* Posts by AJ MacLeod

559 publicly visible posts • joined 11 May 2006


Why you might want an email client in the era of webmail

AJ MacLeod

GUIs are overrated

I'm in the process of migrating to a new PC at the moment and for email I have Claws mail operational like it has been for decades. What surprised me though is how much I miss mutt, which I've used for my main email account for ages (though not nearly as long as Sylpheed/Claws.)

I have been using mutt for a few years with isync and notmuch to create an indexed local repository of my email (which is otherwise accessed via IMAP) - maybe it's just me, but I find even using a lean and decent GUI email client is far more cumbersome than using mutt. The only fly in the ointment is HTML-only emails, which while they can be handled tolerably well add a definite layer of inconvenience.

I genuinely found it surprising just how much I missed that CLI based workflow, even though it's only temporarily...

Microsoft has made Azure Linux generally available. Repeat, Azure Linux

AJ MacLeod

Re: I don’t think I really get it

I couldn't really care less about what you use, but surely you're not really so ignorant as to think that Linux boot messages aren't available afterwards?

Also, computers require precise commands which are entirely correct in order to produce the correct output. This is not exactly ground-breaking revelation, it's a fundamental of computing. Come to think of it, it's a fundamental of the universe. Sure, my shell can offer corrections to things it thinks I may have typed incorrectly but most of the time it's wrong - I'll stick with the error messages thanks.

Lenovo Thinkpad Z13 just has this certain Macbook Air about it...

AJ MacLeod

Re: DELL wins this one

The keyboards are dire; I've seen them properly faulty right out of the box, keys with no spring at all. Latitudes are definitely not business grade any more.

Dyson moans about state of UK science and tech, forgets to suck up his own mess

AJ MacLeod

Re: Reporting just as bad as ever in El' Reg...

"Unfortunately for you, energy costs were skyrocketing before Russia goose stepped into Ukraine. "

No they weren't... they skyrocketed after the global covid fiasco, but were coming back down again until Putin started his little excursion. Also, your point about "most EU countries" having gas reserves and the UK having shut down its storage has nothing whatsoever to do with the EU or membership thereof; you are lumping together everything that could be perceived as negative and attributing it directly to Brexit. None of this would have been any different for the UK had we still been a "member" of the EU.

AJ MacLeod

Re: Reporting just as bad as ever in El' Reg...

The cost of living has primarily increased due to the huge inflation in energy and food costs. Unfortunately for your narrative, neither of these had anything to do with Brexit and everything to do with Russia invading their next door neighbour.

AJ MacLeod

Re: With two-faced "friends" like Dyson, Britain doesn't need enemies

...and in a decade or two when something finally wears out, you'll be able to get the spare part easily and cheaply and also be able to repair it without any difficulty.

I remember the last time I offered to have a look at a friend's Dyson when it stopped working (as usual, just shortly after the guarantee was out.) It had worn through the motor brushes already, which wouldn't have been a major issue had the motor been designed with the barest drop of common sense or competency. In fact it was scrap, because once the brushes had worn down it continued to merrily feed the metal part behind them into the motor, completely trashing it.

LattePanda's Sigma crams a 12-core Intel Raptor Lake CPU into an itty-bitty SBC

AJ MacLeod

Looks very tempting indeed actually - if there were a version with 32GB RAM (or better, though unlikely, a SODIMM slot) I'd order one now. They really have covered very nearly all the bases - particularly with the storage options.

I've been trying to buy a Lenovo mini PC with similar spec since the start of the year with zero success... they keep cancelling the order whenever it gets close to "shipping" date, extremely frustrating.

After nearly two decades of waiting, GNOME 44 brings you... image thumbnails

AJ MacLeod

Re: awesome new paradigms for user interfaces

Funnily enough, it did "progress", some years ago - it basically became a different WM, E17 (now E25.) They should get some credit though for maintaining the previous version which many people preferred, and E16 is still supported software with its own page on their website.

