Bug reporting sucks, and how to fix it: Part 2

Bug report­ing sucks, it’s clear. How can it be bet­ter?

One idea that could alle­vi­ate a lot of the headaches of bug report­ing while pro­vid­ing increased func­tion­al­i­ty is a desk­top bug-report­ing appli­ca­tion. I won’t pre­tend to be famil­iar with any APIs that are made avail­able by Launch­pad, GNOME, Bugzil­la, Trac, etc., but I have to imag­ine that some exist. I also won’t pre­tend that I’m the first to have this idea — it’s entire­ly pos­si­ble that it’s been attempt­ed and that those attempts have failed many times. But from where I’m sit­ting it seems like a near-per­fect solu­tion. Here are the ben­e­fits we’d get from a desk­top bug-report­ing appli­ca­tion:

  1. It can man­age your bug track­er logins.
    Imag­ine hav­ing all your bug track­er logins stored in a lit­tle data­base for you on your desk­top. More than that, imag­ine being able to reg­is­ter at a new bug track­er with just a few clicks using the per­son­al infor­ma­tion kept by the appli­ca­tion.
  2. It can iden­ti­fy the bug track­er used by a giv­en appli­ca­tion.
    This may actu­al­ly be a bit dif­fi­cult. It’s pos­si­ble that this could be done by hav­ing appli­ca­tions make this info avail­able in some way, although that puts a bur­den on appli­ca­tion devel­op­ers, and I assume there is no sys­tem cur­rent­ly in place for some­thing like this. It’d require some cre­ativ­i­ty.
  3. It can iden­ti­fy the pack­age in the appro­pri­ate bug track­er against which to file a bug.
    Launch­pad is prob­a­bly the bug track­er with which I’m most famil­iar, and there in par­tic­u­lar it seems to me to be plau­si­ble for a bug-report­ing appli­ca­tion to eas­i­ly find the pack­age against which a bug should be filed. How many peo­ple even know that Ubuntu’s default PDF view­er is called “Evince,” or that its default image view­er is called “Eye of GNOME,” or espe­cial­ly that the Eye of GNOME pack­age is called “eog”? Imag­ine instead being able to choose from a list of run­ning appli­ca­tions and hav­ing the bug-report­ing appli­ca­tion do the rest.
  4. It can pro­vide bet­ter search for dupli­cates.
    Launch­pad only presents you with pos­si­ble dupli­cates after you’ve entered the title of your bug report. A desk­top appli­ca­tion, on the oth­er hand, could con­tin­ue to search for dupli­cates as you’re elab­o­rat­ing on the bug in your descrip­tion, updat­ing on-the-fly and pre­sent­ing you with rel­e­vant excerpts from the poten­tial dupli­cates’ descrip­tions. And if it has a high enough con­fi­dence in a match, it can ask “Are you sure?” before allow­ing you to sub­mit.
  5. It can col­lect and upload sys­tem logs.
    Not only could a desk­top appli­ca­tion attach basic sys­tem logs and hard­ware info, but it could cat­a­log which version(s) of your application’s depencenc(y/ies) you have installed, poten­tial­ly sav­ing hours of work per bug.
  6. It can open an impromp­tu chat with oth­ers suf­fer­ing from the bug, or with pack­age main­tain­ers.
    By check­ing the online avail­abil­i­ty of oth­er bug suf­fer­ers or pack­age main­tain­ers, this appli­ca­tion could inte­grate with Empa­thy, Pid­gin, or IRC to put you in con­tact with them, if they choose to make them­selves avail­able.
  7. It can search exist­ing help avenues for poten­tial solu­tions to your prob­lem.
    Stack Exchange (Ask Ubun­tu, Super User), Quo­ra, Ubun­tu Forums — search­ing all of these places takes time, and might not even occur to a large num­ber of users. Search­ing these places on-the-fly as bugs are being described might pre­vent unnec­es­sary bugs from being filed in the first place, or direct bug suf­fer­ers toward tem­po­rary workarounds.
  8. It can look for PPAs that con­tain updat­ed pack­ages that might fix the bug you’re report­ing.
    Many times the appli­ca­tions in offi­cial repos­i­to­ries are out­dat­ed, and many times the most com­mon bugs have been fixed in more recent releas­es. Giv­en ade­quate safe­guards, this could be invalu­able for peo­ple des­per­ate for a solu­tion.
  9. It could inte­grate with the mes­sag­ing menu.
    “Some­one just marked one of your book­marked bugs as ‘Affects me too.’ They are avail­able for chat. Would you like to con­tact them?”
    “The bug ‘[bug descrip­tion here]’ has a new com­ment.”

