TUG 2016 – Day 1 – Routers and Reading

The first day of the real conference started with an excellent overview of what one can do with TeX, spanning from traditional scientific journal styles to generating router configuration for cruising ships.
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All this was crowned with an invited talk my Kevin Larson from Microsoft’s typography department on how to support reading comprehension.

Pavneet Aurora – Opening: Passport to the TeX canvas

Pavneet, our never-sleeping host and master of organization, opened the conference with a very philosophical introduction, touching upon a wide range of topics ranging from Microsoft, Twitter to the beauty of books, pages, and type. I think at some point he even mentioned TeX, but I can’t remember for sure. His words put up a very nice and all-inclusive stage, a community that is open to all kind of influences with any disregard or prejudice. Let us hope that is reflects reality. Thanks Pavneet.

Geoffrey Poore – Advances in PythonTeX

Our first regular talk was by Geoffrey reporting on recent advances in PythonTeX, a package that allows including python code in your TeX document. Starting with an introduction to PythonTeX, Geoggrey reports about an improved verbatim environment, fvextra, which patches fancyvrb, and improved interaction between tikz and PythonTeX.

As I am a heavy user of listings for my teaching on algebraic specification languages, I will surely take a look at this package and see how it compares to listings.

Stefan Kottwitz – TeX in industry I: Programming Cisco network switches using TeX

Next was Stefan from Lufthansa Industry Solutions, who reported first about his working environment, Cruise Ships with a very demanding IT infrastructure he has to design and implement. Then he introduced us to his way of generating IP configurations for all the devices using TeX. The reason he chose this method is that it allows him to generate at the same time proper documentation.

It was surprising for me to hear that by using TeX he could far more efficiently and quicker produce well designed and easily accessible documentation, which helped both the company as well as made the clients happy!

Stefan Kottwitz – TeX in industry II: Designing converged network solutions

After a coffee break, Stefan continued his exploration into industrial usage of TeX, this time about using tikz to generate graphics representing the network topology on the ships.

Boris Veytsman – Making ACM LaTeX styles

Next up was Boris which brought us back to traditional realms of TeX when he guided us into the abyss of ACM LaTeX styles he tried to maintain for some time, until he plunged into a complete rewrite of the styles.

Frank Mittelbach – Alice goes floating — global optimized pagination including picture placements

The last talk before lunch (probably a strategic placement, otherwise Frank would continue for hours and hours) was Frank on global optimization of page breaks. Frank showed us what can and can not be done with current LaTeX, and how to play around with global optimization of pagination, using Alice in Wonderland as running example. We can only hope that his package is soon available in an easily consumable version to play around.

Thai lunch

Pavneet has organized three different lunch-styles for the three days of the conference, today’s was Thai with spring rools, fried noodles, one kind of very interesting orange noodles, and chicken something.

Michael Doob – baseball rules summary

After lunch Michael gave us an accessible explanation of the most arcane rules a game can have – the baseball rules – by using pseudo code. I think the total number of loc needed to explain the overall rules would fill more pages than the New York phonebook, so I am deeply impressed by all those who can understand these rules. Some of us even wandered off in the late afternoon to see a match with life explanations of Michael.

Amartyo Banerjee, S.K. Venkatesan – A Telegram bot for printing LaTeX files

Next up was Amartyo who showed a Telegram (as in messenger application) bot running on a Raspberry Pi, that receives (La)TeX files and sends back compiled PDF files. While it is not ready for consumption (If you sneeze the bot will crash!), it looks like a promising application. Furthermore, it is nice to see how open APIs (like Telegram) can spur development of useful tools, while closed APIs (including threatening users, like WhatApp) hinders it.

Norbert Preining – Security improvements in the TeX Live Manager and installer

Next up was my own talk about beefing up the security of TeX Live by providing integrity and authenticity checks via GnuPG, a feature that has been introduced with the recent release of TeX Live 2016.

The following discussion gave me several good idea on how to further improve security and usability.

Arthur Reutenauer -The TeX Live M sub-project (and open discussion)

Arthur presented the TeX Live M (where the M stands supposedly for Mojca, who couldn’t attend unfortunately) project: Their aim is to provide a curated and quality verified sub-part of TeX Live that is sufficiently complete for many applications, and easier for distributors and packagers.

We had a lively discussion after Arthur’s short presentation, mostly about why TeX Live does not have a “on-the-fly” installation like MikTeX. I insisted that this is already possible, using the “tex-on-the-fly” package which uses the mktextex infrastructure, but also caution against using it by default due to delays induced by repeatably reading the TeX Live database. I think this is a worth-while project for someone interested in learning the internals of TeX Live, but I am not sure whether I want to invest time into this feature.

Another discussion point was about a testing infrastructure, which I am currently working on. This is in fact high on my list, to have some automatic minimal functionality testing – a LaTeX package should at least load!

Kevin Larson – Reading between the lines: Improving comprehension for students

Having a guest from Microsoft is rather rare in our quite Unix-centered environment, so big thanks to Pavneet again for setting up this contact, and big thanks to Kevin for coming.

Kevin gave us a profound introduction to reading disabilities and how to improve reading comprehension. Starting with an excursion into what makes a font readable and how Microsoft develops optimally readable fonts, he than turned to reading disabilities like dyslexia, and how markup of text can increase students comprehension rate. He also toppled my long-term believe that dyslexia is connected to the similar shape of letters which are somehow visually malprocessed – this was the scientific status from the 1920ies till the 70ies, but since then all researchers have abandoned this interpretation and dyslexia is now linked to problems linking shape to phonems.

Kevin did an excellent job with a slightly difficult audience – some people picking about grammer differences between British and US English and permanently derailing the discussion, and even more the high percentage of typographically somehow specially tasted participants.

After the talk I had a lengthy discussion with Kevin about if/how this research can be carried over to non-Roman writing systems, in particular Kanji/Hanzi based writing systems, where dyslexia shows itself probably in different context. Kevin also mentioned that they want to add interword space to Chinese to help learners of Chinese (children, foreigners) to better parse, and studies showed that this helps a lot in comprehension.

On a meta-level, this talk bracketed with the morning introduction by Pavneet, describing an open environment with stimulus back and forth in all directions. I am very happy that Kevin took the pain to come in his tight schedule, and I hope that the future will bring better cooperation – at the end we are all working somehow on the same front – only the the tools differ.


izakaya-sake-partyAfter the closing of the session, one part of our group went off to the baseball match, while another group dived into a Japanese-style Izakaya where we managed to kill huge amounts of sake and quite an amount of food. The photo shows me after the first bottle of sake, while just seeping on an intermediate small amount of genshu (kind of strong undiluted sake) before continuing to the next bottle.

An interesting and stimulating first day of TUG, and I am sure that everyone was looking forward to day 2.

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