WSL is short for the new “Windows Subsystem for Linux (Beta)” now available through the Windows Insider program as part of the latest preview build of Windows 10. The big deal according to Microsoft is that it brings the bash shell to Windows, For me, the question is whether it’s really any better than the bash shell provided by Git for Windows.
WSL is supposed to be a complete Ubuntu Linux layer running under Windows where you can run Linux binaries. Microsoft says it’s not a virtual machine, although it certainly acts like one. A better analogy might be containers or jails.
I updated my Windows 10 virtual machine (running inside KVM) on Fedora Linux 23 and enabled the Subsystem. After doing an apt-cache search in the bash console, I decided to try installing a few packages. But the apt-get install failed with a communications error. Yes, it’s beta.
The terminal is a repurposed copy of the old Windows terminal. Right now I’m looking to see if some more xterm-like console can be added on.
Comparing it to the latest release of Git for Windows, which is based on the MSYS minimal system, so far I’m not finding much that WSL gives me that git-scm doesn’t already. Although git-scm’s bash can be run from a Windows terminal, the package includes a fully functional xterm type terminal that can be customized to my needs. The latest build of MSYS has its own package system that works reasonably well, and there’s a decent library of add-on packages that can be installed using it.
The biggest difference between WSL and git-scm’s Linux layer is that the latter can interact with the Windows system (the utilities in the package, including bash, are native Windows binaries). Microsoft explicitly warns that WSL is not integrated with Windows and cannot interract with the Windows system. That’s disappointing to say the least.
But don’t take my word for it! Try it for yourself. If you don’t have a copy of Windows 10 lying around your place, consider signing up for the Windows Insider
Check out this article, Run Bash on Ubuntu on Windows, for more about the new Subsystem.
Go to git-scm for information about Git for Windows.