Software

Windows 10's first paid-for, Linux-based distro: $20 app out now, says Microsoft

WLinux is a $20 open-source, Debian-based distribution, designed to run on Windows 10's Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL).

The first paid-for Linux distro for Windows 10 is available from the Microsoft Store, the tech giant has announced.

WLinux is a $20 open-source, Debian-based distribution, designed to run on Windows 10's Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL).

The WSL allows Windows 10 to run various GNU/Linux distros inside Windows as Microsoft Store apps, providing access to Ubuntu, openSUSE, Debian, Fedora, Kali Linux, and others.

The WSL has disadvantages over a running a dedicated GNU/Linux system. For example, there's no official support for desktop environments or graphical applications, and I/O performance bottlenecks, but it is being improved over time.

Whitewater Foundry, the developers of WLinux, describe it as a "fast Linux terminal environment for developers", saying it is the first distribution to be "pre-configured and optimized to run specifically on Windows Subsystem for Linux".

Announcing WLinux's availability, Microsoft program manager Tara Raj, called out the wlinux-setup tool, "which allows users to easily set up common developer toolchains, and removes unsupported features like systemd".

WLinux's GitHub page goes into more detail, saying the tool allows users to choose between code editors such as emacs, neovim and Visual Studio Code; to select between the csh, zsh and fish shells; and to unpack development environments for Node.js JavaScript, Python, Ruby, and Go during installation.

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WLinux also includes a collection of utilities for WSL, "such as converting WSL path to Windows path or creating your favorite Linux GUI application shortcuts on Windows 10 Desktop". Other listed features include managing servers using OpenSSH and running basic graphical Linux apps, such as Gnome Builder, if a Windows X client like X410 is used.

The team behind WLinux indicate a level of ongoing support, saying: "Purchases of WLinux in the Microsoft Store pay for a team of open-source indie developers to add new features, test and release builds, evaluate WSL-related CVEs, and provide user support. User support is provided on a best-effort basis".

The idea of paying for an open-source operating system caused controversy in some quarters in 2015, when the developers of the open-source Elementary OS set up a site that encouraged users to pay.

However, others online have pointed out that the free-software movement doesn't discourage developers from charging for their work, as the central point is that the code is free for others to inspect, modify, and redistribute, not that the software is free of charge.

Microsoft also announced the availability of Ubuntu 18.04, OpenSUSE 15 and SLES 15 in the Microsoft Store, alongside other minor improvements to the WSL that will arrive with the Windows 10 October 2018 Update.

The big takeaways for tech leaders:

  • WLinux is a $20 open-source, Debian-based distribution, designed to run on Windows 10's Windows Subsystem for Linux.
  • The developers of WLinux claim it's the "first Linux distribution pre-configured and optimized to run specifically on Windows Subsystem for Linux".

Read more about the Windows 10

About Nick Heath

Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic. He writes about the technology that IT decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

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