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Old 09-02-2005, 02:20 PM   #1
Registered: Nov 2004
Location: Texas
Distribution: openSUSE 10.3, Yoper Linux 3.0 , Arch Linux 2007.08
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Font Rendering: (SuSE) Linux's Dirty Little Secret?

Is font rendering Linux's dirty little secret? I am running SuSE 9.3, after a long time on SuSE 9.0 and then Mandrake 10.1. I am very pleased with Linux in general, and completely cut my ties to Windows in January. I now "live and work" exclusively in Linux, so this is not an attack piece from a disaffected Windows user.

I have tested a great many linux distros, and they all have one thing in common. Fonts looks terrible compared to Windows. They are tolerable, but the rendering of fonts is just not what it should be. I have of course done all the usual things, like enabling anti aliasing and subpixel hinting from KDE's control center, but fonts still look much lesser than they do in Windows. This has been the same in all distros I have worked with.

I have done all the usual research, and found that a major culprit seems to be a function called "font hinting", which is covered by patents from Microsoft and Apple, and thus cannot be enabled by default in a commercial distro like SuSE. HOWEVER, font hinting *is* included in freetype2, the font rendering system used by most linux distros. It is shipped disabled - you have to enable it by chaning a line in the source files and rebuilding.

Yesterday, I used YaST to download the SuSE 9.3 source for freetype2, planning to make the simple source level change needed to enable font hinting, rebuild and install. Since I downloaded from YaST exactly the same version that SuSE 9.3 has installed, I assumed that this would be a safe procedure.

When I downloaded the source, I was pleasantly surprised to see that a patch was already included to enable font hinting. Great! I unpacked the source tarball, applied all the patches, and did the usual "./configure, make and make install". All went well until I rebooted.

Total disaster ensued. The system will not hold run level 5 (X11, KDM, KDE, etc), constantly crashing back to a console login. None of my efforts to coax it back to life, including re-installing freetype2 with console mode YaST have succeeded. Happily, this was on an older machine that I use for testing anything that I think might be dangerous - that machine is now hosed - my "main" machine is still OK, and I am posting from it.

SO, has anyone successfully enabled font hinting on SuSE 9.3? Can you post the "recipe"? Does anyone have any other tips for improving font rendering?
Old 09-02-2005, 02:35 PM   #2
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Sounds like a very interesting proceedure and I would certainly be interested to discover the outcome.


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