here is a rough draft of the guide

mike coulombe kb8aey at
Thu Aug 7 18:59:02 BST 2008

Hi, I will be gone for a few days, but here is a rough draft of some things I put together for a guide so far. I hope this will be useful. I will work on this more when I get back. The following was done in a few minutes time, but I will clarify things better when I add more
   Written by Michael Coulombe.
   A basic guide to Orca and Ubuntu.
X-Antivirus: avast! (VPS 080807-0, 08/07/2008), Outbound message
X-Antivirus-Status: Clean

   This is my first attempt at putting a guide together for new users. Note, I hope this information will be helpful, but I do not guarantee any of the things listed here to work. Use this information at your own risk. In other words, I will not be held responsible if anything happens.
   This guide is free. Feel free to give it to anyone you want to give it to. You may also feel free to add to, word better or improve this guide. Ok, with that out of the way, here we go.
   I started using Ubuntu a few years ago and have been given a lot of help by others on and off the Ubuntu list and the Orca list. So I thought I would share a little of what I know about Linux for those who are thinking about giving it a try.
   This guide will include some of the things I have found to be useful when using Linux.
   Since I use Ubuntu, I will be talking about that operating system, but there are several good Linux distributions out. Ubuntu for example is a completely free operating system. This means you can share it with anyone and install it on as many computers as you like.
   I am assuming you know your computer, and know how to do things like getting it to boot from the CD, so I will not go in to computer language in this guide. But I will tell you the easiest way I have found to do things.

   A few notes.
   Linux has a lot to offer, and it is a wonderful operating system for the blind. It is getting more accessible all the time, but there are some things you should know right off before starting to learn it. Ubuntu is a Linux operating system. You are not using windows and should know you will have to learn a few things. In order to take full advantage of the Linux operating system, you will have to learn to use the consul, which is known as the terminal in gnome the graphical desktop. If you do not want to learn the terminal at all or do not have patience, you should probably stick with another operating system. If you know dos, learning the terminal should be fairly easy for you. If you do not know dos, you will have a little to learn.
   The terminal is used by typing in commands. There are a lot of very good programs that run in the terminal, and at times the terminal can make your Linux experience easier and more accessible. For example, updates can be obtained with speech feedback easier from the terminal. Wile we are on the subject of speech. Remember you are not using a windows screen reader. While you may find some of Orca's commands similar, it will be different from a windows or mac screen reader.
   You should also know that Orca and Ubuntu are always being improved. If you don't like something now, it may be to your liking in the next release. With that said, lets get to the operating system.

   First of all, I suggest downloading the latest live CD or DVD image of the latest final release of Ubuntu. The nice thing about Ubuntu is that you can try the operating system with out making any changes to your computer. In fact you can actually use the live CD to get files off of your computer if the operating system crashes.

   Running the live CD.
   Once you write the live CD image to a disc do the following. First boot your computer from the CD. The drive should stop in a short time, and you will be in the language menu. English is first, so I will use it for these instructions. If you do want English, press enter once.
   Next press the f5 key and let it go. Then press the number 3 key and let it go. Now press enter twice. The system will boot in a few minutes, but Orca usually doesn't start.
   Once the computer is booted, do the following. First, hold down the alt key and press the f2 key, and then let both keys go. In a few seconds type Orca and press enter. When it comes up speaking, you can inter the preferences menu and make your choices. I suggest quitting Orca after you make the changes and restarting it using the steps listed above.
   Now you can play around with Ubuntu and see if you like it.

   Installing Ubuntu.
   As of this writing the installer doesn't work with Orca from the desktop. However, there is a release of Ubuntu you can download that you can install with Orca. The following are the instructions for installing the original Hardy release.

