For years I had been threatening to nuke Orca’s support for Firefox (it’s the only way to be sure) and start over. This release cycle I finally made good on my threat.
The funny thing is that what prompted me to do so was not Firefox; it was the need to implement an Orca-controlled caret for WebKitGtk content. Why an Orca-controlled caret for WebKitGtk content is needed — and why the resulting support is not yet being used for WebKitGtk content — is a rant topic for another day. But with that work largely done, and Orca’s support for Firefox in desperate need of a rewrite, the time was right.
The improvements include:
- Addition of speech support for MathML. (Nemeth is a high-priority for me, but just getting something working had to happen first.)
- Significant performance improvements: The lags Orca’s Firefox support had become (in)famous for should be gone — at least the ones caused by Orca, which was quite a few. I have also added some defensive handling for the accessible-event floods Orca is sometimes on the receiving end of (e.g. due to unusually large numbers of DOM changes).
- Support for Google Docs applications: Just enable Google Docs’ accessibility support and Orca’s sticky focus mode, and you should be good to go.
- Improved support for other rich text editors like Etherpad.
- Fixes for Orca getting stuck in or skipping over content in browse mode.
- Fixes for Orca getting tripped up by auto-reloading/refreshing content.
- Fixes for several bugs in presentation of elements in object mode. (By the way, yes, Orca can present one object per line “like JAWS does.”)
- Improved accuracy in Orca’s label inference support (because there are still authors who fail to use label elements and/or ARIA to make their form fields accessible).
- Fixes for several bugs related to using structural navigation, fast forward, and rewind in SayAll. (Note: These “experimental” SayAll features still need to be enabled via your Orca customizations because GNOME’s GUI and string freezes snuck up on me. But once you’ve enabled them, they should work more reliably than before.)
- Improved presentation of dynamically-added content, such as items added to the bottom of a search results page in real time.
- Did I mention MathML and lag elimination?
- Updated documentation (yes, finally!) to reflect the addition of browse mode, focus mode, sticky focus mode, layout mode, and the like.
While I still have more improvements to make and bugs to fix, I’m quite pleased with how Orca 3.18.0 works with Firefox. I hope you will be too.
To give Orca 3.18.0 a try, clone it from git.gnome.org or check with your distro. Questions? Please ask on the Orca mailing list.
The Saturday immediately following this year’s Grace Hopper Conference, was the second annual Grace Hopper Open Source Day, the goal of which was to get women involved in Open Source through projects with “humanitarian” aspects. The GNOME Foundation generously sponsored my travel making it possible for me to co-lead a full day on GNOME Accessibility with Western New England University’s Dr. Heidi Ellis. While I didn’t get a head count, I am guessing we had around 15 participants in our group all eager to dive in and triage a bunch of bugs filed against Orca.
Yeah, I know, bug triaging doesn’t sound especially motivating or captivating, let alone something one would “dive in” and do. But this work was and is desperately needed: Unlike many other software tools, in which the bugs are typically in the tool itself and require no specialized knowledge to triage, what gets filed as an Orca bug might indeed be an Orca bug; then again, there’s a healthy chance it isn’t. For any given application being accessed by an Orca user, a bug hindering that access may be in:
- the application itself
- the toolkit(s) used by that application
- the accessibility implementation of the toolkit
- the bridge between that implementation and AT-SPI2
- speech-dispatcher or the speech synthesizer
- brltty, brlapi, or liblouis
Add in to the mix the fact that distros ship different versions and combinations of all of the above, sometimes even patching items to better suit their needs, and what seems like the simple task of “triage this Orca bug” can rapidly become complicated and murky. Consequently it is an area where I regularly lose quite a bit of time — time which could instead be spent actually developing Orca if only I had some bug triagers familiar with screen readers, and Orca, and Accerciser, and pyatspi, and AT-SPI2, and ….
So when the opportunity to run a project at Open Source Day presented itself, it was hard to pass up: Not only could we tackle some work that badly needed to be done, but I could train people who would then be capable of continuing to do this type of work after the event.
