---------- Forwarded message ----------
Received from CVR... Radhakrishnan CV <cvr(a)river-valley.org>
TUG 2002: A Report from God's Own Country
By KG Kumar, Indian TeX Users Group
For the 33 delegates from 13 countries who gathered at Trivandrum, the
capital of the south Indian state of Kerala, for TUG 2002, the
ambience of the environs and the deliberations at the sessions only
served to reinforce this year's theme: Stand up and be proud of
To which, the local hosts, TUGIndia or the Indian TeX Users Group,
had added the teasing rider: After all, you are heading for God's Own
Country! That phrase may have seemed like marketing overkill for most
TeXies who had never before heard of Kerala, but the moment they
landed in Trivandrum -- or Thiruvananthapuram, to give the
tongue-twisting name of the city in the local language, Malayalam --
most knew that this was some form of paradise. Especially when they
first glimpsed the idyllic setting of their place of temporary abode,
Hotel Samudra, at Kovalam, a seagull's wing-tip away from the rolling
surf of the Arabian sea.
Minds and bodies suitably relaxed after various trans-continental
flights, it only remained to see whether the sessions of the 23rd
Annual Meeting of TUG would live up to their promise, as advertised in
the pre-conference mailers and Web postings. Many of the delegates had
battled initial misgivings to travel to India, as several countries
had put out negative travel advisories, prompted by the political
tensions in the subcontinent. In fact, at one early point in the
run-up to the conference, there were strong doubts whether TUG 2002
would actually happen at all.
So it was with more than idle curiosity that the delegates trooped
into the airconditioned mini-bus on Wednesday, 4 September for the
40-minute ride from Hotel Samudra to the Park Center, Technopark, the
modern, state-of-the-art electronics technology park that was to be
the venue for the three-day conference.
But most delegates were too busy taking in (and storing digitally!)
the sights of the green countryside they had to traverse, to bother
with syntax highlighting and server-side compilation! And when they
did land outside the Park Center, where they were joined by the other
delegates staying in a city hotel, most of whom had attended the
pre-conference tutorials from 1 to 3 September. Were they in for some
surprise! Waiting to greet them, all bedecked in a cape with the TUG
2002 logo, was a little elephant! Talk about life imitating art. Who
would have imagined the very Indian elephant on top of which Duane
Bibby's TeX lion and METAFONT lioness were happily perched would
actually be there in the flesh, gobbling bananas and swaying his trunk
in joy?! A couple of intrepid delegates clambered on top of the
elephant for a short ride, while most others remained content feeding
it bananas and taking snaps.
Also present to welcome the delegates was a team performing the
panchavadyam, Kerala's traditional five-instrument musical ensemble,
which built up to a crescendo as the delegates entered the Park
Center. Appropriately enough, a couple of the foreign male delegates
were clad in dhotis, the traditional sarong-like attire of Kerala,
while the odd lady did try out a salwar-kameez or a saree!
Suitably localised, the delegates were treated to a brief opening
ceremony at a session chaired by Sebastian Rahtz, before Ajit Ranade
of ABN-Amro Bank, Mumbai, India talked to them about the status of
TeX in India, where software contributes to 2 per cent of the
national Gross Domestic Product. He also pointed out that all 13 of
the Indic scripts can be typeset in TeX, but only 10 of the 5,000
fonts are free.
That set the tone for the next presentation by S. Rajkumar of Linuxense
Information Systems, Trivandrum, India, who talked about the processing of
Unicode text to produce high-quality typeset material for Indic scripts
using Opentype fonts.
Continuing the focus on the Indian subcontinent, Amitabh Trehan of the
Mahatma Gandhi Antarrashtriya Hindi Vishwavidyalaya, Delhi, India,
narrated the experiences of his team in typesetting in Hindi, Sanskrit
and Persian. They had recently published the first Indian-language
book totally typeset in LaTeX, using the devnag package, later,
also incorporating the sanskrit and ArabTeX packages.
In her paper, Gy\"ongyi Bujdos\'o of the University of Debrecen, Hungary,
dealt with how the Hungarian TeX Users Group (MaTeX) has resumed
the localization of LaTeX for the Hungarian language, keeping in
mind the specialities of Hungarian grammar, like hyphenation, and
handling definite articles and suffixes. By the time Gyongyi had got
to plans for designing special Hungarian ligatures and new fonts,
everyone had built up a reasonably good appetite!