   Installing Ubuntu hardy with Orca.
   Note, this only works with the original release.
   Put the CD in the computer and turn it on. Once at the boot screen you will be at the language menu. English is the first choice. If you need another language, get sighted help to pick the language you want.
   Assuming English is the language you want do the following, or do these steps after picking the language of your choice. First press enter. Then, press the down arrow key once. This picks the option of booting right into the installer. Next press the f5 key and let it go. Now press the number 3 key and let it go. Last press enter twice. The system will boot, and you can follow the instructions to install your new operating system when Orca begins speaking

   Installing Ubuntu inside windows.
   Starting with the hardy release a nice feature has been added to Ubuntu. You can install it inside windows, and you do not have to make any changes to your computer. You can uninstall Ubuntu just as easy. This is a very nice way to install Ubuntu so you can try it, but there are two disadvantages, as of this writing. The standby and some of the other features in the shutdown menu will not work if Ubuntu is installed this way. Also the system is more vulnerable to corruption if you have a power loss.
   You can install Ubuntu inside windows one of two ways. If you have the live CD, simply pick install inside windows from the CD menu when you put the CD in your drive after windows is loaded. Yes, it is accessible and you only have two or three choices to make. After the files are copied reboot the computer, and in a few seconds you will come to a choice of booting into windows or Ubuntu. Windows is first, so press the down arrow key once and then press enter. It will take about 15 minutes or so for the system to finish installing. If you picked the screen reader to be installed, it will say welcome to Orca shortly.
   After the system finishes installing your computer will reboot. Use the down arrow key to pick Ubuntu and press enter. That's all there is to it.
   There is a second way to install Ubuntu inside windows, and using this way you do not have to write a CD.
   First download the program called wubi. Run it in windows and follow the instructions. Wubi will download the image and then install like it would have from the live CD. Note, this will take several hours because the image has to be downloaded.

   Ubuntu uses the gnome graphical desktop which in some ways is similar, remember I said similar to windows. You will find some of the gnome keyboard shortcuts similar to what you know in windows. For example, to get to the menus. Hold down the alt key and press f1. Now use the arrow keys to explore the different menus. In most programs to get to the menu. Hold down the alt key and press f for file, t for tools and so on. The only program I know of that doesn't require you to hold the alt key down with the menu choice is open office. To run a program directly. Hold down the alt key and press f2. I suggest you download a command list for both gnome and Orca.
   There are three main menus in gnome. Applications, places and system. Each of these menus have several sub menus. After you press the alt and f1 keys you will be at the applications menu. Use the down arrow key to explore the different menus, and use the right arrow key to go into any menu.
   If you move to the left using the left arrow key you will be in the system menu. Use the down arrow key to explore it. If you move left again, you will be in the places menu.

   The terminal.
   You new this was coming at some point, and we may as well get it out of the way now. While Gnome the graphical desktop is getting better all the time and you will be able to use it for most tasks. There will be times when you will not be able to use it or will want a faster way to do something. The terminal is something you are going to have to know a little about to use Ubuntu. It can be your friend if you give it a chance.
   You run the terminal from the accessories menu, or you can run it directly by doing the following. Press the alt and f2 keys together and then let them go. You will hear Orca ask for the command you want to run. Type the following, gnome-terminal, then press enter. No matter which way you choose to use, go ahead and open the terminal.
   Now that it is opened you have to tell the system who you are so it will let you make changes and run programs. To do this, type the following command, sudo su and press enter. You will be asked for a password. Type your password and press enter. You should here root at what ever your computer name is. You are now logged into the terminal. You should always login when you enter the terminal because if you don't you will be limited on what you can do. Some programs like the battery program acpitool will run if you are not logged in, but most programs will not run this way.

   Getting updates.
   Lets start with something simple. You need to keep your system up to date. There are two terminal programs you can use, apt-get or aptitude. I will be using aptitude.
   Type aptitude update and press enter. You can disable speech, or continue pressing the control key to keep from hearing all of the stuff Orca will say. If you  are using a desktop computer. To temporarily stop speech, press insert s to stop speech, and insert s again to enable speech.
   Once the update process is complete type this command, aptitude-distupgrade and press enter. You should listen to what is said since Orca will either say no packages will be upgraded or it will give you a list of packages to be upgraded. If you agree all you do is press y and then press enter. You can disable speech for awhile until it is finished.
   Well, you just completed your first task in the terminal. It will be second nature to you after a few times.
   You can also get updates using the update manager, but sometimes Orca doesn't work correctly with this. However, if you find broken packages, you will want to use the update manager because it has a feature to correct this problem. I think you get the point. The more you know the more you can do to get things to work when necessary.

