End of TeX Live in Debian?
It sounds crazy, but I am seriously considering to ask for the removal of the TeX Live packages from Debian. Although this sounds crazy, especially considering the consequences:
- several packages will FTBFS
- no TeX system available anymore
- Debian looses one of the oldest open source program at all
the current development is probably forcing me to do this step. I am slowly loosing the optimism that there is a reasonable way for TeX Live to survive in the more and more radicalizing Debian community. And even if I do not ask for removal, the time of TeX Live as it is now in Debian is counted. The reason are serious bugs that are reported concerning non-source file distribution.
The idea was originally that a program is accompanied by the source code. But it has been extended to any document, based on the idea that the preferred format of modification must be shipped, and the rest must be generated during the build process.
The first bug that rolled in concerned the shipping of flash files. Some of the included flash files are missing the sources, this can be fixed. But the new requirement is that flash files have to be also rebuild from source. This shot off a new serious bug in the TeX Live packages, that I will fix by simply removing the flash files, leaving Debian users with crippled installations.
There are only a few of these flash files, and we can live without them. But message 31 of the first mentioned bug report states the same future for pdf files, too. Now, TeX Live probably ships around 6000 pdf files, some of them requiring an non-trivial build sequence. I will definitely not start writing build scripts building each and every of these documentation files.
[Update 2014-04-14 I released that this is not only about pdf files. A lot (my guess is about 70% or more) of all the sty/cls/tex/mf/tfm files are in principle generated from something else, namely the dtx (or from mf) files. In TeX Live upstream we are having a hard time building all the files (see ctan2tds script) and often manual intervention is needed. So yes, all the cls/tex/sty/mf/tfm files are also on the brink of extinction!.]
Funny side remark: The TeX Live Project itself has no problem with using precompiled pdfs, as long as the sources are available – now please Debian (zealots), take an example.
The options where to go from here are interesting:
- as suggested in the bug report, ask for exception
- remove all of TeX, leave a crippled Debian and hundreds of packages with FTBFS
- do not ship any documentation
- find someone that does the work
Concerning the first option – I don’t understand why we need to install rules only to create exceptions. It just keeps me in a position of permanent begging – please continue this exception etc. This is not how I consider this case should be solved.
Concerning the second option – I don’t mind, I can use TeX Live upstream, and it is anyway more complete and uptodate than the Debian version. We would only ship a meta-package that tells the user: “You have to install TeX Live or another TeX distribution separately from Debian!”. That sounds like an easy options, besides that it will force the removal of many other packages due to FTBFS. Great cleanup in Debian 😉
The third version is easy, but also not without risk, since some authors of TeX packages require their run time files to be distributed together with the documentation. Good luck. Ah, and yes, I forgot the users – the users who are our prime concern in Debian – at least that is what I learned years ago. Seems that we have forgotten this virtue.
The last option is that someone takes over TeX Live packaging from me – well formally not me but the Debian TeX Team. Just some random data: I am currently the only one building, testing, fixing the packages. I spend lots of time developing the Perl scripts allowing for automated packaging. If someone wants to come up with new packaging, he should count a man-year to get it into a decent state. Good luck.
All sad words, but honestly, my optimism that the situation will improve is minimal. Thanks to Debian radicals.