Hi Michael,

Michael wrote:
       Eventually you guys are gonna wake up and smell the roses and
realize that Linux is the only market out there that's even trying to
make their system fully accessible.

My reply:

Well, as an avid Linux user myself I do agree with you that in terms
of low-cost accessibility Linux is the way to go. However, I would not
go as far to say it is the only market or operating system that is
trying to make their operating system fully accessible. I have used
several different operating systems, and most of the Unix-based
operating systems FreeBSD, Linux, Solaris, have fairly decent
accessibility right out of the box. Of course, Solaris is primarily
for businesses, but there is no reason you couldn't use it at home on
a PC. Same goes for FreeBSD. I've actually used a Solaris workstation
via the Gnome desktop, Orca screen reader, and in terms of accessible
apps it has pretty much everything Linux has. The Sun Java desktop and
Staroffice Sweit makes it a great business platform, and it is
certainly possible to get accessible multimedia software too.

Then, of course, there is Mac OS. I don't know if you have looked at
what Mac is doing, but every time Apple updates Mac OSX VoiceOver and
the general accessibility of the OS itself continues to improve. It
has great software TTS voices, much better than Eloquence or ESpeak,
and most additional voices for the OS are pretty affordable. If
someone is willing to pay the upfront cost of the hardware like a
MacBook Pro or something you definitely end up saving money in the
long run, because you don't have to pay for screen reader SMAs etc.

At any rate you are right about one thing. Windows isn't the only
market in town for a blind computer user, and it is actually the least
affordable and in some ways least accessible of the three choices. The
only reason people continue to hang onto it is because that's what the
state agencies buy, that's what they are taught to use, and they don't
want to have to reinvest time and money into a different technology.

Michael wrote:

You can't even use it to go on the web to find something better like
You can't even use Narrator to help you install Windows, unlike
Linux, which has many distributions with accessible installation setups.

My reply:

Definitely true. One of the reasons I personally made the switch from
Windows to Linux was for that very reason. I've had some horror
stories where my Windows OS got messed up, wouldn't boot for some
reason, and I had to find sighted help to help me reinstall it. With
Linux that is no longer the case. If I want to reinstall the OS,
upgrade the system, install a brand new hard drive it is a snap. Just
insert the Linux cd, select the talking installation, format the
drive, install it, and in about 45 minutes or less I have a freshly
installed OS from scratch with absolutely no outside help.  Mac OSX
also has this feature as well. The days of having to find sighted help
or use an unattend script are history with those operating systems.

Michael wrote:
       The developers of the Orca screen reader for the Linux GUI have
also come a long way. I only have a monitor still, because I only
occasionally need sighted assistance for something, and with a little
scripting in a few other languages, they're working on supporting it
all, and they're not charging anyone a cent.

My reply:

Yep. I use Orca all the time and it is a fairly decent screen reader
for what it does. One of the things I like is because it is written in
Python it is easy to add your own modules, AKA scripts, to extend
screen reader functionality to support appplications. Unlike Jaws,
which has a proprietary scripting language, Orca is open source, well
documented, so scripting Orca is extremely simple to learn and use.
I've been able to make Orca do all kinds of awesome things through
scripting. At one time I built a custom build of Orca that used
Window-Eyes keyboard commands since that is the screen reader I use on
Windows. It was a simple update and allowed me to essentually make a
seamless transition from Windows to Linux. If I wanted too I could
have mapped the keyboard to Jaws commands, Hal, or anything else. This
is the power of open accessibility products and standards you don't
generally get on a closed source platform like Windows.

Michael wrote:

When I hear you folks discussing writing for other platforms, I can only wonder
how insane it all sounds.  If you want to pick up your brooms and
continue sweeping up the sighted community's messes, feel free.  We
Linux converts will just sit back and laugh and shake our heads.

My reply:

I have to say it, but I think it is exactly that sort of superior
attitude that drives people away from Linux. One of the reasons I say
that is because when talking to someone about an operating system, any
operating system, it is more fair/realistic to give people both sides
of the story. Like not only talk about what is so great about it, but
give them a realistic expectation of some of the faults too. Linux
like everything else has its share of faults.

For example, do to the open source nature of the operating system
things such as commercial plugins for avi files, mp3s, quicktime
files, etc have to be downloaded separately under a different license
agreement. You can't just take a stock freshly installed Linux distro
and play a dvd movie or mp3 file. You have to use a package tool like
apt-get or yum to install any and all media plugins to get this stuff
to work. Some people find this something of a hastle. I find it
something of an unnecessary step myself.

With a Windows OCR program like Openbook 9 if you scan a book, and the
page is upside down, the program is smart enough to rotate the image
before processing it. With Simple Scan OCR for Linux if you accidently
scan the page upside down that's how it will try and read it. Even if
you have the page up it makes a lot more errors than Openbook 9. If
someone has to do a lot of scanning OpenBook or K1000 for Windows is a
better option. For casual scanning Simple Scan is alright, but not the
best choice.

If you are a musician the audio editors etc really aren't that hot. I
still haven't found anything for Linux comparable to Soundforge,
Cakewalk, and Sonar. Since I am a musician myself, love to record my
own music I find this a major disappointment in the operating system.
Well, less with the OS itself, but but what accessible sound
engineering tools are available for the platform.

Basically, what I'm saying in a nutshell is not everything is rosy.
Windows still has advantages over Linux in some areas, and it is
always a good thing to keep that in mind. It is a bit arrogant to
laugh at someone who may have to use Windows for perfectly good
reasons. I myself use both because Linux doesn't provide everything i
need, and since I'm a game developer I can't sell my games to a
Windows market, which is 99% of this list, unless I create games for
Windows. As I recall you yourself have a Linux and a Windows computer
the same as I do. Isn't that sort of like the pot calling the kettle


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