[tex-live] Debian Packages of TeXlive

Frank Küster frank at kuesterei.ch
Tue Jan 11 18:39:26 CET 2005


I am currently the most active maintainer of the teTeX packages in
Debian. I learned that you are planning to create Debian packages of
TeXlive, which is great news, and I would be glad if we could coordinate
a little. I must admit that I never installed a TeXLive system on
Unix/Linux, and didn't bother to look at its structure when I did it on
Windows. So please correct me if I make wrong assumptions.

I have answered to Norbert's mail on debian-devel (see
and now I've looked through the list archives on Gmane.

Some thoughts:

1. First of all, you should decide whether you really want (a) only an
   easy, automated method of installing TeXLive on a Debian system and
   of telling the package managment that now some TeX system is
   available, or rather (b) a proper Debian package.

   a) In this case, things will probably be much easier - you can handle
      the installation just like any other installation in /usr/local/,
      have to make sure that "latex" on the command prompt runs
      TeX-live's latex and so on (like always, I guess), and finally you
      can provide an empty dummy Debian package that "Provides:
      tetex-base, tetex-bin, tetex-extra", so that other packages that
      need a TeX system can be installed.

      If you also tweak your search paths to include /usr/share/texmf
      (and possible /usr/share/texmf-site in the future), you will even
      be able to use packages providing TeX input files (I assume that
      the ls-R format is the same as in teTeX).

      Installation of font packages or additional TeX formats via
      apt-get would be extremely difficult in this setup, or rather it
      would need manual intervention or simply double installation, once
      for/with apt-get (which could be a dummy package again in many
      cases), once for texlive.

   b) Building a real Debian package would be much more convenient for
      the user, giving her all the comfort of apt-get, not only for
      TeXlive, but also for add-on packages not included in TeXlive, and
      for packages depending on TeX binaries, like texi2dvi, xml-to-pdf
      converters and so on.

      Doing this properly, so that it *really* is convenient for users,
      will require much more effort than the first approach. You have to
      adapt to the Filesystem Hierarchy Standard (although some things
      can be accomplished by symlinks), move configuration files to
      /etc/, integrate (or Conflict:) with existing TeX packages in
      Debian, and coordinate somewhat with teTeX's Debian packaging.

      If this has been done once, the maintenance work for upgrades
      might be not so big (as long as the internal structure of TeX-live
      doesn't change too much), but in order to create the first good
      packages, quite some sweat, expertise and communication will be
      required, I'm sure. Usually this needs a Debian Developer or
      somebody who wants to become one, or otherwise wants to delve
      deeply into the topic of Debian package creation.

   The question whether such a package should be part of Debian
   *officially* is related, but different; a non-conforming package will
   annoy users irrespective of its origin, and a well built one will
   delight them no matter who did it. But packaging might also mean to
   request some adaptations in other Debian packages, and this would be
   easier if texlive was part of Debian proper[1].

2. Some of you wondered about the problem of architectures sharing one
   TeXlive tree. As far as I understood, it is possible to unpack
   tex-live on a fileserver, and then all machines mounting those
   network drives can use tex-live with appropriate path settings. And
   you were wondering whether this would still be possible with a Debian

   If I got your concern right, then I must say that it seems to me we
   are mixing things up. If you want a central fileserver with binaries
   for many architectures and operating systems, then I don't see much
   sense in creating a Debian package for this. Just go ahead as you did
   before, and if some of the clients happen to be Debian machines which
   need a Tex package to fulfill dependencies, just create dummy
   packages which fool apt-get into thinking that tetex is installed

   If on the other hand you want to share tex-live between several
   Debian boxes, most of them small or just "terminals with a CPU[3]",
   then a Debian package is the way to go, and then the Debian way to do
   it is in principle already sufficient for your architecture problem:
   You have one main fileserver which has texlive installed, and which
   shares /usr/share (or just /usr/share/texmf) with all clients on the
   net, and /usr/bin with all clients of its architecture. Additionally,
   for every architecture, you need one smaller fileserver which only
   offers /usr/bin. In all cases, however, you have to make sure that
   there's an appropriate configuration in /etc/, but that's a problem
   generally encountered in such setups, not only with tex-live.

   An alternative would be to manually unpack the architecture-specific
   binary packages in /srv/<arch> on the main fileserver and let him
   offer these directories as network shares, and here you've probably
   found a weekness of the Debian approach, because there is no
   functionality built-in for this.

Best regards, Frank

[1] Myself, I like the idea of texlive packages very much, and would be
willing to make changes to teTeX's packaging, no matter whether texlive
will be _in_ Debian or just _for_ Debian. But even for me it *might*
make a difference - if you decide to create a package _in_ Debian, I
will probably feel you are more committed to the project, and more
likely to work together in the long term, than if you just do it _for_

[2] There's a tool for that, equivs

[3] what's the fashioned name for that?
Frank Küster
Inst. f. Biochemie der Univ. Zürich
Debian Developer

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