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How to Install the Speakup Modified Red Hat Distribution

Version 1.0 (Final)
21 June 2002

Janina Sajka
William Acker
Email: janina@afb.net 
Email: wacker@octothorp.org 

A distribution of GNU/Linux enhanced with
Speakup: The world's leading Linux screen reader
Because equal access to all system functions is a blind computer user's right, from bootup to shutdown!

Whether you download our CD ROM images, or whether you use a boxed set from Red Hat Corp., we'll show you how to install using Speakup and your speech synthesizer, and we'll show you how to get a Linux installation that talks using Speakup and your synth every time you boot!

Section One: Introduction and Copyright

(C) Copyright 2002
By Janina Sajka & William F. Acker
All Rights Reserved

Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license can be found at:

Linux is a registered trademark of Linus Torvalds.

Windows is a registered trademark of Microsoft Corp.

We invite you to use this link to send us your comments and suggestions on this document. Your comments are most welcome.

Blind people installing the Speakup Modified Red Hat distribution are also invited to call Bill Acker by voice telephone for direct, personal assistance at +1.303.777.8123 in the USA, -07:00 GMT

The Speakup mailing list is a good place to get help with your problems and questions. We strongly suggest, and we cordially invite you to join the Speakup mailing list.

Current Versions

Much of this draft HOWTO document is being folded into the Speakup Installation HOWTO document now in preparation. Meanwhile, the latest edition of the Speakup Modified Red Hat distribution, and of this HOWTO, can be found at The Speakup Modified Red Hat Distribution Home Page. The most current version of this HOWTO is available here

Learn more About the Speakup Modified Red Hat Distribution here

Table of Contents

Section One: Introduction and Copyleft

Section Two: Are You Ready For Linux?

Section Three: Choosing and Preparing Your Installation Media

Section Four: Installing

Section Five: Now What?

Section Six: Appendix

Section Two: Are You Ready For Linux?

Why Would I Want the Speakup Modified Red Hat Distribution?

Linux is a wonderful environment for computer users who are blind, and the Red Hat distribution is a compelling, robust yet cutting-edg and comprehensive Linux distribution. Unfortunately, the official Red Hat distribution does not provide an installation option accessible to the screen reader user, nor does it yet deliver a completed installation which includes screen reader support. Until Red Hat Corporation remedies this inequity, we will continue to provide the Speakup Modified Red Hat distribution as the accessible alternative for the blind computer user who wants a Red Hat-style Linux installation. While there are many ways to get a set of installation media for Red Hat, there is only one place on the planet which consistently provides installation media adapted expressly for those blind computer users who want to use the Speakup Linux screen reader to install a Red Hat-style Linux on their computers. This means that the blind computer user will not require sighted assistance, and that the end result will be an installation that talks every time it is booted, but only if you get your installation files from the Speakup Modified Red Hat Distribution Home Page.

Clearly, all users can choose among several Linux distributions, and we note and applaud the Slackware team for including Speakup in their stock distribution since version 8.0. Which particular distribution one should choose is really a matter of personal choice. Our only advice is that users unfamiliar with Linux should choose a distribution for which they can most easily get help when they have questions. In other words, it's harder for the user of Red Hat to help someone using Debian or Slackware. This is an important point because beginning users will most certainly have questions--many questions.

Before You Start ...

Even persons who are experienced installing Linux need to prepare before initiating yet another installation. Everyone should expect to take time to gather the information and tools that will be needed to effect a successful installation. Do partitions need resizing and reformatting? What network parameters need to be specified? What are the video specifications for the new system? Are some data files, and perhaps certain partitions to be left untouched so that they can appear in the new installation just as they are today?

So, if you are new to Linux, plan to spend some time reading about the installation process and the kinds of decisions you will need to make before undertaking an installation--especially if you're installing on a hard disk which currently has some other operating system that you want to keep, such as Windows, for example. The Speakup Modified Red Hat distribution of Linux will coexist nicely on a single hard disk with Windows, but only if you don't unintentionally delete it during the installation process. There's no reason to delete Windows before you're ready.

If you are unfamiliar with Linux, you may soon find that the language of Linux is unfamiliar. This is especially true for users whose past experience of computers is with operating environments such as DOS and Windows. Of course, the very same computer that runs Windows today may well run Linux tomorrow using the same hardware. But the words that designate the serial ports and the disks on the system are examples of the kinds of things which have radically different names under Linux. In fact, learning the language of Linux well enough to successfully install Linux is arguably the most difficult task in the entire process.It is very important for you to know how devices are specified in Linux, and about disk partitioning and formatting under Linux before you start. Also, be sure to have requisite information about your network connections handy.

