[tex-live] ifxetex package missing from collection-xetex

George N. White III gnwiii at gmail.com
Tue Feb 6 01:10:27 CET 2007

On 2/1/07, Philip Taylor (Webmaster) <P.Taylor at rhul.ac.uk> wrote:

>   > In my opinion TeXLive's selling point is that it behaves similar on
>   > all platforms.
> I'm not convinced that's true.  I use (and recommend) TeX Live
> because it provides me (and others) with a nice standard TeX
> setup for Windows.  I don't really care whether it supports
> any operating system ending in "X", because I don't use such
> systems, nor do I support anyone who does, so whether it
> behaves identically on such systems is actually of little or
> no interest.

What users say they want is seldom a reliable guide for software developers.

How many of the packages you use on WIn32 were cross compiled on
linux?  Was the documentation formatted with TeX?

How TL works on *x may be of no immediate interest to you, but
there are benefits to all TeX users from having a reliable, widely
available, TeX system.  Because TeX is used for documentation by many
projects, even people who don't use TeX themselves often rely on
documents created by others or through some automated build system
using TeX.

The recent history of TeX suggests that distributions rarely last more
than a few years.  teTeX was very widely adopted as the basis for TeX
provided with linux distributions, but is no longer being maintained
by the author.  Many TeX distributions, both free (emtex, 4allTeX,
fptex, xemtex) and commercial (FTL and BSR on Apple Mac, Y&Y on
WIndows) are no longer actively maintained.

Some users have suffered a great deal of pain after moving to a newer
OS (e.g., Windows NT to WIndows XP, Apple OS9 to OS X) or because they
are now required to provide PDF versions of documents.  Existing
software didn't meet their requirements and there was no smooth
upgrade path.

There is considerable tension between those who want TeX to be
portable and those working on improvements who just want to get a new
capability working on their platform and don't have resources to deal
with platforms they don't use.   It is a fact of life that there are
significant difference between platforms and real effort is needed to
make things work across a range of platforms.  This effort is
worthwhile because it helps keep a strong, unified TeX community where
new ideas and improvements are widely shared, as opposed to a
fragmented community where ideas and improvements never spread beyond
the users of a particular platform, and where using TeX becomes an
obstacle to switching platforms because your favorite macro package
make heavy use of image formats and \special's specific to your
current platform.

One FAQ is "I need TeX and <programing language du jour> -- what OS
should I use?".   Until now, the answer has been that a reasonable TeX
system is available for most OS's, so the decision should depend on
local site policies the programming tools that are available .

In my view, it is important that TeXLive be a viable successor for
tetex in linux distributions.  Already there are small differences
creeping in (as patches to fix bugs) to some linux distros while
others languish.  Over time, developers will find that documentation
formats on some systems but not others (due to different bugs but also
to differences in supported languages).

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

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