• Tip Jar

The Sendspace Wizard with Orca

A couple of months ago I found out about a service called Sendspace.
It is a great service that allows you to upload files and send links to them by email. You can also use the links on your blog or website if you have limited space or if your host doesn’t allow files to be uploaded. One of the things that makes Sendspace great is the Wizard. Instead of navigating through the Sendspace website to upload or download files, you can install the Wizard and use it instead. It is a very convenient piece of software for Linux, Mac, and Windows. I downloaded the Wizard shortly after creating my account. When I opened the Wizard for the first time, it was almost completely accessible with Orca. There was one exception though, and that one problem prevented me from being able to use the Wizard at all. The local and remote file views are displayed on something that Orca just refers to as panels. I noticed a “send feedback” option in the Wizard’s help menu and selected it. I was taken to the Sendspace website where I filled some information into a form and explained the problem I was having. I had also noticed that two of the keyboard shortcuts used by the Wizard conflicted with shortcuts used by Gnome, so I included that in the message as well.
I have contacted several companies in the past requesting accessibility improvements, or a Linux version of their software. In the past I have met with very little success for my efforts. Usually, after a week or two, the company would respond with some variant of “no”. This was not the case with Sendspace. I received a reply from them almost immediately. The message said that they would begin work on fixing the problems I had described. They were as good as their word too. I even got updates about the progress being made. Last week, the new version for Linux was released. It was slightly behind the Windows version, I suspect because of the problems with getting Orca to read info in those panels. When the new version came out though, it was usable with Orca. It now has a general file selection dialog that Orca can read as well as the panels. The keyboard shortcuts were even fixed. I am really impressed with how fast they responded to and fixed the accessibility issue I reported. It is great to know that a company is dedicated to providing their software to anyone who wants to use it regardless of platform or disability. In fact, Mike, a Sendspace Representative says, "We’ve been committed to accessibility ever since we found out about it and we’ve been improving it slowly but surely since then (on all three platforms, mac, windows and Linux)."
So, if you need to send files that are too large for email attachments or need to host files for your blog or website, get your free Sendspace. account today. Tell your friends and family. When a company s dedicated and responds to accessibility requests as fast as Sendspace, they deserve all the support and promotion we can give them. Honestly, I can’t say enough good things about this company. Thanks to the Wizard developers for all of your hard work.

Pie Anyone?

Every time I start my computer, I launch some applications. It would be easy just to add them to start up programs, but the thing is, I want them in specific work spaces. The default installation of Ubuntu comes with two work spaces. I always change mine to have four work spaces, in two rows. I have a specific use for each space. The first space is where I do all my work, editing text files, browsing the internet, etc. Space two is for email, instant messaging, posting to Twitter with Twitux. The third work space is for multimedia, Rhythmbox, Totem, etc. The fourth space is where I put applications that need to be open but don’t require much interaction, like Transmission. It may not be the best layout, but it works for me.. Anyway, the point behind this, is that if I open everything it automatically goes to my first work space. So, if I had the programs start automatically, I would still have to put them in the work space I have chosen for them. The answer to this problem is a program called Devil’s Pie. You can get it by opening terminal and typing:
sudo apt-get install devilspie
After devilspie is installed, you need to make a .devilspie directory in your home folder. So, type:
mkdir .devilspie
Change to this new directory with the command:
cd .devilspie
There are a few good tutorials out there that show how to create files to place applications where you want them including maximizing and decorating them, so I will keep this brief. Just for reference, to create a file to place Pidgin on your second work space, create a file called pidgin.ds:
gedit pidgin.ds
Place this line in the file:
if (is (application_name) “Pidgin”) (set_workspace 2))
Now, Devil’s Pie will move Pidgin to the second workspace when it is opened. If you create a file with an application name in it and it doesn’t move the application to the designated space, try using all lower case in the application name, or if you did use all lower case, try the first letter in upper-case. Evolution, for example, is all lower-case.
To get everything working with out any interaction, go to the system menu, preferences, sessions. On the start up programs tab click add. Enter the following information:
Name: Devil’s Pie
Command: devilspie -a
Click on add, then click close. Now Devil’s Pie will start automatically and apply your settings to any window that is opened, as well as any window that was already opened.
If you would prefer to use a GUI to make devil’s Pie files, one is available. It is called gdevilspie

