back to article Windows 10 Linux Distribution Overload? We have just the thing

An attempt to cure the headache of a Windows 10 desktop festooned with Linux distributions has arrived in the form of WSLTools from Opsview. Windows Subsystem for Linux Developed in conjunction with Canonical, the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) was originally somewhat of a curiosity when it debuted as part of the Windows 10 …

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Meh

I still think they're majoring in the minors. again.

Yeah, it may have a cool/geek factor to manage "all these Linux distros", but it's still Win-10-nic, it's still lipstick on the NON-OINKY end of the BOAR, and it's STILL Micro-shaft doing the "Embrace, Extend, Extinguish" thing.

(this new, shiny feature is part of "Extend")

Now - tell me how this helps my day to day operations. Yeah, thought so.

Were they spending an EQUAL amount of effort on a Wine-like subsystem that RUNS ON LINUX, so we could use windows applications on a Linux system DIRECTLY without having to use Win-10-nic, I'd be TRULY impressed!

Or, just get rid of the 2D FLATSO "the Metro" slurp/ad/track in Win-10-nic, and make it look like 7. yeah, fat chance, right?

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Re: I still think they're majoring in the minors. again.

Now - tell me how this helps my day to day operations.

I guess it depends what you need to do really doesn't it?

I had a need for ssh-ing into an attached device, and where previously I might have used putty, now I can just use bash and keep everything in one console.

Hopefully the port of OpenSSH to Windows will make my life a bit easier again and I can use Powershell to script stuff via ssh.

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FAIL

Re: I still think they're majoring in the minors. again.

"Were they spending an EQUAL amount of effort on a Wine-like subsystem that RUNS ON LINUX, so we could use windows applications on a Linux system DIRECTLY without having to use Win-10-nic, I'd be TRULY impressed!"

Two remarks. Wine in itself is much, MUCH better than I though it would be. I am moving various systems from Windows 7 Pro to Linux and so far, every single (!) app for which I couldn't unearth a Linux replacement has worked OOTB under wine. I was planning to install VirtualBox and Win7 as a VM but at the current rate that won't be necessary.

Second, anything MS releases for Linux is something I would never ever install. Even if it were initially released as open source... they are 100% capable of releasing newer versions (or extensions) which all of a sudden aren't. Or find some other means to tie me into their eco system in ways that are beyond my control.

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Re: I still think they're majoring in the minors. again.

Were they spending an EQUAL amount of effort on a Wine-like subsystem that RUNS ON LINUX....

Now that is bloody unlikely.

Gullible idiots (on other sites) keep trying to convince me MS is OSS friendly these days, someone even thought they were the highest annual contributor to the Linux kernel.

Why the hell would Microsoft want to help people run Windows programs without having to pay the MS licence or the dubious benefit of full-fat authentic Windows 10.

There is nothing Ms has released on any sort of borderline OSS licence that does not wholly benefit MS and no one else.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I still think they're majoring in the minors. again.

There is nothing Ms has released on any sort of borderline OSS licence that does not wholly benefit MS and no one else.

Right. They've just open-sourced some developer related tools not only to get free help, but because they absolutely had to in order to stay relevant.

I'm not suggesting they should open Window or Office, or even VS... but how about their NTFS implementation, mstsc, etc?

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J27

Re: I still think they're majoring in the minors. again.

Windows Subsystem for Linux is pretty good for us devs. It allows me to run builds or tools on Linux on the same workstation I'm running Windows on. I think we're the target market? If you're a sysadmin (like nearly everyone on this board seems to be), I can't see why you'd use it, no.

Also, why do you guys constantly complain about data collection from Windows and never talk about how pervasive Google's tracking is all over the web and in Android? It just seems like deep-seated Microsoft hate from years of terrible business practices are clouding your eyes to the OTHER terrible business practices out there. We're only about one step away from a 1984-level of surveillance here.

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Re: I still think they're majoring in the minors. again.

"how about their NTFS implementation"

Why do you want the source to that? MS has been actively contributing to SAMBA for about a decade. Opening up closed source takes far more resources than you think, with many many lawyers getting involved too. Contributing to the OSS projects seems an easier solution all around.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I still think they're majoring in the minors. again.

"someone even thought they were the highest annual contributor to the Linux kernel"

Certainly used to be, but I think that was when virtualisation was being put in so there were a bunch of drivers and such that MS contributed to work on Hyper-V and vice versa. These days Linux is heavily used on Azure so there's probably still a lot of contribution but no idea if still top of the list.

