Due to some patent issues, most of the distributions ship their freetype packages with subpixel rendering option disabled. In fact, as far as I know Ubuntu is the only one that enabled this option. If you want cleartype-like font rendering in your distro, you have to uncomment a macro in the code and build the package yourself. But this is not enough since the newest LCD-specific FreeType APIs have not been implemented in Xft and Cairo. So you have to patch and build these packages too. I have downloaded the sources of these packages from Ubuntu and applied the patches to Debian code. Cairo and Freetype compiled fine but Xft wouldn’t. So I used David Turner’s patch for that one. Though font rendering issues are a matter of taste, the results are miraculous in LCD displays. Here are some screenshots with and without patches, see how fonts differ in webpages.
Unpatched freetype, cairo and xft:
Sources and patches of freetype 2.3.7, xft 2.1.12, cairo 1.6.4 can be found here. The tar archive also includes patched versions of the packages that I have built for Debian (deb archives for i386).
To enable subpixel rendering, you have to choose subpixel smoothing from appearance preferences menu in gnome. If you are using Debian or a Debian-based distro, you can configure system-wide settings through dpkg with the following options:
sudo dpkg-reconfigure fontconfig-config
More information about patches and patents can be found in: