[tex-live] free software, DFSG

Charley Bay charleyb123 at yahoo.com
Fri Jun 4 18:21:54 CEST 2004

I apologize for the long quote, but I found it
tremendously valuable.  I tried to 'snip' where I

David Kastrup spaketh:
> <snip, admire Knuth as CS pioneer>
> The main complaint I have about his dealing with TeX
> is that he let himself be persuaded to write 
> TeX-3.x, creating a 90% there solution to 80% of its
> users that gives the illusion of being something
> more than a tool for typesetting TAOCP. If he hadn't
> done that, perhaps the threshold of pain had carried
> through more serious changes to TeX.  It might have
> caused community efforts to take up serious
> development of the core as well as the packages on
> top of it.
> Omega has more or less fallen victim to the "good
> enough for us" <snip>
> Han The Thanh is one of the few persons that managed
> to get one of several single-person projects off the
> ground and actually used.  And eTeX (which is pretty
> much dead seemingly as well) has managed to get
> its extensions accepted as desirable long after
> nobody actively cared for it anymore.
> I don't see a problem with a Knuth cult: if people
> actually listened to him, they'd get the message
> clear enough that TeX has been abandoned by him as a
> project and that he considers it a curiosity
> that people cling to it in the manner they do.
> If he is going to fix the remaining bugs of TeX
> (instead of declaring them "features"), it is going
> to take years.  Maybe they'll never get fixed at
> all.  Where do I turn if I need new features to make
> it into TeX?  The eTeX team?  Who is that?  Peter?
> To Han The Thanh? Guiseppe?  John?  Karel? Michael?
> The main "advances" nowadays happen outside of TeX
> proper, as in kpathsea. <snip>
> No, a Knuth cult is not the problem.  What is
> hindering the TeX world from progressing is a TeX
> cult, and a good-enough cult.  We need to leave TeX
> behind.  And Knuth is doing his part in that: he has
> nailed TeX down and has stated repeatedly,
> definitely, that it is not going to move anymore.
> It's just that nobody listens to him.
> I am working with all of the junk.  Who do I ask for
> new stuff?  I want John to get Omega into useful
> state.  It is a waste of resources to have LaTeX,
> PDFTeX, eTeX and others all forked off from
> something which does not even deal with character
> sets in a sane way. Guiseppe's Aleph is at least an
> attempt to get something workable again, but of
> course it misses PDFTeX functionality.
> And, of course, all of the stuff is impossible to
> maintain.  Add a feature and recompile?  Good luck.
> Maybe one day TeXlive will come without TeX.

I've studied TeX for years, but this "state of things"
account has really helped solidify what I've been
feeling intuitively.  The fractured (forked)
attention seems exhausting even to me, a mere user.  
Thank you, David, for your review.

It's a shame I won't be at this year's TeX conference
in Greece (other commitments).  But, the discussion
on "TeX's future in the digital age" would be *very*
interesting to me.

IMHO, yes, there *is* a future for high quality
typesetting as TeX provides.  The rapid surge in HTML
popularity doesn't mean HTML displaces typesetting
(fads and technology come and go... all the HTML
authored intranets of the 1990's are dying now).
But, it does seem that the TeX community has got to
be a little clearer regarding direction, or at least
agreement of enumerated merits/costs associated with
different projects with different directions.

I still have questions about other parts of the 
landscape:  What about some of the 'commercial'
distributions?  What about alternative typesetting
technologies?  It seems that any "big-eyed discussion"
ought to also account for the full appraisal of
the market, including the current costs/benefits
of what works *now* and what we *might want*.

I'm aware of many of the issues (character
representation, Unicode and internationalization,
colors, images, etc.)  However, I'm not sufficiently
versed in typesetting academics to fully evaluate
many of the feature issues.  But, I'm a strong
programmer and would be interested in understanding
more about what we *have* and what we *might want*.

At present, I feel utterly unqualified to comment
because after reading *every* *single* *post* to 
this list for the past year (and most of the
other lists on CTAN), so much of the TeX install
and configuration issues are still a mystery to
me, as well as an understanding of what packages
might be considered "standard", as well as when 
to leverage one engine over another.  The only thing
I've learned as a user and reader of this list is
that I'd be *crazy* to walk away from one of the
big TeX distros that's already tried to solve these
problems for me.

I appreciate the very hard work by many on this
list, and I recognize many of the "big name"
contributors.  I don't have a good handle on where
this type of strategic discussion takes place,
though.  Is there a list to talk about these
'possible strategic directions' or archives that I
could peruse?


Do you Yahoo!?
Friends.  Fun.  Try the all-new Yahoo! Messenger.

More information about the tex-live mailing list