[Long] Do we need a font SIG ?

Nicolas Mailhot nicolas.mailhot at laposte.net
Fri Sep 14 11:52:15 UTC 2007

Hi all

[I wanted to prepare a bit more before writing this, but it seems
everyone is asking about the same things at once, so this will have to

I'd like know what people think of setting up a font SIG, and if there
are enough would-be contributors for such a SIG to be viable. Fonts
are a very transversal subject in Fedora, and the initial To: list
reflects this. Please take care to reply on fedora-devel only however.

The situation right now is:

1. we have several font packages in Fedora, but are only scratching
what could be packaged.

2. In particular the art team wants a lot more fonts in for its Art spin

3. I don't believe our font selection is optimal for every locale. It
took a near-revolt by our Greek users to get their situation fixed in
Fedora Core 6, and there are probably many other problem locales,
where users just pass on Fedora or bear their pain silently instead of
telling us about problems.

4. The i18n team is nominally in charge of selecting the best fonts
for each locale, but does not always have the right local contacts to
do so. So far i18n has focused on technical problems : if your locale
needs complex IM methods you have i18n visibility, if your locale
poses no technical challenge but your default fonts are suboptimal the
i18n team may not notice you.

4. The l10n team has local contacts and could provide useful feedback
on font choices, currently packaged font problems, local
foundries/font designers that could be contacted to contribute to the
FLOSS font pool, etc but has mostly focused on translation so far.

5. The desktop team handles our font infrastructure and takes the heat
when a font is badly rendered (since we can not use the patented
freetype autohinter many fonts that work fine under windows do not
under Fedora)

6. We already have some font-related material disseminated on our wiki:
- packaging rules,
- licensing rules
- other

7. The font situation is bad enough we have a font exception to our
FLOSS rules
[for example we ship Luxi even though its licensing forbids
modification, making it non-free

8. There are efforts to drain the font licensing swamp and promote
FLOSS fonts (http://unifont.org/go_for_ofl/), they are aligned with
Fedora general objectives yet Fedora has totally ignored them so far
(cf Liberation licensing choices)

This is a stark contrast with the very active debian font team :
The main part of the OLPC font page is the Debian font list!

I believe there is enough interest in the various Fedora groups to
improve the current situation through a font SIG.

This SIG would be tasked with:
A. providing a single point of entry for Fedora people interested in
fonts, centralizing all our packaging rules or at least indexing them
in a single place
B. completing the existing font packaging documentation
C. helping the i18n team maintain the font install list for each locale
D. identifying fonts worthy of packaging for l10n or art reasons
E. identifying problems in existing font packages and helping relay
the info upstream
F. identifying problems in our font infrastructure, packaging
necessary font tools
G. coordinating and effectively packaging new fonts

As the current maintainer of dejavu, and a co-maintainer of charis and
dejavu-lgc, I am ready to write a commented font spec example (B)
(without legacy core font bits, which IMHO should be optional nowadays
; however I'm sure there are people ready and willing to write this
part as an extension), and package a few fonts (G).

The l10n and i18n groups are naturals for (C). We just have to steal
the Debian receipe of having a font-by-locale table in our wiki.

I think it's pretty obvious the art team is motivated by (E). IMHO the
l10n team should have a role there too. Note that doing the legal
analysis of a potential font is far from easy as font licensing
practices are far less clean than software licensing practices. Also
we should try to build font from sources whenever possible, but font
building is often a mess.

G will demand packagers and reviewers. By nature most of them will be
active in other Fedora forums, so we're not talking of a few full-time
SIG members but a lot of part-time contributors.

I created a mockup wiki page to try to make all this clear
It's far from complete, but I hope it's complete enough to give
everyone an idea of the potential SIG scope.

So, who wants to play? Is Fedora ready for a font SIG or should I ask
again next year?

Kind regards,

Nicolas Mailhot

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