Orca Introduction, comments and a question or two
- From: Garry Turkington <garrys lists gmail com>
- To: orca-list gnome org
- Subject: Orca Introduction, comments and a question or two
- Date: Mon, 11 Sep 2006 00:15:46 -0400 (EDT)
I've just started playing with Orca on a shiny new Edgy install and I must
say that speech engine aside (more below) it's been a surprisingly
pleasant experience. Given the relatively young status of Orca I think
it's in great shape and shows tremendous potential. Hats off to all
involved in the effort.
My road to getting Orca was a slightly convoluted one though much of that
can be categorised as self-inflicted wounds. After years of relying on
console access to Linux via either a DOS terminal session or Speakup
directly I've wanted to experiment with the Gnome tools for some time.
Due to other activities and the general home IT set-up my strong
preference was to do so under VMware Workstation with my main Windows box
as the host.
When I first tried this several months ago I discovered that most software
speech engines turn into random noise engines under VMware. I strongly
suspect this is due to some channel timing issues but can't prove that. I
never got a software speech engine working well enough under VMware to be
usable so gave up and only returned to the topic this weekend. I know
that some other people were hitting their heads against the same wall so
can report that the Swift voices from Cepstral now work 'out of the box'
under VMware; previously they required to be set in mono mode which
couldn't easily be done from a higher-level speech layer.
So my set-up now is using a Cepstral Swift voice via Festival, using the
"festivalify-cepstral-voice" Perl script provided by Cepstral. Hack
Festival and you can make the Swift voice the default and this provides a
working TTS engine under VMware. Hopefully that info will be of use to
That leads nicely into the first of my three questions, I find the
performance of Orca under this set-up to be pretty sluggish. I suspect
the problem isn't really Orca itself, more a combination of a beta OS, the
use of Festival as an intermediary layer and the VMware overhead. Playing
with some C test apps on the VM I am suspecting the Festival machinery as
the native Swift code seems more responsive than via Festival. Anyone
got experience with using Festival in this way or care to point the finger
My next point may have me stirring up a hornet's nest but I'll take the
risk. There seems to be an embarrassment of riches when it comes to
intermediary TTS layers. There's Gnome-speech, there's Speech Dispatcher
and as I've found even good old Festival can act in this role. I know
that all these tools evolved from different backgrounds and had distinct
initial needs they were trying to meet but the situation now seems
somewhat duplicative to me. I may be betraying my background in
distributed systems where abstraction layers get slapped atop anything
that moves but is this situation as confused as I find it and if so is
there any sort of convergence going forward? Alternatively am I missing
the point somewhere?
Final question is less controversial. I find that setting the voice rate
in the Orca control panel has no effect on the actual spoken speed.
Insert and left/right arrows tell me the rate is being increased or
decreased but I find it either has no effect or actually does the reverse.
I'm suspecting this a consequence of my funky Festival/Swift set-up as I
don't see any such bugs on Bugzilla and I guess this would be an obvious
one if it was universal.
Many thanks for any input and I look forward to exploring Orca more over
the next days.
garry turkington gmail com
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