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Welcome to the about page. Here, you can read all about Vinux and the features it offers, who created it and what the future holds for the project. You can also view answers to frequently asked questions.
In the past Vinux recommended users not to upgrade packages after installing Vinux unless they had a very good reason. We now recommend that when possible users perform updates on a regular basis. This will enable the Vinux team to push out updates to packages, introduce new features and in the future perform rolling releases.
Vinux is a Ubuntu derived distribution optimised for the needs of blind and partially sighted users. By default Vinux provides two screen-readers, screen magnification, global font-size and colour changing features as well as support for USB Braille displays. When you boot the live Vinux image, you will be greeted by the Orca screen-reader/magnifier which enables you to navigate the graphical Gnome desktop using keyboard commands, magnification is also available for those who need that extra help. The Gnome Desktop environment provides you with global keyboard commands to change the font size and/or the colour scheme on the fly accomidating varying eye conditions. Finally, Brltty provides Grade 1 and 2 Braille output by the Orca screen-reader. By default both screen-readers use the same Espeak speech synthesizer providing seamless experience for users that use both console and graphical environments.
Vinux was initially born out of a frustration with the default accessibility support provided by mainstream Linux distributions such as Ubuntu, Fedora and OpenSuse. Although all three of these distributions did provide the Orca Screen-Reader/Magnifier, it was not configured to start automatically, its performance was poor and many vital applications were still inaccessible. This meant that a visually impaired user could only really use these distributions if they knew how to start and/or configure Orca already, even if they got it working it was very unresponsive and unstable, and they had to be comfortable using the terminal to get most administrative tasks done. This effectively meant that these distributions were all but inaccessible to any visually impaired user who was new to Linux, and even if they got it working the performance was so poor that they would undoubtedly run scuttling back to Windows with their tails between their legs. So Tony Sales, founder of Vinux decided that the only rational response to this was to create a customised version of a Linux distribution that provided pre-configured accessibility packages by default, thus making it as simple as possible for visually impaired users to try Linux for themselves. He decided to build the first version of Vinux based on Ubuntu 8.10 Intrepid Ibex. This was the obvious choice as it had very good hardware support, a wide range of accessibility packages in its repositories, and it could easily be remastered using the Remastersys Backup tool. Although it was very simple to pre-configure the accessibility software and get the administrative applications working with Orca, it was impossible to get the speech responsive or stable enough using Speech-Dispatcher with PulseAudio. In reality Orca responded very slowly and often crashed for no apparent reason. So for this reason the second version of Vinux was based on Debian Lenny 5.0 which used Alsa sound rather then PulseAudio. This allowed Vinux very responsive and stable speech support, as well as introducing Speakup and CLI versions of Vinux. However, in order to gain the improvements for hardware support Vinux ultimately was based upon Ubuntu.
Fortunately, it turns out that we did not have to make the difficult decision between accessibility and hardware compatibility. This is largely thanks to Bill Cox who managed to solve the PulseAudio and Speech-Dispatcher related latency/stability problems in Ubuntu. So the fourth generation of Vinux was based on Ubuntu 11.04 Natty Narwhal, 11.04 or referred to as Vinux 3.2 and Vinux 3.2.1 was the last Vinux release to use the Remastersys tool to produce images.
Find out the answers to the most common questions about Vinux!
Vinux is a Ubuntu derived distribution optimised for visually impaired users. It provides a screen-reader, full-screen magnification and support for Braille displays out of the box! It can be run from a Live CD or pen drive without making any changes to your hard drive. If you like it you can install it either alongside your current operating system or as a complete replacement. There is also a virtual version available which can run Vinux as a guest operating system using VMWare Player on Windows.
Vinux is simply a combination of the abbreviation 'VI' and the word 'Linux', but in true Unix traditions Osvalso La Rosa has recursively defined it as 'Vinux Is Not Ubuntu but gnu/linuX'!
Yes and No! Many Gnome based Linux distributions provide a full range of accessibility applications by default, however they are not automatically enabled or pre-configured and this can be a significant barrier to users who are new to Linux. Obviously more experienced users who know their way around are able to configure the accessibility options for themselves, although using Vinux might actually save them a great deal of time.
This is a tricky one! Proprietary Windows based accessibility software like Jaws, Zoomtext and Supernova currently provide higher quality speech and magnification facilities than is currently available on Linux. However, these are not provided by default and if you take into account the extortionate pricing of these solutions, they are financially inaccessible for many VI users. Therefore Linux is in an important sense more accessible than Windows as the vast majority of VI users around the world cannot afford to buy software that costs more than a computer itself.
