[tex-live] tlmgr query

Rowland McDonnell rjmmnet-lists at yahoo.co.uk
Fri Jul 24 22:30:08 CEST 2009

>Some answers ...

Thank you kindly for trying to help someone who is having great trouble
getting to grips with how to look after a TeX live installation on his

I really do appreciate the time you've put in to try to help, especially
since you think I'm an idle bastard who can't be bothered to look things
up himself.

For the record, I was writing my reply to this email before 3pm today.
I don't remember having a break and it's now past 9pm.

That's how small an effort I'm putting in.  btw, I've learnt very little
from your latest email, but I feel that your kind attempt to help
deserved full consideration and a full reply for proper respect to be

And now I'm going to send this email because I don't think I can check
it again.  Apologies for any mistakes that I've failed to remove.

>On Fr, 24 Jul 2009, Rowland McDonnell wrote:
>> What I have achieved in all that time is to have found out a little
>> bit about how to tell TeX Live (MacTeX 2008 installation) to
>> generate locally specified formats and how to add new fount map
>> files.  I have
>That is already more than most people know. Most people simply expect a 
>working system and do not want to fiddle around with the details. They
>never heard about updmap(-sys), fmtutil(-sys) etc.

That's right, but most people do not use TeX and of those who do, most
do not maintain TeX systems.  And most of those don't expect modern TeX
to work just the way TeX has done for the last 20-odd years (modulo

Now, I wish to maintain compatibility with all my old documents.  That
means any new TeX system I install must be modified to work

The modifications I need to do are:

Unplug Babel
Plug in some additional founts
Add a local system-wide additional TEXMF tree.

That last part might not be necessary any more, but there was no such
thing under teTeX and I do not relish the thought of trying to find out
if there is such a thing supplied with TeXLive's current standard

It was very easy to do with OzTeX because OzTeX was properly documented
(and didn't come with Babel anyway).  I worked it all out myself from
the supplied documentation without needing any help from anyone.
Indeed, I used to give help to other OzTeX users and did so much of that
on the OzTeX-info mailing list that I got an official `thanks' from
OzTeX's author.  So please do not sneer at me for being ignorant of TeX
as you have done below - I'm far from it.

But I *AM* nearly totally ignorant of the workings of TeX live.

It is VERY hard to work out what needs doing with MacTeX 2006, 2007, and
2008 because all those versions of MacTeX were not properly documented.

>> It is very slow and frustrating: no-one involved seems to understand
>True, it took me long long time, probably some years, to understand
>all the internals. Do you expect to understand everything without 
>serious, and I mean really serious, investment of time?

Thank you for that question.  It is very helpful.

Have you not understood that I have /already/ invested a significant
amount of time in this job?  And that I continue to do so despite
soul-destroyingly slow progress and personal insults from those I am
requesting help from?

What is most frustrating is that there is simply no need for the trouble
I'm having.  The documentation should explain what i need to know in
easy to understand terms.

Unfortunately, the documentation, while significantly better than in the
past, fails to do what it needs to do.

> Anyone having
>ever prepared a TeX system

Such as myself.  No, not the heavy duty stuff, but I've put together
custom TeX distributions based on OzTeX for my own purposes.  And I
could do that because OzTeX was properly documented.

(I even once installed emTeX in a non-standard part of the directory
tree and that took all flippin' weekend, that did.  The next time I
installed emTeX, it came with instructions which included `Install it
only in the default location, you'll be glad you did so' and I thought
`Damned right!')

> knows that this is a huge amount of work,
>and that a few hours here and there is far from being enough to 
>understand even the surface.

Thank you for your further illuminating comments.

I do not need to understand the full details.  I just need to understand
enough to maintain my TeX system intelligently.  I expect that a few
weeks of working hard at the job will be enough - if I can find someone
willing to explain to me the undefined terms that I do not understand.

So far, it is not proving easy to find anyone willing to try answering
my questions.

>Sorry, that is life.

Was I complaining about the time I'm having to spend?  No, I was not.

