Blurred Lines

Linux? Windows? I say, everything at once!

Mon, 03 Sep 2018

PROLOGUE

While setting up Dev environment on my CAIRO-STATION (desktop computer at my home), I realized I could not install Linux on that, since the system will be used by all family members. My best bet would have been a VM or some sort of Containerization. Then I recalled my early development days, and realized both of these are inferior to Windows Subsystem For Linux (WSL)

When I first discovered WSL as an optional feature in Windows 8.1, I was busy jumping between playing Just Cause 2 (a really great Open-World game, you MUST check it out!) and studying for XII “Board Exams”. I had a slight taste of Linux back then, enough to perform the most basic functions- ls, cd, and screenfetch (my favorite).

Then, last year I saw Microsoft announce 3 more Linux flavors for WSL incoming at Build Developer Conference, all I understood was more screenfetch outputs to bask in!

Motivation

Today, after an year of experience and two incredibly knowledgeable months at DGPLUG, ideas have become more achievable.

Today, an idea struck my mind-

Developers can finally use Ubuntu through command line interface, great! If they could also use GUI apps fired from within the Ubuntu bash CLI, ah that would have been lovely.

Ever since I installed Arch Linux on my system over days of research, I came to appreciate all the nit-bits and procedures involved in installing an OS and everything that a proprietary-software user believes should come with it.

Since now I possessed the knowledge I needed to pull this off, I fired up my home PC and I was ready to hack!

Baby Steps

  1. Got Ubuntu 18.04 from windows store.
  2. Turned ON WSL for my system.
  3. Updated all packages and installed screenfetch.

The New Part

The X Server handles outputs to the GUI, and a variable DISPLAY needs to point to the X Server. This was done by the command DISPLAY=:0. To avoid running it manually everytime, I appended it to my shell by the command: echo 'DISPLAY=:0' >> ~/.zshrc.

Now, all that I needed was an X Server that serves well!

My first attempt at X-Server for Windows was XMing, but unfortunately it couldn’t be detected by the WSL. XMINGnotDetected

X Server could not be found by WSL

Next up, I tried another procedure which goes as follows :-

  1. WSL opens up a TCP type port 2222 for SSHing.
  2. I SSH through PuTTY and enable X11 Forwarding inside it.
  3. The X Server used was still Xming.

The result is in the following photograph. XMingDetected

Some Progress!

There still were problems with this set up- Latency. It seems obvious that I am SSHing into my own system, which is not wise. So, now I decided to get a better terminal application and get this show on road!

So, this time, I installed ConEmu. For those who are having a hard time shifting from Linux to the Command Prompt or Powershell, this is a relief. ConEmu is extremely customizable and rock-solid!

Also, I changed my X Server to MobaXterm, which does a far better and simpler job at handling X Server and related tasks(Servers,Tunneling,Packages,File System )

Final Set Up

The MobaXTerm X Server starts at Log In, and firing up ConEmu gives me a Ubuntu CLI.

Testing

XMingDetected

Mozilla Firefox

XMingDetected2

VS Code

I also followed a blog post by Nick Janetakis on setting up Docker to work with WSL flawlessly!

The setup he used was my inspiration for the post, and I hope it would serve me well for my oncoming endeavors!

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piyush aggarwal

I am an engineering undergraduate, in my 3rd year of B.Tech in Computer Science. I like to play with technologies and share my experiences with the almighty internet!