Next-Gen Linux Integration Debuts in New Windows 10 Preview Build

Microsoft is giving its Windows Insider Program participants a chance to try version 2 of Windows Subsystem for Linux in its latest Windows 10 "fast-ring" preview release.

Build 18917 is now available for testing, with commercial release expected in the first half of next year ("20H1"), per Microsoft's Wednesday announcement.

Windows Subsystem for Linux Version 2
A fast-ring preview of Windows 10 isn't for commercial production environments and will tend to have more software flaws. However, Linux enthusiasts trying build 18917 will get their first glimpse of Microsoft's own integrated Linux distro in action.

At Microsoft's Build developer event in May, Microsoft had described Windows Subsystem for Linux version 2. The subsystem lets users run Linux developer tools on Windows 10, but it isn't designed for running Linux workloads. Version 2 of Windows Subsystem for Linux is different from the first version in that Microsoft is adding its own custom-built open source Linux kernel into Windows 10 to support the subsystem's capabilities. The first version of Windows Subsystem for Linux had just provided an emulation environment for running Linux.

Version 2 of Windows Subsystem for Linux goes one step farther. It runs Microsoft's Linux version in a virtual machine on top of Windows 10, according to this developer blog post description.

Microsoft is promising that Windows Subsystem for Linux version 2 will provide "a much faster file system performance [than version 1] and full system call compatibility." However, with this preview, Linux files need to be put in the Linux root file system to enable the faster file access. Testers can try using Windows 10's File Explorer program to access those Linux files. In addition, accessing Linux currently happens using IP addresses, rather than the machine's local host, but Microsoft is working to fix that circumstance, too, according to this Microsoft document.

Delivery Optimization
Windows 10 preview build 18917 now has a new "absolute value" throttling option in its Settings menu. Users can set how much of the bandwidth is used to download updates in the background or foreground (Windows Store App updates), which gets specified in megabits per second. Previously, Microsoft had just let users specify the throttling in percentages, but it apparently wasn't good enough for organizations with low-bandwidth experiences.

The absolute value throttling option is just a new addition to Windows 10's internal Settings menu. IT pros have already had access to this option in mobile device management tools and Group Policy settings, Microsoft's announcement clarified. This enhancement was mentioned earlier during a Microsoft Ignite session on Delivery Optimization that was presented late last year. Essentially, Delivery Optimization promises smoother operating updates with less impact on a network's overall operations using a combination of Microsoft's content delivery network and peered PCs to deliver the software bits.

Other Additions
Windows 10 preview build 18917 also includes an improvement to the Windows Ink Workspace icon that appears in the system tray. The icon, identifiable by its pen plus scrawl image, will take up less space, Microsoft promised. Windows Ink Workspace lets users pop up canvases for use with the pen tool, but it's also getting a link to the Microsoft Whiteboard App, which is used to show drawings during online presentations.  

Microsoft also is adding a Narrator improvement with build 18917. It'll read header data in tables first for users, Microsoft promised. For other accessibility improvements that are already in the current Windows 10 May 2019 update release (version 1903), see this recent Microsoft announcement.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.

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