Microsoft Windows Subsystem for Linux 2 goes fast and has a new terminal

The year of Linux on the desktop is finally upon us. Microsoft tried to make it happen in 2017 when it released Windows Subsystem for Linux. Back then, Microsoft wrote a wrapper for Linux system calls that translated those calls into Windows NT kernel functions. It works, but it's not very fast and many apps won't run. Microsoft knows this, and yesterday at the annual Build conference, the Windows maker announced the second iteration of Windows Subsystem for Linux.

A still from a mesmerizing GIF in Microsoft's announcement blog post

This time around, WSL will ship with a Linux kernel that runs in a lightweight virtual machine (VM). However, Windows Developer Platform head Craig Loewen promises that instead of working like a traditional VM running in its own isolated environment, the Linux subsystem will boot quickly, use few resources, and not require any VM management. Loewen says that this is the first time Windows will ship with a Linux kernel. Since WSL2 has its own kernel, Loewen says that many more apps will run on Windows than would run in the previous iteration. Microsoft expects WSL2 Insider releases to happen near the end of June.

Speaking of the new kernel, a companion piece by Microsoft Linux Systems Group program manager Jack Hammons dives into the new subsystem's core components. WSL2's kernel is initially based version 4.19, a long-term support (LTS) release. According to Loewen, the company will continue contributing to the Linux kernel. He says that Microsoft employs a "growing number" of Linux contributors. Hammons also expects that all changes Microsoft makes to the kernel will make their way upstream from WSL2 back to the GNU Linux kernel project.

To accompany WSL2, Microsoft has also announced a new Windows Terminal application. Rather than use good ol' cmd.exe for DOS-style commands, PowerShell for its scripting language, and a third terminal app for WSL, Windows Terminal will allow users to mix-and-match all three technologies in a single app with a tabbed interface. Windows Terminal appears to be a front-end for existing applications, and program manager Kayla Cinnamon says that existing apps aren't going anywhere. Like many of Microsoft's other recent releases, Windows Terminal is an open-source project. Interested gerbils can grab the source and build it for themselves from its GitHub repository.

Ben Funk

Sega nerd and guitar lover

Comments closed
    • Mr Bill
    • 1 year ago

    IDK this makes me think of Embrace Extend Extinguish ;-(

      • jihadjoe
      • 1 year ago

      That’s only possible for technologies and companies they bought out and thus become unavailable except through MS.

      If MS decides to extinguish WSL it’s not gonna affect any other Linux distro.

        • derFunkenstein
        • 1 year ago

        I think it would negatively impact Azure, so I’m not worried about WSL being extinguished.

        • Mr Bill
        • 1 year ago

        Netscape Navigator and others were never bought out by MS. Read more here… [url=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Embrace,_extend,_and_extinguish<]Embrace Extend Extinguish[/url<].

          • cygnus1
          • 1 year ago

          The difference here is that extending the open source components in a way that locks people into MS is going to be pretty difficult. I would think they’d have to create new closed source components and I don’t know that too many Linux folks would be super trusting of that. Whatever they were, they’d have to be considerably better than alternatives to get anyone to buy into the “Extend” step of that plan…

          • jihadjoe
          • 1 year ago

          I don’t think the browsers are a valid example of that when everyone who was making one pretty much did their own thing. IE won the war of attrition by virtue of being included with Windows, but Netscape did its fair share of breaking HTML.

          Also this just reminded me of the bad old days when writing anything in javascript meant having to detect the exact browser version to know which functions you could or could not use.

    • NovusBogus
    • 1 year ago

    Meh, I’d rather just use VirtualBox. At least they acknowledge that the technology world no longer revolves around Redmond.

      • chuckula
      • 1 year ago

      Virtualbox is fine. I never had a problem with Windows 10 when it was contained inside of virtualbox in a normal Linux system!

      I figure if it’s a “Windows subsystem for Linux” then Windows should be the subsystem that runs on Linux.

    • davidbowser
    • 1 year ago

    So my question is:

    1. Do I have to keep installing cygwin to get a *nix command line? I am guessing it will have proper OS integration as well as feature parity, and therefore be better than cygwin.

    2. This kernel had damn well better be able to be patched without reboots, which I assume is true because they would be FREAKING IDIOTS if they rolled out something that actually makes admins reboot MORE often.

      • just brew it!
      • 1 year ago

      1. No. You haven’t needed to do this for a couple of years now, since WSL 1 was released (note that this announcement is for WSL [u<]2[/u<]). Cygwin may still be needed if you want X Windows support (not sure). 2. They're using some sort of virtualization solution under the hood, so yeah it really [u<]should[/u<] be possible to patch the Linux kernel without rebooting the host OS. We shall see.

