AGM

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At the AGM for 2013, the make up of the new committee was also announced:

  • Simon Dales (Chair)
  • Jonathan Fine
  • Brent Longborough
  • John Peters
  • Arthur Reutenauer
  • Joseph Wright

The committee appointed Arthur as Treasurer and Joseph as Secretary: Simon was elected Chair in 2012 and has another year to go in this role before another election is needed.

The programme for our upcoming speaker meeting is

  • 10:30 Arrival/coffee
  • 11:00 Talk session 1
  • 12:30 Lunch
  • 13:00 Workshop: new developments in the TeX world
  • 14:00 UK-TUG AGM
  • 15:00 Talk session 2
  • 16:30 Close

As always, the exact schedule remains flexible, and will be decided by those present on the day, but we will not start talks before 11 am (as members often need to travel to the venue).

The annual UK-TUG Speaker Meeting and AGM will take place on Saturday, 9th November at Trinity College, Oxford, OX1 3BH. The speaker meeting will begin at around 10 am and normally runs to between 4 pm and 5 pm, depending on the number of talks presented and time required to deal with the formal AGM business. Attendance at the speaker day is free for UK-TUG members, and a light lunch will be provided.

We hope to have an exciting day of talks: the day is flexible, with only the slot for the AGM (2 pm) fixed. Members are encouraged to submit talk titles and approximate lengths for addition to the programme. For members who are unable to attend, the committee will be recording the talks again, as happened last year, and uploading them to the UK-TUG Vimeo account.

Some of the day is often devoted to discussion. A suggestion for this year is a workshop-like session on (relatively) recent developments in the TeX world such as XeTeX and LuaTeX, and perhaps also in the LaTeX world (packages such as biblatex). Depending on member feedback, this or indeed some other discussion element may be included in the programme.

Speaker Meeting

The annual Speaker Meeting and AGM took place yesterday. We had a mix of talks, discussion and of course the AGM. The talks were recorded: we hope to make these available soon.

Morning Session

The day began with informal discussions over coffee: there are relatively few opportunities to meet up with other TeX users, so this is an important part of the day. Turnout this year was good, and the committee were pleased that this meant the venue was full, but not so full as to mean people were turned away!

The first talk of the day came from David Carlisle, member of the LaTeX3 Project and author of the longtable package. David explained the history of the package, and how the design reflects the constraints of computers in the late 1980s. He talked about the issues this means when interacting with other packages, an in particular the challenges of bidirection and colour work with tables.

Simon Dales gave the second talk, looking at his experiences with TeX on the Raspberry Pi and using LuaTeX (on the Pi) for programming. Simon gave his talk using a live demo: there were a lot of cables on the meeting table!

The third talk of the day was an exciting event all-round, as it came live from Brazil using Skype. Paulo Cereda told us about his new TeX automation tool, arara, and how it contrasts with existing approaches such as latexmk and Rubber. Paulo has been working very hard with UK-TUG member Brent Longborough on the latest release of arara, and it was very exciting to hear about this international effort.

Afternoon session

After Paulo’s talk, lunch arrived and informal discussion got under-way again, accompanied by sandwiches.

The first talk of the afternoon was from Joseph Wright, who talked about the ‘coffins’ concept that the LaTeX3 Project have developed. Joseph focussed on the user interface layer of the work, rather than the code. This sparked a lively discussion on future directions for TeX-related development in general.

The AGM took place a 2 pm: the formal business is reported in draft minutes to members.

After the AGM, we had a second Raspberry Pi demo, this time from Jonathan Fine. Jonathan highlighted the computing power available in the Pi, and contrasted it with a PC he built from components around 10 years ago. The opportunity to develop ‘typesetting devices’ based on the Pi was a key part of the talk.

Joseph then returned to present slides from the TeX Gyre Math Project: these were given at the EuroTeX meeting last week. Joseph gave his own thoughts on the slides, and several other members also contributed to a lively discussion.

The last session of the day was taken up with discussion on some of the topics which had come up during the day. One key possibility that was raised was running a TeX graphics course, something the committee agreed to look at.

Notice of 2012 AGM

The 2012 UK-TUG AGM will be held on Saturday 20th October at 14:00. The meeting will take place as part of the UK-TUG Speaker meeting at Trinity College, Oxford, OX1 3BH. We hope that as members as possible will be able to attend the AGM and the Speaker meeting.