I’m sure with my lim­it­ed imag­i­na­tion I’ve not even scratched the sur­face of what a desk­top bug-report­ing appli­ca­tion is capa­ble of. What else would you like to see in one? What would some of the pit­falls be? Is this prac­ti­cal or imprac­ti­cal, and why?

Bug reporting sucks, and how to fix it

Bug report­ing sucks. Every time I’m forced to do it, it’s labo­ri­ous and soul-drain­ing. It makes me give up hope for free soft­ware hav­ing a viable future. But it’s nec­es­sary, (a) as the way I “pay” for free soft­ware, and (b) to see if maybe I can slight­ly has­ten a hypo­thet­i­cal future where the soft­ware I rely on dai­ly might work rea­son­ably well (it’s com­ing!!).

Here are the stages of bug report­ing, and why each of them sucks:

  1. Tol­er­at­ing the flaws in the soft­ware because it’s bet­ter than fil­ing bugs about them (time frame: 2 weeks to a life­time)
    This stage is prob­a­bly the worst, in the most insid­i­ous way, because although it is less tedious and frus­trat­ing than the fol­low­ing stages, it’s the one that inspires the most hope­less­ness in you. Unless you are com­plete­ly enshroud­ed in ide­ol­o­gy, you will begin to resent your com­put­er more than Win­dows users do.
  2. Fig­ur­ing out against which pack­age to file a bug (1 minute to 2 hours)
    We’re only in the sec­ond stage, and already you have to have a pret­ty deep famil­iar­i­ty with Lin­ux and bug report­ing in gen­er­al to move for­ward. Say, for instance, that Flash is crash­ing Fire­fox. Holy hell do you have a lot of work to do! There are prob­a­bly at least ten inde­pen­dent vari­ables at play here, includ­ing the obvi­ous cul­prits Fire­fox and Flash, but also your video card dri­vers, your Fire­fox plu­g­ins, and your win­dow man­ag­er. If you don’t spend enough time exper­i­ment­ing with dif­fer­ent com­bi­na­tions of these vari­ables (remem­ber­ing that this bug almost cer­tain­ly isn’t repro­ducible on com­mand), then you’ll be wast­ing everybody’s time by fil­ing against the wrong pack­age.
  3. Fig­ur­ing out where the cul­prit pack­age tracks its bugs (2 to 10 min­utes)
    Ooh, this is fun. First go to Launch­pad, nat­u­ral­ly. You might encounter sev­er­al pages that look sus­pi­cious­ly sim­i­lar; if that hap­pens, just close your eyes and pick one. If your pack­age isn’t on Launch­pad, you might get lucky and find a link to some Bugzil­la site or the project’s home page (“I hope the devs still own that domain!”), oth­er­wise you are at the mer­cy of Google.
  4. Remem­ber­ing your password/creating an account at the cor­rect bug track­er (1 sec­ond to 10 min­utes)
    Oh right, there is no uni­ver­sal login for *all* Bugzil­la sites, of course, so I’m going to have to cre­ate a new account. Oh, it says there already is an account asso­ci­at­ed with my email address. Huh. Ok, send me the link to cre­ate a new pass­word. Did that go into my spam fold­er? Oh, ok, final­ly, here it is. Alright, click. Now to file a new bug. Oh wait, I’m not logged in? I thought that would have done it. Ok, “Log In.” Ok.
  5. Look­ing for an exist­ing report con­cern­ing your bug (0 sec­onds to 15 min­utes)
    I have seen bugs with dozens of dupli­cates attached to them. Devel­op­ers must love that. Launch­pad does a pret­ty ok job here, search­ing for exist­ing bugs based on the title you give. It’s not often that I see a match, and when I don’t, I’m not com­plete­ly con­fi­dent that there isn’t one some­where in there. I usu­al­ly resort to Google and use my own human brain to fig­ure out oth­er ways the symp­toms of the bug might have been word­ed. I don’t want to be one of those dunces who files dupli­cates, after all.
  6. Ver­bal­ly artic­u­lat­ing the symp­toms of your bug in a way that is suc­cinct, unam­bigu­ous, and thor­ough (2 read­ings of Strunk & White)
    Ok, I hope you’ve got a lib­er­al arts degree. Oh wait, you don’t, because you are using Lin­ux. Hell, even if you do, some­times the sub­tle con­di­tions that lead to the expo­sure of a bug are so dif­fi­cult to describe that you end up with bloat­ed sen­tences in which you’re most­ly try­ing to con­vey some­thing visu­al or with a far too com­plex lin­guis­tic parse tree:

    “So, then if I click on the but­ton again, this time *after* clear­ing the .con­fig direc­to­ry, but with­out hav­ing restart­ed the pro­gram, the drop-down list (usu­al­ly just the “Pro­files” one, but some­times all of them) will lose any entries that I cre­at­ed (except for the ones made before I upgrad­ed to 0.0.2.11).”

    What you find your­self want­i­ng to do is take a video of the prob­lem occur­ring, but that would require sub­ject­ing your­self to the hell that is desk­top video record­ing soft­ware for Lin­ux, a path that will only leave you spi­ral­ing fur­ther and inescapably down into the toi­let that is the bug report­ing process.

  7. You’re done! Oh oops, you’re not. Col­lect sys­tem logs and info (2 min­utes to 30 min­utes)
    One of my least favorite mem­o­ries in life is the hours I spent diag­nos­ing a prob­lem with hiber­na­tion on my lap­top. Or was it hiber­na­tion and sleep? Who the hell knows, the shit didn’t work and I banged my head against a brick wall of diag­nos­tics and bug report­ing and research­ing so furi­ous­ly that by the end of it my room­mate found me naked on the cold tile floor of our bath­room, shiv­er­ing and blan­ket­ed in sweat. Oh, did the bug ever get fixed? Is there a dif­fer­ence between a bug get­ting fixed and your brain cop­ing with the stress of it by mak­ing you numb to it? I don’t know. I don’t know. Oh any­way, yeah, be sure to grab some logs and shit, they’ll prob­a­bly need that.

That’s it. Oh my god I hate it every time, it’s like pulling god damn teeth, and it’s a won­der any­body choos­es to do this with their free time. What in the hell is wrong with me? And more impor­tant­ly, how can we make this bet­ter? I have an idea, but I’m too emo­tion­al­ly exhaust­ed right now to get into it.

Update: Part 2

Flash vulnerability; upgrade to 10.1 RC in Ubuntu

Adobe has announced a poten­tial secu­ri­ty risk in ver­sions of Flash ear­li­er than 10.0.45.2. This includes the ver­sions in Lucid’s default repos­i­to­ries.

If you’re feel­ing para­noid or would just like to try the lat­est Flash 10.1 release can­di­date, you can down­load it from Adobe, and fol­low the install instruc­tions from Web Upd8.

Update: The final 10.1 release from Adobe has hit the main Ubun­tu repos­i­to­ries. A soft­ware update should do it.

Karmic is still just “Linux for human beings.”

Man I wrote this a long time ago. Resign­ing now to the fact that I won’t fin­ish it.

Even a cou­ple years ago, video edit­ing wasn’t con­sid­ered an essen­tial part of a desk­top, for most users. It was the realm of pro­fes­sion­als and hob­by­ists who could afford the nec­es­sary hard­ware to transcode video in less than an hour.