The Official Red Hat Installation Guide is an excellent resource for learning these details and much more because it is comprehensive and clearly written, and because it provides keyboard command instructions in addition to mouse instructions. Use your favorite browser to study this online guide before attempting your first Linux installation especially if you cannot dedicate an entire hard disk drive just to Linux. If you want, you can even download this, and other free Red Hat guides to your hard disk for easier access. Pay particular attention to Red Hat's very excellent Introduction to Disk Partitions and the sections on Disk Partitioning Setup. If you're adding Linux to a computer that already has another operating environment (like Windows), pay attention to the sections on Configuring a Dual-Boot System. Before you begin the installation, be sure to have information about your network connections (including dialup connections) handy. Red Hat's Installation Guide includes a handy form for collecting the information you'll need during installation. And, if you are someone whose computer experience has been mainly DOS or Windows, we highly recommend you study the From DOS/Windows to Linux HOWTO to get a handle on Linux words and how they correspond to the computer words you already know.

If you need to repartition your hard drive in order to make room for Linux, do so before attempting to install the Speakup Modified Red Hat Distribution. If you have a tool like Partition Magic that you already know how to use, it's usually preferable to use a tool you're already familiar with on a delicate process like repartitioning. There are also floppy disk images on the Speakup web site for a repartitioning tool called parted. Each image is for a different speech synthesizer. The documentation for parted is not very easy for people unfamiliar with partitioning. If you decide to use parted, be sure to follow the instructions in the section Creating Boot Floppies below.

A DOS tool for repar;titioning, called FIPS, is also provided on the first installation CD ROM, and you can donwload FIPS and its documentation here. Be sure to study the Red Hat Installation Guide's section on FIPS before continuing with repartitioning. Be sure to back up your data as absolutely every guide on repartitioning will tell you to. Take the time you need to get a proper backup of your important files--and to get this repartitioning task accomplished properly.

PS: We'd like to offer some of our thoughts on disk partitioning for your consideration.

Once you have a good grasp of Linux basics, once you have a sense of how you will use fdisk or Disk Druid, once you understand terms such as /dev/ttyS0, /dev/sda, /dev/hda and /dev/hda1, you'll be ready to begin installing the Speakup Modified Red Hat distribution.

Section Three: Choosing and Preparing Your Installation Media

There are several ways to achieve an installation of the Speakup Modified Red Hat Distribution. The most direct way is to download the CD ROM image files from our servers as we'll detail shortly. But these files are very large and many people are still using dialup modems which makes downloading these huge files very slow and tedious. Or, perhaps you're someone who already has a working installation of Red Hat and all you want is to add Speakup to your kernel.

Downloading Required Files

What files you will need depends on how you will be installing the Speakup Modified Red Hat Distribution. Some users will download our CD ROM images. Others will use an official boxed set from Red Hat. Still others already have a working installation of Red Hat and only need the Speakup Modified Linux kernel. Because these needs are different, not everything in this section may seem relevant to you. Please be patient in reading through this section, though, because much of the information we provide here really does apply to everyone downloading files from the Speakup web servers.

The Complete Speakup Modified Red Hat Distribution

The Speakup Modified Red Hat distribution is provided as a set of six CD ROM images, called ISO images, on the Speakup Modified Red Hat Distribution Home Page. These are the files whose filenames end in the ".iso" extension. Only the first three of these six .iso files are absolutely required to install the Speakup Modified Redhat Distribution.

Whether you use an ftp client, or whether you download these CD ROM image files using the web links provided here is unimportant. Because each of these files is very large it will take some time to download them, even over a fast network connection--so that achieving a successful download can seem like a major accomplishment on its own. You are very strongly advised, therefore, to use a download method which will resume from the place it was interrupted should your network connection be interrupted for any reason.

Using FTP

IMPORTANT NOTE: If you're using Windows and don't know if the program you use to download files is capable of resuming an interrupted download, you might want to get NCFTP for 32-bit Windows. To use anonymous ftp to download these files. Follow these steps and end each command by pressing -ENTER-.

