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Re: Math font announcement in TTN 4,2

 > (This is a late reply to Frank's statement of Sat, 21 Oct 1995. 
 > Just like him I was busy with `real work' last week and didn't 
 > have time for a well-thought-out reply earlier.)

well, it took me longer to reply ...
happy new year to all on this list

 > first I would like to thank you for your statement clarifying the
 > position of the LaTeX3 project on future math fonts work.  This was 
 > more or less the kind of statement I was hoping to get. At least we 
 > are all up-to-date now about the state of affairs, even those who
 > (like me) haven't been reading LATEX-L so far. (But maybe I should?)

right now LaTeX-L is kind of dead due to us getting stuck with
2e. let's hope that this will change this year again

 > Now, let me comment on some specific points:
 > I wrote:
 > > > Nevertheless, I want to express my concern about the way things have
 > > > been handled here.  In particular, let me emphassize that I consider
 > > > it very important that any ongoing or future work in this area will 
 > > > be open and transparent to members of this working group, especially
 > > > since there are still a number of important design decisions awaiting
 > > > to be tackled when preparing a prototype implementation.
 > Frank:
 > > I beg to be allowed to disagree. 
 > >
 > > I think that the work done by Justin (with the help of a lot of people
 > > on the math-font-discussion list) gives a good basis for actually
 > > implementing a prototype. I don't think it would be helpful to redo
 > > the analysis before having that prototype available. In other words, I
 > > think that it was time and still is to implement exactly what we have
 > > got so far. If the ltx3 project would be spending money on that it
 > > would be that intermediate goal and not some long term future TWG
 > > goal.
 > OK, I can understand your position from the point of view of providing
 > resources and spending money on the project.  Also, I didn't mean to 
 > suggest redoing the analysis or reopening the discussion on everything.  
 > Justin's report is certainly a good starting point, but I'm unconvinced 
 > that it is detailed enough for building a prototype implementation.  

I disagree here as well (partly). The report is certainly not detailed
enough in all respects but nevertheless it would serve in my opinion
as the base for a prototype. I used the word prototype
deliberately. You are right with the the observation that it might not
be enough for a "release one" implementation but one needs to see his
suggestions life to be able to discuss and decide on the unsolved

without a prototype I don't believe that this is possible.

 > What we've got so far (apart from various helpful technical studies)
 > is basically just a sketchy list of symbols and a proposal how they
 > should be distributed among the various encoding tables.  However, 
 > we still don't have anything like specific font tables and, even 
 > worse, there are some cases where the number of symbols considered 
 > for inclusion into a font table exceeds the magic number of 256.

the "sketchy" list isn't too bad for a start and even if in the
prototype some decisions have to be made concerning inclusion or
exclusion of certain symbols it wouldn't hurt as long as the decisions
and alternatives are clearly described.

 > Sooner or later some design decisions will inevitably have to be
 > taken, and these are the important decisions where I would like to 
 > see this group being consulted so that people from various fields 
 > (math, physics, chemistry, computer science, whatever) have a chance 
 > to comment on it in order to achieve the best-possible compromise.  
 > These are fundamental decisions which I wouldn't like to see being 
 > taken alone and possibly in haste by the individual working on the 
 > actual implementation since the result -- even if intended to be
 > only as a prototype -- may end up as a quasi-standard for everyone.

right but 

a) Justin's work wasn't done by a lone individual but was caried out
with a large crowd :-) and I guess that I spend about the half time
Justin was working on it in discussing it with him. Certainly the work
on a real life prototype would result in a similar working setup.

b) just see what happened after Justin stopped working on it. without
a dedicated individual and the help and support of the LaTeX3 Team
... nothing --- there hasn't been even some kind of comment on his

 > Remember the story of the very first implementation of TeX in 1977
 > outlined in Knuth's paper ``The Errors of TeX''.  Knuth wrote up 
 > what he thought was a pretty complete specification and handed it 
 > to some of his students to implement while he was traveling abroad.  
 > When he returned they implemented something what he found wasn't
 > general enough and he decided to do it himself.  It was only then 
 > that he realized how much was left unspecified in his original 
 > specification, facing important design decisions every few minutes.