After the Day’s opening plenary, during which time our group’s participants quickly installed Virtual Box and imported the Fedora 18 Alpha VMs provided, I gave the participants an extreme crash course in GNOME Accessibility 101. Then it was time to GetStuffDone™. I was too busy to look at clocks, but I think everyone was working for around five hours. Many even ate lunch while working. It was like having clones — only legal and without any associated ethical concerns. It was awesome. Towards the end of the day, I took an informal poll to see how many of the participants would be interested in forming an “Accessibility Division” of the GNOME Bugsquad. Five or six indicated they would participate in such an effort. Yay!!
Lastly, our facilitator Aravind Narayanan deserves some serious props, not to mention my extreme gratitude. Showing up and hitting the ground running on any accessibility-related task typically requires previous experience. So when I found out that our facilitator is an engineer on the Infrastructure team at Facebook working on backend distributed systems, my assumption was that he’d be smart but not able to serve as a co-lead for this project. I was wrong. Very, very wrong. Aravind was AWESOME, helping participants just as effectively as Heidi and I and contributing significantly to the project’s success. Next year if I am invited to Grace Hopper Open Source Day, I want Aravind on our team. The rest of the projects will simply have to find someone else. 😉 Thank you Aravind!!
Algunos días son buenos; algunos días son malos; y algunos días son miércoles. Parafraseando a Arthur Dent, yo nunca le pillé el truco a los miércoles. El miércoles pasado no fue una excepción.
La mañana se inició bastante normal para un miércoles: Casi sin dormir por dos noches, me levanté, tomé café suficiente para matar a la mayoría de la gente, me encontré con algunos miembros del equipo de accesibilidad de GNOME, y llamé a mi jefe para nuestra reunión semanal.
Protip: Cuando tu jefe te pregunta si estás sentado, tu día esta a punto de ir al infierno.
Él me dijo que mi trabajo no existiría después del 30 de Septiembre. ¡Mierda! Entonces aprendí que COBRA (seguro de salud) cuesta $650 por mes. (No hay problema, soy muy rica como todos los profesores son.) Aprendí otras cosas también, pero he olvidado lo que eran. Yo estaba en estado de shock, supongo.
Protip: Cuando estás en estado de shock, tweet.
La respuesta fue inmediata y muy amable. ¡Mis amigos son maravillosos! Lo que fue un poco sorprendente, sin embargo, fue la rapidez con que algunos de ellos pueden resolver los problemas: ¡Un poco más de tres horas después mi tweet, Igalia me ofreció un trabajo! ¡¡maravilloso!! Yo, por supuesto, dije sí.
La otra cosa que fue increíble fue lo que Alex Piñeiro dijo. Me siento realmente conmovida y honrada por sus palabras.
¡Igalia aquí voy!
Muchas gracias a todos mi amigos. ¡Sois los mejores!
Last week, thanks to a generous travel sponsorship from the GNOME Foundation, I attended the 25th annual CSUN Conference — or more accurately, I attended the 1st (annual?) GNOME Accessibility Hackfest which took place at the conference.
You can’t always get what you want…
To be honest, I’m not entirely sure what I expected to get out of this hackfest. Sure, it would be a great opportunity to work face-to-face with other accessibility developers and spread the word about GNOME to the attendees of the conference. But I’d be lying were I to deny hope that Will Walker would show up, much like Bobby from the 80’s television show Dallas, to inform us that recent events had all just been a bad dream. Or, failing that, that one of the companies which ships the GNOME desktop would see the hackfest as the opportune time to announce the creation (restoration) of a full-time engineering position whose primary focus would be Orca development. Or, also failing that, I would not have objected to a visit from the Good Fairy.
Mind you, I’m not greedy. At this point I have no expectations of having (what I feel to be) an appropriate number of engineers devoted to GNOME accessibility development. All I wanted was something, anything, which would put things back to where they were before so that I could happily continue in my role of humble Orca worker bee. Alas, no such luck. As a result, I am now officially the Orca project lead/maintainer.
What exactly will happen with respect to the broader GNOME accessibility picture remains to be seen. Will went over the large list of issues facing us for GNOME 3.0. A few items (CSPI and GOK, for instance) got slated for deprecation, and many of us at the hackfest volunteered to take on what remained. But I was really hoping we’d also walk away from the hackfest with a new leader: someone who could see both the forest and its trees, serve as the GNOME community’s “point person” for accessibility issues, and herd us
cats accessibility developers into a cohesive, focused group. In other words, another Will Walker. But that hope was dashed along with my other hopes when no one stepped up to try to fill Will’s shoes. I still truly believe that we’ll find our way, and that in the end it’ll all be good; at the moment, however, I’m just not sure how that will come to pass.
