Webconverger Portal in Chinese

I wanted to spill the discussion of fonts from Mark’s blog and share what little I know on the topic and learn from the lazyweb. :)

So I am localising Webconverger (Web Operating System) and learning as I go.

On my unstable system, I somehow have 179 fonts installed.

monty$ fc-list | wc -l

50 of them are Truetype fonts fonts. Truetype fonts are what get used by your Web browsers rendering engine. I am going to ignore bitmap fonts et al for some simplicity and sanity. I am also not going to talk about hinting and anti-aliasing, though I do have opinions. :)

50 True Type fonts is not helpful considering that these “free fonts” do not really replace the Microsoft Core Fonts (msttcorefont), that everyone uses on the Web.

There are no Microsoft CJK fonts available in Debian or Ubuntu. And ‘free software’ compatibility with proprietary CJK font faces is poor. So free software software platforms in CJK markets suck because of their font legibility.

The leading free fonts like Bitstream Vera Sans and DejaVu Sans look the same to me (actually they are the same, thanks Panthera!) and are seriously boring. I guess they’re comparable to msttcorefont’s Verdana. Great… one down. :) Update: Mike Day informs me this is what Red Hat are doing, developing a set of fonts that are metrically equivalent to the key Microsoft fonts.

DejaVu Sans (our best hope of Freedom so far) has really good i18n coverage, though unfortunately i18n coverage especially with China/Japan/Korea (CJK) markets is complicated.

There are free (as in freedom) CJK fonts though many of these glyphs are really bad quality. Some are OK quality, though they aren’t comparable to the proprietary fonts and hence too often the Web page renders poorly, as it was designed with some other proprietary font in mind. Ouch! Web designers please use ‘em’ units and this problem such as over lapping text could be avoided.

Then some people in China prefer some font over another so this problem gets quite complex. Add Korea and Japan to the mix who also use Chinese characters in their own “special way”.

I’ve been testing out sina.com.cn and taking screenshots.

Sina test rendering, take 2

So I have a Chinese friend and asked him to try a special Chinese specific Debian live build of Webconverger. He says all the Ubuntu geeks use VeraSansYuanTi. However that’s non-free theft, sigh…. My friend also writes:

sorry for Chinese there is no best font.. because China government never try hard for this; all kinds of fonts is some company create; and u know China had so log history so many great beautiful font style .. but not become computer free fonts...

I think the opensource evolution model doesn’t work very well with fonts. They need to be super high quality from the outset. Throwing a bunch of fonts at the problem gets us in our current confused situation. Update: Henri Sivonen wisely points out that “in the case of DejaVu, adding glyphs to Vera as an open source project seems to work”.

I think it would be great if governments could settle on some cultural core fonts for their locality instead of being dictated to by Microsoft, or by whatever proprietary font gains acceptance in other markets.

Since this blog is on Planet Debian and should have a large audience, I want to make one thing clear—VeraSansYuanTi is such a blatant theft that should never be mentioned in a positive light.

Note I didn’t say non-free, and I didn’t say pirate, but theft. Somebody took the Chinese glyphs out of a Chinese proprietary font by Founder (http://www.founder.com/eindex/eindex.asp), stripped out the copyright information, added the English glyphs from Bitstream Vera, and shamelessly started to distribute it under a different name.

I hope everybody can become aware of this, and hopefully eventually nobody will distribute it anymore.

Comment by Ming
Thanks for clarifying this. I did wonder WTF VeraSansYuanTi came from!
Comment by hendry
“Theft” is when you take something from someone, and they don’t have that thing any more, because you have it. This is “copyright infringement,” which is not theft. It’s very refreshing that you were so clear on your choice of words. I guess the next step is figuring out what they actually mean.
Comment by ti zhen
[...] been dragging my heels the last weeks as I am starting to realise a Webconverger image for each locale is too hard on my computing resources. So I am working on getting all the iceweasel-l10n-*, [...]
Comment by Natalian » Blog Archive » Webc activity
[...] on the “web platform” is in a bit of a dire state from a open standards POV. I’ve blogged about fonts before. There are some freely licensed fonts like Dejavu that are pretty good. I wonder how it [...]
Comment by Natalian » Blog Archive » Future of Mobile