There are plenty of things MS and MS staff release to OSS that benefits others, as well as non code type stuff. You're just blind to these things due to personal bias. MS Research does a ton of good things, and the number of cool accessibility projects created by MS is huge. Take a look at the recent XBox controller for those with special requirements. Project Emma is good too, and the solution to allow blind people to navigate offices more easily. Some of this is open source, some is just for the greater good, but Microsoft actively encourage people to do the right thing. If you looked into Satya Nadella even a tiny bit you'd already know this though.

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aqk
Holmes

Re: I still think they're majoring in the miners. again.

Let me know when you've managed to run WordPerfect under WINE.

Yes, believe it or not, a lot of people still use this old dinosaur under Windows-7.

And I bet it even runs under Win-10.

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Gold badge

Re: I still think they're majoring in the minors. again.

"Now - tell me how this helps my day to day operations."

Seconded. I'm really struggling to see a use-case where I need to mix Linux and Win32 tools in the same command shell (or moral equivalent). As far as I can see, that's the only use-case for this because if you just need to run a mixture of software then you are far better off using a VM. (Specifically, unless you have some hardware that is strictly Windows only and can't use something like a USB pass-through, you should put Linux on the bare metal and stick Windows in the sandbox.)

As an added bonus, you can also use this technique to prevent Win10 from doing a six-monthly bork of your system. If you give the Window VM less than 2GB RAM, it will refuse to install the next feature release and simply carry on patching the version you are on.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I still think they're majoring in the minors. again.

Great, very useful to have a tool like this when running your legacy *nix stuff under Windows. The inbuilt WSL options were limited.

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Meh

Re: I still think they're majoring in the minors. again.

>> Gullible idiots (on other sites) keep trying to convince me MS is OSS friendly these days,

>> someone even thought they were the highest annual contributor to the Linux kernel.

I hear your pain. I'm on the same opinion, I don't see the point on running any Linux stuff on windows, just doesn't make sense.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I still think they're majoring in the minors. again.

complain about data collection from Windows and never talk about how pervasive Google's tracking is all over the web and in Android?

You wish to compare Microsoft with another scummy company?

So, you're ok with Microsoft knowing:

- What applications you install

- The websites you visit (if you use edge)

- What you download

- Everything you type into the start menu

- When you log into your computer (or even prevent you from doing so, if you use an online account)

- The almost all of your OS settings

- All of your hardware details.

- UPnP/mdns devices on your lan

- USB devices you connect to

- "Minimal" crash dumps of 3rd party software

(and that's on the "low" telemetry setting)

All on your personal computer. But it's fine, because of "how pervasive Google's tracking is all over the web and in Android"

Well, knowing what I do on a public network is one creepy thing, but on my own personal hardware?

It just seems like deep-seated Microsoft hate from years of terrible business practices

You said it.

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Bronze badge

Re: I still think they're majoring in the minors. again.

"... why do you guys constantly complain about data collection from Windows and never talk about how pervasive Google's tracking is all over the web and ..."

Most likely the depth and vigor Google's obsession with spying on users hasn't registered on most folks yet. Those who have been around a few decades can possibly recall a time in the 1980s and 1990s when Microsoft was widely perceived as being quite friendly to home users. Reasonably priced, non-copy protected software. A lot of free stuff. What's not to like? Things started to change around 2000. Something similar is happening with Google I think. ... sad ... but I reckon it's time to start thinking about moving on.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I still think they're majoring in the minors. again.

> I don't see the point on running any Linux stuff on windows, just doesn't make sense.

I have seen the Linux subsystem gain quite a bit of traction amongst two/three sort of types:

1. Casual developers who do not have access to a full Linux system and, e.g., want to get up and running with Git + Node / Ruby / Whatever ASAP, do their fixes / testing / pull requests and be done with it.

2. Web developers. It seems that the less painful way of developing on a Windows machine is to install a text editor (a real one, apparently the one that comes with Windows is a bit passive-aggressive) and fire up the Linux subsystem.

3. Students having to programming subjects as part of their studies. Quickest and most effective way to get around to it if you're stuck with a Windows PC once again seems to be to fire up the Linux subsystem and get gcc going.

That's what I have personally come across, though I'm sure there will be other uses.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I still think they're majoring in the minors. again.

"I don't see the point on running any Linux stuff on windows, just doesn't make sense"

Many SMEs are disinvesting in legacy midrange type systems (especially Oracle database) and moving to Wintel. This type of solution lets them still run legacy processes and tasks without the pain of having to tun Linux systems.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I still think they're majoring in the minors. again.