…But if you try sometimes, you just might find you get what you need.
As I keep reminding myself, I must focus on what I can do; not on what I cannot. What I can do is continue to work on Orca, and things are starting to look up on that front:
Growing the team
While Oracle has yet to officially acknowledge my Open Letter, it seems they are doing the more important thing, namely starting to respond to the concerns raised therein: They sent Li Yuan and Ke Wang, two engineers from Oracle/Sun Beijing, to the hackfest. Will led a session in which the four of us went over Orca’s internals with the aim of getting Li and Ke sufficiently up to speed to contribute to Orca. It is my understanding that Li will be able to add a bit of time for Orca to the accessibility work he is already doing, and that Ke will be able to spend 50% of his time working on accessibility, including Orca. Phew! Thanks guys for joining the team. And thank you Oracle for continuing to support this project.
Alejandro Piñeiro of Igalia also attended the hackfest. Alejandro has been working on Cally (accessibility support for Clutter) and is now taking a look at getting Orca working with gnome-shell. Thank goodness! An inaccessible gnome-shell would be a major setback for GNOME accessibility, but I had no idea how I was supposed to fit that issue on my own to-do list. It was great to have the opportunity to continue the discussions about Orca he and I had at the Boston Summit last October. And while it, too, remains to be seen, I’m hopeful that Alejandro (and/or another developer from Igalia) will be able to join the Orca team to address some of the other issues we’re facing. Regardless, thank you Alejandro for all your work. And thanks to Igalia for its ongoing support of GNOME accessibility.
Going from being a one-(wo)man team to being a member of a potentially four-person team is itself a great outcome for this hackfest, but I also had the good fortune to spend some quality time with Mozilla’s accessibility guys, Marco Zehe, David Bolter, and Alexander Surkov. We talked quite a bit about testing and now have a plan for both sides to better detect and prevent regressions. This should go a long way in ensuring that GNOME users who are blind continue to have compelling access to Firefox.
I also had a chance to talk with Mike Gorse and clarify some aspects of the Orca regression test suite so that he can use our tests as a means to ensure that the work he is doing with AT-SPI over DBus behaves as expected.
That the ÆGIS Project is going to be working with the community to start tackling the broader issue of accessibility testing in GNOME was yet another piece of welcome news. After all, time that does not need to be spent on hunting down accessibility regressions in other applications is time that can be spent on making Orca even better.
Will and I went over what I need to do to make a release. (You’re right, it is a piece of cake. But thanks for going over it with me! One less thing for me to stress over…. )
Last, but not least, I am extremely touched by the 2009 Louis Braille Bicentennial Silver Dollar which was presented to me by Peter Korn and the rest of the GNOME a11y guys for my work on Orca. It was neither expected nor necessary, but with everything going on these days it was very (very, very) much appreciated and lifted my spirits considerably regarding the future. You guys are the best!!
So all in all I’d say it was well worth getting over my dislike of travel (not to mention my complete and utter fear of flying) to attend this event. Many, many thanks to Eitan for taking on the mammoth task of organizing all of it — and us! And thanks again to the GNOME Foundation for making it possible for me to attend.
Now for the hard part: Getting everything we’ve set out to do done….
You don’t know me, so please permit me a brief introduction: I’m Joanie. By day, I’m an assistive technology specialist working with individuals who are blind or visually impaired. By night, weekend, and holiday for almost four years now, I’ve been a GNOME community contributor working primarily on the Orca screen reader, a project led by Sun’s Accessibility Program Office.
Working with the engineers at Sun, both inside and outside of the APO, has been an honor for a variety of reasons, not least of which is our shared common belief: Access isn’t a privilege; it’s a right. Towards that end, Sun Microsystems strived to ensure that ALL users have access to software and information.
Does Oracle plan to do the same?
Sun Microsystems believed that these things shouldn’t be denied to those who aren’t employed, or who don’t live in the “right” country, or who don’t speak the “right” language, or who cannot afford to purchase thousands of dollars’ worth of access technology.
