Thursday, May 9, 2019

Linux on the Desktop - it's finally here

For the last 20 years we've heard that the next year will be the year that Linux comes to the desktop - each and every year, we heard it.  Well, it actually looks like it's here, because Microsoft is shipping it:
The biggest news of Microsoft's annual developer get-together, Build, this year was the arrival of the Linux kernel as part of Windows Subsystem for Linux 2. Oh, and a new tab-happy Windows Terminal? It's in GitHub. 

Windows Subsystem for Linux 2 

The Windows Subsystem Linux (WSL), which lets you run Linux programs on a Windows box, has seen some serious love from Microsoft as its engineers attempt to demonstrate their commitment to open source and Linux.
And it's even GPL'ed.  By Microsoft.
Just stop and think about that for a second. It means when you come to run a program, the Windows kernel will either interface with it directly if it's a Windows application, or allow the Linux kernel to manage it if it's a Linux application. Now you can run Linux software truly natively on the world's largest desktop OS platform, developed by a company that once declared Linux "a cancer."
I did not expect the future to be so weird.


Gorges Smythe said...

I'm sure it's geared to ultimately hurt Linux. There's nothing benevolent about Microsoft.

Borepatch said...

Georges, I think that MSFT wants to use Linux to compete against others - like Google (docs, etc), Amazon Web Services, etc.

Rick C said...

The funny thing is that WSL has been around for a couple years--the big news here is that until now it was sort of an emulation layer, so a few things didn't work right.

But most normal stuff did, including running X apps on your Windows desktop if you got xming or another X server: xeyes, XEmacs, the web browser of your choice, even xscreensaver, all ran fine, if generally pretty badly because of the lack of gpu acceleration.

Harvey Morrell said...

To add to Borepatch's reply, I also see it as an attempt by Microsoft to keep more people from jumping ship to Chromebooks, which will also soon run Linux apps.

Barbarus said...

I've been using Linux as my desktop OS for the best part of 20 years, both at home (it's what I'm using to type this) and (on and off) at various employers. If you're stuck with Windows for whatever reason, there's been Cygwin for a lot of that time, providing the standard Unix/Linux commands and tools.

That said, I'd accept that most of the desktop installations in the world are probably Windows; among other things, to the best of my knowledge you can't buy a pre-built machine without a Windows licence. Not really sure where Microsoft are coming from on this ...

Orel Precision said...


The question I'd ask would be "why would anyone want that?"

When I was first exposed to Linux, about 23 years ago, it seemed to be a cute little OS that took a lot of work to accomplish a little. I'd been using MickeySoft products for about 15 years then, along with real operating systems such as RT11, TOPS and VMS.

About three years ago, I ran across a "new" (to me) flavor of Linux called "Mint". Wow! It had a look and feel that so close to Windows-7 that transition to it was almost seamless. And it didn't have the bug-ridden, sieve of a core that MickeySoft offered. It's often touted as virus proof (there are, so far as I've been able to determine, any antivirus programs for it) but, of course we know that can't be absolutely true. However, it's a lot harder to write one that will successfully attack Linux, because it has better protection of the system processes and files.

Moreover, if you absolutely have to run both MS and Linux on one computer, it's a form of insanity to run Linux on a MS kernel. You get the worst of both worlds. Far better to run MS app's on WINE, or open a virtual machine and run MS within that. At least that way, you have the security protections of Linux.

> to the best of my knowledge you can't buy a pre-built machine without a Windows license.

Indeed, that's part of the MickeySoft predatory licensing scheme; if you, as a manufacturer, want a friendly price on MS software, you have to install it on EVERY PC you make. Nevertheless, it's usually a small matter to replace the original OS with Linux and carry on. I highly recommend it.

Caveat, making that transition did "break" a few favorite tools; the DOS window is still much more friendly to use than the Linux Terminal window. But it's worth it.

Borepatch said...

Orel, I first posted about Linux Mint quite some time ago (so long, in fact, that Internet bit-rot has memory holed the videos).