Is it possible to adjust for less-smooth font rendering?

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AMRoberts
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Is it possible to adjust for less-smooth font rendering?

Post by AMRoberts »

Apologies if this is the wrong place for this, and if someone who has the ability to do so recognizes this and can move this thread, please do so ...

I've been a long-time hold out on my WinXP and Win7(ClearType Tuner Off) laptops as my daily computing machines. Within the constraints of my 63 year-old eyes and variable bifocals, I perceived the on-screen font rendering as sharp. Even Old Curmudgeons are eventually forced to move on, so for several months I've been trying to shift more and more of my hours per day onto a Linux Mint laptop. As I've done this my feelings of eyestrain, perception that I am struggling with the fonts being in sharp focus, and number of headaches have increased. I recognize that the fonts seem smoothly rendered, but they don't seem sharp.

My searches so far have found both windows and linux users complaining about font sharpness since (at least) the arrival of LCD display color sub-pixel anti-aliasing. While it seems like there is a substantial dissatisfied minority, the arguments with respect to why and how to address things go racing off in countless directions (e.g., color fringing, too much smoothing, failure to 'do the math' with high enough resolution, temporal anti-aliasing, interactions with display brightness/contrast/frame rate/color balance, GPUs behaving badly, its all in your mind, no it isn't, Microsoft's research proved this was Grrreat, this mucking around with config files make it so much better, tried your changes can't see any difference, nobody wants to try and fix X11, etc., etc., etc).

Before I spend days/weeks trying changes to see if it helps my eyestrain and headaches, I'll ask a few perhaps naive questions:
  1. Is there some best-practice guide or tutorial that I just haven't been able to find along the lines of, "How to Make Your System's Font-Rendering go Old-School," (less anti-aliased, whatever it might be called?
  2. Some of what I've waded through already suggests that browsers (or in the case of Mozilla, the code collection that is Firefox and Thunderbird) may be doing their own thing, not using the OS/system libraries ... Is this correct?
  3. Does this "Wayland" critter I've seen mentioned have any play against my issues?
  4. If anyone wants to tell me I'm on a hopeless quest, is there an alternative path, something like picking entirely different system and browser fonts that people find sharper?
I feel like I could consume an enormous amount of time and still end up with no improvement in the sharpness/eyestrain/headache arena. If anyone has already been down this road and has suggestions, they'll be much appreciated.

Thanks,
Alan
bin
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Re: Is it possible to adjust for less-smooth font rendering?

Post by bin »

May be partly hardware, partly ergonomics - laptop screens are not the best and the position is not good for long periods of work.

What resolution does the screen run at?

There's a whole road of pain available to you in various configurations involving tweaks to fonts.conf

Problem is that more and more applications drive a coach and four straight through user requirements.....

Not an ideal answer (and as a long time bitmap font lover myself) you might like to try a slightly lateral approach of hunting down a modern bitmap style truetype font. This may be a good starting place - set the font size to 10 - 16 to get an idea of the results https://www.fontsaddict.com/font/category/bitmap/page-1
billyswong
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Re: Is it possible to adjust for less-smooth font rendering?

Post by billyswong »

Since you didn't describe which distribution you are running, I assume you are running Linux Mint Cinnamon edition here.

If you go to Menu > Font Selection, you can test out different combination of "hinting" and "antialiasing". From my experiment, Firefox ignores "none" antialiasing, but respect "grayscale" antialiasing. I also tested out about:config > gfx.text.disable-aa in Firefox. The result looks ugly to me.

From my personal experience, complaints of "color fringing" for subpixel antialiasing are due to some monitors+display card combinations are not outputting the colors in perfect fit with sRGB gamma curve.

Here attached are two calibration images. Open them in new tab if needed to make sure they aren't scaled by browser. Or if one's monitor is Hi-DPI, make sure the UI scaling is disabled for displaying them.
sRGB-gamma.png
sRGB-gamma.png (10.18 KiB) Viewed 290 times
(source: https://phabricator.kde.org/T4465)
gamma220.png
(source: https://glennmessersmith.com/images/adjust.htm)

For the 1st image, a well tuned computer shall display the black to gray to white palette without seeing darker/lighter small squares in the middle of each black/gray/white boxes.

