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Cover image for WSL. A Linux killer?
Dinesh Kumar Gnanasekaran
Dinesh Kumar Gnanasekaran

Posted on

WSL. A Linux killer?

BackGround

My first laptop at college was a pretty low spec (I had no other option). It had an intel i3 4th gen processor and 4 Gb RAM (Ouch!) with Windows. In the beginning, it was smooth (sort of), but had no trouble. Then as the days passed the machine became very sluggish, like booting it up took a millennium. Then I got into programming and found Linux. I dual-booted my laptop with Ubuntu and it was a breath of fresh air. It was not lagging and it was pretty snappy. As days went on I learned more about Linux and the various distros, then I erased the drive and installed PopOs. Everything was going well.

Renaissance

Then I decided to go for my master's. Finally, I decided to get a new laptop, with better specs. I went for Ryzen 7 5800H, RTX 3050Ti, 16 GB DDR4 RAM, and 512 GB NVMe SSD. As a Linux lover, I wanted to install a new distro on my new machine. I tried distro after distro with the bootable USB drive, and there were always some critical issues. The most crucial issue was I can not find WiFi drivers. I know that somewhere on the internet I can find it, but it takes a lot of time.

Found It!

While I was into researching Linux, I came across WSL (Windows Subsystem for Linux). In a nutshell, WSL allows you to run Linux in Windows! It is in version 2 now. As we all know the heart of Linux is the command line. If you ask me the command line makes Linux, Linux. It took some time to install it, but Microsoft has good installation documentation, and Voila you got Linux in Windows.

Nice

Still, I hate some of the annoyance of Windows, but I don’t miss anything big from Linux. It has good support from a lot of dev tools. VS Code runs well, Docker runs well, and more than that Nvidia drivers work well. People who try to install Nvidia drivers on a Linux machine know the pain of installing Nvidia drivers. After using it for over a year I don’t feel like missing Linux.

Linux In Windows kills Linux?

As we all know developers are the ones who use Linux most of the time. I know devs who dual boot their machine with Windows and Linux because they need some apps like PhotoShop to edit images for their websites. Shut it down and boot Linux to get the dev work done and then find out that the image has the wrong dimension. Again shut it down boot Windows and repeat the process an infinite number of times. WSL completely solves this issue. Yes, there might be some performance issue, but I never noticed it.

Also in the latest major update, you can even run some of the Linux GUI applications as well. What more do you need?

Thoughts

In terms of use, I don’t think there are any significant drawbacks to using WSL. What do you guys think?

Top comments (9)

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moopet profile image
Ben Sinclair

I decided to get a new laptop, with better specs. I went for Ryzen 7 5800H, RTX 3050Ti, 16 GB DDR4 RAM, and 512 GB NVMe SSD. As a Linux lover, I wanted to install a new distro on my new machine.

I know hindsight is 20-20, but for other people trying this: if you want a machine to run Linux, you should consider that when choosing the specs.

The most crucial issue was I can not find WiFi drivers

If your machine uses a bad WiFi chip, then you can always spend $10 and buy a tiny USB wifi dongle, or $30 and buy a replacement WiFi card. I'm guessing prices, but I mean they're insignificant compared to a machine like you're describing.

WSL completely solves [stuff]

WSL2 is pretty good. I use it myself on my desktop because I have a gaming PC which does duty as one half of my work setup (I use a pretty terminal and SSH to connect to a real computer, basically). But it doesn't solve everything. There's a lot you can't access in WSL, like device or open ports and so on. Most of the graphical apps you try will look like they came from the '90s or be a pain to configure. A lot won't even run.

Most importantly, using WSL means you're using a bunch of non-free software - Windows, basically - which is two steps back if your reason for using Linux is software freedom in the first place.

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citizen428 profile image
Michael Kohl

There's a lot you can't access in WSL

There's also a surprising amount you can do: I installed Pulse Audio and X servers in Windows and disabled WSLg, so I can start a full-screen Linux desktop with dwm (my WM of choice) in Windows. It's quite amazing to be able to Alt-Tab between Windows and Linux and it looks exactly the same as it looks on my Linux machine because I use the same dotfiles on both.

