UK-TUG Discussion Meeting and AGM

The annual UK-TUG meeting, including talks on a range of topics and the AGM, took place today at the wider FLOSS meeting in Birmingham. As this was an ‘uncoference’, the day was organised very much as it happened, although the AGM was of course a fixed item!

Opening

The day started with a talk to everyone at the uncoference from Simon Phipps, a member of the Open Source Initiative board. The talk ranged over a wide range of topics, and was very much looking at the big picture for developers in Free and Open Source software. This sparked a lot of discussion, which went on well into the coffee break!

Morning session

After the coffee break, the unconference split into different groups, and those of us with an interest in TeX and related issues got together. The flexible nature of the uncoference meant that along with a core group of the TeX-devoted, there were interested audience members picking up on individual talks.

Jonathan Fine, outgoing Chairman of UK-TUG, took the first talk of the day looking at MathJax, SVG and the web. The focus was on the way that high-quality typography can be presented in modern web browsers. The SVG format was a key part of his talk, and Jonathan demonstrated how TeX output can be converted into scalable, copyable content using dvisvgm. He then explained the issues with Internet Explorer 7 and 8 with this approach: lack of SVG support! The solution to this is the Google-produced SVGweb, which converts the SVG to Flash content. Of course, Jonathan then explained that this is not an ideal solution, but it’s better than no support at all.

Jonathan’s talk led into a wider discussion about the availability of web fonts. Once again, Google’s name was mentioned, and their work on a web font directory. It was very pleasing to see David Crossland, our former Secretary, as the author of several of these.

The second talk of the morning session was given by Alex Regueiro on the topic of running TeX as a service on Windows. Alex started off outline the background:  the cost of starting up a process on Windows, and the need to look beyond MiKTeX and TeX Live for a solution. He then described the approaches he’s tried, first sticking with a standard TeX binary and then looking at a more complete approach in which a change file is applied to the TeX sources to avoid file operations.

AGM

After lunch, the formal business of the day needed to be completed. A draft of full minutes for the AGM have already been circulated to members. The AGM marked the end of Jonathan Fine’s tenure as Chairman: he handed over to new Chairman Alun Moon at the end of the AGM. The make up of the new committee was also announced:

  • Simon Dales
  • Jonathan Fine
  • Alun Moon
  • David Saunders
  • John Peters
  • Jonathan Webley
  • Joseph Wright

The new committee will be making some more announcements in due course about other matters arising.

Afternoon session

At the end of the formal business of the AGM, Alun Moon gave a statement as the new Chairman of UK-TUG. This led on to a wider discussion on the topics he raised, which broadly covered four key topics: advocacy, awareness, usability and training. There was a lot of engagement in all of these areas from the members (and non-members) present.

Joseph Wright gave the first talk of the afternoon on his LaTeX package siunitx. Joseph focussed on how he’s tried to help users, with the detail of the development process very much in the background. siunitx is a package for dealing with typesetting numbers and units, and Joseph highlighted the fact that there are a wide range of user requirements that he has tried to handle using key-value settings rather than a large number of user macros.

The second talk came from Andrew Ford, who focussed on converting a LaTeX book to ePub format, using the example of his wife’s cookbook of vegetarian recipes. Andrew explained that the ePub format is a combination of XHTML and CSS, and that LaTeXML has allowed a relatively painless conversion process. Looking beyond ePub, conversion to Kindle format (which unlike ePub is closed).

Next, Simon Dales talked about his work on using Doxygen as a tool for documenting TeX material. The concept he described makes use of suitably-designed comments to provide the documentation, a concept that many LaTeX programmers will have seen with DocStrip and the DTX format. However, Doxygen makes HTML/LaTeX/… documentation directly from the final TeX/LaTeX package files, so is good at retrospectively documenting code. Simon highlighted some of the compromises he’s had to make to get Doxygen (a tool for C-like languages) to work with TeX. His system is more than a proof of concept and promoted quite a range of discussion on the broader documentation issue.

Squeezed in before the end of the day, Joseph Wright came back to say five minutes about the TeX StackExchange site, something that both he and Jonathan Fine have taken quite an interest in.