Microsoft frees Windows Subsystem for Linux 2 from the shackles of, er, Windows?

Windows Update for the Linux kernel? No wonder Gates stepped down

Microsoft has crept closer to the next version of Windows 10, 2004, and revealed the thankful news that the dev-friendly Windows Subsystem for Linux 2 will not require a full-on OS update for those all important kernel tweaks.

Senior program manager of the Windows Insider Program, Brandon LeBlanc, announced the emission of build 19041.153 of Windows 10 to the Slow Ring. The release was a cumulative update to keep the code fresh as it waits to be flung to the public in the next few weeks.

The gang has dealt with a feature an issue that could stop ActiveX content loading as well as dealing with a nasty that meant Microsoft's browsers might bypass proxy servers. There was also, of course, the usual array of security updates to the likes of the Scripting Engine, App Platform and Frameworks and the Windows Kernel.

The updates also applied to Windows Server, reminding Insiders that we could shortly be in the strange position of having Windows Server 2004 about to be unleashed (depending on how one interprets the ups and downs of Microsoft's naming conventions for its OS - Windows 10 20H1 is also known as 2004 rather than 2003 even though 19H1 was 1903... to avoid causing, er, confusion.)

Ah, the year 2004. Windows Home Server (based on Windows Server 2003) was soon to be a thing and Windows Media Center had just taken a bow. Those were the days.

Linux kernel to hit Windows Update

More interestingly, lurking within the emission was the confirmation from Craig Loewen, program manager of the Windows Developer Platform, that the second coming of the Windows Subsystem for Linux (with actual Linux kernel rather than nifty abstraction layer) would be delivered via Windows Update.

The move had been hinted at by the WSL team during recent conferences.

To the relief of those slightly concerned that the newly Kernelised WSL2 might end up waiting for the Windows team in order to unleash updates, "We've removed the Linux kernel from the Windows OS image," said Loewen.

Those that want the new shiny will need to do a bit of DIY regarding setting up the Linux kernel ahead of the implementation of automatic servicing. Loewen added: "Inside of the initial release of Windows 10, version 2004, and in the latest Windows Insiders slow ring preview build, you will temporarily need to manually install the Linux kernel."

Naturally, we had a go on a sacrificial Slow Ring installation of Windows 10, and the process was pretty painless.

The move to shift the servicing of the kernel out of the core Windows OS image is a good one and will make for a more agile WSL2. Loewen also thanked Canonical, Debian, openSUSE, Kali and Pengwin for tweaking their launchers to support the change. ®

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