Scott Hanselman

Easily move WSL distributions between Windows 10 machines with import and export!

November 22, '19 Comments [6] Posted in Linux | Win10
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My colleague Tara and I were working on prepping a system for Azure IoT development and were using WSL2 on our respective machines. The scripts we were running were long-running and tedious and by the time they were done we basically had a totally customized perfect distro.

Rather than sharing our scripts and having folks run them for hours, we instead decided to export the distro and import it on n number of machines. That way Tara could set up the distro perfectly and then give it to me.

For example, when using PowerShell I can do this:

C:\Users\Scott\Desktop> wsl --export PerfectWSLDistro ./PerfectWSLDistro.tar

Then I can share the resulting tar and give it to a friend and they can do this! (Note that I'm using ~ which is your home directory from PowerShell. If you're using cmd.exe you'll want to include the full path like c:\users\scott\Appdata\Local\PerfectDistro)

mkdir ~/AppData/Local/PerfectDistro
wsl --import PerfectDistro ~/AppData/Local/PerfectDistro ./PerfectWSLDistro.tar --version 2

You can list our your WSL distros like this:

C:\Users\Scott\Desktop> wsl --list -v
NAME STATE VERSION
* Ubuntu-18.04 Stopped 2
WLinux Stopped 2
Debian Stopped 1
PerfectDistro Stopped 2

It's surprisingly easy! Also, make sure you have the latest version of the Windows Terminal (and if you've got an old version and haven't deleted your profile.json, it's time to start fresh) it will automatically detect your WSL distros and make menu items for them!

Also be sure to check out my YouTube video on developing with WSL2!


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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Programmatically change your system's mic and speakers with NirCmd and Elgato StreamDeck

November 20, '19 Comments [4] Posted in Tools
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Elgato Stream DeckI've got a lot of different sound devices like USB Headphones, a formal Conference Room Speakerphone for conference calls, and 5.1 Surround Sound speakers, as well as different mics like a nice Shure XLR connected to a PV6 USB Audio Mixer, as well as the built in mics in my webcams and other devices.

There's lots of great audio apps and applets that can improve the audio switching situation on Windows. I like Audio Switcher and the similarly named https://audioswit.ch/er, for example.

You can also automatically change your audio inputs automatically depending on the app. So if you always want to record your podcast with Audacity you can tell Windows 10 to always set (lie) the audio ins and outs on an app by app basis. The app will never know the difference.

But I need to change audio a lot when I'm moving from Teams calls, recording Podcasts, and watching shows. I've got this Elgato Stream Deck that has buttons I can assign to anything. Combine the Stream Deck with the lovely NirCmd utility from NirSoft and I've got one click audio changes!

The icons are just PNGs and there's lots available online. I created a bunch of batch files (*.bat) with contents like this:

nircmdc setdefaultsounddevice "Speakers" 0

and

nircmdc setdefaultsounddevice "Headphones" 0  

The last number is 0, 1, or 2 where that means Console, Multimedia, or Communications. You can have one sound device for apps like Netflix and another for apps like Skype that identify as Communications. I just change all defaults, myself.

You can also add in commands like "setsubunitvolumedb" and others to have preset volumes and levels for line-ins. It's ideal for getting reliable results.

Elgato Stream Deck

Then just use the Stream Deck utility to assign the icon and batch file using the "System | Open" widget. Drag it over and assign and you're set! If you can't figure out what the names of your sound devices are, you can call nircmd showsoundevices.

It just took a few minutes to set this up and it'll save me a bunch of clicks every day.


Sponsor: Like C#? We do too! That’s why we've developed a fast, smart, cross-platform .NET IDE which gives you even more coding power. Clever code analysis, rich code completion, instant search and navigation, an advanced debugger... With JetBrains Rider, everything you need is at your fingertips. Code C# at the speed of thought on Linux, Mac, or Windows. Try JetBrains Rider today!

