TalkingArch

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Introduction

This page describes the second release of a modified ArchLinux install CD that includes spoken output for blind users. The modified version is mostly equivalent to the official "ftp 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 only available for the i686 platform; x86-64 is not supported. There are two versions: an Isolinux version and a Grub version. One may obtain ".iso" images via HTTP.

Grub: download
MD5 sum: 932d49d5093e50d8c5fb14527afd17fa

Isolinux: download
MD5 sum: 28fa806a745e26424596259a71fc9d64

Credits

This CD was produced by Chris Brannon, and the downloadable images are hosted by Tyler Littlefield.

Installing from the CD

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

  1. When booting, Grub provides a very long timeout. Press enter once the drive stops spinning.
  2. Use the installer on the CD, as per the Beginners Guide.
  3. Install the alsa-utils and espeak packages:
    pacman --root=/mnt -Sy alsa-utils espeak
  4. Install the speakup and espeakup packages. These are not yet available in the community repository. There are two ways to install them.
    1. Use the binary packages from Chris Brannon's custom package repository.
      I promise that the speakup package will always match the kernel version available from the official ArchLinux repositories. Append the following two lines to
      /etc/pacman.conf
      and
      /mnt/etc/pacman.conf
      :
      [blind]
      Server = http://members.cox.net/cmbrannon/blind/i686
      Install the packages from my custom repository:
      pacman --root=/mnt -Sy speakup espeakup
    2. Build the packages from source, using the PKGBUILDs available from the Arch User Repository. For convenience, the URLs are: speakup PKGBUILD espeakup PKGBUILD. If I were going to choose this option, I would probably chroot into the newly installed ArchLinux system in order to build the packages.
  5. Customize
    /mnt/etc/rc.conf
    : Add speakup and speakup_soft to the MODULES array. Add alsa and espeakup to the DAEMONS array.
  6. You also need to save the state of the sound card, so that it will be retrieved on reboot. Execute the command
    alsactl store
    and copy the file
    /etc/asound.state
    to
    /mnt/etc/asound.state
    . Alternatively,
    alsactl -f /mnt/etc/asound.state store
  7. When you boot the system from the hard disk, it should start speaking.

Maintaining Your Speech-enabled ArchLinux Installation

If you added my custom package repository to your pacman.conf file, then you will be able to receive upgrades to the speakup and espeakup packages whenever they happen. This is infrequent. I rebuild speakup whenever ArchLinux provides a major kernel upgrade. When kernel version 2.6.28 replaced version 2.6.27, a new speakup package was available several hours after the new kernel was made available on the Arch mirrors. Everything should seamlessly work.

Mastering Speech-enabled ISO Images

The ArchLinux developers build their CD images using a set of shell scripts and configuration files named archiso. I added a configuration to archiso that allows me to build accessible CDs. If someone wants to produce customized images containing Speakup, he can do the following.

Grab sources using git:

 git clone http://members.cox.net/cmbrannon/archiso.git
 cd archiso
 git checkout --track -b talkinginst origin/talkinginst

All of my work is done on the "talkinginst" branch. The master branch

mirrors the master branch from
git://projects.archlinux.org/archiso.git

Install the scripts contained in the archiso/ subdirectory of the sources.

In order to create the image, pacman needs to be able to find the speakup and espeakup packages.

Add my custom "blind" package repository to
/etc/pacman.conf
on the host

system, as described in the instructions for installing from CD.

Change to the configs/talkinginst directory, and type
make ftp-iso
.

Alternatively,

 make BOOTLOADER=syslinux ftp-iso

yields an image having Isolinux as its bootloader. There are several more targets for "make". For instance, ftp-usb produces an image suitable for a flash drive.

Additional Notes

Presently, this CD is only usable with English-language speech.

Known Problems

The sound card may not be properly unmuted after boot. The script on the CD only unmutes the Master and PCM controls, but this is not sufficient for all sound cards. A fix is promised by March 27, 2009.

Disclaimer

The author of this modified CD is in no way associated with ArchLinux. The product 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.