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I’m a blind programmer with limited system administration experience doing things like setting up development servers. There’s been a lot of complaints about Oracle firing the main accessibility developer for GNOME. In my experience Linux servers don’t have a GUI so access to the GNOME desktop on a server or lack there of should not normally effect the ability of a blind system administrator to do there job. SSH clients and tools to administer Oracle database servers are available on windows as well as Linux. If you no longer had access to a Linux desktop either as a personal machine or installed on the servers you administer could you still perform all your job functions? If you could not perform any of your job functions what functions couldn’t you perform?

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I don't need the GUI to administer Linux boxes, the only GUI applications that are related that I use is my web browser for research, my email client, and xterms to organize my screen sessions. There seems to be a general idea that "real" *nix administrators should not need a GUI. That being said I am not blind, so my working habits might not actually be that insightful.

Most of my servers don't actually have the X windowing system installed. I use Linux for my workstations, and although I don't need X to do my job, I would find it quite inconvenient not to have it.

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I am totally blind and my limited experience with system administration is the same. I use Firefox for internet, Outlook or Thunderbird depending on if I'm at work, and Cygwin with Screen to manage SSH sessions. – Jared Feb 24 '10 at 12:48

Not only could you still perform your job function, but probably better than if you were using a Linux destop manager(on the server that is).

As a Linux SA for the past three years I have yet to use Linux as a workstation and have never once needed to use X or any window managers on a server. I have seen a few servers running a full blown desktop manager before; always assumed the tech who installed it was clueless.

I use mac as my workstation and keep a few virtual centos instances in parallels for trial and error. I run macvim as my editor and the rest is standard.

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GUIs have never been a must for Unix system administrators, and they shouldn't. Unless you have to run idiotic installers that only works in a GUI environment, of course... like those at Oracle.

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Definitely - I was shocked to find out that you need X libraries to install Oracle on Linux. What were those developers thinking? – Vitaliy Feb 24 '10 at 16:18
So there is no way to install an Oracle database on a server using just an SSH terminal session assuming you have all the x-windows libraries installed? – Jared Feb 24 '10 at 16:40
Oracle people told me that it could be installed without GUI. I was able to get output from command line and was unable to find evidence otherwise. – Warner Feb 24 '10 at 17:42

For a default install of most server systems, X and any other GUI is not required.

Ubuntu Server does not even install X by default--and Ubuntu is known as being fairly easy on the user. OpenBSD does not force you to install X. Two popular server platforms don't require X, let alone GNOME or any other WM.

You should be able to SSH into any box and do what you need to do from within your AT. (I hear emacs + emacspeak + flite is a fully free software stack for text to speech under Linux.)

Some tasks may be inherently easier in a GUI (I tend to think file management of filenames with spaces, quotes, and slashes in them is a little hairy...but that's me), but remember Unix started long before GUIs were around. All the clones and descendants, including Linux, keep a lot of that heritage.

This all gets thrown out the window if you're running 3rd-party binary only stuff that may require a GUI because the developers didn't think about accessibility.

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I've used Emacspeak a little bit and it appears to be pretty good. I've found that Windows screen readers generally are easier to use then Linux ones at least for me so I tend to do most of my email and internet in Windows. – Jared Feb 24 '10 at 17:07

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