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Re: Fwd: Iggdrasil, a new amazing screenreader

I've been following this sometimes-difficult discussion intently
as it goes to the heart of what computer users who happen to be
blind deal with on a daily basis especially when things go wrong.
How much insult can your working environment take before you
simply can't rescue what's there without either blowing the whole
thing away for a fresh install, getting somebody sighted to watch
the screen at 3:00 on a Sunday morning while you poke around,
trying to get the system to boot again.

	We've got the same darn problem today that I first
encountered the first time I ever laid hands on a microcomputer
which was in 1977 or so.

	I got to go to a presentation by the University of
Houston, Clear Lake City which was given at Oklahoma State
University.  I was a graduate student then and one of my
advisors got me a ticket to attend.

	My knowledge then was severely limited to say the least
and I even remember asking the professor who gave the
demonstration whether this 6800-base microcomputer was actually
connected to a big main-frame on campus or if it was the whole

	He was very nice about it all and said it was the whole
computer, not connected to anything else.

	The box probably had only a few KB of ram in it, 8 big
toggle switches across the front of it and probably a pair of
7-segment LED readouts for the display.

	No!  It wasn't accessible but it could have been made
that way if someone connected an extra device to the
seven-segment display drivers.

	It's the same darn problem we have now only in it's
nascent form.  If only we could just read what those LED readouts

	Of course, I knew nothing about computers at that moment
except that you could get them to play music, run machines and
even talk if they were powerful enough and programmed by people
who were smart at their jobs.

	In 1965 or so, I heard a radio program in which a Bell
Labs computer had been programmed to sing "A Bicycle Built for Two"

in a male voice that sounded unearthly but was understandable.

	In High school, a teacher played that same Bell Labs
computer singing "A Bicycle Built for two" with a musical
accompaniment of electronic notes along with the voice.

	I wondered at the time how does one do that?

	So basically, electronic computers that can talk and or
print Braille have been around in industrial systems for over
sixty years and the problem is still that they have tremendous
potential but it doesn't come by accident.  Somebody has to
deliberately decide to solve a specific problem and whether that
solution fits in such a way as to solve other problems, is almost
an accident if it does.

	We still have this fixation on a visual readout as being
the sole way to peek inside the operation of the system and
absolutely 0 alternative methods to do so or to put it another
way, there is no Plan B and it's an utter shock when you raise
the issue.  Imagine, as a small child, being told that the stove
is hot but giving your hand a third-degree burn every day because
one insists on touching the stove even though the outcome is
quite predictable.  We would call that mental illness anywhere
else because most of us don't like being burned so tend to
remember how we got that way and we figure out to, dare I say it?, 
learn to use the mitt to pickup the hot pan and not have to go to
the emergency room every day for the same reason.

	One day, we may have a video evaluation device that
connects where a monitor does, reads the screen via OCR plus
looks for a cursor blinking away somewhere on the screen and
gives us the functional equivalent of a screen reader or
talking/Braille monitor but until that day happens, it's a
chicken-and-egg situation.

	We need the computer running for the screen reader to
work and we need a running computer to produce speech or Braille, period.

	This problem will persist in almost it's original form as
long as Speech/Braille is an afterthought and the full system
must be running for this afterthought to actually work.

	I have tasted what life could be like with such an
interface when I bought a device that takes VGA output and turns
it in to web cam video and feeds it in to a USB port on a
computer equipped with the appropriate driver.

	I used Tesseract which is an open-source OCR application
developed by several blue-chip companies and was able to read the
output of a few PC's that have VGA ports on them.  I got
letter-perfect text and could almost have used this setup as a
screen reader except for the fact that the video constantly
changes and the system would have to continuously stream the video
in order to even begin to function like a screen reader.

	This would truly be a game changer but that may be what
we need to hopefully be talking about something other than
repeating the same discussion which has been going on way too

	Don't misunderstand me.  I am not criticizing anybody's
position, here, but am stating what the real problem boils down

	The good news is that it is doable but the bad news is
that it is complex but when it ever gets done, a lot of the same
old stuff we've been talking about when I got in to computeing
back in 1979 and earlier for others of you will hopefully be an
unpleasant memory like walking barefoot five miles to school
up-hill in the snow and somehow walking 5 miles up-hill again
barefoot back home.  I get it.  They moved the hill during the day
so it was up-hill both ways.

