Vocalizer Expressive

Oh boy, answering this one could require a medium-length book, but let’s see what I can do with it.

To start with, you are a normal person; situations that require you to press multiple keys simultaneously are not a big deal. Those same situations are anathema to me, and they are usually impossible for me to comply with. The infamous “three-finger salute,” Control-Alternate-Delete, is the classic example, but there are numerous others. Modern operating systems offer a way around this problem as part of what are loosely called “accessibility tools” (or features). The tool that allows me to handle multi-key combinations by pressing the keys in sequence is referred to as “sticky keys.”

Are you with me so far?

Modern operating systems are essentially layers of programming, each layer being responsible for a specific set of tasks that form a piece of whatever the user is having the computer do in general. The layered analogy is correct, because what a given layer is doing is directly determined by what the layer immediately below it has just passed along. If operating systems are layered cakes, it’s important that those accessibility tools are as close to the bottom layer as possible.

We are all painfully familiar with what happens when an operating system becomes unstable. Programs start acting squirrelly, and the computer may eventually lock up. IBM’s OS/2 was the only operating system I’ve ever encountered that put Sticky Keys down at the correct layer, at the very bottom against the hardware. That meant that, no matter what else nuked in the software, you always kept at least enough keyboard control to reboot. (And, a running OS/2 instance was generally as robust as the Terminator.) Windows can’t match that claim; Microsoft didn’t even begin building accessibility into the operating system until Win 95, and there are still some applications—mostly games—that blithely ignore the accessibility settings. Still, as a general rule, Windows is far more circumspect about my accessibility needs than I expect Linux ever will be.

The other consideration is simply what do I use computers for, and the most basic answer is: everything I do. Oh, I realize there’s a huge library of software available for Linux, but the bulk of it is Open Source. Proponents of Open Source are quick to point out that anybody can vet the source code. That is true, but how many of us have the time, energy, and qualifications to do it properly? Virtually nobody. Instead, we automatically assume someone else has done the drudgery of checking every line of code and cross our fingers. Let’s not forget that the various flavors of Linux are also Open Source projects, meaning that they are written and maintained by hobbyists. No doubt those people are well-intentioned, but we have plenty of experience with hobbyist efforts. Some are great, but most aren’t. Putting Linux on a computer to play with is fine, but very few are willing to commit tasks that affect their personal welfare to client machines running Linux. It’s a question of accountability, a Linux screw-up isn’t going to hurt its “sales.”

More thoughts on the uneven nature of Open Source projects can be heard on this week’s episode of the Security Now podcast. The hosts are usually quite bullish on Open Source, but they are compelled this week to acknowledge some weaknesses that are inherent to hobbyist efforts. This introspection was prompted by release of the first initial results of a professional security audit of portions of the source code for TrueCrypt, a very highly respected Open Source drive encryption system.

From: kb5ziv [mailto:kb5ziv@rionet.coop]
Sent: Thursday, April 17, 2014 20:45
To: royall@conchbbs.com
Subject: Re: Vocalizer Expressive

now i see why you are haveing to push for a new system to work with,hope they don’t stone wall you,have you looked around on lennox?,jim

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