Hi Tom,
Well, Linux is definitely at the point that a blind user could
technically adopt it as his or her only operating system. I generally
use Ubuntu Linux 8.04 much more than Windows Vista or XP these days.
Thanks to major accessibility improvements to the graphical Gnome
desktop environment over the passed five years there is quite a growing
number of Windows-like applications available to a blind Linux user such
as: a MS Office clone called Open Office, a MS Outlook clone called
Evolution, Mozilla Firefox 3.0, a notepad clone called gedit, a Winzip
clone called File-Roller, etc.
However, like a lot of blind Linux users I do keep a Windows computer on
hand for a few apps that I can't either get for Linux or the Windows
applications are just nicer to use. For example, Linux doesn't really
currently offer a really good OCR package. There are a few OCR programs
such as tesserad-ocr which works, but Openbook 8 blows it away in
scanning clarity, with its scan and read features, etc. On a low budget
PC something like Tesserad-ocr and a Linux compatible scanner will work.
However, Openbook is certainly prefered if you have the money to spend
for it. Since I already own a license for Openbook 8 I don't  have any
problems keeping a Windows work station around for scanning materials.
Another application I use on Windows is Sony Soundforge 9. While there
is a pretty decent sound editor for Linux, Audacity, it isn't Soundforge
quality. As agame designer and musician I want the best and most
accessible sound editing software possible. So that expensive software
alone is one reason I keep Windows around rather than using a Linux
alternative at this time.
Finally, there is the issue of accessible gaming. Most of the new games
coming out are Windows only such as the Kitchens Inc games, GMA Games,
Shades of Doom, etc. That puts a Linux user in the position of trying to
get wine, the Windows emulator, to run them, use avirtual machine, or
keepp a Windows box around for gaming. That isn't to say gaming on Linux
is non-existant.
Most of the Adrift 4.0 games can be played with scare 3.9 and later.
They are fairly accessible, and many Linux gaming hours have been spent
playing The PK Girl and other Adrift games.
Also there is a Linux port of fritz. Once you apt-get it from the Ubuntu
update service you can play the inform interactive fiction games. So
between scare and fritz that gives a Linux user several text adventures
to play.
The latest release of gnome-mud seams to be quite accessible and user
friendly. You can play Diskworld, Alter Eon, Miriani, or any other mud
using gnome-mud.
Then, there is your web based games like Sryth. I've found it tricky to
play using Firefox for Linux, but can be done. I haven't tried other
games besides Sryth, but generally if they work with Firefox for Windows
you can play them in Firefox for Linux too.
As you might have read I am rewriting all of my games with a new
multiplatform engine so I can enjoy them on a Mac, Linux, or Windows PC.
I've come to relise that far too many developers are so dependant on
Windows only technologies most don't even know how to break loose from
it and take a wider view of the computing world. Microsoft, the evil
empire, while not a monopoly per say, still holds a solid 80% of the
software market. That is too bad, because for ablind user Mac OS and
Linux are a much cheaper alternative. Since the screen readers come
built into the operating systems that is $300 per year you could save
instead of paying for a yearly SMA on your Windows screen reader.
The office software I use, Open Office 2.4 for Linux, came pre-installed
with Ubuntu 8. It can import and export Word and Excel files, and cost
me nothing to own. That is sure better than paying $450 USD for MS
Office 2007 Pro. That again is money I could spend on other things.
Over the passed year after seeing how much money I was personally
spending to keep my Windows  computers operating, and getting stuck with
lots of anti-piracy restrictions on top of it. Especially, when my
motherboard failed, and Microsoft told me point blank to buy a new copy
of Vista I said, "to heck with that crap." I legally paid for that
software, but because Vista's anti-piracy software saw the new hardware
installed it told me I was pirating it, and that wasn't true. In the end
Microsoft believed their software instead of me.
So for me using Linux is my choice to get away from all that corperate
mentality that everyone has millions of bucks to blow, that the software
has to come with lots of anti-piricy protection, and to top it of when
Vista was first released it didn't even have a complete driver library
and bugs up the rear. So I feel why pay x money when there is an os that
has better stability, reasonable accessibility, and most of the programs
I need are for free. In fact, this message was written in Evolution for

Tom Randoll Wrote:
> Hey thanks for this Thomas, this ought to be handy as I am considering
> setting up my spare box as a Linux machine.  It would be interesting to
> know if there are folks out there particularly blind ones who are just
> running Linux.  What I tend to find with the people that I know around
> here who run it is that they tend to have a Linux system and a windows
> system or two partitions on the same system.  This is because they want
> to run Linux when they can and they need to have windows to run a
> specific application or do something that can't be done very well in
> Linux.  Now that I think of it I believe that you fall into that camp
> yourself if memory serves.  So what if anything do you find Windows to
> be indispensable for?  I have personally become so disgusted with
> Microsoft's policies and lack of quality control that when the stuff I
> have will no longer run I will probably be looking for a serious
> alternative to Windows.
> Best regards,
> Tom

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