Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Terminals and true type fonts

Our desktops at Amazon still run piddly old RHEL3. Funny state of affairs that is. Given that RHEL3 is the archaeological coeval of Redhat 9, yes Redhat 9 indeed, that would place it at Circa 2002 in the linux timeline. Anyway, bottomline, RHEL3 is a dinosaur by today's standards.

So given that I spend most of my work life staring at a full screen terminal emulator, settling upon a good one has been a fight given the resources at my disposal. Upgrading stuff is and was always hard given that RHEL3 is on a 2.4 kernel with ancient versions of glibc, gtk and so on.

Anyway, at various points over the past 3 years I've used xterm, aterm and gnome-terminal with mixed feelings for each of them. xterm is mostly crappy and I've got not much to say about it. Aterm is an excellent and superfast terminal but I couldn't get truetype fonts to work on it and hence had to use it with bitmap fonts. And I guess, I am not geek enough to use bitmapped fonts. But anyway, aterm is what I've stuck with mostly given that speed was more important than looks. And gnome-terminal was necessary whenever there was chinese or japanese to be looked at. The default configuration has full utf-8 encoding and font support in addition to being rather pretty with proper true type and all. But then again, the gnome-terminal on rhel3 was too slow for me.

Finally today, I got myself rxvt-unicode (urxvt) and the dejavu font pack and finally have a fast and pretty terminal emulator that I no longer can complain about.

The dejavu fonts are derived from the bitstream vera family of fonts and are developed in a free-software fashion. They're such a big hit in the free-software world that this set of fonts is readily available on a bunch of distributions and is the default set of fonts on ubuntu.

No comments: