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Vinux is a Ubuntu derived distribution optimised for the needs of blind and partially sighted users.
By default Vinux provides two screen readers, Braille support plus an accessible suite of applications.
When you boot the live Vinux image, you are greeted by Orca which enables you to navigate the graphical Gnome desktop using keyboard commands.
Vinux is simply a combination of the abbreviation VI standing for visual impaired and the word Linux, but in true Unix traditions Osvalso La Rosa has recursively defined it as Vinux is Not Ubuntu but gnu/linuX'!
Yes and no, many Gnome based Linux distributions provide a full range of accessibility applications by default, however they are not automatically enabled or pre-configured.
This can be a significant barrier to new Linux users. Obviously more experienced users who know their way around are able to configure the accessibility options for themselves.
Many prefer to let Vinux do the heavy lifting instead, choosing to use the computer rather than spending time making it usable.
In the past Vinux recommended users not to upgrade packages after installing Vinux unless they had a very good reason.
This was because Vinux could guaruntee the state the system was shipped in if package updates were not performed and therefore were not able to introduce any accessibility regressions.
We now recommend that when possible users perform updates on a regular basis. This will enable the Vinux team to push out updates to packages and introduce new features.
Although all three of these distributions provided the Orca Screen-Reader/Magnifier, it was not configured to start automatically, its performance was poor and many vital applications were still inaccessible.
This meant that a visually impaired user could only really use these distributions if they knew how to start and/or configure Orca already.
Even if they got it working it was very unresponsive and unstable, and they had to be comfortable using the terminal to get most administrative tasks done.
This effectively meant that these distributions were all but inaccessible to any visually impaired user who was new to Linux, and even if they got it working the performance was so poor that they would undoubtedly run scuttling back to Windows with their tails between their legs.
So Tony Sales, founder of Vinux decided that the only rational response to this was to create a customised version of a Linux distribution that provided pre-configured accessibility packages by default, thus making it as simple as possible for visually impaired users to try Linux for themselves.
He decided to build the first version of Vinux based on Ubuntu 8.10 Intrepid Ibex.
This was the obvious choice as it had very good hardware support, a wide range of accessibility packages in the software repositories, and it could easily be remastered using the Remastersys Backup tool.
Although it was very simple to pre-configure the accessibility software and get the administrative applications working with Orca, it was impossible to get the speech responsive or stable enough using Speech-Dispatcher with PulseAudio.
In reality Orca responded very slowly and often crashed for no apparent reason. So for this reason the second version of Vinux was based on Debian Lenny 5.0 which used ALSA sound rather then PulseAudio.
This allowed Vinux very responsive and stable speech support, as well as introducing Speakup screen reader and command line only versions of Vinux.
However, in order to gain the improvements for hardware support Vinux ultimately was based upon Ubuntu.
If you are used to the Gnome Classic interface, or have not used Vinux since the 3.x releases be sure to read over our Unity and HUD guides. You may also prefer the mate desktop environment which is available on Vinux5. Mate is a fork of the gnome2 graphical desktop used on Vinux3 and many Ubuntu releases, butupdated under the hood to work with the latest and greatest Linux packages. Gnome shell is also available on Vinux5 along with the default Ubuntu Unity desktop.
To switch between desktop environments tab once from your user name on the log-on screen and press the Session Options button. Then use tab to get to the desktop you would like to use for the current session and press enter. Then enter your password if you have not already done so and press enter again, or tab to OK and press that button. You will continue to use the desktop you have chosen until you repeat the process and change your session option.
Yes, while many people grow to love espeak no synth is for everyone, and the same voice you know from eloquence in Windows is available for Vinux and some other Linux distros under the name of Voxin. It is also at times refered to as ibmtts as it was originally developed by IBM, and released under names such as viavoice and viavoice-outloud. Installing Voxin is slightly different on Vinux 4 and 5 systems so please familiarise yourself with the very easy procedure. If you have an old voxin package, be sure to go to the oralux website and download the latest pckage for your language, as old versions will not be compatible with recent Linux releases.
Vinux 4.0 has console speech access whilst using Pulseaudio in user mode. Due do Ubuntu dropping the console kit we used to provide this you must now start console speech by running
in a your graphical session, e.g. in a terminal.
You no longer have to use Skype via Pidgin you can now thanks to QT accessibility use Skype directly. You will have to however install the 32bit qt-at-spi package even if you are using 64bit Vinux. This package can be installed using the following command.
sudo apt-get update sudo apt-get install qt-at-spi:i386
You may also enjoy the skcmd commandline interface for skype. It can make using skype even faster and easier by letting you make bash_aliases to call numbers you frequently dial, check voice mail from a terminal and much more.