[tex-live] Rather OT comment was Re: tlmgr query

Rowland McDonnell rjmmnet-lists at yahoo.co.uk
Sun Jul 26 18:56:56 CEST 2009

[snip list of deliberately unhelpful definitions]

As you know, Norbert, that list could only make sense to someone who's
already a fully informed expert on the subject.  And you know that I'm
not.  So you know that you were not trying to be helpful.

With just a handful more definitions, it *COULD* have been very useful
to me - but you made sure that the key information was missing, as
usual...  And where do I find that key information?  I don't know - and
I've looked.

What /were/ you trying to do? (he asked, rhetorically)

I know the answer - you were trying to belittle me and upset me.  I do
not understand why, though.

I came here seeking technical answers to technical questions.  What I've
got is a lot of personal abuse and upsetting comments and bugger all
technical information!

Norbert, please do not waste any more time insulting me and so on.
I am interested in the facts I need to help me look after my MacTeX
installation.  Your snide insults and unhelpful replies have already
upset me a lot, helped me learn almost nothing, and I'm sure that
everyone else on this mailing list is fed up with our exchanges.

If you, Norbert, have something genuinely helpful to write to me, please
do reply.  But I'd rather you kept quiet than sent me another message of
the same sort you've sent me so far.  It's just - well, not nice getting
another really unhelpful and very upsetting email from you.

>> 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
>No, you do NOT have invest a significant time. Do you want to know how
>much time I have invested? I don't count hours, I count man-month!

Man-months?  Please!  You do not work ceaselessly on TeX for months at a
time.  You break for biological maintenance tasks such as eating and
sleeping, for your social and family life - and for the employment you
get paid for doing.

The time one spends on a job is always best measured in actual hours of

It is *NORMAL* for me to sit down with some spare time and waste another
several hours failing to find the information I'm trying to find.  I
have done that repeatedly, on more days than I can recall, and I've been
doing it since 2006.  I make notes when I can - not often.

Do you understand me, Norbert?  I *NORMALLY* spend several hours at at
time trying to crack MacTeX.  I *NORMALLY* make no progress at all.  I
*NORMALLY* learn almost nothing when I try to learn about MacTeX.

So when I mentioned I'd spent six hours on the job the other day, that
was normal.  I've spent scores of similar days like that - spending
hours on end failing to learn anything much because of the lousy
documentation and bloody awkward informed experts such as your good

I spend hours on end running into brick walls, hours and hours of
frustration reading, reading, reading and after those hours it usually
turns out that I've learnt practically nothing.  And then I repeat, and
repeat, and repeat, over the course of weeks, months, years.  It took me
several months of bloody hard work to get MacTeX 2006 working at all.

And I am someone who used to maintain an OzTeX installation perfectly
well with a good understanding of how it all worked due to good
documentation and a friendly, helpful mailing list.  I never had any
trouble with OzTeX at all - I was one of the people who helped others
with their OzTeX problems.

But MacTeX is different.

It is so hard to find out anything!  The written documentation seems
intended to obscure information, and the relevant mailing list denizens
are generally hostile!

Can you understand what that feels like, Norbert?  To work so hard for
so long and to get *NOTHING* out?  And to get sneers and scorn and snide
insults when you ask for help?

I have been trying to work out how to install and configure MacTeX since
MacTeX 2006.  I have put an /awful/ lot of work into the job over the
course of a few years - the examples of the time I have given were
examples of what I have done on single days.

So far I have failed utterly in my attempt to learn what's needful about
MacTeX.  I am nearly as ignorant now as when I started, in part due to
you (and others equally unhelpful and upsetting).

I have some notes on paper, painstakingly gleaned from various sources,
just a few dribbles of information that you and others like you have
been willing to impart.

Mostly when I have tried to learn what I need to learn, I've come across
people like you who sneer at me and give me deliberately unhelpful

It is frustrating and upsetting.


>> Unplug Babel
>That is interesting, and not easily supported.

But I have found that it is very easy to do - once you've found out what
files to modify and what to put in them.  The only hard part is finding
out what to do - the documentation's lousy and people in the know are
generally unwilling to provide help to the ignorant.

But the actual doing is very very easy.

Of course, the method I am using will probably not work with any of TeX
Live's automated anything systems, but that's okay because I'm not using
any of TeX Live's automated systems due to not understanding how they
work or what they do or why I would want to use any of them.

I do not know what you mean by `supported' in this context.  `Supported'
is one of those weasel words that has a different meaning in every
context, chosen by the person using it.  You have not provided your
definition for this context.

