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Ask Slashdot: How To Handle Unfixed Linux Accessibility Bugs? 266

Posted by timothy
from the linux-on-the-desktop dept.
dotancohen (1015143) writes "It is commonly said that open source software is preferable because if you need something changed, you can change it yourself. Well, I am not an Xorg developer and I cannot maintain a separate Xorg fork. Xorg version 1.13.1 introduced a bug which breaks the "Sticky Keys" accessibility option. Thus, handicapped users who rely on the feature cannot use Xorg-based systems with the affected versions and are stuck on older software versions. Though all pre-bug Linux distros are soon scheduled for retirement, there seems to be no fix in sight. Should disabled users stick with outdated, vulnerable, and unsupported Linux distros or should we move to OS-X / Windows?

The prospect of changing my OS, applications, and practices due to such an ostensibly small issue is frightening. Note that we are not discussing 'I don't like change' but rather 'this unintentional change is incompatible with my physical disability.' Thus this is not a case of every change breaks someone's workflow."
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Ask Slashdot: How To Handle Unfixed Linux Accessibility Bugs?

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  • by spitzak (4019) on Friday March 28, 2014 @09:44PM (#46607663) Homepage

    Somebody has already narrowed the problem down to specific patch:

    Comment 7 Peter Hutterer 2014-01-16 05:43:43 UTC

    bisected to this commit:

    commit 11319a922575f1da1d3c5774728c0dee12bab069
    Author: Peter Hutterer
    Date: Thu Oct 11 16:03:33 2012 +1000

            xkb: ProcesssPointerEvent must work on the VCP if it gets the VCP

    It would help if that number was a link to the git log.

  • Re:Mmm (Score:4, Insightful)

    by roc97007 (608802) on Friday March 28, 2014 @09:55PM (#46607707) Journal

    I'll give you that this bug carries a tad more weight due to what I would think is a large impact, but the usual "no one is fixing this bug" answers apply:

    - do it yourself (I get that this is often not an option, but including for completeness)
    - convince someone else to do it
    - pay someone to do it
    - find some workaround

    I think OP is trying to do the second one with this article. Perhaps someone will read this and be embarrassed enough to fix it.

  • by roc97007 (608802) on Friday March 28, 2014 @09:58PM (#46607713) Journal

    I think it's reasonable to believe that an Accessibility feature continue to work. And I think it's in the best interests of the Linux community for that to happen.

  • by roc97007 (608802) on Friday March 28, 2014 @10:03PM (#46607727) Journal

    I agree. Last I heard, we *wanted* people to use Linux on the desktop.

  • by I'm New Around Here (1154723) on Friday March 28, 2014 @10:04PM (#46607733)

    So far 13 posts, and most of them are unhelpful drivel.

    Way to prove Linux is superior.

    Did he mention the system used to work as expected, and now is broken?

    If I was a Linux advocate, I'd be ashamed of the community over stupid crap like this situation.

  • by Zombie Ryushu (803103) on Friday March 28, 2014 @10:08PM (#46607751)

    I am incapable of fixing it. (and I have a Bachelors degree of IT/CS) and I'll assume the person posting can't fix it. An upstanding member of the community NEEDS to fix this. I am ashamed over this.

  • A few options (Score:5, Insightful)

    by raymorris (2726007) on Friday March 28, 2014 @10:36PM (#46607873)

    So far, we know that Peter caused the change, Peter knows that, and Peter knows how to put it back. Peter isn't sure that it's broken since it now follows the written spec. Ideally, we'd like Peter to fix it, but for that we need to convince Peter that the new behavior is wrong and it SHOULD be reverted. If he chooses to, it will take many seconds to revert the change.

    What I'd do next is find the written documentation of the behavior in earlier versions, in Windows, and OSX. YOU said they all work the other way, but the spec says otherwise. So prove your case by linking to written documentation. When you post the links, mention "the principle of least surprise", a term meaning that users should not be surprised by the behavior of the software.

    Also, right now ONE person on the planet has said they don't like the new behavior. If EVERYONE in a large group is having a problem with it, a few could post saying so. I'm sure there are forums and such related to accessibility, so ask around. Find out for sure, are other people reall having great difficulty with it? If so, will they post in the ticket?

    Then mail Peter and request that he look at it. You could ask how much would be a fair contribution for his time spent looking into it. (Answer - about $20 - $50).

    If Peter doesn't respond, email the project maintainer, mentioning that Peter seems to be unavailable and asking that the maintainer look at it.

    If those two options fail, that single-line change is so small that any Linux programmer could compile a copy for you with it reverted. It would only take a minutes. Two years from now, if an important update comes out, someone could easily do the same with the new version. Obviously that's less desireable than getting the upstream source fixed, but it fixes YOUR problem.


  • by phantomfive (622387) on Friday March 28, 2014 @10:55PM (#46607933) Journal
    Peter Hutterer is one of the geniuses of project management who decided it would be better to make things in Wayland. So look at this as a preview for how things will be going in Wayland.
  • by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Friday March 28, 2014 @10:59PM (#46607943) Homepage Journal

    I'll bet this is going to be patched in the git repositor within a half hour.

    Reverting would be easy - I'm don't know enough about X to understand if the IsMaster(mouse) test can easily be augmented to not break StickyKeys, but fixing a null pointer dereference is something that needs to be done.

    But for just the users' use case (and people will hate this) - this is where paying somebody to deal with the problem for you comes in.

    A decent hacker would have done the work you did in the first hour, created a distro patch in the second, and put up a repo with the new packages in the third. Throw in an hour for testing.

