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Microsoft Build - DirectX and Linux (WSL) plus more

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During the Microsoft Build 2020 developer conference, Microsoft has raised a number of eyebrows at their Linux plans. We've had a lot, and I do mean a ridiculous amount of people emailing in and messaging across various places about Microsoft. So, to get it out of the way and provide you a place to comment, here we are.

Microsoft put up a developer blog post titled "DirectX ❤ Linux", which is a nice bit of PR bait. In reality, it means nothing for the standard desktop Linux. It's focused entirely on the Windows Subsystem for Linux which Microsoft tightly controls and DirectX itself remains firmly closed source. Not only that, this current implementation relies on pre-compiled user mode binaries that ship as part of Windows itself. Right now it seems to also be focused on CUDA and AI / Machine Learning, however, they also announced Linux GUI applications will eventually be supported on WSL as well.

A Microsoft developer even said on the Linux Kernel mailing list, that there's "no intent" to have people coding for DX12 on Linux. Although another developer also said they "consider the possibility of bringing DX to Linux with no Windows cord attached". That's just words for now though. I wouldn't read much into it.

That's not all, they also announced the Windows Package Manager under an MIT license, which works much like the ones on Linux do in terminal. Better late than never.

Going even further, Microsoft also announced .NET MAUI, an "evolution" of the Xamarin.Forms toolkit which Microsoft said "supports all modern workloads" which once again did not mention Linux anywhere. However, to be properly clear, at least .NET MAUI should work on Linux like Xamarin.Forms but be entirely community supported (as noted on GitHub). Oh and Maui is already used—oops? It's GVFS all over again.

First they embraced Linux doing away with the Ballmer era of "Linux is a cancer", now they're extending a branch saying they were "on the wrong side of history" with open source and now they continue the extending. How long before extinguish phase starts (EEE)? Don't be fooled about Microsoft's stance and their aim here, it's not because they love Linux. They're going where the developers are to continue pulling people to Microsoft services. Nothing more.

If any of it concerns you: I hope you put that energy and effort into continuing your support of the Linux desktop. Help it to grow and prosper. Support your favourite distribution, your favourite application and/or game developer by throwing some money at them.

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Linas May 20, 2020
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And here I thought that Microsoft Linux was a joke. Joke's on me, I guess.

With this you could write a Linux program that talks DirectX directly. Which is where it gets weird, because then you get a Linux program which only works when running on Windows. At this point, is it really a Linux program at all?
Perkeleen_Vittupää May 20, 2020
While "loving Linux", release Microsoft Office in entirety for Linux, will you.
toojays May 20, 2020
Quoting: EhvisTo me the whole WSL thing is a curiosity. They made a Linux kernel work on Windows in a VM like manner, but what is the point? To have your Linux service go down with a windows update?
I don't think it's intended for production, but development. They want developers to stay using Visual Studio as it's really easy to deploy to Azure from there. (I haven't done this myself, but that's my understanding.)
Ehvis May 20, 2020
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Quoting: Liam DaweIt must be getting a reasonably good adoption rate for MSFT to pour resources into it?

I've not worked in IT for a while now, but back when I did, the use case for this would be limited. Mostly some convenience for someone needing to test things on their own work desktop or maybe some cases where having a separate server for running Linux specific stuff would cost to much for the added reliability. But it still seems very niche to me. Maybe someone in current IT would have a better idea.

Quoting: amatai
Quoting: EhvisBut the landscape is different. EEE applied to things microsoft could control in some way. The battle fought against Linux was lost long ago and the foothold that Linux has in the total market is way too big for EEE to work. Sure they can do the first E. They can try to do the second E, but it is doomed to fail because it won't find significant adoption. Which means the third one is out of the question.

How it is lost? Microsoft still has monopoly in the personal computer market and a very sizeable part of the server market. (Don't underestimate Windows Server, None of the top 100 website use it but it still widely used thanks to lobbying in the schools of system administration). Microsoft Office is one of the most used software in the world (not on Linux) and there is lobbying from Microsoft not to make available some pro software on Linux (like Catia, Solidworks or Abacus).

