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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.

Article taken from GamingOnLinux.com.
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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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damarrin 21 May 2020 at 9:07 am UTC
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tuubi
damarrinMS isn't evil or good, it's a publicly traded company whose only purpose is to generate shareholder value.
This mindset always rubs me the wrong way. As if it's somehow a mechanical or natural process that doesn't involve human beings making decisions that benefit a relatively small set of human beings over the good of a larger set of human beings. Ethics applies to every single decision people make, and neither businesses nor governments deserve a free pass.

It's up to you if you want to reward harmful behaviour or not, but please don't buy into that bullshit mindset. And I'm not saying "all corporations are evil" here, just that as long as corporations wield influence and have legal rights that equal and indeed often exceed those of citizens, we can and should hold them to equal if not higher ethical standards as well.

My point here is that this is an inherent characteristic of a publicly traded company - it exists to generate value for shareholders only, all its other actions are ancillary to that. It takes genuine effort from many individuals within a company for it not to display exclusively this behaviour. That is why there are various laws, including anti-monopoly laws, which are designed to limit companies in the ways in which they can pursue said value.

Only in the case of MS, these laws, or rather law enforcers, fail to act. People, including those in power, want to continue using Windows and Office and so they take substitute action to pretend they're going against the MS monopoly, like telling them to offer browser choice or whatever. It's also a good example how this mechanism actually works, since MS no longer have a dominant browser. However, since it's not only MS themselves, but also practically everyone else, that want the desktop OS/office software monopoly to continue, it does.

It's a subtle kind of monopoly, though, and that's why it's so powerful. It's not that people can't get/use another product. It's that their lives are made more difficult if they do and thus they don't want to.
tuubi 21 May 2020 at 10:16 am UTC
damarrin
tuubi
damarrinMS isn't evil or good, it's a publicly traded company whose only purpose is to generate shareholder value.
This mindset always rubs me the wrong way. As if it's somehow a mechanical or natural process that doesn't involve human beings making decisions that benefit a relatively small set of human beings over the good of a larger set of human beings. Ethics applies to every single decision people make, and neither businesses nor governments deserve a free pass.

It's up to you if you want to reward harmful behaviour or not, but please don't buy into that bullshit mindset. And I'm not saying "all corporations are evil" here, just that as long as corporations wield influence and have legal rights that equal and indeed often exceed those of citizens, we can and should hold them to equal if not higher ethical standards as well.

My point here is that this is an inherent characteristic of a publicly traded company - it exists to generate value for shareholders only, all its other actions are ancillary to that. It takes genuine effort from many individuals within a company for it not to display exclusively this behaviour. That is why there are various laws, including anti-monopoly laws, which are designed to limit companies in the ways in which they can pursue said value.

And my point was that none of this is a valid excuse, and people should judge the actions of a corporation in the same terms as they'd judge those of an individual. If a person can do good or evil, a corporation can do good or evil. There's no ambiguity there. Just excuses.
x_wing 21 May 2020 at 1:26 pm UTC
arkheniusThis is exactly how it is used at my company. The virtualization engine is locked off in BIOS because apparently someone in the past used a VM to "hack into the computer" (I have no idea what precisely was involved in this). Therefore we have no option to just use a Linux VM, let alone a whole partition. And I am a data scientist, so I do a lot of AI/ML development, as well as general dev work; so my IT's default position to me is "Well, you can use WSL...". But if WSL2 is going to use Hyper-V, I cannot see how it can run without virtualization enabled (at which point I'll just set up a VM anyways ). Though I do have other personal machines running Linux and only remote into the Windows laptop as needed for some file access and stuff that has to be done on desktop Office.

That "hacked from a VM" sounds like a lame excuse. In the company I work all data scientist have a custom company Ubuntu installation. They also have the option to use Windows or Mac and I know that there are Linux VMs made by IT (and also Windows, but this is due to the covid-19). Anyway, as far I can tell all of them use Linux.
Mohandevir 21 May 2020 at 1:50 pm UTC
gradyvuckovicMicrosoft hinted at the 'possibility' of bringing DirectX to Linux, but don't for a moment think that means they will open source it.

Nope... Never said anything of the sort... For sure they will use DX12 as a lock-in tech. That's the main MS advantage. Open sourcing it doesn't make sense, strategically speaking.

Still, there are 2 things that attracted my attention, in this paragraph, about DX12 on Linux:

1- "I'm not ready to discuss this at this time..."

So, should we consider that something is effectively brewing on the DX12 + Linux side of things? If so, in what form? Was it a broader discussion involving a possible WinUI + DX12 + Linux kernel desktop OS? Not saying that I'm hyped or that it's goind to happen. It just rises my curiosity...

2- The technical description of how it could be done is well tought out... Again, in what context was the discussion held? I mean, It's not been dismissed with a flat out "No". What is Microsoft not allowed to tell us, yet? For a guy that was not ready to discuss... He said much, imo.

It feels like they are officialy looking in direction X but the road is bringing them closer to Y, by the day. These "cryptic" pieces of informations should be food for thoughts.

Not pretending that it's good or bad, though. Probably not good, but absolutely not all bad.

Personally, I'm never going to use a Linux based Windows OS. Anyway it will still be filled with MS' adwares and spywares. I'll stick to pure Linux with Vulkan, but I prefer to be warned than surprised by what's to come from Microsoft.


Last edited by Mohandevir on 21 May 2020 at 3:02 pm UTC
arkhenius 21 May 2020 at 4:53 pm UTC
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x_wing
arkheniusThis is exactly how it is used at my company. The virtualization engine is locked off in BIOS because apparently someone in the past used a VM to "hack into the computer" (I have no idea what precisely was involved in this). Therefore we have no option to just use a Linux VM, let alone a whole partition. And I am a data scientist, so I do a lot of AI/ML development, as well as general dev work; so my IT's default position to me is "Well, you can use WSL...". But if WSL2 is going to use Hyper-V, I cannot see how it can run without virtualization enabled (at which point I'll just set up a VM anyways ). Though I do have other personal machines running Linux and only remote into the Windows laptop as needed for some file access and stuff that has to be done on desktop Office.

That "hacked from a VM" sounds like a lame excuse. In the company I work all data scientist have a custom company Ubuntu installation. They also have the option to use Windows or Mac and I know that there are Linux VMs made by IT (and also Windows, but this is due to the covid-19). Anyway, as far I can tell all of them use Linux.

I wish that was the case in my company. The problem is that it is a primary Microsoft partner (selling Azure services, transitioning other cloud infrastructures into Azure, etc.), so a main part of the business - outside of data science consulting - is heavily related to MS services. And on top of that our IT is pretty incompetent on everything that is not Windows. So when you merge the two...

Oh and I definitely agree that it is a lame excuse. We are still trying to figure out what it could have entailed among the data science team
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