Perkify - BALUG Talk (2020.0218)

Written by Rich Morin.

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Precis:  Perkify: a blind-friendly virtual machine

I gave a short, introductory talk (Perkify: a blind-friendly virtual machine) at the Bay Area Linux Users Group (BALUG) meeting on February 18, 2020. This item contains the slides for the talk.

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<h4>Title</h4> <h4>Perkify: a blind-friendly virtual machine</h4> <p>by Rich Morin (rdm@cfcl.com)<br> Canta Forda Computer Laboratory</p> <p>Bay Area Linux Users Group (<a href="https://www.balug.org">BALUG</a>)<br> February 18, 2020</p> <h4>Biography</h4> <ul> <li>started programming in 1969 (on Wylbur, at SF State) </li> <li>wrote lots of asm, AWK, C, Fortran, Perl, sed, sh, … </li> <li>dabbled in Clojure, COBOL, Icon, Prolog, Python, … </li> <li>mostly programs in Ruby and Elixir these days<br><br> </li> <li>columnist for MacTech, SunExpert, and Unix Review </li> <li>edited several collections of open source software </li> <li>consults on design, development, and documentation </li> <li>volunteers on several disability-related projects </li> </ul> <h4>Motivation</h4> <p>Installing open source software should be easy and safe:</p> <ul> <li>The open source community has produced a wealth of software. </li> <li>Much of this could be of use to the visually disabled. </li> <li>For example, there are a great many text-based commands. </li> <li>However, finding and installing packages is a lot of work. </li> <li>Adding and removing packages can also destabilize a system. </li> <li>So, let’s make the process a bit less painful… </li> </ul> <h4>Prehistory</h4> <p>Building open source collections has gotten a lot easier:</p> <ul> <li>No more groveling through random FTP directories! </li> <li>Most packages are built, documented, indexed, tested, etc. </li> <li>Debian’s Advanced Package Toolkit (APT) is phenomenal. </li> <li>Arch’s “pacman” looks pretty sweet, as well. </li> <li>Ruby Gems and such provide language-specific solutions. </li> </ul> <h4>Approach</h4> <p>Automate all the things…</p> <ul> <li>Use Ubuntu to supply a capable base system. </li> <li>Use Debian’s APT to install add-on packages. </li> <li>Use TOML files to encode package information. </li> <li>Use Ruby scripts to mechanize installation. </li> <li>Use VirtualBox for cross-OS virtualization. </li> <li>Use Vagrant for CLI-based administration. </li> <li>Use Vagrant Cloud for package distribution. </li> </ul> <h4>Rationale</h4> <p>Disk space: the final frontier.</p> <ul> <li><p>Is a 25 GB distribution really a problem?</p> <ul> <li>Terabyte disk drives are common. </li> <li>It doesn’t slow down the system. </li> <li>It can take a while to download. </li> </ul> </li> <li><p>Do it once, do it right, and use it everywhere.</p> </li> </ul> <h4>Gotchas</h4> <p>Well, Jane, it just goes to show you, it’s always something!</p> <ul> <li>Accessibility (a11y) isn’t always taken into account. </li> <li>Binary package distributions aren’t always available. </li> <li>Some configuration issues may not have been handled. </li> <li>Virtual machines may introduce constraints and latency. </li> </ul> <h4>Futures</h4> <p>Perkify is definitely a Work In Progress…</p> <ul> <li>Multiple distributions are a possibility. </li> <li>Some packages will always need to be built. </li> <li>Some packages will always need to be tested. </li> <li>Still; it’s showing signs of life. </li> </ul>