back to article Microsoft loves Linux so much it wants someone else to build distros for its Windows Store

Microsoft quietly open-sourced a Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) sample last night in an effort to persuade Linux distribution maintainers to add their distros to the Windows Store. The sample will also allow developers to side-load their own custom distribution packages onto a development machine. The WSL was emitted as …

  1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    “Broadening the ability for people to try, enjoy, and adopt Linux via the WSL is a good thing.”

    Just wait till the realise they could run it on bare metal.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Maybe the fact Microsoft are starting to embrace Linux as a "choice" in windows 10 is not about giving the user choice but a get out of jail free card with a future bios change that takes away choice. You know, like UEFI which was a good start but not quite there and enough to piss a lot of people off when it first came out.

      I do love making up conspiracy theories before they happen.

      1. JohnFen Silver badge

        "Maybe the fact Microsoft are starting to embrace Linux as a "choice" in windows 10 is not about giving the user choice"

        Well, it's certainly not. This is Microsoft we're talking about. When they embrace anything, it's with the intention of destroying it as competition.

        1. Mark 85 Silver badge

          @JohnFen

          You might right. Reminds me of this: "Go back!!!. Run away!!!! It's a trap!!!!"

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I feel I should elaborate on UEFI or U effing joking as I liked to call it.

        What did you learn in the early days of Linux and dual boot? Install windows then Linux so you don't have to boot with a boot disk to reinstall lilo (showing my age now), so imagine my surprise when after installing windows I now have to change a bios setting that not only means I have to reinstall windows but I also wasted a load of time with all the updates and crap. It's not a stretch of the imagination to think Microsoft will try to pull another trick. I can't wait for the day I don't have to dual boot because I have to use the CAD MS Paint software included in windows.

        1. James Loughner

          You don't have to change any thing most DIstros work fine with UEFI. the trick is to boot the installer in EFI mode not legacy. Mixing boot methods is counter indicated

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            @James Loughner

            You are of course correct however in the early days it was a mess imho.

      3. This post has been deleted by its author

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "Maybe the fact Microsoft are starting to embrace Linux as a "choice" in windows 10 is not about giving the user choice"

        It's primarily for user convenience. For instance Developers can run legacy *nix text command line type tools without the bother of installing another OS on something.

        "but a get out of jail free card with a future bios change that takes away choice."

        Microsoft don't control manufacturer BIOS in general.

        "UEFI which was a good start but not quite there "

        Which had little to do with Microsoft.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Just wait till the realise they could run it on bare metal."

      Just wait until they realise that they dont need to anymore!

      1. romulopb

        And when will they realize it when we still have an absurdly slow/old FS layers and a kernel that still is slow as hell in processes creation plus many other oddities? I love to play games and watch Netflix on Windows and I love WSL, it opens new oportunities, but, still in 2018 and it is useless for multi-platform projects I work in (well if you prefer doing your work in relevant less time), compared to things like MinGW. There exist a lot of points why:

        1. There is no sense in developing in WSL when you don't need to forcibly deploy something for WSL environments, many tasks around developing process work pretty bad in WSL, compilations, unit testing, scientific modeling, all takes a reasonable bigger time to happens, be it the fact Windows is slow to create processos, or the FS is not suited for small files, huge amount of files creation/deletion. etc, or you have a AV making your linker work in a hell of constant file checking, not to point WSL FS layer emulation (yes, still is another FS over NTFS) help in making things worse... MinGW is less a pain and reasonably much faster as it growed managing many of those problems, hell even a VM is faster...

        2. There is no market plan for how to distribute Linux binaries as software on Windows, I really don't expect my clients installing WSL to get the final product, this is probably the biggest no doubt point in showing how multi-platform development is not the idea behind WSL and it is more a server and cloud coin. You gain nothing in terms of native programs deployment working in WSL.

