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Truth Behind the ClearType/OpenSUSE FUD 123

Kennon writes "Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols over at Linux Watch clears up the FUD around Tuesday's Slashdot discussion concerning OpenSUSE, ClearType, and patent deals with Microsoft."
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Truth Behind the ClearType/OpenSUSE FUD

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  • ClearType (Score:3, Funny)

    by Miguel de Icaza ( 660439 ) <> on Thursday April 12, 2007 @08:46AM (#18700881) Homepage Journal
    I think ClearType is a great idea
    • I can't see what all the fuss is about.

      Maybe it's just me but I've turned cleartype on in both Linux (a couple of distros) and Windows and I can't say I like the results.

      I find font rendering in Linux more visually pleasing than that in Windows XP and I turn off the sub-pixel smoothing in Linux because text looks better without it.
      • by LuYu ( 519260 )

        I have to second that. For some reason I regularly forget this. Then I start using someone else's Windows computer, and I suddenly realize how nice my own desktop is. This is also one of the places where Fedora truly outshines Knoppix. KDE's transparent menus are nice, but the fonts are so much prettier in Gnome (Yes, I know I am going to get totally flamed for this;).

        • It depends entirely on your display. On LCD's, especially lower resolution ones, ClearType/font hinting makes things readable, even when scaled way down.
          • I wasn't saying not to use font hinting I was saying that sub-pixel hinting has in my experience (with a variety of LCD displays) proven to be fairly ineffective.

      • SJVN (writer of this article) often bitches about people making fusses about stuff that doesn't matter, and fair enough, its petty and stupid.
  • What a novel idea (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dattaway ( 3088 ) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @08:50AM (#18700919) Homepage Journal
    To come up with an idea, prevent others from working on it, and to claim all work in the area as their own property. And make claims of future work as well: "more patents to come." Sounds like pirating to me. Microsoft is raping and pillaging the software community.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Well except the sub pixel anti-aliasing they claim as their invention was invented by Steve Wozniak a couple of decades earlier.

      So yeh, Microsoft is raping and pillaging the software community. The guy wants to avoid a patent fight spat with Microsoft, he knows he'll win, but the patent nuisance (for a patent that should never have been issued) is the problem here.

      Some people would call it fraud, to apply and continue to use a patent you know had/has prior art.
      • Well except the sub pixel anti-aliasing they claim as their invention was invented by Steve Wozniak a couple of decades earlier.

        I think it was even earlier than that, there were some links in yesterday's discussion to what looks like exactly the same feature, being investigated by Xerox even earlier. The prior art on at least the most general concepts of this (subpixel rendering by switching on individual Red, Green, or Blue color elements in a display) seems pretty damning.

        But then again, the prior art against Microsoft's FAT patents was pretty damning too, and it even went through two USPTO reviews that said the patents should be invalidated, but at the 11th hour there was an additional review and suddenly they were "novel and non-obvious" again. Makes you wonder exactly Microsoft has by the short hairs that made a phone call to smooth things over... If they really need these patents, they'll never be overturned regardless of the obviousness of the prior art; the patent system is too thoroughly corrupt.
    • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

      by u8i9o0 ( 1057154 )

      Microsoft is raping and pillaging the software community.
      You must be new here.

      Oh, wait. dattaway (3088)?

      /me head explodes

  • by 10scjed ( 695280 ) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @08:51AM (#18700927) Homepage
    This change was last summer, pre-microvell, so the news actually would have been if OpenSUSE was enabling it and taking advantage of MS' patent covenant for Novell customers and OpenSUSE contributors while other distros couldn't.

    MS' plan to fragment the community is only effective if Novell has customers and developers supporting them, otherwise the covenant is irrelevant. Boycott Novell, the rest takes care of itself.
    • if Novell has customers and developers supporting them

      You reap what you sow. Novell exposed themself to any FUD by going to bed with MS. Now everything they do (whatever it will be FOSS friendly or commercial) will be taken into MS deal context. It will just get harder and harder to wash off mud thrown by others.

      Not that I think FUD is a weapon FOSS supporters should use. But a bit of paranoia is healthy. :-P

      • First you say FUD is natural and to be expected. OK. Then you actually say it's healthy? Whatever happened to passing informed judgement?
        • I wasn't clear, then. My point was: yes, there will be FUD. No, we shouldn't participate. Yes, we should be careful and learn from history.

          Whatever happened to passing informed judgement?