Using Speech-dispatcher with Yasr

I was wondering if Yasr could use any other synth than emacspeak. Turns out, if you are using Ubuntu intrepid or later, or if you have the latest version of Yasr installed, it can. For those of you who don’t know, yasr is a terminal based screen reader.
Yasr can now use speech-dispatcher. This means, it can use Espeak, or any other synthesizer that speech-dispatcher supports. To get it, in Ubuntu, type:
sudo apt-get install yasr
Once it is installed, you will need to edit the /etc/yasr/yasr..conf file to get the speech-dispatcher support working. First, you need to be sure that speech-dispatcher is installed and working. To get it:
sudo apt-get install speech-dispatcher python-speechd
Once it is installed, type:
to get it set up. You can accept the defaults on all of the questions it asks except the port. For some reason, on my computer at least, it wants to set the port to 6561. It should be 6560, so be sure to type that into the prompt for the port if it says something else. When that has finished, launch it with:
If you want, you can make it start automatically by going to System, Preferences, Sessions and adding speech-dispatcher to the start up programs.
name: speech-dispatcher
command: speech-dispatcher
Now, for the /etc/yasr/yasr.conf file. Open it with sudo, remove the # at the beginning of the speech-dispatcher lines, there are 2 of them. Then add the # in front of the emacspeak lines. Once again, there are 2 of them.
You can change speech rate, pitch, etc by editing the file:
Most of the lines are commented out, so remember to remove the # if you want your changes to be applied. To launch yasr, type yasr in terminal.

Accessible Games for Linux

If you ever happen to have some of that mythical stuff known as spare time, you may be wondering if there are any accessible games for Linux. The answer is, there are several of them. There are a couple of MUD clients that work well with Orca. Gnome-mud and tintin++ are both very accessible. to get them, simply type:
sudo apt-get install tintin++
sudo apt-get install gnome-mud
in a terminal. Tintin++ is a terminal based client, so you can also use it with speakup if you have it installed. It is also a very powerful client with aliases, speed walking, triggers, scripting, and a lot more features.
There is also a package called bsdgames you can install that has text based games. The games include go-fish, adventure, and wumpus. To get it, type:
sudo apt-get install bsdgames
in a terminal.
there are more games that are accessible. They require a bit more effort to install.


AudioQuake is located at http://www.agrip.org.uk/download/. I got the Linux/x86 installer (3.2M) file. It is a script that will install everything for you, well, almost everything. To get it up and running, open a terminal and switch to the directory where the file was downloaded, usually ~/Downloads. make sure the file has permission to run with the following command:
chmod 700 AudioQuake-
then execute it with:
It will guide you through the installation of both Quake and AudioQuake. When it is finished, you still need to install a couple of things before you can play. To get the packages you need, type:
sudo apt-get install eflite libconfig-tiny-perl
Once that is done you can play the game by doing the following. in your home directory, type:
cd .zquake
At this point it is a good idea to turn off Orca because from my experience the game will not run if Orca is open. Then, type:
From this point on the game should be totally self-voicing. I have to include that I have only ever gotten AudioQuake to work on one computer. I have tried it on at least five.