I have used Enlightenment on and off over many years but I'm afraid the current implementation uses a binary configuration format which I don't like. I also found that the new version more than once screwed up my config when updating, making me recreate it from scratch which pushed me back to my main desktop for most of the past quarter century - WindowMaker. Now THAT is a good example of a UI which doesn't need to change!

Lenovo revs up a rackable Aston Martin … workstation?

AJ MacLeod

The workstation may not move through the air but air moves through the workstation which is the same thing as far as the fluid is concerned - it's just a question of your frame of reference.

The ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 10 as a Linux laptop

AJ MacLeod

Re: Optional

I have a desktop on order from Lenovo at the moment - I forget exactly how much I saved by ticking the "no OS" option but I'm sure it was over £100. (Ubuntu was also an option, but not free and not the distro I'll be using anyway.)

Dell, on the other hand, wouldn't let me buy their equivalent machine without Windows.

Thunderbird email client is Go for new plumage in July

AJ MacLeod

It certainly doesn't seem to do what I want although I perhaps didn't explain it very well. What I occasionally want is to be able to install TB not to send email, but just to be able to read historical emails imported from (say) PST / maildir / mbox. As far as I can see TB forces you to have an IMAP or POP account set up before you can import any messages (in particular using the importExportTools NG add-on)?

AJ MacLeod

I'd personally like to see the ability for TB to export email (including folder structure) to a file, in a similar way to what the horrible Outlook does (but ideally less badly.) The ability to handle a purely local email archive would be nice too - i.e. an account where you can just import previous messages to read in a comfortable format, without having to set up an actual IMAP/POP account and then import messages to that.

I know there are add-ons to help with this but you can guarantee these will be broken by the new "improved" version and they're not particularly straightforward.

AJ MacLeod

Re: I Like Outlook

No, it doesn't work very well. Perhaps it works sufficiently well for your purposes, but it's the single worst application I can think of - horrific illogical UI, ridiculously stupid (and getting worse) configuration screens, horrible, horrible, horrible flaky core that frequently falls over when asked to do anything with significant volumes of messages and far more problems than I can bear to think about right now.

Just one little nugget of typical Outlook beauty as an example. Imagine you've backed up your IMAP email to a PST file (let's just brush over the several million ways those screw themselves up.) Imagine the process seemed to go as planned, the file ended up on your storage device at a sensible size etc. You open that PST file in Outlook, perhaps even having deleted the original messages. It opens, but hold on... where are the emails? The PST is over 2GB, they must be in it - why are all the folders empty? Much sweat, stress, heart failure later, you discover that by default OUTLOOK HIDES YOUR MESSAGES! Why you would even possibly want the ability to do such a thing I have never been able to fathom, but to make it the default... that takes a special kind of stupidity. Thunderbird is far from my favourite email client but it's nowhere near as awful as Outlook (yet).

helloSystem 0.8: A friendly, all-graphical FreeBSD

AJ MacLeod

Re: ...Meanwhile, the Linux world has a profusion of rival distros, desktops, and packaging formats

Agreed on Alpine, I use it on every server I can. You say barebones, but I say "clean". It's just Linux as it was meant to be, before the billions of layers of byzantine bloat that seem to exist primarily to save the user having to experience the horror of editing a configuration file, or automate things that didn't really need automation. On Alpine, editing config files is generally painless because they are clean and not full of cruft to enable the aforementioned bloat to work.

I switched (from Linux) to FreeBSD for about six months or so back around 2001. For me, the main selling point was that it was a fairly coherent and well documented OS, not just a heap of vaguely related software; it was also quicker on my ancient hardware. As soon as I upgraded the hardware I found it wasn't great in terms of driver availability, and the packaging system was confusing for me (mixing packages and ports.) I then migrated to Gentoo and have stuck with it ever since for my main desktop. I get all the packages I want, built with all the features I want and none of the "features" I don't. There's a management system for handling config file changes and the files are relatively clean.

