Squeeze, Fonts, Firefox update

This is good.

This morning I finished upgrading a Lenny installation to Squeeze. (For those of you who might know what's coming next, this installation had the plain old standard libcairo2 -- no patches of any sort.) So far things seem to be just fine. But it's Debian and so this is no big surprise. This is not why I'm writing this post.

The reason for writing this post is to let you know that indeed the rumors are true. Installing Iceweasel 5 from http://mozilla.debian.net/ solves three problems that have plagued lots of Linux users:
  1. Obsolete Iceweasel/Firefox.
  2. Ugly font rendering with official Firefox binaries.
  3. Ugly font rendering everywhere on the system.
You heard it right, folks. Installing Iceweasel 5 in Squeeze brings in a version of libcairo2 with all the yummy Ubuntu font rendering goodness. Like I said, this is good.

But there are a couple small gotchas:

Confusing instructions
The directions given at http://mozilla.debian.net/ are complete, but the order in which the info is given is confusing. So here is what you need to do, in the order in which you need to do it.
  1. Add the following entry to /etc/apt/sources.list or a new file in /etc/apt/sources.list.d/:
    deb http://mozilla.debian.net/ squeeze-backports iceweasel-release
  2. Add the archive key to your apt keyring:
    # wget -O- -q http://mozilla.debian.net/archive.asc | gpg --import

  3. Import it into the APT keyring:
    # gpg --export -a 06C4AE2A | sudo apt-key add -

  4. Update the repository database:
    # apt-get update

  5. Install Iceweasel 5 with the following command:
    # apt-get install -t squeeze-backports iceweasel

Configuring fonts
After I did the above, fonts were still not quite right. So I added the ~/.fonts.conf  file posted here here*. (Blogger, please make it possible to post code with angled brackets!!)

I don't know which is the magic setting responsible for letting the fonts come out all pretty (I suspect lcdfilter), but I'm happy enough with the results now that I'll just be using the setup for a while. It's only a process of elimination to figure out which setting is the key, and once it's found it should be an easy matter to make these the system default so you don't need the ~/.fonts.conf file.

[update 2011-07-11: Changed sources.list addition to reflect changes at http://mozilla.debian.net/.] 
*[update 2011-07-01: I added rgba settings for completeness.]


Eduardo Leones said…
What is your assessment? The fonts have become more beautiful with this method?
Mithat said…
@Eduardo Leones: Oh, yes -- I'm very happy with the results. Mind you, some people prefer the old-style rendering, so your mileage may vary.
giaPelle said…
This is a great tip.
Thanks a lot!
This worked for me---although not immediately. I did a reboot, and the fonts seemed slightly better---and then I fiddled with the Fonts settings under Appearance Preferences a little (right-click on the desktop to access it), changed Hinting to None, and there--the fonts became as sweet as they are in Ubuntu! (I had installed Ubuntu fonts). So, thank you for your post ...
The fonts are easier on the eyes now. Beauty is irrelevant. We want fonts that won't strain the eyes, and this method achieves it. Thank you!
Greg Smith said…
Been waiting for this font issue to be sorted out since I installed Squeeze, just did this big visual upgrade on every system I own. One extra step may be necessary. If you get errors about xulrunner, that's because you also need to have the regular squeeze backports available too, for some of the new Iceweasel's dependencies that aren't in the Mozilla repo. To fix that, add this line in the /etc/apt/sources.list too:

deb http://backports.debian.org/debian-backports squeeze-backports main

Then start again at the apt-get update step.
Imran said…
Thanks very much for the procedure! I have recently left Ubuntu for Debian (I could not be as efficient with Unity as Gnome 2.x) and your method makes everything much smoother and easier on the eyes. Here's hoping this is the default on Wheezy.

Now of only they could fix touchpad scrolling on my Dell Latitude E6410 and the weird way the cursor flips around while typing...
Mithat said…
@Imran: I autorun a one-line script on login that uses synclient (http://linux.die.net/man/1/synclient) to set/fix some of my touchpad settings (two finger scrolling, FTW!).

I use the procedure described elsewhere on this blog (http://lovingthepenguin.blogspot.com/2010/10/enabling-touchpad-clicking-and-edge.html) to make system-wide changes.

In either case, to see what settings are available for your touchpad, run 'synclient -l'. I was amazed by the list. I hope you find something there that fixes your problem(s).
Imran said…
@Mithat - thanks again. What laptop model do you have? I assume Debian Squeeze? After much Googling, looking on Bug trackers and discussion on Freenode #debian I came to the conclusion that a driver issue is causing touchpad problems on newer Dell laptops (mine is a Latitude E6410). The touchpad is detected as a PS/2 mouse.

# dmesg | grep input
[ 8.506633] input: PS/2 Generic Mouse as /devices/platform/i8042/serio1/input/input8

# synclient -l
Couldn't find synaptics properties. No synaptics driver loaded?

I've been using tpconfig but it has no effect on the touchpad AFAICT.


# fix to try?
Mithat said…
@Imran I'm running Wheezy on an eMachines D620, an Acer One 532h, and a Toshiba M45-269S; Squeeze on a Samsung R510 (haven't gotten around to moving it Wheezy) and an 800MHz Acer Travelmate 508T (still works!!!)

Your touchpad issue sounds like fun :-/ I just Googled "linux touchpad recognized as PS/2 mouse," and the problem seems not uncommon with non-Synaptics touchpads across distributions. If you find a solution please report back!
Anonymous said…
A better way to configure fonts (after updating Iceweasel) would be to replace the /etc/fonts directory with that in the ubuntu package font-config (http://packages.ubuntu.com/natty/all/fontconfig-config/download)

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