        3. Still, it is not pure Unix, we have oddities in sockets, FS, processes/threads management, system os tree inter relation with the base OS, and al sort of thing as pointed. In the end, it is better to do the hard work in a Unix and give a final quick pass in deployment life cycle end on Windows if you need multi-platform.

        More and more WSL show it is clearly not a way to develop in Windows with Unix facilities but a very point focused way to deploy container oriented projects only, plus get less expensive and less painful Azure instances for quick cloud integration.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @Doctor Syntax - There's Secure Boot for that

      so you can kiss your bare metal good bye.

  2. Alan J. Wylie

    It has been embraced by developers

    In this context, "Embraced" has often been followed by "extended" and "extinguished".

    1. Alan J. Wylie

      Seeing all the down votes, it prompted me to try and remember what it was that MS did almost 20 years ago to try and abuse the standards procedures. I was most amused to discover that googling for microsoft kerberos "nda" returns, as the top result, Embrace, extend, and extinguish

    2. TVU Silver badge

      "In this context, "Embraced" has often been followed by "extended" and "extinguished""

      Not going to happen. The bigger picture is that Microsoft is accommodating Linux because they've lost on enterprise servers, in the cloud, on supercomputers, internet of things, etc. and, in other words, they are operating from a position of weakness.

      As an example, 40+% of all virtual machines in Microsoft's Azure cloud are now running Linux. In this new reality, Microsoft needs Linux in order to make money so the war is now over.

      If you want a current ultravillain corporation, look no further than Oracle with its extortion through litigation policy and its hostility to all things open source. They are the new SCO Group.

  3. Nate Amsden Silver badge

    Does it have a good terminal emulator ?

    The one(s) that come with cmd and powershell seem pretty terrible..

    My favorite terminal emulator under windows is the native rxvt from cygwin, much to my dismay is no longer available in cygwin (you have to use X now), I asked the developers one or two years ago on that since there was no mention on the site and they said it wasn't maintained anymore and they couldn't update it or something. So I just keep the old cygwin around for as long as it keeps workin.

    My usage of cygwin is pretty limited to basic command line stuff and ssh. Without rxvt though it would be quite a bit more painful, and running full X doesn't sound appealing just for a few terminal windows. Cygwin user for a good 16-18 years now.

    I struggle to think of use cases for this subsystem but come up mostly empty. I browsed Scott's blog posting on the developer aspect and it sounds like it could be useful there, though not for me since I am not a developer.

    I'm sure a Linux subsystem is quite a bit less overhead than a VM though systems are so powerful these days, so much ram and so many cpu cores, even laptops that for most folks I think they are better off with a VM where you can back it up easier, experiment more(if needed), take snapshots of the VM and things like that.

    I was running the earliest versions of vmware (pre 1.0) back in 1999 with windows on top of Linux at the time. Those were days of constrained resources for virtualization on the desktop. I remember trying Bochs too with Win9x, which worked as long as you were comfortable with 30 minute boot times(or so it seemed like from memory).

    Windows 10 has so many downsides to it I can't imagine anything they could put into the system that would make me want to upgrade from 7.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Does it have a good terminal emulator ?

      "running full X doesn't sound appealing just for a few terminal windows."

      I used to run Windows for a few terminal sessions to the Unix server. How appealing do you think that felt?

    2. Alan J. Wylie

      Re: Does it have a good terminal emulator ?

      Google claims that it runs sshd, so putty might be the answer. Add "screen" too, if that is supported. With a VPN you can get a stable login session from multiple endpoints.

  4. steelpillow Silver badge
    Devil

    Raise your WINE glass and wet your WSL?

    What are the chances that WSL is not quite as free of WINE code or IP as MS want to believe?

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Re: Raise your WINE glass and wet your WSL?

      WINE seems unlikely, given that WSL is the exact opposite.

      Converting A into B is quite different to converting B into A.

  5. Oh Homer
    Mushroom

    "One of the principles of FOSS is that choice matters"

    Not according to the anti-choice brigade, which largely comprises systemd apologists.

