Release of new version of GNU/Linux distribution for Cognitively Challenged by CDAC, Mumbai

Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (CDAC) has released the new version (version 0.1.2) of GNU/Linux distribution for CognitivelyChallenged. Cognitively challenged people face different kinds of problems such as memory loss, forgetfulness, attention problems etc. Therefore, the major objective of this distribution is to provide an accessible desktop environment suitable to such users. The major highlights of this distribution are simplified and accessible desktop environment, simplified applications, tagged file system, tag-based searching, user’s activity log, reminder facility etc. that are specifically aimed to reduce distraction and memory load during computer interaction. These salient features of the distribution can be of immense help to such users and their caretakers, while using computer. This distribution is based on Ubuntu 10.04 and offers a number of improvements/enhancements over previously released version (version 0.1.1). These improvements/enhancements have been incorporated based on feedbacks and suggestions received from various organisations and users.

Major highlights in the current release:

  • Faster tag based searching
  • Facility to add new user-defined image tags
  • Enhanced tag control center to edit/delete existing tags(textual and image both).
  • Enhanced tag control center to add new file extensions for which tag setting option should be enabled.
  • New educational games included (The Number Race and Tux Type)

GNU/Linux distribution for Cognitively Challenged-0.1.2 can be downloaded from here.

More details about the distribution can be accessed at

Details of various enhancements made in the current version can be found at

Feedback and suggestions about the distribution can be sent at ossd[at]cdac[dot]in.

ALViC – Accessible Linux for Visually Challenged launched

ALViC- Accessible Linux for Visually Challenged was launched on 11th February, 2013 by Prof R. Chidambaram, Principal Scientific Adviser, Govt. of India & Shri J. Satyanarayana, Secretary, DeitY, Ministry of Comm. & I.T., Govt. of India during the CDAC Technology Conclave on 11th Feb, 2013 at Indian Habitat Centre, New Delhi. During the 2-days technology conclave, a number of technologies and products developed by CDAC under various thematic area were showcased.

ALViC is a complete desktop environment which provides a comprehensive solution for Visually Challenged users. This is a GNU/Linux distribution based on Ubuntu 10.04; and uses Orca 3.2.0 xdesktop screen reader as the main interaction mechanism for visually challenged users. They can use it out of the box because accessibility features suitable for fully blind as well as for partially blind users are enabled by default.

Main Features :

  • Free and open source desktop environment
  • Enhanced Orca with skim read, sentence navigation, list shortcut and structural navigation of text documents
  • PDF documents made accessible in Linux environment
  • Easy navigation and search facility on Desktop icon view
  • Accessible login for visually challenged users
  • Suitable desktop themes for partial blind
  • Other assistive tools like OCRFeeder, Audio book converter, Emerson DAISY reader, sound converter etc. useful for visually challenged users are also included.

This product has been released under the project ‘Enhancing Accessibility for FOSS Desktops’ at CDAC, Mumbai being carried out under NRCFOSS-Phase II. The research and development activities under this project are aimed at developing software-based assistive technologies/solutions for the differently-abled people.


ALViC can be downloaded from here.

Launch of ALViC can be watched here.

More details and documentation about ALViC can be accessed here.

RPM package of GEM (GEstures with Mouse) released

RPM package of GEM (GEstures with Mouse) has been released. GEM (GEstures with Mouse) is a mouse-gesture based input mechanism developed by CDAC, Mumbai for people with motor disabilities. It can be downloaded now from or from


New version of Anumaan – open source predictive text entry system from CDAC, Mumbai released

CDAC, Mumbai has announced the new release of open source predictive text entry system – Anumaan. This release includes new version of standalone flavour of Anumaan i.e. Anumaan-standalone-0.2. This version has been released as part of the activities of project “Enhancing Accessibility for FOSS Desktops” under NRCFOSS-Phase II being carried out at CDAC, Mumbai.

Anumaan gives predictions based on preceding text/words used by the user in his/her text and user can use these predictions, while composing text. By incorporating predictions, user can improve his/her rate of text entry to a great extent.

Anumaan is mainly intended to help persons with motor disabilities, specially ones facing problems in hand and finger movement. Such persons face difficulty in using regular input devices like keyboard for text entry related tasks. Anumaan can help such persons immensely in their text entry related tasks by way of predictions. However, It is equally useful for common users also and can support them in creating mails, letters, documents etc. in less time.

