While we might think of Linux as the alternative operating system for computer geeks and those wanting to evade the system, it’s actually more common than you think and can be found everywhere including in phones, home appliances and computers.
It first came to light in the early 1990s but is now widely used around the world and actually runs a lot of the internet. It is used widely in the types of super computers used in scientific analytical work, as well as complex systems like the stock exchange.
Although still not mainstream – only around 3% of internet users actively use Linux machines – it is still considered to be one of the most secure and reliable operating systems out there.
So What Exactly Is Linux?
It’s an operating system – the software which runs your computer. Basically it does the same job as Windows programs. Without an operating system your computer wouldn’t work. The Linux operating system is made up of the following elements:
- Bootloader: This is the key piece of software that lets your computer boot up and runs that process.
- Kernel: This is actually the piece which is called Linux. It is the core of the whole system and helps to run your computer’s memory, CPU and peripherals.
- Daemons: The services which run in the background, like sound, calendar and printing, and normally start up when you first start your machine.
- Shell: One of the elements of Linux which puts people off using it is the so-called “Linux command line”. This is known as the shell and allows you to control your computer by typing in commands. Nowadays you don’t need to use the command line to make Linux work.
- Graphic Server: The system which displays the graphics on your screen.
- Desktop Environment: The elements on your desktop which you use daily including file managers, games, browsers etc.
How Many People Use Linux?
One of the reasons people use Linux is to avoid the centralized control and to stay off the radar but studies estimate that around 3% of all internet users are using Linux systems to access the web. It is also increasing rapidly in popularity and is no longer the domain of computer experts and “whizz kids”.
What Are the Benefits of Using Linux?
This is a key question. After all, when your computer comes ready equipped with an operating system that seems to work perfectly, why would you want to go to all the trouble of downloading and learning how to use a completely different one?
The answer comes when you actually examine the system that comes with the computer and realize that you are having to fight with malware, slowness, system crashes, virus susceptibility, repairs and you need to pay for licenses for everything that goes with it.
So for people who begin to struggle with all of these issues and worry about the security of their data or the constant need to clean up the PC, then Linux might well provide some of the answers they are seeking.
Linux is considered to be among the most reliable computer systems out there, and it’s also completely free, with no requirement for any kind of licensing. So if you compare the cost of Linux with say, Windows 2012, it could save you around $1,200 just from buying the software itself.
Everything with Linux is free and easy to install. If you are a system administrator, Linux is so reliable you can almost just forget all about it. Even if one element needs upgrading, the rest of the server won’t be involved.
As an everyday user, it’s nice to have a system that runs virtually trouble-free the whole time without needing to constantly reboot it. It is a stable and dependable operating system.
So How Do You Get Linux?
It is distributed under open source which follows this philosophy:
- Freedom to run programs for whatever reason.
- Option to examine how programs work and adapt them if you want to.
- Option to share copies with people.
- Option to share copies of the version you adapted.
The philosophy outlined here helps to understand the way Linux was created by a computing community and is another reason people choose to use the system – they want the freedom and choice it offers.
So, now you have decided you want Linux, which is the best alternative web browser to use with the system?
We are all no doubt familiar with the most popular web browsers which the majority of people use daily to access the internet, such as Chrome, Firefox and Internet Explorer.
These dominate the market place and are used by millions of people around the world. However, there are other alternative browsers available, particularly for those who are interested in the features offered by Linux systems.
However, there are a lot of alternative browsers which have unique and unusual features, and some are better for different purposes – with some good for business while others work better for entertainment.
So, let’s have a look at the top five key open source web browsers which work with Linux systems.
Fifth is one of the best loved open source browsers available for Linux. It includes some amazing features and has been created around a custom web kit port for FLTK. It does have some limitations, despite its popularity. You can only use it to access the internet – it doesn’t support multimedia or game playing and you can’t play videos with it.
It has been created using fast and light technologies and has been set up through the GPLv3 license.
Some of the key features which make it popular with users are that it can:
Help you to avoid tracking – Fifth can provide options to fool items which are designed to detect or profile you online.
