my woes with windows

I tried switching back to windows, it was an adventure.

I’ve been using ubuntu on my personal laptop for a while. When I started programming as a freshmen in university, I mainly worked on windows, and had a nice collection of batch scripts that made me feel pretty efficient working in command prompt. However, I didn’t really know about how to effectively use version control systems, and I accidentally deleted all my config files over my first winter break. Dismayed, I decided it was time to try out this whole linux thing if I was going to start from scratch anyway. I never looked back.

Over time I’ve built up a little system that I’ve grown fond of. It involves ubuntu, i3, and some random scripts and services I’ve come to rely on. The one downside of my setup is that it is a waste of power. Thanks to sketchy support for discrete graphics cards in linux, I have my laptop set to constantly power my GPU. The battery life sucks, the fact that it uses tons of power sucks, and the loud fans audible over zoom unless I adjust my gain sucks. So I thought, maybe I’ll give windows another shot. There’s this whole wsl thing people have been talking about, maybe it’s not just hype.

So to start with the conclusion, I hate it. It’s just not for me. I think I can acknowledge that wsl is a cool feature, and you can do a lot more than I expected on it, but it’s got some rough edges that I don’t want to deal with.

Windows and I got off on a bad start today. I found that the only way to customize the key repeat delay to less than 300ms is via editing some registry keys. Why those options aren’t just presented in the UI is beyond me. It’s definitely a step back since even windows 7 had that feature. But I pressed on, installed wsl2, installed vcxsrv, installed the pulseaudio server for windows, installed ubuntu for wsl, installed i3 on ubuntu, and installed a minimal subset of all the other random dependencies my i3 config needs. I really wanted to give wsl the best shot it could have. And to my surprise, it wasn’t that bad!

Sure, I needed to disable some windows shortcuts so that I could just use the same i3 keybindings, but - it worked. That is until I tried to follow some tutorial to get snap to work and borked my init scripts. No problem, I’ll just edit the script from windows and be back on track right?

To make a long story short, there doesn’t seem to be an easy way to fix this. I thought about throwing my progress away and starting over, but what stopped me was the realization that it’s just too easy to get into this state with no clear way out. If something like this happened on my laptop, it’s no big deal, I’ll just mount a live usb and fix it. The process here is murkier. The closest thing to a solution that I’ve found is to mount my windows partition in ubuntu, find the ext4.vhd file backing my wsl vm, modify the broken script and then copy it back to windows. I’m not 100% sure if that would work, but the process doesn’t inspire confidence.

I think the biggest issue here is that I am not using wsl as intended. I think it’s a great tool for windows developers who want to use linux tools, or windows developers who want to test cross-platform functionality. It is not for linux developers who want the best of both worlds. Still, it’s nice to know how the world of windows has changed since the last time I used it, and it’s interesting to see what muscle memory I’ve developed in the years since.

Written on February 15, 2021