What does Oracle believe?
Through its significant, ongoing contributions to the GNOME desktop, Sun Microsystems has made computer access possible for many individuals with disabilities, from all walks of life, all over the world.
Will Oracle embrace the opportunity to continue this important work?
My assumption was yes. In fact, I was feeling quite hopeful. After all, the past few years have been hard on Sun. But with Larry Ellison’s promise of increased investment in the Sun brand, and Oracle’s strong commitment to accessibility, things would finally be turning around: If one under-funded APO could accomplish everything that it has, what could the two combined and properly-funded APOs achieve? At the very least we’d be able to finally get a handle on all of the accessibility challenges facing GNOME 3.
I was wrong.
Last week, Oracle laid off two more members of Sun’s already-decimated APO. One of those let go happened to be both the Orca project lead and the GNOME Accessibility project lead, Willie Walker. I truly hope this was an oversight on Oracle’s part, and one that will be rectified very soon. Because if it is not, and if no other company steps forward to continue this work, the accessibility of the GNOME desktop will become the open source equivalent of an unfunded mandate, doomed ultimately to fail.
Oracle’s decision threatens to leave many individuals with disabilities around the world without access to a modern desktop environment. I find that tragic.
The “<insert number here> things” meme is going around twitter, and I’ve been tagged by @empirebetty. A while back, when it was a blog meme requiring eight things, Rich Burridge tagged me. So I’m now faced with the challenge of finding seven things beyond that which you already know about me. I will do my best.
I’ve decided to make my response theme-based. The theme, taken from @empirebetty’s astute observation, is “Endearing Neuroses”.
Today I am an INTP. Check back tomorrow.
Years ago, I took the Myers-Briggs Personality Test as part of a course I took at UT Austin. At the time, the results indicated that I was an ENFP:
ENFPs are introspective, values-oriented, inspiring, social and extremely expressive. They actively send their thoughts and ideas out into the world as a way to bring attention to what they feel to be important, which often has to do with ethics and current events. ENFPs are natural advocates, attracting people to themselves and their cause with excellent people skills, warmth, energy and positivity. ENFPs are described as creative, resourceful, assertive, spontaneous, life-loving, charismatic, passionate and experimental.
I really did used to be an extrovert, and many of the items in that description resonate with me and how I was back in those days. But that’s not me any more. I don’t know if those early results were flawed or if I changed. But I’ve since taken an online test — mainly to get the widget for my last.fm page — and now I’m practically the complete opposite, an INTP:
INTPs are logical, individualistic, reserved, and very curious individuals. They focus on ideas, theories and the explanation of how things work. They are especially adept at discussions and debate. They have the ability to focus intently on a subject. They appreciate and respect intelligence in others.
Reading the additional descriptions of the INTP, I do think that sounds more like the way I am today. Do personalities change that much over time? Regardless… I’m me, whatever type (or types) that happens to truly be.
I love horror movies, but I close my eyes during the scary parts.
Actually, that’s not entirely true. I place my hands over my eyes and then slowly spread my fingers apart to peek because I really do want to see what’s going on….
The funny — or sad — thing is, I don’t love (or even enjoy) really scary, brutal, bloody horror movies. I prefer movies that play on one’s fears and suggest horror rather than actually display it. So I’m covering my eyes for what amounts to some pretty tame — and often lame — scenes. <shrug>
As a related aside, I’m starting to get into J-Horror. All the benefits (psychological fear, suggestion of horror, etc.) without the need to hide my eyes. If you have any good suggestions for J-Horror, by all means let me know.
I am, on the whole, a secular humanist. One that believes in ghosts.
And, yes, I do realize the inconsistency there. By definition a good, true secular humanist wouldn’t believe in ghosts. Mind you, I’m not convinced they exist; I’m simply not convinced that they don’t, nor have I been given any evidence to prove that they don’t. For some reason, I tend towards believing in them rather than disbelieving. Plus ghosts make for good TV and movie entertainment.
I buy my vacuums based upon their bug-sucking-up attachments.
(I realize that for some of you, this is not new information. But for many it will be, and it is consistent with my chosen theme.)
I have, for as long as I can remember, been completely afraid of bugs — at least those which are in danger of coming into contact with me. It doesn’t matter if they are alive or dead as far as the contact goes.
