Extending / Installing and using the Windows subsystem for Linux is easier and more productive on Windows 11 than on Windows 10.
The main Windows 11 review, posted earlier this week, covered most of the new features and design decisions of Microsoft’s latest consumer operating system. I feel that it is rational to characterize the overall impression given there as “slimy”. Fortunately, we haven’t covered Linux, which is the best part of Windows 11.
For years, Windows Subsystem for Linux on Windows 10 has eased the lives of developers, system administrators, and enthusiasts who have set foot in the world of Windows and Linux. However, WSL has suffered from some problems that it couldn’t do because of its convenience. Installing WSL has never been easier and it has historically been possible to get a graphical app to work, but there was also a pain in the butt that required fairly ambiguous third-party software.
Windows 11 will eventually fix both of these issues. The Windows subsystem for Linux isn’t complete in Windows 11, but it’s a significant improvement over its predecessor.
Installing WSL on Windows 11
You cannot install WSL from the standard CMD prompt. You need an elevated prompt.
From within the promoted CMD, wsl –install is sufficient. A single reboot will result in a WSL with built-in audio and graphics support.
Microsoft has traditionally made installing WSL more cumbersome than it should be, but in the end it was able to run the process correctly in Windows 10 Build 2004. Just open an elevated command prompt ([スタート]->[cmd]Enter->[管理者として実行]Click), type wsl –install at the prompt, and you’re ready to go. Thankfully, Windows 11 will continue this process unchanged.
You can get Hyper-V and other WSL infrastructure, as well as the current version of Ubuntu, using a simple wsl –install with no arguments. If you’re not a fan of Ubuntu, you can use commandwsl –list –online to see other distributions that are easy to install. If you want to use a different distribution, you can instead install it using, for example, wsl –install -dopenSUSE-42.
If you don’t know which distribution you prefer, don’t worry. Simply repeat wsl –list –online to enumerate the options, then repeat wsl –install -d distroname to install whatever you like, and you can install as many as you like.
Installing the second distribution does not uninstall the first distribution. Create a separate environment that is independent of other environments. You can run these installed environments as often as you like, without fear that one environment will ruin another.
WSL now supports graphics and sound In addition to being easy to install, WSL on Windows 11 supports both graphics and audio in WSL apps. This is not the first product Microsoft debuted WSLg in April with Windows 10 Insider Build 21364. However, Windows 11 is the first commercial Windows build to support WSLg.
If you are new to WSLg, the short version is simple. For example, if you install a GUI app such as Firefox from the Ubuntu (or other distribution) command line, it works as expected, including the sound. After installing WSLg on Windows 11 on a Framework laptop, running firefox from an Ubuntu terminal automatically popped up an iconic browser. Going to YouTube worked perfectly in it, with no video frame drops or audio glitches.
If you’re looking for how WSLg works, you can start there. Microsoft has decided to use the Wayland protocol to build ahead of the future, rather than the increasingly aging X11 / xorg. To make everything work, this is an X / Wayland app that builds a graphical interface on the Weston reference compositor for Wayland, connects to X Wayland to support X clients, and FreeRDP runs on native Windows systems and WSLg. Meaning to provide a connection between.
If you want to dig deeper into the WSLg architecture, I highly recommend Microsoft’s own April 19th development blog post on that very topic.
What can I do with WSLg in Windows 11?
Firefox is not installed only on Windows 11 in the WSLg environment.
This is my favorite usage of WSLga local copy of virt-manager to manage virtual machines hosted on remote Linux servers.
One of the most recurring questions we’ve seen about WSLg can be described as “Why bother?” This is because most of the GUI “killer apps” in the Linux world are not really Linux-specific. Most have already been ported directly to the Windows platform. Also, for these apps, it often makes more sense to run a native Windows port.
That said, there is one obvious “killer app” for WSLg that is exciting us. It’s virt-manager, a virtualization management tool developed by Red Hat. virt-manager is a simple tool that uses Linux kernel virtual machines to streamline the creation, management, and operation of virtual machines.
You can use virt-manager to see a brief list of VMs and the amount of disk, network, and CPU activity currently associated with each. You can also add or remove RAM, “disks”, network interfaces, etc. to work with virtual “hardware” and start, pause, or stop them. Creating and destroying VMs is as easy as managing them, and finally virt-manager allows you to pull a graphical console directly to each VM. It behaves like a physical display connected to a bare metal machine.
If all of this works only on localhost, then WSLg doesn’t help at all. Nested virtualization is important, but usually not what you want to do in a production environment. However, you can use virt-manager to manage VMs on any machine that you can SSH into, not just the localhost. In practice, this remote management feature is used to manage dozens of hosts (and thousands of VMs) on a daily basis, both locally and remotely.
Unfortunately, virt-manager has never acquired a Windows port and seems unlikely to acquire it. But it runs under WSLg like a champion. In the screenshot above, you can see a Framework laptop running virt-manager under WSLg connected to an Ubuntu workstation via SSH. Various VMs are installed and running on Ubuntu workstations, and the Framework laptop virt-manager can manage all of them, including the Hackintosh VM with a console window and the Windows Server 2012 R2 VM.
At the top of this virtualization cake is how well these console windows work. You can play YouTube on the Hackintosh VM console without any problems, and glitch-free audio works. Ironically, this is a better remote control experience than can be managed on myreal Macbook Air, which is unbearable to use for spreadsheet work because it’s limited to VNC over Wi-Fi.
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