President's Message

TUG'96 Business Meeting

The TUG'96 Business Meeting was held in Dubna, Russia, on Monday, July 29th, 1996. I started by thanking the outgoing Board Members, Peter Flynn, former TUG Secretary, Michael Ferguson, former President of TUG's Technical Council, for their many years of dedicated work, and Mimi Jett, Tomas Rokicki and Norman Walsh for their contributions to TUG and the TeX Community. I expressed the hope that they would be able, in the future, to continue to contribute to the life of the TeX community. Then I welcomed Mimi Burbank, who was re-elected as a Board member for three years. The other (remaining) Board members are Barbara Beeton, Karl Berry, Robin Fairbairns (Chair of UKTUG, co-opted for one year), George Greenwade, Yannis Haralambous, Judy Johnson, Sebastian Rahtz, Jon Radel, and Jirí Zlatuska. The Board re-appointed Sebastian Rahtz as Secretary, and appointed Mimi Burbank as Treasurer, and Yannis Haralambous as vice President. Since Michael Ferguson is no longer a Board Member, Sebastian Rahtz was appointed Chair of the Technical Council. To fill the vacancy in the Technical Council, it was suggested to have Alan Hoenig, well-known for his many interesting articles in TUGboat, serve on it; therefore shortly after the meeting I appointed Alan Hoenig to the Board.

At the last TUG Business Meeting in St. Petersburg in Florida in 1995, I stated that I considered that our main task was to get TUGboat back on schedule. Thanks to the hard work of the TUGboat production team (Barbara Beeton, TUGboat editor, Mimi Burbank, Team Coordinator, and Robin Fairbairns, Sebastian Rahtz, Christina Thiele and myself), with help from Malcolm Clark and Wietse Dol for some issues, we were able to produce four issues of our journal before Christmas 1995, and caught up with the normal production schedule before Easter of his year. Moreover, thanks especially to Mimi and Christina, we were able, for the first time, to print and distribute the Proceedings of the TUG Conference at the same time as the Conference itself, so that all TUG members can profit from the information presented at that meeting even though they could not attend. We have had to make some compromises to meet the production schedule, and for reasons of cost we have to limit ourselves to 96 pages per issue (paper cost has recently gone up by over 10%, domestic postage by about the same amount, while overseas postage rates has increased by about 30%!). We have folded TTN (TUG and TeX News) back into TUGboat, so that the information in TUGboat will contain a fair balance between news items, introductory, tutorial-level and more technically advanced articles.

Since last summer we have seen the success of the TDS (TeX Directory Structure) standard, which was adopted by most web2c distributions. The TeX Live CD-ROM has been published (as a collaboration between Thomas Esser, author of teTeX, GUTenberg, TUG, and UKTUG). It offers a plug-and-play TeX system for UNIX-based operating systems, and is built using the TDS layout. TUG and UKTUG published the Edmac Manual.

To benefit maximally from the Internet, TUG now has its own server donated by Karl Berry and connected at UMB (University of Massachusetts of Boston). From that node we run a set of mailing lists (thanks to Peter Flynn who, until recently and for many years, looked after those lists on his computer in Cork, Ireland), a (limited) ftp service, and a WWW server. We hope to develop especially the WWW service in the near future in order to provide a unique entry-point for all TeX and TUG-related information. As many (especially N. American) TeX users will have experienced, the SHSU CTAN node is no longer maintained, and so is severely out-of-date and unusable for all practical purposes. DANTE has pledged the donation of a Sparc station which presently supports the DANTE CTAN server in Heidelberg, which will be upgraded by a bigger machine. Once the promised machine is installed at UMB, Karl Berry and the CTAN maintainers will try to set up as fast as possible this long overdue replacement of a fully-supported CTAN node in North America. Our sincerest thanks go to DANTE for this generous offer.

Recently, some illegally-changed Computer Modern font files were found to be present in some TeX distributions and on some public server sites. TUG strongly deplores the maintenance of out-of-date and corrupt data on publicly available resources and urges the maintainers to destroy the files in question as fast as possible. The Technical Council will look into the possibility of providing checking procedures to validate distributions in the future.

In order to have all TeX users in the world benefit from the articles in TUGboat, the Board decided to make all TUGboats articles older then one year freely available electronically as fast as copyright clearance can be obtained from the various authors. Moreover, the most recent issues will be made available to other TeX User Groups as PDF files as soon as they are printed, and the User Groups can distribute electronic copies to their respective members (only).

Coming back to TUG'96, it is with great pleasure that I could acknowledge donations to the Bursary Fund by GUTenberg, NTG, UKTUG, and TUG itself and a contribution in kind from DANTE. Also continued joint membership agreements with NTG and UKTUG are without doubt appreciated by people in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, since it is a more economical and simpler than separate memberships.

On the less positive side I had to mention that, notwithstanding a re-subscription campaign with members of the three previous years via email, membership numbers now stand at about 1500 (about half from North America), down again from last year's figures by about 15%. The increased cost of producing TUGboat, and the fixed cost of the TUG Office probably will lead to a deficit of about $20,000 for 1996. This means that drastic actions have to be taken to make sure that TUG can survive in the medium term, and various options have been considered for implementation early next year. Amongst these the reduction of the Office staff to a half-time equivalent, and more reliance on email and WWW services will be introduced at the beginning of 1997, while other measures, still under discussion, are due to take effect by the summer of 1997. I hope that TUG will be able to count on your continued support to make this transition as smooth as possible, and that the financial situation will grow better and allow us to buy some equipment to develop the Internet services which we plan to offer soon.

At the end of the meeting some suggestions were made as to how TUG could guarantee the quality of TeX software, but lack of resources does not make this a viable possibility at present. Also, a more active role of the Technical Council in the development and the recognition of ``TUG standards'' was called for, and I am sure that the members of the TC will do their best to contribute in this area. As an answer to another question I had to admit that at the time of the Conference (and of this writing, late August) no definitive venue for the TUG'97 Conference has been chosen by lack of firm proposals. TUG still hopes that an attractive conference site can be found, with a local organizer who can give us a reasonable guarantee that TUG'97 will be a success.

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Michel Goossens (
Sun Sep 29 17:31:25 MET 1996