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Re: Privileges and practicalities [was: Re: [ELPA] New package: repology

From: Devin Prater
Subject: Re: Privileges and practicalities [was: Re: [ELPA] New package: repology.el]
Date: Sun, 10 Jan 2021 11:18:03 -0600
User-agent: Mozilla/5.0 (X11; Linux x86_64; rv:78.0) Gecko/20100101 Thunderbird/78.6.0

As a blind person, I feel that my ideas could help diversify things a bit. Replies inline:

On 1/8/21 1:17 PM, Göktuğ Kayaalp wrote:
On 2021-01-08 11:46 GMT, Jean Louis <bugs@gnu.support> wrote:
Free software is a privilege, as it is.  It requires a lot of
knowledge about computing praxis and culture, internet culture, legal
stuff, and politics.
How privilege? I don't see how is free software privilege. Not for
me. It should be basic human right for users to have control of their
data, and not to let other companies or individuals control my data.

I am a completely blind person, with 0.2% of Python programming knowledge. I switched to Linux (again) to see how accessibility has progressed in the two years since I'd tried it last. I can tell you that while privileged sighted people go on and on about KDE and how awesome it is, and Gnome, I can barely use either distribution. KDE is making progress, but for now only the default launcher will be usable... in the next version to be released. Gnome used to be great, but now even its Control Center is just awful to use with Orca, the screen reader for graphical desktops.

Now, GTK4 *says* it has accessibility fixes. And I hope so; it's not in stable Arch repos yet so I've not tried it. However, even the latest release of Gnome's Control Center is slightly more accessible, yes, but it appears to me as if everything is in one *long* list; every single item is in tab order, and that's just a mess. QT has gotten better; indeed, Mumble is one of the most usable QT programs I've come across.

You may then say, well what about the CLI? Sure, it's okay, until you get into TUI programs that use ascii graphics, or programs that redraw the whole screen for just a simple update. The non-uniformity of TUI programs makes them quite hard to use in many cases. There are some programs that are pretty good, like Emacs (with Emacspeak) and Mutt, so not all is bad there.

It just feels so frustrating when FOSS folks talk about how inclusive FOSS is, how open and inviting it is, and then I try a Discord GTK client and find that it's nearly useless because of no list items being labeled correctly. And yes, I do intend to report the bugs and problems I find, but I may be ignored, or given the "oh it's someone else's fault" like with the Manjaro installer. And then there's Gnu's own Accessibility Statement, which has a statistic from 2005, and reads as if it were updated ten or more years ago, as Silverlight and Adobe Flash haven't been a big issue in many years now, as HTML5 has superseded flash at least. I know that Gnu may have a shortage of documentation writers, and I could at least help with editing, but the lack of up-to-date information, and the favoring of Gnome as a good accessibility standard, is just another slap in the face for blind people who run across this and see how out-of-date the information is.

Free software is a privilege if you don’t have the time to learn a whole
new culture.  Free software is a privilege if your hardware can’t run
it and you don’t have the money to buy stuff that does (for most people
even a dongle is a serious investment).  Free software is a privilege if
you don’t get to make decisions about what software to use.  Free
software is a privilege if a clan of so-called software freedom
advocates are censoring vital information because they happened to like
so, saying nonsense like:

We have fully free software that need not ever interact or cooperate
with non free.
This might be partially true for a software developer working only on
free software, but it’s a privileged position because very little people
have the chance to learn enough to do that and an even little
opportunities exist for those who do put in the time.

Meanwhile the rest of us plebeians have to make Zoom work on our
computers, use sub-optimal hardware, and figure things on our own.
All the while the likes of you see themselves entitled to judge the
morality of our choices and obligations.

This is even more true for people with disabilities. Do you know what most blind people use? Windows (7-10), because there is JAWS, a $1099 screen reader that is basically a bunch of scripts to work with Windows' accessibility API and massage the data, all taped together and packaged with high quality voices. Now you may say: "Well just install Linux." Sure, but the bios are completely visual, and so is the boot manager. We can get around this by using sighted family members, if we have them, or proprietary "sighted help" services like AIRA

  or Be My Eyes. But we want to do this with open source tools right? ... There's no other choice that I can think of, and this is simply booting the Linux disk. This is worked around with single-board computers, where the SD Card is the OS disk, and only requires flashing the OS which can be done by... well... a non-free OS like Windows. This can also be worked around by buying a computer with Linux already installed, but that will likely come with Ubuntu, which uses Gnome, which as stated earlier, isn't the most accessible option.

Windows  also has NVDA (nonvisual Desktop Access), which is open source. It is a very well complete screen reader, with community-maintained plugins (addons) for it that extend it immensely, with more voice options and application support.

I say all this to setup what blind people, in the "blind community", are expected to work with. All of our specialty software, from braille translation to audio games, are on Windows. This has been worked around a bit, with cups-filters having a braille translation system using Liblouis and using Wine for audio games, but we still must use Zoom, TeamTalk (like Mumble (Mumble isn't usable with Windows screen readers)), Microsoft Office files, PDF's, and in the case of people who like to read, EPUB files. This may sound like general computer use, but the hardship is compounded by the inaccessibility of some programs, like the Gnome and Mate document viewers. Sure I can load a file, but I can't actually read the file.

