Linux Inside Win 10

I am a zealous fan of Linux and FOSS. I have been using Linux and it’s TUI with bash shell for more than seventeen years. When I moved to my new role I find it bit difficult when I had a Windows 10 laptop and was literally fumbling with the powershell and cmd line when I tried working with tools like terraform, git etc. But luckily I figured out a solution for the old school *NIX users like me who are forced to use a Windows laptop, and that solution is WSL.

Windows Subsystem for Linux a.k.a WSL is an environment in Windows 10 for running unmodified Linux binaries in a way similar to Linux Containers. Please go through my earlier post on LinuxContainers for more details on it. WSL runs Linux binaries by implementing a Linux API compatibility layer partly in the Windows kernel when it was introduced first. The second iteration of it, “WSL 2” uses the Linux kernel itself in a lightweight VM to provide better compatibility with native Linux installations.

To use WSL in Win 10, you have to enable wsl feature from the Windows optional features. Being a aficionado of command line than the GUI, I’ll now list out step by step commands in order to enable the WSL and install your favourite Linux distribution and how to use it.

  1. Open Powershell as administrator and execute the command below Enable-WindowsOptionalFeature -Online -FeatureName Microsoft-Windows-Subsystem-Linux
    Note: Restart is required when prompted
  2. Invoke-WebRequest -Uri https://aka.ms/wsl-ubuntu-1804 -OutFile Ubuntu.appx -UseBasicParsing

In the above command you can use all the Linux distros available for WSL. For example if you want to use Kali Linux instead of Ubuntu, you can edit the distro url in the step 2 command as “https://aka.ms/ wsl-kali-linux”. Please refer to this guide for all available distros.

Once the download is completed, you need to add that package to the Windows 10 application list which can be done using the command below.

  1. Add-AppxPackage .\Ubuntu.appx

Once all these steps are completed, in the Win 10 search (magnifying glass in the bottom left corner near to the windows logo) type Ubuntu and you can see your Ubuntu (you need to search which ever wsl distro you have added). To complete the initialization of your newly installed distro, launch a new instance which is Ubuntu in our case by selecting and running Ubuntu from search as seen in the screen shot below.

This will start the installation of your chosen Linux distros binaries and libraries along with the kernel. It will take some time to complete the installation and configuration (approximately 5 to 10 minutes depending on your laptop/desktop configuration).

Once installation is complete, you will be prompted to create a new user account (and its password).

Note: You can choose any username and password you wish – they have no bearing on your Windows username.

If everything goes well, we’ll have Ubuntu installed as a sub system. When you open a new distro instance, you won’t be prompted for your password,
but if you elevate your privileges using sudo, you will need to enter your password.

Next step is to updating your package catalog, and upgrading your installed packages with the Ubuntu package manager apt. To do so, execute the below command in the prompt.

$ sudo apt update && sudo apt upgrade

Now we will proceed to install Git.

$ sudo apt install git

$ git --version

And finally test out git installation with the above command. You can also install other tools, packages available in the repository. I have installed git, terraform, aws-cli, azure-cli and ansible. You can install python, ruby, go programming environment as well. Python pip and ruby gem installations are also supported. You can use this sub system as an alternative for your day to day Linux operations and as an alternative terminal for your Powershell if you are using Sublime Text or Atom or Visual studio code

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