I’ve finally got a Linux desktop set up how I want it, with the fewest steps possible.
Step 1: Download and install Ubuntu Linux (“Breezy” has been a big step forward IMO) Step 2: Run the Automatix script to install all the pesky “non-free” stuff (Flash, Java, Windows fonts & media codecs, etc) with a few mouse clicks and no manual tinkering Step 3: Open a terminal, type “dpkg-reconfigure fontconfig”, set Hinting to None, and Sub-pixel Rendering to Always
Step 3 was a revelation. I have long tried to get my Linux desktop fonts to look more closely like Cleartype on Windows. I was long been led to believe that hinting was the answer, and indeed, hinting was a big improvement over no hinting. But in the end, what I wanted was only sub-pixel rendering without hinting interfering with it. All that tinkering with font configuration files and stuff was unnecessary - just turning hinting off and sub-pixel rendering on in Fontconfig was all that I needed.
The Automatix script is something every Linux distro needs. Right now it is a 3rd party project with no shortage of developer drama surrounding it, but as it stands now, it just works. It gets all that non-free stuff installed without any of the hiccups that always seem to accompany doing it yourself.
It’s pretty sweet, and this last Ubuntu install and setup routine has easily been the most painless desktop Linux setup I’ve ever done.