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<firstimage=”//static.makeuseof.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/2011-07-24_165734.png” />Unless you’re a web developer or programmer, you most likely don’t really need a whole lot of applications aside from a web browser, perhaps a media player, file manager/viewer and text editor. Maybe that’s why a lot more people nowadays own smartphones, tablets, Chromebooks, etc, and can get away with not using their main computers or laptops for light web browsing. If you wish to have an equally lightweight operating system with just the tools you need but on your actual laptop, you can use Google Chrome OS or Jolicloud.
Today, you can add another name to this list of lightweight computer OSes. Browser Linux is a fast-booting operating system, derived from Puppy Linux, making it a wise choice for any computer, particularly older machines. The most recent version (v. 401, released in May 2011) comes with Mozilla Firefox 4, though you can also upgrade to Firefox 5 once you boot up, or get other versions of the distro with Google Chrome. Like Puppy Linux, Browser Linux can save changes persistently to a USB flash drive with as little as 2GB. The ISO file itself is about 90 MB.
Installing Browser Linux
If you have blank CDs lying around, download the ISO to your hard drive on a machine with a DVD burner. Burn the ISO to a disc using ImgBurn or Multi CD, which enables you to combine multiple ISO files and burn a single ISO image. If, however, you would rather use a jump drive, there’s the always reliable Unetbootin.
Once you have the ISO file in your CD or thumb drive, restart the machine and plug in the CD or the USB drive. After 30 seconds or so, you should see options to choose the size of the screen.
Once you choose the appropriate resolution, you’ll be directed to a minimalistic desktop.
By default, you get Mozilla Firefox, the Geany text editor, a file browser, a terminal, and a network setup wizard. If you click on More Apps, you can also find a PDF viewer, a media player, a calculator, FTP-client, task manager, and even disk mounter.
You can install additional software, such as Opera, Mplayer, etc. once you’re booted up. The software, which comes in .PET packages (“Puppy’s Extra Treats”) will open in the built-in package manager, which you can also get to by right-clicking on the desktop and choosing More Apps > click the More Apps icon.
Since this version of Browser Linux is based on Puppy Linux’s latest version, Lucid Puppy, you’ll find the same software by default. You can configure the package manager to update the repos, which brings you more software to choose from.
Since Browser Linux is based on Puppy Linux, it runs completely in RAM. If you want to save settings, like wallpaper preferences, icon set, and other system settings, you can do so by shutting down the computer and choosing Save File when prompted.
You’ll be able to give this file a name and designate how much space you want to dedicate for saving your settings. To reset all system settings, just delete the file.
The authors of Browser Linux also offer another Puppy Linux variant called MinjnPup, which is basically Browser Linux loaded with LibreOffice.
If you have an older machine lying around, hesitate not to try Browser Linux on it. This distro proved really useful to me when my main computer’s cable somehow stopped charging soon after I started a Java programming course. Browser Linux, its web browser, text editor and terminal saved my butt when neither Ubuntu nor Jolicloud could operate smoothly on the machine. I was ultimately very impressed by the responsiveness and the number of applications available on Browser Linux.
For additional lightweight operating systems (like Lubuntu) and live CDs, check out our list of netbook-friendly OSes, and our guide to test-driving Android, Google Chrome OS on your computer. What lightweight distros do you recommend?