I'm looking for an accessible Linux distribution and desktop

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I'm looking for an accessible Linux distribution and desktop

Postby Marja Erwin on Sat Sep 22, 2012 9:33 pm

Hi,

I've been using an older version of Ubuntu while looking for an up-to-date Linux distribution which fits my needs. I am not very familiar with the other distributions, but people have recommended Mint. Right now I understand that standard Linux Mint, based on Ubuntu, supports several different desktop environments, including KDE, while Linux Mint Debian Edition has a more limited selection, but with the adware news, I'm tempted to avoid 'buntu and go for Debian Edition.

Can anyone here say whether Linux Mint offers a good distribution/desktop environment combination for users with coordination problems and/or arm/hand injuries?

I'd need good desktop ergonomics - better than Gnome 2, and way better than Unity - working scrollbars, the ability to avoid mouse use at some times, the ability to avoid keyboard use at other times, the ability to do anything one-handed and without requiring precise control, touchpad support which can turn tapping off [which Xubuntu lacked when I tried it], real scrollbars, no only-visible-on-mouseover features, and joystick support which can substitute for the mouse.

Any suggestions?

Thanks.
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Re: I'm looking for an accessible Linux distribution and des

Postby NoDude on Sun Sep 23, 2012 3:07 am

Hi, Marja

I see a lot of programs with "k" on them on Synaptic, but I don't use KDE. But by taking a look at some descriptions I think you should look at KMouseTool. Here is the description:

KMouseTool clicks the mouse whenever the mouse cursor pauses briefly. It was designed to help those with repetitive strain injuries, for whom pressing buttons hurts.
This package is part of the KDE accessibility module.


I can confirm you that XFCE has these features:

    Keyboard:
    - Control mouse with keyboard's numeric pad.
    - Combine multiple keys by pressing them one after another (such as Ctrl, Shift and Alt).
    - Prevent accidental keystrokes by requiring holding a key for a certain amount of time, before the key is accepted and define a delay time between key presses.

    Touch-pad: (can be easily disabled)
    - Disable touch-pad while typing.
    - Tap touch-pad to click
    - Scroll by the edge, two fingers or disable. Horizontal scroll is an optional feature.
    - Options to define the precision of drag and drop and the speed double click.

    Others:
    - Real scroll-bars
    - Joystick support*

Those are what I just saw, not sure if I missed something. By the way, Most features are configurable and you can disable them separately. I hope I helped you.

Take care.

--edit=* I'm not sure if joystick can replace mouse, though
--edit2=I just confirmed it's possible
Last edited by NoDude on Sun Sep 23, 2012 12:35 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: I'm looking for an accessible Linux distribution and des

Postby Marja Erwin on Sun Sep 23, 2012 11:36 am

At the time I used Xubuntu, it did not have touchpad support or touchpasd settings. I installed the patch but it still read my Alps touchpad as a PS/2 mouse and every hand motion anywhere near it as a click. It kep zooming here and there and clicking this and that as I was typing.

KMouseTool clicks the mouse whenever the mouse cursor pauses briefly. It was designed to help those with repetitive strain injuries, for whom pressing buttons hurts.


For me pressing buttons isn't one of the problems. But random mouse/touchpad clicks have been one of the problems.

The most important input-device issues:

1. Being able to disable the touchpad.

2. Being able to enable the joystick [since it doesn't require me to twist my elbow out of shape like the keyboard and mouse do].

The most important desktop issues:

1. Respecting my settings for brightness and volume. I have light sensitivity issues and bright screens make my eyes hurt.

2. Being able to switch back and forth between open files without trouble. and without alt-something.

3. Being able to access my files as quickly as possible, without too many mouse clicks, searches, or typing.
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Re: I'm looking for an accessible Linux distribution and des

Postby NoDude on Sun Sep 23, 2012 12:11 pm

So it seems all you need is XFCE, cause everything you said you need is there.
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Re: I'm looking for an accessible Linux distribution and des

Postby Marja Erwin on Sun Sep 23, 2012 3:39 pm

I have two versions of XFCE on this computer. One is in Ubuntu 11.04, and the other in Xubuntu 11.10. Xubuntu crashed during the install process and has been flaky ever since, so I gave up on it, and I don't know how many of the problems are due to the crash.

Both versions of XFCE treat the malfunctioning Alps touchpad as a mouse. Neither version has any way to disable the touchpad or disable its tendency to fly around the screen and click on something when I'm trying to type. Maybe more recent versions of XFCE solve this but without installing the new system, and then installing the patches for the touchpad, I'm not sure how I'd test this. Sorry.
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Re: I'm looking for an accessible Linux distribution and des

Postby NoDude on Sun Sep 23, 2012 4:55 pm

Sorry I should have specified I was referring to Mint 13 XFCE (what I use). Hopefully, your device will be detected properly, it's worth a try, isn't it?
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Re: I'm looking for an accessible Linux distribution and des

Postby Marja Erwin on Sun Sep 23, 2012 9:53 pm

I'm currently running Ubuntu 11.04 and planning to switch to another system, possibly Linux Mint Debian Edition. I'm trying various desktop environments first, admittedly, in older versions.

GNOME 2: I've been using this for some time, but even when using Workrave, it's putting too much stress on my arms. I need something with less typing and less mousing. It's not the clicks that cause me trouble so much as the arm-twisting and the trying to get the cursor to the right place. I have poor coordination. So far, I have the touchpad detected properly, and tapping/gestures disabled. I have wider scrollbars but I'm not quite sure what steps were involved.

XFCE: I wasn't able to get the touchpad detected properly or tapping/gestures disabled. I haven't figured out how to move panel2 to one side; it's inconvenient on the bottom. It seems to require more mousing than GNOME 2, but that may be solvable.

KDE: I wasn't able to get the touchpad detected properly or tapping/gestures disabled. It starts each session at full screen brightness, and is slow to respond to my attempts to turn things back to minimum screen brightness. It hurts my eyes. I set up some useful applets. I have not been able to find settings to solve the screen brightness issue or to widen the scrollbars yet, not even in accessibility settings.
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Re: I'm looking for an accessible Linux distribution and des

Postby NoDude on Mon Sep 24, 2012 12:14 am

Hey Marja

I don't use any of those but I'm guessing your problem may be two things:

1.- Xorg related: inside the folder "/usr/share/X11/xorg.conf.d" the file "50-synaptics.conf" could hold the answer; if you feel confident you can compare the contents of the file in the working distro against the ones in the faulty distros and edit it accordingly but I think you should make a new thread about it (they may ask you to gather that info anyways).

2.- Not on your end: I've just read some stories about similar problems in other linux distros, the ones solved were caused by a faulty driver or kernel.

So, whatever the cause you'll either switch distros or make the thread (I'll do both in that order)

By the way, why aren't you trying any Mint??, after all this is its forum and most you can get here is Minty flavored :mrgreen: and trying some live cds could get you past your problem with minimum effort, luckily.

--edit=Sorry I missed the part you said you will =P
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Desktop as alternative for Gnome 2? (considering my injured arm)

Postby Marja Erwin on Tue Sep 25, 2012 1:14 pm

I still use Gnome 2, on Ubuntu 11.04, but I'm looking for alternatives on Linux Mint or another distro.

I am struggling with arm injuries and coordination problems and trying to find a better desktop environment for my needs, but so far I've had no luck. For some of us real scrollbars, wide enough to actually use, are necessities instead of wastes of screen space. I had to change several things to restore and widen the scrollbars in Gnome 2, I can't recall all the steps involved. I also had to install a patch to disable 'tapping' and 'gestures' on the touchpad; for whatever reason, the patch works in Gnome 2 but not in KDE or XFCE.
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Re: Poll: Desktop environments

Postby xenopeek on Tue Sep 25, 2012 1:37 pm

Marja, I've moved your post here as I think you could use some feedback from others and it is about the same subject. Sorry to read about your problems, that sounds though :(

I'd say, give Linux Mint 13 MATE a try. MATE is as a fork of GNOME 2, that is actively being developed and maintained (while GNOME 2 is dead). See the MATE desktop developer's homepage: http://mate-desktop.org/.

Probably what you did on Ubuntu with GNOME 2 will work on Linux Mint with MATE. Though I'd also consider Cinnamon, as that is based on GNOME 3 and has some further accessibility support. Not necessarily for what you need though, so if you were comfortable with GNOME 2 on Ubuntu--Linux Mint with MATE would be a good match I think.
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Re: I'm looking for an accessible Linux distribution and des

Postby Marja Erwin on Tue Sep 25, 2012 1:57 pm

I'm not comfortable with Gnome 2. I thought my arms were fine two years ago when I switched from the Mac to Ubuntu/Gnome 2, but they have gradually been getting worse since then. I have been looking for alternatives for the past year, but the alternatives have been worse.
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Re: I'm looking for an accessible Linux distribution and des

Postby xenopeek on Tue Sep 25, 2012 3:06 pm

Ah... Apologies for missing in your earlier comments you were not just looking to replace the soon out-of-support Ubuntu 11.04, but also Gnome 2. Not sure which desktop to recommend then, but perhaps you should also look at hardware? I'm using a mouse friendly keyboard (http://www.evoluent.com/kb1.html), which is much better for your posture. I'm also using as large and as slow a mouse as I could find (Logitech MX518; 400 dpi), alternating with a Wacom tablet at another computer, both to avoid the small movements which are the usual cause of damage in hands and arms for computer users. The tablet also gives a more natural arm position. Depending on the cause of your injuries, that could help.
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Re: I'm looking for an accessible Linux distribution and des

Postby Marja Erwin on Tue Sep 25, 2012 5:29 pm

To be honest, I like the layout and approaches of Gnome 2. I find the bottom panel makes it easy to switch windows. If there were some way to make most buttons bigger, so I could use the joystick more and mouse less, it would be very helpful, and if there were some way to make sure my open finder windows from one login session were still there at the next login session, like in the Mac, it would also be helpful for me - not sure how helpful it would be for the average user though. Another issue is that nested menus are prone to collapse, so having more menus off the top bar, which would require less nesting, might make things a bit more usable.
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Re: I'm looking for an accessible Linux distribution and des

Postby xenopeek on Wed Sep 26, 2012 1:15 am

When using MATE, you could add Caja (on GNOME 2 that is Nautilus) to your Startup Applications. That way it open each time you log in. You could add the "Menu Bar" applet to the panel, and this would give you an Applications menu, a Places menu and a System menu (instead of these things combined in the Mint menu). You can of course also add "Application Launcher" applet to the panel to have a shortcut icon, or you can add the "Drawer" applet which will give you an icon on the panel that will open a menu you can fill yourself (with "Application Launcher" applets for example). Similar you can also do on Cinnamon.

Not sure how to make buttons bigger, except perhaps by either increasing the font size (but with the I think unwanted side effect of making all text bigger) or perhaps there is some theme that makes buttons bigger.
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