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Categoty:Accessibility (English)


This page describes a modified Arch Linux install CD that includes spoken output 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 only available for the i686 platform; x86-64 is not supported. Click here for links to the images.

The detached signature was made using the gpg key associated with the address cmbrannon79 at gmail dot com. The key ID is CE8D2EE8. The fingerprint is A2C6 0177 783D 222E 3677 E247 83A0 DB7D CE8D 2EE8


This CD was produced by Chris Brannon, and the downloadable images are hosted by Tyler Littlefield. Thanks to the following people for submitting valuable feedback regarding this project: Chuck Hallenbeck, Julien Claassen, Alastair Irving, Tyler Spivey, , and Keith Hinton.

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. 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, speakup, and espeakup packages: pacman --root=/mnt --cachedir=/mnt/var/cache/pacman/pkg -Sy alsa-utils speakup espeakup
  4. Customize /mnt/etc/rc.conf: Add speakup and speakup_soft to the MODULES array. Add alsa and espeakup to the DAEMONS array.
  5. 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
  6. When you boot the system from the hard disk, it should start speaking.

Handling Dialogs with Speakup

The Arch Linux installer, /arch/setup, makes extensive use of the dialog program. Users may experience some difficulties when navigating several of the menus and dialogs. This is not specific to Arch Linux. Other text-mode installers often have similar problems. The following discussion is a compilation of suggested solutions from members of the Speakup community.

First, set the DIALOGOPTS environment variable to the value "--visit-items", before starting the ArchLinux installer. At a shell prompt, type the following command:
export DIALOGOPTS='--visit-items'

Enable highlight tracking. Press the star key on the numeric keypad. If you use a laptop that lacks the numeric keypad, press the sequence capslock control 8. Speakup will say "highlight tracking". Setting DIALOGOPTS and enabling highlight tracking mode should be sufficient for navigating most menus.

Setting the Date and Time

The "set timezone" menus are a joy to navigate, because the entries are numbered. Just type the corresponding number and press enter.

The "set date and time" menus are problematic. Ignore them, because there is a better way to set your system's clock. Once you have booted Arch Linux from the hard drive, install the ntp package. Next, execute the command ntpdate You need to be logged in as root to perform both steps. Your system's clock will be synchronized with a time server located in the US state of Georgia. You may wish to find a time server that is closer to you. Chris Brannon never manually sets a system's clock, since setting it with NTP is so much easier.

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

The Arch Linux developers provide 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 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://

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

Change to the configs/talking-inst directory, and type make net-iso. Alternatively, make BOOTLOADER=syslinux net-iso yields an image having Isolinux as its bootloader. There are several more targets for "make". For instance, net-usb produces an image suitable for a flash drive.

Additional Notes

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


This CD image 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.