But after the advent of YouTube, ade­quate proces­sors, and ubiq­ui­tous cam­eras — in phones, mon­i­tors, and now on the iPod nano — every­body feels that it’s their right to add scrolling text and wipes to their lit­tle movies. And right­ly so; video edit­ing soft­ware has long been expen­sive and dif­fi­cult for a rea­son. But it’s almost 2010, and that shouldn’t be the case any­more. It’s no longer too much to expect to be able to put a title and a fade-out on a video where you com­plain about your hair, even if it is a triv­ial indul­gence. You don’t need to know HTML to run a blog; why should you need to learn script­ing lan­guages and FFm­peg switch­es to run a vlog?

Steve Jobs was famous­ly mis­tak­en in think­ing that the next step for per­son­al com­put­ing at the turn of the cen­tu­ry was video edit­ing, until it took a back­seat while Nap­ster made dig­i­tal music and the iPod the most promi­nent tech­nolo­gies of this decade. And as all that went on, proces­sors got out­ra­geous­ly fast, and hard dri­ves got out­ra­geous­ly large, even in “low-end” sys­tems. iMovie exist­ed, but has only recent­ly become famil­iar and com­fort­able to large num­bers of peo­ple. Microsoft’s answer to iMovie, “Microsoft Win­dows Video Edi­tor 1.3” or what­ev­er it must have been called, was fee­ble, bug­gy, and went unused as most PC own­ers had to work hard to derive any­thing of val­ue from it; iMovie, mean­while, prac­ti­cal­ly asked Mac own­ers to use it. It’s my under­stand­ing that Microsoft’s video edi­tor has improved late­ly, but I don’t know for sure.

Any­way, so here we are, with video edit­ing tak­en for grant­ed by some, and indig­nant­ly demand­ed by oth­ers. And, while we’re at it, a rel­a­tive­ly large migra­tion toward Ubun­tu. 8.10 Intre­pid was a land­mark release, 9.04 fol­lowed suit, and 9.10 is becom­ing unequiv­o­cal­ly the most antic­i­pat­ed Lin­ux dis­tri­b­u­tion by the gen­er­al pop­u­lace ever. Even in its beta form it’s being called “almost per­fect,” and gen­er­al­ly her­ald­ed every­where not only as a tri­umph of open-source, but as a tri­umph of oper­at­ing sys­tems peri­od.

There’s more to life than hard, ster­ile prag­ma­tism, and if you think oth­er­wise, you are cold and dead and nobody will ever love you.

So!, with all these peo­ple work­ing to make Lin­ux acces­si­ble, sure­ly they’ve got some decent video edi­tor up their sleeves? Well — as is a typ­i­cal answer from most Lin­ux users — yes and no. There is Cinel­er­ra, which is very pow­er­ful and enjoys a wide user base, but even its man­u­al admits to its Lin­ux her­itage, that “Cinel­er­ra is not intend­ed for con­sumers.” I can attest to this. In addi­tion to Cinel­er­ra I’ve down­loaded just about every video edi­tor there is for Lin­ux, from Avide­mux to Kden­live to Kino to PiTiVi. All of them either crash in Ubun­tu, are ter­rif­i­cal­ly com­pli­cat­ed, or lam­en­ta­bly sim­ple. Sim­ply put, there is no “iMovie for Lin­ux.”

But this is pre­cise­ly what Mark Shut­tle­worth is shoot­ing for with Ubun­tu. Or, rather, it’s a good metaphor for what he’s shoot­ing for — to make Lin­ux not mere­ly eas­i­er to use than oth­er dis­tros, but to be invit­ing to peo­ple who don’t even know what Lin­ux is. This is why Ubuntu’s slo­gan — “Lin­ux for human beings” — has become so obso­lete. Of the things that Lin­ux pro­vid­ed when the Ubun­tu project began in 2004, Ubun­tu now pro­vides them in a more acces­si­ble way than they’ve ever been pro­vid­ed, and if a per­son has heard of only one Lin­ux dis­tro, it is like­ly to be Ubun­tu.

