Beautiful Font Hinting in Ubuntu 8.10 and 9.04

Even though I have an LCD monitor, I always have the subpixel hinting switched off because it is just painfully ugly to my eyes. Even when hinting is switched to maximum, the fonts are quite blurry (if you don’t believe me, type xmag and take a screenshot of your font. You can see red and blue linese everywhere). My eyes hurt when I see this.

Thanks to Johan Kivinemi I have just found out how to bring back the excellent legacy subpixel hinting engine. This has a much more crisp hinting, and uses subpixels only where it really is an improvement:

Just open these files in your home directory, and copy the content into them:



This should work in Ubuntu 8.04, 8.10, and 9.04 too, and makes all fonts much more crisp. Of course, your mileage may vary.

UPDATE: Comparison Screenshots

As promised on reddit, I got back from an awesome snowboard trip so I am able to put up extensive comparison screenshots of the two subpixel hinting engines. Move your mouse over the following images to see the differences. Watch especially out for letters like “m” where the spacing between the lines is very small. You might have to wait a bit for the image to load.

I have used all of the most important fonts that I usually use, and just for fun I have added “Dijkstra”, which just looks cool.

Sans Fonts

Mouse to see the same fonts with the legacy hinter.


Mono Fonts

Mouse to see the same fonts with the legacy hinter.


Zoomed Comparison Screenhots

Here is an excerpt with 400% magnifications. Mouse over the pictures to see the legacy hinter.

Zoomed Sans


Zoomed Mono


Java 1.5 Collections Hierarchy Graph

Here is an inheritence graph of some of the more important Java collection classes of Java 1.5. Instantiateable classes are blue and rectangular, abstract classes are just rectangular, and interfaces are elliptic. Click on the image for a printable size:

Java Collections Hierarchy Small
Java 1.5 Collections Hierarchy

As a sidenote, have written this post almost a year ago and just found it in my drafts. I have completely forgotten about it! So here it is anyways. And now I remember why I did not post it: becauseit contains only a minor subset of the collections! Thanks Artur Biesiadowski for reminding me about that…

Approximation of sqrt(x) in Java

Yesterday I have played a bit with reinventing a fast approximation for sqrt() in Java. This might be handy with J2ME. Wikipedia has a nice article about Approximations that depend on IEEE representation. My version works, and on my Intel Dual Core with an average error of 1.57%, maximum error 4.02% it is 3.5 times faster than the original sqrt. In addition, it is very simple to improve the precision to 0.000161% average error and 0.000775% maximum error which is then 1.56 times faster than Math.sqrt().


I use floating point tricks based on my pow() approximation. Basically I just took the pow() formula and for a^b I substitued b with 0.5, then simplified this as much as possible. As it turns out the result is very simple and short. This initial approximation can be easily made more precise with Newton’s method:

Here is a comparison of the performance and accurancy versus the number of repetitions:

Repetitions Average
0 1.57% 4.02% 3.53
1 0.000161% 0.000775% 1.56
2 2.51e-8% 3.00e-7 0.838

With 2 repetitions, the trouble is not worth the effort, as the approximation is already slower than the original Math.sqrt() which is more precise.