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Automatically generated WSL Debian development environments

This project enables you to quickly create up to date WSL2 Debian instances for testing and development purposes. For this you need Windows 10 and hardware that is capable of running WSL2. For some background information I wrote this blog post

To use this, create a directory c:\wsl where you have rights to write. This is used to store your machine's disk images.

Next clone or get started download this project. In PowerShell navigate to the project.

PS C:\Users\Hans Kruse> git clone
PS C:\Users\Hans Kruse> cd wsl-debian-boxes
PS C:\Users\Hans Kruse\wsl-debian-boxes>

It needs to run from its directory. I did not make it more robust yet.

Start bootstrap-debian-images.PS1 to create tar balls for Debian:

  • 9 Stretch
  • 10 Buster
  • 11 BullsEye

Warning! You should not run the script below if you use the Debian distribution from the Windows store directly as your personal WSL environment. It will be destroyed!

 PowerShell.exe -ExecutionPolicy Bypass -File .\bootstrap-debian-images.PS1

When successful:

  • Three tar balls have been created.
  • The Debian machine was deleted.
  • The downloaded Debian Installation package was deleted.
  • The installed Windows store app was uninstalled.

Once you have created the tar balls, creating new machines is quite fast. Faster than installing them from the Windows store. It also allows you to easily create multiple identical machines with the same Linux distribution.

Machines can be created and personalized with the create-machine.PS1 script. This scrip and the related destroy-machine.PS1 will create virtual machines in c:\wsl. Change both scripts if you need it to be anywhere else.

  • A user is created with sudo rights without needing a password.
  • In the user's home directory a soft link winhome to the windows home directory of the user is created.
  • The created machines will start with the created user as default user.
  • An updated Ansible is installed in the user's ~/.local/bin.
  • ~/.local/bin is added to the user's path.
  • No further customization is done yet.

Three user environment variables need to be set before you can create machines with the provided script.

  • LINUX_USER Should be the Linux username of the single user that is created in the machine, e.g. kruse.
  • WIN_HOME Should be a Windows directory as seen from Linux. This will be soft linked as winhome in the Linux user's home directory, e.g. /mnt/c/Users/Hans\ Kruse. Note that spaces need to be escaped!
  • WSL_INSTALL_PATH The path where your Linux distribution should live, e.g. C:\WSL Please do not add an ending backslash

You can then give a name of the machine to be created and the tar ball to use as command line arguments.

In PowerShell:

PowerShell.exe -ExecutionPolicy Bypass -File .\create-machine.PS1 my-awesome-box debian-buster.tar

Cleaning up machines can be done with the destroy-machine.PS1 script.

PowerShell.exe -ExecutionPolicy Bypass -File .\destroy-machine.PS1 my-awesome-box

In the files directory, you will find the Debian package sources files that are used. You can modify them to use a local mirror. That might be faster than pulling them from the main Debian archives directly.

Beware of smart git on Windows!

Windows on git by default converts line endings to/from Linux/Windows. This will go horribly wrong if you edit the bash files from Windows. Either use git from WSL and edit files from WSL. You can turn off, line ending conversion on git in Windows. Bash files with Windows line endings do not run. This bit me once making small adjustments from Windows in bash files, while I was editing from WSL most of the day.