Linux via Windows Week 2

Is there really such a thing as a failed experiment? Don’t you just find a closed door at the end of it and isn’t knowing the door is closed worth something?

That’s like what got me started with Linux. I was a Windows guy at college and Vista was going to update what I loved about XP. So I bought a machine with the ‘designed for Windows Vista’ sticker and then suffered through a tremendously frustrating experience that was alleviated by rediscovering Linux. For me the Linux experience has almost always been via the desktop, not the server application most folks know it for.

Two weeks ago I decided to try and use the Windows’ enabled versions of Linux via Hyper-V and WSL. This was in part inspired by Jason’s challenges on Forbes and the podcast ChooseLinux (although in reverse). On Saturday I partitioned my hard drive and reinstalled KDE Neon so I could dual boot again. I made it two weeks and two weeks was too painful.

As you’ll remember from my first post I’m a casual Linux user. It solves problems for me in the home, it’s fun to tinker with, but I’ve never written code and my shop at work is mostly Windows. Most of my output at work is done using MS Office.

There are likely very good reasons for code writers and seasoned professionals to have Ubuntu so easily installed via Hyper-V and the WSL ready to go. In some situations I could imagine that having these environments will allow people to mock-up and test applications on the same machine that has their MS Office install. But in that scenario they’ll still probably need another Linux machine to actually get the work done.

Also, I’m not one of those guys.

I love the networking tools Linux has. The Ubuntu Podcast taught me sudo netdiscover which shows the machines one one’s network. Similarly Kali Linux available via WSL has lots of fun networking tools, but none of these networking tools work in the WSL because it doesn’t have access to the network stack–so for my purposes it makes it virtually useless.

While the networking tools do theoretically work in Hyper-V they give no practical output because the Hyper-V instance isn’t bridged (like you could set if you were running Linux in a VirtualBox instance).

What I do appreciate is that Microsoft was willing to invest in this first historic iteration of making parts of a very powerful operating system available on its platform. When it comes down to it the parts they’ve enabled though, aren’t the parts I value.

I can’t say that I’ve conclusively proved that Microsoft’s implementation of Linux under Windows can’t work for some people. My use case is narrow. The functionality provided by Microsoft’s implementation of Linux is also narrow and there’s little overlap between the two.

I think this is just another example of what makes Linux great. It satisfies so many broad use cases! Microsoft’s implementation can’t possibly take over the breadth or even a majority of the cases out there where Linux solves real problems for people.

My use case is mostly outside of their current offer, but I’m grateful they’re offering what they do. I now have two applications I can run on my Windows machine that I didn’t have before: SSH and youtube-dl.

SSH works as expected.

Youtube-dl is more emblematic of how I see the whole experiment. It functional, but not elegant. Once a file downloads from youtube-dl all I have to do is navigate to C:\Users\username\AppData\Local\Packages\CanonicalGroupLimited.Ubuntu18.04onWindows_79rhkp1fndgsc\LocalState\rootfs. Which is so intuitive right?

Maybe there’s more functionality buried in what they’ve provided, but I don’t think the time it will take to figure it out is as effective as rebooting into KDE Neon.

Linux via Windows Week 1

I am a casual Linux user. It’s been my daily driver. I use it on a couple of home servers, and I love the community behind the operating system, but I’ve never gotten past the point where I don’t feel like a novice. I see how much I have to learn and that list never seems to get any shorter.

The good folks over at JupiterBroadcasting have remarked over the course of several episodes that people might never switch to Linux on bare hardware since Windows enables Linux through a few different avenues.

Also shows on the network have been highlighting the try-Linux challenges inspired by Jason Evangelho of Forbes. So I decided to do a bit of a reverse challenge. Instead of going Linux I’ve gone Windows.  To be specific I’ve installed Linux in Windows enabled by the WSL and also a Hyper-V instance using the standard install.  I reported some of this change earlier when I nuked my KDE Neon desktop in favor of a fresh Windows 10 install.

