Thanks for your interest in isle, Integrated System Linux Environment.

Isle is currently in alpha, but working relatively stably! This page will document features and known issues!

Isle is a bit like WSL (Windows Subsystem for Linux) for Mac.

Getting Started

Download the linux zip file from the release URL, unzip it, and put the executable in your $PATH. Then run linux, and enjoy Linux!

Current Release



  • Start a linux shell: linux
  • Stop the background VM: linux --stop
  • Start the VM in the foreground to allow for easy debugging: linux --start
  • Get information on what options are available linux -h
  • The default root password is root
  • Your users password is the same as your username
  • Once sudo is installed in, your user will have sudo access.


  • Automatic port forwarding: If a program listens on within linux, that same port will be forwarded to it from your mac. Makes it easy to do most types of web development. NOTE: There is up to a 10 second delay before the port is detected as open.
  • File sharing: Within linux, you’ll find that ~/mac contains your home directory on the mac. And also ~/linux/home on mac contains the home directory within linux! These are relatively fast, but they do cross machine boundaries.
  • Runs OCI images: All the linux environments are spawned by fetching an OCI image, unpacking it, and running a shell. Ubuntu is the default, but you can use any you like.

Known Issues

  • Upon starting, sometimes users will get a disconnection error. Wait a second and retry a couple times. This is happening because there is a race condition in detecting that the VM is ready to access connections.
  • The Virtual Machine Service on intel takes up a lot of cpu when idle, currently investigating why.


Isle uses Virtualization.framework, built into macs since 11.0, to spawn a linux VM. It then uses runc within the VM to provide distro-specific environments. MacOS 12.0+ is required as it uses the file sharing APIs that were added in 12.0 to provide access to the MacOS filesystem within linux.


  • Ability to run background services by default without weird .profile hacks
  • Perhaps a sort of “App Store” setup where you could add things like docker or tailscale to install and then run by default


View Github