SoundRTS is very fun. You can get it at http://jlpo.free.fr/soundrts/py25/. Unzip it in your home directory or on your Desktop, it doesn’t matter which. Before playing it you will need to install python2.5 and python-pygame. So, in terminal, type:
sudo apt-get install python2.5 python-pygame
then, to launch it, change to the soundrts directory:
cd soundrts
and launch with:
python2.5 soundrts.pyc
In Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid and later Python 2.5 is no longer available. You can still play SoundRTS by downloading a patch from http://jlpo.free.fr/tmp/soundrts1.0.1-python2.6.zip. Unzip the patch and move all of the contents from inside the folder to your soundrts folder. If you are asked if you would like to replace files select replace all. SoundRTS should now work just by switching to the soundrts folder and typing:
python soundrts.pyc
The patch makes the latest stable version of SoundRTS work. You can get the latest version from http://jlpo.free.fr/soundrts/soundrts-1.0.1-en.zip
If you would like to add a launcher to your desktop, you can do so with the following script. Open your favourite text editor and copy the following lines:
cd soundrts
python2.5 soundrts.pyc
exit 0
Save the file as ./soundrts.sh in your home directory. If you put your soundrts directory somewhere else other than your home folder, be sure you change the path in the script to match the location. For example, if your folder is on your desktop, it would be:
cd Desktop/soundrts
Make the script executable with the command:
chmod 700 .soundrts.sh
Then, on your desktop, press control+f10 and choose create launcher. In the name, type SoundRTS then press tab to get to the command field. In the command box type:
Tab to the OK button and press enter. You can now start the game by pressing enter on the SoundRTS launcher on your desktop.
If you used the patch you need to replace python2.5 with python.
If you get the very latest alpha versions of SoundRTS they include several different python folders to insure it will work in your version of python. If, for example, you need python2.6 simply navigate to the SoundRTS directory, enter the python26 directory, press control+a to select all, press control+c to copy, press backspace to go back a directory to SoundRTS, then press control+v to paste. when you are asked if you would like to replace files select "replace all".
The game is completely self-voicing. You do not need to turn off Orca before starting this one, it works fine even if Orca is running.

RS Games Client

This game client gives you access to the web based games developed by RS Games. So far the games you can play with it are Monopoly and Uno but more will be added as they are completed.
To install the game client, download it from http://zanosoft.net/rsgames/ccount/click.php?id=18 and extract it to your home directory or where ever you would like. When you unzip the file the extracted directory is called src. You can rename it to RSG-Client or something similar. Before running the game you will need to install a few packages. To get them open terminal and type:

sudo apt-get install python-wxversion python-wxtools wx2.8-i18n

As the client has evolved, additional package requirements have been added. I no longer use Ubuntu or any of its derivatives, so I am unsure what the packages are called there. Here is a list of packages that are required in Arch:

  • python2-speechd
  • wxpython
  • wxgtk2.8
  • python2-crypto
  • python2-configobj
  • python2-faulthandler

The game is available for Arch users in the AUR.
If you would like to create a launcher to the game client place focus on the desktop and press control+f10. Select "Create Launcher" from the menu and give the launcher a name. In the command type the path to rsg.pyc. Assuming you used the name RSG-Cliet in your home folder the command would be something like this. Remember to replace USER with your home directory:
python /home/USER/RSG-Client/rsg.pyc
You can now use the shortcut on your desktop to launch the RS Games client. For updates and general information you can follow rs_games on Twitter. Orca can be left running while you play the game.

Tomb Hunter I – Mysteries of the Ancients

In this game by USA Games Interactive Angela Carter, an explorer, and world renown archeologist, has discovered a scroll that will lead her to the Orb of Wisdom. She can’t just walk in and take it though because it is very well guarded. To set up the game open terminal and type:
sudo apt-get install libsoil1
wget http://www.usagamesinteractive.com/downloads/requirements/libsfml-1.6-i386.tar.gz
If you are using a 64 bit system the link in the command above should be changed to:
Then, after the download has completed:
tar xzvf libsfml-1.6-i386.tar.gz
cd libsfml-1.6-i386
sudo dpkg -i libsfml-system1.6_1.6_i386.deb libsfml-window1.6_1.6_i386.deb libsfml-audio1.6_1.6_i386.deb libsfml-graphics1.6_1.6_i386.deb libsfml-network1.6_1.6_i386.deb
After the packages have installed switch back to your home directory by typing:
Now, to download the game itself:
wget http://www.usagamesinteractive.com/downloads/usa-games/MOTA-Standard-Beta15.tar.gz
When the download is finished type:
tar xzvf MOTA-Standard-Beta15.tar.gz
To launch the game:
cd MOTA-Standard-Beta15/
To create a desktop shortcut, when focus is on the desktop press control+f10 and select "create launcher". Type the name in the name field, and press tab. In this box type:
Tab to ok and press enter. Remember to replace the word USER in the line above with your home directory. Now you can launch the game with the shortcut. For more information visit the USA Games Interactive website.

