The other day I was bored. What does one do when bored? Well, generally it’s a good idea to install some variant of Linux. Why? Because.

Am I right? Well, let me tell you about my recent experience with Ubuntu (9.04 Jaunty Jackalope). The computer I installed it on is an older Dell laptop (Inspiron 6400). It’s roughly four or so years old, so not exactly new, but not quite ancient yet. It can run all of my utilities just fine as well as World of Warcraft, so it’s still a fairly decent machine.

Installing Ubuntu on it was hands down the most easiest operating system install I’ve done in years. At first I was simply running Ubuntu from a live USB flash drive installation, then I got a hold of an extra hard drive and installed it on there. First impressions? Well, it detected my native resolution which is an issue I’ve run into before. The touchpad worked, my media buttons worked, it detected my mouse, audio worked, external drives worked, pretty much everything I could think of worked. Ah, but then came the real test: I plugged in my Wacom Intuos tablet. It worked. Pressure sensitivity and all. Cool. I like it when operating systems just work. Video though? Hm…

Jaunty Jackalope is actually too new for my video card (ATI Mobility Radeon X1400). So while their open source driver works well enough for normal tasks, I’m going to have to wait until ATI releases something more compatible. In order to play WoW, I’d actually need to downgrade to an older version of Ubuntu for the closed-source fglrx driver. It’s probably for the better though, as I most likely should just designate this laptop as a strict web development machine. Although I must say that I’m a little bit disappointed, as everything else passed with flying colours. So close.

Disable Smoothing on Ubuntu

As it’s being turned into a development laptop, one of the things that I did was install Microsoft Windows’ default fonts. One thing that Ubuntu does is render fonts very nicely. It adds some nice smoothing and generally just makes it look good. Now this is a personal preference of mine, but I find that smoothing on some of Microsoft’s fonts make them a little bit unreadable, specially when shrunken down (less than 12px). So what did I want to do? Disable smoothing on a select few fonts. I bugged Aria about it, and she started helping me edit a configuration file to turn off some of the font effects.

Verdana at 11px. Smoothing enabled on the left; disabled on the right.

I wanted smoothing disabled on the following fonts: Verdana, Trebuchet MS, Arial, & Tahoma, so here is how it was done… Just in case someone else has a crazy high resolution monitor and has difficulties reading specific fonts when they have smoothing enabled.

Open up the following file to edit (or create it if needs be):

gedit ~/.fonts.conf

Paste the following into it, and save. It will look for the fonts listed, and then turn off all forms of smoothing if the font is less than 15px.

<?xml version='1.0'?>
<!DOCTYPE fontconfig SYSTEM 'fonts.dtd'>
<fontconfig>
  <match target="font">
    <test compare="more" name="pixelsize" qual="any">
      <double>12</double>
    </test>
    <edit name="autohint" mode="assign">
      <bool>true</bool>
    </edit>
  </match>
  <match target="font">
    <test compare="more" name="pixelsize" qual="any">
      <double>0</double>
    </test>
    <test compare="less" name="pixelsize" qual="any">
      <double>15</double>
    </test>
    <test qual="any" name="family">
      <string>Arial</string>
      <string>Tahoma</string>
      <string>Trebuchet MS</string>
      <string>Verdana</string>
    </test>
    <edit mode="assign" name="antialias">
      <bool>false</bool>
    </edit>
    <edit mode="assign" name="hinting">
      <bool>false</bool>
    </edit>
    <edit mode="assign" name="autohint">
      <bool>false</bool>
    </edit>
    <edit mode="assign" name="hintstyle">
      <const>hintnone</const>
    </edit>
  </match>
</fontconfig>