Thankfully for the organizers, the first lunch of TUG 2002 proved to be a
hit, with most of the delegates preferring to polish off the local Indian
dishes, and giving the continental offerings a wide berth! There weren't
too many complaints about levels of spice either, normally the scarier
side of Indian cuisine for the average foreign visitor.
The post-lunch session was kicked off by Satish Babu, Chair of the TUG
2002 Organizing Committee who, while admitting that he was preaching to
the converted, nevertheless went on to give an Indian perspective of the
free software model, and how a poor country like India can use it as a key
enabler in the development process.
In his talk on ``The Tao of Fonts'', Wlodzimierz Bzyl of the University
of Gdansk, Poland, searched through Yin and Yang symbols and I Ching
hexagrams for answers to such questions as: Why are there so many
variations of letter-like shapes? How were these achieved? And what
are the other ways of getting them?
In the last talk of the day, Roozbeh Pournader of the Sharif
University of Technology, Tehran, Iran set his sights on ``Unicode, the
Moving Target''. He stressed the recently introduced features of
Unicode, now over a decade in development, and pointed out how the
TeX community has remained largely ignorant of the moving target,
preferring to stick to its own special formats and traditions. He also
specified new requirements for the Omega typesetting system, to make
it usable for standard renderings.
Which, predictably enough, drew some sharp observations from John Plaice
of the University of New South Wales, Australia, and primary author of the
Omega (and now, Omega 2) project, billed as the successor of TeX.
In fact, all the lectures were followed by brief Q\&A sessions, which often
had to spill over to the lunch and tea breaks. Needless to add, these
bouts helped renew several old passions, while igniting many more new
Back at the Hotel Samudra, Kaveh Bazargan of Focal Image Ltd., UK, and
Member of the TUG 2002 Organizing Committee, had arranged for a live
demo of kalari payattu, the traditional Kerala martial arts form, on
the lawns of the hotel, just before dinner. Introducing the show,
Dominik Wujastyk of University College, London, explained some of the
salient aspects of the art form and its significance to the
development of other Asian forms like karate and kung fu.
Thursday, 5 September managed to squeeze in one more speaker to the
day's list, taking it up to a total of eight lectures. The day began
with an invited keynote talk by Hans Hagen of Pragma, Netherlands, who
illustrated the fact that TeX can meet many of the demands of
modern publishing, especially thanks to the tight integration of the
ConTeXt macro package with METAPOST. With ConTeXt becoming
XML-aware, users can now comfortably mix XML and TeX techniques, he
David Kastrup of Bochum, Germany, in his lecture, revisited WYSIWYG
paradigms for authoring LaTeX, highlighting input manipulation
tools, including editors like TeXMACS and LyX, and page-oriented
previews like Whizzy-TeX and Instant Preview. Kastrup's own
preview-latex package offers better coupling by placing previews of
small elements into the source buffer.
In the third talk of the day, Ross Moore of Macquaire University,
Sydney, Australia, elaborated on how serendiPDF makes it easier to
find the correct way to express complicated mathematics, especially
aligned environments, using LaTeX. The existence of extra
(initially hidden) mathematical fields within PDF documents helps
solve the problem of how to search for pieces of mathematics within
typeset documents, he said.
Just before lunch, Stephen M. Watt of the University of Western
Ontario, Canada, lectured on conserving implicit mathematical
semantics in conversion between TeX and MathML. Several efforts
have been made to design software to convert mathematical expressions
from TeX to MathML and vice versa. Unlike the standard approach of
expanding macros and then translating from low-level TeX to MathML,
Watt's approach is to map macros in one setting to corresponding
macros in another, thus conserving implied semantics.
After lunch, Karel Piska of the Academy of Sciences, Prague, Czech
Republic, presented his paper on converting public Indic fonts from
METAFONT into PostScript Type 1 format with the TeXTRACE program
developed by Peter Szabo in 2001. For TUG 2002, Piska prepared a
collection of PostScript Type 1 Indic fonts corresponding to their
METAFONT sources from CTAN.
