Hi Thomas,

Hey, were you ever on the Blind-L list by Brian Lingard?  It was for the 
discussion of dos and linux.  Not sure if the list is still around.  I haven't 
been on it for 10 years or so.


----- Original Message -----
Hi Hayden,

To start with I actually first heard about Linux while I was a student
of Wright State University around 1998 or 1999. At the time I was
taking a lot of computer science courses, and I was taking a course on
network administration as well as various programming courses.

When it comes to network servers Unix based operating systems such as
Solaris, BSD, Sco, Linux, etc out number Windows servers by a huge
margin. So obviously this network admin course I was taking was aimed
at instructing students to use Unix operating systems. Unfortunately,
the Unix labs were not eequipped for the blind, nor were most Unix
operating systems remotely accessible fora blind network admin at that
time. Obviously this could have been serious trouble for me

Fortunately, a friend of mine, a teaching assistant in the class, told
me there was a free Unixlike operating system called Linux. Besides
being free he had heard there was a blind mailing list for Linux
called blinux. So I checked it out and found out there were console
screen readers such as Speakup being developed for the Linux operating

So I downloaded a copy of Red Hat Linux 6.0, got the Speakup source
code, patched the Linux kernel, and recompiled the Red Hat kernel with
Speakup and configured it to use my Dectalk Express for speech output.
Voila, I had a completely accesssible Linux operating system, and was
able to do all the lab work using Linux. Fortunately,  it was similar
enough to the Unix operating system Wright State  was running that I
made it through the course without a hitch.

As it turned out Linux was very helpful in my programming classes as
well. For example, when I was taking a course on SQL, the Structure
Quary Language, and the class was using Oricle. Oricle is a very
popular, extremely expensive, database system used by large companies.
Unfortunately for me besides being very expensive it was also pretty
darn inaccessible using Jaws, Window-eyes, or anything else Windows
had to offer. Big problem for me.

Around that time an open source database system, MySQL, was starting
to become popular with companies and definitely with Linux
users/supporters. Unlike Oricle it was free and also quite
accesssible. So instead of logging lab time with Oricle, which sucked
accessibility wise, I could sit at home in my dorm room and practice
creating SQL databases with my good friend MySQL for Linux and the
Speakup screen reader. Once again Linux had just saved my butt in a
situation that could have gone very badly.

After leaving college I pretty much kept one Linux computer around for
odd jobs. After all I knew how to use it, and I could use it as a file
server, practice web server, setup cvs to manage source code
revisions, whatever. In other words I pretty much used at as a home
server operating system in the way I was trained to think of it while
maintaining Windows for everything else. However, all of that began to
change around 2007 after Windows Vista came out.

Early in 2007 Windows Vista was released to the mainstream market and
around the first week of February 2007 I ran out and purchasd Windows
Vista upgrades for all of our Windows XP computers. Unfortunately, at
that time Windows Vista was very unstable, crashed a lot, had several
driver problems, and ran slower than a snale on all of my computers.
While there were many things i personally liked such as improved
security, the U.I. looked nicer, etc the early releases of Windows
Vista were a host of technical problems that dramaticly detracted from
the OS. I felt, as many other people did, that Vista was released far
too soon and Microsoft was just milking the PC market prefering to
sell an unstable product based on Microsoft's name alone rather than
quality and stability.

However, I think I could have put up with the quality control issues
if Microsoft hadn't decided to outright screw me with their polacies
and hardware product activation crap. As I have mentioned before About
three or four months after I had purchased all these Vista upgrades my
wife and I moved and my desktop computer's motherboard was damaged in
the move. I had no choice but to order a new motherboard and replace
the existing one. What happened next is quite obvious.

As soon as I repaired my desktop Windows Vista told me that my product
license was invalid. Since Windows Vista uses a hardware based
authorization system my license was junk. I didn't especially like
Windows Vista trying to tell me I was running an illegal copy of
Windows, and to purchase a valid license. It was absolute bologna
because I did have a valid product license for Vista, but thanks to
Microsoft's anti-piracy schemes I was being treated like a criminal.

All the same I called Microsoft up, explained what happened, and asked
to have my authorization reset or something. No such luck. He
explained to me microsoft's polacy, and that sinceI replaced my
motherboard I needed a new product license which would cost me $225 in
addition to the paid technical support  fee. Besides the fact I needed
a totally new license Microsoft would have charged me more than what I
could get a new boxed retail copy of Vista from Wal-Mart for. To say I
was out raged wouldn't even cover it.

