A pixel as a unit square
So while I think about whether I stick to freetype or try something else, I've started playing with ideas for my own renderer. I actually have a screen-shot capable output, but I don't have it handy right now. Maybe next time.
After a few silly mistakes with list pointers, I've been surprised at just how simple it is to get something up that looks quite reasonable. I am most certainly missing something, because it can't be this easy; the few 'i'm not sure' edge cases are probably where the problems come in that'll keep me from ever finishing it. I've basically done a simple 'classic' scan-line renderer which keeps track of the X coords as it steps down the Y coords, then scans from one side to the other keeping track of edge crossings and using that to work out when to fill or not. The only interesting thing is that I compute exact pixel coverage as I go so I can produce quite nicely anti-aliased lines with very little extra work. There are some artefacts with intersecting lines, and non-zero fill rule has some big issues, but I'm not particularly worried about them right now. I wouldn't have a clue if it is all that fast though, quite probably it isn't. The coverage calculation is particularly simple - since I treat each pixel as a unit square, much of the time the multiplications are just by a factor of 1, so the coverage is just a simple sum and a divide by 2.
I guess the more complicated part of the equation is the line stroker. The basic idea is simple enough, but there a lot of nasty cases to handle if you have unusually fat lines, and what to do about intersecting lines. Dashed lines seem like a hassle too.
Well, at least with my own implementation it might make it easier to look at making it work on a Cell B.E., which should all keep me busy for the foreseeable future should I decide to investigate that. So the OS idea is on hold for now.