[OS X TeX] Re: Remarks on the /usr/bin/texprograms symlink

Joachim Kock jkock at start.no
Sun Nov 26 09:15:46 EST 2006

Hello Richard, George, Bruno, and others worried about the discussion,

Richard Séguin wrote:

> I think the typical user just wants their paper to typeset,  
> and is neither interested nor has time for this level of complication.

That's a fair standpoint.  All such users should simply wait until the
dust has settled.  By next year, there will surely be a MacTeX installer
which performs the transition from Gerben's i-Installed tetex to the
new TeXLive, and I am absolutely confident that this transition will be
so smooth that nobody will be troubled.  However this can only happen
if we carefully discuss the strategies.  Dick and Gerben, and many others
are raising suggestions, and it is important that we discuss any 
shortcoming these suggestions may have.   In the current thread we are
discussing certain shortcomings the /usr/local/texprograms symlink can
have, in particular on multiuser systems.

Many people might have their own machine on which they are the only
user, and I agree with you that such users are unaffected by the problems.
However, the challenge of Dick and Co. is to make the transition easy for
*everybody* -- also sysadmins in small Mac computer labs at math 
departments all over the world, and for the users of such Macs.

Claus pointed out that the following two assumptions are invalid:

> > (1) there is only one TeX distribution installed on the Macintosh
> >
> > (2) there is only one user who is then also administrator.

And Bruno responded:

> I totally disagree. Assumptions (1) and (2) are, IMO, the only Mac  
> way of using TeX: something that just works, and under whose hood you  
> don't have to look at.

I can agree with the last part: that things should work without the
need of looking under the hood, but you simply can't deny the existence
of computer labs, where (1) and (2) are never true.  

Bruno further wrote:

> But those users are a minority, and TeX on the Mac should not be made more
> complex, more difficult to deal with, just for that minority.

I agree completely, and I think nobody wouldn't.  However, the complexity 
is not something invented -- it exists and the challenge is to hide it and
present a smooth and comfortable user experience for everybody.  It would
be interesting to see the email correspondence between Dick and Gerben
five years ago, when they laid out the strategy for TeX on the OSX, an
experience everybody praises.  I am pretty sure the discussion was very
complex, and that many ideas turned out to be wrong.  But in the end 
everything looked reasonable.  Now we have this mailing list, and it brings
some things to the light that might had been better kept in private.  More
people are involved, and it also speeds up things...

> All these threads from the past few days must be leaving normal users  
> with the impression that TeX on the Mac has become a beast,  
> practically impossible to deal with without the help of this list or  
> without a nearby Mac and TeX guru. That is not the case, and that  
> should never be the case.

It is true that Gerben's announcement caused a certain stir, or even panic.
Claus rushed out with some scripts, and Dick had to rush with a new MacTeX
installer.  Both turned out to have a few rough edges...

The impression of general complexity is a pity, but that's a general
drawback of public discussions.  If you read the tons of trouble reports on
MacFixit after each OSX update, you get the impression that OSX is crap.
If you read the endless threads on this list about font problems you think
that using TeX is very complicated.  I have often felt a bit like that
after reading in these threads -- personally I have never used other fonts
than CM, and recently I have used Palatino with mathplazo, and I have never
had a single problem, never had to look in font directories or read
configuration files.  I don't know the difference between pfb and tfm, etc.
One reason it just worked out of the box is probably that you Bruno, and 
others test the new distributions, stress them with difficult setups, and
report to Gerben so that he can fix the problems before I download a new
distribution.  Thanks Bruno, and all you others for this effort!

> I must admit that I stopped reading the messages devoted to this  
> symlink and TeX Switcher issue after the first two or three messages,  
> until I get time and bandwidth to really download the hundreds of  
> megabytes of the various MacTeX packages and see what all this fuss  
> is about.

Fair enough.  And smart.  By that time, hopefully things have stabilised
and these long discussions will have been obsoleted by a clear three-line
description of how you switch from one installation to another, should you
ever need it.

------------------------- Info --------------------------
Mac-TeX Website: http://www.esm.psu.edu/mac-tex/
          & FAQ: http://latex.yauh.de/faq/
TeX FAQ: http://www.tex.ac.uk/faq
List Archive: http://tug.org/pipermail/macostex-archives/

More information about the MacOSX-TeX mailing list