          C'mon, give a non-native-speaker a break. ;-)

    • by kripkenstein ( 913150 ) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @09:55AM (#18701629) Homepage

      This change was last summer, pre-microvell, so the news actually would have been if OpenSUSE was enabling it and taking advantage of MS' patent covenant for Novell customers and OpenSUSE contributors while other distros couldn't.
      Yes. I submitted the previous story about this matter, and I stand corrected. I didn't know everything about the issue; I relied on the sources reporting on it, and mainly, the whole matter seemed suspicious, and I thought posting it to Slashdot would shine some light on it. Not 100% sure if doing so had an influence, but what matters in the end is that things are now clarified.

      From my standpoint, the interesting issue that remains is what I mentioned in the little comment at the end of my submission for the previous story: ok, assuming there are MS patents on this technology, isn't Novell licensed to use them now (even if it "isn't a patent license", but it just acts like one)? Apparently the Microsoft-Novell deal doesn't help openSUSE out much with regard to MS patents. Is the same true for SUSE?
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by G Money ( 12364 ) *
        This wasn't a cross patent license between them, just an agreement not to sue each others customers. They can still sue the hell out of each other for patent infringement. Both Novell and Microsoft have large patent portfolios so it's a bit like the cold war where either side could drop a patent litigation bomb on the other but they both have a huge arsenal to counterattack with. The agreement they made was more of a form of detentes than anything else. Novell can't use any of Microsoft's patents and Mi
    • Your two statements seem to contradict each other. If Novell doesn't embed technologies covered by MS patents, then there isn't any real reason to boycott them. MS' plan only works if Novell does embed those technologies.
    • by samkass ( 174571 )
      MS' plan to fragment the community

      I'm no fan of Microsoft, but I call shennanigans... the "community" is going to fragment itself more with GPLv3 than anything Microsoft could have dreamed of. (Maybe Microsoft has been subliminally encouraging Stallman to push GPLv3 in his sleep?) If fragmentation is your worry, open source seems to encourage it anyway.

  • by Billosaur ( 927319 ) * <(wgrother) (at) (> on Thursday April 12, 2007 @08:59AM (#18701003) Journal

    However, Lowry continued, "In this specific case, the ClearType font is supplied as part of the freetype2 package; last summer the upstream maintainer changed the package's default settings to disable Clear Type and thereby avoid possibly relevant Microsoft patents. So, consistent with Novell's preexisting practices and current policy, Novell is using the default settings established by the upstream maintainer. Distributions such as Fedora made the same choice. This issue only came up in the summer of 2006 and therefore older distributions are using the previous default (enabled ClearType)."

    So it would seem that the disabling of FreeType is more coincident than anything else. It's possible for parallel processes to affect the same thing but have no overt connection.

  • by michaelmalak ( 91262 ) <> on Thursday April 12, 2007 @09:09AM (#18701117) Homepage
    Microsoft has come up with some outstanding products and inventions over the years:
    1. 1991: Word for Windows 2.0
    2. 1992: Excel 4.0
    3. 1993: Visual Basic 3.0
    4. 1996: Windows NT 4.0
    5. 2001: ClearType
    Notice any clustering of the dates? With hundreds of billions in revenue, all they can produce in over a decade is ClearType? Let them have it -- we'll live with seeing our font pixels.
    • by ACMENEWSLLC ( 940904 ) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @09:40AM (#18701493) Homepage
      Microsoft may have a patent on ClearType, but they didn't invent it. We did the same thing in the Commodore 64 days with regards to fonts in graphics. I clearly recall zooming in on text and seeing different colors in the transition from text to background. I've spent many hundred hours doing graphic arts on the Commodore 64 and have been published.

      I guess prior art doesn't apply to patents anymore?

      "Sub-pixel font rendering with Free&Clear - Microsoft says they invented their "ClearType" technology, but I quickly and independently "invented" the same thing . . . as had others who came years before. It is very cool, but rather obvious. " []
      • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        There's more to sub-pixel font rendering than just manipulating individual color values to add detail. An image processing filter is involved (just read the GRC article for an example of one), which may be patentable, even if the basic idea is not.

        Microsoft's ClearType seems to combine the old Truetype bytecode hinting instructions with sub-pixel detail, filtering the results to remove color fringing. IMHO this results in the most readable text I've ever seen on a computer monitor.
      • by mstahl ( 701501 )
        You were seeing the phosphors on a CRT. Totally different animal.
      • by davevr ( 29843 )

        I guess prior art doesn't apply to patents anymore?