And with a bit of fiddling you can make a lot of things work. For example, I'm using piperelay.exe and socat to share sockets between Windows and Linux (particularly useful for 1password's SSH_AUTH_SOCK). Same for port-mapping, it may need a bit of work, but it can be done.

Anyway, I do have a "real" Linux laptop (a repurposed Macbook Air), trying to see how far one can push WSL2 is just a weird hobby.

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jarrodhroberson profile image
Jarrod Roberson • Edited on

There's a lot you can't access in WSL, like device or open ports and so on.

This is incorrect, WSL-2 ports can be made available through netstat interface portproxy or other portforward tools using the ip address of the WSL instance. I am sure you can map devices or whatever with some effort as well. I never need to do that so I am not going to research it.

Most of the graphical apps you try will look like they came from the '90s or be a pain to configure. A lot won't even run.

How a non-native Windows app looks/renders has nothing to do with WSL, nor does its configuration. Getting Linux GUI apps working in WSL2 is a pain, personally I never fool with it because I never use the GUI apps when using a native Linux install other than to run a terminal or start my IDE, etc. #CommandLineIsYourFriend

It seems you misunderstand the use case for WSL.

The expected usage of WSL is to use just like you would a remote Linux server, through the Terminal. WSL was a direct response to Docker on Windows. Because the majority of the uses for Docker on Windows was to just run Linux without having to another physical machine or deal with VirtualBox directly.*

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moopet profile image
Ben Sinclair

I don't misunderstand the use case for WSL, that's exactly how I use it - what I'm saying is that WSL isn't "a Linux killer" because it doesn't cover a lot of the same ground as a normal distro.

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jarrodhroberson profile image
Jarrod Roberson

It is powered by a Normal Distro. Like I said WSL is has a more common taxonomy with Virtual Box or VM Ware or Docker that only runs Linux.

If your title was WSL isn't a VirtualBox/VMWare/Docker Killer it would make sense semantically. Right now it is like saying Vinyl isn't a Amp Killer.

Like I said, the taxonomy is fundamentally incorrect. Which leads one to believe there is a fundamental lack of comprehension of the subject matter.

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jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel Fayard πŸ‡«πŸ‡·πŸ‡©πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡¬πŸ‡§πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡ΈπŸ‡¨πŸ‡΄ • Edited on

I mean, macOS was already a Linux killer right from where OS X was launched. Full POSIX environment based on BSD. But way less time fighting with hardware and configuration problems. Many people made the switch and never came back.

The price tag is higher obviously but in a work environment the company pays for it.

In my opinion the real Linux killer is Linux itself and his disdain for simplicity and usability made impossible by the mantra of bazaar style of development and the "more choices is always better" mantra.

I am always amazed when I want to install a my-command that exists on both Linux and macOS.

The installation instructions for 90% of users (macOS) is simply brew install my-command.

The installation instructions for the remaining 10% is: "super long list on how you install it on ubuntu, debian, redhat, pacman, go, from sources, pacman, emerge, funto, conda, ...`

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cicirello profile image
Vincent A. Cicirello

So your post's title asks whether WSL is a Linux killer. The simple answer to that specific question is "no". WSL provides an alternative way of running Linux. It isn't replacing Linux. So it is definitely not killing Linux. I do find it very useful, and have it enabled on all of my Windows systems.

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jarrodhroberson profile image
Jarrod Roberson • Edited on

The misinformation in this article is predicated on a fallacy that WSL somehow replaces or supplants Linux. That is like saying that Java. A Windows Killer, and then trying to explain how Java competes with a full blown OS some how.

WSL is nothing more than a way to run Linux on Windows. It is right in the title. Windows Subsystem for Linux.

If anything it replaces, Virtual Box, VMWare and in arguably Docker Desktop as well if you are only interested in running Linux. Virtual Box and VMWare can run much more than Linux.

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lonniewillis profile image
LonnieWillis

i did not understand it could you please make a blueprint so i can understand easily . What is Vashikaran

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