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Computer things they didn't teach you in school #2 - Code Pages, Character Encoding, Unicode, UTF-8 and the BOM

November 15, '19 Comments [16] Posted in Musings
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OK, fine maybe they DID teach you this in class. But, you'd be surprised how many people think they know something but don't know the background or the etymology of a term. I find these things fascinating. In a world of bootcamp graduates, community college attendees (myself included!), and self-taught learners, I think it's fun to explore topics like the ones I plan to cover in my new YouTube Series "Computer things they didn't teach you."

BOOK RECOMMENDATION: I think of this series as being in the same vein as the wonderful "Imposter's Handbook" series from Rob Conery (I was also involved, somewhat). In Rob's excellent words: "Learn core CS concepts that are part of every CS degree by reading a book meant for humans. You already know how to code build things, but when it comes to conversations about Big-O notation, database normalization and binary tree traversal you grow silent. That used to happen to me and I decided to change it because I hated being left out. I studied for 3 years and wrote everything down and the result is this book."

In the first video I covered the concept of Carriage Returns and Line Feeds. But do you know WHY it's called a Carriage Return? What's a carriage? Where did it go? Where is it returning from? Who is feeding it lines?

In this second video I talk about Code Pages, Character Encoding, Unicode, UTF-8 and the BOM. I thought it went very well.

What would you like to hear about next?


Sponsor: Like C#? We do too! That’s why we've developed a fast, smart, cross-platform .NET IDE which gives you even more coding power. Clever code analysis, rich code completion, instant search and navigation, an advanced debugger... With JetBrains Rider, everything you need is at your fingertips. Code C# at the speed of thought on Linux, Mac, or Windows. Try JetBrains Rider today!

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Cool WSL (Windows Subsystem for Linux) tips and tricks you (or I) didn't know were possible

November 13, '19 Comments [9] Posted in Linux | Win10
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It's no secret I dig WSL (Windows Subsystem for Linux) and now that WSL2 is available in Windows Insiders Slow it's a great time to really explore the options that are available. What I'm finding is so interesting about WSL and how it relates to the Windows system around it is how you can cleanly move data between worlds. This isn't an experience you can easily have with full virtual machines, and it speaks to the tight integration of Linux and Windows.

Look at all this cool stuff you can do when you mix your peanut butter and chocolate!

Run Windows Explorer from Linux and access your distro's files

When you're at the WSL/bash command line and you want to access your files visually, you can run "explorer.exe ." where . is the current directory, and you'll get a Windows Explorer window with your Linux files served to you over a local network plan9 server.

Accessing WSL files from Explorer

Use Real Linux commands (not Cgywin) from Windows

I've blogged this before, but there are now aliases for PowerShell functions that allow you to use real Linux commands from within Windows.

You can call any Linux command directly from DOS/Windows/whatever by just putting it after WSL.exe, like this!

C:\temp> wsl ls -la | findstr "foo"
-rwxrwxrwx 1 root root 14 Sep 27 14:26 foo.bat

C:\temp> dir | wsl grep foo
09/27/2016 02:26 PM 14 foo.bat

C:\temp> wsl ls -la > out.txt

C:\temp> wsl ls -la /proc/cpuinfo
-r--r--r-- 1 root root 0 Sep 28 11:28 /proc/cpuinfo

C:\temp> wsl ls -la "/mnt/c/Program Files"
...contents of C:\Program Files...

Use Real Windows commands (not Wine) from Linux

Windows executables are callable/runnable from WSL/Linux because the the Windows Path is in the $PATH until Windows. All you have to do is call it with .exe at the end, explicitly. That's how "Explorer.exe ." works above. You can also notepad.exe, or whatever.exe!

Run Visual Studio Code and access (and build!) your Linux apps natively on Windows

You can run "code ." when you're in a folder within WSL and you'll get prompted to install the VS Remote extensions. That effectively splits Visual Studio Code in half and runs the headless VS Code Server inside Linux with the VS Code client in the Windows world.