I was explaining that I was happy to put the time in and that I am happy
to carry on putting a lot of time in until I've got things understood
and properly documented.

But I need help to make progress - just some small, simple items of
information, which are proving nearly impossible to discover.

One big problem with the modern world is that it is now conventional for
anyone who does not understand a piece of software and asks questions to
uncloud his ignorance can expect a lot of scorn and unhelpfulness from
those already in the know.

> But nobody expects you to understand the internals
>of Microsoft Word,

I fail to understand the connection you are making between MS Word and a
TeX installation.

> but with TeX you have at least the chance to 
>understand the internals, if you want to know them.

You have that chance with MS Word too.  All you have to do is decompile
the code and work at it.  It just takes reading and a serious investment
of time - nothing more nor less than what you say is needed to
understand TeXLive.

In both cases, the vast majority of people are completely incapable of
figuring anything out that way.

In the case of TeX, it's *VERY* hard for a newcomer to understand the
details without an existing expert to talk to to explain the written
documentation and to guide them through the written sources.  The
available documentation mostly seems designed only for those who
understand it already.

I've never really got to grips with the TeXBook, for example - I've only
ever studied it on my own, and Knuth is a really rotten teacher so I've
learnt very little about that end of things (what is this `mouth' and
`stomach' business, eh?  I've got no idea at all).  It's like that all
through the TeX world.

I get the idea that there is a premium placed on making documentation as
inaccessible as possible to `just plain folks'.

>> expert at all.  In particular, I find it very hard to understand man
>> pages and I am *NOT* familiar with the structure of TeX Live.  I have
>man pages are nothing mythical, please.

<very puzzled> I did not claim that they were.  They're real, living,
and nearly completely incomprehensible in most cases.

> You are native English,

Unashamedly so - but I'd be careful about that sort of accusation if I
were you.  Not all QEII's subjects are English, remember; FWIW, my
surname's Irish.

(Admittedly, the Scots, Welsh, and both brands of Irish are fairly used
to being mistaken for English and don't really mind - /if/ you can come
across as a well-meaning-but-excusably-ignorant foreigner.  Americans
are assumed to have no excuse for such mistakes, poor dears.)

> so I 
>assume you have the ability to comprehend even a longer text like the
>man page of tlmgr. That has nothing to do with Unix or not Unix.

Thank you for that point.

The length of the text is not the problem.  The contents of the text is
the problem.

The contents have that troublesome form due to the culture of Unix,
which decrees that all documentation must be incomprehensible to anyone
who's not already an expert.

So I would say it has everything to do with it being Unix.

>> Thank you again.  I had read a lot of things telling me that I should
>> use tlmgr instead of texconfig.  It seems that the advice is not
>You should use tlmgr for changing some configuration options, but
>texconfig conf is something different, and in fact I don't see its
>immediate use (in fact I never used it).

Thank you for that useful information.

texconfig conf is the only method I know of for finding out what TeX
system path variables are set and what paths they refer to.

Do you know of another way of doing that job?  I have failed to find any
mention of another method in the documentation.

>> >> I would also like to know what exactly tlmgr -gui does when the
>> >> `Re-create all formats' button is pressed.  I have some custom
>> >> formats
>> >
>> >It calls
>> >   fmtutil-sys --all
>> >not surprisingly.
>> Thank you.  It is not any surprise, but not something that could be
>> relied upon.  For all I knew, tlmgr might have been calling a
>> fmtutil-sys (or plain fmtutil) and asking for a special fmtutil.cnf
>> file.
>And which should that be? There is one fmtutil.cnf file that defines
>the formats, and that is used.

Thank you for that; but your remark is not consistent with my

Because I have two different MacTeX installations selectable via the TeX
prefs pane, I have two different local hand-maintained fmtutil.cnf files
- specifically:



(/Users/Shared/texmf.rjmm/web2c/fmtutil.cnf ought to be re-named
/Users/Shared/texmf.rjmm/web2c/fmtutilvii.cnf, but I'm leaving it like
that for the moment.)

