the direction of speakup

John G. Heim jheim at
Wed May 8 13:38:39 EDT 2013

As far as I can tell, there is no more solid screen reader in the world 
than speakup.  For code that is supposedly such a mess, it sure works. 
There was that bug where it couldn't start talking to synths on the 
serial port. But I don't think that bug came as a result of some 
mistake. I think it was introduced during an attempt to make the kernel 
developers happy.

So  I wouldn't refute your assertion that speakup is way more solid than 
orca. But I certanly haven't had anywhere near as much trouble with orca 
as you have.  I use it all day every day on everything from Dell servers 
to machines I built myself. I'm no orca expert either but maybe that's 
the trick. I have always just used the orca packages in debian.  I 
probably haven't tried to build it from source for 5 or 6 years.

So I'll admit that I can't say for sure that orca is stable enough to 
work as an alternative to speakup in user space.  From my experience, 
that is certainly true.

But I'll admit I might have a different opinion if we were a Red Hat
On 05/08/13 11:45, Martin G. McCormick wrote:
> 	This is a tough issue as I spend much of my day in the
> command-line world and I do not disagree with your basic
> statement about needing a GUI, these days even though it is more
> of a ball and chain than a helpful tool. It's like a sore knee
> or a backache. Nature usually fixes those in time, but the GUI
> devours resources and there is always that one last problem that
> keeps it from working right.
> 	I have both a Macintosh for the GUI and I use speakup
> under Debian wheezy with lynx and nmh under FreeBSD for mail.
> This last bit has nothing to do with screen readers but mh or
> the package now known as nmh breaks the email process in to
> small modules that allow one to automate different parts of the
> mail process. Part of my job is building automation that sends
> messages to others when various things happen so the use of nmh
> is a choice.
> 	I have yet to get orca working on any system I use or
> have access to. One such system is a Pentium4 running at 2.7 GHZ
> and there is a gigabyte of RAM sitting there but there is
> something in the BIOS that seems to know when I want to install
> the latest ubuntu or Debian that might open up the world of
> gnome and orca and the system figures out some clever way to
> fail.
> 	By the way, speakup works beautifully on this system in
> a command line console but The only time I ever heard orca talk
> was on an obsolete version of ubuntu 9.0 which played for
> sometimes an hour or so and sometimes a few seconds and then
> would crash.
> 	You are correct in that basically, the speech process
> needs to be separate from just about everything except the power
> supply in order to hear the system start up from black.
> 	A Unix kernel is the master process and everything else
> that happens on your system is spawned as a subprocess of the
> master. Would it be possible to have a kernel equipped with
> speakup spawn the rest of one's system as if it was a virtual
> system? That could take care of the I/O.
> 	I used a hardware speech synthesizor for about 20 years
> along with Kermit and DOS and a screen reader I wrote to
> terminate and stay resident in MS-DOS so all my Unix boxes were
> originally configured for a RS-232 console. That was back when
> mother boards had RS-232 ports.
> 	You've really got to separate the speech or Braille
> output from the rest or it will always bite you.
> 	Speakup should go in a sort of pre-kernel and that would
> let you operate the real system in single-user mode, listen to
> kernel messages and do all those things we should do if we are
> to call ourselves Unix administrators.
> Martin
> "John G. Heim" writes:
>> I totally disagree. Speakup has little purpose except for the fact that it
>> runs in kernel space. First of all, there are other screen readers for
>> user
>> space. And you really need a GUI these days. I suppose there are people
>> using speakup all day every day. Mutt for email, lynx or edbrowse for the
>> web.
>> But I'm sure the vast majority of linux users use orca for every day
>> tasks.
>> The most important feature for speakup is to bail you out when you are
>> really in trouble because your server is down. I don't know what you do
>> for
>> a living but I do systems admin and I cannot live without speakup in
>> kernel
>> space. About the only thing that I can think of that is equivalent to
>> simply plugging in a hardware synth and getting boot messages would be
>> setting up something like a Raspberry Pie to boot into kermit and display
>> serial console messages. But it wouldn't be the same because you'd need a
>> keyboard for the RPI. I don't know -- when a server is down, the last
>> thing
>> I want to do is mess with all that stuff. I just want to plug in the
>> hardware speech synth and press the print screen key.
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John G. Heim, 608-263-4189, jheim at

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