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The StartX Files: When Musophobia is a Way of Life - page 2

Feeling the Caress of the Warm Mouse in My Hand

  • March 27, 2001
  • By Brian Proffitt

For the sake of my experiment, I tried forsaking the mouse for a few days on my SuSE machine. I quickly discovered that there were some real hassles in trying to work within my environment of choice: KDE 2.1.1.

Okay, with the exception of being able to switch to up to 12 different desktops, there really weren't a lot of default global keybindings in KDE. Nor were there that many in GNOME 1.2. Granted, in each of these environments there was room for adjusting the settings and adding more keybindings, but this was a bit tedious to do.

Compared to something like mwm, which seems to have keybindings preset for everything, there is a clear disadvantage in the default keybindings set for the Big Two.

Of course, this is not counting the added key abilities you can get be using the additional accessibility tools available for KDE and GNOME. These do lend some useful features to your keyboards if you are trying to ditch the mouse altogether.

So, why all the fuss, you say? If all of this were just a matter of personal preference, then I might be inclined to agree. But for many computer users, it is not preference. It is necessity.

The tasks of manipulating a mouse and keyboard may seem easy to you and I, but for many, its not such a walk in the park. For users who have only single digit access to their computers, be it a finger, a toe, or a head and stick combination, using the keyboard to do everything becomes of paramount concern. Yet many of the "mainstream" environments and window managers are extremely dependent on the mouse. At some point or another, you have to use the mouse to get anything done in KDE or GNOME, if you try to use the menus. Yes, you can activate the Accessibility functions that set up the keyboard-as-mouse, but try to get to the Accessibility dialog without using the mouse sometime.

There is, of course, the terminal windows and console. You can start everything in Linux in there, certainly. But having to type out a string of commands when everyone else can do it in a few mouse clicks is hardly fair.

I have talked about blind users having access to Linux, but how do the GUIs respond to those with limited or no hand functions? With voice command? Even that is not the solution, since people with cerebral palsy may lack the motor and vocal skills to use this kind of interface.

This is not an easy problem to solve, since different forms of handicaps require different and tailored solutions. Not one or three blanket solutions. We in Linux pride ourselves in being different and in having the most flexible operating system ever made. These are worthy attributes, which many in this community have certainly earned. Perhaps it's time we step up a bit more and prove our mettle and show Linux can be used by everyone.

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