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FreeType Project Cheers TrueType Patent Expiration 203

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the just-wait-it-out-i-guess dept.
FlorianMueller writes "The FreeType project celebrates the expiration of Apple's TrueType bytecode patents. The open source font rendering engine now has the bytecode technology enabled by default. The relevant code existed for some time, but the project felt forced to disable it and advise everyone not to use it due to patent encumbrance. The 20-year maximum of validity of software patents is long, but sometimes the stuff that becomes available is still useful. The Unisys GIF patent was an example. And anything open-sourced 20 years ago would also be patent-free by now (except for the code that has since been added)."
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FreeType Project Cheers TrueType Patent Expiration

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  • Funny Enough... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by wandazulu (265281) on Monday July 19, 2010 @11:59AM (#32951930)

    Apple apparently uses FreeType in the iPhone. Go to settings->General->Legal and you get the long list of projects uses in the iPhone; the Freetype project is mentioned about a third of the way down (right below the copyright notice for ncurses).

    I suppose Apple had no issue recompiling with the flag turned on.

  • by bogaboga (793279) on Monday July 19, 2010 @12:11PM (#32952074)

    Say Microsoft decided to enforce their double-click patent, how would you find a way around it?

    Microsoft cannot be granted a patent on such a thing. What they could patent is the implementation of how events are handled by the system. So double clicking wouldn't be patentable. Under the patent regime today, what they could patent includes the method of effecting a [desired] change after double clicking.

    Please correct me if I am wrong.

  • by ConceptJunkie (24823) on Monday July 19, 2010 @12:15PM (#32952134) Homepage Journal

    Well at least New Zealand seems to be moving in the right direction on that topic.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 19, 2010 @12:30PM (#32952344)

    On the contrary, this sounds one of the worst kinds of patent - it was used as a interoperability lockout.
    You can't "work around it" because the data is stored in a particular format, and the way to read it is patented.

  • From your linked page:

    BTW, anti-aliasing is useful in 2 situations only: if you are rendering fonts in big sizes (bigger than 13px)

    And guess what: LCD subpixel rendering stretches the font outline horizontally by a factor of three as its first step. So if you're rendering a font at 9px, it's as if you were rendering it at 27px across.

    or if you have bad, non-hinted fonts (as Bitstream Vera)

    Case in point: I had to switch a client's web site from Helvetica to Arial (sorry, smug typophile weenies) because Helvetica's hints handle this stretching poorly, causing the upper bowls of letters like m, n, and r to overshoot the x-height by a whole pixel. When FreeType's autohinter performs better than Microsoft ClearType with BCI on Helvetica, something is up.

  • by Dzonatas (984964) on Monday July 19, 2010 @01:07PM (#32952896) Homepage

    if Wine actually renders them itself and sends the resulting bitmaps to the X server, then this will certainly consume more bandwidth than if it just sends the text and font info and lets X render it.

    Mod parent very insightful.

    Some used to pre-render a larger bitmap full of commonly used letters. For example, a 2kx2k bitmap cut into squares for each letter. As letters are needed, an empty square is found and filled with the pre-rendered letter with all anti-aliasing and such applied. Then the program just tells X11 to copy and blend that square to the destination. The bitmap acts like a cache that doesn't have to constantly take up bandwidth to fully send.

    That has worked well except when you get into letters combination that shape differently due to different letters in the combination. For example, the tail of the y may extend further under some scripted letters than others. In others languages besides English, this occurs more often.

    The enable technology the article speaks about could help in this area if the X11 server was optimized to handle such bytecode interpretation internally. Then there is no need to fill the bitmap cache with every combination of shaped letters.

    What some of these anonymous cowards don't realize is the size of the cache needed to store all possible unicode characters combination with all shapes and styles applied, and then you should realize the cache method has become useless.

  • by jeffmeden (135043) on Monday July 19, 2010 @01:11PM (#32952952) Homepage Journal

    Thanks to the free market, there would be no incentive for someone with such a patent to just sit on it for a number of years, unless they also held (and licensed) a patent for "mammalian apparatus of equine variety that facilitates locomotion"...

    Patents are only there to prevent the sort of "clandestine creativity" that surrounds an expensive project that is faced with the very real threat that it will be stolen right out from under the inventors. Look at China for a very real example of why a working (if less than ideal) patent system is better than no patent system: the only reward for creativity is obtained through going to market faster than your competitors, who will undoubtedly "borrow" your creations for their very next product cycle. This leads to one hastily released, poorly developed product after another, with no time spent on refining and perfecting new technologies. Companies with long development cycles like Apple, Cisco, Microsoft, IBM, and others would be completely unviable without a patent system. Love them or hate them, they have made the Western (and patent-friendly) world what it is today.

