[tex-live] map file / new path settings

George N. White III aa056 at chebucto.ns.ca
Sat Jan 24 14:22:42 CET 2004

On Fri, 23 Jan 2004, Hans Hagen wrote:

> i agree with the statement that we should not be rigid in backward
> compatibility, but the problem here is "ho wis someone supposed to know
> that already a year ago there was a change in tds", actually, if that is
> the case, why wasn't pdftex adapted to it before tex live went to
> iso-image

There are many users who still expect TeX to use one env't variable
to point to a directory where it will load inputs, based on a dog-eared
copy of the "local guide" from the uni. where they did their PhD.

The TeX user community is more likely to read and understand documentation
than most, and most people who develop for TeX do make an effort to
provide documentation, but you can't expect people who are taking time
away from their day jobs to take the time to document changes for every
new TeX release.  To some extent, this is a question of organization and
style -- many documents don't adequately separate basic concepts from
things that are liable to change with new OS's and or TeX systems, which
can leave users in a state of confusion when the current distro departs
from the behaviour described in the documents they use.

Maybe the doc tree could be split between those that are distribution-
neutral or have been updated to to the current distro, and those that
contain outdated information.  Finding things in the doc tree is, however,
way too hard -- most users find texdoc and even texdoctk almost useless.
The 4allTeX book was very popular with users at my site.

> (some time ago the dutch hyphenation filename changed, and i as well
> asother dutch language support people ended up answering questions why
> things didn't work any more; in general, the problem is: how do we reach
> those who need to know what to change)

A statistician colleague would like to see stats packages require users
to answer skill-testing questions before they can enter data.  Many
packages require users to "accept" a license agreement before installing.
TL2004's installer could present a "README" file warning of
the incompatible changes, followed by a pop quiz on the contents of the
README -- no install until the questions are answered correctly.

> >The map file stuff is not the only point, we also no longer search
> >texmf/pdftex or texmf/etex for tex input stuff. We have done this to be
> that's ok since there is nothing in there and context (and probably also
> latex) does not use the etex src files; actually, my local texmf.cnf files
> often drop even more funny paths -)
> my main concern is fonts, and not tex files or graphics; fonts often end up
> in a local tree, but document sources in a user specific path; since tex
> already has a bad reputation of installing fonts and get 'm working, such a
> change could ruin the reputation even more

And eat up more of the time of people who support TeX users, usenet
bandwidth, etc.  It would be great to have a carefully written tutorial
that emphasizes diagnostic tools (like the books on debugging networks).

> >able to simplify the search paths. I don't see the point in keeping the
> >search paths compatible. If we do this, people will not rearrange the
> >files in their local tree and they will be hit next year.
> sure, but we can only do that when we have a mechanism for announcing that
> in place, e.g. a place on a web page (of user groups) explaining that the
> *next* tex live will drop this or that compatibility so that one has one
> year to prepare; actually, on the cover there should be a reference
> pointing to a file.
> one year should then be enough to let users adapt scripts etc etc

> [...]
> (given this thread, i'm seriously considering to drop map files and define
> map entries dynamically, since this is what pdftex can do nowadays, but i
> have to find time to play with that in more detail)

The current system is a real problem when you need to modify a document
generate a few years back -- people never think to preserve the map file
with the document sources.  I've started using small map files that I load
explicitly in the document so they can be archived with a project.

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

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