Monday, 17 August 2009

Vinux 2.0 Beta 1 Released!

I am happy to announce the release of the 1st Beta version of Vinux 2.0! There are a great many differences between this release and the earlier versions based on Ubuntu, and there are significant differences between this release and the existing alpha versions so if you are planning to try it out then please read the following information very carefully to avoid unnecessary frustration and/or confusion.

This version is based on Debian Lenny 5.02 and although there are many differences between Debian and Ubuntu the most significant one is that although you can use 'sudo' on the live CD, once installed you must use 'su' and then enter your administrator password to run commands with root priveleges from the terminal. This provides an extra layer of security over that offered by Ubuntu. An unusual consequence of this is that I have had to decide which admin applications you are likely to use on the Live CD and which ones you are more likely to use once installed. Thus on the Live CD the only admin apps that you can launch from the menus are the installer, the partition editor and the restore bootloader application. Once installed you will be able to launch all of the other admins apps apart from these three. Of course you can launch any admin application at any time from the terminal using 'sudo' on the Live CD and 'su' on an installed system. I hope to fix this by the final release.

For those of you who are partially sighted you will notice that the desktop layout has changed considerably since the last version. This layout is designed to be friendly to partially sighted users by offering them one click access to all of the most commonly used applications at any time. It also maximises the available space on widescreen displays by placing the three panels on the left hand side, thus allowing you to use the full depth of the screen at all times. The only difference that this will make to Orca users will be that when you open the main menu you need to cursor down to find the places and system menus rather than cursoring right. Orca users can navigate to the panels in the usual way by pressing ctrl+alt+tab.

In order to fit everything onto the CD I have had to remove many applications, including Open Office and Evolution, which can of course easily be reinstalled. In their place I have provided Icedove, Abiword and Gnumeric which are not accessible with Orca, but are accessible to people using magnification and Orca users can of course use them to open up Microsoft Office documents and then save them in different formats or even copy and paste them into the text editor etc. You may also notice that the GIMP graphics package is installed, again this is for the benefit of partially sighted users.

I have now added the audio beeps to the Live CD and the spoken welcome messages on the GDM login window. When you boot from the live CD you should hear three beeps, which means the boot prompt is ready, you can then type in a cheat code, press enter or wait for thirty seconds. Once Vinux has booted you will hear Orca say "Welcome to Orca". Once you have installed the system you will be greeted by the GDM login screen, which will ask you to type in your username and password. If at any time you switch to console mode Speakup will take over, but as it uses Espeak you won't really notice the difference.

I have added lots of custom keystrokes to Vinux. Many of them are the same as on previous versions, but there are several new ones and as Compiz is no longer installed many of the original keystrokes are missing. There is a full list of Vinux, Orca and Speakup keybindings in the Vinux folder inside you Home folder. This is a beta version, so while I am confident that most of the applications and accessibility features are working there are several specific things which I would like people to test over the next week:

A. Wireless and Ethernet Connections

B. Braille support

C. Installation onto a hard drive as single and dual boot system

D. Installation of Open Office 2.4 and the Java Access Bridge

E. Installation of Open Office 3.0 and the Java Access Bridge from Debian Backports

F. Installation of Firefox 3.0 from Debian Backports

G. Installation of Thunderbird 3.0 from Debian Backports

F. Installation of Evolution

I suspect that most of the problems encountered will be to do with hardware compatibility rather than software issues. It is vital that you let me know if a specific piece of hardware is not supported and how it can be fixed if possible. It would be equally useful to know what models do work, especially laptops. I do not intend to add any more applications to the final version, but I have left plenty of space to add hardware drivers etc.