Now, how­ev­er, with Shut­tle­worth explic­it­ly tak­ing aim at Apple, Ubuntu’s slo­gan — not mere­ly for mar­ket­ing pur­pos­es, but for the under­ly­ing vision of the project as a whole — needs to evolve. “Lin­ux for human beings” begins with the premise of Lin­ux, and qual­i­fies it with the promise of ease-of-use. In order to gain the sig­nif­i­cant mar­ket share that Shut­tle­worth wants to see, and to prop­er­ly ori­ent Ubuntu’s devel­op­ers toward that end, the “Lin­ux” part of Ubun­tu needs to be sec­ondary. What must instead be empha­sized is that it is a pow­er­ful, easy, fun, and free oper­at­ing sys­tem that hap­pens to use a Lin­ux ker­nel.

These things are becom­ing increas­ing­ly true, but, as much as I am impressed by it, I can’t in good con­science say that Karmic ful­fills the ulti­mate­ly desired promise of Ubun­tu. Karmic is still just “Lin­ux for human beings.”

At the same time, nev­er before has this promise been more clear­ly with­in view. Sev­er­al hugehuge — things have hap­pened recent­ly, or are hap­pen­ing, to take Ubun­tu beyond its cur­rent sta­tus as mere­ly the best Lin­ux dis­tro, from an eccen­tric “third-par­ty can­di­date” to a gen­uine com­peti­tor. Aside from its huge­ly increased hard­ware sup­port out-of-the-box (which, bra­vo), I’m tempt­ed to argue that the improved font ren­der­ing in Jaun­ty is the sin­gle most impor­tant step in increas­ing Ubuntu’s appeal — and fur­ther that any­body who dis­agrees with me is hope­less­ly out of touch with the real world.

Lin­ux users pride them­selves on with­stand­ing the most bru­tal of com­put­ing envi­ron­ments, but it’s that kind of ego­tism that, if unchecked, will pre­vent Lin­ux from ever gain­ing on the desk­top. If you think pret­ty wall­pa­pers are a friv­o­lous waste of your disk space, that’s your pre­rog­a­tive — but if you think that it was a bad deci­sion for Canon­i­cal to include them in Karmic, giv­en all that they’re try­ing to accom­plish, then you’re not pay­ing atten­tion. There’s more to life than hard, ster­ile prag­ma­tism, and if you think oth­er­wise, you are cold and dead and nobody will ever love you.

Ubuntu, Font Hinting, & You: A Cautionary Tale

This post was writ­ten regard­ing Ubun­tu 8.10, Intre­pid Ibex.

This isn’t the first time I’ve encoun­tered hint­ing; I’ve seen it before in GIMP, even when I was using it in Win­dows, this font ren­der­ing option that was inex­plic­a­bly on by default, and result­ed in hor­ri­ble kern­ing and mis­shapen let­ter­forms. I don’t claim to know a lot about the tech­ni­cal­i­ties of hint­ing, but every­thing I do under­stand about it agrees that it is meant to improve the shapes of let­ters. If this is the case, some­body is doing some­thing very, very wrong. I haven’t seen a hint­ed font that looked any­thing oth­er than sick­ly and disheveled.

I’ve com­plained before about the typog­ra­phy in Ubun­tu, but my con­tention then was with the fonts that were in use by default, not with the way they were ren­dered. What I didn’t real­ize at the time is that the ren­der­ing is the bulk of the prob­lem.

applicationsmenuI found this image on the Ubun­tu site, and I am still in dis­be­lief that they choose to rep­re­sent them­selves with font ren­der­ing like this. Look at that cap­i­tal ‘A’ and ‘V’; look at the way that low­er-case ‘l’ tow­ers over its neigh­bors, noth­ing more than a sin­gle-pix­el-width ver­ti­cal line; look at the kern­ing in the ‘Rem’ of ‘Remove’ – it’s no won­der Ubun­tu has about a 2% world­wide mar­ket share. They expect peo­ple to want to look at that every day of their lives? I know these are rel­a­tive­ly sub­tle details, but their effects are sub­lim­i­nal and, I believe, psy­cho­log­i­cal­ly haz­ardous.

