* Posts by AJ MacLeod

589 publicly visible posts • joined 11 May 2006


Windows Format dialog waited decades for UI revamp that never came

AJ MacLeod

What's much worse than the format dialogue box is the fact that "format" is so close to "safely remove" (or eject or whatever is actually on there) on the context menu for drives. If anything deserves to be a little less accessible, it's the option to wipe out all the data on a drive...

Good news: HMRC offers a Linux version of Basic PAYE Tools. Bad news: It broke

AJ MacLeod

I've used BPT since it became available (and the Linux version in particular so long as it has been around) and although it might not be perfect it's about a thousand times better than most other payroll software I've had the misfortune to use or assist with. When they ask for feedback I always make a point of commending them for making the Linux version available, it ought to be mandatory for government issued software.

The end of classic Outlook for Windows is coming. Are you ready?

AJ MacLeod

Re: fine, change it

Maybe not the best example - sure, they replaced IE with Edge, which they then replaced with... Edge. But not Edge Edge, Chrome Edge.

AJ MacLeod

Re: New outlook doesn't keep replies in the same folder

I use a sort of hybrid version too, after switching to notmuch as my mail store. I have Neomutt configured to treat "labels" as folders, which has the added bonus that messages which actually equally belong in two different folders can show up in more than one place - I just give the message two labels and it will show up in both.

The quality of search using notmuch was revolutionary for me - I've always hated search for either being slow all the time (indexing stuff in the background) or very slow when I want to search (trawling through stuff in real time.) With notmuch it's instantaneous and I find it better than GMail's search (which has always been pretty decent, even if webmail is an abomination.)

Top five reasons to move from CentOS to RHEL (according to Red Hat)

AJ MacLeod

Re: You did look at Liberty Linux, for those systems that need patches/support/to be compliant?

Interesting, thanks. I actually didn't realise anyone was still offering updates for CentOS 6 too... Generally I use Debian or Alpine for servers but have two still on CentOS 7 which there's no other pressing reason to "upgrade" so it might well be worth a fiver a month for basic security updates for them.

AJ MacLeod

Re: You did look at Liberty Linux, for those systems that need patches/support/to be compliant?

Maybe I've missed something, but I don't see Alma offering any support whatsoever for RHEL/CentOS 7? I haven't looked into RH's pricing but I'm pretty confident extended updates for CentOS 7 from RH will be considerably more expensive than from SuSE/Liberty...

Moving to Windows 11 is so easy! You just need to buy a PC that supports it!

AJ MacLeod

Re: cool beans!

Power off _used_ to do a nice clean up, unfortunately MS have managed to screw up even since Win 8! (You'd have to disable fast boot/startup to get proper shutdown and not glorified hibernation.)

Billions lost to fraud and error during UK's pandemic spending spree

AJ MacLeod

Re: Oops, we stole it

Actually there is data on the effectiveness of face masks and the answer is yes, it was pointless; any benefits are indistinguishable from noise. More than that, face masks are not free from side effects either so quite probably caused more harm than good (including to the emotional development of millions of children worldwide.) Personally I'm fine with you wearing a face nappy if it makes you feel good about yourself; I might quietly judge you to be a bit of an idiot but wouldn't say anything. On the other hand, I massively resent being ordered to do something which I am convinced is at best pointless just to make you feel good about yourself.

PS - re: the vaccines you're fortunate; both my in-laws were not and both are now on long term treatment for vaccine-induced heart issues.

PPS - you almost certainly have had covid. For many people it was barely noticeable or virtually symptomless, just as for some it was fatal... your genes and other health factors are far more likely to have helped you than the vaccines. Again... if vaccines made you feel good about yourself, I'm quite happy with that - I object however to people losing their jobs, being turned into social outcasts etc for not wanting them.

Closure of Windows 10 upgrade path still catching users by surprise

AJ MacLeod

Re: There may be alternatives available

Superb - strangely I had just come up against this in the past day, upgrading a elderly Win 7 laptop for an even more elderly lady who doesn't expect to last very much longer. I had totally forgotten that MS had closed the 7-10 upgrade route until the activation failed... Your post may or may not have resolved this issue, thank you! Not sure how I hadn't come across that before, but this is why I still waste time reading The Register - there's something to be learned in the comments most days.

(In this case having she had a plain black desktop anyway so I'm sure she could have lived quite happily with a watermark warning her to activate, but it was annoying to me nonetheless.)

Windows 3.11 trundles on as job site pleads for 'driver updates' on German trains

AJ MacLeod

Re: Improvement?

The brand new socket LGA1700 MSI motherboard I built into a PC earlier had a header for a parallel port... (Can't say whether it would work or not mind you as thankfully I don't deal with parallel devices very often any more)

In surprise move, Gentoo Linux starts offering binaries

AJ MacLeod

Re: How to compile from source

Not saying I don't recognise that, but one of the beauties of Gentoo is that pretty much all the drudgery is handled automatically and failed builds are very rare indeed (particularly if you stick reasonably closely to the "stable" branch.)

