XFCE And Ubuntu Saved My Old Macbook

Screenshot of XFCE



2008 was the day that me and my Macbook Pro started our relationship.  It was great at first.  It was my first foray into OS X and I was starting to see why everyone was slowly but surely making the switch to Apple.  It was fast! It was beautiful! It just worked.  Not only that  but to this day, my unibody Macbook looks fucking fantastic  for its age and has held up way better than my old plastic-y laptops from the past.

However, the thing that has gone down hill has been performance.  See, when I first got the Macbook, it was running on Leopard and it was fucking blazing fast.  One of the main reasons that I had gotten a Macbook was to run Adobe Creative Suite (Photoshop, InDesign, etc.) and it did the job admirably.  This baby was fast!  When I upgraded to Snow Leopard, performance actually increased and I was over the moon with joy.  It set up expectations that Apple was going to continually push for optimizing code rather than adding all the glittery nonsense that would slow your machine down a-la Windows (Think Aero.  If you’re on a Windows PC, press Windows key + Tab and witness your graphics card wasting electricity).

When we got to Lion and Mountain Lion, shit got slow REAL fast.  Now with Mavericks, I’d say it’s even slower.  Chrome takes a couple of seconds to load.  Flash videos are choppy.  It gets hot fast and it sounds like a jet.  I record my podcast on Garage Band and it can’t even smoothly render the waveforms as I record.  It’s not unusable, but it’s definitely not my preferred device of choice – I’m either a desktop or phone guy now.

Anyways, as some of you may know, I’ve been really trying to learn how to program and it’s really a huge pain in the ass to do it on Windows.  I’m sure there’s a way to make MS-DOS work like terminal, but I’m not gonna do it.  Long story short, I ended up installing a virtual machine on my computer to run Ubuntu (a version of Linux) to do all of my coding in and it’s been great.  So naturally, I thought about installing it on my Macbook for fun.  Even though it was slightly faster, Unity, the Ubuntu user interface, was still slow.  Then I found out about a minimal user interface called XFCE and boy my MACBOOK IS BACK.

I can do most of the stuff I want to do on the web and it does it quickly.  Words I’d never thought I’d say again.   However it’s not without it’s drawbacks.  Here’s a pros and cons list:


  • It’s fast
  • It doesn’t make your computer sound like a jet
  • My laptop is not scorchingly hot anymore
  • You learn a lot by using it


  • It’s a massive fucking pain to install – I’m not even sure I did it right
  • A bunch of stuff does not work out of the box (i.e. WiFi indicator isn’t native by default, LED keyboard doesn’t light up, etc.)
  • There’s a huge ass learning curve
  • It’s a significantly worse user experience (no multi-touch gestures AFAIK, having to use terminal all the time is a gift and a curse)

So far, the pros outweighs the cons for me and I’m just glad I have my laptop back.

If this sounds good at all to you, check out XFCE and Xubuntu (the Ubuntu version with XFCE pre-installed).

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