Installing Speakup in Ubuntu

I was told that speakup isn’t as difficult to install any more because you don’t have to recompile the kernel any more, So, I thought I would give it a go. It took a few minutes, but over all, it was very easy to get it up and running. If you too would like to install speakup, here are the instructions. Thanks goes to Paul Hunt for helping with the instructions. This was done an a Dell Studio 1536 running Ubuntu Intrepid.
First, we need to install the git-core package. In a terminal, type:
sudo apt-get install git-core
After that package is installed, get the speakup packages with this command:
git clone http://www.linux-speakup.org/speakup.git
This one takes a while, so play a game or something, but keep checking back on it. It will finish eventually. After that happens, it is time to compile and install. To do this, type:
cd speakup/src
sudo make modules_install
After the above three commands have completed, you need to move some files around because they aren’t installed in the right place. Enter the following commands:
cd /lib/modules/`uname -r`/extra/speakup
sudo cp * ..
Once that has been done, activate by typing:
sudo depmod -a
Now everything should be ready. So to start the module, type:
sudo modprobe speakup_soft start=1
So that you don’t have to type the above line every time your computer is restarted, do the following:
sudo vi /etc/modules
This will open the vim text editor. Press the escape key to make sure you are in command mode. Use down arrow to move to the bottom of the file. Once there, press shift A to get in to append mode. Type the following line exactly as it is here:
speakup_soft start=1
Press the escape key to get back in to command mode. Then type the following to save and exit vim:
Once you press enter the file will be saved. To get espeak working with speakup, do the following:
cd ~/speakup/contrib
unzip espeakup with the following:
bunzip2 espeakup-0.60.tar.bz2
tar xvf espeakup-0.60.tar
then install:
sudo make install
Launch it with:
sudo espeakup –default-voice voice name
So, for US English, the command would be:
sudo espeakup –default-voice en-us
You can add espeakup to /etc/init.d/rc.local, so you won’t need to launch espeakup every time your system is restarted. Place the line at the very end of the file.
You can not use speakup with plain old gnome-terminal. You need to open a text console. You can do this with control+alt+f1 through f6. You can get back to your normal desktop with control+alt+f7. when you bring up the text console you will need to log in with your user name and password. You can read the speakup manual in the ~/speakup/doc directory. For those of us who don’t like using key echo, you can disable it. You need to be root to make this change, so type:
sudo su – root
then, to disable it, type:
echo 0 > /sys/module/speakup/parameters/key_echo
after that is done, type exit to logout from the root account. To do this automatically, add it to /etc/init.d/rc.local. There are other parameters you can change as well such as volume and rate. In the above command change the number 0 to 9 and key_echo to rate to set the voice rate.
echo 9 > /sys/module/speakup/parameters/rate
That’s about it, have fun. Remember, when you find a setting you like, just add it in to the end of /etc/init.d/rc.local to make it happen at startup.

Getting More Voices For Orca

Festival Voices

In Ubuntu Orca uses Espeak by default. This is my prefered speech synthesizer, but it is not the only choice. Other Linux distributions use the Festival speech engine instead of Espeak. It is possible on Ubuntu to use festival if you want. First, you need to install Festival and some voices to use with it. Once that is done, you can use the Festival voices with Orca by opening the Orca preferences, Orca+space bar, press right arrow to get to the speech tab, and tab over to the speech synthesizer combobox. use up and down arrows to move through the different synthesizers, Festival Gnome speech driver should be one of the options. To get Festival and the 16K versions of the Festvox Diphone voices, type:
sudo apt-get install festival festvox-don festvox-kallpc16k festvox-kdlpc16k festvox-rablpc16k
If you would rather have the 8K versions of the above voices for some reason, replace 16k with 8k when installing them. These default voices aren’t the best festival has to offer. There are other voices that sound better. There is an excellent guide for installing the Mbrola, cmu, and Nitech voices on the Ubuntu Forums. If you are using the 64 bit version of Ubuntu, you will need to first install the ia32-libs package before installing Mbrola with the .deb package. In terminal type:
sudo apt-get install ia32-libs
Then, in the instructions, watch for the line that starts with sudo dpkg -i. After the -i, type –force-architecture and then complete the command. So, the whole command should look like this:
sudo dpkg -i –force-architecture mbrola3.0.1h_i386.deb
If you are not using the 64 bit version of Ubuntu, you do not have to worry about this step, just follow the instructions as written.
I have created an application that will install the voices you select if you would rather not have to type a lot of things in the terminal. You can use it to install Mbrola and Nitech voices. It is located at:
If you are using 64 bit Ubuntu, you will still need to install the ia32-libs package before running the script.

