Blind vs. mainstream distros

Linux for blind general discussion blinux-list at
Sun Apr 23 05:29:46 UTC 2017

Yes, I totally agree with this.
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Email: r.d.t.prater at
Long days and pleasant nights!

Linux for blind general discussion <blinux-list at> writes:

> 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
> programming.
> 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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