I’ve dealt with this over the years in a variety of fashions:
- Marriage. Proved to be a successful solution for awhile.
- Cats. Believe it or not, this can be effective. Cats find small moving things amusing. Plus they tend not to grumble.
- Poison. Certainly gets the job done, but the quantity I used was so disproportional to the lethal dose for my victim that I tended to have subsequent asthma attacks and my home smelled toxic for at least a day.
At long last I arrived at my current solution: Vacuum cleaners with really long attachments. Healthier for me than marriage, cats (turns out they trigger my asthma), and poison.
I often wonder “What will happen if….?” And decide to find out.
If I do say so myself, this approach to life in and of itself is admirable — it arguably may be amongst my best qualities. Unfortunately, I’m only curious about things I know absolutely nothing about. Combine this with my incredibly short attention span and low tolerance for frustration and… well….
Sometimes I have an amazing amount of success, like the time I replaced the icky 80s-chandelier-style fixture that (dis)graced my condo with a much more suitable fixture. Mind you, I turned off power to my entire home beforehand — after dressing nicely, doing my hair, and putting on some makeup just in case what I learned about electricity from the Home Depot guy proved significantly incorrect. Other times I’m less fortunate…. Still, holes can be patched, ceilings repainted, and plumbing replaced. Besides, the fridge poetry wall (yes an entire wall) in my kitchen — while lumpy — is a reported favorite of the contractors who come to clean up after me.
I really like movies by M. Night Shyamalan.
Even “The Happening.” There, I’ve said it. Phew! I feel much better.
My father passed away this year.
I’ve been debating off and on about whether or not this is something I want to announce to the world. The reason I finally decided to go ahead and share it here is primarily to explain — perhaps even justify — why I’ve been largely AWOL personally, socially, and professionally for the past several months. And to do so once in writing, rather than a bunch of times face-to-face. Yes, I AM taking the easy way out. I admit it. And under the circumstances, I think I deserve it.
The basic facts are these: My father happened to be mentally ill and my last contact with him was when I was 13 (I’m now 38.). I learned of his passing via a letter sent to my place of employment by an attorney. The cause of death, I later found out, turned out to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
It’s funny the sorts of baggage we carry around without realizing it. Then something like this happens….
What I’ve learned from this situation, and what I want to focus on, however, is this: People are amazing. I’ve received a tremendous amount of patience, warmth, and support from folks — some of whom I had confided in, many of whom I had not. Some of whom I’ve known for years, some of whom I barely know — or in the case of twitter, never even met. Many of these individuals could have concluded that I was blowing them off and would have been justified (albeit completely incorrect) in their thinking. Instead they keep checking in on me, looking out for me, in some cases even helping me pick up the pieces of my life because I’ve been too stunned to do so on my own. These people, though not related to me by blood, are my true family. Thanks for looking out for your crazy cousin in her time of need. 😉
With apologies for those who don’t like memes…. I’m tagging:
That’s what the gods are! An answer that will do! Because there’s food to be caught and babies to be born and a life to be lived and so there is no time for big, complicated, and worrying answers! Please give us a simple answer, so that we don’t have to think, because if we think, we might find answers that don’t fit the way we want the world to be.
–Mau, in Terry Pratchett’s Nation
We all have our time machines. Some take us back, they’re running Ubuntu. Some take us forward, they’re running OpenSolaris.
Sorry Jeremy, I couldn’t resist. And my apologies to you as well, gentle reader, if you came here looking for the current state of affairs on OpenSolaris vs Ubuntu. One of these days I should write up my personal perspective on where things stand. Unless, of course, I can convince some folks to do an “I’m a Mac, I’m a PC”-style smackdown, which would be infinitely more entertaining. Assuming that will not come to pass…. For now suffice it to say that while we’re not quite “there yet” with OpenSolaris, every day brings me a bit closer to concluding that my bastardized quotation ain’t so far from being the truth.