Salient features of current version include:

  • More user-friendly and simplified interface for easy interaction and navigation.
  • Re-oriented layout of text entry area and prediction display in order to reduce visual and cognitive overhead.
  • A single comprehensive prediction list combining predictions from all relevant grams for easy selection.
  • Keyboard support for selecting predictions from prediction list. It reduces time taken in selecting and committing predictions to text.
  • Larger text entry area compared to previous version for easy text entry.
  • Integrated context-sensitive help.
  • Re-oriented menu bar for easy access and navigation.

All these features are intended to improve user interaction and experience for motor disabled people.

Anumaan is developed on java platform and supports UTF-8, so it can effectively be run on any platform. Newly released version of Anumaan can be downloaded from

Details about project “Enhancing Accessibility for FOSS Desktops” can be accessed at

Feedback, bug reports or feature enhancement requests about the application can be sent to ossd[at]cdac[dot]in or predictanumaan[at]gmail[dot]com.

GNU/Linux distributions for Differently-abled people from CDAC, Mumbai

Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (CDAC), Mumbai has released beta versions of GNU/Linux distributions for Differently-abled people. These distributions are part of the activities being carried out under “Enhancing Accessibility for FOSS Desktops” project under NRCFOSS-Phase II at CDAC, Mumbai. There are three distributions specific to three different kinds of disabilities namely:

1. GNU/Linux distribution for Visually-challenged: This is a GNU/Linux distribution (beta version – 0.1.1) created specially for visually challenged users. Visually challenged users can use it out of the box because accessibility settings required by them are already enabled.

2. GNU/Linux distribution for Physically-challenged: GNU/Linux for Physically Challenged-Beta-0.1.1′ is a special distribution for physically challenged people, so that they can easily access FOSS desktops.

3. GNU/Linux distribution for Cognitively-challenged: This GNU/Linux distribution has been developed to provide an accessible desktop environment to the cognitively challenged users.

These distributions and other related documentation can be downloaded from here.

Note: It is advisable to go through documentation first before installing/using the distribution. In case of error in any download and for feedback on distributions,  one can contact at ossd[at]cdac[dot]in.

GEM (GEstures with Mouse) – a mouse gesture based input mechanism from CDAC, Mumbai

CDAC, Mumbai has released beta-0.1 version of GEM (GEstures with Mouse). It is an open source input mechanism which uses gestures as input to the system. Gestures can be drawn using a mouse or some equivalent device like touch pad, joystick, pen tablet etc. Gestures can drawn either as single-part (continuous) or multi-part (discontinuous) as shown in screen shots below:

drawing a single-part gesture
Drawing a single-part gesture in input window
Drawing a multi-part gesture
Drawing a multi-part gesture in input window

This Input mechanism is intended for people suffering with different kinds of motor disabilities, who may face problems in using mouse and keyboard in conventional way. Hence, it provides them with an alternate and effective mechanism for using the system to perform various tasks such as navigation, executing commands & keyboard shortcuts, and launching applications etc. on Linux desktop.

More details about GEM can be accessed at

GEM related URLs:

1. Accessibility Project Main page at CDAC, Mumbai website can be accessed at

2. GEM can be download at

3. User documentation for GEM can be accessed at

Feedbacks, bug reports or feature enhancement requests about the application can be sent to ossd[at]cdac[dot]in.


National Workshop on FOSS Adoption in Education on August 27, 2011 at CDAC, Kharghar, Navi Mumbai

Many softwares have been developed for adopting technology in education for resource availability, sharing, and access to them even after school/college hours. There have also been developments aimed to ease other educational activities like course enrollment, conduct of examination from setting question papers to correcting answers and displaying results. Such softwares are available in the market in both forms proprietary and open source.

Unlike the proprietary softwares, Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) alternatives are free of cost, source code is available with the software, and the institution has freedom to modify the source code to customize the software as per requirement. For modification and maintenance the institution has full freedom to develop the required skills in-house with the help of faculties and system admin staff or they can choose to hire external help.

However, one of the problems is there are many FOSS tools available and a novice institution/teacher/software development organization has to take lot of efforts to short-list/choose a software for adoption. They will have to spend days looking for different softwares, their reviews, comparisons, etc. If such problems are reduced for the ease of FOSS adoption then the institutions/teachers can reap the above benefits of FOSS much more seamlessly.

The workshop intents to promote technology and FOSS adoption in educational institutions. Various FOSS tools in education will be demonstrated in the workshop. The participants will also get to experience the work of C-DAC Mumbai in promoting technology/FOSS in education. The workshop will provide an opportunity to interact with participants from different organizations and industry practitioners. The workshop will involve keynote and invited lectures by distinguished researchers and/or professionals.

