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Installing Slackware Linux With Speakup
By Saqib Shaikh <>

<Note from PJV>
Sorry, this document is out of date, but probably still helpful.  A
couple of quick hints.  A working boot line might look like this:

speakup.s speakup.synth=dectlk speakup.ser=1

Some synths need the speakup.ser to set the port and cannot probe
(even if they could with older kernels).  Anyway, good luck with the
install!  Ignore the parts about floppy disks and read the other docs
and you should have no problems...  hopefully.  With the 2.6.24.x
kernel series came many changes in console handling which initially
broke speakup completely.  Now there's been a report that while the
installation works, the system will not speak upon reboot.  Perhaps
this could be due to the appending of vt.default_utf8=0 in lilo.conf.
If you run into this problem, you could try removing that, or changing
the 0 to 1.  Also, gpm was interfering with serial installations in
the Slackware 12.0 release, and could perhaps be another factor if
it does something to grab control of the serial port when the system
is rebooted after installation.

In short, there are probably still some problems that remain with
this, but that should be possible to work around.  I apologize for
not having this as polished and tested as I would wish for it to be.
Any feedback that could help make this better the next time around
would be greatly appreciated.

Also, note that the speakup kernel is also supported within the USB
and PXE installers, so there are additional options for machines
that are not able to boot a CD or DVD.  For more information on
these, read the documentation in the usb-and-pxe-installers

</Note from PJV>


Recently, a Linux screen reader called Speakup has become part of the
popular Slackware Linux distribution. This document describes the
procedure for installing Slackware Linux on your computer with speech
output, courtesy of Speakup. It should be noted that this document is only
a whirl-wind tour of installing Slackware, paying particular attention to
the use of Speakup. You should also refer to "The Speakup Tutorial", which
is also written by myself. This tutorial discusses how to use Speakup in
your day-to-day tasks. You should also consult "Slackware Linux
Essentials", which is the official Slackware book. It can be bought
separately, or with a copy of Slackware, or read online at

Getting Started

The minimum requirements of running Linux with speech are similar to those
detailed in the "Slackware Essentials" book. In addition, however, you
will require a hardware speech synthesiser. The following synthesisers are
currently supported. I give the keyword used to refer to each synthesiser
as you will require this later in the installation process.

acntpc: Accent PC internal speech synthesiser.
acntsa: Accent SA external speech synthesiser.
apolo: Apollo II external speech synthesiser.
audptr: Audapter external speech synthesiser.
bns: Braille 'n Speak family of note-takers, including the Braille 'n
 Speak, Type 'n Speak, Braille Lite and Type Lite.
decext: External DEC-Talk (for the older DEC-Talk and Multi-Voice speech
dectlk: DEC-Talk Express external speech synthesiser.
dtlk: Doubletalk PC internal speech synthesiser.
ltlk: Doubletalk external or Litetalk speech synthesiser.
spkout: Speakout external speech synthesiser.
txprt: Transport external speech synthesiser.

The easiest way of getting started is to either have bought a copy of the
Slackware CD-ROM or burned a copy of the Slackware CD ISO image onto a
CD-R.  This will allow you to boot into the installer directly without the
need for any floppy disks.  Due to various binaries and libraries that
have increased in size, starting the installer from floppy disks will
require loading 6 floppies.  That is, a bootdisk and 5 rootdisk floppies.
If your machine cannot boot a CD-ROM and you will need to create floppy
disk images, read on to find out how.  Otherwise, if you will be booting
the CD-ROM to install, you may skip ahead to the section on Starting The
Installation Process.

If you are using DOS or Windows, then change to the directory where the
boot disks are kept. An example command may be:


Confirm that the directory contains the file "speakup.s", "speakup.s",
"speakup2.s", or "speakaha.s".  The decision of which disk you are going
to use depends on whether you are going to install onto an IDE hard drive
or a SCSI one. If you don't know, then you're probably using an IDE hard
drive.  There is a complete description of the SCSI drivers included in
each disk in the README.TXT in the bootdisks directory if you need more
information to choose the proper disk.  Now, you must write the contents
of the disk image to one of the blank floppy disks. You do this under
DOS/Windows using the "rawrite" command. Insert one of the disks and issue
a command such as:

d:\bootdisks>rawrite speakup.s a:

If you are using a SCSI hard drive then use the speakup.s file instead.

Now you must create the root disk. Change into the directory where the root
disks are kept:

d:\bootdisks>cd \rootdisks

The disk images you will need for the installation are called install.1,
install.2, install.3, install.4, and install.5.  There are also two extra
disks in the rootdsks directory, namely "pcmcia.dsk" and "network.dsk".
These disks are for people who wish to install from a PCMCIA device or
using NFS.

