[tex-live] teTeX: no next release

Peter Flynn pflynn at ucc.ie
Mon May 29 17:45:44 CEST 2006

David Kastrup wrote:
> Zdenek Wagner <wagner at cesnet.cz> writes:
>> On Mon, 29 May 2006, [iso-8859-1] Frank Küster wrote:
>>> Furthermore, I think the best thing we got from Thomas is the
>>> infrastructure, which has been merged into TeXlive and is still
>>> maintained by him there.  Work on selecting and updating CTAN
>>> packages, and in creating useful collections, is probably better
>>> done within TeXlive, or by making the MikTeX installer work with a
>>> preinstalled TeX system.
>> I agree. Having rpm's is good just for a group of Redhat based
>> systems.
> Yes and no.  The most important thing would probably have a _file
> list_, or package list.  Whether one generates RPMs or DEBs or
> whatever else from such a list would then be a secondary
> consideration.

As someone who has to support actual (500+) *users* on a mix of
platforms in which RH-based systems (eg FC) play an increasingly large
role, can I make my 2¢ pitch for a TeXLive RPM?

Thomas did a brilliant job in producing and maintaining teTeX, but for
many years the tetex{...}.rpm collection was sadly out of date. I've
never actually found out why, or who was supplying it to the Red Hat and
FC repos, but supporting it meant explaining to users how to download
updated copies of the assorted bits and pieces necessary to make $x$
work (where $x$ was the particular package, style, font, feature, or
function the user needed for their book/thesis/essay/etc) -- because
they had installed the default RPMs along with their OS.  These are not
CS geeks, able to remove the RPMs and replace them with tetex from
source, or even from binaries, but engineers, mathematicians,
historians, linguists, physicists, and others who simply want packaged
installations to be updatable (eg via yum).

My recent tack has been to pull the tetex RPMs and replace with TeX Live
from whatever the then current CD/DVD was. This has fixed most of the
out-of-datedness problems, but introduced its own, because the default
installation directory changes every year. *I* can deal with this, but
the average user neither knows nor cares whether it goes in /usr/TeX,
/usr/local/texlive/yyyy or wherever: they simply want it to work, and
to be upgradable year by year. 99% of these are single-user systems,
so the need to consider multiple users is not relevant (the few multi-
user systems are capably handled by departmental admins who *do* know
where to put and find stuff).

If we can settle on a stable, reliable, and predictable location where 
TL-yyyy can be installed from an RPM, with a user-writable texmf-local
ready-configured into texmf.cnf and all binaries ready-linked to
/usr/bin, and a message to the installer to run texconfig immediately,
then we might be in a position to argue the replacement of the existing
tetex RPMs with TL RPMs.

I realise there are political arguments in the Debian field, and a
strong feeling in some quarters that we should only provide support to
sysadmins rather than end-users, but I worry that unless we admit that
the move is towards single-user workstations rather than shared lab
or departmental systems, we will end up making it so hard for users
to switch to TeX that we will be back in the pre-tetex days.

None of which should be read as detracting from the fundamentally great
job the tetex and TL communities have done in harmonising the whole
caboodle. Let's not let this opportunity slip.


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