Purchasing Voices

The IBM Viavoice is available from Voxin for a small fee, about $5.75 USD. They They are the Eloquence voices. They depend on an old library that hasn’t been updated in years, so it is possible that they may quit working on future releases of your distribution. The purchase proceedure is quite simple, only one language comes with your purchase, so if you want multiple languages, you will have to purchase multiple packages. These voices are not sold for profit. The newest version now supports 64 bit systems.
Cepstral offers voices for purchase for both 32 and 64 bit systems. To install them, simply unzip the package you have downloaded, open terminal and switch to the directory you have just unzipped, and type:
sudo ./install.sh
Here’s a good place to point out the autocompletion feature in terminal. If you type part of the directory you want and press the tab key the rest will be filled in for you. It works with commands too, so give it a try, I am sure you will like it. To get them working with Orca, you will need to install gnome-speech-swift. To do this, in terminal, type:
sudo apt-get install gnome-speech-swift
If you run in to problems with it not showing up in Orca’s speech synthesizer list, there is more information available on the Orca wiki.
It’s always a good idea to test out a new speech engine before switching to it with Orca. There’s nothing worse than switching to a new synth just to find out there is something wrong with it and not have any speech to correct the problem. So, to test Cepstral, you can use the swift command. If you have installed it in the default location, the command you would use to test it is:
swift -n VoiceName “hello”
Replace VoiceName with the name of the voice you would like to test.


This is a work in progress. I will add more voice info as I find out about them. There are some things not covered here like Dectalk, Freetts, etc. When I have time to test/get the information I will post instructions for them as well. The commands in this post were done using Ubuntu 8.10 Intrepid. This should work on most Debian distributions. Commands for other distributions may be different.

Easy Terminal Navigation In Ubuntu

With all of the stuff I do in terminal, I started thinking it would be a lot easier to navigate to the correct folder using Nautilus and then open that directory in terminal. The problem is, Ubuntu doesn’t have this option by default. So, I did some research and found a nifty utility called nautilus-open-terminal. It is quite easy to install. Just open terminal and type:
sudo apt-get install nautilus-open-terminal
I had to restart my computer after installing this before the "open in terminal" option was available. After restarting, in the contest menu for directory views is a new option to open the current directory in terminal. If you use Orca, right clicking a blank section on the desktop or in a directory can be a bit of a challenge. So, instead of trying to find a blank spot to right click, just use control+f10 to access the menu. Thanks to Jacob Schmude for telling me about this shortcut.
If you aren’t convinced that opening a directory in terminal can really be useful, consider the following for example for installing Viavoice. If you purchase Voxin, you need to extract the package which is simple. Press shift+f10 and then select extract here. Once that is done, there’s a brand new directory that contains another directory that contains the installation file you need to run to install the voice.
You can either open terminal and type in the path to the directory you need an run the installation script, or with nautilus-open-terminal, just open the folder, open the sub folder, then press control+f10 and select "open in terminal". Then, all you have to do is run the installation script with sudo.

Website Navigation With Orca

orca has a lot of web page navigation keys. If you aren’t the kind of person who has to customize everything you may be unaware of them. There are keys for almost everything you could want, but by default, only a few of them have key bindings. If, for example, you would like to jump to the next combobox on the page you are reading, you can set a key to do so. It isn’t set by default, so you have to open Orca’s preferences for Firefox. To do this, press the Orca key, either insert if you are using desktop layout, or capslock for laptop layout. So, press orca+control+space bar and the Orca preferences for Firefox will open. Use the arrow keys to get to the key bindings tab. Tab over to the function column and then arrow down through the different options. To set a key for one of the choices, press enter while on the item you would like to set a key for and type your choice. Orca will say "Key captured, press enter to confirm". After you have confirmed your choice, tab to the apply or OK button and press enter. You will now be able to use your brand new navigation key on web pages.

