Making Fedora Not Look Like Ass

 Eric Williams | 22 December, 2013

It's been a while since I monkeyed around with Fedora. 10 years ago, I was all about SuSE; then I bought a PowerBook G4, which was immune to Linux for the most part, but I ran Debian on it a couple of times just to see what PowerPC Linux was looking like. Around 2005, I started using Fedora Core, and actually liked it quite a bit.

When I was toiling away at Red Hat, starting in 2007, I tried to use RHEL on the desktop. This lasted about 2 hours, at which point I blew it away and put Fedora 7 on it and never looked back. I never actually looked forward, either, and wound up running Fedora 7 until I left the company in 2010. This turned out to be a running gag with the team, who scoffed at my old-man-on-the-porch attitude towards newer releases, with their "features" and "SVGA displays".

Once I left Red Hat and started working for Canonical, I put Ubuntu on my MacBook Air; it was enjoyable for the most part. Ubuntu's a nice desktop distribution, and a good match for the MacBook Air's SSD and compact display. By the time Precise came out last year, installation was painless and the hardware support pretty top-notch.

Leaving Canonical, I figured it was time to revisit Fedora. I tore down my Precise installation and went about trying to get Fedora 19 installed. This resulted in gigantic failure, mainly because of this bug. Don't bother trying to install this version, it won't work and you'll just be beating your head against a wall. Go for either Fedora 18 or the Fedora 20 beta.


When you're done installing Fedora 20, you'll notice the fonts look like ASS compared to Ubuntu or Mac OS X. This appears to be due, in part, to the version of Freetype that Fedora uses.

This is taken from here.

  • Install the 'nonfree' version of freetype-freeworld from rpmfusion
  • Set the Xft.lcdfilter property in your Xresources file
  • Set up the hinting and antialising styles in gsettings
$ cat ~/.Xresources
  Xft.lcdfilter: lcddefault
$ gsettings "set" "org.gnome.settings-daemon.plugins.xsettings" "hinting" "slight"
$ gsettings "set" "org.gnome.settings-daemon.plugins.xsettings" "antialiasing" "rgba"
$ xrdb -query
Xft.antialias: 1
Xft.dpi: 96
Xft.hinting: 1
Xft.hintstyle: hintslight
Xft.lcdfilter: lcddefault
Xft.rgba: rgb

Now, I don't know why one has to do that, but one does. After this, you'll notice that the standard fonts start looking great. Even in Terminator.

Missing Fonts

I did find on occasion that I'd run across web pages, emails, etc. that included fonts that, once again, looked like 1997 Linux. Figuring this was because of shit font substitution, I installed the following:

  • Microsoft ttf core fonts
    • Arial
    • Times New Roman
    • Tahoma
    • etc

  • The Ubuntu font collection
  • Mac OS X Fonts

    • Lucida Grande
    • Apple Garamond

Even after doing all of this, though, I still have to put put up with font horridness. DejaVu Sans, specifically. It is jaggy and horrible, and unfortunately it can't be uninstalled because of LibreOffice's ill-advised package dependency on it. It basically just means that whenever I go to Fedora Project sites, I get eye-raped by unreadable fonts.


Despite the eye-rape, I quite like GNOME Shell, and GNOME 3.10 in general. It's a nice, productive desktop, and very attractive to look at. With natural scrolling turned on and apps running full-screen, it's a great match with the MacBook Air.

I do think that it makes inefficient use of my 11-inch screen, though. The title bars in application windows are gigantic, for example, with a big gray stripe that does nothing except waste my pixels and remind you that yes, you are running GNOME 3.

I quite like the fact that when I setup online accounts in the control panel, they actually do something. In Ubuntu, the underlying GNOME infrastructure does less and less, but they don't bother taking out the user interface bits that make you think that when you configure something, it will actually be used somewhere.