Windows Subsystem for Linux is making inroads with developers

Last week, Microsoft and Canonical (the company behind the Ubuntu Linux distribution) were scheduled to host a developer conference focused on the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) at Microsoft's Redmond campus. Ars was invited, and I had plane tickets in hand—but the physical conference was canceled at the last minute due to the coronavirus.

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Note that I did say the physical conference was canceled—WSLconf itself went on, with 22 speakers and 21 talks given. Virtual attendees were reportedly more than double the (sold out) physical attendee registration and included developers from all around the world. Presentations were given over the Bluejeans videoconferencing platform, and Canonical's Developer Advocate Hayden Barnes says that the recorded sessions will be made generally available soon.

Most Ars readers will already know that there's a Windows Subsystem for Linux available and that it does... Linux stuff. But what's less clear is how to actually install it or why you'd want to.

The installation part is simple and free, though it requires two separate steps. First, you need to install WSL as a Windows feature, using the Features applet, which can be accessed directly from the Start menu. This involves a relatively quick download, followed by an immediate reboot.

Once the WSL feature is installed, the next step is installing an actual Linux distribution underneath it. There are many choices available—including Kali, Debian, OpenSUSE, Alpine, and two Long Term Support (LTS) versions of Ubuntu. We chose the newest Ubuntu LTS; searching the Store for Ubuntu brings it right up, and one click (followed by a several-hundred-megabyte download) installs it.


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