The best part of Windows 11 is a revamped Windows Subsystem for Linux

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Jim Salter

In our keynote Windows 11 review posted earlier this week, we covered most of the new features and design decisions in Microsoft’s latest consumer OS—and it seems appropriate to characterize the overall impression there as “lukewarm.” . The good news: We still haven’t covered the best part of Windows 11—Linux.


For years now, Windows 10’s Windows subsystem for Linux has been making life easier for developers, sysadmins, and hobbyists who have one foot in the Windows world and one foot in the Linux world. But WSL, simple as it is, is surrounded by many things it could have done. No Doing. Installing WSL has never been easier than it should be—and getting graphical apps to work has historically been possible But a pain in the butt that requires some fairly obscure third-party software.

Windows 11 finally fixes both of those problems. There is no Windows subsystem for Linux Excellent On Windows 11—but it’s a huge improvement over the past.

Installing WSL on Windows 11

Microsoft has traditionally caused more trouble than it should have been to install WSL, but the company has finally found the right process in Windows 10 Build 2004. Simply open an elevated command prompt (Start -> type cmd -> Click Run as Administrator), type wsl --install at the prompt, and you are ready to go. Windows 11, thankfully, keeps this process unchanged.

a simple wsl --install Without any arguments you get Hyper-V and other bases of WSL, with the current version of Ubuntu. If you’re not a fan of Ubuntu, you can see what other easily installable distributions are available with the command wsl --list --online. If you decide you’d prefer a different distro, you can install this one instead—for example—wsl --install -d openSUSE-42.

If you’re not sure which Ubuntu distribution you’d prefer, fret not-. You can install as many as you want, just by repeating wsl --list --online to calculate your options and wsl --install -d distroname To install what you like.

Installing a second distribution does not uninstall the distribution before it is installed—it creates a separate environment, independent of any other distribution. You can run several of these installed environments side-by-side without any fear of the other messing up.

WSL now supports graphics and sound

In addition to easy installation, WSL on Windows 11 brings support for both graphics and audio in WSL apps. This isn’t quite the first—Microsoft introduced WSLg in April with Windows 10 Insider Build 21364. But Windows 11 is the first production Windows build with WSLg support.

If you’re hearing about WSLg for the first time, the short version is simple: You can install GUI apps—for example, Firefox— from your Ubuntu (or other distro) command line, and they’ll work as expected, including with sound. . When I installed WSLg on Windows 11 on Framework Laptop, running firefox The iconic browser popped up automatically from the Ubuntu terminal. Switching to YouTube in this also worked perfectly, with neither frame drop in the video nor mess in the audio.

if you are looking for How WSLg works, we can start you there too: Microsoft decided to move into the future and use the Wayland protocol instead of the increasingly aging X11/xorg. For all this to work, this means creating a graphical interface on weston Reference compositor for Wayland, linked to excelland To support X client FreeRDP Providing connectivity between native Windows systems and X/Wayland apps running under WSLG.

If you want to dig more into the hairy details of WSLg’s architecture, we highly recommend Microsoft’s own April 19 devblog Post Exactly on the same subject.

What can I do with WSLG on Windows 11?

One of the most frequently asked questions we’ve asked about WSLg is “Why bother?” can be expressed as This is because most GUI “killer apps” in the Linux world aren’t really Linux-specific – the vast majority have already been ported directly to the Windows platform. And for those apps, running the native Windows port often makes more sense.

Plus, there’s one obvious “killer app” for WSLg that got us excited—and that’s it. virt-manager, a virtualization management tool originating from RedHat. virt-manager is a simple tool that streamlines the creation, management and operation of virtual machines using the Linux kernel virtual machine.

Together virt-manager, you can see a simple list of your VMs with how much disk, network, and CPU activity each is currently associated with. You can also manipulate their virtual “hardware”—for example, by adding or removing RAM, “disks”, network interfaces, and more—and starting, stopping, or stopping them. Creating and destroying VMs is as easy as management—and, finally, virt-manager Allows you to directly drag a graphical console into each VM, which behaves just like a physical display attached to a bare-metal machine.

If all this only worked on localhost, it would be pretty useless under WSLg. nested virtualization is a thing, but it’s generally not something you want to do in production. However, virt-manager Allows you to manage VMs Any machine you can SSH to, not just localhost. In practice, I use this remote management feature to manage several tens of hosts (and a few thousand VMs) both locally and remotely on a day-to-day basis.


Unfortunately, virt-manager The Windows port was never found and it seems unlikely. But it runs like a champion under WSLg. In the screenshot above, you can see my framework laptop running virt-manager Connected to my Ubuntu workstation via SSH, under WSLG. Ubuntu Workstations have different types of VMs installed and running—and virt-manager On my framework laptop can manage all of them including Hackintosh VMs and Windows Server 2012 R2 VMs that have console windows open.

Just how the cherry on top of this virtualization cake is Well Those console windows work—I had no trouble getting YouTube playback flawlessly on my Hackintosh VM console, with working, glitch-free audio. Ironically, this is one of the better remote control experiences I can manage with my Real MacBook Air—which is unbearable for spreadsheet work, thanks to being confined to VNC over Wi-Fi.

What can not do I do with WSLG on Windows 11?

As much as we’re loving the Advanced Windows Subsystem for Linux functionality in Windows 11, it’s still not quite a “real” Linux VM.

As far as I can tell, there’s still no networking bridge mode – which means it’s difficult to run network server applications (Apache, Nginx, MySQL, Samba, etc.) on your WSLg guest and it’s hard to access other machines on the network. exposes services. This Self-Described “Hilarious Unsupported, Disapproved, and Experimental” workaround Still available seems to be the closest thing to a real network bridge – which sharply limits the usefulness of WSL-based application servers.

You can’t run GNOME’s Software Center app under WSLg—more precisely, you can can do Install and run it, but it’s effectively useless. We’re not sure what’s going wrong in the software center, but it pops up “failed to connect to” upower“Error on console and failed to list any available applications. It doesn’t even list all of our Established Application! That’s a shame, because it otherwise would have been a good way for Linux newbies to use to browse the software available for their new WSLG distribution for Windows.

You also cannot run the GNOME Shell desktop environment itself under WSLg. running apt install gnome-shell works fine, and pulls in the huge list of dependencies needed to satisfy that request—but gnome-shell miserably fails with itself unsupported session type, which effectively means he doesn’t like WSLg’s Weston/XWayland environment.


Finally, Ubuntu has excellent built-in OpenZFS support…

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