It is fully customizable by the user
It puts you fully in control
It allows you to over-ride pretty much everything including cookies and CSS
It helps you to steer clear of web bloat
It prevents automatic playing adverts altogether because it doesn’t have Flash or Web GL
It handles all SSL certificates like SSH
It ignores CAs without changing the certificate.
It allows you to side step any pay-to-play schemes
It has memory use and enhancing performance as actual goals
It doesn’t use JS extensions. All of the browser features have been created in C/C++.
It will never send URLs to a third party
This unique and unusual web browser has a completely different look and feel to the majority of web browsers out there. The user interface is unlike anything most people will have seen before.
The browser has been created within the QT framework and it has been designed around the webkit engine. Its appearance is very unusual and it has the ability to take screenshots, as well as to lock using its own lock mode.
One of the best things about using Emacs is their versatility. You can use them to create wonderful documents with amazing typesetting. You can use different modes to design and edit books and create beautiful charts. You can also use gnus to check emails, you can chat live and you can write blogs. Some Emacs even let you control your coffee machine bizarrely. Emacs offer amazing editing facilities.
In the GNU Emacs manual Emacs are described as customizable, real time, extensible and self-documenting. It is very easy to put additional features onto Emacs thanks to Lisp. Lisp is the language used to create most of the modes and commands within Emacs. This means that you can use Lisp code anywhere and create new extensions and run them immediately.
So GNU Emacs is basically a traditional text editor but it is very easily customizable. As a browser it can be used to control a variety of processes and it is also possible to automatically indent programs.
Breach was created by San Francisco programmer Stanislas Polu, as an alternative to all of the mainstream browsers. He wasn’t happy with what they had to offer so he designed Breach – it is a modular open source browser which allows users to update and change it as they see fit.
The aim with Breach is to provide a different sort of web browser – it’s not just something to be used for searching the internet, but it is one that has been built using the technology which provides the power.
When Breach first starts up it can’t actually browse the internet at all until the user adds a module which will then provide a URL box and a tab strip. This module is known as the mod strip and unless you install it, the browser can’t really do anything at all. Once it is in place, you can see the features start to build up.
Currently, the browser launched its first release recently and there aren’t many modules on there so far, it’s a basic experience with many functions such as bookmarks not yet finished. However, Breach has been created to allow any user to take it forward and develop it with their own ideas for features and additions.
It’s very easy to overlook the smaller browsers and what features they might have to offer, which is why QupZilla is the final of my five choices for alternative browser options for Linux users.
It is a multi-platform web browser which is based on Qt and actually has a lot of features which could be compared with the much bigger Chrome or Firefox systems, however it will take up less of your computer’s resources.
It is based on webkit and was developed by David Rosca. It doesn’t require KDE which makes it a very good option for people who are conscious of performance and also of the space available.
Qupzilla has some unique and positive features which make this small browser stand out from the crowd, including:
Support themes and a native appearance
RSS reader, bookmark management and history options
Support to block adverts
Privacy while browsing the web
A customizable interface
Choose your own search engine
Importation of your bookmarks from Firefox and Chrome
It also includes a speed dial feature which offers drag and drop positioning as well as hover features for controls. It’s very easy to bookmark your favorite sites within this browser – it works in a similar way to Chrome using a star system. You can even save your bookmark straight to speed dial. It also has some amazing privacy features within this browser.
However, there are some down sides to Qupzilla unfortunately – and the main one experienced by users is that it does have a habit of crashing, however, the creators have been producing updates which are succeeding in increasing it’s reliability so this does have to be balanced against all the positive features.
In fact, some people do consider that Qupzilla is the best open source option for Linux because of its very simple user interface and the fact that there are many options to customize it yourself.
When it comes to surfing the web, our options have traditionally been quite limited with the large mainstream browsers completely dominating the market. However, with more and more people becoming dissatisfied with the mainstream browser limitations and failures, and wanting more security, and more customization options, or even just better reliability, there has never been a better time to explore the opportunities that Linux and open source browsers have to offer.