FYI: PinePhone community edition for Manjaro

Linux for blind general discussion blinux-list at
Wed Sep 2 01:46:43 UTC 2020

> Somebody wrote:
> Would be good to know when you get the device.

My phone is in transit (somewhere between Los Angeles and San Bruno, California) as I
write this.  In theory, I should receive it some time on Thursday.

> I was wanting to get one myself, but wasn't sure of the options for accessibility.

I don't expect the device to have any particular options for accessibility.  I can try
to evaluate and report on the physical hardware (e.g., how hard it would be for blind
users to replace the microSD card), but this is only a small part of the story.

As I detailed in my (rather long winded) note the other day, most of the accessibility
options for a mobile phone depend on the installed software: operating system, window
manager, applications, etc.  So, I'd expect the default behavior under postmarketOS to
differ quite a bit from that of Manjaro or any of the dozen or so other Linux variants
that claim to support this device.

In any case, none of these variants seems to have blind accessibility on their radar.
The closest I've found so far is Mobian, which (as a Debian derivative) may benefit
from the efforts of the Debian accessibility community.

The Linux community is famously Balkanized, with hundreds of distributions.  The blind-
friendly subset is much smaller, but still has several current variants (along with
several more that are "pining for the fjords").  These variants are distinguished by
their base distributions (e.g., Arch, Slackware), hardware platforms (e.g., ARM, Intel),
package complements (e.g., Fenrir, Orca, Speakup), etc.  

Please understand that I'm not dissing these variants, let alone their developers.  It
just makes me sad that none of them seems to have acquired any substantial user base.
Given the relatively small percentage of blind folks in the general population and the
even smaller percentage of Linux users, this seems all too predictable.  But still, the
result is that there isn't a large enough community of users to support the kind of
development and support that I'd like.  More to the point, I worry that my pipe dreams
of "cell phone Linux for the blind" could easily go in the same direction.

My _hope_ is that I can find a solid Linux variant for mobile phones, based on a popular
flavor of Linux.  Then, I can try to fold in a working set of accessibility packages,
based on the existing work of assorted current and historic distributions.  If this can
run on a large number of repurposed Android phones, it might provide a good start on a
system that blind users around the world can afford.  But, it's all SciFi at this point.

- Rich Morin, rdm at

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