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.comment: Ain't Anti-Aliasing Amazing?

The Kindness of Strangers

  • December 27, 2000
  • By Dennis E. Powell

If there's a rumor floating round that I'll do any damn thing to my computer that anyone suggests, I'd be hard pressed this week to offer evidence to dispel it.

That's because for a little over a week now, all the buzz in KDE circles has been a series of hacks designed to enable the text anti-aliasing provided, sort of, in XFree86-4.02. The KDE mailing lists were bursting with delighted testimonials from persons who had gotten this marvel running.

Okay, I thought, I'll bite.

That was last Friday. It is now Monday night. I've been working on this during the majority of my waking hours. I'm given to understand that there has been a holiday mixed in with all of this someplace, and I vaguely remember seeing relatives who visited from California for the entire weekend. I didn't see a lot of them, and my mood was such that I suspect that my rarity was in answer to a hastily composed Christmas prayer.

Anyone who has ever used any other operating system on any machine anywhere knows that in the field of typeface handling, Linux is in last place. And it's not close--Linux has been lapped several times. There is no place where Linux shines in this regard: Its screen fonts are pretty bad. Its facility for adding new typefaces could be made worse only by requiring the user also to design the typefaces. And there is no common typeface repository from which all applications draw--many bring their own along, like the guest who brings his or her own food and bedding knowing that that's the only way they'll be provided. As to printing...well, I suspect that there's a substantial body of Linux users who have given up entirely on the idea of printing, and another that has given up on the idea of printing anything that one would show to anyone else. (Yes, it's possible. No, it's not easy, and for this the distributors are to blame. Maybe they could provide a workable and easily understood print engine instead of packing up a really terrible and incompatible alpha compiler. Red Hat, this means you. Though Caldera, my distribution of choice, is scarcely blameless in the printing department, having settled on lprng instead of the understandable lpr.)

Text anti-aliasing is a step, albeit a small one, in the right direction. It is supposed to produce palatable screen fonts and to ease the adoption of various character sets, notably Unicode. These are worthy goals. Insofar as KDE is concerned, however, four days of sheer hell tell me it just ain't soup yet.

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