  1. Connect to our server with a command like: "open ftp.linux-speakup.org"
  2. If you're asked to login, use "anonymous" as your login name.
  3. If you're asked for a password, use your email address.
  4. Change to the current download directory by typing "cd pub/speakup/disks/redhat/current"
  5. Make certain that binary mode is enabled by typing "bi"
  6. Then, download the three .iso images with a command like "mget *i386*"

Using a World Wide Web Browser

Be sure that you are downloading files in binary mode, and that you have a total of about 4 gigabytes of free disk space in the directory to which you're downloading them--should you decide to download all 6 of them. Remember, you only really need the first three (and about 2.1gB of free disk space) to effect a successful installation:

Will a Hard Disk Installation Work For You?

Now that you have the iso images for the Speakup Modified Red Hat distribution, you may not need to actually create CD ROMs from these images in order to install. If you downloaded these files to a directory you will not be formatting, such as your Windows Desktop, for example, you can simply use these files as your installation media, provided that you still have at least 3.5 gigabytes of free disk space for the actual Linux installation itself.

To install from hard disk you will need to create a bootable floppy as described below. During the installation process you will be asked what hard disk, and what directory on that disk holds the installation iso images. Of course, you will need to answer using Linux designations (like /dev/hda1and windows/desktop), and not Microsoft designations (like C:\WINDOWS\DESKTOP>) because Linux doesn't speak Windows!

NOTE: You may use the hard disk installation option if you have these iso images on any kind of secondary, removable media such as the Iomega Jazz drive or the Castlewood Orb drive. The process is the same though the drive designation will, of course, be different.

Creating Installation CD ROMs

Now that you have the iso images for the Speakup Modified Red Hat distribution, go ahead and create CD ROMs from each of these images using whatever software you ordinarily use for creating CD ROMs (cdrecord on Linux, or Easy CD Creator in Windows, for example). How to do this is beyond the scope of this document, but we do want to point out that an "iso image" is actually a kind of "picture" of a CD ROM. In other words, your objective is to create a CD ROM with the contents of the iso image, and not a CD ROM with a single .iso file on it. For example, the first installation CD ROM should have files like the following files on it: README COPYING, autorun, RedHat, README.speakup, dosutils, images.

Selecting Your Boot Media

If your computer supports booting from CD ROM , you may boot from the first Speakup Modified Red Hat installation CD ROM and pass your speech synthesizer setting at the Boot> prompt .Go directly to Booting the Installation below.

If you cannot boot from CD ROM, or you will be installing from your hard dis, or over a network connection to another computer, you will need to create one or more floppy diskettes in order to boot your speakup-enabled Linux installation. You can download floppy images for the Speakup Modified Red Hat Distribution here, or just take whichever ones you need from the images directory on the first CD ROM:

IMPORTANT: If you are installing from official Red Hat CD ROM media, such as a boxed set you purchased at a computer store or obtained directly from Red Hat Corporation, you will need to download our floppy diskette images for official Red Hat media instead.

If you do need to use two floppies to boot for any reason, don't miss the important note about using two floppies in the section entitled Booting the Installation below.

Creating Boot Floppies

If you can, use the Linux dd command to create whatever boot floppies you need. If you can't use dd because you don't have linux yet, get the Windows version of the program called RawWrite and unzip it to your Windows computer. Use it to create the Linux boot floppy you need.

If you can't use either Linux' dd command or the new Windows rawrite program, use the older DOS RawWrite program. This DOS program is also provided on the first installation CD ROM in the dosutils directory. There are some very important considerations to pay attention to when using the DOS rawrite program:

The three prompts the DOS rawrite program poses, in order, are:

We suggest you place rawrite and the floppy disk images you selected in the Selecting your Boot Media section above in the same directory (or file folder). That way you need only type the file name of the image from which you're creating a floppy to answer the first of these questions. For the second question, answer with the DOS drive designation, such as "a" because, of course, rawrite is a DOS or Windows program. After you press enter in response to the third question, the floppy creation process will begin and you'll notice your floppy disk is spinning. Remember to kill your speech synthesizer during this disk writing process! When disk activity stops, rawrite has finished and that diskette is then ready for use booting the installation.

Section Four: Installing

Now that you've gathered the information and created the media you need to complete an installation of the Speakup Modified Red Hat Distribution, it is finally time to begin the installation process itself. Be sure to read through this section before you actually begin the installation, though, so you can be thoroughly familiar with the process. In particular, pay attention to how you will specify your speech synthesizer in order to get a speech-enabled installation underway.