don't get into the error's of TeX :-)

 > I'm somewhat afraid that we might end up in a similar situation 
 > if someone were hired to produce a prototype implementation based 
 > only on Justin's report without further consulting this group, 
 > but maybe I'm a pessimist in this case.

that would certainly be the case and I wasn't suggesting it. at least
I hope not. (well, looking down that reply I guess I did sound a bit
like that but what I meant is that the goal should be to turn Justin's
specs into a prototype even if that might result in a lot of
discussions on the way, it should be different from Justin's goal
which was to analyse the situation and produce base results).  When I
spoke of supporting that prototype with money I wasn't thinking of
giving ammount X to person Y and wait for result Z. I was thinking of
helping it along. Certainly any person/student with a similar
background as Justin would need close supervision and a lot of help
and certainly this would mean that an open forum like this list would
be used to help things along.

 > > I think the fact that the work of the TWG seems to have come to an end
 > > after the ltx3 project stopped putting resources into it confirms the
 > > analysis that for getting results that would be the next step.
 > I basically agree since unfortunately no-one here seems to have 
 > enough time to get something going.  Just in case this wasn't clear: 
 > I don't object the plan to produce a protoype implementation by the 
 > LaTeX3 project, but one may have different opinions about the `how'.
 > (Besides, in a private reply to me someone expressed his worries 
 > about what he called `the LaTeX-only doctrine'.  I don't want to 
 > comment on that view, but it shows that it's not only me who is
 > worried one way or another about the `how'.)

I don't think that `the LaTeX-only doctrine' is something that i'm
really intend to bother discussing either. However, so much: the
difference with LaTeX and other TeX dialects, especially plain TeX, is
certainly that it intends to cover more ground. As a result a couple
of interfaces have been developed over the years which are quite
powerful but do only (?) work with LaTeX.

A good example is NFSS. there have been requests to port NFSS to
plain. that is something which is in principle possible but not
something that I would undertake as I don't think that the same
mechanism can/should be provided for everything.

Another good example is probably inputenc. there is no format around
which has extensible and (by now) more or less usable 8-bit support.

However, the underlying structures are not LaTeX specific. I wouldn't
be surprised if a math font setup for a long time would only be
useable by LaTeX in full for the simple reason that we do have the
interfaces to deal with fonts. But none of the work Justin did was
influenced by "the LaTeX way of doing things" at least I can't think
of any.

 > > A similar remark applies to the math font TWG. I would be happy if the
 > > ltx3 project wouldn't need to put in any resources into that area as i
 > > don't think it lies at the heart of what we are trying to achieve. But
 > > since basically nothing happened since Cork to produce a standard for
 > > math fonts that would complement the Cork standard, we finally decided
 > > to put some resources in from our side.  Which in this case meant
 > > having a student working on this project.  During that time the TWG
 > > was active as well (perhaps triggered into action?) but that stopped
 > > more or less with the end of Justin's assignment. 
 > You forget that the TWG (and this mailing list) was formed only after
 > the Aston TUG meeting in 1993 during the time of Justin's assignment.
 > Of course, it is unfortunate that discussions stopped rather abruptly 
 > after Justin stopped coordinating it, but you can't blame this TWG that 
 > nothing happened before, simply because it didn't exist at that time. 

I don't understand this argument. the TWG was formed a long time
before, right? So what open work was provided by it? The fact that we
thought it would be a good idea to have the forum resulted in getting
this list active and that stopped once Justin left. So I think you can
clairly claim that it was Justin's/ltx3 project initiative that got
things working and once we stopped the TWG stopped again. Right or

 > Consider this a well-meaning warning, not a criticism or flame.
 > Thanks again for your clarifying statement.

didn't take it that way.

 but to get any way further one needs somebody who would be willing
and able to work on it and get other people to help him/her
along. Anybody knows any such person?