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Remembering what the view was like when I started this job, I must admit that I was gratified, surprised, and encouraged to see that Microsoft has now posted a tutorial on how to install Linux.

Dear Reader,

Remembering what the view was like when I started this job, I must admit that I was gratified, surprised, and encouraged to see that Microsoft has now posted a tutorial on how to install Linux [1]. It is hard to believe that Ol’ Redmond has finally beaten the sword of FUD into the plowshare of documentation. At least, it would have been hard for me to believe back then, but the change has been a slow and gradual march. Microsoft has supported Linux in its Azure cloud for a few years now, and I can’t believe this is their first Linux how-to. CEO Satya Nadella is known for famously stating “Microsoft Loves Linux.” Is that where we are right now? Well, maybe, but it’s worth remembering that there are many different kinds of love.

It is also good to remember that Microsoft wouldn’t be Microsoft if they didn’t sneaky it up a bit. That’s what they always do. In this case, the instructions describe four ways to install Linux, including bare metal and virtual machine options, but the “most simple way to install Linux” according to Microsoft, is to use Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL). The WSL method is also the first one they describe – the definitive, best-case scenario. In other words, they make the assertion (without qualification) that the “simplest” way to install Linux is to run it from inside a running Windows system.

They also subtly ward you off from the other alternatives with their friendly reminders and warnings about the dangers. If you try to install Linux on a virtual machine, for instance, “…you are responsible for managing the virtual machine when using a hypervisor, including allocating resources like memory and disk space, and ensuring that it is secure and up-to-date. This requires more technical expertise than some of the other options and may not be as scalable or fault-tolerant.”

As for the bare metal method, “If you choose the bare metal Linux install route, you may also need to deal with potential driver issues or hardware compatibility problems that may arise with Linux on some devices.” But anyway, why would anyone bother with bare metal when (according to them), “The performance speed between WSL, virtual machines, and bare metal Linux has become so close that few developers choose this method [bare metal] due to the overhead of needing to restart (reboot) your device any time you want to switch between the operating systems.”

One could try to argue that this is a Windows document, so of course they describe it from a Windows viewpoint, where the system is preconfigured to install Linux with one command. But actually, it is not a Windows document – options like installing on bare metal or a cloud instance have nothing to do with Windows.

Microsoft loves Linux, but they also love playing games out of their old-school Microsoft playbook. In this case, the game is, when you can’t eliminate something, you simply surround it with your own context and try to absorb it. That’s what they did with web browsers and web servers – and SQL servers. Will it work with Linux? I doubt it. Keep in mind that it didn’t actually work that well with web browsers and web servers and SQL servers in the long run, although they did get lots of temporary market share and cash flow for their efforts. It really didn’t work with phones, and it didn’t exactly work with search engines either.

I never said this strategy is effective – I just said it is what they always do.

Joe Casad, Editor in Chief



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