Sonar GNU/Linux merges with Vinux

John G Heim jheim at
Thu Mar 16 15:39:37 UTC 2017

It's funny you should say it's long overdue for there to be a blindness 
related non-profit. I was part of a group who created exactly that 
several years ago. After much discussion, we called ourselves The 
International Association Of Visually Impaired Technologists or IAVIT. 

After creating the non-profit, the real problem has been lack of 
interest in using it's resources. We are incorporated as a 501c3 in the 
USA so we can legally accept donations. We have a lawyer, a bank 
account, a paypal account at the non-profit rates, donated server space, 
etc. The entire infrastructure is there. We're just waiting for people 
to say, "Hey, I could use this or that."

On 03/16/2017 07:53 AM, 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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