Blind vs. mainstream distros

Linux for blind general discussion blinux-list at
Sun Apr 23 22:45:32 UTC 2017

# It is not the Debian philosophy. Debian does not say "older is better",
# but "stable is better", as known and we know how to deal with a
# situation. And an update is possible is if it sure it will not break
# anything in stable.

In many cases these days, since everything is a moving target, 
2-year-old packages are not simply stable, but instead are unacceptably 
old. The one case where this is different is in the enterprise and on 
servers, where really old and really stable are for some reason synonymous.
# For persons who want to get benefit from an Orca improvement in Debian
# stable, installing backport is possible. It mainly works fine, without
# problems for the OS stability.

Installing backports can help with some things, but again, it's better 
on slow-moving targets like servers. Maybe they need a later version of 
php or something, but don't need an updated kernel or system libraries. 
But backports is still another repository to install, and is still not 
kept up-to-date with the latest improvements, and is still a larger gap 
between the running version and the upstream developer, where bug 
reports are most effective. It's like trying to jump the Grand Canyon as 
opposed to jumping a pond. The goal of Vinux is to bridge the pond, not 
the canyon.

# This 6-months cycle is perfect for power-users. Not for elderly persons,
# new blind people, etc. which may be disturbed by so frequent changes and
# regressions.

Not at all. I work with regular users every day, and I can say that if 
stability can be achieved in a much shorter cycle, then it's most 
certainly better for the end user to have something that works and keeps 
working, given the opportunity to keep it running longer than 6 months 
if desired, than to have to wait for beneficial changes to filter down 
over a two-year-plus release cycle. I must say that I have never even 
once recommended Debian Stable to a new client, because it's simply too 
old, and there's too much work to try to do to make it newer. Likewise, 
I've never even once recommended Debian Testing or Unstable to any end 
user, because those truly are for power users, even more than Arch, 
which I have actually had non-power users working with quite 
successfully, as I did an OEM-style installation, and the OS pretty much 
takes over at that point, with only about 5 things that have required 
user intervention in the past 6 years. That's an average minor breakage 
once a year as opposed to a complete reinstall every 2 years. And who is 
to say that having to upgrade every 6 months is less painful than 
upgrading every two years, especially if the process is made painless 
enough? People now expect more and more frequent updates, as provided by 
the #1 mobile operating system in the world, (Android), and even 
ChromeOS on the Chromebook line of computers, and yes, even on Apple and 
Microsoft devices, all of which require a restart to update, and that 
full system upgrade now for the most part gets installed fully after 
that device is restarted. In fact, these kinds of things are not 
specific to power users, but are now expected, generating complaints 
from the average user if the system isn't updated frequently enough. 
Additionally, at least with Fedora, the release cycle may be 6 months, 
but the end user also has the option to keep the release for 13 months, 
skipping an upgrade if desired.

# I don't forget that LibreOffice has not been accessible since 4.2.6,

Is that a typo? I'm running 5.2.6 here, which is the "still" version 
that is the stable release. It's only 5.3.x "fresh" that is known to 
have showstopping bugs that make it less than accessible, and it is 
hoped that those will be fixed before 5.3.x becomes "still." That said, 
I feel 4.2.6 must be a typo, as I have used many versions since then, 
all of which have been accessible except the 5.3.x "fresh" branch.

# the a11y stack in GNOME has sometimes bugs if release of each lib is 
not exactly the same.

Which is exactly why all versions of libs must indeed be exactly the 
same, which is where Debian completely fell flat for me, requiring my 
switch to Ubuntu, and then to Arch. Debian Stable was entirely too old, 
and Testing and Unstable had too much breakage, with too many libs being 
of too many different versions to fit together properly, as for one 
reason or another, not every upstream lib was taken into the unstable or 
even the experimental repository at anything close to the same time, 
making it necessary to find a newer distro that kept the entirety of 
GNOME for example in sync with the rest of the packaged release.

# And upgrading each 6 months requires some skills, standalone, and not 
all users have it. And
# opposing power users of free shftware with beginners with Apple or 
Microsoft programs is not my
# dream, even today.
Nor is it mine. Which is exactly why I prefer the likes of Fedora and 
OpenSUSE over Debian or even Arch. I have installed both Fedora and 
OpenSUSE for clients, and they never have any trouble. And I'm not sure 
exactly what OpenSUSE is doing about the upgrade deal these days, but I 
have seen where Fedora is making system upgrades much easier than they 
have ever been in the past. OpenSUSE does have one important feature 
that I haven't seen in Fedora, Debian or Arch though, and that is the 
YAST control panel. It offers graphical configuration tools to do just 
about everything imaginable on the system, so people who are not power 
users can also perform system maintenance far more easily. I don't 
believe they intend to remove any of these tools any time soon, making 
it perhaps even better for the average basic user even than Fedora. And 
yes, most if not all these tools are fully accessible to the screen 
reader, or at least they were about 2 years ago when I installed it 
last, and that has most likely improved since then.

Regarding upgrades requiring skill, I think Fedora has done the best job 
thus far making each system upgrade as painless as possible for anyone 
to achieve, and even allowing the user to skip if desired. So if Debian 
doesn't provide such an option, or if the end user has to fiddle around 
in /etc/apt/sources.list or to reinstall the OS even once every two 
years, then the upgrade process is not for the average user and should 
be avoided.

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