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Microsoft Open Sources Tool to Run More Linux Distros on Windows 10

Microsoft has open sourced a tool that helps Linux distribution maintainers and other developers run their OS packages on Windows 10.

The company last summer launched the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) for the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update. It's a compatibility layer allowing Linux binary executables to run natively on Windows 10.

While support for running some popular Linux distros on Windows 10 has been added since then and are available via the Windows Store (such as Ubuntu), there are hundreds more, ranging from popular community-backed offerings to single-developer-created specializations.

This week, the company announced its new GitHub-based WSL DistroLauncher Sample.

Written in C++, it's aimed at:

  • Official Linux distribution maintainers, who can package and submit a distro as an appx running on WSL and available in the Microsoft store.
  • Other developers, who can create their own specialized distros that can bypass the store distribution and be sideloaded onto their individual machines.

Those individual developers in the latter camp can get started with this guidance, while official distribution maintainers need to work with the company to get publishing approval.

"We know that many Linux distros rely entirely on open source software, so we would like to bring WSL closer to the OSS community," said Microsoft's Tara Raj in a blog post. "We hope open sourcing this project will help increase community engagement and bring more of your favorite distros to the Microsoft Store."

She further explained how the company distributes Linux distros for WSL. "We distribute Linux distros for WSL as UWP applications through the Microsoft Store. You can install those applications that will then run on WSL -- the subsystem that sits in the Windows kernel. This delivery mechanism has many benefits as discussed in an earlier blog post."

Announced two days ago, the GitHub project as of this writing has 245 stars and 23 forks.

About the Author

David Ramel is the editor of Visual Studio Magazine.

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