        If you would bother to read the patents, you would see that the techniques that Microsoft is patenting here have ZERO to do with the color-clock splitting that we had on the old Atari and Apple machines back in the day.

        And as far as your app - boy, what we can say here. You read an article about something, implement a bad version of it, and then claim that counts as an "independent invention"?


        • >>Picture elements on an LCD screen are actually comprised of individual horizontally-oriented red, green and blue sub-pixels. For instance, an LCD screen that has a display resolution of 800x600 pixels actually has 2400x600 individual sub-pixels. The human eye is not capable of differentiating colors on such a small scale, so a combination of these three primary colors can emulate any intermediate color. Sub-pixel font rendering takes advantage of this by antialiasing at the sub-pixel level instead o
  • by mtec ( 572168 ) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @09:19AM (#18701229)
    Ballmer asked his lawyers for a patent on his peener
    The prototype was quarter scale and looked like a pipe cleaner
    Prior art be damned! He told the counsels - get to working!
    I can prove it's novel just by bellowing and jerking!
  • I did a 'less * | grep ClearType' in several of the directories in the FreeType source tree, and could not find the mentioned files.

    Anyone know where they are at?
    • Try running

      egrep -ri "cleartype" * | less -S

      from the top of the source tree. I only have the source for 2.1.10 handy right now and it just shows up in the ChangeLog.
      • Thanks, I have 2.2.1 and I got:

        freetype2 > egrep -ri "cleartype" * | less -S
        work/freetype-2.2.1/ChangeLog.20: `ClearType-like' rendering.

        so, it doesn't appear to be there either.
  • by GroundBounce ( 20126 ) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @09:39AM (#18701491)
    First off, despite the popularity of bashing SuSE these days, most or all "purist" linux distros do the same thing, this is not just a Novell/SuSE issue. By "purist", I am referring to distros which try to stay as close to 100% open source and patent-infringment-free as possible. Fedora is the prime example of such a distro, even more so than SuSE. On whole, fedora is even more conservative than SuSE, and also has Freetype compiled in its non-patent-infringing way, yet, hypocritically, none of the SuSE bashers are bashing Fedora over this.

    Second, the deal between Novell and Microsoft regarding patents was an agreement not to sue Novell's customers over patent infringement. While this might be viewed as a "patent license", it is not an explicit license and thus very limited. The implication is that it would only cover inadvertent patent violations, for example by redistributing someone elses software. Novell probably still has an obligation not to infringe any patents that it has not been granted an explicit license to use.
    • by 10scjed ( 695280 )
      Second, the deal between Novell and Microsoft regarding patents was an agreement not to sue Novell's customers over patent infringement. While this might be viewed as a "patent license", it is not an explicit license and thus very limited.

      That's why the new GPLv3 draft now includes a definition of "patent license" to include deals structured in this devious manner:

      GPLv3 Draft 3 S.11 [] For purposes of the following three paragraphs, a "patent license" means a patent license, a covenant not to brin

      • Why has no one remarked on the absurdity of this clause in the GPLv3? It's demanding the enforcement of patents! Next thing you know RMS will be claiming black is white.

        If I have a patent, but deliberately choose not to enforce it, and give you a document stating I will not enforce it, the GPL says YOU are the Evil Man. As I've stated before, I can easily understand why Microsoft is on the bad end of the stick here, but I still cannot fathom why Novell is the child of Satan. Microsoft promises not to sue No
  • Ok, software is just instructions for your computer right?, sort of like a receipe for you computer to "cook". That being the case and the fact that software code (instructions) can be patented. Then I have a very, very good idea. I'm going to patent receipes, I'll start with breads, then everyone will need to get their bread reciepes from me. What do you think?
  • by bug1 ( 96678 ) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @09:55AM (#18701625)
    Not all countries recognise software patents, so i assume this patents doesnt apply in all countries.

    Why do we force software patents on people who live in non-software patent countries ?
    • Because then companies in those countries would have a competitive advantage over ones in the patent encumbered ones. That just wouldn't be fair.
      • Sorry, this is bulls... and one of the most stupid arguments of the pro-patent lobby.

        Nobody stops companies to operate in multiple countries.

