Getting started with Linux

Tony Baechler tony at
Fri Oct 24 10:06:15 UTC 2008

krishnakant Mane wrote:
> On 22/10/2008, Tony Baechler <tony at> wrote:
>> Hi,
>> I must respectfully disagree with the above statement.  I understand
>> that things should be better now when Ubuntu adopts the changes from the
>> latest Debian installer, but I have a serious problem with the claim
>> that Ubuntu is as accessible as Windows.
> hi, with due respect for your submission to the all mighty microsoft
> and wish to surrender your freedom, I disagree on the following basis.


For some reason, you think I like Windows.  I don't.  If I did, I 
wouldn't post here and I would be running XP or Vista.  I've been using 
Linux in various forms since 2000 and shell accounts long before that.  
I don't like the direction that Microsoft is going with Windows and I 
really hope that Orca can eventually compete on the same level as a 
Windows screen reader.  I agree with you that there have been great 
strides in this regard in just a few years.

Regarding Firefox 3, the site I had trouble with was an accessible 
site.  I admit that I'm used to the Windows way of doing things, but I 
found myself confused and unsure of where I was on the web page.  If one 
is used to Orca, I'm sure one would have no problem with navigation.  
Window-Eyes does offer link and heading lists.  I'm not sure what you 
mean by filtered links, but I think Window-Eyes offers that as well.  
The point is that those things aren't currently in Orca and a lot of 
accessibility support has been because of Firefox itself, not the screen 
reader driving it.  Again, I am probably too used to Windows, but one of 
my hesitations in switching entirely to Orca is that the screen reader 
itself still doesn't do a lot to make apps more accessible.  I also 
admit that I don't know Python and have no idea how to script Orca.

I am not a programmer and I don't use Emacs, so Emacspeak isn't a good 
fit for me.  Even with Emacspeak, it is impossible to hear boot 
messages.  If you have a kernel panic, speech goes silent and nothing 
works, just as in Windows.  With Speakup, not only to you hear that 
there is a kernel panic but you can still review the screen and know 
what happened.  I have recommended Emacspeak to others though who wanted 
a GUI environment for Firefox and OpenOffice but didn't want to give up 
the command line.

The Debian installer itself doesn't support software speech, but Speakup 
most certainly does.  Again, with the grml live CD, I used ESpeak with 
no problem.  One could boot to the live CD and install grml which is 
basically the same as Debian unstable.  Then one could install tasksel 
and add the desktop environment task.  That should bring in Gnome.  I 
think one still would need to manually install Orca.  Regarding updating 
packages for clients, why not just set up an apt repository?  Both 
Debian and Ubuntu can use apt, so installing updates for your clients is 
as simple as "aptitude -q update" and "aptitude -q upgrade."  Also, you 
could make a CD image of a basic Debian install with ESpeak, Gnore and 
Orca and just restore that image to client computers.  That would 
install everything in a matter of minutes, similar to Ubuntu but with 
Speakup also available.

I think that addresses most of your responses to my post.  I was having 
problems with Ubuntu 7.10 but it sounds like that is fixed, at least in 
getting Orca to start on booting the CD.  I am not a programmer, but I 
do manage a Debian Etch server.  I think I will stay with Debian, but 
I'm not opposed to trying Ubuntu again at some point.  Regarding the 
sighted person who I've mostly converted, I wish I would have given him 
Ubuntu because it is more like Windows, but Debian is what I happened to 
have and I'm more familiar with it.

I couldn't agree more that at least with free software, one has the 
power to change it to be accessible assuming one has programming 
skills.  That is attractive to me and is what is drawing me more away 
from Windows.  I can't count how many times I've found bugs in programs 
but could do nothing because it is closed source and the developer wants 
money before he'll even talk to you.  Unfortunately, there aren't free 
software replacements for every Windows application, but it is getting 
better all the time.  I definitely agree also that Windows has terrible 
bloat and it only gets worse.  Too bad BSD isn't at all accessible.  As 
I write, a Windows computer just restarted after installing updates no 
one wanted and no one asked for.  At least Linux won't do that unless 
you let it.

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