To actually create the root disks insert a blank floppy disk for install.1
and issue a command such as:

d:\rootdisks>rawrite install.1 a: 

You will need to repeat this process with 4 more disks to create install.2,
install.3, install.4, and install.5 as well.

If you are already running Linux or another Unix-compatible
operating-system then you can create the disks by mounting the CD-ROM (in
this example I assume you mount it under /mnt).

dd if=/mnt/bootdisks/speakup.s of=/dev/fd0
dd if=/mnt/rootdisks/install.1 of=/dev/fd0
dd if=/mnt/rootdisks/install.2 of=/dev/fd0
dd if=/mnt/rootdisks/install.3 of=/dev/fd0
dd if=/mnt/rootdisks/install.4 of=/dev/fd0
dd if=/mnt/rootdisks/install.5 of=/dev/fd0

Starting The Installation Process

To start the talking version of the setup program, you'll need to boot the
CD-ROM or bootdisk.  Some machines will automatically boot a CD-ROM, but
it might be necessary to make a change in the BIOS settings if it doesn't
boot right away.  The process for entering the BIOS setup differs from
system to system, so you may need to consult your system documentation if
you need to change your system's boot defaults.

If you are booting from CD-ROM, insert the disc and boot your computer.
After a while, the disc will stop spinning and at this point you should

speakup.s speakup.synth=synthname

replacing synthname with the short keyword that refers to your synthesiser
as discussed above.  If you have an external speech synthesiser that is not
plugged into your first serial port, such as com2/3/4 under DOS, then you
will need to specify the serial port to use. Do this by entering:

speakup.s speakup.synth=synthname speakup.ser=n

If you are booting with a floppy disk, the syntax is a little bit
different. First insert the boot disk and turn on your computer. After a
second or so the floppy disk should stop spinning. At this point enter:

ramdisk speakup.synth=synthname

replacing synthname with the short keyword that refers to your synthesiser
as discussed above.  Just like with the CD-ROM, if you have an external
speech synthesiser that is not plugged into your first serial port, such
as com2/3/4 under DOS, then you will need to specify the serial port to
use like this:

ramdisk speakup.synth=synthname speakup.ser=n

Where n is the number of your serial port. Note that the serial ports are
numbered 1-4.

With either the CD-ROM or bootdisk, once you've entered the correct
command the Linux kernel will load and boot, and after a few seconds your
synthesiser should start talking. It will read all boot-up messages, which
you probably don't want to hear. To silence speech press the enter key on
the numeric keypad.

At this point it is probably worth giving a brief overview of the Speakup
screen reading functions, though a more detailed description can be found
in the "Speakup Tutorial".

To temporarily silence speech press the control key. To silence speech
until another key is pressed use the enter key on the numeric keypad. You
can move around the screen using Speakup's reading cursor. Note that
moving the reading cursor does not move the actual cursor on the screen.
The numbers 1, 2 and 3 on the numeric keypad read the prior, current and
enxt characters respectively. Similarly the 4, 5 and 6 keys read the
prior, current and next word. 7, 8 and 9 read the previous, current and
next line. The plus key reads the entire screen. There are many other
screen reading keystrokes, but these are the main ones to get you started.

If you used a floppy disk to start the system, you will be asked to insert
the root disk and press enter, so you'll need to put in the install.1
disk, hit enter, and let it load.  You'll need to repeat this process for
each of the five install disks.

Finally you will reach the login prompt. Just type the word "root" and
press enter. Speakup will not say anything. This is because once you have
logged in the prompt is a % symbol, which Speakup doesn't read with the
default punctuation setting.

Partitioning Your Hard Drive

The issue of partitioning is one which Linux books spend entire chapters
explaining. In this document I shall not go into all the details, but
rather concentrate on Speakup specific usage.

To start the partitioning tool use the command:

%cfdisk /dev/diskname

Where diskname is the name of the disk to partition. This is often hda1.

Now you are in a screen which contains a list of partitions at the top.
You can move through these with the up/down arrow keys, and read them in
more detail using the review keys on the numeric keypad. At the bottom are
a number of options to perform various actions. Cycle through these using
the tab key.

First of all, if your hard drive is already full (this is the case with
most newly bought computers), then you will need to delete some partitions
by moving to it and pressing the letter d. Using Speakup this is quite
hard to do. Move up until the computer beeps, indicating that you are on
the top partition. Then move down to the number you want and free up some
more space. If you want to start from scratch then press d and then down,
repeating this for each partition. Every deleted partition will be
replaced with "free space". Note that deleting a partition will completely
destroy all data stored on it.

