[OS X TeX] TeX is not for the faint of heart

Gerben Wierda Gerben.Wierda at rna.nl
Wed May 5 15:34:25 EDT 2004

I have just released i-Installer 2.65.0 which contains a rewritten 
i-Directory window based on  a nice idea by mahakk. No I would like to 
give a few comments.

> Programs, support files, macros, commands?
> Distribution, binaries, scripts, frontends?
> Device independendet DVI, ASCII TeX source, translated, device, X11, 
> Windows, Unix core, TeX Live, foundation... some guy named Sebastian 
> Rahtz... suddenly teTeX, big advantage: teTeX-texfm, then GhostScript, 
> "run pdfTeX".
> Know what I mean?

Yep and you're right. For many people (e.g. people who know Microsoft 
Word and not much more) this is several bridges too far. I added the 
confused-page and that might help a bit. Still it will always remain a 
big hurdle.

> Also, everybody seems to feel the need to tell me about the underlying 
> processes involved -- heck, I don't know what it's all about, yet I'm 
> already let in to specifications and mechanics. This is just like 
> Apple telling us "PowerMac G5: The 64-bit G5 processor — plugged into 
> a new ultrahigh-bandwidth system architecture featuring AGP 8X and 
> PCI-X...". Glad they also say "fastes computer on earth", or I 
> wouldn't have known...

It is a bit different. If it is a G4 or G5 does not matter to what you 
need to do to get results. But the stuff they are explaining does often 
matter. TeX has a history and especially when you want to be able to 
typeset existing stuff, you need some of that explanation.

> 	If you want to use TeX+dvips+ghostscript next to pdfTeX
> 	to produce PDF, you need [...]
> If I "want"???

That is of course for people who know that they could want it. It is 
helpful for existing TeX users moving to Mac OS X. It is not helpful 
for you.

> About your i-installer: Whenever I start you i-installer, I feel 
> completely lost again, because i *just don't understand* what all 
> these options are, and what the "information" you're giving me means, 
> and so on. "Open i-package" -- does this download anything? What does 
> "open" mean in this context? Self? Same as self? Update from self? 
> Huh??? Install, configure, "does it need authentication" -- who am I 
> to tell?

Most users do not *want* to understand, they just open a package form 
the known packages window, hit 'install' and that is that. I cater to 
all users and somehow I need to put the technical information in to 
explain it to the techies. *You* do not want to see it (a la Apple's 
installer). Remember though that Apple's installer has no way to do 
these kind of interactive configurations (based dynamically on what is 
in the software and what you want) that the TeX package requires. 
Apple's idea of an ideal install is still that you just drag it to your 
disk somewhere.

> The help doesn't really help, as it tries to explain what a "package" 
> may contain *technically*, but not what these contents mean. Call me 
> stupid or dumb or plain lazy -- when reading those pages (help and 
> web) I feel bombarded with detail I just can't put into *any* context.

It is not meant for you. But it needs to be there for people who do 
want that kind of info (e.g. sysadmins who are interested in security 

> To top it all off, non-english users (like myself) are completely left 
> alone, since some "concepts" (e.g., differentiating between binaries, 
> programs and applications) don't work that well in their language. If 
> you know what TeX is about, all makes sense. But if you don't, you're 
> looking at these descriptions and keep thinking "I will never make 
> it".

As a single person, I can only handle support for one language. Given 
the volatility of i-Installer, even managing translations for the app 
is too much for the moment. So, it is English as the lingua franca of 
the computer world. That is a disadvantage for users like you. What a 
real solution would have is to have multi-language support for both 
packages and application.

> Give me an i-installer which automatically opens the "known packages" 
> directory and gives me a short decription of each package when clicked 
> on it. I don't care about locations (it's on the web anyway),

*Other* people might care. So I need it both ways.

> I don't care about actual names ("netbpm.ii2"??? "Netpbm Tools and 
> Libraries"???), I don't care about the "real" terminology. What is 
> this thing, and what is it for?

i-Installer was not meant to solve the information problem, it was 
meant to solve difficult installation and configuration problems. 
Making it also a knowledge library is not helpful, if alone because you 
add another piece of information to maintain. It is a bit like you want 
the Office Assistant, trying to guess what you want, getting you the 
information you need, etc.

> Give me an installer which takes care about stuff -- both technically 
> AND psychologically. Hide from me what I may not understand, please. 
> Look at Apple's own installer (they're by no means perfect): "install 
> this", "authenticate", "where to", "quit" -- ta-dah. There's no "this 
> will perform a multiple-step rights-changing something, and then copy 
> and move this-and-that to here and there, while transforming, 
> updating, incorporating cp/mv/chmod, we're now copying 1.352 binaries 
> plus 352 executables and 738 plists". If iTunes would install like 
> this, do you think anybody would use it?

Technically there are a few things. Psychologically there are as many 
as there are users. Some users want to know the technical stuff. Some 
do not want it. And some are distracted by it. And that is of course 
not so strange. It can be confusing to be confronted with info you do 
not understand (which is why most of my efforts are about trying to 
limit that).

> Your first lines in the TeX i-package ReadMe read like a software 
> license or developer documentation; dropping some names and then going 
> into technical detail.

I have changed this.

> I understand that bringing TeX to Mac OS X is somewhat of a clash of 
> philosophies, and that you're trying to sort it all out in order to 
> make it a "smooth clash" (as in "opposites attract"). But all your 
> efforts are coverd by TeX-speak, tech-talk and just too much 
> irrelevant information for a newbie. You may have made it easy for us 
> "normal" users to install and maintain a TeX distibution -- but only 
> if you're looking at it from a veteran-perspective. If you're new to 
> this, it still ain't easy. By no means.

Your own perspective is part of this experience. Most newbies (and 
believe me, some have contacted me) are happy to ignore what they do 
not understand and click on Install. I guess personal psychology plays 
a role here too. You seem to dislike seeing stuff you do not understand 
and ignoring is not an option. That is something I had not taken into 
account very well so far. I cannot remove it completely a la Apple's 
Installer as the existence of this transparancy is one of the reasons 
for i-Installer in the first place.

> I don't know if it's possible (technically and philosophicaly) to 
> provide an installation which is truly based on the idea of "the user 
> need not know".

i-Installer will never make it *impossible* for a user to know, because 
that is a basic philosophy of the program. So, I can steer away from it 
as much as I can. but making it impossible to get confronted with 
technical stuff is not the philosophy of my program.

> For example, one which completely hides the technological background 
> and only offers generic functions at first. Like... say... install 
> everything, ask for language, configure in background, install TeXShop 
> and a demo-document with standard packages and which asks the user to 
> hit the "Typeset" button.

And someone says 'Swedish' and Swedish hyphenation patterns are not 
available for TeX Live or teTeX because they do not have a free 
license, there is no Swedish introduction document (and if there was, 
what about all the other languages, all of which will have something 
different to say and have a different 'age'. i-Installer is about 
installing software, not about teaching people how to use it. There is 
a limit to what can be done without hitting some form of combinatorial 
explosion. To sum it up, though I understand the sentiment, your 
particular heaven is just one amongst thousands and I cannot write them 

> To end this: I wouldn't have written that much if I didn't love what 
> you (and everybody else) did. As a matter of fact TeX, as obtained by 
> your distribution, has changed quite a lot in my working life. So I 
> owe you.

Well, you sent me a good idea for the i-Directory window and I have 
implemented that. Thanks.

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