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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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I am the owner of GamingOnLinux. After discovering Linux back in the days of Mandrake in 2003, I constantly came back to check on the progress of Linux until Ubuntu appeared on the scene and it helped me to really love it. You can reach me easily by emailing GamingOnLinux directly.
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sudoshred 20 May, 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 20 May, 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.
DasCapschen 20 May, 2020
Quoting: appetrosyanAnd now i’m thinking how much better it would have been if GNU Linux was released under GPLv3. In that case we could sue Microsoft (never name a company after your penis).

Ignoring the penis joke and taking your comment seriously (will I regret it?), how would GPLv3 allow us to sue Microsoft over this?
They are just shipping proprietary libraries and drivers with a linux distribution, which is not something that any GPL forbids, to my knowledge.
The only change from GPLv2 to GPLv3 that comes to mind here is the tivoization ban, but I don't see how that would apply here.
Mohandevir 20 May, 2020
I'm not an IT Pro and don't know much about frameworks, but these news are making me wonder if the whole WSL thing is not a tool developped by Microsoft, for Microsoft, targeting the deployment/development of Azure stuff and, as a side effect, they made it public because... Why not?

If it's a tool developped for Microsoft. it also feels like MS could be laying the ground, block by block, for a DX12, Linux based Windows UI OS... But I'm still highly skeptical about this one. Could it be related to Project XCloud?

I'm just trying to figure out what could be MS' internal use case for WSL. It would explain why they keep pushing it, even if it's not a much requested feature.


Last edited by Mohandevir on 20 May 2020 at 12:29 pm UTC
psy-q 20 May, 2020
Quoting: MohandevirIf it's a tool developped for Microsoft. it also feels like MS could be laying the ground, block by block, for a DX12, Linux based Windows UI OS... But I'm still highly skeptical about this one. Could it be related to Project XCloud?

Probably not that, since xCloud runs on modified Xboxes, not normal servers. And WSL is used by quite a bunch of developers who don't want Linux VMs. It's too polished to be a Microsoft-internal tool, this is meant for the mass market and seeing real use out there.

The DX12 thing seems to be mostly about machine-learning and AI at this point.
Mohandevir 20 May, 2020
Quoting: psy-qThe DX12 thing seems to be mostly about machine-learning and AI at this point.

Yeah... You are probably right, but not long ago, there was no UI or DX12 support at all, either... WSL is constantly evolving...

I'll post that here... There is a nice paragraph about DX12 outside of Windows that could look, imo, like a PR statement to "test the waters":

Microsoft Wayland Compositor

What is not specified is in what context did Microsoft hold that discussion...


Last edited by Mohandevir on 20 May 2020 at 1:09 pm UTC
Nevertheless 20 May, 2020
Quoting: Kristian
Quoting: NeverthelessNext variation: "I love goose, says the fox." ;-)

and he says it without lying, he just means something very specific by that that the goose would not like! :)

It would be much more credible the other way around... :)
Kohrias 20 May, 2020
Thanks for this article, Liam!
x_wing 20 May, 2020
Quoting: LinasAnd 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?

DX12 is the first layer. What they want is to implement OpenGL, OpenCL, etc. on top of it. IMO is a way to say to GPUs drivers developers: "just focus on the DX12 driver, we take care of everything else". So if they eventually focus on a Vulkan -> DX12 layer and Nvidia and AMD jump into the bandwagon, now you can guess what will happen with the performance of our native drivers...


Last edited by x_wing on 20 May 2020 at 1:55 pm UTC
gustavoyaraujo 20 May, 2020
Actually I don't care about Microsoft or Direct X, I think We are good to go with Vulkan and all Linux distros avaliable with all the possibilities. Vulkan is the future, We should support it.
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