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Microsoft Releases New Tool To Get More Distros on Windows (zdnet.com) 216

Microsoft has released a tool to help Linux distribution maintainers bring their distros to the Windows Store to run on Windows 10's Windows Subsystem for Linux. From a report: Microsoft describes the tool as a "reference implementation for a Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) distribution installer application," which is aimed at both distribution maintainers and developers who want to create custom Linux distributions for running on WSL. "We know that many Linux distros rely entirely on open-source software, so we would like to bring WSL closer to the OSS community," said Tara Raj of Microsoft's WSL team. "We hope open-sourcing this project will help increase community engagement and bring more of your favorite distros to the Microsoft Store." WSL helps programmers build a full Linux development environment for testing production code on a Windows machine.
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Microsoft Releases New Tool To Get More Distros on Windows

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  • by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Wednesday March 28, 2018 @08:38AM (#56340161)

    I am not hating Microsoft but WSL main purpose is to bring Linux compatibility as a secondary purpose to a primarily Windows usage.
    This is the case you need or want a Windows systems as your primary, but there is a subset of tools that work much better in Linux, but you don't need them as your primary set of tools.

    Most distributions are built in mind of being your primary OS. Then running it in WSL you really don't get to experience all its real advantages.

    I guess if a distribution maker may want to make a distribution specialized for WSL they could do that.

    • by freax ( 80371 )

      The point is making sure people who develop for a Linux target (a mobile device, a phone, etc) use Windows on their desk. Differently put, the point is that they use Visual Studio instead of for example QtCreator.

      While the developer still has Windows on their desk they will also more easily target Windows for their developments, too.

      It's basically Ballmer's developers, developers, developers song.

      However, being an open source developer myself, I don't think that's a bad thing. More toys for us.

      • The point is making sure people who develop for a Linux target (a mobile device, a phone, etc) use Windows on their desk.

        Has WSL gained support for X.Org or Wayland or both recently? If not, then how is someone who develops a GUI application for an X11+Linux or Wayland+Linux target supposed to test?

        • There is no "support", however X.Org works fine. Just install a windows X-server like Xming, set DISPLAY env var.
          • by tepples ( 727027 )

            The free version of Xming has gone years without updates. In your experience, is it still stable after all these years?

            • I did not know that about Xming. I have had no stability problems with whatever copy I downloaded (newest on sourceforge as of a month ago, or so)
        • I've been running X on Windows for over 10 years, long before WSL. I don't think anything about WSL excludes you from running X.

      • by SQLGuru ( 980662 )

        A lot of people are moving over to the lighter weight Visual Studio Code (not to be confused with Visual Studio). VS Code already works on Linux (and Mac and Windows). It's actually a nice IDE regardless of the language you code in or the platform you code on.

    • by mrops ( 927562 )

      That is correct, the subject line anyway.Majority of enterprises still use Windows, email is on exchange, Microsoft office is the defacto app, vizio is your tool for diagrams, excel is what the business loves and uses. Yet a lot of developers love and want linux. As in my case, I like to think of myself as an above average software engineer. I would love to use Linux at work, I did for a while, soon Pidgin is a half baked replacement for Lync, Evolution almost works as a email client and even though Libre O

      • "Yet a lot of developers love and want linux."

        They don't know what they want other than their code to run. Where cares what marshals it into memory.

      • Back in early 2000s, the solution was to have two computers at my desk. One for doing work, and the other for Outlook or the occasional Word document. Just swivel in the chair to multitask.

    • Then running it in WSL you really don't get to experience all its real advantages.

      You don't need *all* the advantages. You just need some of them. MS's biggest problem is that most of the web is run on Linux, that is Linux servers and services. The underlying OS is not the reason for it. This extends to their own Azure platform where Linux is a popular choice.

      The point here is not to run Linux. The point is to run the things that Linux offers under Windows, scripts, applications, etc. That way they can start pushing their own Azure customers to run Windows server instead. Likewise develo

      • But you don't need a wide verity of distributions to pick from to get some of the advantages. Not expecting to use the GUI or having to deal with a large set of drivers what real advantage is there to use Ubentu vs Debian or Redhat vs Suse... For the most part you will be using the standard Linux commands, or installing the additional software that you are looking for.

