Hey, how can I use Linode VPS for internet browsing?
Although this question is quite open-ended, there are in fact a number of ways to use a Linode to browse the Web or traverse the Internet in general.
As a matter of clarity, I'd like to start by taking a moment to explain the difference between the Internet and the World Wide Web.
Internet vs World Wide Web
The Internet refers to the global internetwork of computing devices which communicate using public IPv4 or IPv6 addresses. Many diverse applications run atop the Internet, ranging from video conferencing to email to gaming.
The World Wide Web, or Web for short, is one of these applications that runs atop the Internet. The Web is organized into millions of web sites, which offer a collection of pages displaying text and images, hyperlinks to other pages, and a wide array of other elements, such as maps or text inputs. A program called a Web browser is used to access sites on the Web. The flexibility of the Web for rendering many different types of data in an easily accessible format contributes to its popularity.
Using a Linode to browse the Web
Since the term "browser" generally connotes the use of a Web browser for retrieving Web-based Internet resources, I will primarily investigate the ways in which a Linode can be used to access the Web.
Browsing the Web using a Linode-based VPN
When navigating to a Web site from your Internet device, the Web site will need to use some information about your device to facilitate the connection. Beyond this necessary exchange of data, many if not most Web sites also record some additional information about your device or connection, some of which may be retained for extended periods of time or be used to somehow limit your access to various forms of content.
You may overcome some of these issues by accessing the web through a Linode configured as a VPN. In this scenario, your Internet device will first connect to your Linode, which will then connect to the requested website on the behalf of your Internet device. Your VPN-enabled Linode will then provide the web assets to your Internet-connected device, effectively concealing your Internet device from directly accessing the Web site in question.
Through One-Click Apps, Linode supports deploying two popular VPN clients onto a new Linode: OpenVPN and Wireguard.
You may also elect to manually install either of these applications on your Linode (or another VPN application altogether). These pages from our Documentation may assist you with this endeavor:
- Set Up WireGuard VPN on Ubuntu
- Set Up WireGuard VPN on Debian
- Set up a Hardened OpenVPN Server on Debian 9
This is just a small sampling of the articles available in the VPN category of our Documentation, so I encourage you to take a look at our full catalog of articles covering this topic.
As a Web crawler/scraper
A Web crawler will regularly explore around the Internet for open and available Web resources. When it finds a Web resource, it will extract the information that it finds and most likely catalog it in some fashion.
Search engines regularly make use of Web crawling to build their indexes. When running a Web crawler, it is very important to limit its access rate so as not to overuse the limited bandwidth of the Web resources it accesses.
The terms "Web crawler" and "Web scraper" are often used interchangeably, though they are technically different: a Web crawler simply indexes various resources, while a Web scraper will actually extract information about those resources. Despite this difference, these applications often get lumped together into the same discussion due to the considerable overlap in their real-world use cases.
To get started with crawling or scraping the Web with your Linode, you may want to consider running some of the following programs:
- wget with Bash:
- Beautiful Soup
Setting up a Web server
While the above two topics cover how to use a Linode as a Web client, perhaps the more basic deployment is to use a Linode as a Web server.
Rather than access Web resources, this will allow your Linode to provide Web resources to other clients. At its most basic, a Web server provides HTML pages to serve in response to incoming connections. Even so, many Web sites expand greatly from this foundation to deliver rich multimedia content, payment processing, and other valuable features.
There are volumes of information available for running a Web server, though two of the most popular Web servers are Apache and Nginx. You may use these pages from our Documentation to get started with using these web servers:
You may also consider using your Linode to scan non-Web ports of other Internet resources, perhaps using the
nmap utility for this purpose.
Please be aware that this activity may frequently be considered malicious. While there are legitimate security research reasons for this activity, it is frequently used by black-hat hackers to discover and compromise vulnerable services.
If you are interested in this topic, I encourage you to conduct your own research to gain a familiarity for how to responsibly perform this practice. Do be aware that Linode does not tolerate abusive activity on its platform and will take appropriate action upon being alerted to such activity.
There are many ways to use your Linode for accessing both Web and non-Web Internet resources. Done responsibly, this is an excellent use of cloud hosting resources for applications which benefit from the stability and reliability of this infrastructure.