Perplexing font problem: a quick fix

Friday, 29 September 2006

The problem isn’t really solved yet, but I used a quick fix for my browser (Firefox) as follows: I went to Edit –> Preferences –> Content and in the section Fonts & Colors clicked on Advanced. In the pop-up screen, I DEselected the tick-box “Allow pages to choose their own fonts, instead of my selections above“.
Now all fonts are looking fine, although whenever I visit a site, I will probably not experience it in the way the creator(s) intended it to be viewed.


Perplexing font problem: instant update

Friday, 29 September 2006

By having fonts of every thickness antialiased, I have now been able to confirm that it is a non-bold font that is causing the problem. Unfortunately, I haven’t a clue which one. My worst nightmare is now a fact. This is going to take YEARS to isolate. But maybe I’ll think of something clever.

Perplexing font problem….

Friday, 29 September 2006

This problem I’m having with the bold font has me stumped. I have edited my fonts.conf to include the following rule:

[match target="font"]
[test compare="more_eq" name="weight" qual="any"]
[test compare="more_eq" name="pixelsize" qual="any"]
[edit mode="assign" name="antialias"]

(P.S. I’ve had to replace the angled brackets because otherwise the xml tags apparently get parsed as html code or something and then are no longer displayed.)
That should definitely make every font thicker than medium antialiased. And indeed, that appears to be the case. Except for those damn fonts on this wordpress edit page I’m on right now. Are they non-bold, perhaps, in spite of looking quite fat? That would be extremely inconvenient. But I will next make *every* font antialiased to rule that out. If that cures the problem, then it opens up a new one: I don’t want to antialias every font! So how the hell would I discriminate between just THIS font type that’s causing me trouble, and every other font that looks just fine? It would of course help to know what this font is called, but I don’t even know that.
On the other hand, if antialiasing all fonts does NOT cure the problem, then what kind of font am I dealing with here? Some kind of Bastard Font from Hell?
Grrrrrr!!!!!! To be continued…

Linux and fonts: the journey continues

Friday, 29 September 2006

I’ve been busy lately, hence the lack of posts. One of the things I have been keeping myself busy with, and which is really proving to be quite difficult, is getting fonts to render perfectly on my Toshiba laptop with Ubuntu 6.06.1 LTS. Let me explain what I mean.

My laptop has a 14.1″ screen, with 1024×768 pixels and a DPI value of 96. After years of mindlessly blinking at this screen, I have never failed to notice one thing: the fonts become blurred whenever I install Linux. So I used to moan: “Oh fiddles, how I wish I had a 12″ screen with twice the resolution!”
But since I had already blown all my milk-teeth on expanding my coin collection, I doubted very much if the tooth-fairy would also accept my mandible for a $2999,- laptop. Best not to take any risks. So I did the next best thing: I installed the Microsoft TrueType fonts!

I configured Xorg to use the new fonts, ran fc-cache, disabled antialiasing all over the place. All seemed well. And for many years, I was content. Or was I really? You see, I did notice some *still* didn’t look quite right. Larger fonts mainly, and bold fonts. As with most of my problems, I used to just look the other way or pretend I didn’t see it. But recently, I started tinkering with ~/.fonts.conf instead.

And that’s what I’m still doing right now. Almost everything is looking just as good as in Windows, and some things even look better! Except for one last problem. Some larger bold fonts are antialiased, such as in the titlebar of my firefox browser right now, the title of my blog, etc. But others are NOT, even though they should be. Example: the “Save” button I am about to click in this wordpress editor has perfectly antialiased bold fonts. But the words “File”, “Title” and “Description” in the “Upload” frame below this editor are non-antialiased! How is that possible? There is still something wrong with my fonts.conf file, unfortunately.

I’ll work on it some more, and when it is perfect (or as close to it as I can get with my simple mind), I will post my ~/.fonts.conf here.

Toshiba Tecra 8000 RAM upgrade reveals problem

Wednesday, 6 September 2006

Today I received the two 128MB memory modules I ordered. I selected the Transcend TS128MT7000 SODIMM, because it is the cheapest option available to me that is 100% compatible with my version of the Tecra 8000 (Pentium II 400Mhz).

But I noticed a couple of interesting things when I removed the old modules and installed the new ones.

First: the original 64MB Toshiba SODIMM installed in slot B was quite firmly inserted, and required a bit of cradling to remove. But the other no-name brand 64MB module in slot A just slided out of the socket almost by itself.

Second: the computer did not boot after installing the new modules. I got exactly the same problem I had a couple of days ago. No BIOS! This was probably not a coincidence. So, time for some experiments.