        • Not expecting to use the GUI or having to deal with a large set of drivers what real advantage is there to use Ubentu vs Debian or Redhat vs Suse...

          The difference every distro offers: The package management philosophy and their own home baked management apps (the most obvious of which being the package manager itself).

    • by novakyu ( 636495 )

      I think it's more about the package management system. I use Bash on Windows regularly, and whatever I install on that subsystem comes in through Ubuntu repositories. That is, if it's something not in Ubuntu main repositories, they aren't going to be available on Bash on Windows.

      Maybe there are people out there who use Redhat's system (yap or whatever; I haven't looked in a very long time), or maybe there is software package configured well in a Debian repository but for whatever reason not in Ubuntu reposi

    • Embrace. Extend. Extinguish.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 28, 2018 @08:40AM (#56340165)

    I have one computer now that been trying to get Win10 1709 for over 3 months. Keeps getting 83% done then bows off, reloads old version of Win10, then starts at it all over again starting with the download. There is no way to stop it or control it.

    You want Linux to run on such a broken system? My Linux boxes are going on over 100 days of uptime (moved from one room to another). Maybe Win10 should be a subsystem to Linux? At least I know Linux is stable enough to run a subsystem.

    • There already exist such a subsystem, it's called Wine. Maybe microsoft people should focus on contributing to it instead.
      • Last I checked, Wine required an X server, and Microsoft didn't provide one for WSL. Nor has the free version of Xming been updated in over a decade.

        Or are you referring to running Linux on the bare metal and running applications in Wine? That works so long as Linux and X.Org support your PC's hardware. Though some PCs work better with Linux, others work better with Windows, sometimes fairly spectacularly [debian.org].

        • I run gnome-terminal via WSL/Xming whenever I need a terminal in Windows.
          cmd.exe / powershell.exe from the linux shell works if you need them, and it's a far-superior terminal emulator to that shit Microsoft ships with windows.
          How the hell do Windows people survive without a tabbed terminal emulator?
    • Run a diag on your RAM

  • by Mr Foobar ( 11230 ) on Wednesday March 28, 2018 @08:45AM (#56340189) Homepage

    I mean, when /. first started, it was all "embrace, extend, extinguish" with MS using a Borg Gates avatar.
    Is this the "embrace" part or the "extend" part of that whole process? Or can we really trust them?

    • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Wednesday March 28, 2018 @09:03AM (#56340271) Homepage Journal

      Is this the "embrace" part or the "extend" part of that whole process? Or can we really trust them?

      Microsoft is a publicly traded corporation controlled by a board, so anyone who trusts them (regardless of their history) really could not get any dumber. However, they could seem dumber if they ignored Microsoft's history, which proves conclusively that no one should trust them.

      • The only dumb thing is misusing the word trust to be all encompassing. There are many things I trust about Microsoft, such as their inability to create a lightweight useful server product. I trust that all their software will have some way of trying to ex-filtrate data.

        I also trust that their history can't be used to predict their future given that their history was based on leadership by a malevolent and technically quite brilliant and strategic mind with impeccable attention to detail, whereas their futur

        • by swimboy ( 30943 )

          In summary, MS are too stupid to be genuinely evil.

          Stupid and evil are not mutually exclusive.

          • I didn't say they were stupid. I said they were "too stupid" to be evil. They are mutually exclusive on account of the adverb I used before stupid.

    • This is just a continuation of their older Unix layer they’ve had for decades, but just without a decrepit old codebase.

      • No, it's not. Similar idea, but specifically a Linux syscall interface and ELF loader as opposed to a POSIX compatible library layer requiring programs compiled for Windows, but using POSIX calls provided by the dll.

        This is a much deeper level.
    • by mark-t ( 151149 )
      I'd say this is still part of its 'embrace' phase. I think we'll start to see the 'extend' phase happening before the end of 2019.
    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      For computer games in Windows.
    • I mean, when /. first started, it was all "embrace, extend, extinguish" with MS using a Borg Gates avatar.