  6. JohnFen Silver badge

    What's in it for distros?

    ""We hope open-sourcing this project will help increase community engagement and bring more of your favorite distros to the Microsoft Store.""

    Why would it? I seriously don't understand what the appeal of having distros in the Microsoft Store is (to anybody who isn't Microsoft). Wouldn't it be better to run an OS that doesn't shackle you, such as Linux, on your hardware and run Windows in a VM? Doing it the other way around doesn't make sense to me.

    1. Jakester

      Re: What's in it for distros?

      I have no desire to do anything with Linux in Windows. My main OS is Linux and for the few things that I currently prefer to do in Windows (the list is quite short now and getting shorter), I will either use Windows in a VM or reboot and load Windows in another partition.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What's in it for distros?

      "Why would it? I seriously don't understand what the appeal of having distros in the Microsoft Store is (to anybody who isn't Microsoft). "

      It's a lot easier to manage a zoo of developer and legacy *nix / midrange environment support requirements in an Enterprise if they all run on Windows.

      "Wouldn't it be better to run an OS that doesn't shackle you, such as Linux, on your hardware and run Windows in a VM? Doing it the other way around doesn't make sense to me."

      No it's a lot easier to run Windows and then run Linux under it. Full integration such as file system access with no VM required.

    3. Richard Plinston Silver badge

      Re: What's in it for distros?

      > I seriously don't understand what the appeal of having distros in the Microsoft Store is (to anybody who isn't Microsoft).

      At least it would be _someone_ adding stuff into Microsoft Store.

  7. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Suggestion - That They Use Red Star Linux....

      Interesting little distro that has a hidden Administrator account to remove things that the State deemed illegal.

      "There is a user group called "administrator" in the operating system. Users, however, can't gain full privileges to the system, even if they're administrators. Commands such as sudo and su are not available."

      I may have to run it in a VM and try and gain ROOT with DirtyCOW to see what other goodies are in there.

  8. remainer_01

    Windows Store? Sideloading?

    Isn't "sideloading" another word for "running apps we don't approve of, but we cannot legally stop you" I *really* don't want to go back to a Linux Desktop and Wine to run Office, and I can't stand Apple.

    1. Richard Jukes

      Re: Windows Store? Sideloading?

      And there is the issue. MS has office. People need to be able to do things quickly and make it look half decent. Not spend half a day tweaking a document to then find out it prints differently to how it looks.

      MS just wins on ease of use. And now of course for the whole Office and email 365 jobby it's a tenner per month. Soon it will be a fiver a month for the OS.

      1. Kabukiwookie

        Re: Windows Store? Sideloading?

        Every iteration of MS Office is worse than the previous one. Ever tried to have two Office 365 documents open, then change the back ground colour in one of the instances?

        MS Office display ff-ing inconsistent behaviour. Not only within one document, but loading a document created in an older MS Office version into the latest version can completely screw up the formatting.

        Then the constant re-arranging of the menu items. I don't want to have to learn how to use Word every time there's a new version coming out; I actually want to write a document.

        MS Office is a POS.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Windows Store? Sideloading?

          "Ever tried to have two Office 365 documents open, then change the back ground colour in one of the instances?"

          Yes that works just fine - just tested. It's exact same version of Office 2016 installed as non Office 365 by the way. It's just different licensing.

          "loading a document created in an older MS Office version into the latest version can completely screw up the formatting"

          Only if you choose to convert to a newer file format. Office can quite happily load and save older formats.

          "Then the constant re-arranging of the menu items"

          They have not changed. Been the same since RTM.

      2. Teiwaz Silver badge

        Re: Windows Store? Sideloading?

        MS just wins on ease of use. And now of course for the whole Office and email 365 jobby it's a tenner per month. Soon it will be a fiver a month for the OS.

        Of course MS is easy to use, I'm sure there are a number of easy to use payment options, shame the system settings are all over the place.

      3. TVU Silver badge

        Re: Windows Store? Sideloading?

