Sonar GNU/Linux merges with Vinux

Christopher Chaltain chaltain at
Thu Mar 16 14:10:38 UTC 2017

I think we should work to make popular distributions accessible, and I 
think that's still the goal of the Vinux team, but I still think it 
makes sense to have custom distributions for the blind. It'll take time 
and resources to get changes pushed up stream and blind new comers to 
Linux, or even experienced Linux new comers who don't want to do all of 
the heavy lifting themselves, should have an option. There are tons of 
distributions for Linux for all sorts of niches, so I don't see an issue 
with someone working on a distribution which will have the blind user in 

I also think it's way too premature to compare Vinux to Freedom 
Scientific. First, I don't think this will ever be an issue in Linux or 
with the Vinux distribution, but even if it were, it's so far out in the 
future, I don't think we need to spend a lot of energy worrying about it 

You always have the issue with Linux and open source projects that 
people can fork something whenever they want too and go off in their own 
direction. This freedom is great, but it then fragments the resource 
pool, especially when that pool is as small as it is in the area of 
accessibility. I see this effort as positive, because at least 
temporarily, it's a pooling of resources that will allow for some 
significant advances in Linux accessibility. Someone on this team, or 
someone else, could always go off in their own direction and scratch 
their own itch whenever they want to.

On 16/03/17 07:53, Tony Baechler wrote:
> Be warned that my comments are most likely unpopular and controversial.
> See below. I'm not really interested in discussing this further, so
> don't expect a response.
> On 3/15/2017 3:30 AM, Kyle wrote:
>> Sonar merges with the Vinux Project.
> Well, this is indeed unfortunate. First, it was never said what "common
> goals" were discussed. Granted I don't closely follow either project,
> but I'm disappointed and surprised to see Vinux heading towards a Fedora
> base. Red Hat has stated many, even numerous times, both in their
> inaction and in published docs on their sites, that they have no or very
> little interest in core accessibility. Yes, I realize this list is
> hosted by Red Hat, but honestly, anyone can host a mailing list
> nowadays, so to me, that doesn't count. Look at, Yahoo Groups,
> etc. Unlike Debian, Ubuntu and Slackware, to the best of my knowledge,
> Fedora has never made their installer accessible out of the box. I
> understand that now their installer talks with Orca, but I think that's
> more by accident than anything. Fedora does claim to have accessibility
> with the Gnome desktop though, but I don't think one can easily use
> Speakup and a text console to do the install. I could very well be wrong
> on this as I quit following Fedora years ago for the above reasons.
> There were projects like Speakup Modified (now dead I think), but they
> were community projects with no support from Fedora developers.
> Presumably, since Sonar is being folded in, they will use a distro other
> than Fedora. In the long term, I think Fedora would be a very bad idea
> for many reasons which I won't go into here.
> I think it's a great idea for there to be an a11y, or even
> blindness-specific nonprofit to be formed. I would even say it's very
> long overdue. If Apache, Mozilla, the Linux kernel and many others can
> do it, there is no reason why the blind community can't. I would even
> suggest moving this and other Linux lists to that organization. Yes, I
> realize that nonprofit and not-for-profit are different. I would push to
> make it a U.S based nonprofit. Start a Kickstarter or other fundraising
> compaign. I would donate to it. As much as Facebook doesn't support
> accessibility and generally is against the open source spirit, a page on
> there, Twitter, Tumblr, etc would be a very good idea. There needs to be
> a strong publicity team to write articles for both the blindness
> magazines (ACB Braille Forum, etc) and the mainstream Linux magazines
> like LWN. Amazingly, there has been almost no mention of Speakup in the
> mainstream Linux community at all. I think a fair number of companies
> and developers don't take us seriously because they don't know we exist
> and that blind people not only can and do use computers but in fact can
> and do use Linux on a regular basis. I just got an email from someone
> asking if I'm blind, how do I read and write? There is still a huge
> amount of ignorance out there. I realize this isn't strictly a Linux
> accessibility issue, but what leads to the next great breakthrough might
> be started by a developer seeing that blind people want an accessible
> desktop like everyone else. With an actual organization, KDE could be
> pushed for accessibility and developers from the organization could
> help. In other words, not only does it need to be a nonprofit a11y
> organization who works with other developers and develops software, but
> it also needs to be an advocacy and lobbyist group to demand big and
> small companies make their software accessible.
> However, I see a huge flaw in the merger. I think we're going down the
> same path as Windows screen readers. I'm not saying that Vinux would go
> commercial. What I'm saying is I fear they would end up like a big
> company who shall remain nameless. There are other screen readers out
> there such as NVDA, but very few people take them seriously because this
> big company has almost a monopoly. Granted, Linux is still far from
> having a huge share of the market, but if it should reach the 90% or
> even 50% point some day, it would be very unfortunate for rehab agencies
> and employers to force people to use Vinux because that's the only
> specialized distro for the blind. What would be much better is to work
> with the mainstream distros like Debian and Ubuntu to fix accessibility
> problems. Ubuntu is the most popular distro on the desktop. While
> accessibility is good, it has problems. When 16.04 came out, Orca was
> broken. I believe there are only a small number (no more than a few)
> people on the accessibility team. Debian could also desperately use
> help. It would look much better for the blind community if an
> organization donated their time and talents to auditing the packages in
> Debian and either fixing those with accessibility bugs which could
> easily be fixed or working with the upstream developers, providing
> patches and consulting with them to make their packages more accessible.
> To me, it seems like a huge waste of time to put a ton of energy into
> beating Fedora, Ubuntu or whatever distro into submission and slapping a
> "Vinux" or "Sonar" label on it when that same upstream distro with very
> few tweaks could be made that way out of the box. If you absolutely must
> modify packages, desktop settings, etc from the upstream defaults, such
> as for low vision users, create a Vinux repository instead or work with
> the Ubuntu community to create an official Ubuntu flavor called Ubuntu
> VI or something. There is already a Ubuntu MATE flavor, so why not work
> with them directly? While we're at it, what about Orca? I see only one
> main paid developer working on it. I'm sure she could use some help, not
> to mention thorough testing. Getting back to the Windows screen readers,
> I fear that blind people will not be given the choice of what distro
> they want and will be locked out of mainstream use because there is
> primarily one Vinux to rule them all.
> In conclusion, I will continue not recommending any specialized distro
> to my clients and other people. I think they are almost always a
> mistake. As we have seen yet again, it does lead to fragmentation and
> generally bad luck for all concerned. I couldn't get any of them (Sonar,
> Vinux or Talking Arch) to work reliably on my 2009 machine which runs XP
> great and has a very old, well-supported standard sound card. I had to
> invent my own live / rescue CD because there wasn't anything reliable.
> Hopefully the official Debian rescue CD will have reliable speech soon.
> Something like a Vinux rescue CD would be a great idea, but not a live
> system with an unreliable graphical desktop, horrible speech (ESpeak)
> and an unreliable infrastructure which crashes for no obvious reason
> while the mainstream Debian and Ubuntu distros don't. All of that said,
> I wish both teams the best of luck and I guess we'll see what happens. I
> would only add that if you haven't taken the plunge and actually tried
> Linux, give Ubuntu MATE a try. It's fast, works well and can be
> installed independently by the blind in about an hour. It does,
> unfortunately, still use ESpeak. Getting a commercial company to release
> a decent synth as open source would be a great thing for a nonprofit to
> do, even if it required buying the rights.
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Christopher (CJ)
chaltain at Gmail

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