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Thread: Ubuntu Font Rendering on Debian

  1. #1
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    Ubuntu Font Rendering on Debian

    I'm considering a long-term project that will require long-term use of a desktop distribution. Ubuntu's 9-month release cycle looks to be too short for my purposes, and 12.04.02 LTS doesn't offer what I need.

    So, I'm looking at Debian. I did a test installation of the new 7 release (Wheezy).

    Font rendering, though, is the issue. It is better out of the box than on earlier releases. But, I won't use it unless I can tweak it to duplicate the font rendering on Ubuntu 13.04, which I'm using at the moment.

    Now, how to get Ubuntu font rendering on Debian is a perennial question, and not too popular at the Debian forum. But, I have searched high and low and have not found a decent answer.

    By "decent", I mean instructions on applying the Ubuntu patches to Debian code. Presumably, Cairo, fontconfig and freetype need to be patched. (I could handle patching source in conventional fashion, but have no experience patching and building debs the 'Debian Way'.)

    If those instructions are not out there, then perhaps pointers to up-to-date patched debs for Wheezy?

    I have seen lots of advice to edit ~/.fonts.conf and/or copy Ubuntu's fontconfig files. That's all well and good, but the Ubuntu patches need to be applied, too.

    Are those answers out there? Have I been looking in the wrong places?

  2. #2
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    Re: Yet Another 'Ubuntu Font Rendering on Debian' Question

    From the answers received, I guess you're looking in the wrong place
    The easier way to get what you need is installing directly the ubuntu packages responsible of the font rendering in debian, and those are libfreetype6, libfontconfig1, fontconfig and fontconfig-config (libcairo and xft are not necessary anymore), plus you can also install ttf-ubuntu-font-family.
    Use the apt-pinning from ubuntu repos or install the packages manually with gdebi (or dpkg). Packages locations:
    http://archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/pool/main/f/freetype/
    http://archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/poo.../f/fontconfig/
    http://archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/poo...amily-sources/

    Everything works fine here, I'm using Sid (if you have dependencies issues in wheezy try using older versions of the libraries).
    Last edited by BubuXP; June 12th, 2013 at 09:36 AM.

  3. #3
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    Re: Yet Another 'Ubuntu Font Rendering on Debian' Question

    Quote Originally Posted by BubuXP View Post
    From the answers received, I guess you're looking in the wrong place
    The easier way to get what you need is installing directly the ubuntu packages responsible of the font rendering in debian, and those are libfreetype6, libfontconfig1, fontconfig and fontconfig-config (libcairo and xft are not necessary anymore), plus you can also install ttf-ubuntu-font-family.
    Use the apt-pinning from ubuntu repos or install the packages manually with gdebi (or dpkg). Packages locations:
    http://archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/pool/main/f/freetype/
    http://archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/poo.../f/fontconfig/
    http://archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/poo...amily-sources/

    Everything works fine here, I'm using Sid (if you have dependencies issues in wheezy try using older versions of the libraries).
    Thanks. I rebuilt the patched Ubuntu (Raring) packages for Wheezy. Didn't pin anything because the version numbers are higher than anything that's likely to ever roll out in Wheezy updates.

    For whatever reason, though, I thought the resulting display in Wheezy had weaknesses that I don't see in Raring. I spent a busy few days checking out several distributions using the Ubuntu patches or Infinality. In the end, I decided 13.04 delivers the best presentation on my equipment. I've reconfigured my multi-disk partitioning scheme and my backups to try to lend some stability despite the short Raring life cycle.

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    Re: Yet Another 'Ubuntu Font Rendering on Debian' Question

    If the ubuntu repo is added in source.list then I think one should use the pinning to give lowest priority to that repo, or it could end in a mess (but I don't tried it, so I don't know what really happens in such situation).

    If you recompile the packages in Debian from Ubuntu sources, have you used the dev packages from Ubuntu or from Debian? Maybe that's the cause for not obtaining the same results.
    I checked the dependencies and those libraries won't install in Wheezy:amd64 because they need libc6 >= 2.14 and in Wheezy it's 2.13. Strangely, the i386 version of these libraries need libc6 >= 2.11 so these will install in Wheezy:i386

    I think I will make some comparative screenshots between original Lubuntu live desktop and Debian Sid with Ubuntu's libraries and settings.

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    Re: Yet Another 'Ubuntu Font Rendering on Debian' Question

    Quote Originally Posted by BubuXP View Post
    If you recompile the packages in Debian from Ubuntu sources, have you used the dev packages from Ubuntu or from Debian? Maybe that's the cause for not obtaining the same results.
    I checked the dependencies and those libraries won't install in Wheezy:amd64 because they need libc6 >= 2.14 and in Wheezy it's 2.13. Strangely, the i386 version of these libraries need libc6 >= 2.11 so these will install in Wheezy:i386
    Could be. I just used "apt-get -f install" to pull in the dependencies when the build complained. Although I don't believe I pulled in a new libc6. That I would have noticed. I didn't compare the dev sources.

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    Re: Yet Another 'Ubuntu Font Rendering on Debian' Question

    The Ubuntu packages won't install directly on Wheezy:amd64 because of different libc6 versions, that's because it needs to be recompiled.
    The dev libraries requested when compiling are libfreetype6-dev, libfontconfig1-dev and others, but I think those should came from Ubuntu to be sure that the result is the same as original (these don't seem to need a specific libc6 version so the Wheezy libc6 will be fine).
    But if the system you need to setup will use a 32bit Wheezy, you can directly install the ubuntu packages.

