[tex-live] [NTG-pdftex] Runtime limitations on open files?

George N. White III gnwiii at gmail.com
Sat Aug 18 14:09:54 CEST 2007

On 8/17/07, Hans Hagen <pragma at wxs.nl> wrote:

> I'm pretty fed up with these windows rants and 'no problem on unix' kind
> of crap ... and i also much disliked the tone of mails posted to the lua
> list about this problem suggesting that it's a windows problem etc etc
> and suggesting that it's near to impssible to compile something on
> windows ... a fact that is proven wrong by fabrice and akira

Another proof that it is possible to build highly functional cross-platform
applications is the R statistical package.

In general, I don't have much patience for these religious discussions
(which have an unfortunate tendency to pop up in google searches so an
offhand comment becomes part of the folklore).

The TeX community is at a critical juncture:

1.  TeX Live has, by fiat, become the successor to teTeX on *x systems

2.  TeX Live aims to support a wider range of platforms than did
teTeX.   We have a long history of failed TeX distributions on
Windows: 4allTeX, Y&Y, fptex, which is a clear sign that making a
viable TeX distro for Windows is not easy.

There are individuals and organizations that are able to use TeX productively
under Windows and under *x, so I don't except that either of these is
fundamentally broken.  What is, however, clear, is that many people
have had or are having bad experiences.  In fact, I see this at work,
where some users insist that tex on unix is totally useless while
others assert the same about TeX on Windows.  What is the difference?

1.  In the real world, many systems are not working as they should.
When I press guy who says tex on unix is useless it turns out that his
problems are: a) he wants to use
a printer on a Windows server that is not configured on the unix machine, b) the
system default is for a4 paper and he can't be bothered to figure out
how to adjust this, and c) there is nothing similar to WinEDT on the
system.  The guy who says TeX on Windows is useless has installed
4allTeX, Y&Y, fptex, and miktex along with copies of his $HOME/texmf
from unix but hasn't got a working perl, ruby, or ghostscript and is
trying to use notepad as his editor.  His plain tex documents compile,
but he can't get pdflatex to work because he has some outdated
packages that assume pdftex is used only to produce .pdf output.  He
can't troubleshoot because the command line tools (find, whence, etc.)
he knows from *x aren't available.

2.  Different environments require different work habits.   Many
Windows TeX users
never see a command line, equate TeX with WinEDT, and are only vaguely
aware of the individual programs, much less perl, ghostscript, etc.

3.  Hardware differences: machines currently in wide use range from
PIII 500 mhz
with 256M RAM and 20GB disk to multi-core CPU, multi-GB RAM, and
multi-TB disk.

To me, the fundamental difference is that *x systems have always been
based on a toolkit approach where a set of core utilities are always
available.  People will tell you that you can have bash, awk, sed,
perl, ghostscript, make, compilers, etc. on Windows, but the practical
reality is that such tools aren't part of the standard base
configuration and suffer from performance issues.   The pdftex build
script works on most *x systems using only standard packages from the
OS distribution.

I have written some applications that are used on both *x and windows.
  While it is possible to have a build environment on Windows (using
Msys),  it has been much easier to use a cross-compiler under linux,
e.g., <http://www.stats.ox.ac.uk/pub/Rtools/>.  It would be
interesting to try using these tools to create a build-win32.sh for

George N. White III <aa056 at chebucto.ns.ca>
Head of St. Margarets Bay, Nova Scotia

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