"This type of solution lets them still run legacy processes"

A lot of our legacy apps run natively on Windows already. Most of the useful modern stuff is designed for Linux with Windows as an afterthought.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I still think they're majoring in the minors. again.

"So, you're ok with Microsoft knowing:"

Actually yes I am. And if I wasn't then it's all easily disabled on corporate Windows versions anyway.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I still think they're majoring in the minors. again.

"Most of the useful modern stuff is designed for Linux with Windows as an afterthought."

I would have to say that for the vast majority of business software, it's the other way round. Linux is an afterthought. If there is even a version for Linux.

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Anonymous Coward

Remind me again......

.......how many operating systems does a typical user need on their personal machine?

*

And again, how many Linux distributions?

*

And yet again, Micro$oft's product plus THREE Linux distributions?

*

Am I mad...or is this one anorak project too far?

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Rol

Re: Remind me again......

The many Linux distributions each bring their own specialities.

They are akin to having a car that can perform as an F1 or a family tourer, but without the cumbersome disadvantages of cramming both concepts into one.

e.g. One flavour for gaming, another for crypto-mining and another for delving into the murky world of the dark net. Each tuned to get the best performance/security for the task.

I similarly have a few flavours of Windows 7 on hand, each one having been tuned for a particular task, although they do have one thing in common - none of them have any concept of a world beyond the case, as I've ripped all the network / lan / internet protocols out.

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Bronze badge

Re: Remind me again......

I guess it's time for 'Everywoman Desktop', that would be a new OS that allows you to run more Linux distributions in separate Docker containers simultaneously and quickly switch between them. Anything that Redmond can do, GNU can do better.

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aqk
Coat

Re: Remind me again......

How many operating systems should they support?

Why, just the correct one: YOURS of course! And to hell with all the others, right?

You must be a senior manager. Congratulations.

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Silver badge

Re: Remind me again......

Anything that Redmond can do, GNU can do better.

Windows has better graphics drivers and supports more WiFi devices...

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Re: Remind me again......

Let me see If I can answer at least a couple of your questions ....

. " ......how many operating systems does a typical user need on their personal machine? ... "

Being that I'm a "typical user", just one.

" ... And again, how many Linux distributions? ... "

Again, Being that I'm a "typical user", just one.

" ... And yet again, Micro$oft's product plus THREE Linux distributions? ...

And yet again, Being that I'm a "typical user", no. Why would I need "THREE" Linux distros? One distro is all you need to dev on. You MAY need to package it 3 different ways, but you only NEED to write it once.

Being that I'm a "typical user" all I need is one OS. And I have no need/use for any of Micro$oft's products. So for me that happens to be Linux ( and it's not Ubuntu or Ubuntu based ).

Need both? How about a VM? Pass thru all the needed hardware, add a second ( 3rd, 4th ...... ) monitor and Bobs your uncle With Linux it's not really that hard. Or if you're feeling frisky, you might take a look at Looking Glass ( https://looking-glass.hostfission.com/ ). Those damn Linux guys can be innovative.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Remind me again......

> how many operating systems does a typical user need on their personal machine?

There is a good chance this is exposing Linux to a lot of first time users who experiment with different distros to see which one they prefer, or just out of curiosity.

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Virtually nobody cares

In the world of Virtualisation and Clouds, there is no need to run both layers on one OS with all the gotchas and things that don't quite work right with the mapping from one OS dialect to the other. If you want formal vendor support for the apps you try and run on top of this, then you can forget that too, so ts not a viable option for most medium to larger organisations who care about things like being in support.

It would be hard for someone such as MS to argue that "this must run locally" given their push for everything to be cloudy and its the same argument on Linux and on-prem Windows machines, where a remote daemon has been the norm for decades - ssh, web services, e-mail,CIFS, NFS, database engines, etc, so as long as you have your client and can connect to the remote server, who (other than the DR team and security team) cares where it actually lives ?. This is after all just traditional client/server architecture.

This is where the crux of the problem is - needing a dual tool sets for managing a multi-vendor environments, so either run the openly available native tools on your chosen desktop OS and run another as a VM / VDI on some virtual / cloudy infrastructure and get the best of both worlds with no compatibility issues whilst remaining inside of vendor support for the important line of business apps.

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Rol

Don't feed the penguins. They're doing fine without your MSguided help.

I'm of the opinion, that if you start to feed penguins with Mad Sheep, then the penguins are at a greater risk of contracting the diseases that they had so far been immune to.