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    Re: Yet Another 'Ubuntu Font Rendering on Debian' Question

    I take the screenshots, but I haven't compared them yet.

    Debian is Sid with LXDE and Ubuntu font hinting packages.
    Lubuntu is vanilla, with default settings (only changed default theme).

    File manager and desktop:
    Debian: http://www.mediafire.com/view/3bcyrxyw1e9wfs3
    Lubuntu: www.mediafire.com/view/shf4vgqy2tfuz7f

    Terminal (font DejaVu Sans Mono 12):
    Debian: http://www.mediafire.com/view/y1t19p2c8dqt7n4
    Lubuntu: http://www.mediafire.com/view/j4oxjz8581j8hip

    Synaptic:
    Debian: http://www.mediafire.com/view/rb0c03w804jy59y
    Lubuntu: http://www.mediafire.com/view/9gmdcm9ovrada6y


    All the following fonts have size 11

    Ubuntu Condensed
    Deb: http://www.mediafire.com/view/1n7yws609n7sbce
    Lubu: http://www.mediafire.com/view/1n7yws609n7sbce

    DejaVu Sans
    Deb: http://www.mediafire.com/view/gvn69dlh7022kno
    Lubu: http://www.mediafire.com/view/fdi9u54cbkm3fzi

    DejaVu Serif
    Deb: http://www.mediafire.com/view/xq9z8c5hw5qw9y5
    Lubu: http://www.mediafire.com/view/2z46fo133wnoeaq

    FreeSerif
    Deb: http://www.mediafire.com/view/zhz4oow3h1rpxkw
    Lubu: http://www.mediafire.com/view/ayceb3intj421bw

    FreeSans
    Deb: http://www.mediafire.com/view/bj9imly67du0uvx
    Lubu: http://www.mediafire.com/view/5zveb129q8v8bd8

    Ubuntu Mono
    Deb: http://www.mediafire.com/view/2nu6n5i7mob51jb
    Lubu: http://www.mediafire.com/view/2t6sp8adj9tt7fy

    Other Debian:
    http://www.mediafire.com/view/4cfvewqa48kxhij
    http://www.mediafire.com/view/8itjhu7r3ik3yho

    What do you think? Until now I only noted a fatter ubuntu font on the windows titlebar, but they are the same font and size.

    EDIT: comparing the first two pic at 400% I noted that the fonts are the same, but in Debian the spacing between glyphs is less. Looking at the icon named "Desktop" it's almost impossible to caught but the space between the D and the e and between the t and the o is less in Debian.
    What packages take care of font spacing apart those that I used before? Maybe it's the desktop environment? I will check other pics tomorrow, now it's too late.

    EDIT2: on the side panel of the file manager the fonts are exactly the same, even spacing. And I could say that the tightened words in Debian look almost better than the original?
    Last edited by BubuXP; June 13th, 2013 at 03:19 AM.

  8. #8
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    Re: Yet Another 'Ubuntu Font Rendering on Debian' Question

    Interesting. On my monitor, they all look good, and it's difficult to see any differences. (I haven't blown them up.)

    When I compared 13.04 with patched Debian, I thought character edges on Debian were a tiny bit less distinct, and that rounded characters on Debian -- o's, a's, r', etc. -- often showed stray gray pixels inside the loops, while those in 13.04 did not.

    I've decided that the sharpness setting of a monitor has a lot to with how fonts appear. I can adjust mine in a range that goes from an extreme of totally smudgy characters to the other extreme of quite visible individual pixels.

    Ambient lighting is also important, something I learned from working with photos. Text and images look better on my screen in indirect natural light, especially morning light. They look worse in the evening with artificial lighting, so much so that I won't do photo work at night.

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    Re: Yet Another 'Ubuntu Font Rendering on Debian' Question

    For the information I found the cause for the different spacing. It's because I used Saucy fontconfig (2.10.93) instead of Raring (2.10.2) and it could be an upstream improvement.
    BTW I compiled (hopefully right) the Raring source in Debian, so they can be used even in Wheezy without problems, but I'm still testing them.
    I found that no particular patches are applied in freetype (it's just newer than Debian), so probably "Ubuntu's magic touch" resides only in the fontconfig packages.
    If someone is interested I can link them and provide instruction for a clean install.

  10. #10
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    Re: Yet Another 'Ubuntu Font Rendering on Debian' Question

    Quote Originally Posted by BubuXP View Post
    For the information I found the cause for the different spacing. It's because I used Saucy fontconfig (2.10.93) instead of Raring (2.10.2) and it could be an upstream improvement.
    BTW I compiled (hopefully right) the Raring source in Debian, so they can be used even in Wheezy without problems, but I'm still testing them.
    I found that no particular patches are applied in freetype (it's just newer than Debian), so probably "Ubuntu's magic touch" resides only in the fontconfig packages.
    If someone is interested I can link them and provide instruction for a clean install.
    BubuXP, I would be very much interested in knowing what you did to get debian fonts look exactly like in Ubuntu. Could you please post or send me a step by step guide for doing it ?

    Thank you very much in advance.

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