For the past year or so, I have wanted to try a good operating system built on top of the Linux Kernel. (A “Kernel” is a bit of software central to all computing. It works behind the scenes interpreting your mouse-clicks,, keyboard events, handles memory management and much more.)
In the past, I had run a GNU/Linux OS under Microsoft windows with a no-cost virtual machine, called vmware Player. This time, I wanted to try the Vinux distribution of the [Ubuntu GNU/Linux OS] and I wanted to know if I could really use it as my day-to-day operating system for work and for play.
I could not afford a new computer from dell, hp or even Wal-Mart. So I went online and searched for a while, ultimately finding a company called Blaire Technology Group. where I found a refurbished laptop for $190.
When my laptop arrived, I put the vinux4 64bit disk in it loaded up and the vinux version of Ubuntu came up. It did not talk right away so I used the keystroke (CtRL+ALT+o) to launch the Orca screen reader and I had speech and, if I wanted, refreshable braille.
A Few Definitions
Throughout this article, you will read the terms, “Vinux,” “GNU/Linux” and “Ubuntu” frequently. These three are related, very similar but not exactly the same things. For clarity, here are their definitions in the context of this piece:
GNU/Linux is the generic term for all operating systems based on the Linux Kernel. This includes Ubuntu, RedHat, Debian and all others. Any of these different distributions of the OS can be made accessible and eau has its own special characteristics.
Ubuntu is the specific version of the GNU/Linux operating system that we’ll be discussing in this article.
Vinux is a special version of Ubuntu made by blind volunteers to contain as much of value to people with vision impairment as possible while also providing an out-of-the-box accessible installer and experience without having to make any modifications yourself.
Installing GNU/Linux with Vinux4
The installation of Vinux4 was quite simple. I found that, for a blind user, it is easier than installing windows because you have speech through every step of the process where, on the Microsoft OS, there are a number of things one needs to do before your access technology can be run.
Installing Ubuntu with the Vinux distribution was easy.. First it asks you to pick your language. You do that by choosing the language of your choice from a list box, tabbing to the continue push button and pressing enter. The rest of the installation goes smoothly with properly spoken prompts to make a choose a number of installation preferences. One needn’t fear missing anything during the installation as all of this can be done from within the Gnome interface later.
For the new computer user learning the Gnome desktop is pretty easy. While describing all of the cool features of this accessible operating environment is beyond the scope of this article, I can you assure you that even a computer novice can learn it all pretty easily. I recommend the Orca “Getting Started” document as the first place to learn about using a GNU/Linux system with this terrific screen reader.
finding cool Ubuntu apps
The easiest way to find applications is by getting them from either the Ubuntu software center or the Linux Free Software Catalogue . most programs have automated installation routines that make adding them to your system very simple.
Some Applications I Use
I enjoy using various media players. My favorites are vlc, and rhythmbox. I like using audacity for audio editing and sound converter to work with audio files. handbrake is a good program for ripping dvds. .
rhythmbox is similar to iTunes. It lets you record radio stations and add new ones. You can use rhythmbox to manage your iPhone. Brazero lets me easily burn disks both dvds and cds. gnu cash financial management software, is completely accessible, and works with quickbooks files.
These are just a few of the accessible apps that work with vinux. There are many more out there. installing something, trying it, and then removing it with software center or if needed with terminal is perfectly safe and will not damage your machine. It is also easy to add more software stores but this may be something most useful to more advanced users.
Some Applications Specifically Useful to Blind Users
the quantum omnidirectional barcode scanner works great in this system. My canon document scanner and others work good with speedy-ocr for scanning in books and handouts for school. One can use audiobook creator to turn your documents into audiobooks. If you need better sounding speech you could buy and use a third party speech synthesizer. You can use Calibre to convert ebooks into accessible formats.
If you’re tired of paying for duxbury braille translation software?? You don’t need to in this system as. odt2braille and brailleBlaster are free alternatives. They are powerful braille authoring tools.
I use the applications above for fun and profit but we do need to consider programs useful when we need to work. For your daily work you’ll need an office suite. and you’ll need to buy an expensive one right? nope, wrong. Vinux comes with an easy to use powerful Microsoft Office compatible suite of applications called libreoffice. It’s “Writer” application is just like word, and it’s calc is just like excel. In fact, LibreOffice can save all your work in Microsoft office format so you can easily share your libreoffice documents with the rest of the windows using world and no-one will ever know you are not using windows.
Overall the Vinux 4 flavor of the Ubuntu GNU/Linux operating system is a good alternative to Windows. It is fast, stable, unlikely to catch a virus and even has some accessible games available.. You can run windows inside a virtual machine if you want or need to. ,
Inspired by this excellent and accessible software, I’ve decided to try to start up a small business selling refurbished computers with vinux preloaded and ready to go. So when your computer arrives in the mail you can just turn it on and start using it with speech out-of-the-box.
. I hope this review will help alleviate people’s fears about trying something new, and in many cases something better than what the commercial AT and operating system companies can offer.