Microsoft still has the user facing market obviously. Desktops and file servers are predominantly Windows. But they lost a lot of the back end stuff. They wanted to have the stuff that was traditionally done on Unix servers, but instead Linux took most of the market that was served by systems like SunOS/Solaris, HP-UX and IRIX. Microsoft tried some EEE on the webserver market by means of ASP and stuff like that, but eventually failed. Even on the professional software you mentioned Linux is still very much there. I use ABAQUS daily and both the graphical front end and the actual solvers are still very much available for Linux. The only victims of support have been the other unix systems that used to be kings. At the end of the day, people keep doing what they're used to. Which is why Microsoft's hold on the desktop is hard to break, but it also works the other way around.
Ehvis May 20, 2020
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Quoting: toojays
Quoting: EhvisTo me the whole WSL thing is a curiosity. They made a Linux kernel work on Windows in a VM like manner, but what is the point? To have your Linux service go down with a windows update?
I don't think it's intended for production, but development. They want developers to stay using Visual Studio as it's really easy to deploy to Azure from there. (I haven't done this myself, but that's my understanding.)

That actually makes more sense. That would mean that Azure is the real product and WSL is just a means to an end.
spoonie_au May 20, 2020
What a joke. DX12 on linux locked in to a MS controlled WSL VM, with a required closed source userspace lib would be as stable as every win10 install on patch tuesday. WPM haha I laughed so hard I wet myself.
Liam Dawe May 20, 2020
Added another bit about a comment from another MSFT dev about DirectX.
Dunc May 20, 2020
Quoting: BoldosJust a sidenote: If this is some kind of a long-term strategy of MS's, such a thing as an immediate adoption might not be really important.
That. I think it's important to bear in mind that “extinguish” doesn't necessarily mean the elimination of competition; it's about the elimination of the threat. Microsoft EEE'd the Mac with Windows. Apple's still there, the Mac is still around, but the existential threat it posed to Microsoft's DOS business in the late '80s is no more. MS even owns part of it.

Think of EEE more in terms of keeping your friends close and your enemies closer than a T-Rex devouring everything in its path. And yes, in the same way that (I believe) Valve wants to make Steam OS the best way to play Windows games, I suspect this is part of a move to make WSL the best way to develop Linux software. Or something like that.
sudoshred May 20, 2020
I definitely think we should drop the whole EEE when it comes to Linux. If Microsoft could buy it or if it was a small project that only Microsoft was contributing to, sure. But that's not the case. They can't extinguish something that Amazon, Google, Oracle, IBM, VMWare, etc all help to control.

Microsoft is trying to push their driver into the Linux kernel and they're already getting push back from the respective developers even way before Linus is involved. They're not going to be able to throw their weight around here, because these people know what they're doing, they want what's best for EVERYONE and not just one company.

Are there exceptions? Sure, however Microsoft is basically creating their own balls of code that don't play nice with anyone or anything and throwing it at Linux and telling them to put it in the kernel, which won't happen, because those folks know what happens when you do shit like that. It has a cascading affect that could literally impact the entire world.
scaine May 20, 2020
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Their renaming of core products to clash with well established open source projects isn't an accident. It's simply part of the Extend phase. Looking GVFS, the product manager there said that they'd "take a hard look at it before deciding whether to rename". No, mate, you asked your legal team if you could get away with it. In that particular case, it's clear the answer was "probably not", hence the change of heart.

They haven't changed, nor will they unless there's money in it for them to do so. I find them as despicable today as they were in 2006 when I finally decided I'd had enough of their shit, and it was time to do something about it. It took me another 7 years of dual booting before I landed on a Linux-only build on my PC, but today's disgruntled can make the switch to Linux almost instantly (certain AAA games and esoteric hardware notwithstanding), but it seems that most people would rather complain about MS than do something about them.

In the meantime, I'll be over here on my Mint install where I've been enjoying the year of the Linux desktop for the past 7 years.
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