whole bunch of questions!

John G. Heim jheim at math.wisc.edu
Fri Jul 11 16:00:08 UTC 2014

You have valid points and I don't dispute them. But my opinion is that 
custom distros for the blind, like sonar and vinux, do more good than 
harm. My perspective may be influenced by working for a university but I 
see so many jobs for linux systems administrators and I think getting 
started with linux is so hard that  anythingthat helps with that is very 
valuable indeed.

I recognize a lot of problems with custom distros. Like you say, they 
tend to simply disappear when the primary developer (and there almost 
always is just one person driving the whole project). They tend to lag 
behind the mainstream distro.  Probably the biggest problem is that the 
developers have considerable talent that could probably be put to use in 
the mainstream distro. Of course, that might be harder than you think. I 
doubt that a sonar or vinux developer could just waltz into the debian 
accessibility forumn and say, "We need to do this and this and this." 
But they can do that with their own distro.

I would hope custom distro developers would keep 2 things in mind. 
First, they should look upon their distro primarily as a way for blind 
users to transition to mainstream distros.Secondly, they should do 
everything they can to try to get their improvements into the mainstream 

PS: I know it was probably something you typed in without thinking but 
you probably shouldn't say you don't intend to argue a point and then go 
on to do just that.

On 07/11/14 02:29, Tony Baechler wrote:
> I'm not going to argue the point with you, but look at what happened to
> Oralux.  It's long dead with no more support.  I believe there are only a
> few active developers working on Vinux.  If one of them loses interest and
> moves on, that's about 1/3 or 1/4 of the development team.  Even if they
> don't lose interest, what if they have a long-term illness?  Life happens,
> like it or not.  Debian has about 1,000 developers, so if one quits, there
> are still 999 left.  There are literally thousands of messages on the
> debian-user list every month and tens of thousands of questions in the
> Ubuntu forums.  I really doubt if Vinux has that much traffic.  The fact is
> that most sighted people don't know anything about the blind, don't want to
> know and don't have the interest to support the blind even if they took the
> time and effort.  There are other issues as well, such as a note on the
> Vinux site to not install any Ubuntu updates because they might break the
> speech support.  Besides the obvious issue of not gettine newer packages
> with possibly better accessibility, your system is left wide open to
> security exploits.  That was Vinux 3.X, so hopefully 4.X fixes that.  If you
> run Debian stable and choose to upgrade your packages, you won't have system
> breakage.  If you run testing and upgrade Gnome, you could lose speech, but
> that's your choice and the price you pay for running testing.  Otherwise,
> you're at the mercy of the Vinux developers to come out with a new version.
> On 2014-07-10 08:39 PM, Christopher Chaltain wrote:
>> I don't disagree with what you're saying, but I'm not sure what you mean by
>>> The other problem with a specialized
>>> Linux is the lack of support.  There are tens of thousands of Debian and
>>> Ubuntu users while there are only a few dedicated Vinux users and developers.
>> It's true there are fewer people using and developing Vinux, but all of the
>> support you get from Ubuntu also applies to Vinux. I find the answers to
>> many more questions on my system running Vinux from the Ubuntu forums than I
>> do the Vinux mailing list, wiki or IRC channel.
>> Vinux developers are just making a lot of the changes you'd be making
>> yourself on your own Ubuntu install, so in addition to being able to
>> leverage all of the support out there for Ubuntu, you also get support for
>> the changes you want to make to make your own system more accessible anyway.
>> I'm not trying to talk up Vinux at the expense of Ubuntu or Debian. Going to
>> Linux is all about choice. I just don't want people to get the impression
>> that if they choose Vinux they'll be on their own.
>> Note that this also applies to other distributions customized for the blind,
>> such as Sonar, although Sonar is moving to a Arch based distribution instead
>> of Ubuntu.
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John G. Heim, 608-263-4189, jheim at math.wisc.edu

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