   Removing programs.
   Remember when I said the terminal can be your friend. You can remove packages using the package manager, but here is a fast way to remove one not listed in the add remove programs menu.
   Simply type, aptitude remove followed by the package name and press enter. You add packages the same way. For example aptitude install acpitool or aptitude remove acpitool.

   Cleaning your system.
   There are two easy ways to get rid of all of the old packages still on your system. 1, In the terminal type the following command, aptitude clean and press enter. That's all there is to it. 2, In the terminal type the following, apt-get autoremove and press enter.

   Making admin apps accessible.
   Orca is going to be the screen reader you will use in Ubuntu. You may as well know some of the admin apps are not accessible as of this writing. But in many cases there are ways to make them accessible. Lets deal with this now.
   Get in the terminal and type the following. sudo su then press enter. You will be asked for your password, so type it and press enter. You should hear root at what ever the name of your computer is.
   Now we are going to enable the root account. To do this you will use a editor called nano. Follow these instructions.
   Type nano /etc/gdm/gdm.conf and press enter. The file should now be opened. Next hold down control and press w, you should now be in a search field so type allow root, and press enter. Now using down arrow find the line that says allow root = false. Backspace out the word false and replace it with the word true. Now hold down control and press x. You will be asked to enter y if you want to save the changes. Do this and press enter.
   That's the hardest part. Now we have to add a password to the root account. Here's how to do it.
   Type passwd root then press enter. You will be asked for the password twice. Enter one and press enter. Enter it again to confirm and press enter. You should here that the password was updated.
   Alt f4 will close the terminal. You can also close the terminal by typing exit and pressing enter. This has to be done twice if you are logged into the terminal.
   Now you can log in using the root account by using root as the username. You will find more of the admin apps are accessible this way.
   Note, while the installer doesn't work with Orca directly from the desktop on the live CD. Here is a dirty trick that sometimes gets it to work. For this to have a chance, you must boot the live CD using the f5 and number 3 settings described above.
   If you enable the root account on the live CD using the steps described above. In some versions of Ubuntu you will be able to login as root and run ubiquity or just run install from the desktop. If this works in the version you have you will be able to get speech during the install process. If you do not use the f5 and number 3 options when you boot the live CD. You will be able to enable the root account, but for some reason you will not be able to login to it.

   If you are using a laptop and want to know the battery status. Install the program acpitool. Running this program from the terminal will tell you the charge that is left in your battery.

   Web browsing.
   Fire fox is the web browser in Ubuntu. It is getting better all the time, and as of this writing it is very accessible. To search for a site use control l instead of control o. This through me at first when I tried to use fire fox, because I thought you had to use control o. There is now a links list plug in available for fire fox that will let you pick just the links using the arrow keys.

   Hey, how about my m-p-3 files and videos.
   To play these files in Ubuntu you will have to install some software. I suggest doing this from the root account because you will hear the progress as the files are being downloaded, but this will also work from your account. The difference is you will not hear the progress as the files are downloading.
   From the applications menu, press enter on add remove programs. You want to pick show all available software. In the edit field, type plug in and press enter. Now use the tab key to get to the list. Using down arrow, look at the programs and check everything except the Ubuntu restricted package. I always had problems with this one because you have to agree to a Java license that Orca does not read.
   After checking everything else apply the updates. Now you should be able to play your files.
   If you are going to encode files, you should also install flac and lame from the terminal.
   There are a variety of different players you can use. Pick the one that is best for you.

   copying discs, burning CDs and so on.
   These features work well with Orca in Ubuntu. Insert a disc, and using the programs key, pick copy disc from the menu. The program for writing discs in the sound and video menu is the one used and it works well with Orca. You will find it in the sound and video menu.

   How do I create a folder?
   shift control n.

   What if the system crashes?
   You will like the fact that this usually doesn't happen. However, all operating systems have this problem at one time or another. The good thing is in Ubuntu you do not have to reboot most of the time.
   If a program hangs here is what will usually get you going again. Press the control alt and backspace keys together for a second then let them go. This will kill the gnome session and put you at the login screen. Log in and everything should be fine. You will loose any work you were doing, for example changes you didn't save to a file. But this would happen in any operating system. If you are writing. I suggest setting the text editor to save your file every minute. This way the most you will loose is a minute of work.