      When /. first started MS was run by a smart CEO with an incredibly strategic way of thinking slowly working its way to an incredible monopoly. The MS of today can't even convince people to get a free upgrade of an existing MS product, or extract anything of value from a $7.6bn acquisition of a large mobile phone company.

      I have high trust that MS's current leadership is too incompetent to execute an embrace, extend, extinguish strategy. Not only that but in order to so you need to come from a position of a m

    • I mean, when /. first started, it was all "embrace, extend, extinguish" with MS using a Borg Gates avatar. Is this the "embrace" part or the "extend" part of that whole process? Or can we really trust them?

      This is "embrace". "Extend" will come when they have their own linux group, their own distro, and are committing code to the kernel.

  • by nimbius ( 983462 ) on Wednesday March 28, 2018 @08:47AM (#56340193) Homepage
    Open source wasnt developed as a 'feature' or a clever gimmick that people wanted as part of their computing experience. Open source was developed in direct opposition to the types of traditional licenses and restrictions placed on code and programs from Microsoft and other companies like them. The fact is Linux never needed windows support, and no one has explained the net-gain from supporting the execution of free software that has run stand-alone for decades other than the potential to sell more licenses for the proprietary OS under which it is being made to run.

    in other words, given the chance, no one is going to intentionally shell out cash to run GCC on a copy of windows.
    • by freax ( 80371 )

      Open source existed before Microsoft existed as a company. So no, open source was not developed in direct opposition to it and its licensing models.

      • The term "Open Source" dates to the late 1990s, Microsoft to the late 1970s. Free software, which is usually considered "The same outcome as with open source but for different reasons" certainly predates Microsoft, maybe that's what you meant?
    • in other words, given the chance, no one is going to intentionally shell out cash to run GCC on a copy of windows.

      Who said anyone would? WSL is for people already running Windows and used something prior like Windows Services for Linux. Microsoft has never claimed anyone is going to buy Windows purely to run WSL.

      • and used something prior like Windows Services for Linux

        Ugh, obviously meant Windows Services for Unix.

      • Microsoft has never claimed anyone is going to buy Windows purely to run WSL.

        Even if Microsoft has not claimed so, a few some Slashdot users have. When asked what Linux laptop to use in size ranges that System76 doesn't cover, particularly smaller than 13", I seem to remember a few users replying suggesting buying a Windows laptop and running WSL.

    • Open source was developed in direct opposition to the types of traditional licenses and restrictions placed on code and programs from Microsoft and other companies like them.

      You misspelled "Free Software" there. Open Source just means that you can get the sources [hyperlogos.org], and the concept (if not the name) actually predates Microsoft. People were giving away source code to CP/M programs before Microsoft knocked it off as DOS.

      The fact is Linux never needed windows support, and no one has explained the net-gain from supporting the execution of free software that has run stand-alone for decades other than the potential to sell more licenses for the proprietary OS under which it is being made to run.

      Support for one or two Windows applications has roped many people into Linux, because it made it possible for them to ditch Windows. How many? Who knows? But it was useful.

      in other words, given the chance, no one is going to intentionally shell out cash to run GCC on a copy of windows.

      Which is not even vaguely close to what is happening, or what is suggested to be happening.

    • The fact is Linux never needed windows support

      Software does not have needs. Users have needs. Software tries to meet that need.

      As for me, I used to have a number of applications that ran on Windows. It would have been shittier for me if Cygwin wasn't around to give me a real shell[1]. I donated some bux to the Cygwin maintainers, contrary to your claim that no one is going to pay for that.

      [1] This was before PowerShell (get off my lawn). Since I've only got so much room in my brain for shell languages so I would still prefer BASH on Windows even if PS

    • Open source wasnt developed

      Actually you're missing the point of Open source. By-n-large most large players don't give a shit about open source when they chose Linux or such toolkits for their enterprise solutions. Altruism doesn't fit in anywhere in the procurement strategy.

    • You're thinking about it backwards. Microsoft isn't imagining that Linux needs Windows support. They want Windows to have Linux support.

      If you want/need to run some Linux tool, they want to make it as easy as possible to run that on Windows. It's an added feature for Windows if it can run Linux stuff.

