The Linux Shell is Coming to Windows… again!

Earlier today, Kevin Gallo (the Director of Program Management for the Windows Developer Platform team for Windows 10 #LongestJobTitleEver) announced in BUILD 2016 keynote:

“The Bash shell is coming to Windows. Yes, the real Bash is coming to Windows”

This reminded me about this funny anecdote that dates back to 1998. The protagonist of this real life story, David Korn (the creator of KornShell aka ksh), told the story in a SlashDot interview:

“It was at a USENIX Windows NT conference and Microsoft was presenting their future directions for NT. One of their speakers [Greg Sullivan, a Product Manager at Microsoft] said that they would release a UNIX integration package for NT that would contain the Korn Shell. I knew that Microsoft had licensed a number of tools from MKS [Mortice Kern Systems] so I came to the microphone to tell the speaker that this was not the “real” Korn Shell and that MKS was not even compatible with ksh88. I had no intention of embarrassing him and thought that he would explain the compromises that Microsoft had to make in choosing MKS Korn Shell. Instead, he insisted that I was wrong and that Microsoft had indeed chosen a “real” Korn Shell. After a couple of exchanges, I shut up and let him dig himself in deeper. Finally someone in the audience stood up and told him what almost everyone in the audience knew, that I had written the ‘real’ Korn Shell. I think that this is symbolic about the way the company works.”

The other versions of this story are similar but with more/less details.

So NO! This is not the first time Microsoft is going to ship Linux shells or user-mode Linux programs with Windows. This time they are partnering with Canonical (the company behind Ubuntu Linux) to provide Ubuntu on Windows. Better late than never, huh?

So, what all will work? bash? coreutils? Scott Hanselman (who works in Web Platform team at Microsoft) wrote a detailed blogpost about the Ubuntu on Windows:

“This isn’t Bash or Ubuntu running in a VM. This is a real native Bash Linux binary running on Windows itself. It’s fast and lightweight and it’s the real binaries. This is an genuine Ubuntu image on top of Windows with all the Linux tools I use like awk, sed, grep, vi, etc. It’s fast and it’s lightweight. The binaries are downloaded by you — using apt-get — just as on Linux, because it is Linux. You can apt-get and download other tools like Ruby, Redis, emacs, and on and on. This is brilliant for developers that use a diverse set of tools like me.”

If you develop on Windows, I strongly recommend that you read Scott Hanselman’s blogpost in it’s full glory. I agree with Scott that you should keep an eye out at for technical details in the coming weeks. As for me, I will get back to my Xubuntu system and get back to work. I, for one, am never going back to Winblows! Real men (and women) use Linux! ;-)

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