First steps with WSL

First steps with WSL

It is January and I decided to bite the bullet and finally try out the Windows Subsystem for Linux, despite my bias against development on Windows. I have a Rust app I want to have a look at again and I don’t want to install Git on Windows, for starters. And always editing code with vim grows old, if you’re only doing it because your code sits on a box without a GUI, not because you love vim and want to use it all the time.

OK, installing it is easy enough, PowerShell as Admin, one command, reboot. Adding Ubuntu 18.04 as well, download one file, one command, find it in the start menu, wait a little, done.

First problem arises. Since I installed this I don’t have the keyboard layout chooser anymore, and right now I have a US Intl. keyboard connected. This is really painful already. Why does this happen?

  • Settings -> Time and Language -> Language
  • English -> Options -> Keyboards
  • Add a keyboard -> US-Intl

Now I have a different keyboard selection icon in the taskbar, but fine. Digging deeper in the settings this seems to be the ‘Language Bar’ that is acting in a weird way. If I set it to float it’s gone, but by changing stuff in ‘Advanced keyboard settings’ I can make it reappear. Aaanyway.

apt-get update && apt-get upgrade works, good. Installing tmux and git, creating a new SSH key, cloning, fine.

OK, now I need rust. I want to build for Windows, so can I do this in WSL or do I still need it in Windows? No idea, let’s use the Windows rustup-init.exe.

Addendum: Trying to install rustup inside WSL, I do get a default host triple of x86_64-unknown-linux-gnu, as expected, so it was the right choice.

It’s really been a while since I installed Rust on Windows, but did you always need the 4.5 GB C++ Visual Studio support files? This is weird, but ok.

Next problem, running cargo build in \\wsl$\Ubuntu-18.04\ is really, really slow and errors out after 30%. Twice. OK, this doesn’t seem to work. After reading some posts and articles I should be glad to be able to have write access at all, it seems.

Good, copying over my 30kb of project files to a Windows dir, rerunning, this works fine. I’m using VS Code right now for Rust.

A day later I’m minding my own business and suddenly Windows Defender pops up and says there’s a trojan in my /bin/su file of the Ubuntu WSL thing. A Windows trojan, nonetheless. I wouldn’t say I panicked, but I was a little concerned indeed. It’s supposed to be a normal Ubuntu 18.04.3 - so I connect to a real server I have and start comparing stuff. Same version of the package, which files are in the package, what are their md5sums… It’s 2:30 am already and I’m a little tired and wanted to to go to bed just before this, so I miss checking the “infected” executable properly. Turns out if it’s overwritten with only zeroes the checksum might indeed be different… Restoring didn’t work, so I fired up FileZilla and copied the Ubuntu 18.04.3 su binary to one of my Windows partitions and boom, quuarantined again. This time restore worked though and I was calmed down enough to let it rest. Filed a false positive report (at least that went quick without an account) and went to bed. When I got up 8h later it was already accepted, at least this worked fine.

Still. I know why I hate Windows as a development platform, but the WSL seems to be good enough for certain things.

  • have a full Linux system available instantly
  • not having to bother to install most development tools on Windows
  • there is some amount of cross-access so I can use e.g. grep on files easily
  • ip a didn’t work yesterday but today it does?
  • the terminal has a few oddities, putty is better

Starting services on WSL when Windows starts seems to be a bit of a hassle, but I wouldn’t want them running all the time anyway, I guess

I need to play around with it a little more. It’s definitely better than a full-blown VM, and some things are kinda seamless, but there have been a few awfully sharp edges for a good first experience.