      • by tepples ( 727027 )

        If you want/need to run some Linux tool, they want to make it as easy as possible to run that on Windows.

        Is that just for command line tools or also for tools that present a graphical user interface (GUI)? Or should all GUI applications for Linux be client-server, with a web or UWP front-end and a Linux back-end? Good luck getting that past the "I don't want any script in my document viewer!" crowd that inhabits parts of Slashdot.

        • Or should all GUI applications for Linux be client-server

          All GUI applications for Linux are client-server, with the client (app) and X (server)
          There are many X servers for Windows available. If you want one that runs on the Linux side, you don't understand how this works.

          • by tepples ( 727027 )

            There are many X servers for Windows available.

            Then why doesn't Microsoft offer a list of them when WSL is being installed, as it used to do with the "Browser Choice" thing in Europe?

            • Don't know. For all I know, the guys who do the packaging don't even know such a thing is possible. X client/server signaling requires no kernel support, it's just sockets, so Linux GUI support exists by virtue of sockets working... I suppose it's possible nobody on the development side ever bothered to try running X apps? Or perhaps they had some kind of evil nefarious reason to not want you to, like you realizing that a lot of the default shipped Gnome GUI apps are a lot better than their Windows equivale
  • Reversed (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rtkluttz ( 244325 ) on Wednesday March 28, 2018 @08:48AM (#56340201) Homepage

    Linux on windows = stupid. Windows on linux = ok, but still stupid. Windows is a bloated, fat OS where FAR greater than 75% of its code is there to LIMIT what you can do in some way. It is always working against you and policing what you can do on your own system. Why would you allow it to be the base OS?

    • by ledow ( 319597 )

      Sorry, but in this day and age why are we still running a base OS of any description?

      Why are things not supplied with a hypervisor and then people just choose what they want on first boot, even choosing "all" if they want both OS.

      Running a general purpose OS on top of a general purpose OS is just a waste. Virtualise, and make the hypervisor be the "OS", the only thing that actually needs to integrate with the hardware whatsoever.

      • Why are things not supplied with a hypervisor and then people just choose what they want on first boot, even choosing "all" if they want both OS.

        Depends on your use case. There are plenty of places where the hypervisor is the default state. 2 of the machines in my house do just that. My desktop? Well one of the reasons people run Windows is to run certain applications which also have very real performance constraints (i.e. games). Good luck with your hypervisor there.

    • Linux on windows = stupid.

      Fortunately we're not running Linux on Windows. What we're running is Linux based applications on Windows, and given the great speeds WSL provides along with not needing to fire up an entire virtual machine to get the job done this sure as hell is a heck of a lot less stupid than having to manage 2 OSes on one machine.

      As for why people use Windows at all, If you don't know it already it's only because you don't want to accept it. This has been discussed to death.

    • by sirber ( 891722 )
      apache/php/mysql in wsl works better than a wamp, git also better work on wls when ssh is in use than directly in windows. but a real ubuntu is way better!
  • by CHK6 ( 583097 ) on Wednesday March 28, 2018 @08:52AM (#56340221)
    Linux is not a second-class citizen that needs to ride on the back of Microsoft Windows. It's insulting that Microsoft claims that enterprises are asking for this. Any enterprise that uses Linux know, Linux stands on its own. Any Linux distro that partners this way tarnishes the years of development effort of thousands of developers.
    • It's insulting that Microsoft claims that enterprises are asking for this.

      Why else would they have also maintained a Unix layer on NT for decades prior if no one was asking for something like this? Just because you don’t use something doesn’t mean others don’t.

    • It makes Windows usable for those of us that must use Windows - admittedly though in a way that Cygwin has done for a long time as well. (Cygwin is better integrated though, while WSL seems more natively Unixy and has proper, familiar, package management with a much greater set of packages available.)

      I end up using all three.

      (Yes, I said three, there's also the MingW, which is usually the shell used around git on Windows, Microsoft even bundles it with their IDEs.)

    • Wow. Where to start.

      Linux is not a second-class citizen that needs to ride on the back of Microsoft Windows.

      It doesn't. Linux isn't running anywhere. Windows Subsystem for Linux is all about not running Linux AT ALL, but giving Windows users access to Linux userland apps.

