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9. Hardware

9.1 Braille terminals driven from Screen Memory

These are Braille terminals that can read the screen memory directly in a normal text mode. It is possible to use it to work with Linux for almost all of the things that a seeing user can do on the console, including installation. However, it has a problem with the scrolling of the normal Linux kernel, so a kernel patch needs to be applied. See Patching the Kernel for Braillex and Brailloterm.

Braillex

The Braillex is a terminal which is designed to read directly from the Screen memory, thus getting round any problems with MS-DOS programs which don't behave strangely. If you could see it on screen, then this terminal should be able to display it in Braille. In Linux, unfortunately, screen handling is done differently from MS-DOS, so this has to be changed somewhat.

To get this terminal to work, you have to apply the patch given below in section Patching the Kernel. Once this is done, the Braillex becomes one of the most convenient ways to use Linux as it allows all of the information normally available to a seeing person to be read. Other terminals don't start working until the operating system has completely booted.

The Braillex is available with two arrangements of Braille cells (80x1 or 40x2) and there is a model, called the IB 2-D which also has a vertical bar to show information about all of the lines of the screen (using 4 programmable dots per screen line)

Price: 8,995  (pounds sterling) or 11495 UKP for 2-D
Manufacturer: Alphavision Limited (UK)
Suppliers: ????

Brailloterm

``What is Brailloterm?

It's a refreshable display Braille, made by KTS Kommunikations-Technik Stolper GmbH. It has 80 Braille cells in an unique line. Each cell has 8 dots that are combined (up/down) to represent a character. By default, Brailloterm shows me the line in which the screen cursor is. I can use some functions in Brailloterm to see any line in the screen.'' - Jose Vilmar Estacio de Souza <jvilmar@embratel.net.br>

Jose then goes on to say that the terminal can also use the serial port under DOS but that it needs a special program. I don't know if any of the ones for Linux would work.

As with Braillex, this needs a special patch to the kernel work properly. See section Patching the Kernel.

Price: about 23.000,- DM /  $ 15.000,
Manufacturer: Kommunikations-Technik Stolper GmbH
Suppliers: ????

Patching the Kernel for Braillex and Brailloterm

This probably also applies to any other terminals which read directly from screen memory to work under MS-DOS. Mail me to confirm any terminals that you find work. This does not apply and will actually lose some features for terminals driven using the BRLTTY software.

I am told this patch applies to all Kernels version 1.2.X. It should also work on all Kernel versions from 1.1.X to 1.3.72, with just a warning from patch (I've tested that the patch applies to 1.3.68 at least). From 1.3.75 the patch is no longer needed because the Kernel can be configured not to scroll using `linux no-scroll' at the LILO prompt. See the Boot Prompt HOWTO for more details.

*** drivers/char/console.c~     Fri Mar 17 07:31:40 1995
--- drivers/char/console.c      Tue Mar  5 04:34:47 1996
***************
*** 601,605 ****
  static void scrup(int currcons, unsigned int t, unsigned int b)
  {
!       int hardscroll = 1;
  
        if (b > video_num_lines || t >= b)
--- 601,605 ----
  static void scrup(int currcons, unsigned int t, unsigned int b)
  {
!       int hardscroll = 0;
  
        if (b > video_num_lines || t >= b)

To apply it:

  1. Save the above text to a file (say patch-file)
  2. change to the drivers/char directory of your kernel sources
  3. run
                    patch < patch-file
            
    
  4. Compile your kernel as normal

Apply those patches and you should be able to use the Braille terminal as normal to read the Linux Console.

Put in words, the patch just means `change the 1 to a 0 in the first line of the function scrup which should be near line 603 in the file drivers/char/console.c'. The main thing about patch is that program understands this, and that it knows how to guess what to do when the Linux developers change things in that file.

If you want to use a more modern kernel with completely disabled scrolling, (instead of the boot prompt solution I already mentioned), please use the following patch. This does not apply to kernels earlier than 1.3.75.