I can assume that any automatic mechanism supplied with MacTeX will
ignore fmtutilviii.cnf unless I tell it otherwise; I'm not sure about

kpsewhich fmtutil.cnf returns:


of course, that doesn't tell me anything about which fmtutil.cnf file
would be used by `whatever mechanism would want to use it' - but I'd
start out by guessing my addition is the first one to suspect.

You told me which kpsewhich incantation to use for that - and sure
enough, kpsewhich -mode="web2c files" fmtutil.cnf returns:


So I'm renaming that straight away to fmtutilvii.cnf.

Now, MacTeX 2007 and 2008 installed the following fmtutil.cnf files:



So there are two different fmtutil.cnf files per TeX Live installation
by default, and I use my own custom version (at the moment) for
generating the formats that are in use (because I don't understand the
automatic management processes, I dare not use them).

But the interesting thing is the two fmtutil.cnf files installed by

kpsewhich -mode="web2c files" fmtutil.cnf



so that's the version which will be used by tlmgr, I assume.  What,
though, is the other copy for?  That is not clear.

>> Now I have to find out what fmtutil-sys --all does and exactly how it
>> differs from fmtutil --all.  I'm stuck at the moment.   I have read 
>> the
>The difference between the -sys and none-sys variants has been 
>introduced in teTeX 3.0, so about 6 (8?) years ago? 

Thank you for telling me about the history of this software.  I'm not
sure why you think it's relevant to someone like myself without no
recent experience in command line operations, nor teTeX, nor TeX Live.

The difference between the -sys and non-sys forms is not mentioned in
the man pages I have here.  How is one suppoesed to learn this stuff?
Morphic resonance seems to be the method you are suggesting above.

I have used teTeX, but not six years ago - the first version of MacTeX I
installed was MacTeX 2006 (it was sheer hell to install and set up).   I
found it nearly impossible to learn about its operation mostly due to
the very poor documentation and the irritability of the people I asked
advice from.

>The differnece is where stuff
>is written to/read from, 

Ah!  That is very useful information - thank you!  Where is it
documented?  I've made a note of it in my current `How to manage TeX on
my Mac' document.

>> I've read the man page and asked questions.  I still do not
>> how to use kpsewhich, nor do I understand exactly what it is that
>> kpsewhich tells the user.
>It tells you which and if at all a file is found by the respective 
>   $ kpsewhich -progname latex fancyhdr.sty
>   ..../tl/2009/texmf-dist/tex/latex/fancyhdr/fancyhdr.sty

Thank you for that tip - also documented in my `how to set up MacTeX

I have read the man page and asked many questions here and there about

I have so far been unable to work out what `respective program' means
with respect to kpsewhich - so I can get kpsewhich to do a search, but I
cannot find out what the result applies to.  I have been told that the
way to find out is to use it and see what it does.  I have tried that
and have learnt nothing.

>> In short, kpsewhich has not yet been my friend.  I often have to use
>> find to supplement kpsewhich.  I cannot work out which file in a 
>find does not know about where the respective programs are searching
>for files. All that is well documented in the kpathsea.info document,
>which can also be formatted in pdf, or html.

Thank you for that pointer.

kpsewhich cannot find kpathsea.info.

I did find kpathsea.info using find.  I guessed how to display it.  I do
not know how to typeset it.  I do not know how I might have come across
it without using find.

I do have a printed copy of an earlier version of that document.

texdoc kpsewhich gave me a pdf version, which is much easier to read
than the .info version.

That document is obviously intended to be understood only by serious
programming types.  It is for the most part completely impenetrable to
me and I'm not sure how most of it relates to using kpsewhich in any
case.  I would dispute your claim that kpsewhich is `well' documented -
documented perhaps, but in a fashion that I consider suitable only for
expert programmers.

I have used the kpathsea library documenation to work things out - I did
once manage to understand the syntax it used for turning a path
specifier in a config file into a set of paths to search.  But that's
all gone from my mind now and the documention looks as incomprehensible
as it did before I'd spent a some days working through section 3 a year
or two back.

