Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Vinux 1.5 - The Manifesto!

I have now had time to reflect on all of the changes I plan to introduce in Vinux 1.5 and they broadly fall into five categories: Screen-Readers and Speech Synthesis, Fonts, Colours and Layouts, Language and Keyboard Layouts, Help and Guidance and the Remastering Process itself.

Firstly, there will be significant improvements and additions to the screen-reading and speech synthesizers provided by Vinux. I intend to install and configure speech-dispatcher to be the default speech service in conjunction with Orca and Espeak, which should provide a much more responsive screen-reading experience. I will reconfigure YASR to use the Festival speech synthesizer by default, which will provide a much higher quality console based screen-reader in the event of any problems with Orca. I will also be installing both the Emacspeak and LinuxSpeaks text based audio desktops, which use the eflite and espeak speech synthesizers respectively. By providing a choice of four different screen-readers and four speech synthesizers I am hoping that you will always be able to access your computer even if you encounter problems with your preferred screen-reader and voice. In addition I hope to include keystroke commands for starting and/or restarting each of these screen-readers so you should never be left in the lurch!

Secondly, I plan to make changes to the appearance of Vinux to improve its visual accessibility for partially sighted users. This will include increasing the default font and icon size, improving the contrast of the desktop and application windows, increasing the size and layout of the top and bottom panels, changing the desktop background and providing a wider choice of accessibility themes and icons. I will also be installing Firefox accessibility toolbars and plugins which allow the user to tweak the fonts, colours and layouts displayed in their browser on the fly and provide a choice of terminals with large font sizes and high contrast colour schemes. In addition I will be installing xcalib which will allow a user to invert the screen colours and change its contrast and brightness with keystrokes without having to use Orca and/or Compiz. Finally, mousekeys will be enabled by default, which will allow more accurate control over the mouse pointer and I am going to reorganise the main menus so that there are separate sub-menus for purely console based applications.

Thirdly, I am hoping to include support for several European languages and keyboard layouts by default including: Spanish, French, German, Dutch and Flemish. This will help to overcome the additional linguistic barriers many people face when trying to use a distribution that is not in their native language.

Fourthly, I plan to introduce a whole host of help and guidance features that will make peoples transition into Linux that little bit easier. This will include an autorun.inf file and a HTML guide to booting and installing Vinux for people who are still using Windows computers, the addition of bookmarks to lots of useful Linux accessibility related websites and resources in Firefox, Lynx and Netrik; and some audio/video guides to the accessibility features offered by Vinux. I also hope to include a list of useful terminal commands stored in the bash history file, which will allow beginners to access complex commands by pressing the cursor up key, as well as providing a series of simple Zenity GUI interfaces to useful command line applications that require the correct arguments and syntax, which a beginner is unlikely to know. Finally in this section I will be pre-enabling all of the Ubuntu repositories including those which contain restricted packages as well as enabling useful plugins in applications like Gedit etc.

Fifthly, I will be incorporating some applications which are not included for the benefit of the end user at all, but to help facilitate the creation of Vinux itself. These are programs such as AptonCD, Isomaster, gFTP and Gambas2 that are not particularly accessible but I use to create Vinux and/or accessible applications and having them included on the CD/DVD will make my life a lot easier as I will hopefully be able to create a new version of Vinux without having to install a different distribution or lots of extra packages.