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Revision as of 05:57, 8 November 2012 by Kyle (talk | contribs) (Updated info for enabling speakup modules and the espeakup daemon. Modules are now added to /etc/modules-load.d/speakup.conf, and the daemon is now enabled using the systemd service.)
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This page describes a bootable CD / USB image customized for blind users. The modified version is mostly equivalent to the official "netinstall CD", but the system should start speaking as soon as you boot with it. Speech is provided via the sound card, using the eSpeak software synthesizer and the Speakup screenreader. It is also possible to use a braille display, via brltty. You can obtain the image from this page.

The image can be used with both the i686 or the x86_64 architecture. Also, it is suitable for either a recordable CD or a USB stick. Just download it and write it to the medium of your choice.

A detached GPG signature is provided on the download page. The signature is made with the gpg key associated with the address chris at the-brannons dot com. The key ID is 6521E06D. The fingerprint is 66BD 74A0 36D5 22F5 1DD7 0A3C 7F2A 1672 6521 E06D


The images are produced and hosted by Chris Brannon. Thanks to the following people for submitting valuable feedback regarding this project: Chuck Hallenbeck, Julien Claassen, Alastair Irving, Tyler Spivey, Keith Hinton, and many others. Thanks also go to Tyler Littlefield, who previously hosted the files.

Installing from the CD

The following list of steps is a brief guide to installing Arch Linux using this CD. The instructions assume that your root partition will be mounted on /mnt.

  1. This is a dual-architecture .iso file. If you're booting on an i686 machine, then you can just press Template:Keypress at the boot prompt, or wait for the bootloader to time-out. If you're booting on an x86_64 system, then do this. Wait for the boot prompt. If you're lucky, then you have a console speaker, and you'll hear a beep when the bootloader is ready. If you don't have a console speaker, just wait for your CD-ROM drive to stop spinning, or alternatively, wait 20 or 30 seconds when booting from USB. Once you've reached the boot prompt, press Template:Keypress and type arch64 and press Template:Keypress.
  2. You are strongly encouraged to read the Arch Linux documentation, especially the Installation Guide and Beginners Guide. Do the installation procedure described in the Installation Guide, as modified by the instructions below.
  3. You'll need to install the espeakup and alsa-utils packages. The Installation Guide mentions that you can install additional packages by appending their names to the packstrap command. For example, pacstrap /mnt base espeakup alsa-utils
  4. Create /mnt/etc/modules-load.d/speakup.conf: Add speakup and [[ic|speakup_soft}}, one module per line. Enable the espeakup systemd service at boot time by typing ln -s /usr/lib/systemd/system/espeakup.service /etc/systemd/system/
  5. You also need to save the state of the sound card, so that it will be retrieved on reboot. Execute the command alsactl -f /var/lib/alsa/asound.state store and copy the file /var/lib/alsa/asound.state to /mnt/var/lib/alsa/asound.state. Alternatively, alsactl -f /mnt/var/lib/alsa/asound.state store will do this with one command.
  6. When you boot the system from the hard disk, it should start speaking.

Braille Support

The latest image includes brltty, for those who own braille displays. The brltty package available on the CD was compiled with as few dependencies as possible. It is packaged as brltty-minimal in the Arch User Repository. If you wish to use braille, you will need to supply the brltty parameter at the boot prompt. Alternatively, you can start brltty from the shell, after the system has booted.

The brltty boot-time parameter consists of three comma-separated fields: driver, device, and table. The first is the driver for your display, the second is the name of the device file, and the third is a relative path to a translation table. You can use "auto" to specify that the driver should be automatically detected. I encourage you to read the brltty documentation for a fuller explanation of the program.

For example, suppose that you have a device connected to /dev/ttyS0, the first serial port. You wish to use the US English text table, and the driver should be automatically detected. Here is what you should type at the boot prompt:

arch32 brltty=auto,ttyS0,en_US

Once brltty is running, you may wish to disable speech. You can do so via the "print screen" key, also known as sysrq. On my qwerty keyboard, that key is located directly above the insert key, between F12 and scroll lock.

Maintaining Your Speech-enabled Arch Linux Installation

You shouldn't need to do anything extraordinary to maintain the installation. Everything should just seamlessly work.

Mastering Speech-enabled ISO Images

This process is now fairly straightforward. Just grab and install the talkingarch-git package from the AUR. It depends on archiso-git, so you need that as well. See /usr/share/doc/talkingarch/README for full instructions.

Further Resources

Michael Whapples made an audio tutorial demonstrating the process of installing ArchLinux using this CD. Click here to listen to it! Note that it is out of date, as of the 2012.07.23 snapshot.


This is not an official release. It is not endorsed by anyone other than Chris Brannon. It is provided solely for the convenience of its creator and other blind users, and it comes with absolutely no warranty.