/And/ that was with the aid of a useful document called
README.howtexfindsfiles.txt, from one Gerben Wierda (author of
i-installer) - which begins by explaining that the process is counter
intuitive.  Gerben's so impressed with the usefulness of the kpsewhich
and kpathsea documentation that he doesn't give a pointer to either in
his explanation.

Even something that simple took a lot of notes and working out on my
part over the course of several days.  I can see my pencilled in
scribbles now...  If the documentation were half-decent, I could have
understood the information in ten or twenty minutes because it's not
that hard to understand once you've untangled the dreadful explanations
(Gerben's stuff was easy enough to grasp, but not complete enough).  As
it was, it took one or two /orders of magnitude/ longer to work out.
The documentation is certainly poor.

>> Remember that I'm a Mac user and I do not - yet - understand the
>> structure of texlive.  A lot of things you take for granted are alien 
>> to me.
>Not many understand the full structure and working of TeX Live, 

I don't need to understand it /fully/.  I just need a bit of a clue.

>probably less then 10. So don't expect to understand it without
>serious research.

Thank you for that encouragement.  I do not aspire to such heights; I
just want a normal working understanding of the basics.

The only reason it's going to take me a lot of research to get a clue
about the structure and basic operations of TeX Live is that the
available documentation is so poor.

>> > it is for 
>> > ROOT/texmf-var/web2c/fmtutil.cnf
>> Could you explain how you know that?  You said kpsewhich is my
>> friend, but I don't see how kpsewhich could tell you that.
>   kpsewhich -mode="web2c files" fmtutil.cnf

Thank you for telling me what incantation to use.  But I wonder how one
might work out that that is the right form?  According to the kpathsea
documentation I've got printed out here:

Set the mode name to string; this also only affects ‘gf’ and ‘pk’
lookups. No default: any mode will be found. See Section [mktex
script arguments], page 14. 

I've looked at section, but it casts no light for me.  But it
seems that the --mode option only affects gf and pk lookups.  I cannot
find a -mode option mentioned in the kpathsea documentation.

The kpsewhich man page tells me this:

-mode string Set device name for $MAKETEX_MODE to string; no default.

$MAKETEX_MODE is however apparently undefined.

>> I'm afraid I do not quite understand this part.  When you say `is
>> installed', what does the installing (or removing for that matter)?
>   tlmgr install ....
>   tlmgr remove ....
>   tlmgr update ...

Thank you for listing the commands.

>Did you read, I mean READ not skim, the tlmgr documentation?

I don't see how reading documentation could have helped me understand
what it is that you meant by the terms you were using - which is what i
asked you about.

I have already told you that almost none of that style of documentation
makes any sense to me at the moment due to undefined terms.  I can read
it as much as you like and I will learn nothing new until I can find out
more of the undefined terms.

I'll try to explain myself in a different way since you have not been
able to understand me yet:

I have tried to read the tlmgr documentation, but I have failed to
understand almost every single word because so much of it is undefined

I hope that explains the situation properly.

>> Where does the information in the database come from?
>From the packages that you have installed, and originally from our
>master copy.

Thank you for that answer.  I do know that the packages I have installed
are not on any database being looked after by `some aspect of TeX Live'.

>> What processes add or remove data from it?
>   tlmgr ...
>(man page????)

As I've tried to explain many times, the tlmgr man page is almost
totally useless for me at the moment because it is full of undefined
terms that I am finding it very very hard to get defintions for because
people seem to get angry with me when I ask.

>> And what data exactly is the file ROOT/texmf-var/web2c/fmtutil.cnf
>> generated from?
>From the data in the texlive.tlpdb, exactely from the lines
>   execute AddFormat ....

>> I've read all the man pages I can find that might be relevant.
>Doesn't look like.

Do please try to understand this point: the fact that you can understand
a written document does not give anyone else the power to do so.

I do not understand most of the man pages (etc) that you point me at.
They simply make no sense for the most part - they are (mostly) filled
with undefined terms that I cannot find definitions for.