        • derFunkenstein
        • 1 year ago

        Microsoft hasn’t said anything about X support, so my supposition is that you’d still need third-party software for non-CLI apps.

          • Redocbew
          • 1 year ago

          Nobody ever really wants to support X. 🙂

        • davidbowser
        • 1 year ago

        I wasn’t really clear in my point, but the kind of stuff I was thinking about was very recently (a couple months ago) starting to come out, and is not completely covered by WSL2.

        [url<]https://superuser.com/questions/1110974/how-to-access-linux-ubuntu-files-from-windows-10-wsl[/url<] There is NOT a ton of 2-way integration between linux (WSL) and the Windows system. Which was why cygwin on Windows is still a valid command line use case. The WSL good use cases and the Cygwin use cases overlap a bit and if MS continues to expand the 2-way capabilities, then Cygwin would be obviated.

          • BobbinThreadbare
          • 1 year ago

          Having just skimmed this, I assume this is due to a lack of windows drivers for linux filesystems than getting a bash terminal

            • Redocbew
            • 1 year ago

            From the looks of it they decided to use a local network connection sort of the same way virtualbox does shared folders. The difference being that in virtualbox your shared files live on the host file system and are shared with the guest. In WSL it seems to be the opposite.

    • cynan
    • 1 year ago

    With WSL2, Windows is now targetable by more cross-platform vectors than ever! And with Windows Terminal, hackers can rest assured that they can wreak havoc in their language of choice.

    • Putski
    • 1 year ago

    First off my first comment is that the CEO of Microsoft is going to drive it into the ground with decisions like this. I think he was chosen for political and marketing reasons not because he knows how to think…maybe he does but this is not the decision of a thinking man. Why ? I will tell you why. 1. This is way too late. 2. Right on the heels of failed Windows 10 and I do mean FAILED ! Windows 10 was on his watch kind of like 911 on George W Bush’s watch and Las Vegas on Trump’s. Well no matter how you try to dodge it Windows 10 (Big Fail) was on your watch dude ! 3. Most Linux users (myself included) really hate Micrograft ! Let me count the ways ! A. Stealing technology, which is how the company started. B. Giving precious jobs to the lowest foreign bidder ! Giving the finger to the people that helped build Micrograft , the little people. C. Totally unjust job reviews based on complete BS, the real reason was “Fat white boy making too much money” D. Forcing people through technological coercion to keep using you mediocre to bad software products. E. Azure sucks so bad it’s unbelievable. Why would any person with an IQ between 70-100 put Linux VM’s on top of Micrograft servers and then pay Micrograft for it’s memory sucking management agents and pay them extra for it. The interface looks like it was created by someone who “couldn’t pour piss out of boot with directions in the heel”. It’s so bad. I got a free account and tried to spin up a VM, I literally gave up the interface was so bad. I never went back. Google is 100x’s better. I’ll give you a piece of advice, copy Google Cloud, copying is what Micrograft does best and then sticks their name on it so at least you would be consistent. I predict Micrograft is going the way of IBM and General Electric. We’re all going to be standing off on the shore celebrating as that 2 Billion ton tanker goes down. WHY WOULD ANYONE WITH A IQ OVER 70 USE WINBLOWS WHEN THERE’S TONS OF GOOD FREE VERSIONS OF LINUX OUT THERE ? YOU KNOW MICROGRAFT IS GOING TO DRAW YOU IN AND JUMP ON YOU LIKE A 300 POUND BULLY AND STEAL YOUR MONEY ONCE YOU GET IN RANGE ! DON’T DO IT ! DON’T BE A FOOL !

      • caconym
      • 1 year ago

      settle down, Beavis

        • Not-It
        • 1 year ago

        ” lighten up, Francis ”

      • cygnus1
      • 1 year ago

      Would you care for some cheese with your whine?

      • Norphy
      • 1 year ago

      Anyone who uses terms like “Micrograft” and “Winblows” automatically loses the right to be taken seriously. It’s just as bad as using “M$“

      In fact, your entire rant puts me in mind of this:

      [url<]https://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2002/07/22[/url<]

        • Concupiscence
        • 1 year ago

        Right? I expect him to throw in some gibberish about reverse vampires and gay frogs next.

        • derFunkenstein
        • 1 year ago

        It’s not often that real, live people can make a Penny Arcade comic look understated, but today is that day.

      • Redocbew
      • 1 year ago

      At least with a name like “Kayla Cinnamon” we can be sure that she’ll know how to deal with weird and slightly creepy obsessions like this one. You seriously couldn’t make this up.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 1 year ago

      Is your Return key broken?

