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Re: lynx-dev Licensing Lynx

From: Lloyd G. Rasmussen
Subject: Re: lynx-dev Licensing Lynx
Date: Wed, 29 Sep 1999 11:05:53 -0400

The things that are done in our name!
The following comments do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the
National Library Service, my employer.

At 03:42 AM 9/29/99 -0400, you wrote:
>990928 Brett Glass wrote:
>>> 990928 Klaus Weide wrote:
>>> Tell us more about your "new program for blind users"
>>> for which "Lynx is currently the best available code".
>> We seek to eliminate the many problems which blind users have
>> in using Lynx to browse the Web. Because of the way Lynx displays data
>> and redraws the screen, it is not optimal for the blind user.
>i don't remember any blind user of Lynx -- many have sent messages
>to lynx-dev during the past 3 years -- saying any such thing.
>to be convincing, you need to give more details of this.

I can see where he could be coming from.  If you use a DOS screen reader
which echoes everything that is sent to the screen, such as normal BIOS
output from a communications program connected to a server running Lynx,
several suboptimal things happen which could be improved upon, but which we
adapt to or live with:

The status line can spit out far too many byte counts, requiring frequent
use of the "shut up" key for your speech synthesizer, which can sometimes
cause you to overlook an important message.  I overcome much of this by not
having any automatic screen speech at all with Vocal-Eyes, but reading the
bottom line of the Lynx screen any time there is a change in the first four
characters of that line.

When you use the down  arrow  key to go from one link to the next, if full
screen echo is on and you don't customize the behavior of your screen
reader, the following will typically happen:  Screen reader reads the line
the cursor is leaving.   A fraction of a second later, Lynx repaints the
color of the link just vacated, so you hear the link text from which you
came again.  Lynx then repaints the text of the newly selected link and you
finally hear what you have selected.  The status line may change during
this operation, and you hear that, too.   If Lynx, with certain Curses
packages, when using a VT100 terminal, could change the colors of text
without having to rewrite the characters, at least in the "body" portion of
the screen, part of this would be solved.

>>> Tell us about your company (the "we" in your messages), financing,
>>> release schedule, how you are going to distribute and market it.
>> We're a (so far) loosely knit group of hackers in Laramie, Wyoming
>> who would like to help (and employ!) a blind friend and possibly others
>> who are blind or visually impaired. The group overlaps with two others
>> doing different open source-basd projects.
>if you want to be taken seriously here, you need to answer properly
>all 5 of KW's questions; in fact, you've answered none of them.
>>> Yeah, I'm sure foundations and stuff will go for your approach.
>> Actually, the organizations we've approached about this like the idea.
>> Their charter is to help the disabled by equipping them
>> with necessary technology, and while they're currently buying products
>> such as the "Jaws" screen reader for Windows, they don't find them
>> to be a good solution for browsing. They'd gladly go with something better
>> and we'd like to supply it if we can do it without starving.
  I assume they are keeping up with all of the options.  JFW costs $795 or
$895, and requires a fairly recent computer running IE 4 or 5.  This is not
your average cast-off at the local thrift stoere.  Window-Eyes costs $595,
but has about the same system requirements.  The advantage of both of these
over Lynx is that they can go to a Javascript link, which Lynx does not yet
know how to do.  See the newspaper articles from the last portion of for one of many examples.  An SSL-capable version is also much
easier to obtain this way, as well.  

The only useful thing happening with Netscape is that IBM, using DDE calls,
hooked into it and created Home Page Reader, a $150 talking browser.  It
currently fumbles when error messages pop up, or when plug-ins such as the
Windows Media Player or RealAudio pop up, requiring a Windows screen
reader, which must go to sleep when inside HPR.  But it understands more
modern HTML, such as reading a Title on a link when no Alt text was

PW Webspeak is another talking browser, working from its own HTML pparsing
engine, from the Productivity Works in New Jersey.  It can work with
RealAudio without another screen reader, and development is continuing.
Because HPR and PWW usually use software speech and are Windows programs,
the system requirements are almost as high as for the screen reader/IE5

To run Lynx on a 386, 486 or slow Pentium, you need a DOS screen reader,
and you need a speech synthesizer.  Decent synthesizers start at around
$300.  Some of the DOS screen readers have become unsupported freeware.
Getting Lynx running, whether in Win95 or in DOS, requires some technical
know-how and patience.  It's not quite a plug-and-play system.

  With 70% of working-age blind people unemployed or underemployed,, and
with half the blind population over 65 years old, many not familiar with
computers, there are financial and technical support hurdles to overcome. 

>you don't say whether the organisations you've approached are commercial
>or non-profit, but it sounds from your description as if the latter,
>in which case you should have no problem:
>they should be happy to pay you for your labor at normal market rates
>in return for a blind-improved version of Lynx
>which they could then distribute free to blind Internet users;
>neither you nor the organisation would have any commercial reason
>to keep the source code a secret & indeed the organisation would benefit
>from open source, which might be further improved by others without charge,
>not least via this mailing-list.
  Having hung around Lynx-dev for 4 years, and been a Lynx user for
slightly longer, I don't see how you will be able to make a commercial
product out of your development.  Has anyone, for example, figured out
where Fote has been for the last two years?  The effort is laudable, and
there may be ways of actually improving the situation, by better
communication, better documentation, screen reader configuration file
distribution, etc.  Mr. Glass, if you have questions that I might be able
to help answer, feel free to write me off-list about them.  Even though I
use HPR and IE5, I continue to say that Lynx Rulz!

Lloyd Rasmussen, Senior Staff Engineer
National Library Service f/t Blind and Physically Handicapped
Library of Congress    (202) 707-0535  <address@hidden>
HOME:  <address@hidden>   <

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