  • by MBGMorden (803437) on Monday July 19, 2010 @01:23PM (#32953110)

    The illegal immigrants aren't taking anyone's job, because hardly anyone else here will do it. Their claim: take our jobs, please. It's hard work, and we're stealing nobody's job.

    Only to those who don't know any better. I have family members in drywall, and several friends in the masonry business. Most of them are currently unemployed - not for lack of wanting to work, but for the fact that the companies that employed them went under due to not being able to competitively bid against companies using off the books/illegal labor. Other companies are literally bidding less than the break even cost of legit companies because they're paying their labor under the table for less than minimum wage.

    In the construction industry as a whole, it's literally gotten to the point where if a company wants to play by the rules, they're as good as gone. This isn't about Americans not being willing to work hard. I know people who have been doing these jobs for 30+ years working hard for all their lives who now are simply not able to find any work. For the younger generation, it's not too bad. They still have some hope of trying to get on in a different industry that hasn't gone all to hell. The 50+ guys whose main skill is now worthless to an actual American though is SOL.

    I work in IT too - I don't do a menial labor job, but having grown in in the sticks, I know a ton of people who don't/didn't have cushy office jobs. These people have busted their ass for a living, and now their jobs are being handed away to those working for illegally low wages (which are made possible by the fact that they're not paying income taxes - that nagging little thing that reduces the wages of legit workers by 30-40%) just to make the rich richer.

  • by magus_melchior (262681) on Monday July 19, 2010 @01:26PM (#32953136) Journal

    When FreeType's autohinter performs better than Microsoft ClearType with BCI on Helvetica, something is up.

    Well, Microsoft ClearType was designed with the assumption that "better" = "readable on screen", not "faithful to the typeface design".

  • by spitzak (4019) on Monday July 19, 2010 @02:15PM (#32953674) Homepage

    Though you might think so, this is incorrect. In modern fonts far less information is sent by transmitting the bitmap than the font description and this is how all modern font rendering works including on X with XRender.

  • "Improvement". Um... no, the details of what makes the font appear distinctive area destroyed by "BCI". The fonts are not the same -- perhaps in terms of set-width, but not at all for typographic detail.

    I guess "BCI" simply replaces the actual character forms with something else at lower pixel resolutions.

    For example, look at the 13th line in the example - look at the lower case "c" and "d". Notice that the "BCI" version is considerably more open. Indeed, it has become a much more modern font! Note that kerning would then have to change -- since the bodies of the letters are significantly larger, keeping the kerning rules of the original font would result in a very squished look. (actually, I believe the opposite happens these days -- kerning will simply be ignored, or the kerning rules of a modern font such as Times Roman are applied, and the look of the printed copy allowed to deteriorate.)

    At 300dpi resolution, it is very hard to produce proper fonts (I produced a very popular laser printer based proofing system in the 80s -- along with a complement of over 3,000 fonts, for typographers. Hinting at 300dpi did not give accurate enough results for the typographers of the time). At 600dpi it becomes a more reasonable proposition. At typical screen resolutions? Readability and font fidelity are not compatible for classical typefaces. "BCI" may be a solution for you, as long as you realize that what you are seeing on the screen is not actually reflected in print output.

    In general, I recommend that screen fonts be chosen for legibility. Until display technology catches up to 600dpi or greater, you just won't get classical fonts to both reflect readability and artistic intent.

    Using classic fonts as a primary display format for computer monitors is like viewing the Mona Lisa on a monitor encoded as a jpeg.

  • by mcgrew (92797) * on Monday July 19, 2010 @04:08PM (#32955438) Homepage Journal

    Say Microsoft decided to enforce their double-click patent, how would you find a way around it?

    Actually I believe MS copied the double click from Apple and its one button mouse, but I for one wish it HAD been patented. It's a dumb convention, IMO. What would be wrong with having one click highlight, and a second click not dependant on time execute? I mean, single click an icon the second time and nothing happens, why does the second click have to be 1/n long to do anything? The double click really frustrates new computer users, and it's completely unnecessary.

    Now that nearly the whole world has gotten used to this stupid convention, it would be hard to change. Hell, when I first got on the internet I had a hard time with hyperlinks because I wanted to double click them.

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