Ubuntu Web: A Chrome OS Alternative That Respects Your Privacy

Ubuntu Web: A Chrome OS Alternative That Respects Your Privacy


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Ubuntu Web is a free, privacy-focused alternative to Chrome OS. You can use this community-developed Ubuntu Remix to create a Chrome OS-like web experience on any computer.

While still young and under development, Ubuntu Web is giving users a choice with a full suite of privacy-respecting, open-source alternatives that stand up well against Google’s notoriously information-hungry web OS and apps.

If you want a web-based OS that doesn’t feed on your personal information, Ubuntu Web is it. In this article, we’re going to show you where to get it, how to install it, and what you can do with it.

How to Download Ubuntu Web

It’s important to note that Ubuntu Web is a community-developed Ubuntu Remix. It is not an official Ubuntu release or flavor. You can find the most recent information about this special version of Ubuntu and where to get it on the official Ubuntu community Discourse site.

At the time of writing, you can download the most recent version of Ubuntu Web from Dark Penguin. We highly recommend, however, that you consult the latest information available at the Discourse site above before deciding which version to download.

Regardless of which version you download, be sure you are downloading an ISO image that includes livecd in the title. Versions without this moniker may not boot correctly. For example: ubuntu-web-20.04.1-livecd.iso.

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How to Install Ubuntu Web

As you might expect, Ubuntu Web installs in almost exactly the same way as Ubuntu. If you’ve ever installed Ubuntu, the process will be extremely familiar.

To begin, you’ll need to either burn the image you downloaded to a DVD or use it to create a bootable USB drive. With that done, use your newly minted installation media to boot the computer on which you would like to install (or preview) Ubuntu Web.

When the live image boots, you will be given the choice of experimenting with the live system as it is or installing it on your computer’s hard drive. The live system will give you a pretty accurate idea of how Ubuntu Web looks and behaves, but some features will not work correctly unless the system is fully installed.

You’ll find that everything works in a way very similar to Chrome OS except that the browser experience is Firefox-based and none of your information is sent to or stored on Google servers.

Select Install Ubuntu to begin the installation process. The installer will ask you a few questions before the process begins. In most cases, selecting the default options will work fine.

Be aware, though, that the installation process will erase the hard drive. Make absolutely sure that you don’t need any of the information on the drive before you start the Ubuntu Web installation process.

Connecting to the Cloud on Ubuntu Web

After installing, rebooting, and logging into your new Ubuntu Web system, you’ll be taken to the desktop and greeted with a second login screen that is separate from the login you created during setup. This login is for the /e/ Foundation (often referred to as /e/).

The /e/ Foundation maintains a free, open, privacy-respecting suite of products designed to more or less replace Google’s most common web apps, among other things. Ubuntu Web uses /e/ services as the central cloud storage system for the OS. If you already have an /e/ account, you can use it. If not, you can sign up for a free account in about 60 seconds.

Related: Reasons to Replace Android With /e/OS on Your Smartphone

What Can You Do With Ubuntu Web?

Ubuntu Web has a lot to offer. There is a full application menu that includes some great local apps such as Anbox, which allows you to run Android apps, a local file browser, and a terminal. Although this OS is web-based, it also gives more experienced users the tools to tinker with and tune the system.

The most commonly used web apps are pinned along the bottom taskbar. The /e/Email client looks and behaves a lot like Outlook webmail. It is somewhat customizable, so you can change things like the layout and colors to suit your taste. You’ll automatically get your own name@e.email address when you create an account.

The /e/Files web app is /e/ Foundation’s answer to Drive. You can store anything you like here with a default limit of one gigabyte. Paid storage plans are available up to two terabytes.

You’ll also get your own personal /e/Calendar. Keep track of important dates, meetings, and any other time-based activities with all the features you would expect from a modern calendar app.

On top of what we’ve already mentioned, you’ll also have a web-based contact manager, notes, to-do task list, and even photo management and sharing. If you really want to begin separating your online life from Google, Ubuntu Web offers a comparable alternative that is only getting better as the development continues.

A Word of Warning About Bugs

As we mentioned above, Ubuntu Web is still very much under development. That means that although it works quite well in its current state, you have to accept the fact that you’re going to run into some bugs and unintentional behaviors from time to time.

Don’t Force Manual System Updates

One such bug that we noticed during testing was that running a manual update using Ubuntu’s software updater can break the system.

Ubuntu Web is intended to automatically download and update itself the same way Chrome OS does. From time to time it will download new software in the background and then apply the update when you restart the system.

We highly recommend that you allow this to happen on its own and don’t try updating things manually through the software updater app. After running a manual update through the software updater, our test system became unbootable with no other remedy than to reinstall the operating system.

Is Ubuntu Web Right for You?

Whether or not Ubuntu Web is going to work for you as your primary operating system will depend on exactly what you want to do with it.

If you plan to put it on a computer where you will be doing little more than browsing the web, it should work just fine. In fact, it’s especially well suited for reviving older hardware that you may have sitting around doing nothing.

If you want to use it to get real work done, it might not be quite ready yet. A student using it to research things on the web and storing documents in the cloud could probably get by. A professional relying on it for mission-critical functionality might not be such a good idea (yet).

Either way, whether for a daily driver or just occasional use, Ubuntu Web is well worth a look. Casual users will find the experience to be fast, convenient, and complete. Like many other Ubuntu derivatives, this new web-based operating system has the potential to become something special.

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About The Author

JT McGinty
(11 Articles Published)

JT is a tech industry veteran with more than 25 years of experience. From tech support to programming and system administration, he has done it all. He particularly enjoys teaching new users the freedom and power of Linux.

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December 11, 2021 at 02:04PM

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