[tex-live] The ever-increasing size of TeX Live (was: "no subject").

Michael Shell list1 at michaelshell.org
Wed Sep 19 20:22:19 CEST 2018

On Wed, 19 Sep 2018 00:42:39 +0200
Reinhard Kotucha <reinhard.kotucha at web.de> wrote:

> Still much too expensive in order to offer them for free to members of
> TeX user groups. DVDs are very cheap.

Well, it's not just the cost of blank DVDs, but the cost of burning,
the printed sleeves (which are very nice and well done, BTW. That's
what I would miss most with USB drives). If all that can be done under
the 1 $/EURO level, wow, that really is incredibly cheap.

We could still produce DVDs for free distribution, but those would, and
could, not carry everything. And as time goes on, the fraction of the
full distribution they carry is going to have to become less and less.

> But the main problem is there is no filesystem appropriate for all
> operating systems.  I've heard that recent versions of Windows allow
> to mount ISO9660 images if they are files on an NTFS filesystem but do
> not recognize an ISO9660 filesystem on a USB stick.

Not to suggest the free software world is without quirks, but the 
proprietary software world always seems to come with such irksome
baggage and malfeasance.

USB drives can be partitioned just like regular hard drives. So, they
can carry multiple filesystems. However, we would want to do this in a
way that minimizes redundancy. 

We could even go with 32GB USB units, and/or expect the unix systems
to be able to mount FAT32 and/or NTFS filesystems.

Alternatively, I would even consider a more radical approach - use the
linux ext2 filesystem to carry the vast bulk of the files and then
include a partition(s) with drivers to allow ext2 to be read under
Windows and Mac:


The Windows/Mac user would first install the needed ext2 drivers, then
they could proceed normally from that point on using the distribution
files carried on the ext2 filesystem.

I know there are a lot of potential pitfalls here. We would have to
make sure such drivers actually work, could be redistributed freely,
etc. Tis just another option to consider. By no means am I recommending
such a radical approach until we had more information/testing.

FWIW, this is another area where I think our governments are lacking -
the establishment of a free/open/patentless filesystem standard that
most all consumer devices would be required to support. Cameras and
other data handling devices should not be using file formats owned
and controlled by Microsoft. Ditto for fonts (government agencies
should have developed/used only free fonts for normal business and
standardized their availability and use in consumer devices - as a
base standard to permit uniform information interchange, not mandates
beyond that).

> Yes, this can only solve the problem in the next two or three years.
> It's not really a solution, though removing stuff is also painful.

On Wed, 19 Sep 2018 11:45:17 +0200
Martin Sievers <martin at dante.de> wrote:

> And again, we are talking about prices less than 0,50 EUR per DVD and
> year for producing and shipping. Just shipping the USB flash drive
> back to our members would be more expansive.

Of course, we/users would have to be the ones to bear any added costs,
not TUG.  I do agree that return shipping costs would be too great
relative to $6 USB drives. Also, be aware that USB drives do *not*
qualify for the cheap USPS media mail rates here in the US. So, they
will cost more to ship than DVDs:


We just have a question of a tradeoff between price and features. I would be
willing to pay more to get more. The added space of USB drives could also
allow for additional features - the collection of TUG articles, other
bonus material, etc.

Maybe we could offer a flash drive *option*, for say, $20, - beyond the
break even point so that it is even profitable for TUG to offer this
option. Maybe the USB option could come in different Unix, Windows and
Mac "flavors" (filesystems). It could serve as a test trial for the

Even if the USB drive approach is not viable, I would prefer a 2 DVD set
over deleting material. Once the build system for older hardware is no
regularly longer used, it might not reappear even after the space
limitations have been overcome, which is going to have to happen in 2-3
years anyway. Let's just go to the 2 disk set sooner rather than later.
Charge us more as needed. We are going to have to do this in the near
future anyway, right?

As for the cost of a 30 USB drive duplicator, it amounts to less than
$2 per TUG member. If a mere two dozen of us donate $100, we've got
it. For a 55-at-once unit:


we would need 43 members to donate $100. These units can copy the
whole media (block by block) do have a post-write verify option
which would automatically catch any bad drives.

I realize there is going to be an additional labor cost of whoever 
operates it, but we have to pay that cost even with DVDs, right?

For the record, count me in as one who is willing to donate in
the hundred dollar level to help out here.

Maybe we should take another online survey of the options and costs
and see what members want and are willing to pay for?



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