I wouldn't go back to FreeBSD on a desktop; I just don't see any advantage. Very happy for others to use it if they prefer though - I think the diversity is healthy and there are more than a few people involved in OSS these days that could do with a reminder that their software should be more OS agnostic rather than relying on neo-Linuxisms ( systemd especially.)

Global network outage hits Microsoft: Azure, Teams, Outlook all down

AJ MacLeod

Re: Downtime?

What a stupid comparison... why would an organisation require the IT capabilities of Google to run a couple of Email servers?

Windows 10 paid downloads end but buyers need not fear ISO-lation

AJ MacLeod

Re: Just Today I Bought A "Refurbished" Workstation With Windows 10.......

You probably made the mistake of admitting to having a network connection while setting it up. If you really did need Windows for some reason, just leave the network cable out (or refuse to give WiFi details) until the OOBE stage is complete. Doesn't work on Windows 11 unfortunately...

India uses emergency powers to order takedown of BBC documentary

AJ MacLeod

Re: Whatabout massacres

Indeed, we've sunk to the level of people being arrested and charged for simply thinking politically unfashionable thoughts, silently, in the "wrong place" (on public streets in the UK.)

Patch Tuesday update is causing some Windows 10 systems to blue screen

AJ MacLeod

So that was it

Saw this on a system yesterday and figured out it was something to do with driver signature verification failing. Disabling signature verification got the machine to boot, at least for now.

Waiting for speedy broadband? UK's Openreach prioritizing existing work over fiber expansion

AJ MacLeod

Re: They had a nifty machine ..

It irritated me so much that I stopped reading right there and came to the comments to complain about it. Sadly there's comparatively little worth reading on The Register these days as it is and the Yank slant on everything is just off-putting. I find myself checking here less and less frequently... anyone got any suggestions for better alternatives?

Lash#Cat9: A radical new Linux UI for keyboard warriors

AJ MacLeod

You're still missing the point... perhaps one of the older videos or blog posts describing Arcan would explain how it's not just X11 reincarnated. I've played with it a bit (though not in the past year or more) and I like the thinking that's gone into it. The tech demos are probably not doing it any favours sadly, he really has thought things through in a way that the Wayland project definitely has not.

Microsoft's Lennart Poettering proposes tightening up Linux boot process

AJ MacLeod

Re: "Someone points out"

Since when has Linux required a separate ram disk to boot? You really shouldn't comment on things you know nothing about.

If you're still on Windows 7/8.1, it's time to say goodbye to Google Chrome

AJ MacLeod

Re: Upgrade to Linux

Just coming up to my quarter of a century with Linux anniversary, I suspect the honeymoon period should be over by now... Linux has a lot fewer warts and annoying habits than it did then and even back then it was incomparably better than the alternatives in every way that mattered to me.

Sadly it's picked up some infections from the Windows mindset over the years, but at least you have a bit of choice as to how you put your system together and can still mostly avoid those.

Excel's comedy of errors needs a new script, not new scripting

AJ MacLeod

Re: Clueless users

You should get a refund then... you don't need a TV licence just because you own a broadband connected computer. Nor in fact do you need one even if you own an actual TV - it's only watching broadcast (or streamed BBC) TV that requires a licence.

LastPass source code, blueprints stolen by intruder

AJ MacLeod

Even better when you run your own server (see Vaultwarden)

UK launches 'consultation' with EU over exclusion from science programs

AJ MacLeod

Re: Reap what you sow

Having worked on scientific research projects myself I completely agree, particularly the part about politically convenient theses.

Sadly the majority of reasonably "well educated" people in Britain have no real understanding of how science actually works and will castigate you as ignorant, stupid and a science denier in hot self-righteous anger for daring to question any aspect of it.

Battle of the retro Unix desktops: NsCDE versus CDE

AJ MacLeod

Re: You can not be serious, man ...

My Windows 95 didn't have built in Internet support. (It also became so unreliable that it drove me to Linux and within two years it was banished for good.)