The biggest benefit for me is that my system is always up to date and only contains those packages and services I actually want; the biggest optimisation is not necessarily in terms of CPU flags but rather in cutting out large swathes of stuff I just don't want. Binary distros have to cater to as many as possible so tend to build in the kitchen sink too just in case.

Personally I already use (through Gentoo) binaries for one or two things that are really tedious to compile, such as web browsers; everything else just gets compiled in the background and if it wasn't for the fact I'd started the process I'm pretty sure I wouldn't even notice it was happening...

Chromebooks are problematic for profits and planet, says Lenovo exec

AJ MacLeod

Re: chromebooks suck

Rather a sweeping generalisation, no? You bought one and it was a lemon therefore all Chromebooks suck? FWIW if you're interested in parts availability and repairability you should probably not buy from ASUS (laptops in general are poor but they are particularly bad for this.)

Window Maker Live: When less is more, but more is also ... more?

AJ MacLeod

Re: Enlightenment

In one of my few brief experimental deviations from WindowMaker I switched back to Enlightenment for a little while (post E16). It was as glitzy and swish as ever but I quickly got sick of the binary configuration format which I wouldn't have cared so much about had it not the maddening habit of obliterating my settings every time I upgraded to a new version; also stability wasn't quite good enough for my tastes. On my main desktop I think staid and boring is a good thing...

AJ MacLeod

I can't even remember when I first used WindowMaker but I've certainly been using it as my main work desktop since 2000. Just the perfect balance of ease of configuration, performance, stability and perhaps most important of all - steady maintenance without some moron deciding every year or so to completely change how everything works!

Google promises eternity of updates for Chromebooks – that's a decade for everyone else

AJ MacLeod

Re: Chromebook Your-Personal-Lifetime Software Updates for Free

On this lovely Dell Chromebook 13 (which has run Void Linux since Google dropped support) I have delete mapped to altgr-backspace which works fine for me. I also have the power button remapped so that I don't switch off the laptop every time I aim for backspace!

I must say I wish I'd switched it to Void years before; "Crouton" etc were useful but nowhere near as good as a proper minimalist but fully functioning Linux install. Battery life and performance are really impressive considering how old and low spec this thing is - I haven't used any laptop since that I'd like to replace it with. (Oh - and the sound is far better than any other laptop I've ever used, which is a very large number!)

Want tech cred? Learn how to email like a pro

AJ MacLeod

Five or ten years ago maybe I would have assumed that but not now that the Reg has been so thoroughly Americanised.

AJ MacLeod

An excellent article with which I fully agree. Unfortunately I almost didn't read it because of the sickeningly clickbait style headline; generally I deliberately ignore articles with that style of title.

One thing that frequently irritates me when dealing with the general public by email is the number of people who reply to my plain text emails saying "sorry, your email was blank, can you send it again?" (Naturally quoting my original message below their own!) These are almost always people using the abominable Outlook mobile app... can it really not display plain text email? Perhaps there is just a particular range of versions that can't, but this kind of almost deliberate incompetence sums up why nobody should use a Microsoft email client.

Hands up who wants a PC? Lenovo reports declining returns

AJ MacLeod

No wonder

If my experience this year is anything to go by, it's a wonder they sold any machines at all - I gave up trying to buy from them after multiple orders were sat on for a month at a time before being just cancelled.

As per Zippy's comment, their laptops are off my list now that practically all of them are Apple-style disposable junk.

Soon the most popular 'real' desktop will be the Linux desktop

AJ MacLeod

Re: functionality

Remember when Windows 8 came out and once you'd made the mistake of opening a program you suddenly found there was no obvious way out and no obvious way to shut down the PC without pressing the physical power button? What about the Mac method of ejecting floppies back in the old days... drag them to the bin. As for Android... how do I get to the full list of installed apps on most launchers; somehow I should just intuitively know to swipe up from beyond the bottom edge of the screen?

I've yet to see a computer desktop interface that is actually intuitive - some are less logical than others (and Windows is high up that list - which of the many control panels do I need to go into to do X?) but none of them is intuitive.

That said, this particular user has found Linux to be invaluable for the past quarter of a century...

GNOME project considers adding window tiling by default

AJ MacLeod

Re: Killer app

Well my mileage varies - I ditched tabbed terminals / tiled terminals years ago for multiplexers and have never looked back. One big reason is that I can trivially access exactly the same sessions on my main desktop PC from anywhere using virtually any device; my laptop, other people's Windows PCs I am working on, my phone - so long as I have at least a basic Internet connection and ssh client I'm sorted.

My desktop is for managing the GUI based programs I rely on; one virtual desktop for my web browser, another desktop for my accounts software (GNUCash) and another desktop for graphical remote desktop software or GUI access to VMs as occasionally required. The bulk of my work happens within that tmux session though...