~/.fonts.conf

Of course, when it comes to Lin­ux, for every prob­lem there are a few dozen solu­tions – or one very, very com­pli­cat­ed solu­tion. GNOME, the default desk­top for Ubun­tu, arrives with a “Font Ren­der­ing Details” dia­log box in its appear­ance set­tings, to pla­cate the mouth-breath­ing philistines who need a GUI to get things done. And it doesn’t real­ly help much. I knew I’d have to get my hands dirty in ~/.fonts.conf, this XML file that is capa­ble (and only capa­ble) of incred­i­bly fine-tuned font tweak­ing.

[Fonts are] the #1 rea­son why Lin­ux hasn’t seen any sig­nif­i­cant adop­tion on the desktop/laptop yet. Robert Scoble

The trou­ble, as is the case with most Google results you get when look­ing for help with Lin­ux, is that there is a glut of quick fix­es, blocks of code direct­ed towards one spe­cif­ic per­son and their spe­cif­ic sys­tem, that they are then told to paste into a file or save into a direc­to­ry, with lit­tle to no expla­na­tion about why this solu­tion is going to work. Or there’s the tech­ni­cal doc­u­men­ta­tion that isn’t geared towards users. There’s no mid­dle ground (unless you count the occa­sion­al, skele­tal wiki that hasn’t been updat­ed since 2004).

Only after look­ing at count­less ~/.fonts.conf exam­ples was I able to glean what was going on inside them. The full pow­er of this file allows you to tar­get with amaz­ing pre­ci­sion any vari­ant or size of any font your sys­tem might dis­play and give it its own unique prop­er­ties; but there are real­ly only three(ish) of these prop­er­ties that you need to know about, and I am going to explain them here.

antialias

Anti-alias­ing is the trick that makes your pix­els not look like pix­els. You’ve noticed this when you’ve seen poor­ly resized images with jagged edges – they’re not prop­er­ly anti-aliased. Sim­i­lar­ly, if fonts are not anti-aliased, they look like black Tetris pieces on a white back­ground. Anti-alias­ing is going on all the time with­out you know­ing about it, and you’d real­ly have to make an effort not to have it, but it’s worth putting in your ~/.fonts.conf file for good mea­sure. You’ll want to apply it to all fonts on your sys­tem, so the syn­tax would be:

<match target="font">
 <edit name="antialias" mode="assign">
  <bool>true</bool>
 </edit>
</match>

You can prob­a­bly fig­ure out what these things mean, but I will link to a com­plete man­u­al for ~/.fonts.conf syn­tax at the end of this post.

rgba

This one is a mat­ter of per­son­al pref­er­ence, I guess. I don’t see how any­body of sound mind could stand to have pink, beige, and turquoise pix­els sprin­kled around the edges of their let­ters – the result of “sub-pix­el ren­der­ing” – but I guess the argu­ment is that it allows them to be sharp­er. What­ev­er.

Trust me when I say that things look best if you tell ~/.fonts.conf to dis­able sub-pix­el ren­der­ing, which is done like so:

<match target="font">
 <edit name="rgba" mode="assign">
  <const>none</const>
 </edit>
</match>

If you hap­pen to be schiz­o­phrenic, or col­or­blind or what­ev­er, then yes, fine, you can turn on sub-pix­el ren­der­ing by chang­ing none to rgb, to reflect the com­po­si­tion of your monitor’s sub­pix­els (which are almost cer­tain­ly in the order Red-Green-Blue, from left to right). Have fun scratch­ing your eye­balls out.

rgba=rgb

rgba=rgb

rgba=none

rgba=none

Admit­ted­ly it would be nice if there were some antialiasstyle prop­er­ty you could set to antialiasslight or some­thing, to light­en up those gray pix­els a lit­tle bit.

hinting / autohint / hintstyle

Put it on my tomb­stone: Turn Off Hint­ing. I’m beg­ging you. If some­body tries to tell you that this is a mat­ter of pref­er­ence, they are lying to you, and are not your friend, and are prob­a­bly bang­ing your girl­friend. If you leave hint­ing on, Geor­gia will not look like Geor­gia, Luci­da will not look like Luci­da, and Nim­bus will not look like Hel­veti­ca.

hintstyle=hintnone

hintstyle=hintnone

hinting=true, autohint=true

hinting=true, autohint=true

Here is how you Turn Off Hint­ing®:

<match target="font">
 <edit name="hinting" mode="assign">
  <bool>false</bool>
 </edit>
 <edit name="autohint" mode="assign">
  <bool>false</bool>
 </edit>
 <edit name="hintstyle" mode="assign">
  <const>hintnone</const>
 </edit>
</match>

Alter­na­tive­ly, if you pos­i­tive­ly demand more “crisp­ness” from your fonts, even at the expense of aes­thet­ics, you might want to give slight hint­ing a try. From the above code, change hinting and autohint to true, and hintstyle to hintslight:

hintstyle=hintslight

hintstyle=hintslight

That’s it, rough­ly speak­ing. It’s my under­stand­ing that some spe­cif­ic fonts do look bet­ter if specif­i­cal­ly tar­get­ed and adjust­ed with maybe slight hint­ing. But that’s for anoth­er day. If you do as I’ve instruct­ed, things will be so much bet­ter for you. Leave a com­ment if you want my Pay­Pal address.

This post would not have been pos­si­ble with­out the help of these sites:

  • Arch­Wi­ki: I know noth­ing about Arch Lin­ux, but this wiki page has a lot of good info.
  • fontconfig.org: the most com­plete and recent ~/.fonts.conf ref­er­ence I’ve found.
  • Ubun­tu Wiki: con­tains an exam­ple of a very com­pre­hen­sive (if dat­ed) ~/.fonts.conf file. Study it and learn how to do oth­er stuff.
  • The Mas­ter­plan: anoth­er sam­ple ~/.fonts.conf file, and the only oth­er one that I know of that turns off hint­ing and sub­pix­el ren­der­ing.

How to Change the Clock Theme in GNOME Do

gnome-do-clockAs far as I can tell, there are no addi­tion­al “themes” out there. But I did find the SVG files the clock uses in

/usr/share/gnome-do/ClockTheme

It would be easy enough to replace these; ide­al­ly I guess there would be a sec­tion in the GNOME Do wiki to upload clock theme pack­ages. The hands of the clock are anoth­er mat­ter, gen­er­at­ed by Do itself. As it is, I’ve nev­er cre­at­ed an SVG in my life, so I’m stuck with a num­ber­less clock for now.

Typography in Ubuntu 8.10 Intrepid Ibex

One thing I’ll nev­er under­stand is why Ubun­tu ships with such hideous default sys­tem fonts, when there are some per­fect­ly great open source fonts built right into it. For instance, UnDo­tum is a near-exact clone of Franklin Goth­ic, although strange­ly a Google search for undotum "franklin gothic" only turns up one page that men­tions the two togeth­er. It seems to be an arbi­trary sim­i­lar­i­ty, as the pur­pose of UnDo­tum and oth­er UnFonts is to pro­vide Kore­an char­ac­ters. Any­way, it makes a good win­dow title font.

Then there’s Nim­bus Sans, which is indis­tin­guish­able from Hel­veti­ca; DejaVu Sans, which as far as I can tell is a descen­dant of Frutiger (and, hence, a cousin of [Apple’s] Myr­i­ad and [Microsoft’s] Segoe UI), and makes a nice all-around sys­tem font; and Lib­er­tine, which makes for a great gen­er­al-pur­pose body serif. Once you set these as the fonts in GNOME and in Fire­fox, every­thing looks scores bet­ter — bet­ter than Ubuntu’s default look, cer­tain­ly, and arguably bet­ter than Win­dows.