The fact that I have failed to understand them does not mean that I've
not read them.  I think the problem is that you are troubled about
accepting that there are people in this world who do not have your
computer expert's ability to understand that sort of documentation.

I think there really is no excuse for writing such rotten documentation.
One should not have to conduct a research project aimed at producing a
comprehensible version of any supplied documentation simply to learn how
some software works in order to use it.

But that is the case with this whole MacTeX/TeX live business - and what
makes it worse is that the information I need does not appear to be
published *anywhere* in a form that is accessible to me.

I did a lot of reseach so that I could understand the documentation when
MacTeX was based on teTeX.  Pretty much all that work, all those pages
of notes to myself explaining what the supplied documentation meant, all
that is now obsolete and I'm more or less having to start from scratch

I'm not daunted by the task in front of me, and I know how much work it
is.  But please do not think that I'm being lazy or lying about what I
have read and tried to do.

The problem is simply that I am not a computer specialist and the
available documentation is quite simply bloody awful - so awful that
it's only accessible to a certain kind of person with a particular
background, particular specialist training, and a particular peculiar
mental ability that I do not possess: the ability to collect information
from widely spaced sources and remember it without any apparent effort.
It's a mental ability that I've noticed is shared by all the `hacker
types' I've ever met and one that I do not possess a shred of.

I have to do it the hard way by writing stuff down piece by painstaking
piece.  And by the time I've tracked down an item of information, I've
forgotten what it was I was trying to do.  Working like that is nearly
impossible but it's what i've got to do if I want to get anywhere, so
off I go.

It would be easier if I didn't get so much anger and scorn from those I
seek help from.

>> I've spent some hours on this - and got only headaches.  I cannot
>> any documentation on the TeX Live Package Database.
>As already mentioned, go to 
>   http://www.logic.at/people/preining/Work
>and you will find many things,

I had looked <http://www.logic.at/staff/preining/TeX> and I discovered
only two sets of slides on the subject that did not help me.  I didn't
think to check anywhere else.

> the is a long article in the ArsTeXnica,
>and many other things. 

I was unable to find a link to that.

>ArsTeXnica article: http://www.logic.at/people/preining/pubs/at07.pdf
>GuIT Meeting 2007 presentation: 
>BachoTeX 2008 presentation: 
>ArsTeXnica 2008 TL and tlmgr article: 
>resp.presentation: http://www.logic.at/people/preining/talks/guit08.pdf
>TL 2008 talk at the CSTUG: 
>Plus all the documentation (containing most of the stuff from above) in
>   http://www.tug.org/svn/texlive/trunk/Master/tlpkg/doc/

Hmm!  Interesting - I would not have found that on my own.

>So don't tell me nothing is documented!

I do not recall making such a claim.

I stated that I could not *find* any documentation on various subjects,

I have stated that the documentation I have found it generally very poor
- and it's often hard to find, too.

But I don't recall stating that nothing is documented - it's just all so
very badly done, that's all.  If the documentation were adequate, I
would not be annoying you with my questions, would I?

>> >> What does `Re-initialize file database' mean?
>> >
>> >Calling
>> >   mktexlsr
>> >(was that difficult?)
>> I do not understand your question.
>> It was impossible for me to work out what `Re-initialize file 
>> database' meant.  I had absolutely no hints at all.  It was not
>> hard: it was impossible.
>Because you have no idea how TeX works.

<raised eyebrows>  I am somewhat surprised to come across that claim.  I
can assure you I've got a very clear idea how TeX works and have had
since the 1980s.

I know almost nothing about how Unix TeX systems such as TeX Live (and
it is a Unix TeX system, don't go quibbling now) are organised nor how
they operate.  I am new to Unix TeX.  I am not a Unix expert.  I am a
Mac user.

Do you understand the distinction?

I understand how TeX works, but I do not understand Unix or Unix TeX
system organization and operation.

That is largely because I'm not a Unix expert, I'm a common or garden
Mac user, and so almost all the available documentation for TeX Live
makes nearly no sense at all to me.

