open source news

This article will be something rather different from my normal postings. I’ve decided to begin doing news posts, rather than just my ramblings. Oh, there will still be rambles, as I have an opinion on everything, and readers might as well know the person I am, to understand more about my viewpoint, to gauge the content relative to the content writer.

The scope of the news will vary, but I expect it to be mostly open source technology, relevant to the blind community. This may change, as readers may always contact me requesting that I write articles or news items about subjects. I will let the folks at Blind Bargains chase after Humanware, Vispero, HIMS, and other such “big names” in the Assistive Technology world. I seek for my content to be different, meaningful, and lacking the comedic nature of Podcasts for the blind. Yes, I do have a slight grudge against larger sites who can dictate, pretty well without fail, what readers know about. After all, if a blind person only listens to the Blind Bargains podcast, or even reads their news posts, will they know about these advancements, like retroarch accessibility, Stormux, and so on? In any case, with that out of the way, let’s be on with the news.

Retroarch is accessible

Retroarch, the program that brings many video game emulators together into one unified interface, was made accessible in December 2019. Along with its ability to grab text from the screen of games and speak it, this brings accessibility to many games, on all 3 major operating systems for desktop and laptop computers. No, Android and iOS cannot benefit from this yet. Also, there is more to come.

For a detailed page on using Retroarch for the blind, see this guide.

GTK 4 could be more accessible

This year, folks from GTK met with some accessibility advocates. They came up with this roadmap for better accessibility. GTK is the way some Linux apps are given graphical representations, like buttons, check boxes, and so on. As I always say, the operating system is the root of accessibility, and the stronger that root is, the more enjoyable it will be for blind people to use Linux.

I hope that this will bring much more accessibility to GTK programs, and get rid of a lot of reasons to stick with Mac or Windows for many more technically inclined blind people, like myself. Yes, even I have reservations about using it. Will it be good enough? Will I be able to get work done? Will I be able to play the game I like most? Will it require a lot of work? At least with better GTK accessibility, a few of those questions will be better answered affirmatively.

Mate 1.24 brings greater accessibility

Last month, Mate released version 1.24 of its desktop environment, which is basically like a version of the Windows desktop, handling the start menu, task bar, and other such aspects of a graphical interface. Mate uses a system more like Windows XP, while other desktops, like Gnome, are more new in their approaches.

Just search for “accessibility” on the linked page, and you’ll find quite a few improvements. This is a great sign; I really like it when organizations, or companies, display their accessibility commitment proudly in updates, and not just the bland “bug fixes and performance improvements” mantra tiredly used in most change logs today.

Stormux: a distribution which might stick around

After the quiet death of F123, a contributor to the blind Linux community, Storm, created a fork of F123, calling it Stormux. The project is new, and still has a few problems, but is designed to be a jumping off point into Arch Linux, which is a more advanced, but very up-to-date, variant of Linux. It is only available for the Raspberry Pi 4 computer for now, and I will have a chance to test it soon. The website is as new as the software, so the downloads section is not linked to the main page, neither is much else. In the coming months, both the website and operating system should see some development.

Conclusion

This has been my first news article on this blog. I hope to write more of these, along with my normal posts, as new developments occur. However, I cannot know about everything, so if one of my readers finds or creates something new, and wishes for it to be written about and possibly read, please let me know. I will not turn away anyone because of obscurity or lack of general perceived interest.

Written on March 7, 2020
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