Windows Subsystem for Linux: the lost potential

If you have followed Windows 10 at all during the last few years, you know that the Windows Subsystem for Linux, or WSL for short, is the hot topic among developers. You can finally run your Linux tooling on Windows as a first class citizen, which means you no longer have to learn PowerShell or, god forbid, suffer through the ancient CMD.EXE console.

Unfortunately, not everything is as rosy as it sounds. I now have to do development on Windows for Windows as part of my new role within Azure… and the fact that WSL continues to be separate from the native Windows environment shows. Even though I was quite hopeful, I cannot use WSL as my daily driver because I need to interact with “native” Windows tooling.

I believe things needn’t be this way, but with the recent push for WSL 2, I think that the potential of an alternate world is now gone. But what do I mean with this? For that, we must first understand the differences between WSL 1 and WSL 2 and how the push for WSL 2 may shut some interesting paths.

I was only vaguely aware of the fact WSL 2 switched to using a virtual machine instead of being an NT subsystem as WSL 1 was. There’s arguments to be made for and against either approach, but the NT subsystem approach just feels nice, more holistic to me – even if it is way more work to keep it in step with Linux.

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