For the 2nd image, a well tuned computer shall display the grayscale from white to black boringly, without seeing cyan/magenta/yellow/black stripes within drawn from top to bottom.

How strong these artifacts are seen in the computer affect how bad antialiasing and especially subpixel antialiasing will perform for that computer.
Last edited by billyswong on Tue Jan 24, 2023 5:33 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Is it possible to adjust for less-smooth font rendering?

Post by Pjotr »

Please generate an overview of your system like this:
- Launch a terminal window (this is how to launch a terminal window);
- Make the terminal window full screen, to avoid chopped lines;
- Copy/paste this command into the terminal:

Code: Select all

inxi -Fxpmrz
(if you type: the letter F is a capital letter, and don't omit the space after inxi!)

Press Enter.

Copy/paste the output into your next message.
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spamegg
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Re: Is it possible to adjust for less-smooth font rendering?

Post by spamegg »

Read through this, there are a lot of tips and hints https://pandasauce.org/post/linux-fonts/
AMRoberts
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Re: Is it possible to adjust for less-smooth font rendering?

Post by AMRoberts »

bin wrote:
Tue Jan 24, 2023 3:37 am
... laptop screens are not the best and the position is not good for long periods of work.

What resolution does the screen run at?
Understood, but the current home environment doesn't have a location for a good desktop monitor

The display is running at 1600 x 900
There's a whole road of pain available to you in various configurations involving tweaks to fonts.conf
...
Not an ideal answer (and as a long time bitmap font lover myself) you might like to try a slightly lateral approach of hunting down a modern bitmap style truetype font. This may be a good starting place - set the font size to 10 - 16 to get an idea of the results https://www.fontsaddict.com/font/category/bitmap/page-1
Thanks, I'll take a look. 'Lateral approach' sounds like it might be an easier path to try than the 'whole road of pain' :D

Cheers,
Alan
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Re: Is it possible to adjust for less-smooth font rendering?

Post by AMRoberts »

billyswong wrote:
Tue Jan 24, 2023 5:26 am
Since you didn't describe which distribution you are running, I assume you are running Linux Mint Cinnamon edition here.
Correct, I'll attach details per Pjotr's post
Here attached are two calibration images. Open them in new tab if needed to make sure they aren't scaled by browser. Or if one's monitor is Hi-DPI, make sure the UI scaling is disabled for displaying them.
...
Unfortunately, this laptop's display fails on both images ... I see smaller squares within the squares on the first, and the cyan/magenta/yellow/black stripes.

Is there any control/application I could install to provide any adjustment?

Thanks,
Alan
AMRoberts
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Re: Is it possible to adjust for less-smooth font rendering?

Post by AMRoberts »

Pjotr wrote:
Tue Jan 24, 2023 5:29 am
Please generate an overview of your system like this:

Code: Select all

alan@Pepsodent:~$ inxi -Fxpmrz
System:    Kernel: 5.4.0-137-generic x86_64 bits: 64 compiler: gcc v: 9.4.0 Desktop: Cinnamon 5.0.7 
           Distro: Linux Mint 20.2 Uma base: Ubuntu 20.04 focal 
Machine:   Type: Laptop System: LENOVO product: 41717FU v: ThinkPad T420s serial: <filter> 
           Mobo: LENOVO model: 41717FU serial: <filter> UEFI: LENOVO v: 8CET61WW (1.41 ) date: 02/18/2016 
Battery:   ID-1: BAT0 charge: 33.6 Wh condition: 33.6/39.0 Wh (86%) model: SANYO 42T4845 status: Full 
Memory:    RAM: total: 15.52 GiB used: 2.41 GiB (15.5%) 
           RAM Report: permissions: Unable to run dmidecode. Root privileges required. 
CPU:       Topology: Dual Core model: Intel Core i7-2640M bits: 64 type: MT MCP arch: Sandy Bridge rev: 7 L2 cache: 4096 KiB 
           flags: avx lm nx pae sse sse2 sse3 sse4_1 sse4_2 ssse3 vmx bogomips: 22326 
           Speed: 797 MHz min/max: 800/3500 MHz Core speeds (MHz): 1: 797 2: 797 3: 797 4: 797 
Graphics:  Device-1: Intel 2nd Generation Core Processor Family Integrated Graphics vendor: Lenovo driver: i915 v: kernel 
           bus ID: 00:02.0 
           Device-2: NVIDIA GF119M [NVS 4200M] vendor: Lenovo driver: N/A bus ID: 01:00.0 
           Display: x11 server: X.Org 1.20.13 driver: modesetting unloaded: fbdev,vesa resolution: 1600x900~60Hz 
           OpenGL: renderer: Mesa DRI Intel HD Graphics 3000 (SNB GT2) v: 3.3 Mesa 21.2.6 direct render: Yes 
Audio:     Device-1: Intel 6 Series/C200 Series Family High Definition Audio vendor: Lenovo driver: snd_hda_intel v: kernel 
           bus ID: 00:1b.0 
           Device-2: NVIDIA GF119 HDMI Audio vendor: Lenovo driver: snd_hda_intel v: kernel bus ID: 01:00.1 
           Sound Server: ALSA v: k5.4.0-137-generic 
Network:   Device-1: Intel 82579LM Gigabit Network vendor: Lenovo ThinkPad T520 driver: e1000e v: 3.2.6-k port: 5080 
           bus ID: 00:19.0 
           IF: enp0s25 state: down mac: <filter> 
           Device-2: Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6205 [Taylor Peak] driver: iwlwifi v: kernel port: 4000 bus ID: 03:00.0 
           IF: wlp3s0 state: up mac: <filter> 
Drives:    Local Storage: total: 931.51 GiB used: 38.71 GiB (4.2%) 
           ID-1: /dev/sda vendor: Mushkin model: MKNSSDRE1TB size: 931.51 GiB 
Partition: ID-1: / size: 191.19 GiB used: 13.98 GiB (7.3%) fs: ext4 dev: /dev/sda2 
           ID-2: /boot/efi size: 548.9 MiB used: 6.0 MiB (1.1%) fs: vfat dev: /dev/sda1 
           ID-3: /home size: 688.13 GiB used: 24.73 GiB (3.6%) fs: ext4 dev: /dev/sda3 
           ID-4: swap-1 size: 30.27 GiB used: 988 KiB (0.0%) fs: swap dev: /dev/sda4 
Sensors:   System Temperatures: cpu: 46.0 C mobo: N/A 
           Fan Speeds (RPM): cpu: 3578 
Repos:     No active apt repos in: /etc/apt/sources.list 
           Active apt repos in: /etc/apt/sources.list.d/additional-repositories.list 
           1: deb https://dl.winehq.org/wine-builds/ubuntu/ focal main
           Active apt repos in: /etc/apt/sources.list.d/google-chrome.list 
           1: deb [arch=amd64] http://dl.google.com/linux/chrome/deb/ stable main
           Active apt repos in: /etc/apt/sources.list.d/official-package-repositories.list 
           1: deb http://packages.linuxmint.com uma main upstream import backport
           2: deb http://archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu focal main restricted universe multiverse
           3: deb http://archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu focal-updates main restricted universe multiverse
           4: deb http://archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu focal-backports main restricted universe multiverse
           5: deb http://security.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/ focal-security main restricted universe multiverse
           6: deb http://archive.canonical.com/ubuntu/ focal partner
           Active apt repos in: /etc/apt/sources.list.d/skype-stable.list 
           1: deb [arch=amd64] https://repo.skype.com/deb stable main
           Active apt repos in: /etc/apt/sources.list.d/teams.list 
           1: deb [arch=amd64] https://packages.microsoft.com/repos/ms-teams stable main
           Active apt repos in: /etc/apt/sources.list.d/teamviewer.list 
           1: deb [signed-by=/usr/share/keyrings/teamviewer-keyring.gpg] https://linux.teamviewer.com/deb stable main
Info:      Processes: 264 Uptime: 1d 23h 47m Init: systemd runlevel: 5 Compilers: gcc: 9.4.0 Shell: bash v: 5.0.17 
           inxi: 3.0.38 
alan@Pepsodent:~$ 
AMRoberts
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Re: Is it possible to adjust for less-smooth font rendering?