        If company A has patent protection in country A, company B is bound to it in country A. Same vice versa. Hence, both companies have the same chances and possibilities. (Foreign companies can apply for patents in the US, you know)

        Also in Country B, where sw-pats are not available, both companies have equal possibilities.
      • So the right of companies to compete in the global market undoes the rights of sovereign nations to make the laws that suit them? Even if so, the playing field is not made the least bit unlevel by different laws. Companies from non-patent countries would still have to comply with laws in patent countries, and vice-versa.
        • It's not so simple. Modern manufacturing takes place on multiple continents and is assembled in different countries. Who's to say that making a part of a device that is patented in one country and assembling it in another where the patent doesn't apply is illegal? This is actually one of the premises behind AT&T vs. Microsoft(still to be decided).

          Don't forget, in a global economy, you can order directly from overseas where the product will arrive in a brown box, uninspected and unverified against local
    • A lot of OSS is developed in the USA, and a lot of open source consumers are in the USA. These often don't want to use software with patent problems due to threat (wether FUD or not) of litigation. Neither should you assume that your country will always be free from software patents (US diplomacy has a long arm.) To ignore a market as large as the US probably doesn't weigh as much as being able to ignore patents.
    • by jZnat ( 793348 ) *
      Most [English] Linux distributions are based in the US (or in another country where software patents are enforced), so they try to stay clean. If someone made a Linux distro along the mindset of MPlayer (i.e., fuck patents) in a country where software patents don't exist (e.g., eastern Europe for sure, or the EU in general), that could have the potential to be an "ultimate" distribution.

      Although, I just recently tried out Ubuntu 7.04 (I typically use Kubuntu or Debian with KDE), and the ease of which you c
  • by toby ( 759 ) * on Thursday April 12, 2007 @10:35AM (#18702069) Homepage Journal
    It's not as if FreeType and MS' are the only subpixel technologies around; OS X has had it since version 10.3. Microsoft's isn't even particularly good, compared to the others.

    At least the brouhaha, while a waste of energy and attention like all FUD, is strong evidence, if any more were required, that software patents are a bad idea.
    • by TheMeld ( 13880 )
      OSX, CoolType? FAH! The Apple I/II used sub-pixel rendering to display things nicely on a tv screen.
      • by ajs318 ( 655362 )
        Sub-pixel rendering on a tube TV would only work if it was a Trinitron, which have parallel bands of phosphor. Conventional CRTs have dots of phosphor arranged in triangles.
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by TheMeld ( 13880 )
          If you know the positioning of each of the three dots, you can still do a certain amount of sub-pixel rendering, just not in quite the same way. Doing some more research, I think this was just on the Apple II, which may well have used a trinitron tube and thus used the same style of subpixel rendering as ClearType/CoolType/etc.

          c.f. []
        • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Thursday April 12, 2007 @11:58AM (#18703199) Journal
          You can still do sub-pixel AA on a CRT, you just can't use the same algorithm as on an LCD. The trick behind sub-pixel AA is to realise that any adjacent group of red green and blue emitters can be regarded as a pixel, not just those that are exposed as a pixel by the hardware. On an LCD, it's easy because you have a nice regular RGBRGBRGB pattern. You can trea a GBR, BRG or RGB run as a pixel, and just alter the colours for the hardware pixels to turn on the individual emitters as required. For CRTs, it's a little bit more difficult, but it's still possible.
  • Ok, so I'm late to the party, and this might be a little off-topic, but... well, patent issues aren't new for the FreeType devs. They used to (I think its gone now) have an #ifdef for a rendering technique that, like this one, was by default disabled. That particular one (I forget what it covered) infringed on patents held by Apple. It was off by default to keep the default build of the library OSS-friendly. Anyway, to make a long story short, the FT devs did eventually develop a better alternative to A
  • While the issue with ClearType is clearly not limited to Novell or SUSE (pick your flavor), that does not mean that Microsuck's patents are not an issue. This is an example of software patents affecting any users with a current distro.

    While it turns out that Novell did not enable the functionality in their distro, there is still a possibility that they could enable it and claim that the rest of the Linux userbase could not. There is also the problem of sofware patents which do exist, and the fact tha

  • The fanatics at FSF who want to destroy Suse in order to promote their "free" (read: we're in charge of what software you're allowed to use) software agenda jumped all over this before any facts were known.

    Kudos to Steve for doing what journalists should do - find out the facts and present them clearly.

    • Kudos to Steve for doing what journalists should do - find out the facts and present them clearly.

      Because of this, he'll never be able to work in the journalism business ever again. Think of his starving children, donate now...

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