I used CDE quite a bit after that on SUNs but it all (NT, Win98, CDE) felt very old fashioned and clunky compared to the desktops I was by then used to on Linux; KDE or Enlightenment especially.

In the end I settled on WindowMaker and am still a very happy user.

Dell and Ubuntu certify latest model of XPS 13 ultrabook

AJ MacLeod

Re: The keyboard has no physical Esc key

Seems they've developed a laptop specifically to make vi nearly impossible to use (rather than just initially appearing impossible to use.) Probably not the best candidate for flogging to Linux developers and I for sure won't be buying one.

Looks like Framework are pretty much the only choice I have for a semi-sane laptop design now.

Rufus and ExplorerPatcher: Tools to remove Windows 11 TPM pain and more

AJ MacLeod

Re: Desktop on OneDrive by default?

on the other hand it makes it easier as you know you don't want to enable any of it...

Linux Mint 21 hits beta, and it's looking fresh

AJ MacLeod

Re: To be fair to systemd …

No, the problem as usual is that SystemD has grown yet another tentacle to solve a "problem" which previously wasn't.

I have used Linux as my main desktop and server OS for a quarter of a century and NEVER had issues with memory management, even decades ago when running lengthy CFD jobs on machines with specs that would be pitiful compared to a bargain bin phone these days.

My main PC has 32G RAM and zero swap; it runs piles of VMs 24/7, the usual hundred browser tabs, email clients, office software as required, GNUCash, all the stuff that a normal desktop PC is also expected to do... oh yes, and it's running Gentoo so regularly compiling the latest updates in the background. Funnily enough it doesn't run systemd...

x86 Raspberry Pi Desktop is a great way to revive an old PC

AJ MacLeod

Interesting... I installed OpenBSD on an ageing but not ancient laptop maybe 12 or 18 months ago and found it glacially slow. I loved the "clean" nature of the OS and it otherwise worked OK, just too slow to be practical; in the end I wiped it and stuck Void on there which worked fabulously until the motherboard fried itself.

Perhaps there was something in the OpenBSD kernel config that wasn't making proper use of the CPU or GPU, I didn't spend too much time investigating it.

Microsoft: You own the best software keyboard there is. Please let us buy it

AJ MacLeod

Re: Just one feature please

The problem is that many of us use swiping to type nowadays as it can be vastly quicker than pecking at individual non-keys, and virtually none of the open source options support this.

I've been trying to use AnySoftKeyboard for the past month or two which does, but sadly it's pretty rubbish compared to Gboard etc - inefficient enough possibly to force me back to being spied on by Gboard again.

Fedora starts to simplify Linux graphics handling

AJ MacLeod

Re: Alpine Linux already switched from fbdev to DRM

It's a great distro for running on bare metal (particularly for servers) - no systemd, very reliable, no bloat, wide range of packages. It really reminds me of the olden days in all the good ways and it's my default for servers bare metal and virtual unless specific requirements preclude it.

Why the Linux desktop is the best desktop

AJ MacLeod

Re: One reason to stay with Windows - Outlook

-> There was even Netscape Communicator. What do we have now?

Seamonkey? Personally, I use Mutt and Claws Mail.

AJ MacLeod

Re: "Linux Desktop"

It was only "nerds and geeks" who knew they could alt-F4 to get out of their application on Windows 8 - ordinary users were utterly stumped when, having clicked on a tile to launch an "app", they found themselves drowning in an endless, bottomless full-screen ocean with no apparent way of getting out again.

Such users were of course too stupid to figure out that all they had to do was perform the correct magic wand wave gesture with the mouse cursor in the invisible magic area actually outside the screen to conjure up the "charms bar"

I've used some pretty weird UIs on Linux over the decades but never one so confusing or illogical as Windows 8...

Review: ASUS dual-screen laptop may warm your heart, will definitely warm your lap

AJ MacLeod

Rubbish "solution" looking for a problem

I set one of these up for a customer a while back, and found it immensely annoying for several reasons. Firstly, the extra screen is basically useless; it's ridiculously too small vertically and it's at a very awkward angle - you'd end up with RSI in your neck from looking up and down if you actually tried to use it for something.

