Thanks to the inbuilt capabilities of the Linux kernel, we're fortunate enough to have several high-profile and highly competent network-monitoring tools. Wireshark has become an industry standard for low-level analysis, and higher level applications such as Portmaster give us complete control over what goes into and out of our networks. But for non-experts, there isn't so much choice. And for those people, Sniffnet could be enough. Sniffnet is a graphical network monitor that shows a plotted chart of outgoing and incoming data alongside a breakdown of which networking protocols are being used. To start with, you need to select a network device detected on your system, and you need to run the application as root for adequate access permissions. You can also choose whether to monitor IPv4, IPv6, or UDP protocols, or all three, and there's an additional filter for specific network application protocols.

Click on Run and the monitoring starts. It can help if the machine you're monitoring acts as a router, such as a server running Pi-hole, but it's also very interesting on a single machine because you can quickly see just how many protocols you use with normal network access. HTTPS will normally top the list, followed closely by the Simple Service Discovery Protocol (SSDP). Type ssh to connect to a remote machine, and you'll see SSH appear in the list of used protocols. Individual connections appear below, sorted optionally by most recent, most bytes, and most packets. The UI is simple and well suited to terminal-only rendering, a feature that's hopefully being worked on. Clicking on the Open full report button will output a full network report to a text file. Even without augmentation, Sniffnet already offers a powerful and intuitive set of network monitoring features that will help the majority of us understand our own network traffic and see what's being used.

Project Website

Sniffnet is easily installed via Cargo or DEB packages and, while the UI is simple, it does offer light and dark modes of rendering.

Web browser


Considering how central the humble web browser has become to our lives, all the most popular browsers don't feel so humble, and typically share the same functionality and feel. Chrome, Safari, Edge, Brave, and Firefox are all large and complex applications with hidden depths that can make them difficult to use, and simpler alternatives are few and far between. Qutebrowser is minimal, but thanks to its Vim key bindings, is not easy to use. Which is why this browser, Min, is so refreshing. It may be built on Electron, so it doesn't challenge the Blink monoculture, but its design and aesthetics definitely challenge the ethos that browsers need to have an option for everything. The most obvious difference is that the URL bar is now part of the window titlebar, like many modern Gnome applications. The URL bar can also be used for search, which defaults to using DuckDuckGo, and works brilliantly with DuckDuckGo bangs such as !w to open the top result on Wikipedia. These bangs are augmented with a few of Min's own, such as !bookmarks to open the bookmarks view and !settings for further configuration options, and you can add your own from the Preferences panel.

Tabs also appear in the titlebar next to where they've been summoned, ensuring that the main view remains uncluttered and entirely focused on web rendering. There's no UI text, only icons, and there are only two drop-down menus at opposite ends of the top bar. The Preferences page lets you tweak the excellent built-in ad-blocking, set the appearance to light or dark mode, enable user scripts, and create a titlebar separated from the URL and tabs. Tabs themselves can be grouped into Tasks, which are accessible from the second drop-down menu. There's also a reader mode and a focus mode, with the latter disabling new tabs from being opened to keep you from watching YouTube while you're supposed to be working. It's the perfect balance between functional and minimal and a genuinely refreshing change from the establishment.

Project Website

A minimal web browser such as Min is useful if you want to use the web without being so distracted.

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