Election for Chair

The two-year term of office of the Chair, Alan Moon, finishes at the end of the AGM. Anyone who wishes to stand should ask a member to nominate them for the post: in case of difficulty, please approach the committee. Nominations should be sent to the Secretary by 23:59 on the 5th of October. The candidate should also confirm that they are happy to stand, and may be send a statement for circulation to members in support of their candidature.

If there is a contested election then there will be an electronic ballot. Details of the candidates and supporting statements will be circulated on Sunday 7th October and voting will close at 23:59 on Thursday 18th October.

Elections for the committee

The term of all committee members expires at the end of the AGM (with the exception of the Chair, as detailed above). Anyone who wishes to stand should contact the Secretary at any time before the AGM. Most of the business of the committee is carried out electronically, so a remote location should be no barrier. The mechanism for nominations is similar to that for Chair, with a nomination from a member along with confirmation from the candidate, although there is no need to submit any kind of statement.

Motions for the AGM

Any member may submit a motion to the AGM. Motions should be sent to the Secretary at the e-mail address above, and should be received by 23:59 on Friday 5th October. Motions and supporting documentation will be circulated on Sunday 7th October. Voting on motions will be possible by proxy for members not able to attend the AGM. Full details will be given with the motions when circulated.

The annual UK-TUG Speaker Meeting and AGM took place yesterday at Trinity College, Oxford. The audience was small, but discussion was very lively.

Morning session

Joseph Wright began the day’s discussions with a report on the LaTeX training events run by UK-TUG in the last two years. He explained how the materials have been developed, leading to the source being available on GitHub. Joseph explained that the training is delivered with short sessions at the screen with a lot of opportunity for students to work on examples. Jonathan Fine suggested that videoing parts of course would be an opportunity to make the training more widely available. For this, an on-line LaTeX system would be needed. Joseph pointed to ScribTeX as an existing example. Jonathan also wondered about using the slide source to generate an HTML version of the material. Joseph said he’d look at this.

Simon Dales spoke next about documenting TeX sources. He described using Doxygen, a C tool, to take source comments and turn these into documentation in a variety of formats. He explained that this approach can avoid the need to decided in advance how to document code, but that Doxygen is too linked to C-style syntax to be the ideal tool for TeX. He showed a proof of concept demonstration using Doxygen, then described his second-generation approach to the problem, which he is currently implementing in Lua.

After lunch

Jonathan Fine gave the first talk in afternoon, looking at the opportunities presented by iPad and similar mobile devices. He first explained the Knuth was motivated to write TeX because of the limitations of photolithography in reproducing his books. Jonathan explained that the ePub format, used by most devices except the Kindle, is a compressed HTML5-based set of files. HTML5 features SVG as a key component, and Jonathan described how this allows typography in the webpage. Jonathan described how conversion from DVI to SVG can be used to get TeX quality output into ePub output. There was then a lively discussion about the challenges of mobile device typography.

AGM

The formal business of the day followed at 2 pm. A draft of full minutes for the AGM has already been circulated to members. The make up of the new committee was also announced:

  • Simon Dales
  • Jonathan Fine
  • Alun Moon
  • John Peters
  • Joseph Wright

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

Afternoon session

After the AGM, Simon Dales talked about using LuaTeX for programming. He showed a simple Hello World document using Lua to include the text in a LaTeX file, then described the ability to load Lua modules. He showed how you can create your own modules to be loaded by Lua. As a fuller demonstration of the use of Lua, he showed how it allows processing of structured data to produce complex table.

Joseph Wright then talked about the TeX.sx site, and what advantages it has for new users over more traditional threaded lists and forums. He described the various features of the site, such as the Q&A structure, voting, reputation and the ability to edit material. Jonathan Fine is also registered on TeX.sx, and added a number of useful comments.

The day ended with a short stroll around Trinity College, which in the autumn sunshine was very pleasant indeed.

The committee are making initial arrangements for our yearly speaker meeting and AGM. This initial notice is very much to allow for forward planning. This year’s meeting will be taking place on the 22nd of October at Trinity College in Oxford. The arrangements for the day have yet to be finalised, but based on previous years we would expect the formal AGM business to take place early in the afternoon, with talks and TeX-related discussion surrounding that. Suggestions for talk titles, topics for discussion and so on are very welcome.

