[tex-k] extex

Karl Berry karl at freefriends.org
Fri Mar 4 15:51:37 CET 2005

Hi Reinhard,

    This is already planned for ExTeX.  From

Well, since you mentioned extex, I have a few comments/questions:

- is there a time frame for any milestones, even vaguely approximate ones?

- the web site (http://www.dante.de/projects/extex/) has not been
  updated since it was first created, as far as I've been able to tell,
  and the source repository is private.  Is the project actually active?

- The web site asks for help.  I've tried, e.g., sent some mail trying
  to get subscribed to extex-eng, with some response.  (For all I know
  all the discussion is in German anyway.)  Might as well take off the
  request for help if it's not actually useful/desired at this point.

- Most importantly, Klaus told me that the implementors (who are they?
  are you one?) are currently assuming some recent version of the Sun
  JRE.  That makes the result non-free, with consequent troubles for
  distribution.  I'll append the message I wrote to Klaus about it
  (slightly updated), for what it's worth.

Happy hacking,

From: karl at freefriends.org (Karl Berry)
Subject: jre licensing

    klaus> What's the problem with Sun JRE?

JRE is not (even remotely close to) free software.  Therefore it is not
available on Debian, Red Hat, etc., unless the user has happened to
install it on their own.  Stallman wrote an article explaining this in
more detail:

I don't know the situation on Windows and MacOSX, but I doubt it's good.

We/you could decide that the above is not important, and
include the JRE in TeX Live.  Apparently Sun allows this --
supplemental paragraph B in:
Of course then the TL distribution will have so many additional megabytes,
and be additionally painful to install, it would be a big drag for users
at a practical level.  Even people that do have the JRE are unlikely to
have the right version.

Philosophically, I think the current TeX developers are split -- many do
not care about freedom a la FSF, and the JRE is fine for them.  But
there's a significant portion which do care (including me, FWIW).  It
would be a shame for an important new version of TeX to have proprietary

To make it free, the GNU Java Compiler and GNU Classpath libraries could
be used.  Unfortunately, they aren't nearly as advanced as the JRE, to
my knowledge, although I don't know what's specifically lacking.  But
they will also have the distribution problem, since of course
essentially no non-Linux machines will have them, and even on Linux, the
versions will be old, more than likely (just like with the JRE).

My overall feeling and experience is that -- ironically -- although Java
is portable technically, it's nearly impossible to write significant
programs that will actually run on a majority of systems out there
without incurring huge installation problems.


P.S. Also, I have the impression that in the Java designers' quest for
supposed portability, they've eradicated nearly all chance of meaningful
interaction with the system.  I heard a rumor you can't even read normal
environment variables any more, although I hope it's not true.

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