        • NovusBogus
        • 1 year ago

        Maybe it started acting goofy after he attempted to update a Linux component, and after two hours of messing with the command line and reading 10 year old unanswered forum posts vaguely related to the problem he finally gave up and posted this rant instead.

        (I use Linux professionally, if you were wondering)

      • just brew it!
      • 1 year ago

      It is “religious” rants like this that give Linux users a bad name, and perpetuate the stereotype of Linux users living in an alternate reality. And I say this as someone who develops for Linux systems at my day job, and has used Linux as my primary desktop OS at home for about a decade.

      As an aside, I’d also like to point out that IBM just bought Red Hat…

        • Waco
        • 1 year ago

        This. Putski is a perfect example of the [i<]enemy of Linux[/i<].

        • Chrispy_
        • 1 year ago

        Blind fanaticism isn’t really unique to Linux users though, If anything, Linux users are usually more open-minded and less resistant to change than other OS users, and have a higher tolerance for stuff not working out of the box, or needing extra work to tailor to their needs.

        Perhaps it’s this stereotypical expectation of Linux users being more technically proficient, patient, open-minded, and tolerant than, say, OSX or WINBLOWS that makes the religious ranty sort stick out like such a sore thumb.

      • chuckula
      • 1 year ago

      Way too much white space in there. That wall of text won’t bear loads properly.

      • LostCat
      • 1 year ago

      I almost thought I could take most people here seriously. I mean, except chuckie, but he’s at least somewhat funny.

        • K-L-Waster
        • 1 year ago

        Joined yesterday, probably specifically to make that post.

          • derFunkenstein
          • 1 year ago

          Your comment made me wonder if this was a post-n-run that would have made it into the comments of a lot of sites, but Google has come up empty.

          …until I searched for “Putski Micrograft” and came up with this gem:

          [url<]https://disqus.com/home/discussion/betanews/macbook_pro_2016_disappointment_pushes_some_apple_loyalists_to_ubuntu_linux/#comment-2978827948[/url<] It's crazy enough to be the same guy. We start with "Apple is BSD which is Linux" (*sputter*) and end with...well, I won't spoil the ending. [quote<]Apple is BSD which is Linux. Everyone look out he's a systems engineer...stand back.. It's over for Snapple and Micrograft. They worked together to !@#$ eveyone over. They are floaters... it's just a matter of time. I'm loving it. This a tidal wave and it's heading for the shore where they have their billionare boysclub Yachts parked. They all voted for Hellary but even Hellary can't save them now. The gig is up, the cats outta the bag, it's game over and they know it. They going the way of the Galaxy Seven baby ! Celebrate good times... come on ! It's a celebration ! duh duh dun dun dunt dunt dunt dunt !! There's a party going on right here... watching the two stinking beasts sink to the bottom of the sea with a the sea poop where they belong. Criminals are usually amazingly stupid and thats what we seeing boys, Nothing new, no creativity, even their marketing sucks just really shitty products kind of like our government these days. It's a Appleocalypse ,MSocalpse..."they all stood back in horror as they watched the whores burn" and their smoke rose up like the smoke from a furnace, everyone could see it for miles around. After they burn the day of enlightenment will come and all the drivers will be freely developed and freely available for everyone to use. And they will grind up all the metal from Snapple and Micrograft products and buildings and yachts, all the silver and shiny stuff and we will get in our self driving hoover crafts and float above it. When we go to the rest room the urinal soap bar will have a little Apple or MS insignia on it and we will walk out into a sunny day and the world will be at peace. What joy what bliss. All their names who sold our personal information for profits will go in every port-a-potty ever made. When you look down in there through all the excrement there will be the special port o potty soap bars and on those soap bars you there will be a bullseye for you to aim at... these will be the names on the bullseye soap bars: Cook, Gates, Zuckerberg, Schmidt, Sherman ect...[/quote<]

            • K-L-Waster
            • 1 year ago

            All it needs is some lines about flat Earth and anti-vax to hit all the conspiracy hot buttons.