      It's insulting that Microsoft claims that enterprises are asking for this.

      Then you should blame the enterprises for your insult. The same enterprises who spin up 40% of Azure instances not because they give a shit about Linux, but rather to access software that only runs on Linux.

      Any enterprise that uses Linux know, Linux stands on its own.

      Of course it does, but for what reason? Very few enterprises use Linux because Linux. They use Linux because Apache or so

  • Paging RMS... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mccalli ( 323026 ) on Wednesday March 28, 2018 @08:59AM (#56340243) Homepage
    The one thing Windows Subsystem For Linux doesn't actually have is....Linux. For once, the argument about GNU/Linux is completely correct and relevant. Linux is the kernel - Windows is using its own kernel for ELF support and various APIs. It isn't Linux. Even the Wikipedia article on the naming controversy states that the shorter Linux "...serves as a generic term for systems that combine that kernal with software from multiple other sources" [wikipedia.org].

    I mean, I'm not exactly getting bent out of shape over it. I just find it wryly amusing.
    • You're right, it isn't Linux. It's the Windows Subsystem for Linux. I don't understand what people find so hard to understand about the name. It runs in Windows, it's a subsystem for software that traditionally runs on the Linux kernel.

  • Did they ever provide the necessary APIs and hooks and other things to allow anti-virus vendors to properly monitor and check WSL processes?

    • by Bert64 ( 520050 )

      It's likely they want WSL to become a malware vector, so they can blame linux for the malware...

  • Other than not having to recompile and relink binaries with cygwin, or Ming, how is this very different?

    We can already run pretty much everything of importance on Windows, using Cygwin.

    • by Dwedit ( 232252 ) on Wednesday March 28, 2018 @09:10AM (#56340301) Homepage

      Cygwin is slow to create or fork processes, while WSL is much faster there. So things like autotools, config scripts, or make run a lot faster under WSL than Cygwin.

      Also, there is more software and library availability for the Linux distros than on Cygwin.

    • Other than not having to recompile and relink binaries with cygwin, or Ming, how is this very different?

      You say "other than not having to recompile binaries" as if this is a small thing. It is a very big difference and fundamentally being able to emulate the Linux Kernel ABI to natively run entire linux distributions within windows makes comparing cygwin to WSL similar to comparing Docker to VMWare.

      They are emulating a completely different layer and as such providing a completely different level of compatibility and usability. Cygwin is great for running some scripts and some basic small binaries, but it's qu

    • Cygwin does its work at the user level. It's just another Win32 application that use the Win32 API provided by Windows NT kernel to try to do what a POSIX compliant program compiled against Cygwin wants to do.
      (Among other things, this causes "fork()" to be slow due to Win32 API sucking at it).
      (And as you mention it means that you need to recompile and relink against it).

      WSL does its work at the kernel level. Just like Win32 is one of the API tha the NT Kernel provides (and just like the OS/2 API that it did

    • This is very similar to cygwin, but without the huge pile of fucking suck that is cygwin.
      Speaking from experience. My current project is replacing Cygwin with WSL where I can. We use it to handle automation of our few Windows servers (mostly running proprietary billing software and such) via the rest of our Linux infrastructure. WSL is fucking awesome.
  • WSL isn't very good (Score:5, Informative)

    by bangular ( 736791 ) on Wednesday March 28, 2018 @09:42AM (#56340473)
    I know a lot of people have ideological objections to WSL, but from a practical standpoint WSL isn't even very good. I tried it for about two weeks before abandoning it.

    First, windows has a terrible terminal emulator. I don't think it's improved since Windows 95. Basic stuff like copy/paste is not intuitive, let alone nice features like tabs. I tried an alternative (cmder I think) and it was OK, but something as important as the terminal emulator should not be an afterthought.

    Raw sockets didn't seem to work correctly (or at all). I tried a few network tools and they generally fell flat on their face.

    It seems really slow. Maybe it's just my imagination, but sometimes I'd do something as simple as an 'ls' and patiently wait.

