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

Alain Schremmer Schremmer.Alain at verizon.net
Wed May 5 19:59:27 EDT 2004

(1) TeXshop + i-Installer is the best thing that happened to me so far 
in my TeX adventure. I like it better than even LyX although there seem 
to be features in LyX that I would like. The point, as always is that I 
cannot even get close to these features at this time in my development.

(2) It is too bad that it took me several weeks to get there. Hence my 
suggestion of a central site, unescapable within a two-minute search.

(3) I do not understand what the argument below is about. Why can't the 
information be available to those who want it and "ignorable" for those 
who want to?

(4) I just installed 2.65.1 There is just enough room in the new 
i-Directory window to have a "What i-package does." For instance, for 
rtf2latex2e, it could say

    Concerts you MSWord files to LateX files (after you have resaved
    them in MSWord as rtf document. To use rtf2latex2e, Go Applications
     > Utilities > Terminal (if not there, type Command F and search for
    Terminal). Type "rtf2latex2e" without the quotes and a space. Drag
    the file to be converted into the Terminal. You will find the LateX
    version of your rtf file right next to it. Do not expect a perfect
    conversion. Problems are likely with tables and graphics.

The point here, as you said, is at least as much psychological as 
technical. For instance, the point of the last two sentence is to avoid  
"What did I do wrong?" and leave me relaxed enough that I can examine 
what happened.

Regards and Thanks

Gerben Wierda wrote:

> 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 
> etc).
>> 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 all.
>> 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.
> G
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