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Chairman Bill's nightmare

Hot on the Web

This column originally ran in ComputorEdge on February 16, 2001
(Issue 1907, New Wave of Linux)

While the media buzz has quieted some since the hype hit fever pitch last year, Linux continues to provide a comprehensive alternative to Windows. And with the continuing improvements to the competing GNOME and KDE desktops, it is one that is becoming increasingly easy to use.

Opera Web browser for Linux

For the last few years, Opera has been the distant third-place player in the browser battle, trailing both Microsoft Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator. Opera's low standing among the public had nothing to do with its capabilities – it's that until recently, the publishers of Opera charged full price for it while Netscape and IE were both distributed for free.

Having decided they needed to do something in order to grow their brand, Opera's owners are now offering it for free on the Windows platform (they make money by flashing advertisements to users; you can pay to upgrade and lose the ads).

Opera is also available for Linux, although one version (4) behind Windows. And while the Linux version isn't built around the free distribution of the Windows version (at least not yet), the current beta distribution is.

What sets Opera apart from the competition is that you can open multiple browsing windows inside the same single Opera window. Opera also claims to load pages significantly faster than Netscape; it is also much smaller than Netscape. (IE, of course, isn't available for Linux since Microsoft doesn't – can't – control Linux).

Netscape 6 for Linux

No longer in beta, Netscape 6 is now available for Linux (as well as Windows and Mac). Netscape 6 is a much smaller program than its predecessors. It seems more stable than Netscape 4.5x, although because it adheres more closely to official HTML standards, it won't correctly display many pages that use unofficial HTML extensions. Purists may applaud; average users are more likely to stick with a previous version or give Opera a try (although Opera has many of the same issues with non-official HTML).

Mozilla browser for Linux

Largely written by the same team of programmers that wrote Netscape 6, and sharing a common look and feel, Mozilla is an open-source project and includes a version for Linux. Still in beta, Mozilla is updated fairly frequently, so it's hard to say which version will be available on the Web site when you read this.

Amaya browser for Linux

The Amaya browser is another open-source project, this one under the umbrella of the World Wide Web Consortium, the nonprofit group that decides on official standards for html. Amaya is available for a variety of platforms, Linux included among them.

StarOffice for Linux

While WordPerfect may be the slickest office suite for the Linux platform (and arguably for Windows as well), StarOffice has an even better price – it's available free for the download (getting a copy on CD will set you back $9.95 without a manual, $39.95 with). StarOffice includes not only a full-featured word processor, but a database, presentations program and drawing utility.