Chairman’s report

As reported earlier, Jonathan Fine presented his final report as Chairman of UK-TUG yesterday at our AGM. He has now made this available electronically, and it can be seen in PDF format or as the TeX source, but you can also read it here:

I have been Chair of the UK TeX Users Group for four years now and am not standing for re-election. Although not a founding member of UKTUG I joined it in its first year (1990), have served on the committee for several years, and in particular organised several effective and well attended meetings and written many articles for our journal Baskerville during the 1990s.

In this report, in addition to recent news, I will take a longer view. In 1990 there were 12.4 million mobile (then called cellular) phones. Last year there were approximately 4.6 billion, 370 times as many. In 1989 the USA had its first commercial dial-up access internet service provider, and in 1992 Congress allowed the National Science Foundation funded network to interconnect with commercial networks. In 1990 there were 313,000 internet host computers. In 2009 there were 681 million, which is 2,175 times as many.

In 1990 and 1991 Tim Berners-Lee started the World Wide Web while at CERN. In 1993 there was Mosaic, the first widespread graphical web browser and approximately 600 web sites. By 1996 there were about 100,000 of which half were dot-com. Also in 1996 two PhD students at Stanford (Larry Page and Sergey Brin) started the research project that became Google, which last year had a profit of $6.5 billion from a revenue of $23.6 billion.

Facebook was launched in February 2004 and by July this year it had over 500 million active users and estimated revenues of $0.8 billion. It is estimated that there are 6.9 billion people alive now, so about 1/14 are on Facebook and about 2/3 have a mobile phone.

In short, over the past 20 years humanity has built an electronic communication network that reaches most of the globe and is used by perhaps a majority of the world’s population. This system now embraces person-to-person communication (as in the telephone), broadcast communication (as in newspapers, radio and television) and also distribution of books, film and recorded music.

All this is not possible without agreed behaviour, without standards. The world’s oldest international organisations are the Central Commission for Navigation on the Rhine (1816), the International Telecommunication Union (1869) and the Universal Postal Union (1874). For example, prior to the UPU a letter sent abroad often needed stamps of several countries on it.

In 1977, when Don Knuth starting working on TeX, paper was by far the dominant medium for written communication. Books, letters, bills, newspapers, timetables, tickets, advertisements, diaries, logbooks are all examples. Punched cards and paper were used for textile looms (1725, Jacquard 1801), ticker tape (1870), 1890 US census (Hollerith) and player pianos (flourished 1896–1930). Hollerith was a founder of what became IBM. In 1977 paper was in libraries the dominant media for data storage, along with vinyl for music. Around then the Betamax and VHS video tape formats were introduced.

At that time academic, scientific, government and commercial data processing were major users of electronically stored written information. Now ordinary people are major users. In 1980 IBM produced the first gigabyte capacity hard drive, the size of a fridge, 550 lbs and $40,000. Today £50 will buy a 1 terabyte hard drive, and £5 a 2 gigabyte USB drive. The source file tex.web for TeX occupies about 1 megabyte.

Typesetting is an early example of this move from paper to digital media. Prior to the rise of phototypesetting (shining light through negative images of characters onto photographic film) in the 1970s, hot metal typesetting was often used to create a single original which could be photographed and used to produce offset lithoplates. Phototypesetting was, in turn, replaced by digital typesetters (in important ways similar to modern laser printers) driven by a computer.

This was the situation when Don Knuth started working on TeX in 1977. There were computers and phototypesetters, and a software gap. TeX and Metafont admirably filled this gap, particularly for mathematical content. PostScript was developed by John Warnock and released by Abode in 1982. PDF followed in 1993. Digital typesetting is now taken for granted. We generate our PDF file, send it to a print supplier, who then returns thousands of printed copies.

Today many people prefer to receive written communication electronically, as text or chat message, email, web-page or PDF. Much typeset material is read on-screen and is seldom printed. And the web-page is a major medium for written communication. Last year Google bought a disused paper mill in Finland, for conversion into a data centre, at a total cost of $260 million. All for storage and transmission of digital information.

Although paper is far from dead, this enormous shift from paper to electronic media is of immense importance for the TeX community. Sadly, we are barely coping. Translation of LaTeX to XML and vice-versa is not straightforward. The problems of mathematical content on web pages have hardly been solved. Installation and running of TeX requires a long download and many technical skills. The LaTeX3 project, started in 1993, is still far from completion.

Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) provides us with a new opportunity. I describe it as PDF for web pages, with some elements of Flash. Although the W3C adopted SVG as a standard in 2001, it is not yet widely used due to non-adoption by Microsoft. But that is changing. All modern browsers support SVG, including Internet Explorer 9, but not IE7 and IE8.

SVG, together with web fonts, allow TeX quality typesetting to be displayed as a scalable part of a web page on many modern browsers. For IE7 and IE8 emulations are available. (For graphical material Google’s svgweb translates SVG in the browser to Flash. For typeset matter HTML, CSS and webfonts provide a better emulation. The MathJax software gives an excellent example of what can be done now.)

There are many important challenges and opportunities facing use, besides SVG. Improved documentation and training, translation to and from XML, simplified installation, Unicode support are examples. But SVG is special for two reasons. First, it gives us an opportunity to establish TeX as the definitive means of rendering mathematics both for display on web pages and for print. Second, SVG will become the major medium for reading typeset material on web pages and elsewhere. For example, every EPUB reader must support SVG.

This, then, is my view of the past 20 years, which roughly speaking encompasses the life of the UK TeX Users Group, and of some of the challenges facing us now.

In the past four years we have made steady progress. When I became Chair things were so bad that there was open talk of dissolving the organisation. We instituted a subscription holiday and set up a projects fund to reduce our considerable surplus. Broadly speaking both have done well. We have shown ourselves able to spend money on supporting TeX in the UK and more widely. The AGM is being asked to end the subscription holiday.

We have funded two projects in 2007–8. We provided Jonathan Kew £1,600 for the TeXworks integrated development environment, which was completed and is now part of TeX distributions. We also provided £1,700 (with a second equal instalment on receipt of a progress report) to add Unicode maths support to Latin Modern and the TeXGyre font collection (a project led by Hans Hagen). Here there seems to be no progress and no expenditure.

We have replaced our previous rather quirky constitution with something that will serve us better. We have held some fairly successful meetings, and earlier this year we organised LaTeX training.

Particular thanks are due to David Saunders, who has been an excellent Treasurer, a steady and reliable voice, and who led greatly on the new Constitution; to Joseph Wright, who has ably managed our web-site, handled membership and much administration, ran LaTeX training with Nicola Talbot (who is is also thanked); and to Jonathan Webley who with much independent effort has restarted our magazine Baskerville.

I wish all new and continuing committee members and our new Chair, Alun Moon, all the best for the coming years.

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.

David Saunders, Returning Officer for the election of a new Chair, writes

We have received one valid nomination for Chair of UK-TUG, and so there will be no need for a ballot. I’m pleased to say that Dr Alun Moon has been elected as Chair, and will take office at the end of the AGM on Saturday.

We are very pleased to welcome Dr Moon to the role. He takes over as the Chair of UK-TUG at the end of the AGM on Saturday. Alun writes:

Let me introduce myself, I’m Alun and I’ve been a LaTeX user since 1982 (‘Eee when I were a lad we ‘ad t’ make do wit’ teletype’). Don’t worry this isn’t an introduction for TeXies Anonymous. TeX and friends have been a useful tool through my time in HE, though in my institution I’m a rarity. A colleague once likened the circle of TeX users to the ‘escape committee’. I’ve seen TeX grow with more and more packages; powerful graphics, presentations, pdf support, and more. In this age of the wiki, just about every wiki system I’ve looked at has the capability to use LaTeX as a back-end formatter for mathematics, many publishers support it for submissions. A Google search for material will show the range of organisations that use it. There are even apps for smart phones to write TeX. In this internet age we could be looking at a golden age of LaTeX.

There are three things I would like to encourage. Advocacy: we know LaTeX is good, but we still have to convince a sometimes sceptical world. Training: we can continue with the already excellent training and support material that we have produced. Usability: can we make TeX usable? My kids have been exposed to WYSIWYG words from day one at school, what can we do to make LaTeX usable for them?

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