>Reading kpathsea.info would have told you that there is for each tree
>a ls-R file listing all the files.

Thank you for that suggestion.

I am puzzled as to how it'd help for me to read every word from start to
finish in document of more than 50 pages, do it on screen using a screen
reader that makes it very hard to understand and navigate the text, and
the contents of which almost all make nearly no sense to me?  How is
that supposed to help me learn anything at all?

All that process does is waste time and gets me annoyed because I can't
understand anything.  It obstructs understanding.

I did however discover the particular point you're making some time ago
because a kind person told me.

The fact that ls-R files are kept for TeX Live to do things with tells
me nothing at all about what tlmgr does when you press `Re-initialize
file database'.

Indeed, since the ls-R files count as file database*S*, it would not
have been unreasonable of me to assume that whatever was being done had
nothing to do with them.

I decided that I simply didn't have enough data to decide anything and
needed some documentation to tell me instead.

I found that the documentation simply tells you that it's obvious from
the GUI.  I did manage to get someone to answer my question in the end,
sort of, in a fairly abrasive fashion but that's fine by me just so long
as I get the data.

Thank you again!

> And that texhash/mktexlsr is updating
>these database.

I've looked, and I can't see that the kpathsea documention says anything
at all about what tlmgr does.  Where is the section in that document
explaining the function of the control `Re-initialize file database' in
tlmgr -gui?

And what does that have to do with the way TeX works?  Nothing at all
that I can see.

This is something to do with the way Unix TeX systems have evolved.
OzTeX did not operate in that way as far as I'm aware.

>> I am not familiar with the command mktexlsr.  I am not a Unix guru.
>Nothing to do with Unix, same on Windows, Mac, ...

I can assure you that mktexlsr was not available as a user command in
the TeX ports *I* had on my Macs before Macs got Unix as their operating
system.  It was only when Macs got Unix that they got that kind of

mktexlsr came from Unix - it's got a Unix-type name.  "ls" is a Unix
command, not one you'll find as part of MS-DOS.  Web2C TeX evolved on

TeX Live might well be cross-platform and TeX might well have been born
on TOPS-20 (IIRC), but TeX Live is a Unix project at heart.

OzTeX created a file database without user intervention on startup.
CMacTeX (IIRC) had a menu command for creating a Unix-type file database
(CMacTeX was a fairly simple port of Web2C TeX).

In neither case did the user type a command called mktexlsr, and in the
case of OzTeX users, many were completely unaware that OzTeX built
itself any sort of file database at all.

>> am not a long-standing expert in the care and maintenence of texlive.  
>If you use TL and you don't have any special need, you don't need to,
>tlmgr is caring for all that.

Thank you for that suggestion, but I've worked out that tlmgr does not
perform as you claim it does.

On top of that, I'm not inclined to trust automatic maintenance software
because in my experience such things *ALWAYS* screw up badly at some
point, especially when you've been unable to find out what they do.

I've been told `trust the automatic system' before now and lost an awful
lot of data, and been put to an awful lot of bother.

Before I use anything like that these days, I make sure I understand
what it does and how it does it so that I can ensure it does what I need
and also so I can take precautions against the problems it is *SURE* to

>> The reason I asked about backups is that I've read the man page,
>> the section on backups, and I've found it impossible to work out what
>> tlmgr does by way of backups.
>Aemmm ... did you read tlmgr --help???

I've told you that I did so, and I did explain my problems with
understanding what it had to say.

Perhaps you could try re-reading my careful explanations of why it is
that I learn almost nothing I need to learn when I read tlmgr's man
page?  It seems to me that you must have failed to understand something
about what I've explained to you.

>       --backup and --backupdir directory
>  These two options control the creation of backups of packages
>  before an update is started; that is, the backup is of the 
>  packageas it's installed. ...
>Isn't that clear enough?

As I've already explained in quite careful detail, those words do not
explain what I need to know.

