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Scott Spence
Scott Spence

Posted on • Updated on • Originally published at

Windows Subsystem Linux setup

I'm a Windows user, I have been a Linux user as well but I have found that Windows is a bit less neckbeardy for me, both have their pros and cons. One of the big cons with Windows for me was when I started learning web development.

That was until Windows Subsystem Linux came along πŸ™

I love it, you can have a bash shell in Windows and run all your node apps through it too and with the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update WSL is really straightforward to set up.

Quick backstory on why I'm posting this: I nuked my laptop the other day as I was having issues with bash on Windows. Related partly to using nvm with WSL and generally getting frustrated with how my computer was performing. I realise now I over reacted.

So I have had to set up my development environment again from scratch, luckily for me I keep all my settings and config information in a GitHub repo in the event of me getting a new computer or to recover from a catastrophic event [like a nuked computer].

Here's how I set up my Windows Subsystem Linux for my development environment.

This is my opinionated view on my specif setup and usage of WSL and this is my step by step guide for the next time I have to spin up a development environment from scratch on Windows.

So, after installing WSL from the Microsoft Store and adding your default user, fist thing is to update and upgrade all the things.

sudo apt update
sudo apt -y upgrade

If you've not used any Linux distributions before the -y in the upgrade statement is to default the answer to yes for any prompts that are displayed in the terminal. You might not want to do this, as there may be some programs you don't want to update but I do.

upgrade image

You wont have these messages πŸ‘†

Build tools

To compile and install native addons from npm you may also need to install build tools, I need this for Gatsby images which uses sharp which in turn uses node-gyp:

sudo apt install -y build-essential

Install node

Installing node via the instructions given on the site doesn't give the correct permissions for me, so when trying to npm install anything I get errors, I found using using n helps:

Install node with n

As it's a fresh install then we can go ahead and use n-install with:

curl -L | bash

This will install the latest stable version of node πŸ‘

Once the script is complete restart bash with:

. /home/my_user_name/.bashrc # the n prompt displays this for you to copy pasta

Check your node and npm versions:

node -v && npm -v

Install fish 🐟

Fish is now my go to shell purely for the auto complete/intellisense πŸ‘Œ there's also some nice themes you can get for it too.

sudo apt -y install fish
sudo apt -y upgrade && sudo apt -y autoremove

Install Oh My Fish | OMF

Oh My Fish is like a package manager for Fish enabling the instal of packages and themes.

curl -L | fish

Install OMF theme

omf install clearance

Take a look at fish shell in action:
fish shell inaction

The start of the beginning

Ok, so that is a basic setup for WSL, you'll probably want to get Git set up now, I have been using SSH over HTTPS for a while now on WSL.

At the time of writing this WSL Git integration with VSCode doesn't > work so I have added a Git install to my windows machine, you can > omit this and go full Git via the terminal but I really like the > VSCode git integration.

To get SSH set up on your machine take a look at this handy SSH setup. I say SSH instead of HTTPS 1. because I had all sorts of issues with the Git credential manager and the keyring manager in the end it was actually quicker to create an SSH key and authenticate with GitHub - the guide I linked walks you through it.

Move your dotfiles

If you have all your dotfiles backed up in a GitHub repo then now is a good time to add them to your WSL folder, the last times I did this I manually set the permissions after moving each of the the files but have since discovered rsync to move all the files.

rsync -avzh /mnt/c/Users/dotfiles/ ~/

That will copy the contents of my dotfiles folder to the ~/ (home) directory in WSL, you can check them with:

ls -la ~/

bash files wrong permissions

I copied across my .gitconfig, .gitignore and .npmrc dotfiles pictured here and you can see that the permissions are not consistent with the .bashrc file.

So, the only way I know how to change the file permissions is with chmod to get the ordinals of a similar file use stat:

stat -c "%a %n" ~/.*

This will list out all everything that begins with a . here's mine:

777 /home/scott/.
755 /home/scott/..
600 /home/scott/.bash_history
644 /home/scott/.bash_logout
644 /home/scott/.bashrc
777 /home/scott/.cache
777 /home/scott/.config
777 /home/scott/.gitconfig
777 /home/scott/.gitignore
777 /home/scott/.local
777 /home/scott/.npm
777 /home/scott/.npmrc
644 /home/scott/.profile
644 /home/scott/.sudo_as_admin_successful

I only want to change .gitconfig, .gitignore and .npmrc here so I'm going to do this:

chmod 644 .gitconfig .gitignore .npmrc

And now my files look like this. πŸ‘

bash files permissions

Ok now were up and running with an up to date Ubuntu install, node and fish terminal. Of course there's still the case of installing all your global npm packages you want for development now.

Thanks for reading πŸ™

If there is anything I have missed, or if you have a better way to do something then please let me know.

Find me on Twitter or Ask Me Anything on GitHub.

This was originally posted on my blog.

Top comments (10)

pmcgowan profile image
p-mcgowan • Edited

Nice article - I think the WSL is amazing, and a great step in the right direction for Windows.

I've had great experiences with nvm - it's a node version manager which lets you install multiple version of node concurrently. Works really well when different projects use different versions of node - on Linux (and likely WSL) you can even hook it up to automatically switch node versions in certain directories, and anything you install globally (npm install -g <package>) is installed only for the version currently selected.

spences10 profile image
Scott Spence • Edited

Thanks @pmcgowan , like I said I had permissions issues with nvm so n was a great alternative.

I use nvm on my work MBP with no issues πŸ‘Œ

pmcgowan profile image
p-mcgowan • Edited

Whoops, I guess I should brush up on my reading abilities... Might look into n for Windows then!

robdwaller profile image
Rob Waller

This is really interesting, thanks. Definitely going to need to look into this.

spences10 profile image
Scott Spence

It's been a revelation @robdwaller if you're on Windows and don't want to dick around with virtual boxes then this is a great alternative πŸ‘Œ

I've switched from Ubuntu to Debian now it was as simple as installing from the Windows store and setting the default distro from PowerShell

robdwaller profile image
Rob Waller

Where can I get debian?

Thread Thread
spences10 profile image
Scott Spence

If you're on Windows 10 fall creators update or greater then you should be able to type "Linux" into the Windows store and you will be presented with all the variants available:

  • Ubuntu
  • Debian
  • Open SUSE
  • Open SUSE Enterprise?
  • Kali

I'm not certain of the names as I can't check right now πŸ’πŸ’»

jorgee97 profile image
Jorge Gomez

Nice article Scott, I've been using WSL for a couple of months now, and it works really well.

Also may I ask, is fish running inside the WSL shell itself or is it another application like "hyper"?

spences10 profile image
Scott Spence

Hey @jorgee97 yeah, you can install fish via bash in WSL.

You can do sudo apt search fish see what version is available then install with sudo apt install fish

danielkun profile image
Daniel Albuschat

Still waiting for the day that native Linux docker runs on WSL. But I'm afraid it's never gonna happen ;)