I’ve installed Ubuntu using the WSL and have a desktop instance using Hyper-V. Both of those installs are much easier now than when Microsoft first released the features. Here are some of the things I’ve done and my observations:

  • BOTH Ubuntus:
    • Setting Fish as the default terminal application was easy and the same commands work in both places
  • WSL
    • The home directory is buried. This means files downloaded via youtube-dl are buried deep in the folder structure of Windows and it takes a bit of searching to find them to add them and then bookmark the folder for future reference.
    • I can SSH into my home servers no issue but netdiscover, nmap, and other apps that rely heavily on the network stack just aren’t available. This really has me wondering what Kali is like if the networking tools of that distro don’t have access to what they need.
  • Hyper-V’s
    • The graphics aren’t smooth. Ubuntu’s ability to draw the windows isn’t bad, but it’s not good either. The elegant animations of Ubuntu works a bit clunky, but that’s to be expected of a VM.
    • I can SSH into my home servers but Hyper-V doesn’t have an easy way to bridge the network adapter making netdiscover useless
    • Running a VM on a laptop adds a lot of inefficiencies and reduces battery life–but I don’t know by how much yet.
  • Additional insights
    • Not a cohesive instance. To be totally clear, I understand why this is the way it is, but from a user standpoint not having a cohesive instance between the user’s Linux’s might just push them to have a cohesive instance and install on bear metal

I’m not going say at this point that a casual Ubuntu user like myself can stay in this paradigm. What I can share is that it’s week 1. What’s I’ve noticed so far is that I have an additional cost of maintenance by having two systems I have to update instead of one. I can’t use netdiscover which is rather sad.  It’s an app I’ve come to rely on to help troubleshoot the home network.

There might be more rough edges in this and time will tell if it becomes enough of a deal breaker to get me to partition the drive and just have 2 OSs on the machine (I need Windows for work).

So, my conclusion is still pending. Sometimes you’ve got to live in an environment for a while to figure out how to work around it’s quirks. I’ll give it a few more weeks, but here’s my journal entry from week 1.  What would you have done differently?

Actually, Microsoft

A few months ago I had written how I was able to move all of my apps and workflow over to Linux. It was a proud moment and I loved getting to that point after years of trying.

This last week though, I nuked Linux.

Part of the reason for this was work. While I had adjusted my personal workflow to use only Linux (KDE Neon is awesome), my work workflow was very much based on MS Office and the work issued laptop was not as comfortable as some of my personal machines. So I started doing more work on the home machines and then it dialed up several notches as I started to have to coach people through solving problems on their machines.

So, I nuked Linux.

One reason for doing this is it’s not the same Microsoft as a few years go. You can easily see this in Microsoft’s communication applications. Skype for Business is arguably the worst app I used in 2018. It doesn’t integrate with anything well, doesn’t keep it’s chat history (except inside of MS Outlook), and doesn’t even use a modern codec to be able to do screen sharing.

In contrast there’s MS Teams. It’s modern, remembers your chat history, and integrates with lots of other applications. Teams is where Microsoft is heading, and it seems to be a pretty positive direction. Microsoft now seems to want to play nice with others. That wasn’t always the case.

The other area that’s seen some significant improvement is the ability to run Linux on Windows. The install Ubuntu via Hyper V works pretty dang awesome. So, now I’ve nuked Linux, but I’ve actually installed it twice on this Windows Machine. I’ve got Ubuntu’s command line via Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) and I’ve got full Ubuntu desktop using Hyper V.

I’m probably not going to stick with this long term, but I am going to give it a go for a month or so. Microsoft doesn’t just seem to be telling users how to use their computer anymore. They seem to be actually enabling people’s workflows.

This doesn’t mean the transition is perfect. I’m not a fan of the desktop layout though it is functional. The interface in general has artifacts from previous versions of Windows whenever you try to do anything close to what a power user might want to do on the machine. So it’s enabling, but it’s not an elegant design. KDE had both it was enabling and had an elegant design. Let’s see what Windows is like for a while.

