@Jack: Yeah, I am running Firefox 3.5. When I wrote this I was probably running 3.1 beta 3 or something. But the problems with fringing and hinting seemed to extend beyond Firefox, so who knows. And I think it was in 8.10 that I was testing these things out. There are too many variables to really single anything out as the culprit, although because I am running a pretty stock install of Ubuntu, I am assuming that most novices like me will probably be getting the same results.
@Flavio: Glad to help! I was also enormously relieved to finally be happy with the way text looked in Ubuntu. It’s amazing what a difference it makes.