In recent years, Microsoft has been working hard to bring its Windows operating system closer to the open-source and developer community. Among all the work Microsoft has been doing, they have included several features within the Windows 10 operating system that are helpful to the Linux developer community.
Firstly, Microsoft introduced the Bash Shell Linux command line to Windows 10. Then the company added native OpenSSH client support to Windows 10. Thanks to the native client, developers no longer need to rely on third-party clients such as PuTTY to access remote servers. Lastly, Microsoft even listed SUSE Linux, Fedora, and Ubuntu within the Windows Store so that users of the Windows operating system can easily download and run these operating systems as applications on their systems.
In the latest step towards making the Windows 10 operating system developer and open-source friendly, Microsoft will be shipping the latest Windows Insider summer builds with a custom-made Linux kernel that is developed in-house. The latest Linux kernel will underpin the WSL (Windows Subsystem for Linux) as it will be based on the latest WSL version 4.19 itself, which is a stable long-term release of the Linux operating system. To put it in simple words, the earlier version of the Windows Subsystem for Linux worked more like an emulator for operating Linux on Windows, whereas the latest WSL release is an actual kernel of Linux. Even though the earlier emulated WSL version was very well-optimized to provide all the necessary functions of Linux, the new one will offer the actual features as offered by Linux.
One of the main issues for the lack of performance for the earlier version of WSL was that Windows and Linux ran different file systems. Therefore, when users executed commands in Linux, it had to translate those commands into the file system format that Windows understood before executing, thus increasing the delay. However, as the file system issues are rectified with the latest version, the commands will be executed much faster. Thus, users will now be able to perform tasks such as running server-based solutions in a Linux environment that is natively developed to work on the Windows operating system.
Also, to ensure that the latest WSL version has all the newly available Linux features, the Linux kernel will be rebased on every long-term release of the operating system. As per Microsoft, the latest Linux kernel will showcase a 20x faster
Just like the SUSE Linux, Ubuntu, and Fedora operating systems that are currently officially supported by Windows, the Linux operating system can also be downloaded and installed through the Windows Store application on systems running the Windows 10 operating system. Linux on Windows 10 will be accessible with the help of user space that’ll be created once the user downloads and installs the Linux app from the Windows Store.
The official inclusion of the Linux operating system within the Windows 10 operating system is a great blessing for developers. Not only will the performance see a significant upgrade in comparison to WSL, but as the new official Linux kernel will be open-source, developers will have the ability to create custom WSL kernels and thus incorporate new features and changes that will further enhance the functionality of the official Linux kernel. The open-source nature of the Linux kernel for Windows will also help in resolving issues such as the media is write protected error.
Well, running other operating systems on Windows-based systems is not anything new. Almost any OS of your choice can be run as virtual machines on Windows computers. However, Linux as a virtual machine runs quite slowly in comparison to the native Windows OS that it runs on. The Windows Subsystem for Linux kernel ensures maximum convenience and processing speed for developers. As Linux can now be run as an application on Windows, you can access the Linux subsystem in just a few moments by launching the Bash terminal present within the Windows start menu.
The new kernel will also work well with the latest Windows Terminal software, which is yet another anticipated release from Microsoft. For those who are unfamiliar with Windows Terminal, it is a complete redesign of the Windows command-line tool and will function as a cross-platform tool by default.
According to Jack Hammons, the Program Manager at Linux Systems Group, the official Linux kernel for Windows is a result of years of effort from the part of Linux Systems Group and other different teams from Microsoft.
So, what are your views about the official Linux kernel now available on the Windows operating system? If you have already worked on the latest WSL kernel, then do share your experience with it as a comment below.