Let’s Talk Browsers

Ok: So one of my favorite compliments to this blog was from Logan. I didn’t know that he didn’t know that there were things called feed readers out there that would allow you watch other people’s blogs. After all there’s like 29,100,000 resuls for blog reader on google. I figured that he would have just googled it.

Well, let’s talk about web browsers. My experience this morning with myspace was less than positive. I was able to fix the problem. Two things allowed me to do so. First, I knew that there was a solution, and second I’m using software that empowers the solution.

Thanks to google analytics I can see that most of my blog visitors are using windows:

1. 215 65.15%
2. 83 25.15%
3. 32 9.70%

And most are using Firefox:

1. 232 70.30%
2. 88 26.67%
3. 5 1.52%
4. 4 1.21%
5. 1 0.30%

That’s great! For those 5 of you who are using Safari and the 88 folks using Internet Explorer this blog post is for you.

I’m the guy that likes to take a computer out of the box and performs a series of tweaks to get it working efficiently for whatever the user wants to do with it. Apple likes their computers to do a number of tasks “out of the box.” That’s one reason why the software is integrated so well. It’s part of the company’s mentality.

Microsoft has tried to keep up, but the biggest advantage to windows is it’s miracle. It’s a miracle that you can proprietarily run on operating system on so many diverse types of comptuers. The other advantage to windows is the wide distribution of the software. It’s popularity increases it’s functionality.

Each operating system comes with a browser. A browser is what you use to view web pages. The internet before browsers was really a rather sad affair–but we wont talk about that now. Apple comes with a browser called “Safari,” and Windows has “Internet Explorer.” Internet Explorer has a history of being unsecure, exploitive, and unresponsive to user demands. Safari has fared better in the contests over time.

The current versions of both browsers use something called “tabbed browsing.” They each address the security issues a lot quicker than they used to. In fact some of the issues are addressed proactively.

Why is there a fight over the browsers? Well, there’s money to be made in browsers. Safari has a little box in the upper right hand corner that allows you to search google. Apple gets an estimated $25 million a year for all the times people just decide to ‘look for something.’

Microsoft launced their own search service in 2005. Instead of searching google you search Microsoft’s version of the internet. Most users wont notice the difference. Popular sites are annotated in each search feature. Watch out though. If you launched a website this week, it may take up to 6 weeks before it appears on Windows Live (Blumen Barrettes doesn’t exist there yet). There’s other differences, but the internet is not the same depending on who’s search you’re using. Microsoft gleans the revenue from Windows Live outright.

Did you notice something? Let’s Q&A:

  • Who’s got the most popular Operating System?
  • Microsoft.
  • What’s the way they search?
  • Windows Live.
  • Who makes money off of it?
  • Microsoft.
  • Is their search as powerful as others?
  • NO.
  • Can you change it?
  • Yes, but it takes several steps–not fun.

Remember those adds I was miffed about on my previous post? Microsoft and Apple would have those stay there. Why? Because they have a vested interest in me clicking on ads. When I search using their box I see ads. If I click on those ads, they get money. If I can’t see those ads, I can’t click and they don’t get any money.

The alternative browsers are less glitchy than they used to be. If you’re going simple download firefox. (My parents generation: I’m talking to you.) Firefox is stable, popular, secure, and customizable.

The default search engine is google. But Firefox doesn’t want the money. Download Adblock Plus and get rid of the ads. No one will be mad at you.

There’s other browsers out there as well, but even Chrissy doesn’t read my blogs when they’re this long–so I better stop my rant.

I’m not anti-Microsoft. They have bills to pay as well. They do a great job. I just think that innovation has a foothold in the future of how we do computers. Stop thinking in Microsoft labels and it’s amazing what’s out there. My dad’s started to discover that from his Mac. At some point I hope to get them (and others) thinking beyond the Mac and Microsoft and Google label for things. There’s things in the cauldron bubbling away. Eventually dinner will be served. Firefox is an appetizer. 🙂