Rant about "could not open default font"

Matthieu Herrb matthieu.herrb at laas.fr
Mon May 19 23:31:44 PDT 2008

Tiago Vignatti wrote:
> TitCouille Mandriva escreveu:
>> Hello,
>> I just want to rant about the "could not open default font 'fixed'",
>> the "fatal error" that made reinstall 2 times Mandriva Linux. I'm
>> probably just an idiot, for not being to configure things correctly,
>> but I read that it is "by far the most popular Frequently Asked
>> Question" so maybe there's a reason to that. The error is described in
>> http://www.x.org/wiki/FAQErrorMessages but that page was not as
>> usefully as it should be. There's many things described in there that
>> differ from what I see on my system :
>> 1/ FAQ says that the log filename in "/var/log/Xorg.0.log" but mine is
>> "Xorg.9.log". What is the difference?
>> 2/ FAQ says that the font location is specified through FontPath
>> lines. However, I have no such lines in my "/usr/share/X11/xorg.conf".
>> In fact, I have no Files section at all in "xorg.conf". Reading my
>> log, I noticed that the fonts are loaded through a catalogue with
>> dirname "fontpath.d". Why is this not mentioned in the FAQ?
>> First, I found out that the catalogue dirname is specified in
>> "/usr/share/X11/fs/config", where there's a line :
>> catalogue = catalogue:/usr/share/fonts/fontpath.d
>> However, when I went to that directory, I didn't understand anything:
>> how it works, what are the weird "pri=50", etc.
>> Why not use a simple "FixedFont=exact_font_filepath" line? From the
>> little I understood, Xorg currently follows 100 of different symbolic
>> links and configuration lines to reach the real font filename. The
>> problem is that when one of those links or lines breaks, it seems
>> impossible for the average user to recover.
>> 3/ I noticed in my log the following warning :
>> `fonts.dir' not found (or not valid) in "/usr/share/fonts/drakfont".
>> 	Entry deleted from font path.
>> 	(Run 'mkfontdir' on "/usr/share/fonts/drakfont").
>> But I have to say the "mkfontdir" never outputs any message, Just a
>> simple "Successful" message would be enough for me. I type "mkfontdir
>> /usr/share/fonts/drakfont", no output. I type "mkfontdir --help", no
>> output. I type "mkfontdir", without arguments, in the needed
>> directory, no output. Of course, impossible to understand how
>> "mkfontdir" works, what it changes to the twisted system of links and
>> configuration lines.
> Just set --enable-builtin-font to configure.
> (Any complains to put this as default to X compilation?)

Yes. The problems described (except for mkfontdir error reporting) are 
problems with the X packages in specific distributions, not a problem of 
the default configuration shipped by X.Org.

If people ship distributions with missing/corrupted fonts.dir, use 
complicated paths setups with symplings all over the place or change the 
default font path to only include xfs and don't make their X server 
package explicitely depend on xfs, then yes they should fix it.

The default X.Org setup doen't do such things so there's imho no need to 
  embed the default font there.
Matthieu Herrb

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