This is not an all-inclusive FAQ file, just a little something I put together to help the new folks. Nothing in the file is “set in concrete”, because technology is subject to change, and if Moore’s Law holds true, in two years, you will see drastic changes in the scope of computers, and technology again. Anyone who has been around long enough to watch the changes in technology can attest to the speed with which changes occur.
This includes the abilities of hackers/crackers to find vulnerabilities in software and operating systems. This includes the changes, patches, updates that various Big Tech companies push out, and in the end, it all affects your own “Data and Personal Safety” on the Internet.
Safety will be a full topic another day.
What is Linux?
Linux is “FOSS”, meaning Free and Open Source Software. It doesn’t mean software is free of cost. It means that source code of the software is open for all and anyone is free to use, study and modify the code. This principle allows other people to contribute to the development and improvement of a software, like a community. This helps to find and locate bugs, and prevents the injection of dangerous code with malicious intent.
What is a Distro?
“Distro” is short for Distribution. Linux comes in many “flavors” some simple, some more complex. All are based on a “kernel” or the basic machine code that makes things work (for different processors for instance). A Distro generally contains the Operating System, a Desktop system (like Cinnamon, or LDXE, KDE, Gnome) and some programs in a complete package, which, when installed on a computer will give you a complete working computer. You can change your desktop settings to make it look ‘pretty’ or 'small" or pretty much any other combination of things you like.
Can you put it on an iPad?
Probably not. Apple uses a lot of proprietary internal workings in their devices, making it very difficult to run Open Source software. This is deliberate on their part, to be able to “obsolete” their equipment at a regular interval, forcing consumers to buy new items. If you DO put it on an iPad, especially an older First or Second Generation, we invite you to do an article for others!
Can you put Linux on an android?
Android is actually based on Linux. However, most Google enabled devices are pretty embedded and it is difficult to rebuild a tablet device with just Linux. There aren’t many affordable Linux tablets (yet). There is one based on Raspberry Pi 4 computers, called the RasPad 3. On the other hand, you can change a “Google enabled” tablet to a different software (known as a ROM). You can download and install such software, removing Google’s ability to track and collect.
Which Distro should I use?
Whichever you’re most comfortable with. For most people, Linux Mint or Ubuntu seems to be one of the easier to install and use “out of the box”. If you’re more of a techie person, there are others, and if you want something very simple, there’s always “Puppy Linux”. There are dozens and dozens of Linux distributions out there, and there will absolutely be one, you will love.
Can I use Windows Office Suites?
Possibly, if you used WINE (a software that helps to run Windows software) however, in most cases, it will be “fiddly” and difficult to run without tweaking this or that. Most people want plug and play, which is great for Windows, but not for Freedom. There is LibreOffice (LibreOffice is a ‘fork’ from OpenOffice which is no longer supported), which does the same thing that Windows Office Suites do. There are some differences, it looks a bit different but it works just as well for almost everything you can do in Windows! Some office products do not run well under WINE. Some Windows products will run well under WINE, but we leave that research up to you.
Can I play my games?
Yes and No. MOST Game systems, in particular MMORPG games (like World of Warcraft, Starwars, etc) do not build clients for Linux. However, there are ways around that as well. STEAM is one such program, and PlayOnLinux is another. We urge you to examine those things before you change to Linux if all you’re doing is gaming. In that case, you might consider a separate Gaming computer, or a second computer to run Linux for your other applications.
Is my (insert the name of your browser here) browser safe?
No. And Yes. The only completely safe computer is one that is never connected to the Internet. Period.
Safety is only as good as the time and effort you put into ensuring that you do nothing that allows access to malware, cyber attacks, phishing attempts, or even “social engineering”. There is not enough space in the FAQ to list all the reasons for this, as there are volumes of books written on the subject of Cyber security.
To clarify, if you want to know if the particular browser you are using is “safe” or not going to identify you, then in the end you will need to research that browser yourself. When researching, remember you want certain information. You want relevance, timeliness of the information, and you want facts. Never take the word of random people on forums (not even this forum), or Question and Answer sites like “Quora”. Fact Checkers are irrelevant, as most are paid to tell you something to keep you following a certain narrative.
A browser that is OPEN SOURCE is MOST likely your best bet when it comes to the ability to prevent tracking, fingerprinting or passing information to unknown sources. Browsers you should NOT use: Chrome, Safari, Internet Explorer - the big three, are all proprietary packages forced on the respective operating systems and there is no way to see what they collect and send on the users.
Browsers that are Open Source: Brave, Chromium, FireFox. There are others, but these three certainly are. You might have to change some settings in them to ensure they do not collect or pass data outside of your computer. Each browser is different, no matter who built it, or who owns it.
What about my Search Engine, is it safe?
Search Engines are external programs, running on external sites, whose sole purpose in life (was)/is to collect, collate, and dispense the information you’re seeking.
At least initially they were.
The key here is, you don’t know for sure what a search engine is doing, what data it collects on you (IP address, geolocation information etc) and Google’s search engine indeed tracks you, and all the information they collect, collate and dispense to buyers is about YOU. Companies that own search engines are being bought and sold, so again, remember this FAQ might be out of date by the time it goes to print. Research the engine.
Read our forums for information. At the moment, Brave Search, Search Encrypt, Duckduckgo. Start Page, (in no particular order) are some of the best to use.
It is not an easy question to answer, as it depends on the user, what their purposes are, and what features the user wants. If you like Chrome, then you will probably like Chromium (Open Source). If you like Firefox (which IS Open Source, by the way) you may wish to look at Waterfox. As always, your mileage may vary.
Some final words to consider:
Safety is not a given, if you’re browsing the Internet, receiving emails, or downloading files from unknown, or unconfirmed sources. Safety isn’t something you can simply pass off to an application, a browser, a firewall, or an Operating System. Safety on the Internet and with your data is no different from your personal life, your bank account, your home, car or children. Persons, places and things are ONLY as safe as you make them. In real life, you can’t simply bolt yourself in your home and hope to live a safe life, and/or live in fear. It will become boring. While locking your children in the closet might prevent them from being indoctrinated in Public Schools by Leftists Agendas, what sort of life is that for a kid? Extreme, but you get the picture.
Leaving the world of Big Tech and joining the world of FOSS is a start in the right direction and you will still have the daily fight on your hands for “safety”, but it is easier, you know what you’re putting out there to the rest of the world, and you get to CHOOSE what you give away, rather than allowing a malicious Operating System whose internal workings are known only to the Big Tech Maker to steal your information and sell it to the highest, or sometimes the MOST, bidders.
Good luck. Ask questions. Research. Think CRITICALLY.
Fair Winds and Following Seas in your Journey!