3. Requirements

There are a number of things you must have before you install Emacspeak, including Linux, a Linux-compatible sound card, Emacs, and a hardware or software speech synthesizer. You should read this section carefully before installing Emacspeak, because Emacspeak will not function correctly if any of the requirements are missing.

3.1. Linux Distributions

This HOWTO assumes that you have already installed Linux on your system. If not, you may wish to refer to the "Linux Information Sheet" by Michael K. Johnson at http://www.linuxdoc.org/HOWTO/INFO-SHEET.html. It provides an introduction to Linux, discusses some hardware requirements, and also has a section on how to obtain Linux.

There are a number of different Linux distributions (distros) that you can choose from. All of the distros are based upon the same basic Linux code, or kernel, but each distro has a different installation process, features, and support options. Martin Wheeler's "Distributions HOWTO," at http://www.linuxdoc.org/HOWTO/Distributions-HOWTO/index.html, discusses the pros and cons of a number of Linux distros. You can also find information about each distribution on their respective web sites. Those distros known to support Emacspeak are listed below with their URLs:

All of the distributions listed above can be downloaded free of charge from their respective web sites. However, the downloads are quite large, so you'll need a fast Internet connection. You will also need access to a CD burner, to burn your own CDs from the images you download. Depending on the distribution, you may also have to download and make a boot floppy. Once you have burned the CDs and created the boot floppy, you can install Linux. Alternatively, you can purchase the disks at your local computer store for between $30 and $80 US. Both of these options are discussed at length in the Linux Installation HOWTO at http://www.linuxdoc.org/HOWTO/Installation-HOWTO/overview.html, so you may want to refer there before making a decision as to which route to take.

Most methods of installation require sighted assistance. However, if you prefer to install Linux yourself, there are two options. The first is to install Linux from a DOS machine running JAWS. This option requires two machines, a null modem cable, JAWS for DOS, and a hardware speech synthesizer. More information on this option can be found in Section 7, Appendix A. The second option is installing one of the distributions that includes a Speakup kernel patch. This option requires a Speakup-enabled distro and a hardware synthesizer. Speakup is a screen reader that is patched into the kernel, so it starts talking at boot and will speak during the entire installation. Currently, Speakup is supported on Debian, Red Hat 7.1, and Slackware. The Speakup option also requires you to download the CD images and make your own CDs. Refer to the Speakup home page at http://www.linux-speakup.org for instructions for this option.

For assistance with installing Linux, Eric Raymond's Linux Installation HOWTO, at http://www.linuxdoc.org/HOWTO/Installation-HOWTO, is highly recommended reading. In the HOWTO, Eric discusses hardware requirements, choosing a distro, and installing your distro of choice. If Eric's HOWTO does not provide enough installation-specific information, you can refer to the documentation specific to your distribution, available at the URLs given in the distro list.

3.2. Emacs

Because Emacspeak is an Emacs subsystem, you must have Emacs installed for Emacspeak to work. Most distributions include Emacs by default, so it should be installed on your system when you install Linux.

If you do not have Emacs on your system or you want to check on the latest version of Emacs, refer to the Emacs homepage at http://www.gnu.org/software/emacs/emacs.html. If you install Emacs on your own or choose to upgrade, be sure to install all of Emacs, including both the X and non-X versions (even if you do not plan to use X). Some Emacs applications depend on packages included in the X version, even if you use those applications in the non-X version of Emacs.

If you would like to learn more about Emacs and how to use it, an excellent place to start is the Emacs Beginner's HOWTO, by Jeremy D. Zawondy. It's available at http://www.linuxdoc.org/HOWTO/Emacs-Beginner-HOWTO.html. There is also an online manual available at http://www.gnu.org/manual/emacs/index.html. Alternatively, you can try the built-in Emacs tutorial. To start the tutorial, type C-h t.

3.3. Background applications

Emacspeak depends on a number of applications. Because each Linux distribution comes with different applications, you may find that your distro does not quite have everything that Emacspeak needs to run properly. Therefore, before you install anything else, it is important to make sure you have all the necessary applications, as listed below.

3.4. Speech Synthesizers

To produce speech output, you need two things: something to parse the information on the screen (Emacspeak), and something to produce the sounds you hear as output (a speech synthesizer). Emacspeak can use either a hardware or software synthesizer to produce sound output. Software synthesizers have the benefit of being either free or very inexpensive. Hardware synthesizers can run from $150 to $1600 or more, but they are typically easier to install than software synthesizers.

3.4.1. Hardware synthesizers

Emacspeak supports the following hardware synthesizers:

  • Accent

  • Apollo

  • Braille Lite

  • Braille n' Speak

  • DECtalk Express (the original Emacspeak synthesizer) or MultiVoice

  • DoubleTalk PC and AT

  • Internal DECtalk PC and DECtalk PC2

  • LiteTalk

  • Type n' Speak

Support for the DECtalk Express and MultiVoice synthesizers is built into Emacspeak. If you have a synthesizer other than a DECtalk Express, you may require additional drivers or "speech servers" to get Emacspeak to work with your synthesizer.

The Internal DECtalk PC and DECtalk PC2 require a kernel driver available from ftp://leb.net/pub/blinux/dectalk_pc-0.95.tgz. Installation instructions are at ftp://leb.net/pub/blinux/dectalk_pc-0.95.README.

The DoubleTalk PC and AT, Braille n' Speak, Type n' Speak, Braille Lite, Apollo, and Accent synthesizers all require an additional speech server that can be downloaded from ftp://leb.net/pub/blinux/emacspeak/blinux.emacspeak-ss-1.7.tar.gz. A README file with installation instructions can be found at ftp://leb.net/pub/blinux/emacspeak/blinux/emacspeak-ss.README.

3.4.2. Software synthesizers

If you choose to use a software synthesizer, you must make sure your sound card is Linux compatible. In addition, if you want to perform any tasks that require a multi-channel sound card, such as playing auditory cues when you open or close an Emacs buffer, you must make sure that your sound card is multi-channel capable.

There is a complete list of Linux-compatible sound cards available at http://www.alsa-project.org. In addition, you can usually find information on your distribution's web site about which sound cards are supported with each distro.

Once you have ensured that your sound card is Linux compatible, you can install a software synthesizer. Currently the only one that works with Emacspeak is IBM's ViaVoice Text-to-Speech (TTS), formerly called ViaVoice Outloud. Many Emacspeak users use this software synthesizer, because it is free of charge. Instructions for installing ViaVoice can be found in Section 8, Appendix B.