Secondly, the touchpad; as I'm right-handed the location was fine for me but as it's abnormally narrow (it's portrait rather than square or landscape shaped) the buttons are not where you'd expect them to be. I spent the whole time trying to left-click with the right cursor key and wondering why it wasn't doing anything. To make it work you really need to have your thumb curled awkwardly under the rest of your hand to reach down to where the button actually lives - extremely uncomfortable. Sure you can use tap-to-click (and I normally do) but somehow on this laptop that felt less natural than trying to click with the button.

In summary, a completely pointless expensive gimmick. Far better would be a laptop with one sensibly shaped screen rather than two letterboxes of varying sizes.

Edit: I've just enlarged the main picture to see this model is very slightly different in that it doesn't have physical buttons for the touchpad... doesn't really change the main issue though.

114 billion transistors, one big meh. Apple's M1 Ultra wake-up call

AJ MacLeod

Re: I was there

The tracing part has been a colossal waste of time and money right from the beginning. By the time I ended up on the government's radar as having tested positive I was already on day 7 of symptoms (and had isolated from day one anyway.) There was zero point in either locating or telling anyone I'd been in contact with a week previously as by now they either had the virus or they hadn't... all that would be gained would be a bit of unnecessary anxiety and for the government an insight into my movements and contacts.

Needless to say I didn't return the calls from the contact tracers, and those who I'd visited in the period before becoming symptomatic (including an elderly lady on immunosuppressants) thankfully hadn't picked it up from me anyway.

Use Zoom on a Mac? You might want to check your microphone usage

AJ MacLeod

Re: What a surprise

Yes, I'd rather my browser (which is open source and sandboxed to a reasonable extent) handle this traffic, rather than granting their known to be dodgy software carte blanche access to my entire PC. I'd rather not use Zoom at all of course (and generally don't), but one doesn't always have much option.

AJ MacLeod

What a surprise

Even joining a Zoom meeting in a private browsing window makes me a bit uneasy, there's no way on Earth I'd actually install their software on any of my computers. It's not so easy if you're hosting a meeting though, not all the features are available in a browser session.

Meta Platforms demands staffers provide proof of COVID-19 booster vaccine before returning to office

AJ MacLeod

Re: Good.

For the record, my caps lock key is mapped to super as those didn't exist on PC keyboards when mine was made. I did my shouting the hard way with shift...

AJ MacLeod

Re: Good.

I'm not sure whether to laugh or cry at the many ludicrously sanctimonious people like ShadowSystems who completely refuse to comprehend the clear fact that being fully vaccinated and boosted DOES NOT STOP YOU FROM CATCHING OR SPREADING COVID, particularly the variant now most widespread. Sure, _your_ symptoms may be less severe, but that's about it.

For what it's worth, my father in law has just had a long-awaited operation cancelled... hospital too full of selfish unvaccinated Covid patients you ask? No, turns out that his recent Pfizer booster has caused his blood pressure to soar to insanely dangerous levels after a decently long lifetime of not having any health issues whatsoever. One in a million side effect perhaps? We know two others nearby who have had exactly the same problem arise after the same vaccination.

_You_ can stick whatever potentially deadly substances you like into your own body, just shut up and let others decide what they will do... it's frankly none of your business.

Pop!_OS 21.10: Radical distro shows potential but does not play nicely with others

AJ MacLeod

Re: "Pop doesn't install GRUB; it uses systemd-boot"

I highly recommend extlinux for your purposes - it's refreshingly simple to configure after the sprawling dog's dinner that GRUB2 has become and "just works".

Google advises Android users to be careful of Microsoft Teams if they want to call 911

AJ MacLeod

Re: filed an issue with Google support online. When she didn’t hear anything back

I must say that for the first time ever, earlier this year I actually got to speak to a knowledgeable and helpful Google support employee who fixed an incredibly frustrating chicken-and-egg merrygoround problem related to Google Apps/Workspace/whatever they're calling it today.

