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07.21.10

Apple Patents That Retard GNU/Linux/X Font Rendering Finally Expire, Microsoft Still a Barrier (ClearType Patents)

Posted in Apple, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Patents at 4:02 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

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Summary: As Apple’s monopoly on a certain font rendering method expires, FreeType enables BCI by default, but Microsoft still has patents in this area of subpixel rendering

Jan Wildeboer, Rui Seabra, and Carlo Piana pass the message that “MSFT has ClearType patents for subpixel rendering on LCD screens” (details in this page).

This was said in reference to the news that “FreeType 2.4 [is] now free from patent restrictions”:

The FreeType development team has released version 2.4 of the rendering library for TrueType and PostScript fonts. FreeType is used in almost all Linux and open source Unix systems. The latest version is also much more stabile when dealing with broken or damaged font files.

“Now that is good news,” Oiaohm wrote in IRC. “Font rendering on Linux will come up to everything else.”

Jan Wildeboer wrote: “Truetype hinting #swpat (Apple owns them) have expired. So now the BCI is enabled by default in FreeType” (see this page)

Florian Müller wrote about it too, but the news was mostly covered in short messages. This fine example of the harms of software patents (making products poorer than they ought to be) did not receive the attention it truly deserved. We previously covered the ill effects of software patents on font rendering and mentioned Apple in this context. Below we add some older articles for background and future reference.

______
2006

Optimal Use of Fonts on Linux

The font subsystem on Linux evolved a lot in the last years, from an old naming, handling and option of fonts, to the support of True Type, Bistream Vera, etc. As of release time of Fedora Core 2, components like Xft, FreeType and FontConfig, and higher level software usage of them has stabilized and is now considered mature.

Perspective: Microsoft’s forgotten monopoly

The story of how Microsoft used its monopoly in operating systems to acquire a dominant position in office applications and browsers has often been told. But there’s another Microsoft monopoly that’s rarely mentioned, even though most of us see it every day.

Microsoft’s fonts are used to display most Web pages on the planet. Even Linux and Mac users, who often have fled Windows to avoid dependence on Microsoft, read most of their content using Microsoft fonts.

Linux Libertine Open Fonts offers free Times Roman alternative

Currently, Linux Libertine consists of more than 1,750 glyphs for Latin, Greek, and Cyrillic alphabets and their derivatives, including ligatures and kerning tables. Some work remains to be done on the italics, but the roman or ordinary weight is complete, as well as the bold and underlined weights. A set of small caps is in development, and a grotesque or sans serif font (one without serifs) is planned, but not yet available.

2007

Finding Software That Slows Down Your Computer

The PC Spy is trying to make people aware of the worst software that is out there, and to no surprise Norton Internet Security 2006 is at the top.
 
[...]
 
It is pretty obvious that having a large number of fonts degrades performance in Windows. I think that I’ll be going through and deleting some of the ones that came with Vista because I really don’t need 400+ fonts.

Visual comparison of major OS’s font rendering

Personally I don’t like ClearType at all. And looking at it gives me headaches. Also, Linux’s myth of bad font rendering is finally over.

Checking out the new Open Font Library

Up until the last few years, typefaces were a neglected aspect in FOSS. However, the increased popularity of the GNU/Linux desktop and the emergence of software for designers is changing that. “The whole vectorization of the desktop with Inkscape is really doing a beautification of the desktop,” Phillips says. In such an atmosphere, the OFL looks like an idea whose time has come.

Clearing up the Novell ClearType controversy

So, although this story illustrates just how software patent issues can wind their way into open-source software, it doesn’t appear to have any direct link to the Microsoft/Novell partnership or the issues, such as the GPLv3 revision, that surround it.

Liberation Fonts

The first release is a set of fully usable fonts, but they will lack the fully hinting capability (hinting adjusts font pixelization so that the fonts render with high quality at large and small sizes) provided by TrueType/FreeType technology. That release is now ready. The second release will provide full hinting of the fonts, and that release will be available by the end of the calendar year.

Interview with David Turner of Freetype

If the patent owner of hinting gives the Freetype project a free license, would you accept it?
 
David Turner: It really depends on the terms of this “free license”. Basically if it means the patent can not be freely re-licensed to other people, I really don’t see why I would find that useful. If you absolutely need the bytecode interpreter, you can be patient and wait for October 9, 2009, when the patents expire.
 
[...]
 
There is no clear answer as to what is best. Personally, I can’t stand native TrueType hinted fonts anymore, they look too distorted to me, even if their contrast is better. My favorite Linux distribution is Ubuntu at the moment, and the first thing I do after installing it is to wipe the version of FreeType provided with it to get rid of the bytecode interpreter :o )
 
Also, I still don’t understand why Debian and Ubuntu keep distributing patent-infringing code in FreeType, while they keep MP3 and DVD playback out of their normal installs. I’m not even sure it’s DFSG compliant… 

Improving Linux font rasterization?

While the discussion continues it looks like that in the long term the major toolkits have to get together to talk about implementing the mentioned techniques. Or, as suggested by David, a initiative dedicated to bringing patches upstream is launched. It could try to work with upstream on the one hand, but with the distributors on the other hand – if the users see the results because the distributions include the patches it might help influencing the decision of upstream.      
But there is no way of reaching perfect font rasterization with changes in FreeType only. 

3 Examples of Bad Microsoft Word Typography

From the makers of Arial, here are three examples of bad typography in Microsoft Word. Bad typesetting in Word finds its way into résumés, business plans, research papers, government documents, even published books. These small inconsistencies and imperfections may be un-noticible in small doses, but paragraph-after-paragraph they stack up—resulting in ugly, visually-incohesive documents. Word isn’t for professional typography work, but that’s no excuse for these typography sins.     

Microsoft, Apple extend font licensing agreement

Apple Inc. and Microsoft Corp.said Thursday they have renewed their font licensing agreement. Financial terms weren’t disclosed. Under the agreement, Apple users will have ongoing use of the latest versions of Microsoft Windows core fonts, the companies said.

Open source fonts

If you’ve ever gone looking for legitimately free fonts, you’ve probably found that there are a lot of really bad ones. But there’s also a lot of discussion out there about “open source fonts.”  
 
Some who post about open source fonts are really just talking about free-as-in-beer typefaces. Some, however, have embraced the open source philosophy as applied to typography.   

2008

Ubuntu and Fonts

In this short tutorial i discuss some handy fonts related tips that could improve user’s desktop experience . The tips include installing Microsoft True type fonts enabling one to render documents and web pages created in Microsoft Windows properly in Ubuntu Linux, Installing a set of cool looking fonts released by RedHat – Liberation fonts package , making fonts look good on your LCD Display by turning on subpixel smoothing , installing some cool and free fonts on your Ubuntu Desktop and finally how to install any font if  you have it’s ttf file .        

Ubuntu Hardy – Liberation Fonts now Fully Hinted?

A recent update came through for liberation fonts. It wasn’t clear, but it looks as if there is now full hinting available. Looks very nice! Might have  to add this to my Win XP work laptop as well.  

Liberation Fonts Increase Interoperability For Linux Users

Most problems when opening Word documents under GNU/Linux are due to missing fonts. Therefore, Red Hat published a set of fonts metric-compatible with the Windows core fonts last year.

100+ Beautiful Free Fonts for Ubuntu

If you are a graphic and web designer, the default fonts that came with Ubuntu will surely be not enough for your needs. However, if you know where to look, you can find plenty of additional fonts that can help get the job done.

Ubuntu Basics – Appearance

Like it or not, the Arial font looks good on Windows just as Helvetica looks good on a Mac (unless you’re some typography nerd that insists on arguing which looks better/worse/etc.)

Arial looks even better when used in Ubuntu.

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