But that’s not what this entry is about. It’s about time, plain and simple. Or, rather, not so simple as I discovered…. With a hat tip to Rich who always concludes each of his technical exercises in frustration by sharing what he’s learned for the next poor soul who floats in on the same boat, I present to you what I’ve worked out thus far about time in a dual-boot Ubuntu/OpenSolaris environment:
- Ubuntu insists on setting your hardware clock to UTC. It doesn’t matter if you didn’t want your hardware clock set to UTC. Nor are you asked if you might want to switch away from the local time in favor of UTC — unless, you happen to be using the alternative installer. Sadly, odds are that you are not: If you’re using the user-friendly, graphical, “live CD,” you are NOT using the alternative installer.
- Theoretically, the Ubuntu installer looks to see if you’re in a dual-boot environment. If it concludes that you are, it is designed to not engage in its default time “correcting” behavior. This would suggest that installing OpenSolaris prior to Ubuntu would solve the problem. Alas, it does not. Trust me.
- I have been informed that “UTC=yes is the correct and sane default” If you’re wondering what the advantage of it defaulting to yes happens to be, as I was/am, I’m afraid I couldn’t tell you. (UPDATE, see below.) I truly believe that there is indeed a good reason — feel free to add it in the comments for my edification — but the fiat was all I got. Well, that and the fact that Ubuntu detects dual-boot installations (“albeit not always quite as often as you’d want.” Indeed. See previous item.). Oh, and the suggestion that I “can always change it.” Which brings me to:
How DO you change whether or not the hardware clock is set to UTC or the local time post-installation? You’d think (or at least I thought) you would be able to do so through the Time and Date Settings dialog, part of gnome-system-tools. Were that the case, there’d be a uniform (and hence more user-friendly) way to adjust this option in Ubuntu and OpenSolaris because both use the GNOME desktop and, therefore, both include g-s-t’s Time and Date Settings dialog.
Of course, you could bypass the whole UTC vs. local timezone issue and use g-s-t to set up synchronization with an NTP server in both Ubuntu and OpenSolaris…. That’s actually what I wound up doing last week. BUT what if you don’t have a network connection at the moment? Besides I wanted an answer; not a workaround.
I was going to open an RFE against g-s-t — I’m envisioning a “My clock is set to UTC” checkbox — but someone beat me to it. Two years ago. It hasn’t been closed as WONTFIX, but no action seems to have been taken either.
- So how do you change it in Ubuntu then? Well, some googling led me to the answer: Edit /etc/default/rcS. Just set UTC=no. Once you know this magical tidbit, it’s all good: A few seconds’ worth of editing and Ubuntu stops stomping on the time, OpenSolaris doesn’t keep having the time changed on it, and you cease to send email to folks from four hours into the future. In other words, if all you want to do is cause your blessed environments to stop waging war over what time it is, this is all you need to do. And there was much rejoicing. Yea.
But what if you want to change it in OpenSolaris instead? At this point answering this question was/is admittedly merely an exercise to satisfy my curiosity. That said…. After some more googling…. It seems that you can use rtc for this purpose:
pfexec /usr/sbin/rtc -z UTC
is all you need. Once again, Ubuntu is happy (this time because it can continue stomping along on its “correct and sane” path 😉 ), OpenSolaris is happy (because its time now jives with the hardware clock), and your friends no longer have any reason to suspect you’ve mastered time travel. At least not until you adjust the timezone via g-s-t. Doing so causes /etc/rtc_config — the file you corrected via rtc — to be updated and you’re back to Ubuntu and OpenSolaris fighting again.
Should g-s-t be modifying /etc/rtc_config?? I honestly don’t know, but life seems like it might be easier if it didn’t, so I filed a bug against OpenSolaris. *shrugs*
Now if you would be so kind, answer me this: Why is it so much work to (figure out how to) configure something as simple and trivial as the time in a dual-boot environment? Shouldn’t it JustWork™?
UPDATE: This morning Colin Watson began addressing the bug I filed regarding the Ubuntu Live CD’s installer failing to set UTC=no in a dual-boot Ubuntu/OpenSolaris environment. He even took the time to provide me with a useful reference/link:
If you’re unfamiliar with the reasons why keeping the hardware clock in local time is a bad idea, please read:
Taken one month (almost to the day) before the start of what we may come to think of as the “Great Depression – Take 2”:
Note to self: In the future, when giant red warning signs present themselves, don’t laugh; pay attention. 😉
There are oh so many things. How many can you find?
Those of you who can find several, please also find the opportunity to remind the “average users” in your life to think before they click.