Mike Stone

Mostly The Lonely Howls Of Mike Baying His Ideological Purity At The Moon

Windows Subsystem For Linux GUI Applications

23 Apr 2021

It’s pretty rare that I find myself excited for a new Windows feature on Windows itself, but here we are. Last year Microsoft announced that they were going to be bringing Linux GUI applications to Windows. This year, they’ve demonstrated it. You can even test it out yourself if you have the right stuff on your computer.

Like many people who are fans of Open Source Software, I’m still forced to live and work in a Windows environment for my job. I’m more fortunate than some because I don’t require a lot from my computer, so I could easily switch to macOS or Linux at the drop of a hat, if corporate gave me that opportunity. So far they haven’t, and I’m stuck in Windows.

The option to use Linux GUI tools in Windows is kind of a big deal for me. Almost all of the applications I use on my work machine have Linux versions. Whether it’s justified or not, I just don’t feel as safe using those applications in Windows as I do in Linux. Is there really a significant difference between Firefox in Windows and Firefox in Linux? I don’t know, and it really doesn’t matter. I’d just much rather use it in Linux if I have that option.

Along comes GUI support for WSL.

I already use WSL quite a lot on my Windows machine. It’s an environment I’m comfortable with at the very least. It’s also an environment I’m comfortable with. I take care of several Linux servers, and I’ve supported Windows servers in my career. Despite that, I’m just a “normal user” when it comes to my desktop and corporate IT policy. That means I need permission to do even the smallest thing on my own computer. I’m happy to not be supporting Windows machines (especially on the desktop), but I’m kind of annoyed I don’t have access to my own computer.

Now, assuming Microsoft actually pulled this off and this is going to work reasonably well, I’m going to get the best of both worlds here. Since WSL isn’t controlled by our corporate policy coming from AD, I can do what I want to do in there. I can install all my Linux GUI tools and work with applications I feel more secure with.

Admittedly, this situation isn’t optimal. I’d much rather be using my Linux based GUI applications from an actual Linux machine, not a Microsoft based system. Until that’s an option, this seems like the best opportunity for me to get as close as I can.

Day 21 of the #100DaysToOffload 2021 Series.

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