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Old 02-14-2014, 04:16 AM   #1
serendipity7000
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Need to set up a laptop for my visually impaired aunt


My aunt is elderly but very sharp and had a professional life. She had a 17" laptop on XP but changed it because XP to be discontinued. Her new on is on Windows 8 and she can't get to grips with it, particularly the fact there is no 'off' button, but also screens are now shorter and wider. I am thinking of getting an older Vista laptop with the taller screen, putting Windows 7 or Linux on it, and setting it up with some kind of high contrast desktop - would be very grateful for any suggestions how to make it easier for her to see. Have also heard of Vinux and wondered if this might be suitable. Also she has been told she could use the screen on her TV with hdmi, so am also wondering if a large laptop is actually necessary (she is in a tiny flat now) and maybe a smaller, more portable one would be better, that she uses from her TV screen - but not sure if the high contrast set up would transfer to the TV, and likewise if the Vinux screen reader audio would transfer to the TV. Help and suggestions gratefully received.
 
Old 02-14-2014, 09:55 AM   #2
rtmistler
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If you and she don't mind using Linux, you could probably set her up with a Raspberry Pi, find a simple enclosure for it. It has a wired Ethernet port, a USB host port, and an HDMI port. Therefore it would be small, low power, and use the TV screen.

Then it's a matter of finding a distribution and settings which are well suited for her.
 
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Old 02-14-2014, 10:13 AM   #3
harryhaller
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Vinux is a distro for blind people and for people with poor eye-sight.

Quote:
Vinux is a Ubuntu derived distribution optimised for the needs of blind and partially sighted users. By default Vinux provides two screen-readers, Braille display support and a friendly community.
When you boot the live Vinux image, you will be greeted by the Orca screen reader enabling you to navigate the graphical Gnome desktop using keyboard commands. Finally, Brltty provides Grade 1 and 2 Braille output via Orca.
 
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Old 02-14-2014, 05:22 PM   #4
serendipity7000
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Thanks very much! I keep hearing about this Raspberry Pi thing and I have no idea what it is! It certainly sounds interesting and clever. Thanks for the post about Vinux - I did have a look at their website, but can't quite work out how it helps or what it is like - have just burned it to a dvd so might try it out tomorrow, but the Raspberry Pi thing sounds good if it is just something that works on the TV - assume you need a separate keyboard and mouse?
 
Old 02-14-2014, 10:19 PM   #5
frankbell
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For accessibility, there's also Trisquel and Sonar, Jonathan Nadeau's accessibility project.
 
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Old 02-17-2014, 08:42 AM   #6
rtmistler
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Quote:
Originally Posted by serendipity7000 View Post
Thanks very much! I keep hearing about this Raspberry Pi thing and I have no idea what it is! It certainly sounds interesting and clever. Thanks for the post about Vinux - I did have a look at their website, but can't quite work out how it helps or what it is like - have just burned it to a dvd so might try it out tomorrow, but the Raspberry Pi thing sounds good if it is just something that works on the TV - assume you need a separate keyboard and mouse?
The Raspberry Pi is a single board computer, using an ARM processor. It is a low power hobbyist/experiment computer, but also serviceable as a system for those who want something very small. This is the main website, http://www.raspberrypi.org/ but a problem I feel it has is that it's somewhat similar to a blog in that some new posting by someone changes the content on this main page. I recommend you visit the FAQ Page because this shows diagrams and pictures of the Raspberry Pi, where you can buy them, and diagrams of the connections that the board has.

My recommendation is that someone starting who is interested, but realizes that it may take them a few days of experimentation to get it all set up is that they purchase a Pi board, along with a 4 GB or 8 GB SD card. Have available a USB mouse and keyboard, a monitor, plus HDMI cable. Other things to have are an existing Windows computer capable of using/viewing the SD card. The monitor may be an issue; for instance we have one monitor here which has HDMI, the rest have DVI so we had to buy an HDMI to DVI cable to go from the Pi to our monitor. Otherwise if you have a TV or monitor with an HDMI interface, then you can just buy an HDMI cable; similar to one which goes from say your cable box or DVD player, to your TV.

Typical situation is that the tools to format and set up the SD card are there and ready for Windows. There is a Linux process, it's just less automated and the core instructions start by describing how to set up the card from Windows. Once you boot the Pi from that SD card, you have the option to install one or multiple distributions. I've installed the Pi default version, it works fine.

From there you can explore the Pi Linux and set up the system to work how you wish. Many use the Pi for projects, therefore they're looking to do certain things with it. But if you just wish to set up a home system for someone to use, then some ideas and things to consider.

