TUG 2013 – Day 1

TUG 2013I just returned from the TUG 2013 in Tokyo, a great event. Here are my personal comments on the different presentations and activities, starting with the first day.

First the cold facts: 4 days, 141+ participants, 35 presentations, 1 excursion, lots of fun. I haven’t been on many TUG Meetings before, but I guess that it was one of the well-visited ones.

So you want to know what you missed if you haven’t been there? Here are my short recollections!

Pre-conference reception

The day before the actual conference started we had a nice reception party in the university building of the conference. All kind of snacks and drinks and warm-up chat let the hours fly away. Although I came straight from my home in Kanazawa and arrived a bit late, I had a nice time. Especially for me meeting all the old friends I haven’t seen for long time was a great pleasure.

(I will use First Last for names throughout this series)

Morning

The first day started with an opening address of the Haruhiko Okumura and via Skype from the president of the TUG, Steve Peter. Steve has trained his Japanese to a quasi-near-native level and was honored with a big applaud for that (and probably also for what he said, but I can’t really remember).

The first session brought presentations on various extensions and reimplementations of TeX:

  • Didier Verna – TiCL: The prototype (abstract, slides)
  • Shizuya Hakuta – LISP on TeX: A LISP interpreter written using TeX macros (abstract, slides)
  • Andrew Mertz – A gentle introduction to PythonTeX (abstract, slides)

While I am myself a great lover of lisp, I somehow couldn’t crank my brain to think about implementing typesetting engine in Lisp. Still, fun to hear and see the development over the years. Shizuya Hakuta’s talk was another proof that we can do everything in TeX – but left the question whether we should do everything. Programming Lisp in TeX doesn’t sound like something I will ever want to do. But the technical level was impressive! Finally, Andrew’s introduction to PythonTeX helped a lot gave a nice and accessible starting point to use Python as extension in TeX.

The second session was dedicated to tutorials:

  • Yusuke Kuroki – Introduction to Tutorials (slides)
  • Tsutomu Yada and Daniel Kobayashi-Better – An Introduction to the Structure of the Japanese Writing System

After a short intro to the tutorials by Yusuke Kuroki followed an excellent tutorial by Tsutomu Yada and Daniel Kobayashi-Better on the history, structure, and peculiarities of the Japanese writing system. Filled with examples, old and new, a very enjoyable time. Paired with the insight into Japanese culture given by the combined presentation of a professor and his assistant, a memorable experience in all senses. I only hope we could get a copy of the presentation slides, since I really would like to read over them once more.

Afternoon

The first session in the afternoon brought two talks and a tutorial:

  • Didier Verna – The incredible tale of the author who didn’t want to do the publisher’s job (abstract, slides)
  • Hans Hagen – How we try to make working with TeX comfortable (abstract, slides)
  • Keiichiro Shikano – Indexing Makes Your Book Perfect (abstract, slides)

Didier was telling us funny stories about his life as author-editor-fighter for human rights in the publishing business. Filled with anecdotes on how bad it can go when you are working with an incompetent publisher, he reminded many of us on our own hard times. Hans’ talk tried to make us more comfortable with TeX – well, most of us are already comfortable with it, but I guess his work is very much appreciated since levels of comfort might not agree. Mine, for example, is very low. The moment I see an \expandafter I run away screaming 😉 The indexing tutorial of Keiichiro Shikano gave a good overview on problems with indices in various languages, filled with nice examples of Manga usage for teaching math/statistics.

After another break followed one of the highlights in my opinion (but then, there were so many highlights!), a mixture of talks, each one a pearl by itself:

  • Jason Lewis – How I use LaTeX to make a product catalogue that doesn’t look like a dissertation (abstract)
  • Yasuhide Minoda – TeX in educational institutions (abstract, slides)
  • Wanmin Liu – Online publishing via pdf2htmlEX (abstract)
  • Frank Mittelbach – The stony route to complex page layout (slides, video)

Jason started off with how he managed to generate a catalog for his wholesale business in down-under, which used a lot of different techniques merged together. I liked how he didn’t get religious and presented TeX, Perl, MS Access and more mixed together to get his company working. The following talk then blew me away: Yasuhide Minoda presented how they have installed TeX as the main document processor in a preparation school for the University of Tokyo entrance exam. About 200 teachers there got trained in LateX, and now all the products, from home work to internal notes are done in LateX. That was completely out of my imagination – a history teacher, or classical Chinese teacher – using LaTeX. Same for the next talk by Wanmin Liu, who presented a program to convert pdf to html(5). The conversion is not done from the source code, but from the actual pdf, and the output looks very much – well, sometimes nearly indistinguishable – from the original pdf. Great work. Finally one of Frank’s great talks on how complicated things can be, especially when in comes to multi-column typesetting and the wishlist of users. I didn’t know till now that this is so complicated, now I do.

Evening

After the successful first day a few people spent the rest of the evening in a nice Izakaya with food from the southern parts of Japan (Kyushu and Okinawa), accompanied with lots of Orion beer, fun talk, and much laugher.

… to be continued soon … see TUG 2013 – Day 2

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