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March 10th, 2015

Using FOSS Out-of-the-Box

It’s a rare thing when I double down on a previous week’s article. Most of the time that second effort is perceived as defensive or argumentative. This is neither. It’s just a rare thing.

We spoke together last week about some glaring holes in AAC software in the Linuxsphere. AAC is short for Augmentative and Alternative Communication. I considered the topic to be important enough to be discussed here on FOSS Force. Given the thoughtful and helpful comments that preceded publication, it’s apparent that others felt the same way.

Libre Planet 2015 logoOne of the commenters was thoughtful enough to even include a bash script that made working with the text to speech application Festival much easier. I’m putting the script here for anyone that wants to use it. It works great and I was able to make it work easily.

#!/bin/sh

# enter, ctrl-d after input
# you can comment and uncomment one liners

# writes to a .wav file
espeak -v en-wi -a 20 -p 25 -s 80 -w /home/don/espeak5.wav “you have
reached 7 8 0 , please leave a message”

# just speaks it
espeak -v en-sc -a 20 -p 25 -s 90 “greetings, you have reached,
1, 7 8 0: please leave a message”

Along with the script came the suggestion that it “worked out of the box,” which made my point better than I ever could. The problem here, or so it would appear, is that this author and I have a different opinion about the meaning of “out of the box.” I won’t get into that…it’s easy enough in my mind to understand, but those who make the zeros and ones do magic stuff, often don’t see anything wrong with a bit of tinkering to make something work, uh…out of the box.

But I don’t mean to pick on this person. He’s a great guy with a good heart and I wouldn’t think of maligning him.

Unfortunately, someone else, who wanted to swap blows emails with me, didn’t feel the same. He took what I said to heart. I have yet to figure out if he is or was a member or contributor to any of the software projects I put under the FOSS Force microscope, but I would be inclined to guess that, in some aspect, he was.

And no…we’ll not air that exchange here. I only mention it to actually concede the point I think he may have been trying to make. Actually, it was a bit difficult to figure his point out, between his, uh…colorful and expansive language, so I’m going to make an assumption here: When a software program we use on a daily basis works flawlessly, as much of it does, we really don’t give it much thought. But woe to the developer who doesn’t jump on a bug twenty seconds after someone posts the bug report…and Katie bar the door, ’cause hell’s a comin’ your way.

I’ve spent my share of time, and probably some of your’s too, lurking about help forums and IRC channels. I’ve witnessed some of the most important, if not heated, discussions about how a software application is/needs to/is supposed to/not supposed to/ work. Some fairly famous flame wars have started and even thrived for months on those mailing lists or IRC support channels.

Sometimes it’s not the popular thing to do…to bring up particular problems or issues in the company of those who could fix the problems or issues. I may try to put that theory to the test in a matter of days. I’ve been invited to the LibrePlanet 2015 convention to talk to the folks there about Reglue. I’m honored to think that the FSF and others hold Reglue in such high regard. That being said, I am known for rubbing the cat’s fur the wrong way when I have the stage. It seems there might be a chance to do it at this event. We’ll see.

But my whole purpose for anything I say or do much of the time is to bring important problems into the light. I believe that my inability to use FOSS to prepare my text to speech presentation at LibrePlanet 2015 is worth a mention. Yeah, I consider that important. Maybe talking about a few of those troubled text to speech applications in particular might impress upon one software developer or another that these shortcomings might need fixing.

Even if they do email me with colorful or expansive language….

Ken Starks writes and publishes The Blog of Helios, a finalist in our Best FOSS or Linux Blog competition. In addition, he's the person behind the Reglue project, which refurbishes older computers and gives them to disadvantaged school kids in the Austin, Texas area. Follow him on Twitter @Reglue

3 comments to Using FOSS Out-of-the-Box

  • F New

    Note about using copy and paste to test the above script: The quotation marks will need to be fixed because they got “auto-corrected” somewhere.

    It looks like espeak is included in the standard installation of Fedora 21 Workstation.

  • Man, good eye. I should have been the one to catch that. Thank you.

  • Actually, the FOSS Force theme automatically converts all regular quotes into “smart quotes,” a feature which can be changed universally throughout the site, which we don’t want to do as we hardly ever publish code snippets and the change would change the readability of the site, but can’t be changed on an per instance basis. I suppose the work around would be to create a note below any code snippets containing code with quotes explaining. I’ll look into finding an easy way to change the smart quotes into regular quotes on an “on demand” basis.