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The Big Shift For Microsoft: Shipping Linux Kernel In Windows

The Big Shift For Microsoft: Shipping Linux Kernel In Windows

Ambika Choudhury

Img Source: Microsoft

This is not the first time Microsoft is doing something incredible, earlier it has covered Bash shell on Windows, including Ubuntu, Fedora, and SUSE Linux in the Windows Store, surprising both the communities. In 2018, the tech giant had also shipped a Linux kernel known as Azure Sphere. However, this is the first time that a Linux kernel is shipped with Windows to provide the users with amazing Linux experience on Windows as announced By Microsoft in Build 2019 .

Recently, the tech giant announced that it will include an in-house custom-built Linux kernel to underpin the newest version of the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL). The developers at Microsoft will ship the latest stable branch of the Linux Kernel to all the versions of WSL2. WSL2 is a new version of the architecture that powers the Windows Subsystem for Linux to run ELF64 Linux binaries on Windows. This new architecture of WSL2 changes how these Linux binaries interact with Windows and your computer’s hardware, but still provides the same user experience as in WSL1. WSL2 uses the latest and greatest in virtualization technology to run its Linux kernel inside of a lightweight utility virtual machine (VM). The initial builds of WSL2 will be available through the Windows Insider program by the end of June 2019.

In a blog post, Program Manager of Microsoft, Jack Hammons said, “The term “Linux” is often used to refer to the Linux kernel as well as the GNU userspace. As with WSL1, WSL2 will not provide any userspace binaries. Instead, the Microsoft kernel will interface with userspace selected by the user. This will generally come through installation via the Windows store but can also be “sideloaded” through the creation of a custom distribution package.” He added, “The kernel itself will initially be based on version 4.19, the latest long-term stable release of Linux. The kernel will be rebased at the designation of new long-term stable releases to ensure that the WSL kernel always has the latest Linux goodness.”

Linux developers at Microsoft have been researching since a few years and enabled Microsoft with new platform features in the wide number of distributions provided in Azure Marketplace. As per security, the WSL kernel will be built using Microsoft’s world-class CI/CD systems and serviced through Windows Update in an operation transparent to the user. The kernel provided for WSL2 will be fully open-sourced. The program manager also said, “To ensure the provenance of our sources we mirror repositories locally. We continually monitor Linux security mailing lists and partner with several CVE database companies to help ensure that our kernel has the most recent fixes and mitigations.”

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Furthermore, on the same day, Microsoft introduced a powerful and efficient Windows Terminal with the productive terminal application for users of command-line tools and shells like Command Prompt, PowerShell and Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL). The terminal includes features like multiple tab support and it also uses a GPU accelerated DirectWrite/DirectX-based text rendering engine which will display text characters, glyphs, and symbols present within fonts on your PC, including CJK ideograms, emoji, powerline symbols, icons, programming ligatures, etc.

Lastly adding as a reminder, last year Microsoft announced a new operating system for IoT known as Azure Sphere OS. The interesting fact about the new OS is that it combines security innovations pioneered in Windows, a security monitor, and a custom Linux kernel to create a highly-secured software environment and a trustworthy platform for new IoT experiences.

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