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Is it in a free font? http://www.alanwood.net/unicode/kannada.html suggests maybe not.

Yes, it's in Dejavu Sans, which is what Shapecatcher uses. I'm guessing the Kannada block just isn't in the database yet.

It isn't included in Dejavu Sans. I (and others) had to install a different font to be able to see it.

You are right. On my system it's being automatically substituted from another font, even in character map applications.

I really wish font handling and rendering were a bit simpler to understand and troubleshoot in Linux.

Recently I had an annoying problem where some web pages weren't rendering the fonts correctly. It turned out the reason was a font config file for a Chinese bitmap font was causing firefox's font rendering to alter - both chromium and another browser were working as expected (according to the css rules). Tracking down the problem took several weeks and several dead ends and I only stumbled on the answer by accident anyway.

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