This workshop is being organized by CDAC, Mumbai at their Kharghar, Navi Mumbai campus. More Details about the workshop can be accessed at

how to solve audio problem in dell optilex 380 desktop on ubuntu 10.04 – Part 2

This post is related to the previous post “how to solve the audio problem in dell optiplex 380 desktop on ubuntu 10.04” and describes another optional method of solving the problem in case the solution described in previous post does not work. On my system, the previous method didn’t work. But, the method being described below worked. This solution is simple. Upgrade from your old ALSA driver (not working already) to the latest stable ALSA driver (It works). On my system, the installed version of ALSA driver was 1.0.23 which was not working and I updraded it to version 1.0.24 which is the current version. The steps to be performed are described below:

1. Determining current version of ALSA:

…$cat /proc/asound/version

Advanced Linux Sound Architecture Driver Version 1.0.23. (As appeared on my system, although installed version may differ on different system.)

2. Stopping alsa-utils: This is necessary to avoid porblems duirng the upgrade.

…$sudo /sbin/alsa-utils stop

3. Installing pre-requisite tools: Following pre-requisites may be requied before upgrading to new version of ALSA in order to compile it. These are:-

a. build-essential: This package contains an informational list of packages which are considered essential for building Debian packages.

b. ncurses-dev: This package contains the header files, static libraries and symbolic links that developers using ncurses will need.

c. gettext: This package is a set of tools that provides a framework to help other GNU packages produce multi-lingual messages.

d. xmlto: xmlto is a front-end to an XSL toolchain.

e. libasound2-dev: This package contains files required for developing software that makes use of libasound2, the ALSA library.

f. linux-headers-`uname -r`: This package relates to Linux headers belonging to particular kernel. ‘uname -r’ returns the current release level of  Linux kernel.

g. libncursesw5-dev: This package contains the header files, static libraries and symbolic links that developers using ncursesw will need.

It may be that these packages are already installed, hence it is good to check whether a package is already installed or not. Command for it is (in ubuntu or debian-like systems):

…$dpkg -s <package-name> or optionally

…$<package-name> –version (as per GNU standards)

However, the above said packages can be installed in the following way:

…$sudo apt-get -y install build-essential ncurses-dev gettext xmlto libasound2-dev

…$sudo apt-get -y install linux-headers-`uname -r` libncursesw5-dev

4. Downloading tars of alsa-driver, alsa-libs and alsa-utils: Next step is to download alsa-driver, alsa-lib and alsa-utils tars from alsa project website. Although, these tars can be downloaded to any desired location, it is good if they are downloaed in user’s own home directory. The commands for this step are as follows:

…$cd <home-directory>

…$rm -rf  alsa* .pulse*        (remove if any previous alsa related material is there.)




5. Compiling and iinstalling alsa-driver, alsa-lib and alsa-utils: Next step is to create necessary folders, compiling and installing the downloaded packages. This can be done as following:

a. Creating necessary folders:

...$sudo rm -rf /usr/src/alsa
...$sudo mkdir -p /usr/src/alsa
...$cd /usr/src/alsa
...$sudo cp <home-directory>/alsa* .

b. Unpack tar files:

...$sudo tar xjf alsa-driver*
...$sudo tar xjf alsa-lib*
...$sudo tar xjf alsa-utils*

c. Compile and install alss-driver:

...$cd alsa-driver*
...$sudo ./configure
...$sudo make
...$sudo make install

d. Compile and install alss-lib:

...$cd ../alsa-lib*
...$sudo ./configure
...$sudo make
...$sudo make install

e. Compiling and installing alsa-utils:

...$cd ../alsa-utils*
...$sudo ./configure
...$sudo make
...$sudo make install

(It is to be noted that compiling the package may take some time.)

Once, installation is over, computer might need to be restarted so that the new settings may take effect. Now, new version of alsa can be determined by using the command specified in the beginning. It is good to be sure that everything is configured properly by using the following command:

...$sudo alsaconf (This command tries to detect the sound card on the system and creates a configuration file for ALSA.)

Once, the configuration is complete, system restart may be required again.

Note: This post is based on the process described at

Should We Abolish User Access to rm?

System administrators and managers often ask about solutions to keep people from accidentally removing their data. These are very smart and dedicated people asking for a solution so that data isn’t lost either by accident or on purpose. A wild idea to solve the problem is getting rid of user access to the rm command. Is this truly a crazy idea? Read at