Vinux provides a screen-reader, full screen magnification and support for Braille displays. The default screen-reader/magnifier is called Orca, although we also provide Speakup, a console based screen-reader and Compiz, a magnifier based on 3D technology. Vinux also provides a wide range of open source software including an web browser, a file manager, a text editor and various multimedia applications. Vinux is designed to be a completely secure modern desktop system for all the family, visually impaired and sighted alike.
No, Linux is built in a completely different way from Windows, and each Linux distribution is different so in practise there are no Linux viruses in the wild and therefore you generally don't have to worry about computer viruses. This doesn't mean that you won't download viruses, just that they won't have any effect on your system. However you can pass them on to Windows users if you exchange files. You can of course still be hacked if you are not protected by a firewall so you should not be complacent, but as the root password is required to make any significant changes to the system you are very well protected. In fact if you only download and install software from the official Ubuntu and Vinux repositories you are extremely unlikely to download any malware. If you are particularly paranoid you can download and install clamtk which will allow you to detect and isolate any potential viruses or malware. Of course if you are running the Live CD then you are totally secure because as soon as you switch the computer off it goes back to the way it was before you booted Vinux.
If Orca crashes at anytime you can easily restart it by pressing Ctrl+Alt+O. This will automatically kill off any existing speech processes and restart both Orca and Speech-Dispatcher for you.
Even if the computer locks up completely, the chances are the Linux kernel will still be running in the background. So you can restart or shutdown the computer safely by pressing and holding down Alt+PrintScreen then pressing r,e,i,s,u and then b in that order to reboot the computer, if you want to close it down press 'o' instead of 'b' as the last character. If this doesn't work then you will have no choice other than to hold the power button in or press the restart button on the computer. Sorry!
USB Braille displays should start automatically when Vinux is booted. Vinux now supports both Grade 1 and 2 Braille. If you have a serial Braille display then you will need to configure Brltty for the specific model you are using.
You can launch applications in one of three ways: You can press Alt+F1 to view and pin applications to the Unity panel, push Alt+F10 to view the top panel indicators giving access to sound network menus etc, or Alt+F2 and type the name of the application you want to launch then press enter.
In order to try Vinux you need to download the iso image from the website and burn it to a CDR using an application that supports writing iso images to CD. An iso image cannot just be copied to a CD like an ordinary file. It is a complete image of CD and must be burnt with a suitable tool like Nero, Roxio, DeepBurner on Windows or from the file manager of any modern Linux distribution. Once burnt you place the CD in the drive and reboot your computer. Most computers are set to boot from a CD drive by default. If not you may have to modify the bios or press a key after powering on the computer. If for any reason the CD won't boot you should check the md5sum of the iso image you downloaded and the CD itself to make sure it wasn't corrupted during the download or burning process.
When the Live image starts you will be greeted by Orca offering to install or use without installing. Once you have installed Vinux you will hear Orca greet you when the LightDM desktop manager is ready. You will begin on the user created during install in a password edit box, arrow up and down this screen for alternate users.
There are two different ways to install Vinux. It can be installed to a standard hard drive either as a dual boot system or a stand alone system, or it can be installed and run from a USB pendrive. The 'Install Vinux' launcher will allow you to partition your hard drive and install Vinux to it. You should create at least one Ext3/4 partition for the operating system and one Swap partition to provide virtual memory, but you can have a separate Home partition as well if you want to. Installing Vinux to a computer as the only operating system is the easiest to do and involves the least risk. If you attempt a dual boot install and make a mistake you may lose your existing data, operating system and software, so make sure you have a backup of anything important before you try this. If you are not confident that you understand the process thoroughly then don't attempt this. It is easier and safer to install Vinux to an old computer or second hard drive to begin with, if you like it you can always install it to your main computer later on.
The 'Startup Disk Creator' launcher allows you to install Vinux to a USB pendrive. Simply insert the USB pendrive and when the application starts point it to the Vinux iso image or the live CD. Once you have decided how much memory you want to assign to the persistent storage file you can install it to the pendrive. Once installed you can boot from the USB pendrive and save any changes you make or documents you create to the home directory on the pendrive. You may have to press a key or modify the bios settings if your computer doesn't automatically detect and boot from bootable USB drives. We also offer Pre-built USB editions. This means you can make a USB drive either using windows or from within Linux. This is a lot easier than using the startup disk creator. Also there is currently a bug which causes Orca to crash when copying files using the startup disk creater, so we recommend you head over to the downloads page and download one of the USB editions.