    It seems likely that there are enough people affected by this that if they all threw in a dollar it would have been done by the next day. What we might have here is a community coordination problem, not just a software bug.

  • by westlake (615356) on Friday March 28, 2014 @11:09PM (#46607965)

    So far 13 posts, and most of them are unhelpful drivel.

    The worst being the posts that suggest the disabled should cough up the money to pay for a fix or fix the problem themselves. It would be rough justice to put these posters on an SSI budget and see how well they fare.

  • by TheSeatOfMyPants (2645007) on Friday March 28, 2014 @11:14PM (#46607981) Journal

    I'll repeat my response to someone else above:
    Most disabled people in the US are living on Supplemental Security Income of $600-850/month, and have no other source of money. Even a group of them are unlikely to be able to pool enough to hire somebody to fix a bug in something like Xorg.

  • Re:A few options (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Todd Knarr (15451) on Friday March 28, 2014 @11:15PM (#46607985) Homepage

    I do know that even as a non-disabled user, the behavior Peter describes as "per spec" (that is, mouse buttons are not keys for the purposes of releasing the sticky keys) is counter-intuitive since the modifier keys interact with mouse buttons the same way they do with non-modifier keys (ie. Control modifies selection with mouse clicks the same way it modifies selection with the keyboard). Given that normal interaction with both non-modifier keys and mouse buttons, I'd expect instructions about how modifier keys behave to also apply analogously when both non-modifier keys and mouse buttons (but not mouse movements) are involved. Either that or I would expect modifier keys to not interact with mouse clicks the same way they do with regular keys.

  • by Just Brew It! (636086) on Friday March 28, 2014 @11:25PM (#46608019)
    As the post you replied to indicated, Ubuntu 12.04 is supported until 2017. If this accessibility issue is as serious as it sounds, certainly it will get fixed within the next 3 years?
  • Re:You fix it (Score:4, Insightful)

    by I'm New Around Here (1154723) on Friday March 28, 2014 @11:40PM (#46608069)

    It should be the job of whoever made the change that broke the system a year ago.

    We defend Linus going postal on someone for breaking the user interface about music (or whatever that was last year), but are supposed to accept some douche breaking the ability of handicapped people to use their keyboard?? That's fucked up, with no pulling the punches.

    I've used Linux various times over the years, and my daughter's laptop has Linux Mint on it. I'm not a programmer or Linux guru, and have never claimed I was. I also don't particularly like how some in the the disabled community have subverted the Americans With Disabilities Act. But I will call bullshit on this type of bullshit every time.

    Thanks for the response.

  • by VortexCortex (1117377) <(VortexCortex) ( ...> on Saturday March 29, 2014 @01:45AM (#46608393)

    and let them know that this is a bit of a black eye against Linux.

    Or, you could recognize TFA as the hit-piece it is: Points to the Bug, knows what a bug tracker is, doesn't use the bug tracker to fix the issue: Open a new duplicate bug to get it re-triaged and noticed by more than just the bug assignee. Escalate the issue to other devs. It's not like the devs are saying: NO WE DO NOT GIVE A FLYING FUCK ABOUT DISABLED PEOPLE GO USE MICROSOFT OR APPLE, ANYTHING BUT A FREE AND OPEN SOURCE OPERATING SYSTEM.

    This is a tempest in a teapot with sizable negative PR spin. I do not negotiate with terrorists. I do not speak for everyone, but to the users who jump to shaming tactics instead of resolution options: Fuck you, I don't give a flying fuck about your persecution complex. I would rather not deal with such disgusting shit-stirrers.

    For future reference, Submitter, if you're reading this: How to ask a question the smart way. [] -- Everything here also pertains to bugs or questions like "Why isn't this fixed yet?". The answer? You reap what you sew.

  • by wvmarle (1070040) on Saturday March 29, 2014 @03:26AM (#46608557)

    The sad part is that it is a known bug, that got introduced breaking a perfectly working feature, and is still not fixed. It is not a new feature they're asking for, just to retain something that was always there.

    This is programmers not doing their job - and it being FOSS that is distributed for free is irrelevant as it's more than a hobby-level tool we're talking about. It's production-level software, and essential to the operation of a large number of computer systems.

  • by wvmarle (1070040) on Saturday March 29, 2014 @03:39AM (#46608581)

    So you report a bug the way you're supposed to, it barely gets attention, and you think re-reporting it the same way will suddenly do the trick?

    Well repeated often enough it may - but it also shows the failure of devs to use their own bug tracking system.

  • by jones_supa (887896) on Saturday March 29, 2014 @05:42AM (#46608765)

    Small tweaks are doable, but even then you will get a lot of hassle. You will spend a good amount reading source code, setting up the build environment and after that maintaining your own fork if the upstream didn't accept your change.

    For anything larger, you will also need to acquire a large amount of understanding how the particular system works before you can make the proper change. For example, good luck fixing a graphics driver bug (even if it looks like a simple glitch) if you do not know how graphics drivers work. Getting familiar with the bigger picture will take weeks or months.

    Now, that does not mean that open source is not useful. The people familiar with graphics drivers (for example, Freedesktop and Mesa guys) can collaborate using open source. But they are experts in their field. If you are outside of this specific expertise, your best bet is usually writing accurate bug reports. You cannot go there and fix everything that is broken just because you have the source.

    Try this sometimes. When you find a bug in open source software, take the responsibility of fixing it properly and sending the patch. Doooo it, walk the walk. The point is that you will notice how much work it all involves.

As the trials of life continue to take their toll, remember that there is always a future in Computer Maintenance. -- National Lampoon, "Deteriorata"