I admit I was utterly astounded, and this may be the only known instance of it... but it definitely happened.

Amazon accused of grossly underreporting COVID-19 cases to US labor agency

AJ MacLeod

Re: Infected cases

I think we actually mostly agree. My main problem is with the way data from these studies is reported, even within their own abstracts and conclusions, never mind the spin (and in some cases, outright and deliberate lies) governments put on them afterwards.

I am quite familiar with writing and publishing scientific papers from a previous career and am all too aware that published "science" is not the untainted non-political gospel truth that many wish to believe. There are some red flags that I've seen all too frequently in my browsing of the literature on C19, including; brazenly comparing best cases for the "desired outcome" set against worst cases for the opposite; making authoritative sounding statements where the error bars are so huge as to negate any real conclusion; excessive use of estimates and then later treating these as good hard data; and so on.

I will reiterate - I am not questioning that vaccines reduce symptoms for most people, I am not saying they are overall a bad thing; I am saying that the more I see data being distorted, and politicians making serious restrictions on liberty and the right to manage one's on body based on illogical and self-contradictory reasoning, the more suspicious I become.

AJ MacLeod

Re: Infected cases

Really? I think you mean that vaccinated people are less likely to experience symptoms than unvaccinated people. Also, your point about vaccinated people "recovering sooner" is spurious - infectiousness is not directly related to symptoms at all, hence the ten day isolation period regardless of how well or otherwise the individual might feel.

From personal experience... I (unvaccinated) recently had C19, infected by a double-vaccinated person who didn't realise they had it. My symptoms, pretty mild, lasted one night and one morning... I was no more or less infectious than the fully vaccinated person I caught it from except that I was better able to realise I was infected than they were.

I am not in general anti-vaccine (I was going to attend the one local drop-in session in the summer until I realised they'd advertised it barely a few hours beforehand and it was already over.) However, the amount of vaccine hysteria and nasty, insidious society-splitting pressure from governments; the outright lies and ridiculous attempts by academia to twist and distort their own findings regarding vaccine efficacy has made me glad I haven't had it and I certainly won't be getting it now unless by force.

CutefishOS: Unix-y development model? Check. macOS aesthetic? Check (if you like that sort of thing)

AJ MacLeod

My desktop has been NeXT inspired for a few decades now... the good old WindowMaker. Utterly reliable, negligible resource usage, highly configurable (without even resorting to editing text files, not that I would mind that either.)

Check your bits: What to do when Unix decides to make a hash of your bill printouts

AJ MacLeod

Re: £ vs #

I still fail to understand why anyone would go to the effort of writing double the number of strokes in order to avoid writing two perfectly normal letters...

More than three years after last release, X.Org Server 21.1.0 RC1 appears

AJ MacLeod

Re: Not Really Off Topic!!!

Hmm, I've tried x2go a few times over the years but never found it to work smoothly. I was surprised at how straightforward xrdp was to use in comparison...

AJ MacLeod

I have never put Wayland into the same category as systemd (few things are that bad)... on the other hand it claims to solve problems I don't have and after all these years completely fails to do the basics that X has done for decades. My original tentative optimism about it has waned - I don't think we'd be missing much if it went and quietly died in a corner somewhere now.

Arcan looks much more interesting...

AJ MacLeod

Re: Not Really Off Topic!!!

Without in any way detracting from your central point of the immense usefulness of remote X... RDP is actually not just for MS operating systems, there are servers and clients for *nix as well.

In fact, given the death of FreeNX I might end up having to use XRDP in production as a replacement - it actually seems to work very well. Feels kind of wrong though!

Macmillan best-biscuit list unexpectedly promotes breakfast cereal to treat status

AJ MacLeod

They've been making Weetabix in England for nearly 100 years, I think it probably qualifies as a UK product!