Here's an idea:- PC and especially laptop builders could easily incorporate a quick release caddy for an SSD. The user would then be able to swap out their MS boot drive for a Linux boot drive and thus prevent the nasties on the MS system from utilising MS's new found love of the penguin as a vector of attack.

I'm not saying Microsoft are going out of their way to assist the black hatters in widening their horizons, but it would be a good marketing strategy to make Linux distos susceptible to what is overwhelmingly an MS issue.

That said, MS can't provide compatibility support for its own legacy stuff, so my paranoia might, on this occasion, be a little premature.

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Re: Don't feed the penguins. They're doing fine without your MSguided help.

Or alternatively,

2 SSDS with the possibility to switch between both, suspend the activity of one , resume the other, just like VMs

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Childcatcher

Re: Don't feed the penguins. They're doing fine without your MSguided help.

I'm of the opinion, that if you start to feed penguins with Mad Sheep, then the penguins are at a greater risk of contracting the diseases that they had so far been immune to.

In this case, it's more a matter of feeding the penguins to the mad sheep. I am more concerned with this opening up new exploits to the Windows systems it runs on than the other way around.

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Silver badge

Re: Don't feed the penguins. They're doing fine without your MSguided help.

You've just described my systems here. I use hot-swap SSD's on the boot side here and there are rather a lot of them. Quite a few 2.5" and 3.5" HDD's, too. I don't even bother to count. The one exception is the (Internet connected) laptop but since it can be intercepted to boot off a stick, memory card, or external drive, it's much the same. Which gets used with whatever virtual machines depends on what I'm doing at the time. Yes, quite a bit of extra expense involved on the hardware end but worth it, IMNSHO.

OT: I've spent a lot of time using Windows Sub-system For Unix since its introduction. Similarly used Cygwin. Both have their quirks but I've adapted to them. I've not tried WSL, yet, but that's more due to not having W10 up and running. I much prefer WS2016 on a workstation given the weird s--- I do.

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Linux

I have a big question

Can the linux subsystems run their own desktops? thus replacing the abomination that is the current win10 gui

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Linux

Re: I have a big question

Cygwin has been running X11 GUI applications on Windows for many years. Even Apple supports X11.

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Silver badge

Re: I have a big question

Why 2 thumbs down?

Dont tell me the only 2 people who like the win10 gui are on this website.......

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I have a big question

> Can the linux subsystems run their own desktops?

I actually gave this a try on a friend's computer a few months ago.

In theory, it should be able to: you run an X11 server on Windows and connect to it from the Linux subsystem.

In practice, I did not manage to run more than a few simple standalone apps (think xeyes and such), certainly not replace the Windows desktop, though there should be no reason you couldn't, by running a root X11 windows fullscreen and launching your favourite desktop environment on it.

I attribute my lack of success to two things: primarily lack of familiarity with Windows and secondarily, perhaps, the couple of different X11 servers I chose not supporting every extension required to pull this off, but don't quote me on that last bit.

That is how things stood at the beginning of 2018, in my anecdotal experience.

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Anonymous Coward

It's all lies

We should be 100% clear here: you are not running *any* version of Linux at all. Linux is, after all, just the kernel. Here you're running a pure Windows kernel, with a Microsoft-authored POSIX compatibility shim on top. The very fact that you can see the processes in a Windows task manager at all gives this away.

So you get a choice of open-source desktops and userland packages in a distro - big deal. But you are not running Linux.

I guess what Microsoft wants is: devs will start developing on this, and they'll think it's Linux. Things like bash shell or compilers will likely work just fine. But when they start running serious applications which hit the filesystem or the network hard, things will fail in subtle and mysterious ways. Devs will say "oh well, I tried Linux and it was shit - I'll stick with Windows thank you very much".

But of course, they never actually used Linux at all.

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Silver badge

Re: It's all lies

No, that's wrong. Microsoft have done an implementation of the Linux kernel's system call interface. The POSIX part come from plonking glibc on top of that, the necessary binary being identical to that compiled by Ubuntu, or RedHat, or whoever.

As for what Linux is, given the myriad versions of the kernel that are out there, stretching way beyond the main stream kernel, arguably the only thing that defines them all as "Linux" is the system call interface. That's the one thing Linus has been very passionate about keeping consistent and stable. It's the only thing that unifies them all. That, and some shared git commit in a repository far, far away a long time ago.

So in a sense, anything that implements the system call interface is a Linux of sorts. That includes Windows 10, FreeBSD, QNX, Solaris, GR, RedHat, Ubuntu, Android, etc.