The board is small, they sell enclosures for it. Basically you'll have a small box about the size of an index card, but a little over an inch high with a bunch of cutouts for cables. The SD card pretty much stays in there all the time. There are two USB ports; however this is NOT a high powered board and attaching a non-powered USB HUB and a bunch of peripherals is going to cause stuff to not work, or not work completely. So a powered USB HUB is good, there was one which I cannot locate now, it's cool because (a) it's small, (b) it is powered, and (c) it has a special port labeled for the Pi which is intended to output 5V to go into the Pi microUSB jack and power the Pi. That reduces the number of wall plugs one needs. To have that third (or more) USB port is good. Two are used up by keyboard and mouse, and then one can plug in USB flash drives or thumbsticks to contain their data. Not that you can't store data on the SD card, my point there is that rather than use space on that card, have your data be removable media which also doesn't contain your operating system.

I can't testify whether the Pi works great for movies or games; I've used it to do Linux, web browsing and such, I've also not hooked up speakers; however one use of the Pi is that people use it as a media device, be that server or gateway; in their houses. I'm not sure how far they go with it, but I'm sure that someone has tried. It's just not an area I've looked too much into, we use them at work for cheap projects which require more than an embedded CPU, but need to be less than a full blown x86 architecture. As far as how usable a Pi is for everyday use, it seems serviceable to me. But this is why if your interested, but not fully sold; I recommend you start with just the board, SD card, and ways to hook up with it, keyboard/mouse/network cable. Then if you decide you like it, you can look at boxes and see about adding drives and speakers, etc.
 
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Old 02-17-2014, 11:03 AM   #7
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Ok, something that no one has mentioned yet but is VITALLY important:

What apps is your aunt running? Is there anything that she may be using or used to that is Windows only?

If the answer is yes then I'd suggest going down your proposed Win7 route rather than down any Linux route.
 
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Old 02-17-2014, 11:53 AM   #8
serendipity7000
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Hi thank you everyone - yes I also think am going to have to stick with Windows - her existing apps aren't too important as she will be happy just to be able to get on the internet and do her banking at this stage, but I think the Windows familiarity is going to be important to her. She has used Windows all her life, and is missing XP! Thank you very much for all the info about the Pi, and I have looked some things up as well, but think it is going to be too complicated for her. I have burned and tried Vinux live - and the Orca screen reader is very good (although for some reason it says something in German at the end of every sentence! Despite being set for English). I haven't played around with it for long, but some of the visuals don't seem that customisable, and I'm thinking it might be better to use a Linux distro I know I can customize and then add Orca - but I believe it only works with Gnome (?2 or ?3) which prob means using Debian LXDE or maybe just Ubuntu - I'm not sure. Anyway - have decided the hdmi tv screen route is not the way either - without a new, up to date laptop. Have just bought a used Sony Vaio VGN-NS10 on auction site - it has a 4:3 screen - 15.4" - and think it might be better to get her set up with enlarged text and icons on a 4:3 screen - either in Windows, or possibly Linux Mint. Enlarged icons and text, with high contrast settings, would prob do the trick (she has macular degeneration) - the problem then would be reading menus - but I guess I could have a plain dark desktop background with large icon shortcuts for the main things she would want to use, plus a big shut-down button, and forget the menus.

So - does anyone know if you can instal Orca on Linux Mint (which is kind of based on Ubuntu and Debian isn't it?). I think a screen reader will need to be a bonus extra right now, as she is so fed up with it all that she thinks nothing is possible, and it might be too big a learning curve (or too frustrating). So if I can get a good desktop setting and very big text that would be a start - have also bought a usb keyboard which is black and yellow with big keys.
 
Old 02-17-2014, 11:55 AM   #9
serendipity7000
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Anyway - sorry if the above was confusing - think I'll either need to put Windows 7 or Linux Mint on the Vista Vaio - or some other kind of very customisable Linux that is easy peasy to use. And I don't think she wants to be fiddling around with hdmi cables really.
 
Old 02-17-2014, 07:57 PM   #10
frankbell
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I think Mint would be a good choice.

They work to make their default desktop as easy a transition for Windows users as possible.
 
Old 02-17-2014, 08:02 PM   #11
jefro
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Look at Knoppix. Klaus built the later one's for this task.
 
Old 02-17-2014, 08:33 PM   #12
serendipity7000
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Thanks. I did try downloading the knoppix iso but it said it still had 10 hours to go after an hour! I gave up. Yes Mint would prob be good - I know you can just have a plain desktop with icons on with that, although not sure if you can make the icons to a particular size.
 
  


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