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Windows 10 Preview Adds Ability To Display Linux Distro Files

Microsoft on Wednesday announced Windows 10 preview build 19603, a "fast-ring" test release for Windows Insider Program participants, which adds easier access to installed Linux distro files using Windows File Explorer.

This File Explorer feature, which just works on local machines that have also turned on the Windows Subsystem for Linux capability in Windows 10 preview build 19603, provides a more user-friendly access interface to installed Linux tools. It actually displays the Linux penguin logo within Windows File Explorer, and lets users click into the root file system of Linux distros.

Here's how the penguin icon node looks in File Explorer on Windows 10 preview build 19603, per the announcement:

[Click on image for larger view.] Windows 10's File Explorer integration with Windows Subsystem for Linux. (Source: April 8 Windows blog)

The integration of File Explorer with Windows Subsystem for Linux in Windows 10 preview build 19603 "now cleanly exposes the ability to access distros' files which first showed-up in earlier builds via the less discoverable \\wsl$\ UNC [universal naming convention] location," commented Rich Turner, a Microsoft program manager on the Windows developer platform team, in an April 8 Twitter thread.

Turner further explained that the File Explorer integration with Windows Subsystem for Linux "doesn't use SMB [Server Message Block], honors effective permissions, and is for on-box access only."

File access for Linux distros is expected to get sped-up when Windows Subsystem for Linux 2 (WSL 2) arrives. An early preview of WSL 2 was released back in June. It was suggested back then that the WSL 2 feature would get commercially released with the commercial release of Windows 10 in the first half of 2020.

Craig Loewen, a Microsoft program manager on the Windows Subsystem for Linux team, indicated in the Twitter thread that "WSL2 will GA [reach general availability] in Windows version 2004, which doesn't have an announced date."

The integration of File Explorer and Windows Subsystem for Linux will reach general availability at an even later date than the WSL2 GA release. "This work [File Explorer integration] is in the fast ring, which will be available in an official release later than Windows 10 version 2004," Loewen added.

Other Windows 10 Features
Other features in Windows 10 preview build 19603 include a display of local disk storage in the operating system's Storage Settings feature. Users will get cleanup recommendations on files to delete to gain disk space. It'll graphically show the space taken by temporary files, applications, the desktop and more. Users can remove what they want via a single click.

Microsoft also is introducing a beta version of a Microsoft "News Bar" application in this test release of Windows 10. It continuously updates with stories from "over 4,500 publishers across the globe," and it shows information on weather, sports and stocks.

This test release of Windows 10 also adds support for Canon CR3 camera photo files when using Windows 10's Raw Image Extension.

Windows Hassles Program
Microsoft also explained that it has a "Windows Hassles program," which aims to fix things in Windows 10 that people commonly complain about.

Microsoft's Windows Hassles effort addresses complaints from Windows Insider Program participants, as well as general Windows users, according to an April 1 Q&A explanation by Amy Kruzick, a product manager on the Windows team. It gets feedback from users of Windows 10's Feedback Hub, as well as from social media and "our customer support centers," she noted.

The year-old program aims to fix problems that got ignored by Microsoft somehow in earlier rounds. Kruzick, for instance, claimed this team fixed access to Windows 10's brightness control -- a long inexplicitly missing feature, which apparently was there all along but "people didn't know it existed." Search in Windows for Settings controls also was improved by the team.

Windows 10's Settings interface is a future target for improvements, Kruzick indicated. She even hinted at plans for improving Windows 10's Control Panel.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.

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