Disappointed with Gutsy live (long)

Deborah Norling debee at jfcl.com
Tue Oct 23 05:06:50 BST 2007

I like Ubuntu, because as they say, it usually "just works". I run a
feisty-based server and helped my sighted husband set up MythTV on a
pre-release of Gutsy.
That's why I'm particularly disappointed with the newly released Gutsy live
desktop CD. I'm posting this in detail in hopes that I've just missed
something crucial.
I played with the Feisty live CD back in March and April of this year,
before and after it was released. I never successfully installed Feisty
using Orca. I had no trouble at all with Ubuntu (any version) if I stuck to
the alternate or server install CD, and installed using the serial port. But
the problems I had with Feisty six months ago seem to still be occurring.
Serial ports are disappearing from desktops so I want to be able to use
Linux without needing to depend on speakup, hardware synthesizers  or serial
consoles. At this point Linux is a hobby; I work as a Windows computer tech
for a college. But I hope to eventually ditch Windows and even find
employment working in a non-windows environment.
I boot the Gutsy live desktop CD and press F5 for the access options. I
press 3 or arrow down to it, to activate Orca. I press ENTER twice and wait
a couple of minutes.
Orca runs, and it seems to be working as well as it ever worked. It can't
read help, which would seem to be the first thing a new user would want to
do, but OpenOffice does work, so I presume it is happy with my hardware.
I run brltty by quitting orca, running gnome-terminal, typing sudo su and on
the next command line typing "brltty -bauto -d/dev/ttyUSB0".
Brltty runs, but says the screen is not in text mode. Ok, guess even in a
terminal, we aren't in text mode.
It would be nice if this was better documented; the need to run brltty for
Braille support, even though Braille support is already checked in the Orca
preferences, the fact that even in gnome-terminal the screen is presumably
not text-based, and the fact that help isn't working. I can add to the wiki
of course. but would beginners know to look there? What about a readme on
the CD, which auto-starts in Windows with a screen that's basically
advertising for Ubuntu with no real information. Or maybe just a how-to page
on the Ubuntu site that covers all this. I am eager to improve the docs, but
I have to get it running first and know what I'm doing.
Another disappointment: this is still brltty 3.72. The Orca wiki states that
it's better to use 3.8 because it can be compiled with the python bindings
-- so why is an older, less effective version on this new live CD?
I run Orca again and now it is communicating with brltty. Python bindings or
not, it seems to show everything in Braille just fine.
On my Windows PC, I search the internet for information about installing
Gutsy using Orca. Lots of info about conflicts with different versions of
portaudio,  forum postings  about how cool it is that Ubuntu is accessible,
but no definitive tutorial or how-to on installing. A few days ago, I found
lots more information on fixing MythTV problems. It's disappointing that
there is so little information as I do believe strongly in RTFM.
I've already tried the Install icon from the desktop with my husband reading
the screen. He confirms that the install runs, but Orca can only echo
keystrokes, it reads nothing in the install dialogs.
I locate instructions on installing Feisty with Orca, the same wiki page
I've myself contributed to. I follow those instructions, running
gnome-terminal, typing sudo su, quitting orca, then running orca again with
orca --disable-setup --disable main-window. I next type ubiquity, and the
install runs, but still, Orca can't read any of it. Not even in flat review
does it see anything.
Between these tests I've done alt-ctrl-backspace to kill the X session, and
brltty remains active, informing me that default boot scripts are being run.
Each time Orca does automatically load and work with Braille. It crashes
once, but I get it back easily, and the system seems generally stable. 
At one point, I try running gparted as root, and though ps confirms that
gparted is running, Orca can't read its screen either. Is orca only really
able to let me access just a few "productivity" apps? I saw that Sun at CSUN
had done a session on MythTV with Orca last year, so I'd expected Orca to
work with a wide variety of software.
I've tried this on several PCS and I can't figure out if Orca is really this
undeveloped or I'm doing something wrong.
I've looked on the wiki at what I presume are the latest release notes; they
discuss details like the spell-checker working better in OpenOffice, Firefox
2 vs 3  and the bugginess of acroread. I'm grateful that so much hard work
has gone in to working with the Firefox developers and scripting
applications like Gaim, But I now just want to read the install dialogs.
In theory, since X is client-server based, since all information is openly
available, and because a whole ton of people are working hard on this
project, Orca should be miles ahead of Windows screen readers like JAWS. I'm
disappointed; I really want to ditch Windows, but how can I if access is
this flaky still?

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