To make a long story short I pretty much changed operating systems
then and there because of that experience. I discovered i could no
longer personally accept or put up with that kind of treatment from
Microsoft or any company. I felt that Microsoft had gotten too ritch
and greedy through abusing their customers. They cared more about
enforcing their anti-piracy polacies than doing the right thing. My
situation was just an excuse or means of getting more money out of me,
and they obviously expected me to just roll over and cough up the
money to replace my copy of Vista. They were wrong.

Unlike there millions of other customers I had used Linux off and on
for years as a secondary operating system. Up until that day I hadn't
really considered using Linux as my primary operating system. However,
around that time Orca was just coming out and accessibility for the
Gnome desktop was rapidly getting better. So I started looking at
replacing Windows with Linux, and began moving away from Windows
products completely.

Well, earlier this year my wife's laptop got hit by a major virus
attack, and Windows got screwed up. We were going to reinstall it when
we discovered that the sticker that had her product key on it was
unreadable. Which caused a big problem. Since we couldn't reinstall
Windows without a product key and Microsoft would just charge us for a
new one we had two choices. We could run out and buy a copy of Windows
7 to reinstall her system, or we could put Linux on their and let her
try it out. After having her system screwed up with a virus and she
lost some pictures she naturally was against reinstalling Windows on
their. So we put Ubuntu Linux on their. Now, as it turns out, she
really likes Linux like i do and neither of us are really big Windows
fans any more. Too many things have happened to put faith in the
operating system or Microsoft.

So there you have it. There is my history with Linux, and the main
reason I switched is because of Microsoft's polacy of charging
customers more money to issue a new product license for doing nothing
more criminal than fixing their computer or rreplacing hardware
components which is their right. However, that is not only why I
firmly stand behind Linux and to a lesser degree Mac OS.

For one thing we have software security issues. From the beginning
Linux is a whole lot safer from viruses, worms, trojans, and other
nasty forms of malware. I'm not saying that there isn't some nasty
malware out there for Linux, but it is pretty rare. A person running
Linux today is hundreds of times less likely to be infected by a worm,
virus, or whatever than a Windows user with antivirus software etc.

Then, we have the issue of cost. Why is it that people are willing to
spend $199 for Windows 7 Home Premium, $1,000 for Jaws, another $500
for Microsoft Office, etc when you can get Ubuntu Linux 10, the Orca
screen reader, and Open Office 3.2 for free?

To my way of thinking Linux offers huge financial savings for anyone,
and more importantly to the blind. It is no secret that here in the
USA over 80% of the blind are unemployed, on  fixed incomes, and Linux
is a much better alternative from a financial perspective. The fact of
the matter is if it weren't for government agencies pitching in to
help pay for software like Jaws the average blind American couldn't
afford it. Many are lucky enough to just keep up with their SMAs, and
ocationally purchase the next Windows upgrade.

Finally, we have the issue of accessibility. Welll, there is no doubt
that Windows still has superior web access, and in some ways something
like Jaws provides better accessibility for Windows than Orca does for
Linux. However, it is also true Linux has some accessibility
improvements that kicks Windows butt. Installing Linux for example.

If you grab the Vinux 3.0 cd and let it boot Orca comes up talking
without having to  do a single thing. You can install the entire Vinux
operating system from scratch, start to finish, with speech running.
Since when can you stick the Windows XP cd or Windows 7 cd in the
drive and have it boot up talking and allow you to do a talking
install. Well, since never, because apparently Microsoft isn't
interested in having a self-voicing setup. Some Linux developers are.

So in conclusion my personal feelings about Microsoft aside there are
some other compelling reasons to use Linux these days. It is stable,
reliable, more secure, and is inexpensive too. given some time I do
believe that linux may even rival Windows in accessibility because the
people who are helping create Orca and other access technologies are
themselves blind. The Vinux operating system, a modified Ubuntu Linux
distribution, is a case in point of how blind Linux users are
dedicated to take control of accessibility issues and make it what it
can and should be. No longer are they sitting around waiting on
somebody like Microsoft or Freedom Scientific to improve accessibility
issues for them. The power is now in the hands of the average user and
not some wealthy fortune 500 company.

As a developer myself I do do admire and understand the advantages to
having an open source operating system and applications. Especially,
when it comes to accessibility. How many times have you downloaded or
tried a program that doesn't work very well with Jaws or Window-Eyes?

The true power with open source software here is that a programmer
such as myself can go to the developers website, find the original
source code, modify it with accessibility improvements, and offer the
changes to the developer for inclusion in the next release. That way I
have contributed my skills to the project, and everyone else would
directly  benefit from it. It is a cummunity effort that gets things
done rather than waiting and hoping that the company like Microsoft
gets around to maybe adding accessibility to product x.



Now if I can run Win3 under DV under Unix...

(440) 286-6920
Chardon Ohio USA
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