Easily Create your own personalized Orca Customizations

Orca is a scriptable screen reader. This means, if you have the know how, you can add extra functionality to Orca by adding your own scripts to it. For details, see the Orca Frequently Asked Questions page. This is great for people who have the necessary technical skills to expand Orca to meet their needs or wants. For people with out the necessary programming skills, it’s not quite as useful. Orca is designed to provide access to existing desktop functionality. This means things like time and date aren’t built in to the screen reader. It’s not a big deal, because this information is available right on the desktop, but it can be a pain to have to stop working on your current project, use control+alt+tab to get to the top panel, tab around until you find the info you want, then move back to what ever you were working on and find your place to continue working. It would be much easier to have a single key to tell you the time, date, weather conditions, etc. This is relatively easy to do with Orca’s scripting capabilities, but if you don’t know Python, you’re kind of stuck. There is a script pre-written that can be downloaded from the Orca FAQ, but once the script is downloaded, it has to be edited to get weather information working, and unless you know enough about scripting to change the keybindings, you are stuck with the Keys built into the script.
I have attempted to solve this problem with a web based application that creates an orca-customizations.py file. When you access the application, you will be able to select keys for each item. All commands include the press of the Orca key. The Orca key is either insert for desktop layout, or capslock for laptop layout. So, if you select d as the key to speak the date, the key press to make orca speak the date would be insert+d for desktop layout or capslock+d for laptop layout. Once all the information has been entered, You will be able to download the orca-customizations.py file. The only steps left after that are moving the file to the .orca directory and restarting Orca.
So far, the script includes keybindings for battery status, date, time, and weather conditions. If you would like to give it a try it is located at:

Getting Espeak to Speak Faster

If you use Espeak with Orca, you may be wondering if it can speak faster. The answer is yes, it can, but it will require a little modification. On Ubuntu 8.10 and earlier, you will need to upgrade to the latest release. You can get the latest version from espeak.sourceforge.net. Click on the download link and on the downloads page, and download the source code and dictionary data.
My files automatically save to my desktop. But to make things easier I am going to move it to my home folder. Right click the espeak source file on the desktop and select cut. Open the places menu and select your home folder. Once in your home folder, right click or open the edit menu and select paste. This will move the Espeak source file from your desktop to your home folder. Once the file has been moved, right click it and select extract here.
After the extraction process, open the applications menu, under accessories, click terminal. When terminal opens you should be in your home folder. If you aren’t sure, you can type:
and it will take you to your home folder. Once there, type:
cd espeak-1.40.02-source/src
Note that in this example the espeak version I am installing is 1.40.02 this is the latest version at the time of this writing, but it is likely that the numbers will change, so just make sure of the version number when you are installing.
Now that you are in the correct folder, we will begin the installation process.
The first thing we need to do is make sure espeak can find lportaudio. To do this, type the following command:
sudo ln /usr/lib/libportaudio.so.0 /usr/lib/libportaudio.so
This creates a link to lportaudio that espeak can use. After that is done, type:
This will take a couple of minutes. When it is done, the final command is:
sudo make install
This will install the new version of espeak. If you are using Orca, it will cause your language setting to be switched. It is kind of tricky navigating Orca preferences to get the correct language back, so you may need some help doing this. It may be possible to close and restart Orca to correct this problem, but I am not sure because I haven’t tried it.
Now, for the speed boost. type:
to get back to your home folder. In this example, I am going to speed up the US English voice. If you are using a different language, substitute your language info in the command below. To speed up the English voice, type:
sudo vi /usr/share/espeak-data/voices/en/en-us
When the file opens in vi, press escape to make sure you are in command mode. Use down arrow to move to the bottom of the file. Press shift A to append at the end of the line. Press enter to get on a blank line.
You can then type in the new setting to speed up espeak. the command is fast_test. This is followed by 3 numbers. The first number controls pauses for punctuation, etc. The other 2 numbers change different aspects of the speech like how long vowels are sustained. The fastest speed I am comfortable with is 2 40 40. This comes out to about 510 words per minute. So, to get this speed, type:
fast_test 2 40 40
Press escape, then type
this will save your changes and exit vi. Espeak should be speaking a lot faster now. If it isn’t, make sure you have your speech rate set to 99 in Orca preferences. Enjoy the new, faster Espeak. If you are not an Orca user, remember that you can use espeak to read long text files and save some of the strain on your eyes.

  • Tip Jar