Embrace & Displace --> Embrace a New Place (WSL2 Linux)
In this article, I discuss Microsoft's Embrace & Displace strategy and how it relates to Linux. I explore how this strategy can be used to benefit you, by embracing Linux and its timeless tools, and avoiding the pitfalls of planned obsolescence. Learn how to use vi, vim, NeoVim, the command-line, git, and ssh to stay competitive and never be displaced.
Discover the Timeless Technology of the Linux World and Embrace a New Place!
By Michael Levin
Sunday, April 30, 2023
Have you heard of Microsoft’s Embrace & Displace strategy? I’m going to teach you how to embrace that strategy to find a “new place”… other than Windows, that is. I call it Embrace a New Place, and it riffs directly off of Microsoft’s profoundly effective Embrace & Displace strategy, particularly in regard to how they’re practicing it today by including all of Linux as a mere subsystem. Well, that opens the door a crack. I’m going to show you how to shove your foot into that crack and widen it enough to walk through.
I’ve got my personal mission which actually helps me have quite an edge. It has led me to develop the unusual but timeless text editing ability made possible by vi, vim and now NeoVim. But why do any of this if it’s not to improve your other things? It can’t be for its own sake. It’s for processing thoughts so you can do everything else better. So let’s dig into that. No more excuses with refining a dependency.
So how to make “Powerpoint work” love-worthy? It can be, but it’s the whole proprietary tool, both Microsoft and Google Slides, that subconsciously turns me off. It’s like a triggering or anxiety response. It’s the futility of the “manual” work, shoving things around in a WYSIWYG (is that expression still used?) user interface.
But there is this: https://github.com/googleworkspace/md2googleslides
Who knows how many people there are like me who have something akin to anxiety the moment “Decks” are mentioned. But markdown? No problem. I’m doing that naturally without even thinking about it. So let’s flesh it out in Markdown.
How does the discussion go?
Windows isn’t bad. In fact, from a UI, support, availability on new hardware, game market, etc., it’s the best. Even their hardware is fantastic. But Microsoft Windows the worst for the things I care about most: the timeless developer tools. Microsoft knows it too, and that’s why they integrated Linux into (and made it a “subservient” subsystem) Windows.
It’s yet another example of Microsoft’s “Embrace and Displace” strategy used so effectively and well over the years.
- Embrace the Web & Displace Netscape (worked)
- Embrace Java & Displace it with J++ (didn’t work)
- Embrace Spreadsheets & Displace Lotus 1-2-3 (worked)
- Embrace Word Processing & Displace WordPerfect (worked)
- Embrace Money & Displace Intuit Quicken (didn’t work)
- Embrace the Internet & Displace AOL (worked)
- Embrace the Cloud & Displace AWS (didn’t work)
- Embrace Linux & Displace it with WSL2 (working)
The “Web & Internet” entries on this list seem like the biggest. I mean, basically Microsoft embraced the Internet and then displaced it with their own version of the Internet. That’s pretty big. But it’s not the biggest.
The mind might wander to AI as all things do these days, and you can see how very quickly Microsoft went all-in on OpenAI, and that indeed is a case of trying to kill competitors early. But that’s not what this article is about.
Bigger than the Web & the Internet, but smaller maybe than AI is the embracing & displacing of Linux, the engine that’s powering it all. There’s pretty much nothing that exists in the Web/Internet or AI world that wasn’t written and running on Linux. Linux is the preferred fuel, energy, and power of it all. And when it’s not, it’s its precursor Unix and not Windows.
This is why Microsoft had little to no choice but to incorporate Linux into Windows.
And now you can be the beneficiary of all this. Doesn’t it sound nice to be able to get the cheapest and best hardware and run a decent enough proprietary operating system that SERVES HOST to what’s important: Linux?
This argument changes as other laptops catch up with cost and quality, but then add upgradability, modularity, and repairability such as the Framework Laptop. But that will take some years (if ever) to mainstream. In the meanwhile, we’re stuck with disposable laptops and we have to make that work to our advantage.
In fact, this is the story of fair turnaround, or turning the tables on designed and planned obsolescence.
Feeling down from having your years of investment into a skill or technology suddenly obsolete by design? You my friend are the victim of planned obsolescence. While some planned obsolescence is good for both you and business in how it keeps things moving forward, it’s not good when it’s done to you personally and in regard to your ability to earn a living and on tech that didn’t really have to change.
Designed obsolescence for its own sake, or rather for the sake of quarterly profits at the expense of your ability to earn a living, is a bad and arguably even evil thing. The good news is that there are measures you can take to protect yourself from it.
First and foremost is to not tie yourself to the particular tools and habits that are in turn tied to the particular technology that’s being obsoleted. You invest it tech-A and tech-A is inextricably tied to tech-B and you have to learn tech-B to earn a living, get your apps into tech-A’s app store marketplace or whatever. Then tech-A changes. You’re screwed. Reset button!
Vendors don’t mind. The reset button fuels new rounds of buying and upgrading and retraining and re-certificating. It’s a vicious cycle. There’s even more insidious underpinnings here, because they themselves are not set back similarly internally. Their tools don’t change at the same rate as yours do, because they’re not eating their own dog food. They’re not using their own tools to build their own tools. They’re using the timeless stuff from the Unix/Linux world.
Wait, what? There’s timeless tech? Yes, indeed. You need look no farther than the text editor wars. Text is everything in tech. There’s not a technology out there that isn’t at some point represented as text. Beautiful, simple, plain text. And there’s no better way to process text than with a text editor. And if you look at something called the “text editor wars” you’ll see that there’s been a battle going on for decades between the two most popular text editors: vi and emacs.
If you ask someone what editor they’re using today, you’ll basically find a split between two types of people: those who jump on the latest “power-tool” fad such as VSCode, PyCharm, Atom, Sublime, XCode, TextMate, EditPlus, NotePad++, IntelliJ, Eclipse, NetBeans and the like. In this camp, you have to scrap and relearn basically everything you know every 2 to 5 years, including your most invaluable skill: your muscle memory.
Imagine if you had to re-learn how to walk, talk and drive every 2 to 5 years. Same thing. It’s an awful, terrible, reprehensible thing about the state of popular technology today. It’s not the same with timeless technology.
The other camp is the camp of the timeless text editors: vi and emacs. These editors have been around for decades and they’re not going anywhere. When one of the ranks of vi and emacs users switch camps and take up power-tools, they do so to stay competitive with the younguns who are taking all sorts of “get rick quick” shortcuts because of proprietary spell-casting plugins. But these magic spells are perishable. They have expiration dates. And the vi/emacs crowd can always revert to their timeless tools and still be competitive.
Which camp would you rather be in? Those who are left with imposter syndrome every time their abilities are wiped out and they are no longer actually as capable as they used to be, by virtue of their spell-casting platform disappearing (or at least going out of production)? Or those who are left with their timeless tools and are still as capable as they ever were?
The answer is obvious. But the problem is that the timeless tools are not popular. They’re not popular because they don’t make money for vendors on a quarterly basis. They are a bit harder to learn, but not much.
So Microsoft opens the door for you to find and discover and indeed embrace Linux, such as they did. And when you do, you discover a new place. This new place is an old place. It’s a very old place that is never going away in tech, even while all the new stuff is coming and going.
If you embrace this new place, you can never be displaced along with the old stuff going obsolete by design. So embrace that new place. Embrace Linux and never be displaced. Start learning one of the two old-school text editors, emacs or vi. Learn your way around the command-line. Learn how to use git. Learn how to use ssh. Nobody will ever be able to take these skills away from you. They are timeless. They are the foundation of all information technology.