AJ MacLeod

It has always felt to me like Apple's window management has never been less than totally chaotic. From the darkest days of the 90s (I never suffered with Apple exposure in the 80s thankfully) through to the current day, Apple's desktops invariably stick windows exactly where I don't want them (and usually somewhere I have to struggle to find them.)

AJ MacLeod

Re: Killer app

Personally I hate tiling but it sounds to me like you should have a look at zellij for taming your terminals. I far prefer to have one thing on the screen at a time and switch between terminals using a more traditional multiplexer (tmux these days, GNU screen previously) but if you like having multiple terminal tabs and also multiple terminal panes, zellij is very straightforward to use.

Soft-reboot in systemd 254 sounds a lot like Windows' Fast Startup

AJ MacLeod

Once again

Ah yes, once again systemd is "solving" another problem that didn't exist. I can honestly say that I have had far more problems with systemd than any other init system I've used on any OS over the past three decades; frankly it's garbage.

Who on earth edits init files anyway? I just don't get it. I mean, distribution package maintainers presumably do, but ordinary users or even sysadmins? In my experience no other init system is so convoluted, nor so fragile and above all, so infuriatingly pointlessly dog slow; it just seems to hang up fatally at every possible opportunity for the most trivial of things. Just the other week I had a new systemd botchup to add to my lengthy list of reasons to hate it; suddenly a server which has been in production for several years came crawling to a halt; the / partition was apparently suddenly full when it had 70% free for years. To cut a very long story short, clearing around 3 gigs of logs (systemd as logger) suddenly freed up ten times that amount of space. Never had that issue with any other logger, nor seen any particular reason why my init system should also be the system logger.

I don't merely hate systemd because of its primary author, I hate it because it's demonstrably far worse than what we had before (and what I still use on my own most important systems) and most of all because it constantly and inexorably grows like a particularly aggressive cancer whilst becoming harder and harder to avoid.

MIT boffins build battery alternative out of cement, carbon black, water

AJ MacLeod

The article says they were using a massive one Volt...

Slackware wasn't the first Linux distro, but it's the oldest still alive and kicking

AJ MacLeod

Re: Thanks for the memories

That was the first distro I installed too, never looked back. I'd been driven to desperation by the awful lack of stability of Windows 95 and considering what to replace it with; plain old DOS was actually a serious contender, as was OS/2 but I'd been reading up on Linux for a few months and that cover CD was the impetus I needed.

I probably did the install about ten times before I finally got a working X config (not having a clue about Linux I didn't know any other way of getting back to the configuration menu!) What a world of possibilities opened up once it was up and running though, and I actually ended up with both a prize at university and shortly afterwards a job there largely thanks to being able to transfer my new-found knowledge straight to the SUN systems used for CFD.

I suppose is "thanks" is in order!

(Personally I've never liked the Slackware experience and these days use Gentoo / Alpine / Void / CentOS (Rocky) / Debian depending on circumstances, but happy to see it still alive and kicking as a choice for others.)

Two new Linux desktops – one with deep roots – come to Debian

AJ MacLeod

I've been using WindowMaker since the 90s and for me it's the perfect working environment. Not beautiful perhaps, but very efficient indeed. I've never really felt the need for other bits of a "desktop" though so I don't anticipate switching any time soon. Nice to have options though I suppose...

Rocky Linux claims to have found 'path forward' from CentOS source purge

AJ MacLeod

Re: Street signs

I wouldn't upgrade a RHEL/CentOS server either, my point was that you don't have to as each version is supported for a decent amount of time. Debian's support cycles are far too short in comparison.

AJ MacLeod

Debian's official support lifecycles are not even remotely close to RHEL/CentOS and despite all the container hype a majority of businesses rely largely on bare metal servers which get purchased, installed and then run for up to a decade with no more intervention than absolutely necessary. Complete OS major version upgrades are definitely not on the agenda.

In my decades of personal experience with Debian (which I use on many servers) it has never lived up to the propaganda of effortless reliable upgrades between versions. It's a useful, decent distro (switch to systemD notwithstanding) but it is not RHEL/CentOS and I would never risk upgrading a production server from one version of Debian to another.

Oreo cookie maker says crooks gobbled up staff info

AJ MacLeod

Pity they didn't steal the recipe and destroy it... like all American biscuits and sweets those things are foul.

Raspberry Pi production rate rising to a million a month

AJ MacLeod


If my experience this year has been anything to go by it's no wonder Lenovo's profits are down... after several months of ordering, waiting a month for delivery, getting a notification that the order had been cancelled, again and again I eventually gave up.

The overall stability of the Pi ecosystem (the products have been rock solid too) has been a big factor in my using them - it's a pity they aren't actually cheap now like they were initially though.

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.