[tex-live] tcfmgr: no info for file `fmtutil.cnf' ...

George N. White III aa056 at chebucto.ns.ca
Sat Feb 4 14:54:25 CET 2006

On 2/3/06, Reinhard Kotucha <reinhard.kotucha at web.de> wrote:
> [...]
> Maintaining a texmf tree is really hard work.

Yes.  There is much that can be done to help -- tools to locate
duplications, packaging of updates in a way that can be installed in
user texmf trees, etc.

> The most severe problem of TeX is that there are very few developers
> but plenty of ideas.  Maintaining different texmf trees means wasting
> resources.

>From my perspective, supporting small international scientific
organizations where contributions to multi-author docs come from
people on a wide assortment of platforms and widely varying levels of
support, the crunch comes when the texmf trees in the different
distributions diverge.   The big problems are support for fonts
(author A gets one symbol from a font that is not included on author
B's distro) and bug fixes.  In most cases, such problems could be
resolved by installing a package from CTAN in a user's texmf tree.

It is one thing to invest months packaging TeX Live 2000+N, and
entirely another to continue updating the packages for N+1,...  Some
users are quite ready to install new versions of a package to their
personal texmf tree directly from CTAN, but many are very reluctant to
get involved with anything that doesn't come "packaged", and there are
real concerns from people who need a stable configuration for the book
they started 15 years ago using plain tex and their own macro package
but also need to generate articles and reports using 3rd party formats
that assume a current TeX system.

What are the biggest problems faced in packaging teTeX or TeX Live? 
Certainly the lack of consistent organization to individual packages
in CTAN is a major problem that teTeX and TeX Live have had to
confront.  Do packagers needs to revisit some of this work?
How hard is it to resolve issues related to different configuration
standards and conventions on target platforms?

Better fine-grained updating would be a big help in overcoming
differences in the base packages of different distros due to the
initial selection of packages or to differences
in the timing of releases.  MikTeX and TeX Live do allow users to pick
and choose packages to install, but for TeX Live there is no mechanism
to make updates available when CTAN changes.

In my experience there is much to recommend a system where a TeX
distro sits in a standalone tree and can be put to work with minimimal
adjustments to the system configuration.  Are we heading to a world
where the user must choose one and only one distribution?  Does this
matter if we are diligent to ensure that all distros support user
updates so the practical differences between distros are kept to the

In practical terms, I see teTeX as a reasonable basic TeX system, but
most people will need something more, so (given that disks are cheap)
in most cases TeX Live is a better choice.
To me the ideal package manager would install teTeX and allow you to
keep adding packages until you end up with TeX Live.  I'm not sure how
well redhat and debian systems would handle this fine-grained
approach, and there is the problem of what should be installed by the
user and what should be installed "system-wide".

George N. White III <aa056 at chebucto.ns.ca>
Head of St. Margarets Bay, Nova Scotia

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