the turbo states. The CPU is more than capable. The only time it might be limited is when you peak both the CPU and the integrated GPU at the same time.

Originally Posted by Pierre B. View Post
On the other hand I don't really need much CPU power. It is just that sometimes this power has to be there for the occasional demanding task. Usually I am working with many applications at the same time, so I understand that I have to max out the memory. I wish I could go up to 16 GB but in the possible configurations I see that this goes up to only 8 GB. Can I do a memory upgrade myself?
Nope - memory is soldered in. It's not too bad, though:

1) Mavericks memory compression means that 8 gigs of RAM under Mavericks works out to about the same as 12 gigs under Mountain Lion or previous.
2) Page faulting to an SSD is much less of a hit than doing so to a spinning disk.

Originally Posted by Pierre B. View Post
The applications I have in mind are: cartography (with sometimes hefty GeoTIFF files - hundreds of MB each), rather basic image processing, perhaps some vector drawing, diagramming software (like OmniGraffle), Pages-Keynote, MS Office for Mac, browsing with many (10-20) tabs open, X11, compiling some code to install packages under X11, one or two virtual machines (Windows) under VMWare. What do you think, could the high-end Macbook Air handle all this at the same time? This kind of load could be shared between two accounts, an administrator one running the compilers for package installation, and all the rest in another normal user account.
Only thing that scares me in that is the two VMs. You'd probably want to give 4 gigs to each of them, and then you're out of RAM.

Originally Posted by Pierre B. View Post
Also, how could I install a recent Windows version in VMWare? Do I need the optional optical drive?
No. You can download Windows as a disk image from MS these days, and unless the VMware installer is really stupid, it should be able to work from that. Worst case you have to use another Windows machine to turn one USB stick into an installer using a tool from MS and then boot the VM from that to install. I have a DVD in my homebuilt Windows box, and I still did it with a USB stick because it is so much faster than running the install from the DVD.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
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Jan 17, 2014, 09:25 AM
 
Thank you P for these great answers!

Could you describe a scenario in which both CPU and GPU may reach a peak? Also, if I understand well, the graphics chip uses system memory, right? Could this be a limiting factor for the uses I mentioned? Any idea how much system memory can go to graphics?
     
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Jan 17, 2014, 12:01 PM
 
The main situation that the GPU will get loaded is when gaming. The CPU in that chip is quite large (40 EUs, to be compared with 16 in the previous model and 12 in the one before that), so if it is running at high clocks, that will create enough heat that the CPU can't really turbo up that well. If you're trying to do compute on the GPU, you will end up in the same situation, but it will still be faster than doing the same compute.

Yes, the GPU will use system memory, but it doesn't use that much unless gaming. A comparable discrete graphics card might have 512 MB of video RAM, but that's to support texture buffers when gaming. Don't really know how much it uses when it's just running the desktop - I'll see what I can find out on mine (I have an older model MBA 11") when I get home.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
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Jan 17, 2014, 03:58 PM
 
About integrated video on Intel-based Macs

Intel HD Graphics 5000

Apple Computers using the Intel HD Graphics 5000 as the primary GPU dynamically allocates up to 1 GB of system memory.

Products with Intel HD Graphics 5000 include:

MacBook Air (11-inch, Mid 2013)
MacBook Air (13-inch, Mid 2013)

On the other hand, have you ruled out the MacBook Pro 13" (no Retina model) as feasible option.? It can get 16 GB RAM.
     
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Jan 18, 2014, 07:26 PM
 
Originally Posted by angelmb View Post
About integrated video on Intel-based Macs

Intel HD Graphics 5000

Apple Computers using the Intel HD Graphics 5000 as the primary GPU dynamically allocates up to 1 GB of system memory.
Thanks, this answers my question.


Originally Posted by angelmb View Post
On the other hand, have you ruled out the MacBook Pro 13" (no Retina model) as feasible option.? It can get 16 GB RAM.
Yes, I am aware that this model is still around but I am not seriously consider buying it because of the display resolution (1280 x 800). Right now I am on an old Macbook with the same native resolution and I would really like to have some more pixels, like in the recent Macbook Air 13".
     
ClaraT  (op)
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Jan 19, 2014, 07:55 PM
 
Once again this forum rocks!

Thanks for sharing everyone. I feel comforted both in leaving Leopard (wah!) and insuring my
email lives on forever! (whew!)
     
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Jan 19, 2014, 08:29 PM
 
Originally Posted by Spheric Harlot View Post
As applicable to this Thread. End of Story.

Has she said she's using OS X Mail?
     
ClaraT  (op)
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Jan 20, 2014, 10:07 AM
 
To clarify, yes I use OS X Mail.

Thanks.
     
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Jan 22, 2014, 11:09 AM
 
Originally Posted by ClaraT View Post
And my biggest reluctance in getting a new mac is trusting that the move from Leopard to the latest OS will go well.
Clara-

I agree with others that a new box should be all good with the right backup and migration. And you should be able to adjust to the superior modern touch pad. However I do suggest that adjusting to the OS 10.5 to 10.8 evolution may not be as painless as some here (many of them super-experts) imply.

There will be lots of annoying changes. Worth the trouble for sure, but a decent learning curve. Personally I like the new-OS class that the Apple Store makes available; others may have texts or tutorials that they recommend.

-Allen
     
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Jan 22, 2014, 12:29 PM
 
Duplicate post
( Last edited by SierraDragon; Jan 22, 2014 at 01:30 PM. )
     
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Jan 22, 2014, 12:49 PM
 
Originally Posted by Pierre B. View Post
Although the rMBP has an amazing display (I have seen it in person), I have excluded it from my list because of the terrible issues of this technology. It was perhaps not ready, I don't know, but the end result is that the issues are so widespread that I would not risk spending so much for such a computer.

