Tuesday, Microsoft reported it was adding GUI app support and GPU hardware acceleration to its Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL). While you could previously run Linux GUI apps through Windows using a third-party X-server, installation was effortful and graphic performance was poor.
Now, Microsoft has developed a Direct X driver for its WSL that, it says, allows “applications running inside of the Linux environment [to] have the same access to the GPU as native applications on Windows.”
“Soon,” Microsoft added, “you’ll be able to use your favorite Linux IDE or other GUI application alongside your other Windows applications on your Windows desktop.”
At its virtual Build 2020 conference, Microsoft also announced it would release a Windows Package Manager for developers to install their favorite tools, as well as a faster, more simplified install experience for its Windows Subsystem for Linux. All you need to do is run the wsl.exe -install command.
Self-employed Vadim Gromov told ITPro:
“As a developer, I see tons of benefits. It's very handy sometimes to fire up Linux terminal and use some built-in Linux tools on my developer Windows machine. And now there’s no emulation, and all those distributions run natively under Windows - it's tremendous. As for the GUIs, although I myself never used Linux non-terminal apps on Windows, I can see where some developers could benefit from this as well. For example, they can now use their most important Linux tools and apps on Windows, without switching between open source systems."
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For the moment, you can download the source code for Microsoft’s Direct X Driver from Microsoft’s WSL2 Linux Kernel on GitHub.
Without specifying a date, Microsoft said Windows 10 power users will be able to update their Windows and run their favorite GUI Linux apps on their desktops later this year.
While most developers seem delighted by this development, some voice unease.
Bob of Linux Quest, for instance, told his YouTube audience: “I, for one, have my list of favorite Linux apps that if I jump over and run Windows I would definitely miss.”
Other observers speculate this WSL update might herald the cyber equivalent of a religious war. After all, this could mean developers booting into Windows more frequently than into Linux. Expect conspiracy theories to ensue.
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Dr. Leah Zitter is a recognized Tech writer and researcher who's interviewed, investigated and serviced companies and individuals in more than 60 countries and Space (ISS).