*** console.c~  Fri Mar 15 04:01:45 1996
--- console.c   Thu Apr  4 13:29:48 1996
***************
*** 516,520 ****
  unsigned char has_wrapped;          /* all of videomem is data of fg_console */
  static unsigned char hardscroll_enabled;
! static unsigned char hardscroll_disabled_by_init = 0;

  void no_scroll(char *str, int *ints)
--- 516,520 ----
  unsigned char has_wrapped;          /* all of videomem is data of fg_console */
  static unsigned char hardscroll_enabled;
! static unsigned char hardscroll_disabled_by_init = 1;

  void no_scroll(char *str, int *ints)

9.2 Software Driven Braille Terminals

The principle of operation of these terminal is very close to that of a CRT terminal such as the vt100. They connect to the serial port and the computer has to run a program which sends them output. At present there are two known programs for Linux. BRLTTY, see section BRLTTY) and Braille enhanced screen.

Tieman B.V.

CombiBraille

This Braille terminal is supported by the BRLTTY software. It comes in three versions with 25, 45 or 85 Braille cells. The extra five cells over a standard display are used for status information.

Price: around 4600 UKP for the 45 cell model ...
Manufacturer: Tieman B.V.
Suppliers: Concept Systems, Nottingham, England (voice +44 115 925 5988)

Alva B.V.

The ABT3xx series is supported in BRLTTY. Only the ABT340 has been confirmed to work at this time. Please pass back information to the BRLTTY authors on other models.

Price: 20 cell - 2200 UKP; 40 cell 4500 UKP; 80 cell 8000 UKP
Manufacturer: Alva
Suppliers: Professional Vision Services LTD, Hertshire, England 
           (+44 1462 677331)

Telesensory Systems Inc. displays

Because they have provided programming information to the developers, the Telesensory displays are supported both by BRLTTY and screen.

Powerbraille

There are three models the 40, the 65 and the 80. Only the 40 is known to be supported by BRLTTY.

Price: 20 cell - 2200 UKP; 40 cell 4500 UKP; 80 cell 8000 UKP
Manufacturer: Alva
Suppliers: Professional Vision Services LTD, Hertshire, England 
           (+44 1462 677331)

Navigator

Again there are three models the 20, the 60 and the 80. Recent versions are all known to work with BRLTTY but whether earlier ones (with earlier firmware) also work has not been confirmed.

Price: 80 cell 7800 UKP
Manufacturer: Alva
Suppliers: Professional Vision Services LTD, Hertshire, England 
           (+44 1462 677331)

Braille Lite

This is more a portable computer than a terminal. It could, however, be used with BRLTTY version 0.22 (but not newer versions) as if it was a normal Braille terminal. Unfortunately, many of the features available with the CombiBraille cannot be used with the Braille Lite. This means that it should be avoided for Linux use where possible.

Price: $3,395.00
Manufacturer: Blazie Engineering

9.3 Speech Synthesisers

Speech synthesisers normally connect to the serial port of a PC. Useful features include

The critical problem is that the quality of the speech. This is much more important to someone who is using the speech synthesiser as their main source of information than to someone who is just getting neat sounds out of a game. For this reason T.V. Raman seems to only recommend the DECTalk. Acceptable alternatives would be good.

DECTalk Express

This is a hardware speech synthesiser. It is recommended for use with Emacspeak and in fact the DECTalk range are the only speech synthesisers which work with that package at present. This synthesiser has every useful feature that I know about. The only disadvantage that I know of at present is price.

Price: $1195.00
Manufacturer: Digital Equipment Corporation

Suppliers: Many.  I'd like details of those with Specific Linux
        support / delivering international or otherwise of note only
        please.  Otherwise refer to local organisations.
        Digital themselves or the Emacspeak WWW pages.

Accent SA

This is a synthesiser made by Aicom Corporation. An effort has begun to write a driver for it however help is needed. Please see http://www.cyberspc.mb.ca/~astrope/speak.html if you think you can help.

SPO256-AL2 Speak and Spell chip.

Some interest has been expressed in using this chip in self built talking circuits. I'd be interested to know if anyone has found this useful. A software package speak-0.2pl1.tar.gz was produced by David Sugar <dyfet@tycho.com>. My suspicion, though, is that the quality of the output wouldn't be good enough for regular use.


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