vinux, Another Accessible Linux Possibility

John J. Boyer john.boyer at
Fri Jan 8 18:05:32 UTC 2010

Does Vinux support braille? Does it have the capacity to run Gnome with 


On Fri, Jan 08, 2010 at 08:10:44AM -0600, Martin McCormick wrote:
> Over the Newyear's weekend, I tried yet another 
> distribution of Debian Linux that talks. It is called vinux and
> the vi part stands for "visually impaired." It uses speakup as
> its software speech engine and it  runs a text console. This
> means that it gives new life to middle-aged computers that
> aren't top-end but are too good to get rid of yet.
> 	The live CD comes up talking and  gives you a Unix
> console. There is a menu system to get you started on how to
> install vinux on your hard drive.
> 	It is good for anybody who has some working knowledge of
> Linux or any other common form of Unix. It appears that you must
> have either 256 megs of RAM or that must swap space on your
> drive. I tried it on an extremely RAM-deficient Gateway system
> which is about 13 years old and 
> made the mistake of being too cheap on swap space. The system
> had 64 megs of RAM and 189 megs of swap. The speech came up fine
> but I knew we had trouble when it began repeating various error
> messages followed by "no space left on device." Each of those
> represented a package that didn't make it on to the new system.
> 	I increased the swap space to about 256 megs today and
> it appeared to do much better.
> 	The fellow who created this distribution appears to have
> done things well in that the speech engine and all the audio
> devices play nicely together. I was able to get the mplayer
> package to install and run. speechdispatcher and speakup just
> talk right over the sound when they need to.
> 	I installed vinux on a Dell Enspiron laptop with 256
> megabytes of RAM and there was no trouble at all. It just works.
> 	Now for a couple of warnings. When you install it, you
> get a default British keyboard layout. It is the same as ours
> for numbers and letters and most punctuation marks, but the @
> sign as in bobby at and the double-quote are swapped.
> What should be the \ is the #, and a few other surprises. Also
> the Caps-lock key does not announce its status and works much
> differently than it usually does under speakup. Set it with
> shift-capslock as normal, but release it by just tapping
> Caps-lock. The pitch of your echoed key strokes will tell you if
> it is set or cleared. Anyway, you can become root on the Live CD
> by sudo su - and then run loadkeys us. You get an American
> keyboard and, strangely enough, the Caps-lock announces
> afterward. This works until you reboot.
> 	After you install vinux, the process of making the US
> keyboard default is complicated a bit because the normal
> procedure of running install-keymap us is slightly broken. It
> puts the US map in /etc/console for some reason instead of
> /etc/console-setup. I just got lucky and figured that one out.
> You have to manually copy the boottime.kmap.gz file to the right
> place and it does start to work.
> 	It probably doesn't hurt to edit /etc/default/locale to
> change LANG to "C" so that dates and other generated output
> look normal to us.
> 	I have been using it on 3 different systems for about a
> week and have had no serious issues. I did try a serial RS-232
> port and ckermit on one system and it worked fine. I have not
> yet tried the serial PCMCIA serial port on the laptop. I
> certainly hope that works as is it is important at times in my
> job.
> 	Anyway, I think this is a welcome addition to Linux
> accessibility. Too bad the main distributions don't have it as a
> boot option on their distribution CD's.
> Martin McCormick WB5AGZ  Stillwater, OK 
> Systems Engineer
> OSU Information Technology Department Telecommunications Services Group
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> Blinux-list at

John J. boyer; President, Chief Software Developer
Abilitiessoft, Inc.
Madison, Wisconsin USA
Developing software for people with disabilities

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