   About applications.
   You are probably wondering what apps work with Orca. Some do, and some do not. Here are the ones I know do.
   The text editor and to some extent open office work. The dictionary works very well. You can install a terminal program called dict for a dictionary you can use in the terminal. Note the dictionaries require that you are on the Internet.
   Most of the admin tools now work if you are in the root account, and some of them will work from your account. The sound and video apps that come with Ubuntu all work. The programs that come with Ubuntu in the graphics menu work with Orca. Fire fox works well, and so does transmission the torrent client that comes with Ubuntu.
   Others may work, but I haven't had a reason to try them yet. That should give you a few to work with, and there are several other apps you can get using add remove programs that also work well with Orca. I know for example that the world clock program is very accessible, as well as some of the text editors.
   If you want to play m-p-3 files from the terminal. Install the program mp3blaster for this purpose. I think vlc media player may also work in the terminal.

   Adjusting the volume.
   You can do this in gnome, but here is a fast way to do it in the terminal if you are using alsa.
   In the terminal, run the program alsamixer. Now press up or down arrow to turn the volume up or down. Pressing the right arrow puts you in another volume menu. You will usually be interested in the master volume which is the first menu that comes up when you run the alsa mixer program. But it also has menus for the line in, microphone and so on. When you are done press the escape key twice to exit the program.

   Recording what is said in the terminal.
   There will be times when you will want to have a reference of what is said in the terminal. For example, consider the following. You want to install a program, but do not know it's name. So lets say you type water in the terminal. Orca will tell you that water is not installed. But then it will tell you the name of the program you have to install to get the program water installed.
   Now lets say you don't understand what Orca said. Or maybe it said a word you do not know how to spell. The following little program will give you a text file you can look at later to get the exact spelling.
   The program is called script. Simply type script and press enter when you are in the terminal. From this point everything you do in the terminal including the computers feedback will be recorded in a file called typescript. When you are finished hold the control key down and press the letter d, then let the keys go. This will close the file. You can find the file typescript in your home folder.

   Adding users in the terminal.
   Users can be added in the gnome desktop using Orca. But there are some nice features you can use in the terminal to do other things with user accounts.
   Lets say Joe needs to use your computer, but you only want to give him access for a certain amount of time. You can set up a timed account as follows.
   In the terminal type the following replacing Joe with whoever. useradd Joe -e 2007-04-19 Replace the year, month and day with the ones you need.
   You can also add users by typing useradd Joe, as a example. Now you have to give the new user a password. you do this by using the passwd program. For example, passwd Joe, then press enter. You will be asked for the new password. 
   There is another terminal program called adduser. This one is a little different, but it works just as well. I don't think you can set up timed accounts using the adduser program.

   How do I get the version of Orca that is running on my computer?
   In the terminal type this command. Orca -v.

   How can I find out how much memory my computer has?
   In the terminal, type free and press enter.

   Is there a way to see which kernel is running?
   Yes, in the terminal type this command, uname -r and press enter.

   Need a simple calendar, try this one. /usr/bin/calendar.

   To connect computers through serial ports, try minicom.

   Using the top panel.
   To get to the top panel, press the control, alt and tab keys together, then let them go.
   The top panel has things like the volume control and other buttons. As of this writing it is not very accessible. Orca quite often says imbedded component instead of the name. When you hear this, try holding down the control key and pressing the f1 key, then let the keys go. If the program has a toolkit, this should display it.

   Adding users to groups.
   The addgroup is another terminal program. Lets say Joe's account has no sound, but everyone else does. The problem may be that he needs to be added to the audio group. To do this, type the following command in the terminal, addgroup Joe audio, and press enter.

   The computer was interrupted when installing packages and now I can't get updates.
   Go to your friend the terminal and type this command, dpkg --configure -a, and press enter. This will usually finish the install for you..

More information about the Ubuntu-accessibility mailing list