All this isn't to say that Linux isn't usable. I've used it for almost a month now without too many major problems. Google Docs and other messy web apps have problems with Orca, but I can read books using Nov.el (Nov-mode) in Emacs, write in Org-mode or Libre-Office, that kind of thing. But for how much longer? GTK4 worries me because Gnome3 isn't very usable. I mean, when you press the Hyper key, all you hear is "window." That's like if you pressed Hyper and a blank screen popped up, and you had to move your mouse to even get to the content, indeed, even the purpose of the window. Many programs, like Gedit and Gnome-Terminal, work well enough, but even Evolution has accessibility issues with even *reading* and *writing* email. Thunderbird is our *only* accessible GUI email program. But I use Linux because of the workarounds I can find, not because it's a great, accessibility-wise, operating system to use. I love being able to get podcasts, and even Youtube channel feeds, using GPodder, writing and reading and exploring with Emacs, listening to audio with filters and enhancement plugins with Audacious, that kind of thing. But there will probably always be the threat of inaccessibility looming over my head in Linux, because volunteers don't have to adhere to a standard; they can just make their own without accessibility considerations. And there are enough other marginalized groups, even though the disabled are the most marginalized, that the disabled can easily be forgotten, especially the blind.

Most software, and most of popular software is closed source.
I did not count to say so. But what is popular it does not matter in
GNU project, what matters is that we do have fully free software and
operating systems.
We don’t.  Nobody has.  Maybe, as the one who attempts to deny the
experience of billions of people, it’s kinda on you to do the counting

Most users of software _cannot_ avoid non-free software.
Whoever is informed well and decides so themselves can switch to fully
free software. People make decisions on their own.
No.  If you have to use Zoom for your classes or meetings, you have to.
If you need to use WhatsApp, you have to.  Nobody but a very small
amount of people are free in making these decisions.

GNU project is everything else but not ivory tower. Otherwise you
would not be able to discuss here.
Neat little non sequitur there.  GNU opens itself to the world and asks
everyone to back its cause so you don’t get to pick who says what

What GNU project promotes is free software. GNU never says to its
users to use exclusively free software [...]
If you make it hard to use non-free software one _has_ to use with free
software they _want_ to use, this is effectively a discriminatory,
exclusionary, and unegalitarian practice.  And it’s also anti-GNU
because this makes it _really_ hard to suggest people that they give
free software a try.

[...] and never condemns people for using proprietary software.
Yeah, no.

All in all, if GNU wants to be a fun little software guys group like
9front or OpenBSD, fine, but be honest about it.  If GNU and FSF wants
to fight for everyone’s software freedom and will continue to ask
donations for this cause, then this is not the way to do it.  It comes
off as entitled and disconnected.

They should also fight for everyone's access to their software as well, and denounce anyone that makes software which is unable to be easily used by the blind and other disabled groups, even if it means denouncing Gnome, KDE, LXQT, XFCE, and other large desktop environment creators until they understand that accessibility *is* a human rights issue, not something that they can just sweep under the rug until some time when there's nothing much else to do, because there will always be something else to do. GNU and FOSS doesn't work for everyone until it works for the least of us. I'm very glad that FOSS is coming to understand privilege, but then there is shown arrogance about the topic, that because Linux is open that anyone can use it well, that open source means greatness, always, no questions asked. I tell you, that open source does not mean accessible for those with disabilities. In many cases, it means nonstandard-compliance, leading to inaccessibility. Because the program has to stand out somehow, right?

I'd love to get more people into Linux. I'd love to train my students on using Linux. I'd love for distributions and desktop environments to be a choice of what a user finds the most useful for them and what brings them the most productivity, instead of "you have to go with Mate because that's the only one that's usable." I'd love to bring Linux into my workplace and give concrete, real-world examples of how Linux helps me get my job done quickly and productively. I'd love to bring up Linux to even a few of the 70% of blind people who are unemployed, giving them great resources for learning how to code and groups that would welcome them and bring them into a team that can help them code and get into a well-paying organization, or even code programs for themselves and others, or even just understand how their computer works enough to provide tech support. Right now, though, I can't. And until this attitude of FOSS being mightily open and welcoming, and that the right way of doing things is known, and no opposition is taken seriously, and open to all, changes to a more humble and dedicated attitude of listening to actual people with disabilities, we won't get there.

Today, there’s nothing that’s uniquely copyleft software, maybe except
Emacs.  LLVM and clang is as good as GCC, coreutils is better than BSD
userland or busybox but not by a huge margin, Zsh is by no means
inferior to Bash, etc.  OSes like FreeBSD are almost fully viable on
desktop, and most of what works on GNU/Linux works there.  If copyleft
and free-as-in-speech-not-beer is to remain relevant in the future, this
whole attitude needs to change.

Your statements are too general and I do not see how they relate.
You do not _want_ to see, FTFY.  There’s a reason I changed the subject
line.  But all in all, to satisfy your unprecedented love for specific
things and your dislike of attempting to make that last little
connection: your attack on repology.el comes from a privileged position
and the condemnation of even linking to information regarding non-free
software in the form of repology.org, going so far as to suggesting
stealing these people’s work and creating a knock-off ‘frepology.org’
comes from a privileged, exclusionary, and backwards position.  This
whole thing represents a self-destructive anti-free-software stance that
is detrimental to the quest for software freedom as a right for all
humans, and only caters to the handful FOSS zealots (one of which is I)
who have put years into learning this whole travesty of an online
culture and surrounding issues.

As someone who believes in software freedom as a general good for human
society I think you and the likes of you are hurting this endeavour.

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