This leaves me with the Macbook Air 13" as the only option... I wish I could go up to 16 GB but in the possible configurations I see that this goes up to only 8 GB...

The applications I have in mind are: cartography (with sometimes hefty GeoTIFF files - hundreds of MB each), ...image processing, ...vector drawing, ...browsing with many (10-20) tabs open, X11, compiling some code, ...one or two virtual machines (Windows) under VMWare. What do you think, could the high-end Macbook Air handle all this at the same time?
Pierre-

I disagree strongly with any suggestion that an MBA with 8 GB RAM is appropriate for
"...cartography (with sometimes hefty GeoTIFF files - hundreds of MB each), ...image processing, ...vector drawing, ...browsing with many (10-20) tabs open, X11, compiling some code, ...one or two virtual machines (Windows) under VMWare."

Your listed apps tend to be demanding on CPU, GPU and RAM. Intentionally selecting a low-end laptop for such usages makes little sense. IMO you need a well-equipped MBP not an MBA. And 16 GB RAM is mandatory.

Graphics are not just about gaming. I have never gamed but my apps have been sensitive to GPU competence. MBAs with the lame integrated GPUs have always been seriously less competent than the higher end MBPs. See the various tests BareFeats has done over the years, some at 2013 MacBook Air -- real world benchmarks.

Limiting to 8 GB RAM in 2014 for those apps would be crazy. My i7 MBP with SSD routinely paged out from 8 GB RAM on an Aperture/Photoshop workflow, no VM involved. I upgraded to 16 GB RAM. This is 2014; I suggest that for your described work any box that will not accept minimum 16 GB RAM is unacceptable.

Personally I do not give credence to those silly RMBP-displays-are-no-good threads. I only looked at 10 random pages, but I saw
- not one experienced poster
- quite a few posters just ignorantly dissing Apple
- many posters comparing pix of uncalibrated displays (duh)
- lots of folks mostly interested in creating variations among displays

No laptop display made and most external displays are not fully competent for color-critical work. Relative to expected laptop display performance recently calibrated-by-me RMBPs look pretty good to my trained eyes. And that is just using the OS X calibrator, not even an external calibration device.

I do not doubt that there are some lame MBP displays that will still be lame after calibration. Basic manufacturing variation and imperfect QC guarantees that. However my experience has been that any such defects are easily dealt with under Apple Warranty. If you can show a significant display flaw Apple will fix it.

So I say rethink your outright dismissal of RMBPs as no good. If you still choose to avoid RMBPs, buy a top older MBP and retrofit it with SSD and 16 GB RAM. Or buy an expensive top Sony Vaio and use Windows only.

NOTE: Yes an MBA will "run" that workflow, particularly because page outs to SSD tend to be much less problematic than to HDD. However when buying a new box intended for those kinds of apps IMO we should be trying to optimize, not meet some bare minimum.

HTH

-Allen
( Last edited by SierraDragon; Jan 22, 2014 at 01:53 PM. )
     
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Feb 18, 2014, 11:18 AM
 
Originally Posted by Spheric Harlot View Post
10.9 killed my scanner for a bit — in 10.7/10.8, it worked fine in Image Capture; as of 10.9, I'm forced to go through Canon's ancient scan software, which is complete shit.
I realize this post is over a month old... but I'd thought that I'd share some related sentiments with Canon's software. I'm also forced to use Canon's ancient firmware for our office photocopier so I feel your pain. I've contacted customer reps., been on the phone, got redirected 360 degrees back to the first agent, got an IT rep's email, he wanted me to wait for a technician to check out the printer (which never happened), despite the company's failure to put out a new driver (edited for clarification), rather than the printer being the problem. The company later told our IT that Canon would put out a 10.9 driver. This all happened over a month ago and they still don't have a 10.9 driver, so I still have to use the ancient software, which doesn't work for half of my apps.
If I want to print a PDF, I have to use Adobe's software.
( Last edited by And.reg; Feb 19, 2014 at 09:43 AM. )
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Feb 18, 2014, 12:00 PM
 
Clarification: Firmware is, in essence, a sort of mini-operating system installed upon the device itself.

If it's computer-side, it's a driver - that's what tells the computer's operating system how to talk to the device.

But the fact that they claimed to care about Mavericks instills in me a vague sense of hope...
( Last edited by Spheric Harlot; Feb 18, 2014 at 12:30 PM. )
     
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Mar 6, 2014, 11:45 AM
 
So, you two, what are your decisions?
Think a new age is coming.
     
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Mar 7, 2014, 06:25 PM
 
Originally Posted by jmiddel View Post
Use Migration assistant to transfer everything to the new computer. Office 08 and 11 work fine, and Apple's software is of course backwards compatible, all browsers will have your bookmarks, it will be easy.

Interesting about the trackpads, my experience is different. I like the one on my MacBook Pro so much I got a Magic Trackpad for my desktop and much prefer it to a mouse.
I did exactly the same thing.
I hate nearly every PC trackpad (including those on my Thinkpad), but I love Apple's trackpads. Why the PC vendors can't get it right is perplexing.
- MacBook Pro 15" Core i7 2.3Ghz / 256SSD (Work laptop)
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Mar 8, 2014, 05:40 AM
 
They're all buying from the same company (Synaptics) which seems to have a monopoly on that market. No other company has tried to join, because they don't see a big future in it.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
   
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