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Windows 10/WSL2 vs me


phillout

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Warning - unless you are a really geeky person who loves reading about OSes and their kinky habits, you're likely to find this wall of text extremely boring.

 

A bit of a time ago I've decided to put a fate of my work into the hands of Microsoft. Yeah. Sounds a bit of stupid, considering that I used to be a Linux user for many years, at least since the rise of Slackware 3, then moving onto Gentoo in the days when 1.2 was in RC state, and there I was staying for a long time, since I knew from the experience what "working on MS platforms" (including all versions of Windows NT) meant for me as a software developer - Windows XP used to freeze during all long database operations, BSODes like crazy and had a terrible tool set for a server-side application developer targeting *nix platforms. Java was supposed to work on Windows the same way, but it's the rest of the stack that made everything really hard - I mean Python, sometimes Perl, a bunch of mostly Linux oriented services for message queues, databases, and so on. So I stayed on Linux all the way until much later.

 

I know Vista is considered by many to be a terrible story, but it was the first MS OS that actually earned some respect from me. It has an actual I/O scheduler, like, you know, real OSes. For those uninitiated, it's the thingy that prevents a single program from locking access to the disk drive and other I/O devices so no one can read it until the program is done (provided it's ever done). It has an improved network stack as well. I've started eyeing Windows 7, and then two changes came.

 

First, emulation. It got kinda big. VMWare Workstation actually provided very decent performance of Linux inside Windows. Second - the hardware I could get became much more powerful and could easily handle the tasks I was supposed to throw at my system even inside VM. So I bought Windows 8. 

 

Why? Because I wanted to play games too. Linux wasn't a terrific "game launcher" back then, aside from some old games ported to it and Neverwinter Nights there wasn't a much choice, Wine was still too young (funny thing though - it used to, and probably still does, run old games like classic Fallout series, better than post-Windows 98 MS OSes). I don't really play a lot of games, it's just that there are games I play a lot - it used to be Civilization series. So I used to dual-boot, like a lot of people who wanted to play games. And I hated that. My work schedule was always tight and, let's say, unstable - having to make and deploy a hotfix is nothing unusual at any day. The process itself could be less than a half of hour, but having to reboot every time even on my "off" days was too time and effort consuming. So I wanted a single system to handle it all - both work and playing games. So I could just alt-tab from the game, make a patch, deploy. get back to the game. It sounded like a really nice idea.

 

And Windows 8 running on a game-capable hardware with VMWare Player provided me with that for quite some time. Docker made it even easier - heck, I didn't even need an actual VM slowing down GUI. It was still running from the top of Windows filesystem, meaning I had to take care of potential permission problems inside VCS, but it was a good thing to have nevertheless. And finally, when WSL2 came out, it looked like a solution to all problems. Like a dream coming true! An actual Linux in a terminal with a full access to all kernel features, all programs, development tools, running at almost native speed. So I jumped the boat in a blink of an eye. Oh, what could go wrong, right?

 

Turns out - quite a few things. The current project I'm working on for some time already gets greedier and greedier for resources with every iteration - something kind of expected from software operating on a huge GIS database and other inputs to process and visualize data, and the volume of data was growing and growing. My notebook running Linux (btw, HP ProBook 440 is a nice piece of hardware for a lightweight laptop to run Linux on, didn't have any problems with it ever, I really love it with its i7, especially after upgrading its RAM to 16GB and NVMe to 1GB) could handle it with no problems. But my main gear, this i9-9900KF/GF 2080Ti/32GB RAM/6 TB of high-performance storage monster, couldn't. The hardware could, of course. It's WSL2 showing its temper I had to deal with.

 

First it was slight annoyances here and there, mostly coming from programs integrating Windows and Linux running in WSL2. Not really MS fault when SSH agent behaves badly due to 3rd party programs. WSL2 eating all resources to the point when Windows 10 itself could barely move was, though. So I limited a pool of resources available to WSL following advises from "Windows experts". My programs started getting SIGKILL. W.T.F. I was about to start troubleshooting this too when the moment F came. 

 

As I said, I had some experience with Windows in the past. And it always came to moment F. Meaning - "it's Fucked". At some point in the past the moment F came after I uninstalled VMWare workstation, and all USB devices stopped working. Another time it happened to networking. 

 

This time it happened to WSL2. The terminal was frozen. Visual Studio Code couldn't access the WSL2. Intellij running in X server simply crashed and disappeared. I've rebooted the PC hoping it would cure all problems. It didn't. WSL2 was dead. I could run it in terminal. but it was having severe network problems as in having no network at all. I couldn't figure out whenever this was some driver problem, or firewall problem (coming from where? this would be really silly having firewall blocking this network out of the blue, but with Windows you never know). And I still had to finish my weekly volume of job. So I took a doze of Fuckitol, turned on the Linux laptop and sworn to install Linux the next day - figuring I prefer troubleshooting games on Linux to troubleshooting work on Windows. 

 

So I did just that. And here I am, running Linux on my main PC. No Windows anymore - because screw dual-boot, I hate yogurt dual-boot. Last couple of days were really inspirational, running Linux on a powerful gig gives a feeling like you could take on the world. I made this decision after reading about the state of gaming on Linux these days, so I'm a bit optimistic about being able to play games (especially Skyrim, of course, the  game I've wasted an insane amount of time to), mod games and make mods on Linux.

 

The time will tell how right or wrong I am. Anyway - it's going to be fun.

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