Accessible Distros for a beginner?

Linux for blind general discussion blinux-list at
Fri Aug 21 15:08:41 UTC 2020

I feel like the criticisms leveled against Debian here are a bit unfair.

Yes, Debian Stable is rather out of date by the middle of Debian's
development cycle, but the same can be said of ubuntu LTS and pretty
much every other LTS edition of a distro that offers an LTS release.
And that comparison is probably the most important thing to remember
about Debian stable: What Debian calls Stable, just about any other
distro would call LTS.

Debian Testing, while not fully up-to-date, generally has the latest
stable release of most actively maintained packages, and sometimes
even release candidate or solid beta versions. If there's a newer
version and it's not in testing, usually it's either completely new or
unstable stumbled upon a release critical bug(e.g. Orca 3.36.4 never
made it to Testing due to the breakage it caused, but Testing now has
Orca 3.36.5). I'm pretty sure Debian actively discourages people from
running Testing on production workstations, but my experience back
when I used Vanilla Debian and upgrading everything
non-Knoppix-specific to the version provided by Testing on my
Knoppix-based setup suggests Testing is, on average, at least as
stable as many STS releases of other distros, a sentiment I've heard
echoed by many other Debian Testing users...

And while it's a bit more advanced, though still infinitely easier
than compiling everything yourself, you can have both stable and
testing in your sources.list, set stable as the default release, and
then manually upgrade just select packages to their Testing version,
which will only upgrade other packages if the testing version of the
selected package depends on a newer version. This method also leaves
open an easy downgrade path if a new version does break
something(though again, if the package was already sourced from
testing, and there's a broken upgrade, you might be downgrading
further than the previous testing version).

Debian Unstable is where you start risking random package upgrades
breaking important stuff, and even then, my ventures into Debian
Unstable have been smoother than what I remember from running Ubuntu
Unstable back in the day or with Windows 98 or vanilla XP before I
freed myself from Microsoft's shackles.

If there was an official Debian package for SBL and switching from
espeakup to SBL as the default console screen reader was as simple as
install SBL, run a script that makes it the default, and reboot and I
could figure out how to launch Firefox+Orca as a stand-alone
application without the need for a full desktop, I'd switch back to
Vanilla Debian in a heartbeat... though I'd probably still keep a DVD
of the latest Knoppix configured to boot in Adriane by default around
as a rescue disc(unless someone has a better suggestion for a Live
environment to boot up and use partimage from for backing up and
restoring images of a root partition).

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