I have noticed that each new MacTeX works in a different way with
different basic assumptions and each has required me to undertake a
major project of /very/ slow and /very/ difficult learning before I
could set it up for use.

It's so hard to set up MacTeX 2008 because it's so badly documented and
the ones who understand it are generally unwilling to help.  Your
unhelpful and upsetting replies to me are just about normal.

> So what you want are
>special formats that do NOT contain babel, right?

What I want is standard LaTeX formats that do not contain Babel, not the
special fancy modern Babel-equipped formats.  The reason for this is
that I do not want to have to tell each of my documents to use UK
English hyphenation.  

I want to have UK English hyphenation set up by default and there
appears to be no way of doing that with Babel.

I want to use the same standard method for using a local hyphenation
pattern that I've been using for years and years - a local hyphen.cfg
file (I have to use a trivially modfied LaTeX format,  because there's
already a hyphen.cfg supplied by Babel so I modify a LaTeX format
re-named rmLaTeX to call rmhyphen.cfg instead).

>The easiest way to achive that is to put your additional format 
>definitions into
>   ROOT/texmf-local/web2c/fmtutil-local.cnf

Okay - why <TL2008ROOT>/texmf-local?

And why `/web2c'?

I have not used any of the standard parts of the TDS for local additions
because I'm concerned that automation will wipe out my additions.  I do
not understand the TeX Live directory structure and cannot find out what
the automation does.  Older versions of MacTeX were based on gwTeX and I
was able to find out that automation was inclined to re-write all
supplied parts of the standard texmf directory tree.

Therefore, so that I can remain with a consistently working TeX
installation, I use a local system-wide texmf tree that's added thus
(for MacTeX 2008 only):

find / -name "texmf.cnf" 
Edit a copy of /usr/local/texlive/2008/texmf.cnf. 
Add the following—do not put return characters in it: 

TEXMFRM = /Users/Shared/texmf.rjmm 

The main texmf.cnf file lives at /usr/local/texlive/2008/texmf/ 
web2c/. Do not modify it. 

For all I know, some routine operation of tlmgr will wipe out that
change.  I am loathe to run tlmgr to do *anything*.

>where ROOT is the root of your installation, AFAIR 
>   /usr/local/texlive/2009
>in your case.

2008, not 2009.  MacTeX 2009 remains unreleased and I'm not going to
attempt to install it any time soon even if it comes out tomorrow.  It's
taken me far too long to get MacTeX 2008 even semi-operational.

>Then these formats will be always included in the fmtutil.cnf file
>generated by tlmgr and used by fmtutil-sys. It is the one in 
>   ROOT/texmf-var/web2c/fmtutil.cnf
>(explained in tlmgr help under action "generate")

That point is *NOT* explained as you claim.   Why do you do this?  You
continually claim that information is supplied in certain places when it
most certainly is not?

Yes, the tlmgr man page does tell me that fmtutil-local.cnf will be
added to the fmtutil.cnf file generated by tlmgr.

But no, the page does not make it clear that this is how things are
*ALWAYS* done.  Nor does it explain that fmtutil-sys does anything in

(yes, I read that apparently:

For "fmtutil" and the language files, this is normal, and both the TeX
       Live installer and "tlmgr" routinely call generate for them.

but that statement provides no information for me.  What does `normal'
mean in that context?  Not explained.  Why should anything call
`generate' for fmtutil?  Not explained.  When is `routinely'?  Not
explained.  Do you see the problem?  Lots of impressive looking words,
but devoid of real meaning.

Please do not insult my command of the English language - again.  Please
just try to understand my point.

I shall explain in plain English: too much information is simply not
there.  That means the page is not very useful at all, not unless you
already fully understand the system.  And please do not waste any more
time insulting me over this point: I am providing you with what is meant
to be helpful information to enable you to understand something. If you
are not interested in understanding, please just tell me so in a neutral
fashion and lay off the insults, okay?)

However, I am still not happy about using tlmgr since I do not know what
other sources it uses to generate fmtutil.cnf.

My concern is that if I tell tlmgr to do anything at all, it will break
by TeX installation.  Until I understand tlmgr, I will not use it.

A working TeX installation is useful to me.  tlmgr is a threat to that
usefulness - therefore I will not use tlmgr, not until I understand what
it does.

I do not see that tlmgr has any real use - beyond being a hopelessly
documented pain in the arse that's meant to prevent people managing
their TeX installations.


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