Little T in the Cog windows

New Windows Terminal


8 months ago I was complaining about the state of the Windows terminal and how dated it felt after using a modern Linux distro or macOS. Well it turns out I wasn't the only one complaining as Microsoft have just announced the new Windows Terminal! This is a "proper" modern terminal with tabs, colours, transparency etc. and cat be used with any shells that you may have installed on Windows (such as the traditional cmd, PowerShell, WSL (like Ubuntu) and anything that may come in the future). I'm really excited about this - this will be another big step up in making developer's and sysadmin's lives easier.

Microsoft have really been hitting it out of the park lately with their dev tools and things like improved permissions in WSL and the upcoming WSL 2 release will only make it even better (even a few years ago I would never have believed that Microsoft would ship a Linux kernel with Windows!). It looks like 2019 will truly be the year of Linux on the Desktop :-)

Running Graphical Linux Apps with X410


Just a quick update as I've just discovered something that has made my life a bit easier - X410! This handy app (available in the Microsoft Store here) allows you to run most GUI apps from the Windows Subsystem for Linux, meaning if you were previously booting into Linux to run a particular graphical app the that's one last thing you have to reboot for! Highly recommended to make Windows more Linux friendly for those of you who are Linux refugees like me. To be honest the thing I seem to use it for the most is to run a "proper" terminal so I can have tabs, infinite scroll back and all those good things that I was missing when I moved over to the Dark Side - that alone is worth the NZ$14.50 price for me!

Read up on it at the developer's website and grab a copy from the Microsoft Store here if you like what you see.

State of the Windows Terminal


Since switching to Windows for a lot of my work one thing has consistently been sub-par, and that is the terminal application. I love that I can now use Bash with a full Linux userland under the hood, but I'm not quite so stoked with it being done in such a primitive environment. There are no tabs, you have to allocate the scroll buffer before you begin (which results in really weird scrolling where you can scroll past the bottom of your "screen") and changing colours, fonts etc is rudimentary to say the least. Here's hoping there is something new in the pipeline from MS - they've really stepped up a lot over the last few years in trying to get *nix developers on board and a great terminal would help immensely in this regard.

Or maybe it's simply time I looked at alternatives such as ConEmu (I mean, Bash is just another shell, so I should be able to use it in another terminal, right?), but I would love it if MS gave me this out of the box!

Upgrading the Razer Blade Stealth to Windows Precision Drivers


I have a late 2016 Razer Blade Stealth (basically a "normal" 2016 model updated with an i7 7500U) and it comes with a Synaptics trackpad. I always thought the touchpad wasn't too bad - not quite up to the standards I expect from a Mac but it did the job and had multiple gesture support etc. Then a week ago I bought my wife a Microsoft Surface Laptop, and while setting it up I realised just how "bad" my trackpad on my Stealth really felt. The Surface Laptop has an excellent trackpad - easily as good as anything coming out of Cupertino - and I wanted the same easy gliding feel on my one-and-a-half year old Stealth.

A quick Google showed up a lot of people saying to switch over to the Windows Precision Drivers - basically the Microsoft tweaked drivers set up for Windows 10 - so armed with a USB mouse to use when it all went South I started down a path I can honestly say I haven't done in about a decade; wrangling Windows device drivers!

Follow this article over at Windows Central through to the end, but don't follow the step to "Search automatically for updated driver software", instead download the updated drivers provided by Razer from here and run that. One more reboot later and you'll be set! You can open up the Settings app and check under Trackpad, you should see "Your PC has a precision touchpad". While here you can also tweak any gestures etc you want to use.

I can honestly say it feels like a new laptop now, no exaggeration. The Precision drivers are so much nicer it makes me wonder why it didn't ship with them from the start - things scroll so much smoother now, it really is a joy to use. I have no idea if this works on later Razer Blade Stealth laptops (or if it's even still needed - do the new ones come with the driver already installed?) but if you're not running the Precision drivers you really are missing out imho.

Why Windows?


When I originally bought my Razer Blade Stealth laptop I actually went straight ahead and installed Linux on it (first Ubuntu, then later I settled on Fedora*). I didn't boot into Windows in 8 months, and had partitioned the SSD to give Linux more space.

But then I bought a Razer Core, and suddenly I was booting into Windows again to game. And then I got sick of booting between Windows and Linux when I just needed to quickly SSH into a server to make a quick tweak, so looked into the classic solutions to that (PuTTY, Cygwin etc) and discovered the Windows Subsystem for Linux. This was the missing piece of my Windows puzzle - with the subsystem installed I could then "install" Ubuntu from the Windows Store. Suddenly, I had a native Bash shell within Windows - and all the tools that came with that. I could apt-get install anything I needed, and set up my userland just as I liked it (ssh .config files, git etc etc). No more dual booting needed! Over time, instead of never booting into Windows I realised I was no longer booting into Linux, so I've ended up giving Windows the entire 512GB SSD (all those games do take up a lot of space!).

Having a native Bash shell really has made a world of difference to me and my workflow, to the point I actually really like using the Stealth with Windows to get work done. I've got all I need - my Linux userland, a good selection of both open source and commercial software and ~9 hours battery life in a compact system. And when I get home, I can plug it into my Razer Core (with an AMD Radeon RX 580 installed) and game away to my hearts content!

I can't believe I'm saying it... But here we are in 2018, and I <3 Windows!

*It was actually not a bad laptop to run Linux on - pretty much everything worked out of the box (suspend/resume, wireless etc). I don't know why I'm so surprised at this in 2018, but I still remember the days of compiling kernel modules to try and get things working properly...

New Section - Windows!


Now I've been using a Razer Blade Stealth laptop for a few years I thought I should probably start a Windows section of this blog! It only seemed fair considering I've had a Linux and Apple section here for years. As is super obvious I don't update this blog anywhere near as often as I should, but hopefully this section will fill out with tips and tricks as I pick them up.

There was a time I could never imagine writing these words... But Windows is actually fun!