State of Access to Linux (fwd)

Jacob Schmude jacobs at
Sat Jun 17 18:45:49 EDT 2000

Hello Kelly
	Your questions were forwarded to the speakup list and I'm going to
try to answer them as best I can. I've been using linux for about ayear
and a half as an end-user platform, so my comments are based on my
experiences with the OS. My replies are after each of your questions.

> My main understanding is that the best access solution to Linux comes from
> the Emacspeak product.  Further I believe that this is a sort of extension
> to the main Emacs program.  Finally I believe that Emacs itself is a sort
> of hybrid of utilities, like much in the Linux/Unix world, where Emacs
> itself has several utility programs that give the core program assorted
> capabilities e.g. web browsing, email and alike.  All this leads me to
> conclude that when it comes to Linux, if it can't be run inside of Emacs,
> then you can't really use it.
> How accurate is this picture?  If my description is accurate, exactly what
> can and can't one do with this combination?
	First of all, I don't believe emacspeak is the best. You're
correct in all your assumptions. If it can't be run inside emacs, you
cannot use it. Furthermore, many things that can be run inside emacs don't
work with it, such as the telnet mode. I've never been able to get good
help from people who use it, so I could be overlooking something. I
stopped using it a while ago, and wouldn't really recommend it to anyone
anymore. There's important things that will not run inside emacs.

> If my description is inaccurate, again something I'm freely admitting it
> could be, what's the model here?  Is Emacspeak like a Windows screen reader
> in that once it is installed any program, assuming accessible techniques
> were used, will speak?
	No. Only programs written in emacs lisp will speak if emacspeak
supports them. This is one of those models where a configuration has to be
built for each and every application, and it's done by programming in
emacs lisp. And I thought jaws scripting was difficult! Packages that
don't have a configuration extension generally will not speak well.

> With respect to Emacspeak how complicated is it to get things up and
> running.  The few times I explored things, the process of installation and
> such seemed complicated and resembled more what I have to do when using my
> shell account and want to install software for myself i.e. for the average
> user it is a lot more technically involved.  What speech synthesis options
> are supported?
	It's like a shell account, but you install things as root. Linux
is a varient of unix, and shell accounts use unix. It's not that hard and
really is fairly easy. The documentation isn't that great, but it's not
that bad either.
	Emacspeak supports ViaVoice Outloud (AKA eloquence), and the
dectalk pc, express, and multivoice out of the box. There's a emacspeak-ss
package which adds support for the accent SA, apollo external,
braille&speak, doubletalk pc and lt, and the transport from artic.

> What other access solutions exist for Linux?  I have read about a couple I
> believe but don't really know much about them at all.
	There's screader, svlpro (currently under a total rewrite and not
available), yasr, and my favorite, speakup. Screader has some odd reading
behaviors, such as only reading the current line. Speech synth specific
stuff like rate and pitch are not yet implemented, and the speech won't
shut up when you hit the command. It uses every possible alt-key
combination on the keyboard and lacks a pass-through key. SVLPRO is
currently under total rewrite to make it work as a kernel extension and
isn't currently available to the public. Yasr works well if you don't want
to bother with kernel compilation. The key layout is similar to
vocal-eyes. It supports the dectalks, braille&speak, speakout, and the
doubletalks though they don't seem to work correctly. My personal favorite
is speakup. It goes right into the kernel of the OS, giving you total
speech feedback from boot-up to shutdown. Recompiling the kernel isn't
that hard, and there are already pre-compiled kernels for several
distributions of linux. The zipspeak distribution comes with speakup
already built in. The key layout is similar to ASAP for dos. It supports
the doubletalks, the braille&speak, the speakout, the audapter, the apollo
II, the accent PC, the accent SA, the dectalk express, the old original
dectalk, and the artic transport. It has synth-specific stuff like rate,
pitch, and volume and is responsive to shut-up commands, at least with the
doubletalk I have. It gives you access to every text-based
application. I've never encountered one I couldn't use with speakup. It
currently doesn't contain any things such as windows around specific
portions of the screen, but in linux you really don't need that. I'm using
it to write this message now, as a matter of fact.

> What am I not asking about that I should be?
	Speech access to the GUI. There's no access program for the X
window system, which means that you won't be able to use any of the
graphical applications like netscape or wordperfect.


	I hope this helps you out.

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