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Competitors No More: Microsoft Will Bring a Full Linux Kernel in Windows 10

Microsoft revealed its plan to ship a full Linux kernel directly in Windows 10. It is definitely a great news for the open-source fans. It will dramatically increase its usefulness for those versed in the way of the command line. Jack Hammons, Microsoft Program Manager, just wrote,

Beginning with Windows Insiders builds this summer, we will include an in-house custom-built Linux kernel to underpin the newest version of the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL).

Linux Operating System Home Screen; Image Source:

Linux is an open source software. The main difference between windows operating system and Linux is that the code for Windows is highly secret where its competitor Linux is an open-source operating system that allows anyone to download it, change it. This means that you can download the source code and change it any way you like.

Many programmers have contributed by changing it and added software that’s completely open-source for any user like Debian, Fedora, Ubuntu, Mint etc. The advantage over operating systems such as Windows is that security flaws are caught before they become an issue for the public.  

Window terminal; Image Source:

At first, it added a brand-new command line experience to Windows, which is called Windows Terminal. It is a new, modern, fast, efficient, powerful, and productive terminal application for users of command-line tools and shells. Microsoft has realized that developers want a proper shell to work in just like the shell in Ubuntu. This is why they launched the Windows Terminal.

One can download it from Microsoft Store in Windows 10. Microsoft has three command-line environments. Firstly, there’s the old command prompt, CMD. Then there’s PowerShell, which introduced more powerful scripting features, making it better for automating IT tasks, but still lagged behind BASH.

And finally, there’s the Windows Subsytstem for Linux (WSL), which lets developers run Linux applications without the need to install a virtual machine, like Virtual Box. Windows Terminal round them up under one roof. The user of Windows Terminal will be able to open any number of tabs, each connected to a command-line shell or app of your choice, e.g. Command Prompt, PowerShell, Ubuntu on WSL etc.

It is expected that in this summer in 2019, Windows Terminal previews will be released to the Microsoft Store for use and feedback purpose. This winter in 2019, their goal is to launch Windows Terminal 1.0.

PowerShell in Windows Terminal; Image Source:

Windows might be the biggest operating system overall, but when you look at the breakdown for developers, things are a lot different scenario. In Stack Overflow’s 2019 Developer Survey, more coders said they’d build for Linux than Windows. That forced a change in how Microsoft treated the rival operating system Linux.

First they supported Linux features like Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) through which you can run Linux applications in Windows. Now they are going even further with plans to ship a full Linux kernel directly in Windows 10.

Before the release of the first version of Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) in 2016, to run Linux on windows developers used virtual machine. But that meant running an entire operating system over another operating system, which isn’t particularly efficient. WSL made it possible to run many of the same tools and applications within Windows without the need for virtualization. But it also had some limitations.

The former WSL didn’t have a “real” Kernel, instead used a sophisticated compatibility layer. This meant that some things wouldn’t work. Tasks which relied on kernel functionality could not be implemented in Windows Subsystem for Linux. This is why the upcoming version of Windows Subsystem for Linux, which Microsoft called WSL2, will feature a full kernel. The kernel provided for WSL2 will be fully open source!

Windows Subsystem For Linux (WSL) running on Windows 10; Image Source:

Microsoft’s kernel will be based on the current-generation long-term stable (LTS) release of Linux, Version 4.19. According to Microsoft program manager Jack Hammons, this will be rebased at the advent of any new LTS release, so that it’s always at the cutting edge.

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