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Old 03-11-2009, 07:07 AM
Paul Hardy
 
Default BDF Considered Harmful?

BDF font files have not been allowed in Debian packages for a while,
as per Debian policy. I emailed Russ Allbery last year about the
possibility of allowing BDF fonts back into Debian for reasons that
follow. He was willing to entertain the idea. I waited for the lenny
release before bringing up this possible change in policy.

Currently BDF fonts are supposed to be converted to PCF. BDF is a
plain ASCII format, and PCF is binary. Thus a PCF font file will be
more compact than its BDF source.

However, the original BDF version can contain ASCII comments that are
not preserved in the PCF version. These comments often contain
information such as author, copyright, and licensing information.
With the BDF versions discarded, that information is lost -- there is
no round-trip conversion from BDF to PCF to BDF. Thus a blind
BDF-to-PCF conversion can discard valuable information the author
intended to remain with the font. This can be significant given the
abundance of BDF fonts in the early history of X11.

In addition, PCF format fonts are gzipped on Debian systems as per
Debian Policy. If BDF fonts are also gzipped, there is little
difference in size between the two formats so the advantage of the
binary PCF format over the ASCII BDF format disappears. In fact I
created a unifont.bdf.gz file for testing and it was a little smaller
than the derivative unifont.pcf.gz file.

A unifont.bdf file worked fine on Debian, and so did the derived
unifont.pcf.gz file, but unfortunately a unifont.bdf.gz file did not.

Is there a possibility of getting .bdf.gz font files to work in
Debian, then allowing .bdf.gz files in Debian font packages, and
updating Debian Policy to allow installation of BDF fonts compressed
with 'gzip -9'?


Paul Hardy
GPG Key ID: E6E6E390


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Old 03-11-2009, 10:15 AM
Richard Atterer
 
Default BDF Considered Harmful?

On Wed, Mar 11, 2009 at 01:07:56AM -0700, Paul Hardy wrote:
> However, the original BDF version can contain ASCII comments that are
> not preserved in the PCF version. These comments often contain
> information such as author, copyright, and licensing information.
> With the BDF versions discarded, that information is lost -- there is
> no round-trip conversion from BDF to PCF to BDF.

My first thought: Could BDF be considered a source format for PCF? The
logical consequence would be to ship BDF in the source package, and to
convert it to PCF when the font package is built.

Cheers,

Richard

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Old 03-11-2009, 10:26 AM
Julien Cristau
 
Default BDF Considered Harmful?

On Wed, 2009-03-11 at 12:15 +0100, Richard Atterer wrote:
> On Wed, Mar 11, 2009 at 01:07:56AM -0700, Paul Hardy wrote:
> > However, the original BDF version can contain ASCII comments that are
> > not preserved in the PCF version. These comments often contain
> > information such as author, copyright, and licensing information.
> > With the BDF versions discarded, that information is lost -- there is
> > no round-trip conversion from BDF to PCF to BDF.
>
> My first thought: Could BDF be considered a source format for PCF? The
> logical consequence would be to ship BDF in the source package, and to
> convert it to PCF when the font package is built.

That's pretty much what happens today, afaik.

Cheers,
Julien


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Old 03-11-2009, 11:14 AM
Bill Allombert
 
Default BDF Considered Harmful?

On Wed, Mar 11, 2009 at 01:07:56AM -0700, Paul Hardy wrote:
> BDF font files have not been allowed in Debian packages for a while,
> as per Debian policy. I emailed Russ Allbery last year about the
> possibility of allowing BDF fonts back into Debian for reasons that
> follow. He was willing to entertain the idea. I waited for the lenny
> release before bringing up this possible change in policy.

Hello Paul,

I would like to clarify that BDF are not allowed in *binary* package, but are
allowed in *source* package.

> Currently BDF fonts are supposed to be converted to PCF. BDF is a
> plain ASCII format, and PCF is binary. Thus a PCF font file will be
> more compact than its BDF source.
>
> However, the original BDF version can contain ASCII comments that are
> not preserved in the PCF version. These comments often contain
> information such as author, copyright, and licensing information.
> With the BDF versions discarded, that information is lost -- there is
> no round-trip conversion from BDF to PCF to BDF. Thus a blind
> BDF-to-PCF conversion can discard valuable information the author
> intended to remain with the font. This can be significant given the
> abundance of BDF fonts in the early history of X11.

I fail to see the difference between a BDF-to-PCF converter and a C compiler
that will discard comments from the C source files. Yet we do not generally
ship C source code in binary packages.

Users that need the BDF files can get it from the source package, so
its is not lost to the user.

Furthermore a cursory use of zless on some pcf.gz in debian seems to
show that copyright information *are* preserved.

Cheers,
--
Bill. <ballombe@debian.org>

Imagine a large red swirl here.


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Old 03-11-2009, 09:21 PM
Stefano Zacchiroli
 
Default BDF Considered Harmful?

On Wed, Mar 11, 2009 at 01:14:03PM +0100, Bill Allombert wrote:
> I fail to see the difference between a BDF-to-PCF converter and a C compiler
> that will discard comments from the C source files. Yet we do not generally
> ship C source code in binary packages.

This is not the right analogy. A C source file by itself cannot be run
without having been compiled while, AFAICT from the given description,
a BDF "source" file can be. Make an analogy with Perl source file, it
will work better: they do have copyright notices and comments, yet we
ship them in binary packages.