To repeat my explanation, but concisely: `backup' and `package' are not
adequately defined for that fragment of man page to make any sense to

`Backup', I've got the hang of by now, at least until I forget the
precise meaning due to not using the information on account of not being
able to find any of the other jigsaw pieces I need to understand tlmgr.

> When you call
>   tlmgr update
>and give --backup or have set that option, a backup of the current 
>of a package is done (.tar) before updating. Using 
>   tlmgr restore
>you can go back.

If I can work out what a `package', `current status of a package', and a
`backup' means *exactly* in this context, I might be able to understand
it a little.  But I'm still ignorant of what `package' means and I've no
idea what you might mean by `current status of a package'.  I expect you
think I'm just saying that to annoy you - well, I'm not, I really don't

Yes, you've helped me understand `backup' in this context - a tarfile of
`that which is being replaced by new stuff' is shoved into the specified
backup directory, that's comprehensible enough.  You could have been
more helpful with less effort on your part, but thank you just the same.

>tlmgr -help reading helps, *REALLY*, trust me!

Thank you for that suggestion, but as I've tried to explain to you
several times:

It really does not help, *REALLY*, trust me!

I have tried reading that document, but I can understand almost none of
it because so many of the terms are undefined.

If nothing else, I need a printed copy of such awkward documention; man
pages on screen are completely impossible for me to work with.  I've got
the thing next to my keyboard right now, printed out and bound into a
nice green folder.  And it's nearly completely useless for reasons I've
explained often enough, I think.  Perhaps you could try to understand my
explanations?  I've repeated the basic explanation here.  What part of
my explanation are you having difficulty with?

I see your *.at email address, but your command of English seems
perfectly adequate to understand - well, pretty much anything written i
the only language I understand.

>> sort of Unix expert; I cannot write shell scripts, I do not speak 
>> Perl,
>> I'm not familiar with the structure and jargon of Unix or texlive).
>No need do be Unix guru, only reading *carefully* the documentation.

Please understand that I have tried that.  But every single document I
read is full of undefined terms that I cannot find definitions for,
therefore I cannot understand much of them.

>> One reason texlive man pages are often not very helpful for me is
>> their excessive use of the passive voice.
>> For example: `these two options control the creation of backups of
>> packages before an update is started'.
>> Before an update is started by what, exactly?  I can't find anything
>> that tells me and I can't work it out.
>Aemmmm .... tlmgr update ... did you READ?

Yes, and I totally failed to understand what "tlmgr update" does.

I do not understand why you should be annoyed with me because I cannot
understand undefined terms in technical documentation.

I think I've explained this point before: I read the documents, but I
fail to understand mostly due to undefined terms.

>I mean, honestly, are you joking or do you want to steal our time here?


As I have explained repeatedly, I simply cannot understand the supplied
documentation mostly because of undefined terms.

The fact that some of these terms might well be formally defined if one
were to read and understand several other long and (to me) nearly
totally incomprehensible documents doesn't help me at all.

I need a little bit of help from people willing to explain what those
undefined terms mean so that I can understand.

That's all - I just need a bit of help understanding some undefined

Unfortunately, you seem to be angry with me for not understanding things
that you do understand and I'm not getting many of the explanations I've
asked for.

Instead of what I've tried to ask for, what I'm getting from you is
mostly lots of pointers to documents that I do not understand because of
the undefined terms that I'm asking for definitions of.

And you have got very cross with me for not understanding, so it seems.

>Did you read or not? And if you did, why don't you remember
>   tlmgr update

The documentation does not make sense to me!!!

How often do I have to make that point?

>> I don't even know what `backup' means in this context.  Nor do I know
>> what a `package' is in this context.  Of course in /general/ terms I
>Well, packages are packages in the CTAN sense. Like memoir, like
>fancyhdr, like ...., one package shipping many files, or sometimes only
>one file.

So where can I find out what `package' means in the CTAN sense?

> what *exactly* will be saved (and how is that worked out)?
>tar is used to package the files into an archive, the list of files
>is determined from the texlive.tlpdb

Okay, so that's what does the job and I get a tar file out.  Not what I
asked for here, but useful information.

