austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

Occasions, persuasions, clutter your mind

Alas, a side effect of my computer glitches last week: I had to reinstall my LaTeX engine. For the non-mathematically inclined I should explain this isn't anything all that polymer-based. It's a typesetting engine which turns ordinary ASCII-grade text into very slickly produced pages ready for printing. Thanks to the clever choice of standards for including mathematical symbols and such advanced features as subscripts and superscripts, and the ability to easily code macros which reduce complicated operations to shorter codes, it's possible using this to produce a raw-text document that anyone else with LaTeX can then be utterly unable to compile. I mean, they could compile it into print-ready copy if they had all the same macros and included files and so on, but nobody does, so once you get past stuff like \cos\{\theta\} you're in for a bizarre world trying to read anyone else's files. But if you mostly do your own file-reading and writing it's just fine.

I don't use command-line LaTeX for typesetting anymore, the way we did back in the days of Unix terminals and when Netscape introduced that Easter egg where a little monster would rampage in its `N' icon. Instead I use TeXShop, a pretty nice program with the right blend of customizable user interfaces and not getting in the way for my tastes. I've even got to installing a few macros, to open up matching pairs of parentheses and other errors I often make. For reasons best known to someone who is not me, though, installing TeXShop doesn't install a LaTeX processor. But at least they provide links to find an installation that's none too difficult to deal with. I don't see an obvious reason why TeXShop couldn't install its own LaTeX engine. I suppose there's an advantage in having the user able to install a new LaTeX whenever that gets modified or bug-fixed, but that needs so rarely to be done I'd rather TeXShop had an option like ``LaTeX engine not found. Install default?''

Trivia: On 26 June 1815 Napoleon Bonaparte, freshly abdicated, asked the Provisional Government of France for passage to Rochefort, from which he would sail to the United States. Commission Exécutive president Joseph Fouché directed the Minister of Marine to have two frigates ready for this passage. Source: The Age of Napoleon, Will and Ariel Durant.

Currently Reading: The Rules of Baseball, David Nemec.


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