A question I have and that hasn't been addressed by the original
request is: what is the advantage to have BDF files in binary
packages? Comments and copyright notices don't look like a real
advantage to me.

Cheers.

--
Stefano Zacchiroli -o- PhD in Computer Science PostDoc @ Univ. Paris 7
zack@{upsilon.cc,pps.jussieu.fr,debian.org} -<>- http://upsilon.cc/zack/
Dietro un grande uomo c' ..| . |. Et ne m'en veux pas si je te tutoie
sempre uno zaino ...........| ..: |.... Je dis tu tous ceux que j'aime
 
Old 03-11-2009, 09:26 PM
Brian May
 
Default BDF Considered Harmful?

Stefano Zacchiroli wrote:
> This is not the right analogy. A C source file by itself cannot be run
> without having been compiled while, AFAICT from the given description,
> a BDF "source" file can be. Make an analogy with Perl source file, it
> will work better: they do have copyright notices and comments, yet we
> ship them in binary packages.
>

With Perl you have no choice. AFAIK there is no binary Perl format.

> A question I have and that hasn't been addressed by the original
> request is: what is the advantage to have BDF files in binary
> packages? Comments and copyright notices don't look like a real
> advantage to me.
>

Copyright notices belong in /usr/share/doc/package/copyright.

--
Brian May <brian@microcomaustralia.com.au>


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Old 03-11-2009, 09:44 PM
Stefano Zacchiroli
 
Default BDF Considered Harmful?

On Thu, Mar 12, 2009 at 09:26:07AM +1100, Brian May wrote:
> > A question I have and that hasn't been addressed by the original
> > request is: what is the advantage to have BDF files in binary
> > packages? Comments and copyright notices don't look like a real
> > advantage to me.
> Copyright notices belong in /usr/share/doc/package/copyright.

Does that answer my question?

--
Stefano Zacchiroli -o- PhD in Computer Science PostDoc @ Univ. Paris 7
zack@{upsilon.cc,pps.jussieu.fr,debian.org} -<>- http://upsilon.cc/zack/
Dietro un grande uomo c' ..| . |. Et ne m'en veux pas si je te tutoie
sempre uno zaino ...........| ..: |.... Je dis tu tous ceux que j'aime
 
Old 03-11-2009, 11:31 PM
Ben Finney
 
Default BDF Considered Harmful?

Brian May <brian@microcomaustralia.com.au> writes:

> Stefano Zacchiroli wrote:
> > This is not the right analogy. A C source file by itself cannot be
> > run without having been compiled while, AFAICT from the given
> > description, a BDF "source" file can be. Make an analogy with Perl
> > source file, it will work better: they do have copyright notices
> > and comments, yet we ship them in binary packages.
>
> With Perl you have no choice. AFAIK there is no binary Perl format.

Try the analogy with Python, then. One can ship either the source file
‘foo.py’, or the compiled bytecode ‘foo.pyc’, and the recipient can
use either one as a Python module.

--
“You know what would make a good story? Something about a clown |
` who makes people happy, but inside he's real sad. Also, he has |
_o__) severe diarrhea.” —Jack Handey |
Ben Finney


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Old 03-12-2009, 02:18 AM
Steve Langasek
 
Default BDF Considered Harmful?

On Thu, Mar 12, 2009 at 11:31:48AM +1100, Ben Finney wrote:
> Brian May <brian@microcomaustralia.com.au> writes:

> > Stefano Zacchiroli wrote:
> > > This is not the right analogy. A C source file by itself cannot be
> > > run without having been compiled while, AFAICT from the given
> > > description, a BDF "source" file can be. Make an analogy with Perl
> > > source file, it will work better: they do have copyright notices
> > > and comments, yet we ship them in binary packages.

> > With Perl you have no choice. AFAIK there is no binary Perl format.

> Try the analogy with Python, then. One can ship either the source file
> ‘foo.py’, or the compiled bytecode ‘foo.pyc’, and the recipient can
> use either one as a Python module.

We ship .py files in the source because the .pyc as generated on the build
host is not guaranteed to be compatible with the python on the target host.
That argument also does not apply to BDF.

--
Steve Langasek Give me a lever long enough and a Free OS
Debian Developer to set it on, and I can move the world.
Ubuntu Developer http://www.debian.org/
slangasek@ubuntu.com vorlon@debian.org


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Old 03-12-2009, 03:01 AM
Steve Langasek
 
Default BDF Considered Harmful?

On Wed, Mar 11, 2009 at 01:07:56AM -0700, Paul Hardy wrote:
> In addition, PCF format fonts are gzipped on Debian systems as per
> Debian Policy. If BDF fonts are also gzipped, there is little
> difference in size between the two formats so the advantage of the
> binary PCF format over the ASCII BDF format disappears. In fact I
> created a unifont.bdf.gz file for testing and it was a little smaller
> than the derivative unifont.pcf.gz file.

'Size' is not the only advantage of using compiled formats over ASCII
formats. They normally are also much more efficient to parse; e.g., an
ASCII file format that supports comments isn't going to have any sort of
index, so using any part of the file will require loading the whole file and
parsing it linearly until you find what you're looking for. I'm not
familiar with the PCF and BDF font formats, but I suspect this is the real
reason for historically preferring PCF (though the practice of subsequently
gzipping the PCF files eliminates some of the potential performance
benefits).

--
Steve Langasek Give me a lever long enough and a Free OS
Debian Developer to set it on, and I can move the world.
Ubuntu Developer http://www.debian.org/
slangasek@ubuntu.com vorlon@debian.org


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