I've got a curious hardware situation, and I've run into a curious software quirk. I have a laptop with a broken screen that I have hooked up to an external display. I start up an X session and open a urxvt terminal. With the setting URxvt.letterSpace: -1 in my Xresources file, the text in my terminal displays like this:

Normally spaced text in urxvt

Now I don't want the broken built-in screen still on, so I disable it with the line:

xrandr --output LVDS1 --off 

If I open a new terminal now, the text will appear as it does above. But after logging into /dev/tty2 and then coming back to my graphical X session and opening up a new terminal, the text displays like this with the letter-spacing much tighter than before:

Much tighter text in URxvt

Reloading my Xresources file doesn't fix this. But increasing the value of URxvt.letterSpace from -1 to 0 and then reloading does appear to return the letter-spacing to what it was originally, so it seems that somewhere, after logging into /dev/tty, an extra -1 is being added to my letter-spacing.

Why does this happen? Why does going into a /dev/tty decrease the letter-spacing like this?

  • 1
    Is this reproducible? Is letterSpace set to -1 every time you switch to /dev/tty2? – Dmitry Grigoryev Mar 29 '17 at 17:14
  • It doesn't seem to happen every time, but I'm not sure what I'm doing in /dev/tty that triggers it. The only way I've figured out to reset this effect is to restart the computer (maybe just restart the Xsession?). I'll play around and reply if I discover more concrete steps to reproduce this. – Mike Pierce Mar 29 '17 at 17:24
  • And it doesn't appear that the value of letterSpace is actually being changed with this happens. The value of URxvt.letterSpace is -1 in both of those images in the question. It looks like another -1 is getting added somewhere for some reason. – Mike Pierce Mar 29 '17 at 17:24
  • @DmitryGrigoryev , I've made discovery. I'll add details in the post. – Mike Pierce Mar 29 '17 at 17:39
  • Sounds kind of like display driver weirdness, which acts like deep magic from normal userspace's perspective (my usual fix for problems along these lines is "update kernel and try again"; it sometimes works). – Tom Hunt Mar 29 '17 at 20:53

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