Eyes-free feedback on Ubuntu 11.04

We have had some feedback on the ubuntu-accessibility mailing list which I would like to bring to a wider audience, Dave Hunt is blind and using an Asus 1015PE (a netbook) as his work-a-day system.

“I am running Ubuntu 11.04, but still with classic Gnome.  Unlike on the live cd, there are no crashes like we saw, now that I’ve installed it to hard drive.  The machine is not vinucized; that is, I did an eyes-free, independent install from the stock 11.04 image.  Orca got screwed up during the animated slide show that runs while the install is in progress.  When I got to the final step, I turned Orca off and hit the ‘install’ button.  Then, I just walked away, and came back to the machine after about a half-hour.  I assumed all was ready, ejected the usb drive, and rebooted.  To my delight, The narwhale came up talking, on the gdm screen.

Access to the Indicator Applet (the thing used for setting up wifi, checking the battery, etc, is a bit flaky, but, fortunately, one doesn’t need to play with the thing often.  I activated keyboard shortcuts for adjusting volume.  Next, I added the apt repositories for the Orca daily builds, installed Thunderbird, Drobbox, and a few other things I like.  In every stock Ubuntu system I’ve ever used, Orca won’t give access to the gui admin apps, unless one runs them from the terminal, with sudo.

The next thing I noticed was that the skype api plugin for empathy and pidgin does not work fully in Natty.  I can make calls, send and receive text messages, but cannot accept incoming calls.  I hear the ring tone, see the ‘accept’ dialogue, but attempts to accept do nothing.

I have about 12 gb of tunes, mostly in ‘mp3′ files.  In prior Ubuntu distros, I could manage this music collection with the Rhythmbox application.  In 11.04, Banshee is the new media player. Before I loaded my music collection, Banshee could open and play streams.  Now that the music is in place, Banshee will not fully open, and attempts to run it result in a frozen X session.  I installed Rhythmbox for comparison.  Rhythmbox will browse my files, create the indices, and play the music.  It will not, however, save  the database for future sessions.

Finally, Something I unwittingly did on Saturday has resulted in a system in which Orca will, sometimes, not start post-login.  I get the login drums and talking gdm screen.  I log in.  I get the post-login music, then, sometimes, nothing.  If I wait a minute or more, then manually start Orca, it still won’t go.  I have to pull the switch and restart; maybe it will work.

Well, there, you have it!  I’m not sure whether I’ll down-grade, change distros, or just make this thing work.  I have a stubborn streak that makes the third option most appealing.”

a few days later Dave updated us with his progress, now with Unity

“I decided to change the desktop, on this trusty netbook, to Unity from Classic Gnome, having remembered decent accessibility when I played with it at a Ubuntu Beta Bug Jam at a Canonical office.

In my previous message, you’ll recall, I mentioned trouble accessing the indicator applet, where one chooses network connection, checks battery, restarts, etc.  I’m happy to report that these menus are easy to find and read when using Unity.  I like how they are attached to the menu strip for the focused application.  Using that filter string to get quickly to a subset of the items found in Preferences, is very nice, too, so long as one knows what she/he is looking for.  For instance, I typed “login screen” into the filter, and found myself right on the “unlock” button.  The shortcuts, ‘super+0′ through ‘super+9′ are very quick and convenient; What a great idea!

Now, here are the things that still need some work, perhaps the team is already aware of these?  Context menus for launcher buttons do not speak.  The speaking of Unity menu names, as one scrubs with left or right arrow is inconsistent.  All Unity menu items (wifi options, volume/mute, etc, are spoken as “checkbox unchecked”; I happen to know what is a checkbox, and what is not, but, this should be fixed.  The new-style “places” options do not speak.  Partial results in the ‘run’ dialogue do not speak.  Finally, when switching applications with ‘alt+tab” or ‘alt+shift+tab’ keys, Orca will not speak while the modifier key(s) held down.  When keys released, Orca, first, speaks the name of the application that had focus, then the name of the newly-focused application.  This requires that user memorize the order of applications in the stack, an unnecessary distraction.”

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2 Responses to “Eyes-free feedback on Ubuntu 11.04”

  1. wags Says:

    To be perfectly honest about the UI of 11.04 I am very disappointed. I feel the freedom of custom desktops has been taken away from me. I loved the compiz and the freedom to set the panels. Ubuntu, this is the wrong direction for you. I have since moved back to 10.04 LTS for this reason. I will leave this on till you let your hands off my UI.

  2. Edu Camargo Says:

    This switch in priority towards Unity makes me think twice about a new try on Ubuntu. Is there a way to install Debian with Orca? Is Debian already using GNOME 3?


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