Many thanks for your nice message andyour interest.
My apologies for the late response, the week has been quite loaded.
I am quoting your message and using bottom-posting style, I hope nobody
minds but if it happens to be the case please do not hesitate to let me
know and I will do things differently.
Emma S (2021/08/30 16:11 -0700):
> Hi Shérab,
> Very interested to hear you are a computer scientist using Linux systems
> with screen reader and braille display.
> What are you working on at the minute, are you developing software?
I have a job that is called research engineer in France. It means that I
am working with a team of research whose research field is the theory of
programming languages. The programming language they develop is called
of OCaml. I work on the compiler's build system, making it possible to
create cross-compilers and stuff like that, I'm sorry if that does not
speak to you, you can ask and I will explain in simpler terms.
> I'm curious to know more about how you've set your system up to support you to
> do computer science tasks. You mention using the 40 cell Braille Display.
> Do you have a preferred IDE or text editor for example?
Well historically the first operating system I used was MS-DOS so let's
say that text-mode is kind of my mother tongue. I spent a short period
using Windows 95 or 98 I don't remember, but my experience at the time
was not very good. To access the screen, I had to use the assistive
technology provided by the manufacturer of my braille device, which had
nothing to do with what today's screen reading features I think. At that
time, at least in France, each manufacturer developed both the hardware
and the software, both the one that was embedded in the braille device
(let's call that one the firmware) and thee one running on the PC to
communicate with it. I think it's only later than the two things were
decoupled but meanwhile I stopped following that because I switched to
Linux whihc gave me back the text-mode I was usedto and comfortable
I am not really stuck with one editor. When I did my transition from DOS
to Linux, the Linjux documentationproject had a series of HOWTOs
explaining how to do different things under Linux (scanning, burning
CDs, etc.). One of those HOWTOs was to help making the transition from
DOS andWindows to Linux and that HOWTO recommended joe as an editor. I
am still using it today, in conjunction with emacs, depending a bit on
what I am working on and a lot onmy mood I guess, but I am pretty sure
others will have come up with other absolutely fine solutions. I don't
use an IDE actually. Just an editor andthe command-line.
> Linux systems lend
> themselves to doing a lot of work in the Terminal - are you mainly working
> at the command line?
Yes. Since I don't need to use spreadsheets or stuff like that, most of
the time I don't even have a GUI running. I run it only to use Firefox
and kill it as soon as I am done. This means that I am very bad at using
the graphical interfacess, most likely very bad compared to many
visually impaired persons, although they did not study computer science
as I did.
Also, while I am talking about studying computer science, in the school
where I started to study computer science I was the only visually
impaired person but everybody was using the terminal so my way of
working was not that alien. The only thing is that I was using Unix
virtual ocnsoles, whereas the others were using terminals but run under
XWindows, like xterm or stuff like that, but I think it took me quite a
bit of time to even realise this difference was there, because it was
never mentionned in our conversations. So given this environment, it
seems to me I was much more "like anybody else" that if I had been using
Windows and a screen reader. But it's of course very specific to my
history, I think.
> Which applications are you using day to day to get the
> job done, and how good are they in terms of accessibility?
So for web browsing, as mentionned earlier I use Firefox and that's the
only thing I am doing in graphical mode. When I can, like on Wikipedia
or Google, I use lynx, a text-mode web browser. I also use woob (web out
of browser) to do some tasks on the web without actually having to open
a browser. This tool I use to download my bank account logs everyday.
This is an automatic task so when I want to see them, they are already
onmy computer andI can even look at them off-line.
I use mpv to listen to videos and youtube-dl to download them (mpv
itself uses youte-dl as its video downloading backedn). Of course you
loose al the navigation facilities, but in exchange you never see any
advertisement, which I find really nice. And youtube-dl can do
manythings: download all the videos from a channel or a playlist, etc.
So you have off-line video browsing for free, if you were thoughtful
enough to download the videos of interest in advance.
I use mutt to handle e-mails. Under Unix, the tool you use to handle
e-mails and the one you use to edit them are two different things so you
can combine your favourite e-mail client (mutt) with your favourite text
editor. I use emacs for that.
Also, an important feature I use in Emacs is org-mode, which I use as a
tool to implement David Allen's GTD organization method.
I also use version control software for the programming activities, ssh,
and I think that's pretty much it.
> I am running Ubuntu 18.04 LTS on a Tuxedo laptop - it's their fork of
> Ubuntu I'm using which has Ubuntu Budgie desktop. I'm only blind in one
> eye, and learning Braille in case anything happens to the other one.
I think that's a very wise idea. Maybe getting used to speech synthesis
may help you, too, because braille has the drawbacks of beeing a bit
slow and tiresome. In those situations where you don't get into a text
deeply, listening to it with a speech system may be faster and less
tiring. Perhaps I am even biased here, perhaps those who work mainly
with speech will say that listening to a text is perfectly okay to get
into it deeply, which I'm pretty ready to believe. I think it's a matter
of habbits. And you can also adjust the speed of the speech synthetizer
and make it speak slower if the text is complex. YOu can also use both
text and braille in a synchronized way, listening to the text as long as
this is enough and reading in braille when you want to see the details,
to get a spelling quickly or so.
> So I can read the screen ok after scaling the display up. I have played around a
> bit with the Orca screen reader but not used it seriously yet. Which
> settings do you recommend as the most practical for that?
Well since you are partially sighted and I am blind, I am not sure the
settings that work for me would be okay for you. I also think there
exists a screen magnification tool under Linux, a bit equivalent in
features to ZoomText, but I don't know how it's called. If I were you, I
would subscribe to the orca mailing list and ask there. People on that
list are friendly and helpful and I am sure they would be able to give
you much better hints as myself since our use cases are a bit far away
from each other: I'm blind and you still have some sight, and I use
text-mode while you seem to target rather graphical mode, even if I
understand you could be interested in the command-line, too.
> Also have you had
> to memorize the Ubuntu user interface keyboard shortcuts?
No. I use Debian and the mate desktop and I think the only keybinding I
know is alt-f1 to open the menu. But I am definitely not an example to
follow on this.