    There was no GUI support out of the box. I had to setup Xming on the windows side. Again, not super complicated, but it seems like little thought was put into it. I don't need a GUI very often (usually just to display plots I generated), but there should have been more effort.

    The goal was to basically have python, R, a C compiler, some networking tools, etc, available when I am in Windows and not have to boot a Linux box for basic things. The quality was just too low and went back to using a combination of VMWare and native windows versions.

    Maybe it will get better, but it seems like it's trying to solve a problem most people don't have.
    • I can't comment on the network development side, but ....

      It seems really slow. Maybe it's just my imagination, but sometimes I'd do something as simple as an 'ls' and patiently wait.

      WSL has bench marked in a variety of use cases (including disk IO) with very similar results to Docker and VMWare. It's certainly not native performance, but it isn't that far from it. ls is instant on my machine, so maybe something went wrong in your install.

      There was no GUI support out of the box. I had to setup Xming on the windows side. Again, not super complicated, but it seems like little thought was put into it.

      Plenty of thought has been put into it. The big problem here is users expecting software that specifically flashes up as being experimental when you first install it to be feature complete. If yo

    • First, windows has a terrible terminal emulator

      It does! My main impetus for keeping WSL on my machine. gnome-terminal is *soooo* much nicer.

      Raw sockets didn't seem to work correctly (or at all). I tried a few network tools and they generally fell flat on their face.

      Raw sockets do not work at all, except for ICMP proto raws- they're not provided by the MS kernel, unfortunately.

      It seems really slow. Maybe it's just my imagination, but sometimes I'd do something as simple as an 'ls' and patiently wait.

      I haven't noticed the slowness.

      There was no GUI support out of the box. I had to setup Xming on the windows side.

      Wait, what? What do you think "GUI" support in Linux is? What do you want, an X server running from within the WSL layer? That makes literally no sense. Or do you want *microsoft* to provide their own X server while they're at it? No thanks. I like having options.

      but from a practical standpoint WSL isn't even very good.

      I think it'

  • Why is it all about Windows running Linux as a 2nd class citizen?

    It would best for Linux to be our core, and make Windows an optional subsystem of a LInux host.

    • It's not. Linux isn't running at all. It's about running GNU/Windows.

      It would best for Linux to be our core, and make Windows an optional subsystem of a LInux host.

      You should tell Code-weavers to get working on it. Me, I'm personally happy having the option rather being told what is "best".

  • MS wants your money. Even if you need to run a free OS. That's always been the case and hasn't changed. In general, they're winning and this is the start of the endgame for them.

    With everyone progressively more and more locked into Office365, this gives MS an argument to say there's not even a need to find a way to unlock and escape.

    If all your Linux needs can be met from Windows, how are you ever going to convince the CTO to abandon Windows even for the technical staff?

    FB must be wondering why they're gett

  • by TheFakeTimCook ( 4641057 ) on Wednesday March 28, 2018 @11:37AM (#56341225)

    Is this the "Embrace" or "Extend" phase?

    • Embrace. You can't extend what isn't embraced. WSL usage is basically non existent.

      • Embrace. You can't extend what isn't embraced. WSL usage is basically non existent.

        But hasn't MS been making a LOT of "Embrace" noises ALREADY vis-a-vis Linux and W10?

  • I'm sure I'm in the minority here, but I actually kind of like WSL. It isn't perfect, and it isn't a "real" VM (it uses a sort of kbi translation layer and is more like a jail or a container than a vm), so some things obviously don't work, particularly system tools. But that's mostly fine. I never liked Cygwin, going back years. Windows Services for Unix was cumbersome and weird. WSL doesn't suffer from as many problems, IMO.

    For my home hobby workflow, being able to pop open WSL and have all the bits of U

  • You all realize that, right?

    Last year I predicted that Microsoft would try to annex Linux, and now I see I was right.

    I'll say it again: It's not real Linux if it runs UNDER WINDOWS. Don't fall for it, gentlemen (Gentoo-men?).
    • It's not Linux at all. You do realise that right?

      Not even the slightest bit of Linux code is being run. That's entirely the point of a Windows Subsystem for Linux.

      It is however still perfectly real GNU program regardless of which kernel it runs on.

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