Most of my work is in Emacs or in a terminal buffer within Emacs. I use Emacspeak as a screen reader for Emacs; it is a collection of lisp that interprets calls to output text and makes sure speech is also output. That's not going to change all that much. I'll probably use some Gnome applications, but I expect most of what I do will still be in Emacs. In particular, I'm not planning to drop Gnus as my mail reader--although I'm considering using Evolution for some things.
So, the desired final result is Emacs, Gnome and Virtualbox running under X. There will be three screen readers: Orca for Gnome, Emacspeak for Emacs and Window Eyes for Windows. X can handle that, so what's the big deal? Well, the Linux sound drivers can't always handle that. It turn out that with modern kernels, libraries and hardware, ALSA can do fine too. However only one OSS application can have the sound card opened at the same time. If any ALSA applications have the sound card open, then no OSS applications can have the sound card open. I'm using Flite as a backend speech synthesizer for Emacspeak; unfortunately, it is built against OSS rather than ALSA. However it's good and keeps the sound card open only for very short times. Orca uses Espeak (or at least that seems the best option), which uses ALSA. However Espeak also keeps the sound card open for short periods of time. The astute reader may notice some missing information at this point.
Of course with any such project there is bound to be some pre-yaks to shave before you actually get down to work. In my case, that was dvorak on X. Gnome has this nice keyboard preferences applet that lets you choose your keyboard layout. It let me choose dvorak just fine. But the fine folks at x.org decided that the dvorak layout should not remap the control keys. So, if you hit the key to the right of 'a', you get 'o', but if you hold down control and hit the same key ou get 'C-s'. That might actually be an improvement except that the Linux console map, Windows and the Mac all do it differently. So I learned dvorak with the control keys remapped and that's how my finger macros work. There seems to be no way to do this right short of mucking with the xkb symbol maps. For some reason I have two sets of xkb rules, one in /etc/X11 and one in /usr/share. Different tools seem to use different sets and they work differently. I did get it working, although not in a manner that will be preserved across upgrades. The dvorak yak had somewhat more hair than expected. The Orca laptop layout uses '7-9', 'u-o', 'j-l'. That is not actually improved by the dvorak translation. So I decided to remap the keys. Unfortunately, the keyboard layout dialogue for Orca sorts things by the key position on the keyboard! So, as you change keys, the display resorts and it is challenging to figure out what remains to be done.
Everything worked until I added Virtualbox to the mix. Well everything except for gdm, but I haven't figured that out yet. Virtualbox is an ALSA application. It holds the sound card open the entire time it's running. Oops.
So, there are two approaches I can think of. I can cause Flite to use ALSA or I can use something other than Flite. Now, in theory, Emacspeak also supports Espeak. I decided to try and go down that road. However it seems to depend on some TCL shared library that is no where to be found. It's apparently in the Emacspeak subversion repository but not actually shipping in the releases. Hmm, let's go take a look at Flite and ALSA support. Ah, promising. What's this
In other news, the state of Gnome phone sync support is really incredibly horrid.