Blind vs. mainstream distros

Linux for blind general discussion blinux-list at
Sat Apr 22 01:05:04 UTC 2017

My only concern with this argument is that it seems like it takes longer 
to get fixes pushed up stream then it does to spin up a custom 
distribution. It also seems to me that a lot of what's needed in a 
custom distribution is packaging and customization as opposed to 

I look at Vinux and Ubuntu as an example. It seems like Luke and the 
Vinux developers were able to get a lot more accomplished in a lot less 
time working with Vinux then they were able to do by trying to push 
things upstream in Ubuntu. Focusing on getting changes upstream, when 
there could have been a Vinux available, would have meant fewer blind 
Linux users and some of those blind Linux users would have spent more of 
their own time setting up and customizing Ubuntu and finding and 
installing accessible applications. If you think vinux users are going 
to just quit and give up when they run into a Linux issue, I'd think 
that problem would be even more prevalent if they didn't have a Vinux 
where a lot of the work was already done for them.

IMHO, I think a hybrid approach is the way to go. Build a custom 
distribution, prove that it can work, build up your blind user base and 
work to get those changes upstream. I know it seems like this is 
spreading an already thin resource even thinner, but I think it's the 
most likely road to success.

I also think that custom distributions is just part of the Linux 
ecosystem. How many custom distributions are there out there to satisfy 
every niche? I don't think this should be any different for the blind 
Linux user.

On 21/04/17 05:53, Linux for blind general discussion wrote:
> I'm changing the subject for clarity.
> On 4/18/2017 7:28 AM, John G Heim wrote:
>> I look at the debate over whether it is better to have a distro for the
>> blind or to work on improving mainstream distros like the debate over
>> barley
>> versus wheat beers. Personally, I prefer barley beers over any and all
>> wheat
>> beers. But if someone wants to brew a wheat beer, it's fine with me
>> and I'd
>> even help out if they asked. It's a matter of good and better. In other
>> words, my opinion is that even if you think it would be better if these
>> developers spent their time on mainstream distros, we should all still
>> recognize that what they are doing is really helpful.  Don't let the
>> perfect
>> be the enemy of the good.
> In principle, I agree. There will always be people who want specialized
> technology such as Braille notetakers and those who expect commercial
> technology like smartphones to work for them. However, we're talking
> about a very small user base here and even fewer developers. Taking
> myself, I'm not a developer but I consider myself an advanced user. I
> wouldn't even try to develop a distro. A talking rescue CD was hard
> enough. As I said previously, anyone can have their pet distro. If
> someone wants a special distro for the blind, go for it! The problem I
> have and the reason why I feel so strongly is because of the lack of
> qualified and blind developers.
> In other words, very few developers are blind and very few sighted
> developers know how to meet the needs of the blind. By investing the
> very limited resources of those few developers into a special distro
> used by only a very small user base, other mainstream distros lose out
> and the greater blind community doesn't benefit. As I said in my
> original mail, rather than hacking Fedora or whatever into shape, work
> with the upstream Fedora, Ubuntu, Debian etc developers. By educating a
> few, those limited resources go much further. Now, many of the sighted
> Debian developers ask if something breaks accessibility, are eager to
> fix bugs and go out of their way to make an accessible installer. The
> same can be said for Ubuntu. I found their MATE installer works fine
> with Orca and allowed me to install independently.
> As already mentioned, Talking Arch, Sonar, Vinux and Oralux all either
> crashed or gave me no sound. Not to pick on Talking Arch, but with only
> two developers working on it, it's impossible to fix bugs in a timely
> manner (their bug tracker wasn't obviously linked on at
> the time) and test lots of hardware. With Ubuntu, they have a huge list
> of already tested hardware known to work. Yes, Canonical is commercial
> as is Red Hat, but essentially we have the sighted community working for
> us. When someone tests a laptop and finds it crashes, they report a bug
> and the upstream developers fix it. When a blind person tries Vinux on
> that same hardware and it crashes, they usually give up and say Linux is
> crap. Even if they report it, again, with the very limited resources,
> it's impossible to fix. All the Talking Arch (or Arch upstream)
> developers would have to do in my case is import the fix for my sound
> card from Debian where it was fixed years ago because lots of other
> people already reported it and the ALSA upstream developers fixed it
> which was picked up by Debian and Ubuntu. Before Speakup was in staging,
> almost no major distros supported it. Debian and Slackware were the only
> major distros to offer modules compiled with the kernel. That meant that
> Debian derivatives had Speakup if they used the Debian kernel. I recall
> seeing Speakup in Ubuntu, but serial support was broken so it didn't
> matter.
> To bring this back full circle, if we had hundreds of blind developers
> like we have in Windows or on the Mac, i would totally agree with you
> and say if we want a blind-centric distro, it could help those few
> people who need or want it. However, we don't. It's like water in the
> desert. Every drop counts and is precious. What all of us really need to
> do is recruit more blind developers. That's why I say it would be far
> better for the Vinux Sonar organization to focus on working with other
> distros and upstream vendors rather than essentially reinventing the
> wheel. The difference with NVDA is it does run on Windows and has
> probably thousands more users. I would still like to see an actual
> development team for Orca rather than only a single paid developer. When
> she goes on vacation, Orca development stops. Oh yeah, she writes the
> docs and moderates the mailing list too.
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Christopher (CJ)
chaltain at Gmail

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