	I like a good snappy console screen reader that responds
quickly and helps me trouble-shoot when things go South but there
is a good argument for a good graphical interface screen reader
too.  Nobody should have to choose these days.

	Martin McCormick

Jeffery Mewtamer <mewtamer@gmail.com> writes:
> Sorry if anyone gets this message twice, I got tripped up by the
> default reply to being a choice between the last respondant and
> everyone instead of something sensible like "just the list".
> I might have missed some details on account of several people quoting
> huge chunks of the conversation and their short replies getting lost
> in the quote walls(a string of natural 1s upon whoever thought quoting
> the entirety of the last message should be the default when replying
> to e-mail), but some of my thoughts on what has been said:
> Jordan, I don't like to call people out by name, but while I feel like
> everyone else in this thread has expressed their opinions in a way
> that is respectful to others, your comments have come across as you
> stating opinions as fact and that anyone who disagrees is an idiot. I
> hope that isn't how you intended your comments to come across and have
> just fallen into the trap of things sounding harsher in text than when
> spoken, but please try to be more respectful to those who prefer a
> different Linux setup from your own. And for the record, I'm a fan of
> Debian as well, and if not for a few things, I'd happily switch to a
> vanilla Debian setup instead of running  a highly customized
> derivative. That Debian "just works" for you is great, but it doesn't
> "Just Work" for me and there are others in the same boat. And I don't
> think anyone wants you to go back to Windows, we just don't want to
> feel like we're being insulted for thinking Debian isn't perfect and
> not all other distros are garbage. Again, I hope I just grossly
> misreading your comments, but that's how you've been coming across and
> I don't think I'm alone iin that.
> As to the original topic, my only real complaint with Orca is that its
> written in Python and the overhead that introduces, and Yggdrasil
> being written in Rust doesn't really address that since it's trading
> an interpreted language I'm at least somewhat familiar with with one I
> know absolutely nothing about. Honestly, I'd be more interested in a
> project to rewrite Orca in C++ with a goal of improving performance on
> weak hardware, but I understand the reasons that is unlikely to ever
> happen and that I'm unusual for being so young yet finding C++ less
> frustrating to write code in than Python.
> Also, isn't Debian 10.1 a very old version at this point? I don't
> always keep the correspondence between version numbers and codenames
> straight, but didn't Debian 11 become stable several months ago at
> this point? And I thought the point releases for Debian 10 were at
> least up to 10.6. Is whoever is having trouble with Debian sure they
> are using the latest stable release? And since Debian 9 is working for
> them, I'm curious if an upgrade breaks things...
> As for secure boot... I might be misinformed, but I thought that was
> just a Microsoft ploy to try and prevent people from nuking
> preinstalled Windows they don't want but is nearly impossible to avoid
> without paying extra in favor of installing Linux... Is there any
> downside to disabling Secure Boot and using Legacy Boot if you aren't
> planning a Linux/Windows Dual boot?
> As for Slint, while I haven't tried it due to lack of spare hardware I
> can easily setup to experiment with and reluctance to try anything
> that requires me to learn a new package management system, I applaud
> the efforts that have gone into it and wish there was a similar
> project based on Debian(The Adriane component of Knoppix comes close,
> and my system is customized from Adriane Knoppix, but Knoppix has
> priorities aside from just making what its based on more accessible,
> and its nature as a Live Distro makes it subpar as an installed system
> running from hard drive) or if there was an effort to make the scripts
> Slint uses to steamline installation of accessibility tools and easily
> switch between them on the fly could be downloaded and run on a
> variety of distros(imagine if Debian had a "reader-switcher" package
> that recommended all the major console screen readers and then let you
> switch between the installed ones on the fly, and because its in
> Debian, it gets inherited by the umpteen dozen distros derived from
> Debian... Because, as much as I love SBL and wish it was available on
> a wider selection of distros, there is at least one case where I find
> espeakup's "try to read everything as it appears on screen" behavior
> beneficial instead of annoying, and I'm sure there are others who
> spend substantial amounts of time in the console who would enjoy that
> flexibility.

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