[tex-live] Tex-Live 2004 Windows Installer

George N. White III aa056 at chebucto.ns.ca
Sun Nov 28 14:09:37 CET 2004

On Sat, 27 Nov 2004, Jason Gatz wrote:

> I am interested in making a Windows installer (using InstallShield or the 
> free Nullsoft NSIS) of TexLive 2004 for Windows. Could you tell me what steps 
> are required to install a TeXLive distribution? What did the old 2003 
> installer do? Did it create any registry keys, etc?

Try it!  The old TL installer offered a couple defaults or could present
a huge tree of packages to select, similar to cygwin's setup.  It was
fragile and in my experience most users found the tree too hard to 
navigate, so if they needed a particular package that wasn't in the
default configuration, they would get the macros from CTAN or a
co-author and copy them into texmf-local.

With disk space, bandwidth costs, and resources for maintaining TL all on 
the decline, it is reasonable to take a very coarse grained approach. 
Install everything with a "1-click" tool and, if you need changes, 
uninstall and "redo from start".  Isn't this what most Windows packages do 
anyway? For the minority who have more limited resources, suggest they 
use linux and then provide instructions for manually installing updated 
packages from the .zip files.

Managing TeX is a difficult problem because the existing base of macro 
packages and tools contains diverse approaches to installation and 
documentation.  TL is a valiant effort to address this, but part of any 
long term solution should be some effort to provide package authors with 
guidelines for making packages TL-ready so the TL team doesn't have to do 
as much work.

TL2003's installer does create registry keys as well as adjusting the PATH 
variable.  Once you have the registry keys, you can switch between TL2003 
and TL2004 by swapping directory trees.  On *n*x you can switch between TL 
versions by editing the PATH, although some documentation (man pages, 
info) need other changes (e.g., to /etc/man.conf) to keep the docs in sync 
with the version you are running.  You can share texmf trees on the 
network between all your systems (linux, unix, OS-X, and Win32).

TeX doesn't seem to get along with any of the unix package management 
systems: linux distros put all of teTeX in a small number of packages. 
There is considerable interest in much finer control.  To me the biggest 
practical issue arises when a user needs a new version of some latex macro 
package or even a bigger package like ConTeXt, installs it in $HOME/texmf 
or (texmf-local on a PC), and then either a) discovers they were given bad 
advice and need to remove the package, or b) 2 years later has a problem 
and discovers they aren't getting the same version of the package others 
have.  Finding all the files that need to removed can be difficult. 
There has been talk of tools to help manage texmf trees.  It would be nice 
to have a database of file locations (e.g., ls-R) that also includes the 
"package" name, md5sum, and version of each file.

One model is the R stats package.  This has two elements: a base package 
that is installed using "standard" tools, and a method to install updates. 
On unix, however, R updates are .tar.gz files and require development 
tools while many Win32 updates are available in "pre-compiled" .zip form.
I think R would benefit from having a bundled "developers" package to
make it easier for users to do more extensive debugging, etc.  R has a
fined-grained way to load packages at run-time, so the issue of removing
a package that conflicts with something else is not as critical.

George N. White III  <aa056 at chebucto.ns.ca>

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