[tex-live] install TL from net

gnwiii at gmail.com gnwiii at gmail.com
Wed Feb 8 15:40:02 CET 2006

On 2/7/06, Reinhard Kotucha <reinhard.kotucha at web.de> wrote:
> Hi,
> it would be nice if people can install TeXLive from the network
> instead of downloading the complete ISO image.  Most people do not
> need all the packages provided by TeXLive.  Also, packages can be
> updated after TL has been released.

2 of the 6 bugs listed for TL2005 could be fixed by updated (msg and
pst-3d) packages.

This could also help testers, as testing some individual packages can
be done indpendently from the issues related to the overall packaging
and allows testers to test individual packages in those small chunks
of time you get while waiting for some other task to finish.  Many
packages could be tested by installing to a texmf-test tree, even
using a base system that was installed using .deb or .rpm (or .msi?)

fpTeX provided network updates, but the implementation was fragile
(early versions had problems displaying the tree of available packages
on some machines).  It was quite useful for TL2003, mostly because it
provided updates to fix bugs in the initial release.

> When the packages are available on the server, maybe they can be
> maintained continuously and a TL release will be just a snapshot of the
> packages.

At some point, however, you have to think about updating binaries and
shared/global configuration files (texmf.cnf).  There is a bit more to
a TL release than "just a snapshot" -- it is the time to make the
shared/global changes and also to root out conflicts.

The downside of piecemeal updates is that you enable conflicts, e.g.,
you have packages A-1.1, B-2.1, C-3.0 installed, then new versions
A-2.1 and B-2.2 are released, with B-2.2 needing A-2.1, but C-3.0
needing A-1.1.  In practice the person who wrote A has never actually
looked at C, so is unware that A-2.1 broke C.  Murphy says there will
be one group of users that need B-2.2 but never use C, and another
that use C but not B (and that you can only learn of this 5 minutes
before you are scheduled to leave on a 2-week holiay).

Updates can be simple bug fixes or new versions of macro packages. 
For TL, human intervention is needed to determine whether an update to
a macro package on CTAN is a simple bug fix or a significant change
affecting other packages.
OTOH, it could be helpful to know which packages have complex
dependencies and which can be updated independently, so I see benefits
to releasing network updates to selected packages when CTAN changes.

> There are several ways to achieve this goal, one would be to adapt the
> MikTeX package tool, another one would be to use the TeXLive install
> script.

Or just manually unpack the .zip files.  I did try the MikTeX
installer, but the debian kernel I was running at the time had
"issues" with the SGI xfs hosts NFS directory we use to share TL2005
and (several kernel updates later) I haven't had the chance to

The fact that it took relatively few changes to implement network
installs is a tribute to a robust initial design and to simplicity. 
People will always want software to do more.  It is often better to
err on the side of simplicity, but that often means more work (to
manually analyze conflicts) for users.  The trick is to minimize the
opportunities for users to get into messes that take
developer/maintainer time.

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

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