What Software Speech-enabled Linux Distributions Work Today?

Martin McCormick martin at dc.cis.okstate.edu
Thu Jun 12 14:57:25 UTC 2008

For years, I used UNIX via RS-232 or even sometimes telnet from
a DOS P.C. using Kermit or telnet and an external speech box. I
am still doing that at home, but the old hardware is making
decisions for me by dying and it has been time to move along for
some time.

	I have been using Debian Linux since about 2001 and my
dream installation would be Debian with software speech that
isn't flaky.

	If one has more than one computer available, the one
that talks can get in to ones that don't if they have a serial
port or are far enough in the conscious world to operate on a

	So, I am ideally looking for a non-orphaned Debian
distribution that uses a non-commercial speech engine that

	Knowing that we rarely get everything we want in the
real world, I am saying all of this sort of tongue in cheek.
What we usually use is something that is as close as practical.
Somebody said, "Don't let perfect kill good enough."

	When I tried GRML, it first appeared to be adequate
until that spelling bug hit. No software synth was going to work

	Oralux has mostly worked well but it is orphaned.

	I am not set in concrete on anything but I would like to
stick with Debian if possible for historical reasons although
there is nothing really wrong with the other distributions.

	What is working now? In the case of this laptop, there
is no native serial port so any installation must either talk or
work through a network.

	Some general observations:

	Some of the best speech right now is on the new
Macintoshes but they also have a terrible flaw right now.
Speakup is the closest I've seen to getting this thing right,
but what Macs do is reset their speech when new input comes in.
You can't listen to, say, the output of a compiler and get
anything useful because new lines kill what you are already
listening to.

	In my job, we frequently use tail  on system logs to
look for output in real time and the Mac just stutters as new
input arrives. You can play back the buffer, but that's no
substitute for listening until you've heard enough.

	Speakup  only resets when one presses keys so you can
listen as long as you want and then kill the input. This is the
kind of utility I want to continue.

	I have been experimenting with computers for 29 years
now and UNIX is without a doubt closer to perfection when it
comes to access than we've ever been before.

Martin McCormick WB5AGZ  Stillwater, OK 
Systems Engineer
OSU Information Technology Department Network Operations Group

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