Post by AMRoberts »

spamegg wrote:
Tue Jan 24, 2023 5:54 am
Read through this, there are a lot of tips and hints https://pandasauce.org/post/linux-fonts/
Will give it a read.

Thanks,
Alan
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Re: Is it possible to adjust for less-smooth font rendering?

Post by Pjotr »

I recommend to install Mint 21.1 Cinnamon and to take it from there (a fresh install is best, so no in-place upgrade). Newer drivers, newer graphics subsystem, newer Cinnamon.

With a bit of luck the defaults will then be already more to your liking. And troubleshooting will be easier, because most forum helpers will be running 21.1 themselves.
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Re: Is it possible to adjust for less-smooth font rendering?

Post by billyswong »

AMRoberts wrote:
Tue Jan 24, 2023 11:31 pm
billyswong wrote:
Tue Jan 24, 2023 5:26 am
Here attached are two calibration images. Open them in new tab if needed to make sure they aren't scaled by browser. Or if one's monitor is Hi-DPI, make sure the UI scaling is disabled for displaying them.
...
Unfortunately, this laptop's display fails on both images ... I see smaller squares within the squares on the first, and the cyan/magenta/yellow/black stripes.

Is there any control/application I could install to provide any adjustment?
Take my monitor as example, those little squares look subtle in Standard / sRGB / Rec.709 mode, more apparent in Reading mode, and very obvious in DCI-P3 / Scenery / Darkroom mode. In those non-conforming modes, they make some little squares a lot darker or lighter than the surrounding boxes.

Perhaps because my new monitor is expensive enough, I got a lot of knobs and settings to tune within the monitor, so no need of extra software or hardware to achieve a good enough result.

For professional monitor profiling and calibration, there is DisplayCAL for one to install, which is available in software manager as Flatpak format. But I haven't figured out how to tune a monitor with that program without assistance of an hardware calibrator. And since my monitor at home is not that bad, I haven't spent much effort on that, sorry.

But if you have no problem in spending quite a lot on colorimeter (example: https://www.amazon.com/Datacolor-Spyder ... B07M6KPJ9K) then the procedure is straightforward.
AMRoberts
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Re: Is it possible to adjust for less-smooth font rendering?

Post by AMRoberts »

Pjotr wrote:
Wed Jan 25, 2023 4:49 am
I recommend to install Mint 21.1 Cinnamon and to take it from there (a fresh install is best, so no in-place upgrade). ...
Pjotr, it is perhaps a good thing that the support forum can't carry the agonized sigh/groan I made while reading this :(, as I contemplated the time I've spent on this system after the original installation that (at least in part) would have to be done again.

I thought that the Mint team had (after a lot of hard work) made in-place upgrades a successful procedure. Just to confirm, your view is that this is not the case, without a fresh install the root partition ends up with junk files and other stuff left over from the previous system?

Thanks,
Alan
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Re: Is it possible to adjust for less-smooth font rendering?

Post by Pjotr »

AMRoberts wrote:
Wed Jan 25, 2023 6:32 pm
Pjotr wrote:
Wed Jan 25, 2023 4:49 am
I recommend to install Mint 21.1 Cinnamon and to take it from there (a fresh install is best, so no in-place upgrade). ...
Pjotr, it is perhaps a good thing that the support forum can't carry the agonized sigh/groan I made while reading this :(, as I contemplated the time I've spent on this system after the original installation that (at least in part) would have to be done again.

I thought that the Mint team had (after a lot of hard work) made in-place upgrades a successful procedure. Just to confirm, your view is that this is not the case, without a fresh install the root partition ends up with junk files and other stuff left over from the previous system?

Thanks,
Alan
In many cases an invasive in-place upgrade from one Mint series (20.x) to another (21.x), involving a whole new Ubuntu codebase, is successful.

However, you're currently experiencing problems, which you've already tried to fix. This makes the case for a fresh install stronger than usual.
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Keep your Linux Mint healthy: Avoid these 10 fatal mistakes
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