Blind vs. mainstream distros

Linux for blind general discussion blinux-list at
Sat Apr 29 10:54:04 UTC 2017

Tony Baechler here.

On 4/28/2017 6:20 AM, Linux for blind general discussion wrote:
> Now that I think about it, I have no idea what the mixture of "blind
> from birth/a young age" and "blinded as an adult" is on this list, and
> I would imagine these groups would have very different perspectives. I
> myself was blinded in the right eye before I could form memories, but
> my left eye was good enough for anything short of driving until I was
> 25, and best I can tell, the biggest loss from lacking binocular
> vision is not being able to bring magic eye pictures into focus and
> having to watch 3D movies in 2-D.

I was born blind. I still remember my first exposure to computers. My very 
first machine was some kind of Atari which didn't talk but had a few games 
with sound. My first real computer was an Apple II+. I remember the thrill 
and amazement of booting the machine for the first time and actually having 
speech. I could actually do things on the computer. I could write letters, 
do homework assignments, etc. I spent many hours playing on first the II+ 
and later the IIe.

> using. If anything, I would expect someone who has been using Windows
> since the 9x days and suddenly found themselves blinded would be even
> more reluctant to give Linux a fair chance than the sighted Windows
> user, probably feeling that learning to use Windows with a screen
> reader and without a monitor is a big enough challenge.

That's why I push so hard for Ubuntu MATE. It's as much like XP or 9X as 
you're going to get. It has the equivalent of a Start Menu, Windows 
Explorer, desktop, etc. There is still a learning curve, but not much. The 
main thing I had to learn is which keys do what. Then again, I used 9X and 
XP for years. For a brand new Linux user coming from even Windows 7, I think 
MATE is a good starting point. For a brand new computer user, I don't think 
it matters as it's all new anyway. One nice thing about young minds is 
they're very adaptable and don't mind learning different interfaces. I 
remember going from the Apple II to DOS. It was hard to learn, but I knew 
enough from ProDOS to adapt. Learning Vocal-Eyes was harder than anything. 
Going from DOS to Windows 3.1 was frustrating. I couldn't figure out what I 
was doing and Window-Eyes 1.0 was crap. It ran incredibly slowly and locked 
up a lot, to the point that I had better luck without speech. Moving to 9X 
was relatively easy, especially since it still had a command prompt. Moving 
to XP was the most painless of all as it worked almost the same way as 9X at 
an interface level. I've used Win7 before, but not anything newer. I first 
found it a pain, but after turning off indexing and going back to the 
classic view, it wasn't too bad. I have no idea how I'll deal with Win10, 
but I have a few years before I have to worry about it. Hopefully I'll be 
fully on Linux by then and it won't matter, but there are still those 
programs which only work in Windows.

> Though, a thought occurred to me regarding helping new blind linux
> users learn the ropes, and it's something non-devs could contribute
> to. How feasible would it be to produce a CD-length audio tutorial
> that could be shipped along side install media for either a blind
> customized distro or the talking version of a mainline distro?

I've thought of this a lot. This is something I really want to do. There is 
a very great, desperate need for this. The problems I ran into are:

1. Money. People want to be paid. Even if you get volunteers, you have 
production costs, like CD manufacture, shipping, packaging, Braille labels, 
etc. Without the funding, I don't see it going very far. I was going to pay 
out of my own money, but I obviously have to make back my investment. There 
isn't much insentive for people to buy such a thing, first because of the 
open source nature of Linux but also because there is the chicken and egg 
problem. Do they try Linux first and buy the tutorial or do they take a 
chance on buying the tutorial and see if they want to try Linux? You have to 
at least give away part of it, or as you say, put it on YouTube.

2. To do it right, you need professionals who know what they're doing and 
good audio equipment. Someone at home with a cheap microphone doesn't sound 
good. Frankly, it sounds like exactly what it is, someone sitting at home 
with a cheap microphone. I've heard lots of those before. It takes lots of 
time and energy to produce it, edidt out mistakes, normalize the volume, do 
noise reduction and post production. We're talking about either a recording 
studio or someone with professional audio software. I have Sound Forge and I 
could do it, but see point #1 above.

3. There are political issues, rights issues and royalties. I was going to 
work with Kyle, but he would only do it if it was public domain. Obviously, 
I can't do that or I would lose my shirt. I could revert the rights to him 
after two years, but I have to sell enough to make back my investment. If I 
commission someone to do it and they want the rights, obviously I don't want 
them and I both selling it. I'm putting out a fairly large amount of money. 
Therefore, the conclusion I came to is either I have to do it myself, I have 
to wait until I'm wealthy and can afford to give it away or give up. For 
now, I've given up, but I think it's essential in the long term. I haven't 
even addressed who would produce the lessons, if it would be scripted, how 
many hours, what distros, if it would be shipped with new computers, etc.

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