We live in strange times, when it’s possible to install a Linux distribution like Ubuntu or Debian as if they were Windows applications. While it’s not unusual to run one operating system within another using virtualization, what makes Windows 10 weird is that its Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) doesn’t require virtualization: you install your Linux distribution of choice and it lets you run GNU/Linux applications without rebooting or firing up a virtual machine.

Last time I checked, there were five different Linux distributions in the Microsoft Store. But now Microsoft is releasing tools that should make it easier for developers to bring more Linux distros to WSL.

There’s a new open source sample that the company says will help distro maintainers “to package and submit” their operating systems as an app that can be included in the Microsoft Store.

But developers that don’t want to distribute through the Store can also prep their operating systems so they can be sideloaded onto a Windows 10 PC.

Keep in mind that Microsoft only officially supports running a command-line version of Linux, which means that apps with a graphical user interface won’ work (although there are workarounds). But once you’ve enabled WSL, you can fire up a terminal window and run command-line apps, add new applications, navigate filesystems, and even keep Linux apps running in the background after you close the terminal.

The feature is aimed at developers who want to be able to use Linux-only tools without having to switch computers or reboot their machine to switch operating systems. But it’s also useful for power users… or anyone who’s ever come across an online tutorial that’s written specifically for machines running Linux, but who don’t normally use GNU/Linux.

Of course, Linux power users being what they are, there are a number of folks who’ve figured out how to load a desktop environment and run apps with a graphical user interface.



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8 replies on “Microsoft makes porting Linux distros to Windows Subsystem for Linux easier”

  1. The prospects of other OS being apps for windows is very amusing. I wish MS would officially support GUI apps too or at the very least third parties can now create full gui distro apps, possibly android again.

  2. To me the one and only reason for the Linux subsystem is called Dockers. Windows was losing the server battle once for all without a decent support for Dockers and running containers in a VM is just a workaround.

    1. Correct me if i’m wrong but isn’t the concept of Containers possible in the NT kernel too??

      1. Yes, Windows supports containerization now too. But there are containers and then there are containers. Usually when people talk about containers and Docker they are talking specifically about Linux containers. There are also Windows containers. If you install Docker for Windows you can switch between using Linux containers and Windows containers. You can’t currently use both types of containers at the same time. Using Linux containers on Windows currently creates a Linux VM, runs all the Docker containers there and pipes any Docker commands you run to containers in that VM. Windows containers can run in their own VM if you want the extra security, but you don’t have to do that. While you would probably only use Linux containers on Windows as a development time tool, running Windows containers in a production environment is totally supported. I think you have to use Server 2016 or newer though.

  3. Very interesting article Brad…

    If you’ve looked at the numbers lately….the devs(including myself) have already left the building. I’d imagine Mafiasoft is making an attempt to curtail the inevitable. A little too late to the game is my guess. Well, they’re still able to fleece the public for now, I guess they have that. I for one, watch this whole “sellout of the American public” with great interest.

    In regards to privacy rights, they’re probably the worst company in America. Although, along with Microsoft….Facebook, Google, and Apple are in a close race to the bottom of the barrel. No one wins in the end. That is my guess.

    1. I am a little confused by your statement “sellout of the American public”. Do you mind elaborating on that? Are you talking about cloud and their refusal to comply with government orders?

        1. Thank you bolomkxxviii. I know about this but not sure if this is what Michael meant or something else. Just curious.

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