using free desktops without a screen/monitor

Robert Heller heller at
Sun Apr 28 13:20:21 PDT 2013

At Sun, 28 Apr 2013 15:45:41 -0400 Josh Kennedy <joshknnd1982 at> wrote:

> Hi
> I am totally blind and use gnome, unity lxde and others with the orca 
> screen reader. I asked on the orca mailing list if there is a way to run 
> distros such as ubuntu and vinux without a screen or monitor connected. 
> they said to ask on this list. so I am asking. could you please provide 
> an accessible way even if its pressing a key at a boot prompt after 
> hearing some tones through the pc speaker, provide a way to boot and use 
> ubuntu from the live cd and the installed version without a monitor 
> being connected. Having this functionality would also enable me to 
> possibly start a project I have some ideas for using probably sonar 
> accessible linux with lxde.

I *think* that most SVGA video cards will work properly without a monitor 
connected.  I *think* the only problem with starting the X server without a 
monitor connected would be autodetection of the video modes the monitor can 
support and I think the default behavior is to assume some 'safe' 
low-resolution default mode (like 640x480).  I think it is possible to come up 
with a mode setting in xorg.conf that overrides probing for the video modes 
the monitor supports and 'hardwires' a desired video mode.  I don't know what 
a video card with a digital video will do if there isn't a monitor connected 
and how the X server will deal with that, but I expect an xorg.conf file can 
be engineered to create some kind of desired behavior.  OTOH, firing up X 
*without* a monitor would be strange, unless you plan on replacing the normal 
visual monitor with something else, maybe a video to sonar device or 
something, in which case this device could behave like a regular monitor and 
report back a set of video modes it supports, just like a an actual video 

The linux system can be configured to not even need a video card, although 
most PC BIOSs will not work without a video card.  Linux itself can be set up 
to use a serial port (including USB serial ports) for a console.  I don't know 
if that helps you or not.  You won't get anything like a 'GUI' type interface 
(even one adapted for a blind user), but there is no reason not to have a 
braille based serial TTY type device -- that is some device than converts 
a serial character stream into braille 'bumps' and some kind of keyboard that 
sends serial characters back.  You would of course be limited to the good old 
command line interface.  It might also be able to have a Speak-And-Spell like 
device that takes a ASCII character stream and converts that to speech 

> thanks
> Josh
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Robert Heller             -- 978-544-6933 / heller at
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