[tex-live] Installing on Windows from UNC

Reinhard Kotucha reinhard.kotucha at web.de
Tue Mar 29 01:01:14 CEST 2011

On 2011-03-28 at 20:36:19 +0200, Martin Schröder wrote:

 > 2011/3/28 T T <t34www at googlemail.com>:
 > > While it could be in principle possible to make our installer work
 > > from UNC paths (by not relying on the current directory anywhere),
 > > making sure that everything works as expected would be a lot of work
 > > for relatively little benefit.  Not something I will spend my time on.
 > Agreed. It would probably be easier to port the installer to
 > PowerShell 2.0 :-)

No.  We have to have *one* installer for *all* systems.  Anything else
is not maintainable.  Please keep in mind that there was a TeX Live
release already which came without any installer for Windows at all
because there was nobody who had the time to provide one.

We also have to assume that all the resources the installer depends on
are already present on each Windows machine.  I don't know whether
Vista or W7 provides PowerShell unconditionally or Microsoft just
offers it for download.  But even then, there are too many users who
still have XP.  We had to drop support for anything older than W2k in
order to be able to write the installer.  But I think that it's much
too early to drop support for XP.

As I said in a previous mail, it's not the installer which calls
cmd.exe but Perl itself.  And porting the Perl installer to something
else is not an option.  I don't know who is willing to maintain this
in the long term.

Microsoft once provided a POSIX compliant environment, I don't
remember its name, but in fact it was the famous MKS-Toolkit.  AFAIK
it was shipped with "Windows Server 2003" only, and at the same time
it was announced to be discontinued within the next two or three years.

Something like that would make everything *much* easier.  But we can't
expect that Windows users are willing to install any software before
installing TeX Live.

It's certainly worthwhile to keep an eye on what Microsoft does.  If
they provide something better than cmd.exe, I'm sure that people write
Perl modules which allow the installer to make use of it.

The TeX Live installer currently supports 19 different operating
systems, 13 the year before.  The last 6 systems were added without
the need to change the installer at all.  Windows always needs special
treatment and the installer contains a lot of conditional code
already.  While you can write and test a program under Linux and can
be sure that it works under OS/X too, Siep and Norbert have zillions
of Windows versions installed, just in order to test the installer on
*one* system.  Treating different versions of Windows differently is
nearly impossible.  So we can only switch to PowerShell when

 * it's present on all Windows installations

 * it's supported by Perl

 * we don't have to support older versions of Windows.

I fear that after the Vista disaster many XP users hesitate to upgrade

Another thing is that most of the problems are not related to missing
features but to bugs.  I recently found an interview with Bill Gates
in my archives:

 | In an interview for German weekly magazine FOCUS (nr.43, October
 | 23,1995, pages 206-212), Microsoft`s Mr. Bill Gates has made some
 | statements about software quality of MS products.
 | [...]
 | Gates: No! <strong>There are no significant bugs in our released
 | software that any significant number of users want fixed.</strong>

Thus, I fear that PowerShell is just a new adventure.  I'm not sure it
makes things easier.  But since you are under Windows now, Martin,
you can reverse engineer it and tell us the results. :)


Reinhard Kotucha                                      Phone: +49-511-3373112
Marschnerstr. 25
D-30167 Hannover                              mailto:reinhard.kotucha at web.de
Microsoft isn't the answer. Microsoft is the question, and the answer is NO.

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