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Microsoft drives up in a LXSS: Hop in, we're taking the Windows Update offramp to Linux 5.4 town

Also: Windows 10 21H1 sent to the beta channel

The two sides of Microsoft were on show this week as a major update to the Linux kernel turned up on Windows Update for Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL 2) users and the next version of Windows finally found its way to the company's loyal Insiders.

The update for WSL 2 is quite the version jump and takes it from the 4.19 branch (4.19.128) to 5.4.72. Admittedly, the LTS 5.4 branch is a little long in the tooth, having debuted at the end of 2019 (the last LTS release was 5.10 and 5.11 took a bow in time for Valentine's Day) but the version uptick will improve the lives of a good few users.

The update has been knocking around the various preview and Insider editions of Windows for a while but, as noted by Ubuntu engineering manager for WSL2 Hayden Barnes, it is now available through Windows Update.

We popped the Windows Subsystem for Linux onto a vanilla installation of Windows 10 20H2 (19042.804) and found the process disappointingly straightforward and free of drama. An update and a swift wsl –shutdown later, and Ubuntu 20.04 reported Linux version 5.4.72-microsoft-standard-WSL2.

While the presence of a Linux kernel in Windows 10 predates the pandemic, it remains a reminder that some things within Microsoft have changed beyond recognition over the years. One of the most striking examples is the extraction of WSL2 from the lumbering behemoth of an operating system that Windows has become, and allowing modifications to be delivered through Windows Update without necessitating a full OS refresh.

21H1 arrives for Windows Insiders

And that point, especially, is handy since after inadvertently spilling the beans via a Windows Hardware Certification post earlier this week, Microsoft finally put Windows Insiders out of their misery. Those who seek it may now peek at Windows 21H1 in the Beta Channel. The final version is due "later in the first half of this calendar year."

It fell to John Cable, vice president of Program Management, Windows Servicing and Delivery, to share the news. It was Cable, some might remember, who was given the luckless task of writing an explanation for the data-destroying Windows 10 October 2018 Update, apologising for the impact the release's issues had on affected customers.

That disastrous release continues to loom large, and 21H1 follows the previous release, 20H2, in both its limited content and the delivery mechanism to be used. It will effectively be another jumped-up update, which is unusual for an H1 release. The company is sticking to its six-month cadence, meaning that another release will occur before 2021 draws to a close.

"We optimized this release to support our customers' most pressing needs," explained Cable. In other words, weary IT professionals won't have to worry about turning off or supporting new features because, frankly, there aren't many (unless setting a default Windows Hello camera excites you). ®

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