Distro-hopping To The WSL Life

For years, I ran various Linux distros on my trusty Thinkpad and had a lot of fun. Alas not all hardware lasts forever so I found myself looking to replace that laptop with a compact desktop pc. At the time, space available was a bit uncertain. Ideally, I'd like two desktops but settled on a Win 10 PC and using WSL for all my Linux needs. This little article documents how I've got on.

Firstly, I already knew WSL1 is really solid. I have already used it for work, running a Node and Java stack, GUI apps, X etc. This was just as good as running on bare metal Linux. WSL2 is a big improvement (full Linux kernal) and so has no issues running amfora, newsboat, git, micro and all my other command line favourites. Installing Windows Terminal and Debian was super easy and it integrates perfectly with the Windows file system. Upgrading to Debian 11 was super smooth.

It is handy to be in the Windows ecosystem too, mostly for interacting with non-techies. One program I really like is Autohotkey which is a super simple system wide scripting/automation language. It even compiles to an exe. Just for example, this allows me to arrange windows just the way I want them (I am not missing my TWM) or insert some common text in any app with just a key combo. Autohotkey can be used with any app and has so much potential. I wish there was an equivalent on Linux.

I don't use it alot on the new PC but Powershell is good and has nifty Unix style aliases. It is open source too. Notepad++ is another gem as is Paint.net.

There's some nonsense spread around Windows. Firstly, updates are no bother. Maybe one larger one a month and my experience is they install quickly without fuss. The last 'major' update went on faster than a Linux kernal update. So this 'Windoze sucks coz updates bad' is not the experience of most. Secondly, I've not noticed any 'slowwzz down over time' in Win 10. Maybe true of that aging 5 year old Win 7 install but not Win 10.

It is still a proprietry OS of course and there is the whole online account and telemetry debate. It still costs money too. Those points are fair game for discussion.

Don't get me wrong. Looking forward to choosing a distro and setting up a full Linux PC again but the WSL2 life is pretty sweet right now. When it natively runs GUI apps it is going to become even more compelling for people who have to or like to spend time on both OS's.