Tag Archives: accessability

An intro to Vinux

Vinux is an accessible Linux distribution put together by the very helpful people behind the Vinux Project.

Vinux can be run as a live boot version from CD, DVD or USB memory stick. The current version of Vinux is based off the Ubuntu Lucid Linx LTS version, 10.4. The current Vinux version at time of writing is 3.2. Check the Vinux project website for more detail and links to downloads. One of the great things about this distro, aside it being produced with low vision or blind users in mind and tweaked accordingly, is that it will talk you through it’s very installation. With out setting scripts for an unattended installation, to my knowledge there’s simply no way a blind computer user can install Windows independently. Microsoft’s very basic screen reader, Narrator, doesn’t run from the installation media, so you’re reliant on sighted help. Being able to setup Vinux from the get go, is a real bonus in my opinion.

The hardware I’m currently running it on is a 6 year old Dell laptop, with 512MB RAM, 1.7 Pentium Mobile processor. By these day’s standards a puny machine. In fact, it was becoming barely useable under Windows XP and needed a fresh reinstallation. (Something frankly I couldn’t be bothered to do, even if I’d found the Dell recovery disk.) SO having tested Vinux from a USB live version and become quite impressed, I decided to install.

At that time, I did this as a side by side installation with Windows. This presents the user with a Grub bootloader menu. This is not spoken of course as no operating system has loaded yet. Therefor it’s a good idea to get someone to read you the menu order and memorise the options.

Whilst I found running the USB live version pretty reliable, having installed to HD, I had various problems with losing speech and inconsistency with whether speech would start at all after boot. The screen reader itself Orca was loaded but no speech. With out going into describing the minimally successful adjustments, made after Googling the issue, eventually I waited until the new 3.2 version of Vinux was released earlier this year (2012.) Since then the system has been far more useable, reliable and productive.

As blind computer or technology users in general, there are always little nagging unforeseen (no pun intended) problems. Some things are resolved and improved as a technology matures. Conversely, new software can break previous access methodologies. Not exclusive issues to users of access technology of course. With that in mind, what the volunteers in the Vinux Project have done is invaluable in furthering the accessibility of computing to blind and visually impaired users.

Whilst I can’t replace Windows with Vinux at this time. (There’s simply too much software I need on that oS.) Linux and this particular distro, for it’s working straight out the box, are my go to system as I learn more about networking and system admin. Of course a great many people are now using Linux systems for more general applications, web surfing, document processing and so on. People previously tied to the Microsoft world have been increasingly enticed by distros such as Ubuntu and Mint. Blind people too have been using Linux in various ways for several years. Orca, the screen reader on the Gnome desktop environment has been around a while. However, getting it all working involved having to learn to make a considerable amount of technical tweaks and problem solving. Not something any average computer user wants to do. So for a newbie like myself, Vinux whilst by no means perfect, has really moved things on and I thank all those involved in the ongoing project for bringing this advancement.

To try Vinux out, I’d recommend booting it live off a USB stick. If in the seemingly unlikely event, your BIOS doesn’t support that but you have a reasonably powerful machine, you can run it in a virtual machine. Instructions for both can be found by going to.

NB: The link to the Virtual Edition from the front page is broken. Go to the downloads section.

Cisco exam and accessability

Some general notes regarding my experience in taking the Cisco ICND 1 and ICND 2 exams. As per the NDA and because nobody likes a cheat anyway, I’m not going to discuss specific Questions. For the latest objectives and requirements of any test, you’re best to check on the website.

At the time of writing, the ICND1 exam, which successfully passed, gives you the entry level CCENT certificate is exam number 640-822. The secondary exam, which successfully passed, affords you full CCNA status is, 640-816.

If you pass the former but not the latter, you still have the CCENT. You can’t take the latter on it’s own. There is a composite exam combining all test areas, 640-802. It will be your decision whether to take the 1 or 2 exam route.

Each certificate is valid for up to 3 years. So for example, you could pass ICND1 and then take ICND2 nearly 3 years later to gain CCNA.

For the blind Cisco exam candidate. Pearson Vue, Cisco’s test offering partner, will give you a maximum of double time for the test. So to put in obvious terms, a 1 hour 20 minute test can be taken in 2 hours 40. You will also have a reader / scribe. This person will read the information, disclaimers, candidate agreement and of course, the questions. You will need to verbally give them your answers, i.e. Instruct them which option to choose, in a multiple choice question. This person will of course be computer literate but for obvious reasons, you’re not going to get someone who is qualified in the area of study.

*Note of caution: You are of course supposed to read the legal disclaimers, terms and conditions, the entire exam agreement, blah, blah. Be aware it’s a lot of text. In the first exam I took, the test was locked as we’d taken too long going through this material. The invidulator had to phone some tech support guy to get instructions on unlocking it so I could proceed. Whether that was a one off glitch I don’t know.

The reader… I’ll call them the scribe from here on. The scribe will have a plastic wipeable board and marker pen supplied by the test centre, on which they can write notes. You’re not permitted to take in any other equipment into the exam. No jackets or bags. There should be a locker at the test centre reception to stow these for the duration of the exam.

So this being the setup for the test. I’d advise checking the official Cisco exam expectations on their site as I make no guarantees regarding the information here. That said, in general terms the type of questions you’re likely to face include:
Multiple choice. One correct answer.
Multiple choice. Several possible answers.
Drag and drop terms to match the cattery.
Simulation testlets.

*Note:. You can’t skip a question and return to it later. So be very careful to complete all parts. Some of the testlet simulations where you need to enter commands in the simulated IOS CLI, are comprised of 4 separate questions, for example.

A number of the questions are likely to feature diagrams or text output from the CLI. In my experience, these are the trickiest and most time consuming. Especially the teslets featuring the 4 questions as described above. it goes with out saying, you need to really, really know your stuff. Whip through the simpler text based questions but pay careful attention to the wording. But these are where you can save time. And remember, it’s a Cisco test. The correct answer is the Cisco one.

In preparation for the test, specifically with the IOS simulations in mind. Make sure you know the common commands, show commands and so on, absolutely clearly. You can ask the scribe to type them but I prefer to type them in myself and have them read the resultant output.