[tex-live] Re: commercial TeXs

George N. White III aa056 at chebucto.ns.ca
Mon Jun 7 14:35:00 CEST 2004

On Mon, 7 Jun 2004, Hans Hagen wrote:

> Martin Schröder wrote:
>> [...]
>> BSR, Y&Y, PCTeX and TrueTeX to me seem to be in different stages
>> of becoming obsolete as TeX installations (e.g. no adoption to
>> new OSs and/or no direkt PDF). None of these IMHO can compete
>> with MikTeX or TeXshop. But they have nice fonts. :-)
>> But there is BaKoMa, which seems to be all-singing, all-dancing.
>> And MicroPress with VTeX, which has an integrated PS-RIP and does
>> PDF. And Scientific Word/Workplace, which ships with web2c.
> what is innovation  ...  maybe 20 years from now rendering docs will be 
> obsolete anyway

Many organizations are still strongly biased against software they can't 
pay for.  Linux distributors have been providing out-dated, partly broken 
TeX configurations and many people feel they have to live with that.

> with respect to 'fallen behind', as long as they serve an audience the people 
> working on it can make a living; the is not that much difference from a 
> couple of families living of a commercial (maybe old fashioned)  distribution 
> on the one hand, and 10 families living from using the 'modern' pdftex as 
> hidden engine  in a page imposition program; once an author starts writing 
> the only thing that mattersis that his tex environment works: most time is 
> spent on writing; actually the same is true for goin gfrom input to output 
> (say tex/xml -> pdf): most time goes into solving problems and of course a 
> language/system may help, but in my daily live, dealing with  funny input (in 
> spite of being validated) and  inconsistent designs (in spite of all those 
> dtp programs) takes most of the time -)

TeX is one of those technologies that is sufficiently advanced to as to 
appear like magic to many users, the ones who use the same document 
template year after year (and complain on c.t.t about problems with 
epsf.sty).  As long as users expect they will need wizardly incantations 
to make a new TeX system work, they will be reluctant to change.

> also, i'm always puzzled by the 'one and only best sulution' approach; why 
> one tex instead of many tex's, why one  kind of fo-xml instead of  many 
> xml-mapping languages; solving everything in one solution is bound to fail 
> some time (watch all those big applications getting more and more complex); 
> why the monopolies etc; kind of interesting that in a 'free world' there is 
> always that tendency to 'the one and only application'  (kind of applying 
> communism in a capatalist environment)

If they can't make a decision about which solution to use on some rational 
criterion, most people will try to determine what is most popular, maybe 
thinking that if others can get it working it should work for them as 
well.  Many people are so accustomed to hearing horror stories about
software incompatibility that they just assume it will be impossible to
format a .tex file that works with XXTeX under ZZTeX, so give up
after the first error.

It is hard for free-software to overcome the mindset that has been 
fostered by commercial software vendors with big advertising budgets. 
The latter group needs people to live in fear of change.  And since the 
successful companies in each category have bigger advertising budgets, 
they promote the idea that software is magical and that you will suffer 
dreaded "incompatibilty" conflicts if you make the wrong choice.

People be more willing to "take chances" with TeX it was easier to
switch between distros and better tools to debug texmf trees.

1. more attention to the tools that allow multiple TeX distro's to
    coexist.  On unix the environment-modules tools provide a simple
    mechanism to adjust environments and paths in an organized way.
    This lets you do:

$ module list
Currently Loaded Modulefiles:
           1) modules       2) SGI_fw        3) TeX/TL2003
$ pdflatex sample2e
This is pdfeTeXk, Version 3.141592-1.11b-2.1 (Web2C 7.5.2)
$ mkdir TL2003
$ mv *.log *.pdf *.aux TL2003
$ module switch TeX/TL2003 TeX/teTeX3
Switching 'TeX/TL2003' to 'TeX/teTeX3'...ok.
$ pdflatex sample2e
This is pdfeTeX, Version 3.141592-1.20a-rc3-2.1 (Web2C 7.5.3)
$ diff sample2e.log TL2003/sample2e.log

    Is there a similar tool for Win32?

2. a gui search tool for texmf trees that would let you choose the
    filetype, progname, etc. from lists.

3. tools to maintain/debug texmf trees.  A lot of the magic would go
    away if users had better information about the status of their
    texmf trees.

    There should be a sort of checkpointing for the texmf trees to allow
    installing new versions and backing out if problems occur.  Keeping
    texmf-dist as a read-only tree will help, but it would be useful to
    have tools to

    a.  list changes from the installation
    b.  list duplicate filenames
    c.  checkpoint a tree
    d.  restore a tree to a previous checkpoint
    e.  compare two trees

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

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