Reportedly MS have done MSSQL on Linux by doing a Windows kernel interface shim for Linux. They can put win32.dll and everything else on that, and software that uses these DLLs has no idea that there's no NT kernel underneath. So with that installed, a Linux can now also be a Windows too. At least to some extent.

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Silver badge

Re: It's all lies

"Reportedly MS have done MSSQL on Linux by doing a Windows kernel interface shim for Linux. They can put win32.dll and everything else on that, and software that uses these DLLs has no idea that there's no NT kernel underneath. So with that installed, a Linux can now also be a Windows too. At least to some extent."

That's not how SQL Server on Linux works. SQL Server was already very agnostic to OS and didn't need the Windows kernel. The "shim" only includes a couple of calls which weren't already inside SQL Server to make it compatible. It's actually very good engineering when you look closely at it.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It's all lies

So in a sense, anything that implements the system call interface is a Linux of sorts. That includes Windows 10, FreeBSD, QNX, Solaris, GR, RedHat, Ubuntu, Android, etc.

Try asking a FreeBSD user whether FreeBSD is a type of Linux, and see what answer they give you. Ditto for a Solaris user.

The fact that FreeBSD and Solaris can optionally provide a Linux-compatible syscall interface doesn't make them Linux.

RedHat and Ubuntu are irrelevant here: they are distributions of a Linux kernel plus a bunch of userland applications. If you boot RedHat on a dedicated server or VM then you're running an actual Linux kernel. If you run them under WSL then the Linux kernel isn't used.

It matters when you do things like fork() that Windows has to emulate. It matters when you do low-level things with the filesystem or device drivers.

https://blogs.msdn.microsoft.com/wsl/2016/06/08/wsl-system-calls/

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It's all lies

"Things like bash shell or compilers will likely work just fine. But when they start running serious applications which hit the filesystem or the network hard, things will fail in subtle and mysterious ways."

Just like the real thing then!

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"Garlic bread??? Garlic bread??? You mean bread? And garlic?

So let me understand this concept a little better because I am struggling with it...

What you are suggesting is that rather than just building and supporting my own Linux builds entirely free from cost, I spend money on a Windows license that allows me to run those same Linux builds within Windows.

Someone should definitely phone this in to Peter Kay, he'd have a field day with it.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "Garlic bread??? Garlic bread??? You mean bread? And garlic?

"What you are suggesting is that rather than just building and supporting my own Linux builds entirely free from cost"

Yours might be worthless, but my time has a value.

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Fails the horror movie test -- what could possibly go wrong?

You know, the "Let's explore the abandoned house next to the unkempt cemetery where the wind makes a funny screaming sound at night. Alone. With 3 high school kids comprising a jock, an nerd, and a hot chick." After all, it's not like they haven't done all three operations on every previous technology they've started the "embrace, extend, extinguish" sequence on in the past.

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But the question still remains .......

if I don't need anything Windows specific ( i.e.: anything from Adobe ), why the hell would I want to run the shit show that Windows 10 currently is?

Why would any "normal user"?

P.S.: For the 4th time, a Windows 10 update has completely hosed my only Windows desktop. So for me it is a shit show. It's either time to reinstall Windows 7 for when/if I REALLY need it ( and I rarely do ). Or just say to hell with Windows and install Linux on it too.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: But the question still remains .......

If you're a "power user", stick to Windows.

If you're a "normal user", or if you know what you're doing, go with Linux.

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The alpha stage

I eagerly wait for the day Windows 10 leaves its worldwide alpha stage.

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Bronze badge

Public Beta??

I know I am a bit of a dinosaur..

In my day, Alpha is where you added the features, Beta is where you made the features work and polished everything up. Surely if they are looking for feature requests, this is a Public Alpha?

I guess that is only relevant if you end up with a finished product though. Modern development isn't really about ever finishing anything.

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Re: Public Beta??

Hi there! I agree with your take on Alpha and Beta. We decided to call the first release of WSLTools a public beta because we knew there were some things that weren't working 100% on all systems. We didn't call it beta just because we wanted feedback. The tool isn't invasive, so we weren't worried about system stability, but we didn't want to release and then have people notice quirks and say the tool was rubbish. We acknowledge there are some known bugs.

We wanted to release the tool so that people could use it, enjoy it, get benefit from it, and hopefully, provide feedback on it. It's a free tool, a community offering. We've had a lot of positive feedback. We've already tweaked it based on requests, fixed bugs based on user feedback, and we look forward to future builds of WSLTools.

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