In my example I will delete all partitions. Next you need to create at
minimum two partitions. To create the first one highlight "free space".
Then press tab. Each time you will hear a couple of options, followed by a
description. Listen to the description, and this will let you know which
option is selected. Select "New". You will be prompted with
primary/extended. Just press enter for primary in most cases. Then you
will be asked for the size in megabytes. The total size of the free space
will be given. For your main Linux partition you should use almost all of
the free space, leaving just a bit for swap space, which acts as virtual
memory. Typically it is recommended to have twice as much swap space as
you do RAM, with a maximum of 128 mb. In my example I am prompted with
4023, so I enter 3900 and press enter. Finally I am asked whether I want
the partition at the beginning or end of the partition. Once again press
enter for beginning.

Now we must create a swap partition. Move down to the second block of free
space and select "new" again. Press enter to create a primary partition,
enter a second time to except the default value, and enter a third time to
place it at the beginning.

Now, move up to the first partition you created. Press tap until you hear
the "boot" option. Press enter. Move down to the second partition and tab
until you hear "type". Press enter. You will be given lots of options and
will need to press space to get to the second screen of options. Enter the
number 82 and press enter.

Now, use the review keys to move up to the partition list and examine the
entries. You should have one partition of type "Linux", with the word
"boot" on that line. Then you should have another line on which the word
"boot" does not exist, of type "Linux Swap".

Finally, press tab until you reach the "write" option and press enter.
When prompted type the word yes and press enter. When it is complete tab
to quit and press enter.

Now, that is a very complicated procedure, and so that it doesn't go wrong
you should really consult some other sources of information. This
discussion has only been included to get around some of Speakup's little

Starting Setup

To actually start the setup procedure just enter the word "setup" and
press enter.

You will be placed in a menu with many options. Note that when using the
up/down arrows in this menu Speakup will say two values. When moving down
the menu you should listen to the second item, and when moving back up the
menu take note of the first one. This is because Speakup doesn't fully
support cursor tracking yet. You may turn on experimental cursor tracking
by using the star key on the numeric keypad.

The first option is "help". Select this if you want to read more
information about the setup procedure.

The next item is "Remap your keyboard". When using Speakup you generally
do not need to do this as the kernel includes a us+speakup map, however
there are now two Speakup related choices on the menu if you want to try
them out --, and

The next option is "Add swap". You will be placed on the first swap
partition, which is generally the right one so just press enter. When it
completes it will display some more messages, just acknowledge these by
pressing enter. You will automatically be taken to the next step, which is
to add a Linux partition. Once again you will be placed on the first Linux
partition, so just continue pressing enter.

The next step is to select where you want to install from. This is
generally CD-ROM or maybe hard drive. Select the option from the list and
press enter. Just continue to press enter through most of the prompts,
which are self-explanatory.

Next, you will be placed in a list of package groups you may install. Use
the arrow keys to move to an option and then press the space bar. A letter
x means that an option is selected. Once you've chosen all the groups just
press enter.

Now you will be asked for the prompting mode. Just press enter for full
prompting mode. The files will now be uncompressed to your hard drive. You
may wish to press keypad-enter while it installs.

You will next be asked to install a kernel. You have two options. The
first is to choose to install the kernel from the boot disk in which case
you will be asked to enter that disk. The alternative is to install a
kernel from the CD-ROM. If you choose the first option you will
automatically get a talking kernel. If you choose to select one from the
CD-ROM, then you will need to choose speakup.s, speakup.s, speakup2.s, or
speakaha.s (whichever you used before) from the list of available kernels.

The next few sections depend what software you installed. It includes such
things as selecting your time zone and configuring the network. By now you
should have got the idea of selecting an item with up/down and then
pressing enter to move to the next stage, so I will not go into all the
details. Refer to the Slackware manual for further details.

Finally you will be asked to specify the root password. When you type the
password Speakup will not say anything. This is because nothing is being
written to the screen so that someone looking over your shoulder doesn't
see the password.

And that's it! You now have Linux installed on your computer!

Reboot your system. When your computer stops at the boot prompt enter the

linux speakup.synth=synthname

using the same synthname as before, and your computer should come up talking.

Where Now?

You should now continue reading the online book, "Slackware Linux
Essentials" to learn more about Linux. The "Speakup Tutorial" will also
help you learn more about Speakup, as well as giving more information
about joining the Speakup mailing list, which is an invaluable resource
for getting your questions answered.

Good luck in your Linux adventures. If you found this document useful then
please let me know. Equally, if you don't like it then tell me also.

You may reach the author via email at You may also
like to visit his home page at