Supported Synthesizers and their Associated Keywords

We pause now to name the speech synthesizers currently supported by Speakup. These are the only ones available for you to use with the Speakup Modified Red Hat distribution at this time. Please note the appropriate speakup keyword associated with the synthesizer you will be using. You will need to specify it at the beginning of the boot process as described below:

Speakup Supported Synthesizers and their Associated Keywords
Apollo APOLO
Audaptor AUDPTR
All Blazie products BNS
DEC Talk Express DECTLK
DEC Talk External DECEXT
Doubletalk internal (isa card) DTLK
External, serial Litetalk or Doubletalk LTLK
Speak Out SPKOUT
Artic Transport TXPRT

The correct syntax for indicating which speech synthesizer you're using is:

So, to install with an external Litetalk,you will specify that speakup should talk to the Litetalk synthesizer as follows:

By default Speakup probes for a speech synthesizer on all the serial ports available to it. If this doesn't work, you may specify a particular serial port. The first serial port, the one Windows/DOS calls COM1 becomes ttyS0 in Linux, and COM2 becomes ttyS1, etc. So, to indicate that Speakup should use the second serial port, you would specify:

NOTE: If Speakup probes for a speech synthesizer but fails to find one, linux will still boot though it will not speak. On the other hand, if you specify a particular port and Speakup cannot find your indicated synthesizer on that port, linux will not boot.

Booting the Installation

At long last you are ready to begin installing the Speakup Modified Red Hat distribution. Start a text-based installation with speech by booting the appropriate floppy disk you prepared in the Creating a Boot Floppy section above, or by booting the first installation CD ROM disk.

But, when and how do you specify your synthesizer? Regrettably the boot prompt doesn't start out talking, though it could be made to (see below). So, you will need to monitor disk activity as your system boots. Most computers will beep briefly following bios activity just at the point that system information is read from disk. Your disk will spin briefly following this beep. When it stops, you're at the boot> prompt. Type the following and press <<ENTER>>:

where {synth_keyword} is the appropriate speech synthesizer keyword. You may also specify your serial port if you wish. So, for example, to start a text-based installation with a Litetalk on the second serial port, you would type:

You will have a full minute to type this command correctly. If you make a mistake, press Ctrl-U to clear the command line and start entering your command from the beginning again.

IMPORTANT:If, for any reason, you need to boot with two floppies--because you need additional drivers, for example--add "dd" to your command. So, to start the boot process using a litetalk on the serial port, and have the opportunity to introduce a second diskette to the boot process, your command would specify:

NOTE: If you're comfortable editing a file in a text editor, you can make the boot> prompt speak--but only to a serial speech synthesizer, not an internal one. Edit the file sysLinux.cfg which is on your boot floppy using a text editor. Immediately above the line in this file which says: "LABEL Linux" add the following line:

NOTE: Change the "=0" as appropriate for your serial port, e.g. for the second serial port use "=1" instead.

About a minute after you press enter to the boot> prompt, speakup will begin speaking the installation process. You're on your way.

Initial Installation Options

The first few choices you have to make will determine how accessible your installation will be. Here's what to choose. If you make a mistake, just start over:

Speakup Screen Review Quick Reference

Perhaps the trickiest part of the installation is also a very critical point in the installation. Red Hat's partitioning tool, called Disk Druid, is often confusing to new users. You'll need to use speakup's screen review commands carefully to ensure that you've correctly specified your mount points and which partitions are to be formatted. So, here's a quick introduction to using Speakup followed by an introduction to Disk Druid.

There's more, of course, but this is all you really need to get started and perform a proper installation of the Speakup Modified Red Hat Linux distribution.

Conquering Disk Druid

Partitioning the hard drive is one of the most critical tasks you face during the installation process. It's also somewhat complicated especially for the beginning user. Please study this section carefully, therefore, before you take on this important task for the first time.

On the other hand, you do have choices. If you're happy letting the installation program make decisions for you, you can select "automatic" and things will be done as the installation scripts determine. If, however, you want to make your own partitioning decisions, you will need to indicate at least the "slash" mount point by using Disk Druid. Experienced linux users may wonder about using fdisk. It is available, but you cannot specify mount points in fdisk, so you will have to use Disk Druid for this important task at the least.

There are two parts to the Disk Druid main screen. These are reached sequentially by using TAB and Alt-TAB. These two parts consist of:

So, how do you know when you've tab'd to the list of defined partitions? Speakup won't say anything in particular to tell you you've reached that list. Instead, here's how you can know. As you tab, you eventually come to a button that says "back." When you hear "back" for the first time, tab once more. You'll hear speakup say "back" again. You are now on the list and can use down arrow (you'll always start at the top of the list) and then up arrow to move through the list. Be careful to use speakup's "read current line" key, the number 8 key on the numeric keypad, to ascertain that you're actually on the partition you mean to be on before editing or deleting it.