        "And there is the issue. MS has office. People need to be able to do things quickly and make it look half decent. Not spend half a day tweaking a document to then find out it prints differently to how it looks"

        ...which is why you use Microsoft's free Office Online, WPS Office, Softmaker Office, FreeOffice, OnlyOffice etc. on Linux if you want good interoperability.

  9. Notwork

    I think we know where this is going? Looking forward to the MS Linux distro!

    1. Lars Silver badge
      Linux

      "Looking forward to the MS Linux distro!".

      Linus spoke about that possibility about almost twenty years ago, and if they want to do it then they are free to do it, but I will not use it as I don't want to pay to use it, and I doubt I will need a MS version either. But again they are free to use it, provided they stick to the rules, and I suppose that will be the point of worry.

      1. Jakester

        I learned a long time ago that a Microsoft solution is not a solution - it is the problem. Look at the long list of products Microsoft introduced then dropped or just plain broke a few years later. I know people who wasted thousands of man-hours developing using Microsoft tools then had to abandon the approach because Microsoft dropped support or vendors were unable to support and had to drop their support of their customers (Front Page server extensions, for example).

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          >>Look at the long list of products Microsoft introduced then dropped or just plain broke a few years later

          That's far less of an issue with Microsoft than say Google.

    2. TheVogon Silver badge

      "I think we know where this is going? Looking forward to the MS Linux distro!"

      That's not where this is going. Microsoft are making it unnecessary to run the Linux kernel, which is quite the opposite.

      1. Richard Plinston Silver badge

        > That's not where this is going. Microsoft are making it unnecessary to run the Linux kernel, which is quite the opposite.

        Of course, if people make good use of WSL they may find that it is the Windows kernel that is made unnecessary.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    “Whilst there is an inevitable outcry from FOSS advocates that Windows itself is not FOSS, WSL allows Linux enthusiasts to use Linux in contexts where previously it would not be feasible - contexts such as Corporate laptops which do not permit Virtual machines or dual boot.”

    Hmm, well, by using WSL one is not using Linux at all. That's kinda the point.

    MS could really upset a lot of people by doing a Franken-OS, i.e. one which boots the WindowsNT kernel but runs a WSL hosted Linux distro on top. Looks like Ubuntu. Smells like Ubuntu. Behaves like Ubuntu. Has zero trace of the Linux kernel underneath.

    Still, that'd be one way of getting WiFi working properly in "Linux". All the Windows device drivers would be available.

    1. Teiwaz Silver badge

      Looks like Ubuntu. Smells like Ubuntu. Behaves like Ubuntu. Has zero trace of the Linux kernel underneath.

      They'd never go for the jolly modernist orange colour scheme though

    2. phuzz Silver badge
      Devil

      Fun fact: There's already Microsoft code in the Linux kernel. They contributed drivers for HyperV (for example).

    3. Maventi

      > Still, that'd be one way of getting WiFi working properly in "Linux". All the Windows device drivers would be available.

      Funny, I've had more issues dealing with WiFi in Windows (usually from patches) than Linux. That said I blame the issues on both platforms squarely on the WiFi chipset vendors.

  11. TheSkunkyMonk

    I hope they stick to there guns and stay away from the store until Microsoft decides to dump its forced upgrade policy(YES WE ALL KNOW SEA OF THIEVES COULD BE RAN ON WINDOWS 7 OR EVEN XP! yes Im a kid at heart forget office)to its crappy Marketeers wet dream that is Windows10 and they themself's finally open up their source code. I know when 7 finally goes(its only for games its used atm anyway) Ubuntu with GnomeFlashback and a few other alterations will be my goto OS.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "YES WE ALL KNOW SEA OF THIEVES COULD BE RAN ON WINDOWS 7 OR EVEN XP"

      Not without a rewrite. It's a DirectX 12 game. Maybe you can spend the money saved on fixing your Caps-Lock key?

  12. Teiwaz Silver badge
    Coat

    MS wants more Linux Distros in its Store?

