[Accessibility] Text-only accessible booting

Janina Sajka janina at rednote.net
Wed Aug 20 15:07:41 PDT 2003

s I promissed on today's call, here's a real, live issue illustrating, I
think, at least one small accessible booting issue--that has a big

Here goes.

As you probably know, many Linux users who are blind are using a screen
reading software called Speakup which achieves its interface to the OS
by patching the Linux kernel. It becomes a display driver in the kernel,
for all intents and purposes. Until the current (CVS only still) rewrite
of Speakup, this patch was monolithic and pretty ugly. The rewrite, in
addition to some very helpful feature enhancements, is modular. In
itself this is an accessibility enhancement as it is now possible to
switch synthesizers without rebooting. And, this should be an easier
tie-in for the kernel--easier to accept and simply include with future
Linux kernels to be available on all distros (we hope and expect).

But, there's also a problem here. The ugly monolithic patch provided
speech from the very moment the kernel booted. The first messages one
would hear from the synth were all about the PCI busses, available pages
of RAM, kernel version, CPU speed, etc., etc. Very cool and useful to
the geeks and easily silenced when you didn't want to hear it. In other
words, it's a feature we don't want to lose. But, how can we keep it?

If one is lucky (*as I am) and still has an older system with a speech
synthesizer internally (on an ISA slot), everything is fine. One simply
builds an initrd that includes the appropriate Speakup module. It
doesn't speak quite as early--but probably early enough to catch a
kernel 'oopps.'

But, to the exten that people can even find hardware synths today,
they're almost always serial. And, they're pretty dumb. They need to
manage the serial interface directly--else all kinds of things, like
timing of speech, get messed up.

So, on the systems where I use a serial synth, I first boot, login
without speech and issue (in a script):

setserial /dev/ttyS0 uart none
modprobe speakup_ltlk

So, here's the question. Is there a way, today, to manage passing the
'setserial /dev/ttyS0 uart none' as an argument to the kernel at boot
time? If so, there's an entire community of Speakup users who will be
overjoyed to hear the news. And, if not, I guess we can talk about
adding some kind of feature request for future development?

				Janina Sajka, Director
				Technology Research and Development
				Governmental Relations Group
				American Foundation for the Blind (AFB)

Email: janina at afb.net		Phone: (202) 408-8175

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