Ariel Costas

Re: Why You Should Learn Linux [sic] on Windows Subsystem For Linux

By Ariel Costas - June 08, 2021

This article is a response to **Why You Should Learn Linux on Windows Subsystem
For Linux** by David Delony published on June 5, 2021 in MakeUseOf. The original
article is available on

Firstly, I would like to clarify a few things: when the article refers to Linux, it doesn’t mean the kernel, but the actual GNU/Linux operating system. And when it talks about Open Source, it actually refers to Free Software. Here’s an article on why Open Source misses the point of Free Software written by Richard Stallman (founder of the GNU project and the Free Software Foundation).

Once this is said, let’s start actually responding the most important points of the article:

Easy to install

If you’re a first-time Linux user, WSL is quite attractive because it’s easy to install compared to the traditional Linux installation methods. You don’t have to repartition your hard drive or figure out how to burn ISO images to a CD or a thumb drive

That’s not true, you don’t need to repartition your hard drive (as your distro’s installer will probably do it for you, maintaining both MS Windows and GNU/Linux working without problems). Flashing an ISO to a USB Drive is as easy as downloading a program like balena Etcher, selecting an ISO, a drive and hitting “Flash”.

Anybody with minimal knowledge about computers could do this in a few minutes (and given they want to learn how GNU/Linux works, this is something worth learning).

[…] hardware drivers are still a sticking point when trying out Linux. There always seems to be some device that’s unsupported in Linux but works fine on Windows.

Hardware drivers were painful to manage many years ago. Fortunately, things have changed, and getting your hardware to work on a GNU/Linux environment is really easy. You’ll have to download one or two packages at most for your graphics card, or perhaps they’ll be included with your distribution.

This is because hardware manufacturers write drivers for Windows as they know most people use that platform on their desktop, while Linux drivers are mostly written by volunteers.

This is true. Manufacturers write drivers for Microsoft Windows because many people use that platform (as it sadly comes as the default option on many computers). This creates a vicious circle: manufacturers write drivers for Windows, people use Windows for those drivers, so manufacturers continue to build for Windows.

This is fortunately changing, as more and more companies now maintain drivers for GNU/Linux too. Anyway, if the objective is to learn, the best that can happen to you is you run onto an error and find how to solve it (ServerFault, AskUbuntu and other forums are good places to find help).

Installing WSL is a matter of a few clicks and some PowerShell commands.

Installing GNU/Linux is a matter of a few clicks too, maybe you don’t even need to open a terminal!

Open Source [sic] Tools Assume Linux [sic] Environment

While it’s been possible to run these programs on Windows, it has been awkward to install them and get them to run correctly in the past because open source developers tend to assume their software will run on Linux.

It’s normal people tend to run this software on GNU/Linux, because it’s free software, and has both ethical and practical advantages, like cutting on license costs, easier maintenance…

While this is mostly true on the server-side, the vast majority of desktop systems still run Windows.

There are good alternatives for most of the products built exclusively for Windows, like LibreOffice for MS Office; GIMP, Inkscape, Audacity, KDEnlive and others for Adobe’s suite…

Getting used to those programs can be hard at first, but when you know how to use them, they are even more enjoyable.

If you want to learn to code, it’s best for these reasons to become familiar with Linux and Unix concepts, and WSL is a good place to start.

Absolutely not. WSL abstracts many of the things that GNU/Linux does. The init system, the X Window System…

Familiar Environment

Sure, there are desktop environments like GNOME, KDE, and Xfce that look familiar to any Windows user, but you’ll still need to learn a new environment and applications

Isn’t this what learning is all about? Seeing new things, trying them, figuring out how they work, read manuals, tutorials… What’s the fun of learning if you only have a new shell but stay at home for the rest?

Linux concepts are quite different than Windows concepts, and that bit of familiarity will make the learning curve shallower.

That familiarity keeps you away from the real GNU/Linux experience. That leads to the next point of “easy windows integration”. At that point, the user will problably have problems differenciating the real Linux from the abstractions made by Microsoft.

You might want to run Windows' tracert command in Linux to troubleshoot your network while debugging a Python script you wrote in Linux from the PowerShell.

Why in the f-ing world would you want to do that? I know it’s a you can, but it wouldn’t make sense. If you’re writing Python on GNU/Linux, you’ll probably want to run it and debug it in GNU/Linux, and not in a platform it was not developed for.

WSL might seem like a major reversal from Microsoft, which under Steve Ballmer was antagonistic towards Linux in the ’00s, but WSL fits firmly in this tradition of Windows and Linux interoperability

WSL is just an attempt from Microsoft to apply their EEE strategy. Microsoft had a superior competitor called GNU, that formed an entire OS with the Linux kernel. Their tried to forbid its development via patents, publicly calling the GPL “a cancer”…

Did you know you can enhance your Windows Subsystem for Linux experience with only a few tweaks and configurations?

You can configure your real GNU/Linux experience too! There are some files called Dotfiles you can modify to make your software run however you want or just look prettier. There are thousands of distributions, and you can run any program on any of them.

#freedom #microsoft #software