    Exactly how desperate are they for stuff to make the Store seem popular anyway?

    I'm not a user, is it at Soviet Grocery levels?

    I don't think they've thought this through, or done any research prior to launching this bright spark idea - a year from now, they could have a thousand and one Debian variants that are all mostly umaintained, and several RPM based ones all named after annoying celebrities.

    They'll end up looking like the only girl at a Catholic Boys school bukkake party....*

    * Sorry, coat please...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: MS wants more Linux Distros in its Store?

      I can see why some distros would like it. It comes down to what does a distro want? For most, dealing with the insanity that is GNOME and SystemD is a real burden (though no doubt there are people out there putting SystemD, which afterall is just more userland stuff, into WSL - sadists). Losing that by sitting on top of WSL isn't too bad an outcome.

      But it then raises the most pertinent question of all; how is one distro fundamentally different to any other, beyond their choice of desktop and package manager? About the only thing left to differentiate on is the antiquity (Centos) or modernity (Fedora) of the packages one includes.

      To me it just highlights the insanity of the fragmentation of the Linux world. FreeBSD is much better organised.

  13. JakeMS

    I can see the use for this if you're an admin who needs a proper shell to manage Linux servers while being tied behind Windows, however pretty much everything else you'd be better off just using a straight up Linux if that is what you need.

    Still doesn't appeal to me either way. I'll just stick with regular distros.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "I can see the use for this if you're an admin who needs a proper shell to manage Linux servers while being tied behind Windows"

      PowerShell is a better and more powerful solution for that problem. However you have to learn it first.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @AC - PowerShell is that thingy

        that prevents an admin to run a script that is not signed/authorized etc. ? Let the Windows admins keep it for themselves.

        1. Pier Reviewer

          Re: @AC - PowerShell is that thingy

          Evidently you don’t use Powershell. That feature prevents admins (or anyone else for that matter) *accidentally* running scripts.

          It’s trivial to disengage it if you so require.

          Why must all articles involving MS or Linux descend into a playground fight about which is best? Usually marked by arguments from people that have little to no experience of using either platform in anger.

          I like the fact I can actually choose to use Powershell or Linux command line tools depending on the job at hand.

          1. JakeMS

            Re: @AC - PowerShell is that thingy

            "Why must all articles involving MS or Linux descend into a playground fight about which is best? Usually marked by arguments from people that have little to no experience of using either platform in anger."

            It's a "Your team" "My Team" thing. If someone is on the opposing team then it is human nature to find an argument and try to prove that your team is better.

            I for one like the disagreements ;-).

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @JakeMS - Spare one extra Unix server

      install all your management tools on it then run PuTTY (portable) on Windows, open a session on that server and Bob's your uncle.

  14. Richard 12 Silver badge

    Sounds very useful for cross platform devs

    At the moment you have to spin up a Linux VM to run most of the good cross-platform tools.

    This would just leave Mac as the outsider - quite a smart move from Microsoft.

    1. bazza Silver badge

      Re: Sounds very useful for cross platform devs

      Another angle on this is Visual Studio. It supports compilation / debugging of C/C++ on Linux, ssh'ing in to the Linux VM / host to use gcc, gdb and gdbserver. It's very good. The only slight annoyance is that VS can't see /usr/include, so Intellisense gets a bit angry; MS recommend copying that over to the Windows side so that VS can see the files there, but I use Expandrive to map the Linux's /usr/include to a drive letter on Windows.

      I've yet to try this in WSL instead of a Linux VM, but it ought to work (provided sshd can be run).

      VS also understands CMAKE these days. Which is pretty cool.

      In comparison Eclipse CDT on Linux has become a bloated, memory hogging ghastly mess. Using Visual Studio and spinning up a whole Linux VM, I use less RAM than Eclipse does all by itself for the same project.

      VS Code on Linux makes a lot of sense too.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Windows or cloud?

