[orca-list] gnome-speech, and audio output, moving forward.

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Greetings all.
For a while now, it has been possible to have multiple audio streams playing at the same time, using ALSA's 
dmix plugin under Linux. This also has meant the ability to have speech audible at the same time as other 
audio. Users have desired the ability to do this for a while now, particularly since it has been possible in 
other operating systems for a long time.

Since eSpeak has been developed, we have had a very usable synthesizer for speech output, which supports a 
growing number of languages. Since this synthesizer is cross-platform, the choice was made by the author to 
use PortAudio, thereby supporting all platforms where PortAudio is available. Since PortAudio v19, it has 
possible to use Alsa for audio output via PortAudio. In theory, this is good news, however in practice, this 
has created more problems than it should solve, for the following reasons, as far as I see things:

* PortAudio v19 has had no official release, and so seems to be in a rather constant state of flux, making it 
difficult for distros to reliably support a working version.
* PortAudio's alsa implementation seems to currently be broken, which is evident while using eSpeak, and 
attempting to speak multiple strings of text rapidly over a short period of time.
* As far as I've seen, there is no easy way for the user to select which output device portaudio should use. 
Added to that, if more than one app is using portaudio, this will affect that application as well as espeak, 
which may not be what the user desires.
* All proprietary synths only support oss output, which makes simultaneous audio and speech currently 

What I would like to propose, is the following. Since a large porshion of GNOME's multimedia framework is now 
using gStreamer, I would like to suggest that we make all gnome-speech drivers use gStreamer, and if 
add another option to the sound preferences, to allow the user to select which soundcard they wish to use for 
speech output. This would result in gstreamer being used via Alsa on Linux, thereby allowing simultaneous 
audio and speech, which would likely happen at the gstreamer level before it even reaches alsa. (I don't 
really know how gstreamer works, so this is a guess on my part.)

- From what I have seen, just about all proprietary synth APIs support sending audio data from the synth back 
the calling application, thereby allowing the audio to be sent whereever the application wishes. I am well 
aware that gnome-speech was initially designed to not care about how the audio was played, but since its 
initial inclusion in GNOME, gstreamer has become the standard multimedia framework for GNOME, and at least in 
Ubuntu's implementation, allows the user to set different devices for several different uses, such as sound 
events, music and movies, and audio/video conferencing.

I think we owe users the ability to use speech alongside audio, and offer it in an easy to use way, thereby 
putting full control in their hands. Now that we are at the beginning of a new GNOME release, I personally 
think its time to get serious about offering users a deacent screen reader and speech experience, the same, 
not better than what other operating systems offer.

I have sent this post to these lists, to try and get as wide a viewpoint, and discussion as possible. I would 
appreciate any replies to be sent to all lists, to ensure everybody can participate in the discussion.

I would like to invite both users and developers to express their views on a matter which I believe needs 
resolving. Input from gnome devs, particularly those for gnome-speech is very much welcome.

So, lets sort something out.
- -- 
Luke Yelavich
GPG key: 0xD06320CE 
Email & MSN: themuso themuso com
Jabber: themuso jabber org au
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