Which files, exactly, are put in the tar file?

>> what does the saving?
>> what events exactly prompt the save to happen?
>the command line options or the options saved in the tlpdb, together
>with the actions backup or update.

Thank you for providing some information here.

But I think you have not understood what I was trying to find out.

I shall not press you for an answer.  You've got angry enough with my
inability to understand things which are very simple for you.

>> what does `update' mean in this context?
>tlmgr udpate

Thank you for trying to give me an answer.

Unfortunately, that does not tell me what's being done.

>> And what's a package?
>See above.

I have read above and failed to understand adequately.

>> I know about LaTeX packages (pkg files - and their dtx/ins source
>> code etc), but I find it hard to credit that `something' makes
>> backups only
>Exactely, and the collection of these files is one package.

So are you telling me that a TeXLive `collection' is a `package' is the
set of files that are distributed with a LaTeX `package'?

If so, I am even more confused than I had been.

>So you can say
>   tlmgr install fancyhdr
>and the full fancyhdr package will be installed
>> Please believe me that I have put a lot of time and effort into
>> finding my own answers to the above questions.  I'm not asking
>> because I'm lazy:
>No, I don't believe you. Not the least.

<shrug>  Oh well.

I wonder why you do not believe that it is hard for me to understand
things that you find easy to understand?

>> Okay, that's where the database is.    But again I have more
>> questions I cannot find the answers to myself.  What puts data in
>> the database? And
>install-tl initially, i.e., the installation.

>After that tlmgr

Thank you for trying to give me an answer.

But I think you have not understood what I was trying to find out.

I shall not press you for an answer.  You've got angry enough with my
inability to understand things which are very simple for you.

>> where does this data come from?
>From the packages you install, thus from the master texlive.tlpdb on
>the DVD/tlnet distribution on CTAN.

Since I have not installed any packages except some of my own local ones
that are separate from all the automatic mechanisms, there is something
wrong with your explanation.

But thank you anyway, even though I've not understood you at all.

>> Righto - thank you for that.  Do you know how I might find out more
>> about it?  In particular, where does the information in that database
>> come from?
>From the master tlpdb, and there it comes from the definitions WE put
>into our tlpsrc files, see
>   http://www.tug.org/svn/texlive/trunk/Master/tlpkg/tlpsrc/

>Enough now.
>I would say before you TRY to understand the inner working, please
>begin to actually *USE* tlmgr.

It would be very stupid of me to follow that advice, because doing so
would certainly break my TeX installation.

I have had experience of automatic maintenance software breaking things
and throwing away data in the past.

I've made that sort of mistake a few times too many and I'm not going to
do it again.

I'm only really interested in the outer workings, but it seems that
you're not at all happy about me learning them.

> And when you are familiar with tlmgr and its
> usage,

I cannot learn that by /using/ tlmgr.

I have tried to learn how to use software that way in the past and I
have always failed.  I either need documentation or someone to explain
things to me - always one or the other.

Normally, I just need a bit of help to sort out some basic questions at
the start.  That's all I'm asking for at the moment, but my questions
seem to anger you.

I do know that my questions mostly remain unanswered, which it a pity
because you clearly spent a lot of time on that email in reply to me.

> then you can read more documentation like the above mentioned
>articles and presentations.

Thank you for your well meant advice.  I am not able to learn in the way
you suggest.

And thank you for putting the time in to reply to me, even though you
are clearly very annoyed with me and think I'm an idle bastard.  I
appreciate your efforts for me, even if I failed to understand very much
of your latest message.


>Best wishes
>Dr. Norbert Preining <preining at logic.at>        Vienna University of 
>Debian Developer <preining at debian.org>                         Debian 
>TeX Group
>gpg DSA: 0x09C5B094      fp: 14DF 2E6C 0307 BE6D AD76  A9C0 D2BF 4AA3 
>09C5 B094
>The feeling you get about four o'clock in the afternoon when you
>haven't got enough done.
>           --- Douglas Adams, The Meaning of Liff

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