Linux and a MacBook Pro

A few months ago, I received a package in the mail from a mysterious benefactor. It contained two pieces of tech that were old, outdated, and abandoned. The first was a 17″ MacBook Pro, part of the first generation released with Intel processors.

It was missing a battery, but otherwise worked. An old (and now known to be insecure) version of Mac OS X booted up and hummed along. The screen, once cleaned, was magnificent, even without being “retina.” I had plenty of uses for this – a computer for Cian, a computer to work on or putz around with when I was in the living room, a school computer for my brother-in-law… in the end, I decided on making it a kid/guest computer for the living room. Aidan had lost the privilege of having a computer in his room, Cian wasn’t ready for his own yet, and many guests have borrowed Nikki’s or my laptop when they were over.

This laptop just missed the compatibility cut-off for OS X Yosemite, and I wasn’t going to leave a known insecure OS on it. The same incompatibility ruled out 64-bit operating systems in general, but its max of 3GB of RAM made that a moot point. So, I installed 32-bit Edubuntu on it, and it ran fairly well, as long as I avoided the Unity desktop. Still sometimes Firefox would chug or Minecraft would stutter – forget trying to play it in full screen.

I still felt like the OS was doing injustice to the machine, so I kept looking. My memory upgrade (to the full 3GB) came in, and improved things, but I was still dissatisfied. I had much better memories of this class of machine. there’s not a whole lot of info out there about old Macs and Linux shacking up together, but I stumbled on two distros that I hadn’t played with in a while: Bodhi and Xubuntu. (Xubuntu is really just XFCE on top of Ubuntu, so not really its own distro, but whatever.)

While I dug Bodhi’s goal and vision, it felt clunky and counter-intuitive. The laptop’s graphics capability seemed ignored, and I just didn’t like it. Xubuntu was the exact opposite. It was smooth, though long to boot, and had a simple and straightforward implementation of XFCE. Things were intuitive; they just worked. Firefox flew when compared to running in Edubuntu, as did Minecraft.

Full screen runs like a dream!

So, I settled on Xubuntu, and I haven’t been sorry. The younger boys play Minecraft on it (and Acelyn is already asking to try), browsing is fully-functional and quick (even on YouTube and Facebook), and it stores nicely under the couch, to be set on the coffee table when in use. No battery needed!

Thanks again to the mysterious benefactor, and wherever/whoever he got this from. It’s got a good home.