You'll also need to install Visual Studio Code and the Remote - WSL extension. Optionally, check out the beta Windows Terminal for the best possible terminal experience on Windows.

Here's a great series from the Windows Command LIne blog:

You can find the full series here:

Here's the benefits of WSL 2

  • Virtual machines are resource intensive and create a very disconnected experience.
  • The original WSL was very connected, but had fairly poor performance compared to a VM.
  • WSL 2 brings a hybrid approach with a lightweight VM, a completely connected experience, and high performance.

Again, now available on Windows 10 Insiders Slow.

Run multiple Linuxes in seconds, side by side

Here I'm running "wsl --list --all" and I have three Linuxes already on my system.

C:\Users\scott>wsl --list --all
Windows Subsystem for Linux Distributions:
Ubuntu-18.04 (Default)
Ubuntu-16.04
Pengwin

I can easily run them, and also assign a profile to each so they appear in my Windows Terminal dropdown.

Run an X Windows Server under Windows using Pengwin

Pengwin is a custom WSL-specific Linux distro that's worth the money. You can get it at the Windows Store. Combine Pengwin with an X Server like X410 and  you've got a very cool integrated system.

Easily move WSL Distros between Windows systems

Ana Betts points out this great technique where you can easily move your perfect WSL2 distro from one machine to n machines.

wsl --export MyDistro ./distro.tar

# put it somewhere, dropbox, onedrive, elsewhere

mkdir ~/AppData/Local/MyDistro
wsl --import MyDistro ~/AppData/Local/MyDistro ./distro.tar --version 2

That's it. Get your ideal Linux setup sync'ed on all your systems.

Use the Windows Git Credential Provider within WSL

All of these things culminate in this lovely blog post by Ana Betts where she integrates the Windows Git Credential Provider in WSL by making /usr/bin/git-credential-manager into a shell script that calls the Windows git creds manager. Genius. This would only be possible given this clean and tight integration.

Now, go out there, install WSL, Windows Terminal, and make yourself a shiny Linux Environment on Windows.


Sponsor: Like C#? We do too! That’s why we've developed a fast, smart, cross-platform .NET IDE which gives you even more coding power. Clever code analysis, rich code completion, instant search and navigation, an advanced debugger... With JetBrains Rider, everything you need is at your fingertips. Code C# at the speed of thought on Linux, Mac, or Windows. Try JetBrains Rider today!

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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New YouTube Series: Computer things they didn't teach you in school

November 8, '19 Comments [17] Posted in Musings
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OK, fine maybe they DID teach you this in class. But, you'd be surprised how many people think they know something but don't know the background or the etymology of a term. I find these things fascinating. In a world of bootcamp graduates, community college attendees (myself included!), and self-taught learners, I think it's fun to explore topics like the ones I plan to cover in my new YouTube Series "Computer things they didn't teach you."

BOOK RECOMMENDATION: I think of this series as being in the same vein as the wonderful "Imposter's Handbook" series from Rob Conery (I was also involved, somewhat). In Rob's excellent words: "Learn core CS concepts that are part of every CS degree by reading a book meant for humans. You already know how to code build things, but when it comes to conversations about Big-O notation, database normalization and binary tree traversal you grow silent. That used to happen to me and I decided to change it because I hated being left out. I studied for 3 years and wrote everything down and the result is this book."

Of course it'll take exactly 2 comments before someone comments with "I don't know what crappy school you're going to but we learned this stuff when they handed us our schedule." Fine, maybe this series isn't for you.

In fact I'm doing this series and putting it out there for me. If it helps someone, all the better!

In this first video I cover the concept of Carriage Returns and Line Feeds. But do you know WHY it's called a Carriage Return? What's a carriage? Where did it go? Where is it returning from? Who is feeding it lines?

What would you suggest I do for the next video in the series? I'm thinking Unicode, UTF-8, BOMs, and character encoding.


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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.