Party Season

 

It's party season here in the UK. It seems that almost all office Christmas parties over here take place in pubs. More specifically, they all seem to take place in pubs that I'm trying to have a quiet coffee or beer in. It's difficult to maintain a writer's demeanor, brooding and mysterious, when the table next to you is full of drunken office workers wearing paper crowns, telling bawdy stories, and are basically one step away from falling all together into a gigantic bed of awkward regrets.

This is all pubs now. Every day, every bar, right around noon. Where is a man supposed to have lunch among all this revelry?

 

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas

The Christmas tree is up and decorated. With a Gin & Tonic in one hand, and a Bing Crosby-laden iPod in the other, I provided art direction and even a bit of hands-on while we broke out the decorations and hung the lights. There's nothing like the green, citrusy smell of a pine tree in your living room to drive the point home that you're way, way behind on your Christmas shopping.

This year we went with a mighty Fraser fir, which is unusual for these parts. My wife is flabbergasted at the bushiness, the manliness of this Christmas tree. It stands proud, erect; its foliage thick and its confidence unperturbed by its uprooted status or demeaning duties. In this way, it is much like myself, so I identify with the tree. She calls it The Donald Duck Christmas Tree, since its perfection of form reminds her of the idealized versions you'll find in Disney films and comic books. I'm not sure whether Americans take this to be their Christmas tree to mirror the comics, or the comics mirror the Americans.

Europeans tend to go for either the Norway spruce or the Nordmann fir. Though the Nordmann is renowned for its ability to hold its needles well into its deployment, I find the species kind of spare and sickly-looking. This is what we Americans scoff as The Charlie Brown Christmas Tree. Not without a feeling of superiority.

It's a bit early to put the tree up, seeing as it's only just been the second advent. My wife is German, and she grew up in a household where the tree was brought in and decorated on the evening of the 24th of December. The kids, so it seems, were confined to one part of the house while the dad secretly rushed the tree into place, strung up the lights, and hung the decorations. The mom would keep guard duty over the kids, making sure there was no spying, then sneak the presents into their places at the foot of the tree. Christmas is a time of deceit, stealth, and family intrigues, even in Germany.

Getting Fedora 20 to not look like ass

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.

Antialiasing

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.

  1. Install the ‘nonfree’ version of freetype-freeworld from rpmfusion
  2. Set the Xft.lcdfilter property in your Xresources file:
    $ cat ~/.Resources
    Xft.lcdfilter: lcddefault
  3. Set up the hinting and antialising styles in gsettings:
    $ 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.

jaggy-ass-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.