            • euricog
            • 1 year ago

            What about this one:

            [url<]https://disqus.com/home/discussion/linuxforlife/windows_10windows_10/#comment-2834257807[/url<] [quote<] I worked at Microsoft during the launch of Windows 95. I was a contractor. I then got certified on Windows 95, first in my group of 35. Then I became an MCSE on NT 4. During that time we had many triage's on different things about the future. One of things discussed was that the Internet Browser would become the OS. But as you mentioned in the article the Registry has always been problematic. But there's another thing you didn't mention, the leadership of Microsoft. Microsoft leadership under Bill Gates was pretty bad when it came to ethics but there's a saying "you sew the wind you reap the whirlwind" but now it's so abysmal you cannot imagine. They are colluding with other Governments selling your data to them, in return for giving MS access to their markets ! So I can't imagine what they plan with Windows 10 it's Armageddon for Freedom and Privacy because they are working together with Governments that harvest organs from political prisoners and other innocent people ! Their are in bed with these people !!! Governments that employ slave labor of children ! I'm not impressed with MS leadership so it doesn't surprise me the antics they are using now because they have no ethics (they never really did) but now it's even worse than ever. So naturally their products are suckier than ever. It's a direct result of their twisted leadership. Microsoft one of the top five most Evil companies in the world right now ! Liars ! Huge Liars ! Death and hatred to mankind, poisoning their brainwashed minds...Oh lord yeah! (Black Sabbath) This is Microsoft. [/quote<]

            • caconym
            • 1 year ago

            Thank you for dredging this up. I think.

            • Aether
            • 1 year ago

            Wow, that’s a special brand of crazy.

      • euricog
      • 1 year ago

      How in the world can you type so much while wearing a [url=https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/straitjacket<]straitjacket[/url<]?

      • K-L-Waster
      • 1 year ago

      Whatever you’re on, either cut or increase the dose.

      • qmacpoint
      • 1 year ago

      tl;dr

      • cygnus1
      • 1 year ago

      You really put the putz in Putski…

      • anotherengineer
      • 1 year ago

      “WHY WOULD ANYONE WITH A IQ OVER 70 USE WINBLOWS”

      well since you asked

      [url<]https://store.steampowered.com/app/8980/Borderlands_Game_of_the_Year/[/url<] I don't see linux under supported OS and [url<]https://knowledge.autodesk.com/support/autocad/learn-explore/caas/sfdcarticles/sfdcarticles/System-requirements-for-AutoCAD-2017.html[/url<] I don't see linux for supported OS That's why.

    • cygnus1
    • 1 year ago

    [quote=”derFunkenstein”<] To accompany WSL2, Microsoft has also announced a new Windows Terminal application. Rather than use good ol' cmd.exe for DOS-style commands, PowerShell for its scripting language, and a third terminal app for WSL, Windows Terminal will allow users to mix-and-match all three technologies in a single app with a tabbed interface. Windows Terminal appears to be a front-end for existing applications, and program manager Kayla Cinnamon says that existing apps aren't going anywhere. Like many of Microsoft's other recent releases, Windows Terminal is an open-source project. Interested gerbils can grab the source and build it for themselves from its GitHub repository. [/quote<] To be a little more clear, the new terminal app is really a replacement for conhost.exe, which is what cmd.exe or powershell.exe actually use to output anything. So the old tools really can't go anywhere, they're still used for everything they were doing before. The new terminal app is just better features and output for console apps. Very welcome changes, especially the tabbed interface and supposed SSH support. Also, the old conhost.exe doesn't go anywhere though and remains for backwards compatibility. Which means starting up any of the old tools directly will still launch an old style console.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 1 year ago

      This makes me wish we had Ars-style promoted comments.

        • cygnus1
        • 1 year ago

        [url<]https://youtu.be/KMudkRcwjCw[/url<] Just came across this today. The actual MS Console/Terminal developers give a way better explanation. If you have an hour, check it out. It’s worth it just for the flow charts of how old windows console works vs a standard terminal.

    • Neutronbeam
    • 1 year ago

    Microsoft, “Linux” and “Cinnamon” in the same story? SOMETHING SOMETHING CONFIRMED!

    [Still wearing my office aluminum foil cap, so specific conspiracy theories are being left to the gerbils here, Ben. IF THAT IS IN FACT YOUR “REAL” NAME.]

    EDIT: Changed “n” to “in”

    • blastdoor
    • 1 year ago

    Nadella might just be the best CEO Microsoft has ever had. He really seems to put the “enlightened” in “enlightened self interest.”

      • sweatshopking
      • 1 year ago

      i cri evrytim

        • derFunkenstein
        • 1 year ago

        For some reason I want this comment at the top of the Top Comments list.

      • Putski
      • 1 year ago

      Read my post.

        • cygnus1
        • 1 year ago

        I wish I hadn’t…

      • chuckula
      • 1 year ago

      Nadella must never forget about the developers.

        • Redocbew
        • 1 year ago

        WHO SAID SIT DOWN?!?

          • chuckula
          • 1 year ago

          The Warriors did, although at least it took them 6 games.

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