One man's observations on the Unity experience

Alex Midence alex.midence at
Tue Nov 15 14:56:14 UTC 2011

Hi, all,

Previously, I set down my initial impressions on running Unity with
Orca in a VM.  (see below.)  Since then, I've done a few things that
improved the experience somewhat for me and I thought I'd share them
for those who may be interested.  Firstly, I remembered that someone
had set up a ppa with some accessibility enhancements.  I tracked it
down and added it to my sources.list file and then did an apt-get
install unity from the terminal.  Unfortunately, I'm not at my LInux
box and don't have the address to put down here.  The ppa said that
most of these enhancements were for 3d accessibility but, I found that
it seemed to help with 2d accessibility.  I'm not a dev, though, so
don't ask how this can be.  Anyway, after a reboot, I found that
accessing the launch bar with alt+f1 and then selecting the option
spoken as "dash home" with the enter key, arrowing down to
applications and pressing enter, did do something for me this time.  I
found a button labled "installed applications" and another
"applications waiting to be downloaded".  Hitting installed
applications gives me the option of expanding a list of them along
with the number of how many apps I have installed.  (Nifty feature,
btw.)  I selected this and arrowed down and found myself in an area
with each app represented by a button icon.  To navigate through them,
I found that the best way is through right arrowing and not down
arrowing which is my usual method on other desktops.  Anyway, all my
friends were there and launchable with a press of the enter key.  It's
a bit weird navigating through these buttons the way I navigate
through the menus on my Android cell phone but, it sort of grows on
you after a while.  All in all, it was a very interesting experience.
Oh, lest I forget, the last thing I did last night was to run sudo
apt-get install gnome.  I wanted to give myself the option to switch
desktops if I chose.  I assume this will put gnome3 on there.  Anyway,
this resulted in gdm being installed on my machine.  I chose it in
favor of Light DM and was rewarded by hearing the drums at start -up
when it was type to type in my user name and password.  I still wasn't
able to get Orca to talk in the GDM nor am I able to get it to come up
in either by default or using the alt+f2 run command.  I still have to
launch it from a terminal.  So, this also means that if I want Gnome
to launch by default instead of Unity, I have to hunt down a config
file and set that up there since I can't get orca to come up at the
login area to do a control alt tab and then tab to where I can pick a
desktop.  Ah, wel, one thing at a a time, I guess.  So far, it's
coming along for me nicely though.

Alex M
> Date: Mon, 14 Nov 2011 08:29:19 -0600
> From: Alex Midence <alex.midence at>
> To: ubuntu-accessibility at
> Subject: One man's observations on the Unity experience
> Message-ID:
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset=ISO-8859-1
> HI, all,
> I'd been meaning to try Oneiric for some time and finally got around
> to it last night.  I installed Oneiric into a virtual machine using
> the accessible option with Orca and fired it on up.  I quickly ran
> into trouble.  I couldn't get to the applications menu.  I hit alt+f1
> and got to the launcher bar.  After a few tries, I found the "dash
> home" option and pressed it.  A search field came up with buttons
> under it when I arrowed down.  One was the applications button.  I
> pressed it and nothing happened that I could tell.  Also, there
> appears to be a tool bar of some kind that is not accessible.  Moving
> around the screen with flat review reveals that there are a bunch of
> "fillers" on it.  Control alt tab takes me to a Unity 2d pannel which
> is also inaccessible.  What I'd like to do is put some shortcuts on my
> desktop or find ways to put shortcuts in my launcher which I get to
> with alt+f1.  I don't now that I vicerally object to Unity as so many
> seem to but, I do think it's a definite productivity killer for me.  I
> haven't been able to get to any documentation to read up on what I'm
> supposed to do from within Unity itself, none of the shortcuts I'm
> used to using work as expected, I can't get to the under the hood
> stuff easily and there are tons of inaccessible areas all over the
> place.  I couldn't even get to a console command line because Pulse
> audio doesn't work in console mode.  Honestly, I am still baffled as
> to why this package has gained so very much popularity.  Historically,
> the GUI has been a "bell and whistle" feature for *nix but more and
> more is depending on the gui these days.  Anyway, using a gnome
> terminal is somewhat helpful except that Orca cuts out and crackles a
> bit and gives me error messages about lines in at-spi that don't do as
> they are supposed to in D-Bus.  Lastly, I installed using the
> accessible install method but found I get no speach in the login area
> of x and Orca doesn't come up automatically.  Also, I have to do a
> control alt t to launch it from the terminal because alt f2 doesn't
> seem to except orca as a command.  I half expected to be met with a
> few obstacles in this desktop but they turned out to be more than what
> I anticipated.  I wanted to try it out to be able to provide feedback
> even if I didn't use it because I think it's important for us to try
> all the new stuff and get our observations out where someone might see
> them and do something about them.
> Hope this feedback helps someone,
> Alex M

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