TAB to an action button and press enter. This will bring up a new, subsidiary screen. Some of these subsidiary screens are quite simple, others are not. The EDIT and NEW screens, for example, will first give an edit field where the mount point for this partition is to be specified. This is where you type '/', or '/usr', or '/home', for example. Use TAB and Alt-TAB in these subsidiary screens to work your way through the various options and edit fields. Use the screen review features of speakup often to understand what's happening. The #8 key on the numeric keypad is your friend. And, if you explore with other keys, remember that the enter key on the numeric keypad will return the speakup cursor to the system cursor--the place you actually are on the form.

There are four types of controls you'll encounter on these subsidiary screens:

IMPORTANT: Be sure to check each entry on the list of partitions before continuing to the next step. It is not hard to make a mistake in the Disk Druid screens, and it can be quite cumbersome to undo mistakes after you've created and formatted partitions

Additional Specific Options To Consider

Here are some additional recommendations and critical points regarding the choices you need to make during the installation process:

Section Five: Now What?

After you've created an emergency boot floppy, the installation will prompt you to reboot your computer. You're now ready to begin using your installation of the Speakup Modified Red Hat Distribution!

Welcome to Linux with Speakup

Congratulations. You should now have a working, talking Linux installation. Of course this undoubtedly means that you have more things to learn in order to get the most from your Linux computer. The Speakup mailing list is a good place to get help with your problems and questions. We strongly suggest, and we cordially invite you to join the Speakup mailing list.

We would be remiss not to provide some additional pointers to the wealth of helpful information about using Linux which is available to you. The following are but a few, key options. Some of these are online, web resources, and some are built into your Linux installation itself:

Stay Up to Date with Up2date

Red Hat provides a safe and simple means for keeping your Speakup Modified Red Hat installation fully up to date called up2date. You need to register online, but once you're registered it's very easy to use:

Addendum: Some Thoughts About Partitioning

How should you partition your hard drive? There is much debate on this point and probably always will be. Of course, you can (and should) take comfort in the certain knowledge that your first Linux installation will not be your last. Also, if you've set up a system where you can boot both Linux and Windows, you are likely to want to have access to your data, no matter which OS you choose to boot at any given time. Lastly, we believe that you would prefer to make it easy to upgrade (or reinstall) Linux without repartitioning, and without losing any of your user data. The following brief recommendations are certainly not a full dissertation on the subject, but they do address questions that arise fairly often.

Section Six: Appendix

If it is possible to do so, we highly advise you get the Speakup Modified Red Hat Distribution if you wish to install a Red Hat style linux distribution with the Speakup screen reader. Unfortunately, this isn't always practical. And, it is certainly possible to achieve the same result using Red Hat's CD ROM media, or ISO images. And, it is often possible to modify an existing installation of Red Hat to add Speakup. This section will describe the steps you should take in both of these circumstances.

Using Red Hat Media

If you have ISO images from Red Hat, or CD ROMs from Red Hat, you may nevertheless be able to install with Speakup. Whether or not this will work depends mostly on how close the version you have is to the current version of the Speakup Modified Red Hat Distribution. Obtain and create the appropriate floppy diskette images as described above, being certain to create floppy diskettes for official Red Hat media. Then, follow the installation instructions as described above. If your version of Red Hat is sufficiently close, you will be able to install linux, but your completed installation won't speak until you make the modifications described next.

Adding Speakup to an Existing Red Hat Installation

To add Speakup to an existing installation of Red Hat linux, follow these two simple steps:

Step One: Obtain the kernel RPM appropriate to your computer, from the Kernels Directory

You may need to observe the advice in the following two sections above:

Step Two: As root use the following command to install the Speakup Modified Linux kernel:

IMPORTANT: If you receive a message about failed dependencies, you will need to install or update the missing or outdated package files first. Consult the document Package Management with RPM to learn more

You will not have speech during this process. You will need to reboot for these modifications to take effect.

IMPORTANT: You may need to edit your /etc/lilo.conf file to specify your speech synthesizer. Consult the following sections above:

Lastly, however you obtain your installation of the Speakup Modified Red Hat Distribution, let us help you start using your new Linux system effectively. Please read:

  • Section Five: Now What?

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