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Re: creating and maintaining accessible Linux distros

> On Jan 5, 2022, at 01:51, Jean-Philippe MENGUAL <jpmengual@debian.org> wrote:
> ... I prefer contributing to mainstream distros than creating a new one, as such maintainance may require a lot of work, the maintainers team is nearly always so small, so there is no future warranty for the end-user. ...

I kind of hinted at this in my posting.  However, trying to cajole mainstream distros into being accessible isn't all that wonderful, either.  I suspect that the best answer may lie somewhere in between: get the underlying distro to install and maintain the critical features, then create an add-on distro that is truly blind-friendly.

> debian has place to improve this, provided that persons do the work. Its first purpose is to work on most architectures, but we lack maintainers.

Part of the problem, IMHO, is that the Linux "Cathedral" approach, when combined with the variety of hardware platforms, often results in a combinatoric explosion.  My guess is that drivers can mostly be pushed upstream to the core Linux code base, but hardware-sensitive apps and libraries may be too dependent on the Linux variant for this to work.  Can anyone clue me in about this?
> Why not help porting packages instead of starting from scratch?

Porting packages to Debian makes a lot of sense, not least because they can be used with downstream variants (e.g., Ubuntu).  However, this does little to help Alpine, Arch, Slackware, and their descendants.  Again, the combinatoric explosion results in a lot of duplication of effort.  (Linus has complained about this very issue...)

FWIW, I do have a couple of development notions kicking around.  For example, I think I know how to build a modular (and thus customizable and extensible) touch screen input system for Braille.  AFAIK, nothing like this currently exists in FOSS, so I wouldn't be duplicating effort.  However, such a system needs a cell phone or tablet OS to run on, leading to the wishlist in my initial posting...

> Anyway, the purpose of "plug and play" and "inexpensive hardware" has always been the dream of persons: Debian tries do this via a modular kernel and ports mechanism, but people always want something on recent hardware, and then we experience typical hardware compatibility problems unrelated to the distro but to the FOSS in general.

Too true...

> So imagine a still smaller community for a specific distro

What I'm trying to imagine is a way to resolve the combinatoric explosion.

> But are you talking about an accessible distro or OS?  My previous replies were about Linux distros. If you talk about OSes in general, it is still another point: developing an universal OS? a layer able to apply to any OS (would be nearly research and dev, I know an european project trying this somesyears ago)?

What I was proposing, I think, was an interface layer that could decouple app porting from the vagaries of specific distros and (perhaps) from hardware considerations.  So, for example, Debian's a11y folks might be able to keep working on native ports, but also be able to run on (say) a stack consisting of QEMU on top of Alpine.

> Do you know Cosmo Communicator?  They do a high effort to have a phone with Android, Linux, etc. I think we can do something on such base.

That (https://store.planetcom.co.uk/products/cosmo-communicator) seems like a very nifty product.  However, it costs about $900, which will be a show-stopper for many prospective users.  Also, there is a real question of long-term stability of the vendor, etc.  My strong preference is thus to find a way to make use of old cell phones which are already available cheaply and in vast numbers. 

> I think debian is the most opened ecosystem to do this: this distro has an accessibility experience, persons to give opinion, we only lack of resources to port and maintain other architectures or implement improvements in the installer. Adding the hardware question is interesting but very complex, but... who knows

AFAICT, Debian is the most a11y-aware mainstream FOSS system.  So, Mobian would normally be a logical platform for me to target.  Unfortunately, they aren't taking on the challenge of supporting old cell phones:

> Mobian primarily targets Linux-first devices, i.e. mobile devices made with the intent of running a Linux as the primary operating system, such as Pine64 devices and Purism's Librem 5. Those devices rely on software components widely used in the embedded software ecosystem, such as the u-boot bootloader and a (lightly patched) mainline Linux kernel. As such, their installation procedure is quite simple and similar to those used for other development boards and SBCs. -- https://wiki.mobian-project.org/doku.php?id=devices


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