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Re: using XSL transformations

As someone who has used jaws and other speech apps and who has been
developing software for a fair while, here are some of my thoughts.

1. The irqtune problem is likely to be a combination of two things -
   1. Redhat 7.x is using a new version of the glibc libraries and gcc
compiler. This means some older apps (possibly including irqtune) are
not binary compatible and may not compile (though I believe a little
work by someone who knows C would overcome this problem). If a total
rebuild from source does not work, maybe some minor changes to the
code will overcome the problm by making the source compatible withh
the new C libraries. 

    2. RedHat does come with some compatibility libraries and
compilers (check out the compat-* packages in the 7.2 distro.

    3. TedHat is being a leading endge distributor with these new
glibc and gcc versions. Other distributions will follow
eventually. However, you could try using a non-RPM based distribution
such as Debian. It still uses the older libraries and would still be
compatible with irqtune.

    4. The redhat 7.x distro comes with linux Kernel 2.4.x - this is a
major new kernel version and its possible irqtune is not compatible
with this version of the kernel. Other distros like Debian potato are
still running the 2.2 kernel. There is nothing wrong with the 2.2
kernel and in fact, I'm still running it on this box (which is redhat

Now, Jaws and emacspeak. 
Personally, I think jaws sucks big time. I found it to be unstable,
irritating because of its use of authorization keys and a bit buggy. I
prefer to use windows eyes from gw micro - it has no authorization
keys and I think it works better with non-windows apps, plus its
easier for a non programmer to configure as it does not use a
scripting language. However, this does come down to personal taste to
some extent. It is definatley more stable.

There is a big difference in philosophy between jaws/windo-eyes and
emacspeak. The jaws/window-eyes programs are just "dumb" screen
readers. They know nothing about the content of the text they are
speaking. The real advantage of emacspeak is that becaue it is part of
emacs and understands emacs modes etc, it is able to do some context
mapping to different voices. Its a bit similar to the way
printed/displayed material uses different fonts/colours to provide
more information or context to the text. For example, when using w3 to
read a web page, emacspeak will use different voices for different
page elements - headings in one voice, plain text in another, bold in
yet another etc. Emacspeak also uses auditory icons to indicate other
things such as indent levels, changing buffers etc. 

As a programmer, I find this stuff very useful. When writing code,
variable names can be identified easily by the voice used or strings
which are in another voice, comments in another etc. The whole thing
about emacspeak is that it tries to provide more than just text to
speech - it tries to provide other auditory indicators to add t the
information available. With jaws and other speech apps, all you get is
plain text. In fact, its can be worse than that - when these programs
need to indicate special properties such as entering a dialogue box,
they actually have to say it. This means extra words to listen to
which can often break the flow of what is being spoken. For example,
consider the sentence -

The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dogs". 

Now, lets say quick and lazy are in bold type. Under jaws and other
applications of its type, either the bold attribute would just be
ignored and lost or the software would say something like

The begin-bold quick end-bold brown fox jumped over the begin-bold
lazy end-bold dogs. 

Under emacspeka, you would hear 

The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dogs 

where quick and lazy would be spoken in a different voice. 

I hope this gives a very rough explination of the differences between
the two. To some extent, which application is better suited depends
very much on the user. Windows is more common and in some ways easier
for those with little computer knowledge who don't want to learn
any. Emacspeak on the other hand is free, more powerful (in my
opinion), but requires the user put in a bit mor effort to learn and
maintain. It also depends on the tpe of work the user needs to do. If
they need to interact with products like ms word, access and excel a
lot, well they pretty much have to use jaws or window-eyes. However,
if they only want to send/read mail/news surf the web or do software
development, emacspak and linux is the way to go.

Of course, this is just my opinion and others will differ. The milage
you get from emacspeak differs from user to user.

Patrick Gordon writes:
> I have put in many hours trying to build a demo of a useful text-to-speech
> tool for my blind friend.  At this point, I feel it necessary to do a sanity
> check on this listserv.  Today, I came to the conclusion that irqtune, a
> vital tool needed to make emacspeak functional on my system, will not work
> with RH 7.2.  The binary is nonfunctional on 7.2 and the c source code
> requires compiler extensions not supported in the RH 7.2 distribution.
> With many years experience in system development and input solicited from
> linux developers, I'm confident that my conclusion is correct (but I am
> always open to criticism).  Consequently, I have started to evaluate
> alternative programs that do not require irqtune.  The first one I have
> tried is Jaws for Windows.  Though a little too verbose, it does have many
> of the same features as emacspeak.  It even supports control key sequences
> and has hooks into the most popular Windows applications.
> What am I missing here?  Other than being "free" and running on a "free"
> operating system, what makes emacspeak superior to Jaws?  I contend that
> cost is not an issue. I bet I can find an individual or organization to fund
> the purchase of commercial software for anybody in need on this group. I am
> sighted and new to this area, so I know I do not have a full appreciation
> for how emacspeak is serving the needs of this community. Accordingly, I
> plan to observe just how Jaws is used in a school for the blind in my local
> area.  The question that will be in my mind is: Could emascspeak do a better
> job?
> Your comment are welcome.
> Patrick
> -----------------------------------------------------------------------------
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Tim Cross
mailto: tcross@northnet.com.au
phone: +61 2 6772 5973
mobile: 0412 969193

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