First steps with the Windows Subsystem for Linux

For many years have I using both Windows and Linux systems. Most of my systems at home have been dual-boot systems with both operating systems. With my latest computer I decided to try Windows Subsystem for Linux.

The Windows Subsystem for Linux Installation Guide for Windows 10 is straightforward. I could not use the Simplified install since, while I did sign up to be a “Windows Insider”, I did not have a “preview build” of Windows 10 and have no plans to get one. I remember the bad old days of Windows BSODs without nostalgia. So I used the Manual Install.

This starts out with a couple Powershell commands. I have forgotten most of what I knew of Powershell, but the commands were easy to run and returned without errors. In Step 2 I chose WSL 2 since my system was capable of it. There are some reboots in the process. I am used to that. “Step 3 – Enable Virtual Machine feature” ran OK even though I had not yet enabled the VM features on the macbine. I discovered this the hard way later in the process. For more on this see my Note on Computer BIOS Settings.

I installed Ubuntu 20.04. It felt a little odd getting it from the Microsoft Store, but it worked well enough. It failed the first time I started it because of that VM error, but after fixing that and rebooting it worked just fine. It looks just like any other application in the start menu and when you open it looks like any other Linux terminal window.

Which reminds me . . . . I also installed the new Windows Terminal. I have hardly begun to explore it, but it seems to have a lot of nice features. As installed it starts in Powershell, but by typing “cmd” you get the old Windows/DOS command shell. You get WSL (if installed, presumably) by “bash.” In either case “exit” takes you back to your previous environment.

What next?

  1. Figure out how to move files back and forth between WSL and the normal Windows environment. WSL can see my Windows directories, but Windows does not easily see the WSL directories. This is typical of most systems I have seen with both operating systems. Windows Subsystem for Linux: A Definitive Guide suggests that you add a symbolic link from your Linux home directory to some suitable Windows Directory. The Ultimate Guide to WSL says this can be done with environment variables.
  2. Networking: WSL has an IP address. There must be a way for it to see the outside world.
  3. Linux GUI: Originally WSL was supposed to be text only, but The Ultimate Guide claims you can install a Linux GUI and gives instructions for setting up the Xfce desktop environment, which I have used. If I can do that and networking, I will feel I have reached the promised land.

2 thoughts on “First steps with the Windows Subsystem for Linux

  1. Pingback: Networking with the Windows Subsystem for Linux | From Hilbert Space to Dilbert Space, and beyond

  2. Pingback: WSL: Directories and Files | From Hilbert Space to Dilbert Space, and beyond

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