    As suggested in previous comments: indeed MS doesn't want to kill Linux, they love Linux, and the revenue it can generate for them in the cloud. They've actually invested in quite some support for Linux in the likes of .NET Core, Visual Studio, VS Code, Azure,... They just realize that since Linux is popular for most modern type of workloads they cannot win this battle by pushing Windows as a bloated, costly, OS for serving these applications.

    They also realize that the offering of Windows in a cloud-environment makes only sense for larger companies who had invested in Windows server applications in the past, but the majority of new players mainly look at the costs involved in developing and serving their modern applications, and here Linux is obviously cheaper. But since MS offers Linux in Azure, why should they care that they sell less Windows server licenses?

    The total revenue of MS is bigger than ever, and this is without only selling Windows licenses in the cloud!

    They just want to offer a nice and complete package for developers and companies so MS and Azure is the obvious choice, and not Google or Amazon.

    The battlefield of the current age is not that of the desktop or server OS'es, that's so previous century, it's all about the cloud, and it only will increase over time!

    Also most of their revenue-generating applications are now multi-OS (Office365, VS,...) so I'm pretty sure that they're preparing for a time when Windows won't even be an important player on the disappearing desktop environment anymore. Just betting on only Windows would for sure be suicide, since it is becoming less and less relevant, and they're smart enough to see this and act accordingly.

  16. tiggity Silver badge

    Windows Store

    Is the big problem - why should I have to give MS information (e.g. email address ) just to be able to install software on a PC and OS I purchased?

    I do not care about curated stores (on android phone I side load stuff as Google store is same idea of wanting credentials so not used by me).

    Just make it nice and easy to install software without needing the store (or have an anonymous user option on the store for any free software, which I assume Linux would be)

    (Yes I know with MS mega slurp on non enterprise versions they may already know who I am / ditto Google on android (though rooting helps by allowing some crud removal)

    1. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: Windows Store

      The default sub-system (Ubuntu) is installed via the Add/Remove Features settings page, so you don't need to touch the store and give MS an email address.

      How much work it would be to manually swap out the version of Ubuntu and replace it with something else I don't know, but the linux filesystem can be found at %localappdata%\lxss, so I suspect it's possible, if tricky.

      Oops, I spoke too soon, someone has already written scripts in python to download and install new distros.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "The default sub-system (Ubuntu) is installed via the Add/Remove Features settings page"

    No, the Linux subsystem is distro independent Microsoft code. You install Ubuntu from the Store.

    1. phuzz Silver badge

      Ok, it looks like they've changed the install method since it was released last year.

      When I installed it it was a case of enabling the feature, and just running bash. I don't know if that method still works.

  18. TheGreatCabbage

    How do people pronounce WSL? I just realised that there could be much disagreement over whether it's "weasel" or "W-S-L"... Remind anyone of SQL?

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Weasel

      Definitely weasel.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yeah

    It could work really well for you, yada yada, but look little Linux fly, how nice it could be on my web, said the Microsoft spider. It's. A. Trap. Simple. As. That.

    1. TVU Silver badge

      Re: Yeah

      "It could work really well for you, yada yada, but look little Linux fly, how nice it could be on my web, said the Microsoft spider. It's. A. Trap. Simple. As. That"

      That is a decade out of date. These days, Linux is the big successful spider and Microsoft is the fly that now has to play nicely with Linux if it wants to survive.

  20. Richard Plinston Silver badge

    cf OS/2

    When IBM added Windows 3.x to OS/2 it finally solved the problem of whether to develop for Windows or OS/2 Presentation Manager. The answer was Windows because it would then run on both.

    Now the answer could be 'Linux' because it will run on both. All that is needed is an X server, or just develop web apps with the server on Linux or WSL.

  21. Paul

    Wine for Linux

    I would much rather Microsoft submit code, under the GPL, to the Wine project, so that it becomes more reliable to run windows applications on Linux.

    I only boot windows for the third party applications, I have no interest in booting windows to get windows.

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