You can view a complete list of all the available keybindings in Vinux by pressing Ctrl+Alt+K at any time. This will open a read-only text file which lists all of the keybindings for Orca, Compiz, Speakup and Gnome. Please try to remember these keybindings are only available when the relevant application is running i.e. The Gnome keybindings are only functional while running the Gnome Desktop, the Orca keystrokes are only functional while Orca is running and the Speakup keystrokes are only functional while in console mode etc. For example, the Gnome keybindings enable you to open various applications: A terminal with Ctrl+Alt+T, the Home directory with Super+1 and the web browser with Super+2. The Orca keybindings enable you to control the accessibility settings, for example: Insert+t to get the date/time or Insert+Space to modify Orca Preferences. The Speakup keystrokes allow you to navigate the virtual terminal and control what is read while in console mode.
To locate and connect to a wireless network. push ALT+F10 and left arrow till you hear networking, arrow down until you hear a submenu for wireless networks. Navigate to the network you wish to connect to and push ENTER. A dialog will appear asking you for the password.
To switch to console mode and use Speakup you have to press Ctrl+Alt+F1 through Ctrl+Alt+F6 from the running Gnome session. You can then use Speakup to input commands to the console and read back any output. If you are running the Live image you can start using Speakup straight away, if you do this on an installed system you need to login with your username and password. To switch back to the graphical desktop press Alt+F7.
You can run administration applications from the menus with Orca support on both the Live CD and an installed system. However, once installed you will be asked to enter your password whenever you run an application which requires root permissions. You can also run applications from the terminal by prefixing the command with 'sudo'.
There are three different ways to install new applications on your Vinux system. You can use the terminal, the Add/Remove Programs application or the Synaptic Package Manager. If you know the name of the application you want to install, the terminal is the easiest option. Open a terminal by pressing Ctrl+Alt+T then firstly type 'sudo apt-get update' to update the available packages list. In order to install a new application then just type e.g. 'sudo apt-get install nameofpackage'. To remove an application you just type e.g. 'sudo apt-get remove nameofpackage'. If you don't know the name of the application or just want to see what is available you can use one of the other two GUI based applications. The Add/Remove Programs application offers a simple list of the most popular applications sorted by category. The Synaptic Package Manager lists all available applications (25,000+) and has a lot more options etc., but it can be a bit overwhelming for people new to Linux.
This version of Vinux does not by default contain any restricted multimedia codecs or non-free firmware which is illegal to download or distribute in countries in which software patents are enforceable. You can however install these from the Medibuntu repositories if you need them once you have installed the system to hard drive.
Vinux is based on open-source software released under the GPL and supplying proprietary codecs or drivers would potentially violate software patents in certain countries. You are however free to download and install these codecs and drivers after you have installed Vinux to your hard-drive using the EasyInstall scripts.
The Live CD does not perform as well as an installed system and this is primarily due to the fact that the operating system is loaded into the memory and then has to load files from the CD when required. Because optical drives are not as fast as hard drives this means that the system will be a lot more responsive and stable once installed to your hard drive.
This is a complicated issue! It may seem counter-intuitive to provide a graphical interface if the distribution is aimed at visually impaired users. However, there are several advantages to providing a GUI: Firstly, many people who are registered blind are in fact partially sighted and can navigate a GUI with the aid of magnification. Secondly while using a text based interface is easier to navigate it requires users to learn, remember and type complex commands. Thirdly, blind and partially sighted users are often taught or supported by sighted people who need the GUI to provide feedback to the learner involved. Finally, having a GUI means that the system can also be used by sighted individuals with no knowledge or experience of assistive technology. Graphical environments though changing rappidly continue to become more and more accessible to screen readers.
We expect most users to download the iso image from the website and burn it to CD and/or install it to a USB pendrive themselves. However, if there is a genuine reason why you are unable to download it and burn/install it yourself, then we would consider sending you a copy on CD or a pendrive for a small fee to cover the cost of production and postage etc.
There are lots of ways you can contribute to the project. By trying Vinux and providing us with feedback or suggestions, by providing detailed instructions on ways to improve accessibility which can be incorporated into future versions, by writing scripts to automate the configuration of accessibility settings, by writing accessible software, creating customised artwork or themes or by simply remastering Vinux in different languages etc. If you would like to contribute in any way at all please get in touch!
Disappointingly, life, the universe and everything cannot have a meaning - as strictly speaking only words and symbols can have meaning. Although, many philosophers believe that '42' is as good an answer as any! (Just checking that you are still paying attention)