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Re: Chord names, Ghostscript and Verdana

From: Graham Percival
Subject: Re: Chord names, Ghostscript and Verdana
Date: Mon, 05 Mar 2007 12:55:04 -0800
User-agent: Thunderbird (Macintosh/20070221)

Brett Duncan wrote:
I'm sure you recall helping me to try and resolve the problem I was having with chord names and the Verdana font. I wanted to let you know where that ended up, mainly because there might be an issue that the developers of Lilypond may need to be aware of.

Actually, I don't remember -- I forget about emails as soon as I reply to them. With all the emails I have on multiple projects, that's the only way I can stay sane. :) That's why it's very important to give me some context when responding to me.

I don't actually know anything about fonts, much less OS-dependent programming, so I'm forwarding this to the -devel list. Hopefully this info will mean something to somebody there.

As you know, chord names would not print for me in the default Verdana font. I had wondered if the font was corrupt and needed replacing, but Apple's Font Book app verified the copies of Verdana on my laptop as clean. I also found that Verdana did not cause problems in any other app on my laptop, either Apple-native or those in my X11 setup (OpenOffice, gimp, etc.). So I concluded at that point that the font was okay and started looking for other answers.

Eventually I went looking on the Ghostscript bug tracker and the GS forums. There were several entries that mentioned font-related issues with ps2pdf, but nothing that gave me a definite direction to follow.

Then I decided, as one last attempt to solve the problem, I would try sourcing a copy of Verdana from somewhere new (the web, of course), on the assumption that perhaps there was some subtle corruption that only LP's version of Ghostscript was choking on. And wonder of wonders, the problem vanished.

Okay, I thought, it was some odd corruption after all.

Then I got an email from one John H. McCoy, a university professor from Texas. He had found my emails to bug-lilypond through Google, but had been unsuccessful in posting to bug-lilypond himself, so he decided to contact me directly. He was experiencing the same problem, only in John's case he was using LP on a linux distro called ZenWalk (a slackware variant, apparently), the problem arose when he upgraded ZenWalk from version 4.2 to 4.4, and the problem font in this case was DejaVuSans.

I told John about my experience, and he did some experimenting on his setup. What he discovered was this:

"I found out that the DejaVu fonts are a work in progress. Supposedly they are an enhancement of the Bitstream Vera font with additional hints or, some such, so that they render better at small sizes ... Anyway ZW linux 4.2 had DejaVu 2.11 installed whereas ZW 4.4 has 2.15. I have GS 8.15 installed in both versions of ZW and either version of the DejaVu fonts works with it. Apparently only the 2.11 version of DejaVu is compatable with the 8.46 version of gs embedded in lilypond."

This reminded me of something else. I had been able to open the PS files from LP with KGhostscript and KPDF and convert them to PDF successfully when the problem first arose. But just before I started searching the Ghostscript forums, I had attempted to use KGhostscript with a particular PS file, only to have it fail. Because I was in a rush I just went back into LP, changed the chord name font-family to Roman, printed and didn't think any more about it. Looking back, I remembered that I had performed an update-all in Fink - I found that GS had moved from version 8.51 to 8.54. So 8.51 didn't have a problem with the Verdana font, but 8.54 did.

So I did a bit more checking - I retrieved a copy of the Verdana font from a colleague and tested it - ps2pdf promptly failed. Put back the copy of Verdana I downloaded from the web, and all is well again. The difference? The copy that fails is version 2.45, the one that works is version 2.35.

Sorry if relating all of this has been a bit tedious, but I'm telling you about it because it's not clear to me whether this is something that the LP developers should be concerned about or not. Clearly there's some problems between recent versions of GS and recent versions of some fonts. So I thought I would run this past you to judge whether this is something the LP developers need to be aware of. Maybe it isn't - if so, I apologise for wasting your time.

John also raised the question about whether a known-to-work version of default fonts for text, chord names, etc., should also be bundled with LP along with the fonts that are currently included - maybe he has a point?


Brett Duncan

(Penal Colony inmate ;-) )

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