First I removed both new modules, and inserted the original Toshiba 64MB module back in slot B. Then I booted: it worked again! I could not help but observe how incredibly slow the system was, with only 64MB of ram. I shut the system down again.

Next I added a 128MB module to slot A and rebooted. But this time, no BIOS! Then I replaced the 128MB module for the other one, to rule out a broken module being the cause. But again, no BIOS! Finally I inserted the no-name 64MB module back in slot A, the situation as it was before I began the upgrade, but this time the computer also refused to boot! Perhaps there is something fishy going on with slot A? Time to continue the experiment.

I then removed all the modules, and inserted one of the new 128MB modules in slot B. I booted the system, and it worked! Then I added the Toshiba module to slot A. Again I noticed that this module requires a bit of cradling to insert. I rebooted: success!

I now had 192MB of RAM, I was finally making progres. Next I removed the 64MB Toshiba module from slot A and replaced it with the no-name brand 64MB module which slid right in as if it was barely making contact. This time the computer booted, *BUT* it only registered 128MB RAM! Apparently, the system was not even registering that the module had been inserted. And now it is perfectly clear to me that the no-bios problems I have experienced recently are related to the slot A memory bank.

So now I’ve reinstalled the 64MB Toshiba module, and am back to 192MB RAM. I am not sure what I can do to fix this problem, besides trying to find an original Toshiba 128MB pc66 SODIMM. I’ll have to think about this, but at least it seems that I’ve solved the mystery of the boot failure s I experienced.

Due to the fact that I have become less dependent upon this laptop, I have now been brave enough to try a solution that I have been thinking about for some time. My new theory is that the new modules are slightly thinner than the original, and that this causes the contacts of the modules to be insufficiently pressed against the connectors. This problem occurs in both slots, but appears to be more severe with slot A.

So now I have simply cut four rectangular strips out of the thin hard cardboard from the back of my notepad, in the shape of the modules. After inserting the modules, I stacked two strips of this cardboard on each of the modules and then pressed the cover back in place. It took quite a bit of pressure to keep that covering plate down while I tightened the screws, so I knew those modules where being forced against the connectors. After I finished, I crossed my fingers and booted up.

And it works! I finally have the maximum 256MB RAM at my disposal! This laptop is now as fast as it is ever going to get, and I must say that it certainly seems to be faster than it’s ever been.

My only concern has to do with overheating. The memory modules get mighty hot during use, so I’ll have to check the cardboard strips in a while, just to make sure it’s not going to catch fire ;-)

FreeBSD 6.1 Flash and Java HOWTO

Tuesday, 5 September 2006

I found this old post somewhere on my computer. I don’t run FreeBSD 6.1 at the moment, but maybe there is something in here that FreeBSD users may find useful. It may be a bit outdated though.

First we install java. What you need to do, is go to /usr/ports/java/diablo-jre15.
There you execute make. The output will tell you to first download the diablo-jre binary from the FreeBSD foundation, and put it in /usr/ports/distfiles, because you need to accept a license agreement before you are allowed to download this java jre.
After following the instructions, you type make again and this time it will unpack the tarbal. Do not worry if you have a slow system! There will be no compiling, as it is a pre-compiled binary. Then if all goes well you execute make install. And that’s all there is to it. It even installs the javaplugin for your browsers!

Which brings me to Flash. There are two options here: you can try GNU/Linux binaries of flash 6 and flash 7 that need linuxwrapper to work, or you could try the native binary of “gnash”, which is a Gnu project to develop a GPL’d open source Flash player. I have tried gnash 0.7.1 and indeed it works, in that it won’t crash your browser, but that’s about all. Well, I suppose that’s why it’s still called an “alpha” version after all. So I quickly moved on.

Next I tried linux-flashplugin7 in /usr/ports/www, but this instantly crashed firefox as soon as I set foot on a Flash site.

So my last chance was Flash 6. And that, finally, worked. But how long will flash 6 be supported on websites? Not very long I’m afraid. There are allready many flash sites that require Flash 8, and Flash 9 is already available. So needless to say, flash support in FreeBSD needs work.

Steve Irwin

Tuesday, 5 September 2006

It’s a bit late, but I thought I just have to write something about him. For those of you who don’t know: he was also known as the “Crocodile Hunter” and he tragically died yesterday after he was stabbed in the heart by a stingray. I watched a few of his programs, and one thing that I always noticed was this: an energetic childlike enthusiasm.

I found his enthusiasm to be quite contagious, and I hope it has spread like a virus to millions of television viewers around the globe. It is surely one of the greatest goods in this world, to be able to convey to as many people as possible the need to protect and preserve the wonderful nature and wildlife of this planet. Because it always begins first with the realisation that something is worth protecting, before anything is actually done. And I think he achieved that.

I take my hat off to this man.