Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Windows As a Developer Machine with Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL)

Windows Subsystem for Linux allows running Linux binaries on Windows 10.   To overly simplify it, this means that Windows 10 can run a Linux shell based on a number of Linux distributions.  

Although Linux is my primary OS, I also have a Macbook Pro to address the rare occasions where I need to use an app that isn't available to Linux (e.g. Sketchup) and when I need a portable UNIX machine (OSX is based on Darwin, a BSD variant).  It used to be that to have an UNIX-like environment on Windows meant having to run something like Cygwin which I always felt to be somewhat clunky.  Getting Linux software to work was never as smooth or simple as using Linux itself (obviously) or OSX.  

WSL changes that completely and I've been using it for a couple of months writing Go programs with VIM in a Ubuntu shell running through WSL.  So far it has worked very well!  Things does run slower on WSL such as when I'm compiling and writing to the file system, but as my secondary machine that isn't as big a deal.  It's really nice that WSL mounts the Windows file system as a mount point that can easily be accessed.

The ever declining quality of Apple's laptops and OSX and its rising cost gives even more weight to Windows being a better buy for developers needing a portable Linux solution or needing both Windows and Linux.