In a joint presentation on FarsiTeX and the Iranian community,
Behdad Esfahbod and Roozbeh Pournader of the Sharif University of
Technology, Tehran, Iran, dwelt on the history, technicalities and
future of FarsiTeX, the bilingual Persian/English localized version
of LaTeX that meets the minimum requirements of Persian
mathematical and technical typography. The FarsiTeX project team is
working on a new release with PostScript Type 1 fonts, as well as
including Unicode support and integration with Omega, Esfahbod and
Denis Roegel of LORIA, France, presented a paper on the METAOBJ system
and its features for the implementation of very high-level objects
within METAPOST. He first dealt with the usual low-level way of
drawing within METAPOST, and then described a functional approach to
drawing and how objects can be implemented.
In the last lecture of the day, Karel Skoupy proposed a new
typesetting language and system architecture to overcome the
oversimplified type system of TeX and the incomplete set of TeX
primitives. Skoupy's future typesetting system will be composed of
flexible components that can support multiple inputs (TeX, XML) and
output formats (DVI, PostScript, PDF) and different font types.
The second day of TUG 2002 ended with the official -- and sumptuous --
conference dinner at Hotel Samudra, which was preceded by a
song-and-dance show by a group of homeless children from the Sri
Chitra Home for the Poor and Destitute, Trivandrum, as well as a flute
recital of classical Carnatic music by V. C. George. Both these
offerings were greatly enjoyed by the delegates, many of whom posed
alongside the performers for souvenir photographs.
Many also lingered on long after the performances and dinner, to
savour the cool breeze from the sea, late into the night, emboldened
by the fact that the next day, Friday, would be a relatively easygoing
day, with no official sessions scheduled. This was made necessary by
an earlier call by local trade unions for a day-long general strike
that would have prevented vehicular traffic on the streets of
Trivandrum, which would have made it almost impossible for delegates
to reach Technopark. The organizers therefore rescheduled the
programme to allow for some tutorials for delegates at Hotel Samudra
itself. In the event, though the strike was called off at the last
minute, the delegates spent the Friday well, some attending David
Kastrup's tutorial, and others setting out for sightseeing and
Saturday, 7 September began with none of the laziness of a typical
weekend, as the TUG Business Session reviewed the past year's annual
report, discussed some points of budgets and finances, and the
forthcoming elections to various official posts.
After that, the first lecture of the day was by G. Nagarjuna of the
Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai, who talked on semantic
Web, the GNOWSYS project and online publishing.
The theme of online communication was also a key point in the next
presentation by Srivathsan, Director of the Indian Institute of
Information Technology and Management - Kerala (IITMK), who talked of
using free software in the nationwide education grid that his
institute is now working on.
A Chinese touch followed, with a presentation by the founder and
Chairman of the Chinese TeX Users Group, Hong Feng, who attempted
to marry TeX with Lojban, an artificial, ambiguity-free language
constructed in 1955. Feng pointed out how it is possible to encode
Chinese by using Lojban as the meta-language and by importing the idea
of re-encoding Chinese in variable length strings of human-readable
In a brief but interesting presentation just before lunch,
K. Anilkumar of Linuxsense Information Systems, Trivandrum, India,
presented a way of exploiting shell-escape to make TeX read
databases and generate reports.
In the first lecture after lunch, John Plaice of the University of New
South Wales, Australia presented a paper written along with Yannis
Haralambous of the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Telecommunications
de Bretagne, France. They presented tools, based on the Omega
typesetting system and using fonts from devnag, for typesetting
languages using the Devanagiri script (Hindi, Sanskrit,
Marathi). These tools can be adapted to particular environments of
input methods and fonts, and even to other Indic languages, the paper
Fabrice Popineau of SUPELEC, France, talked of what's new with the 7th
version of TeXLive under Windows. He also told delegates of an
imminent project, funded by the French Ministry of Education, to
tightly integrate XEmacs and TeX to provide an easy-to-use,
out-of-the-box word processing tool.
In the last lecture of TUG 2002, Karel Skoupy discussed the
development of a TeX file server, which will offer cross-network
transparency and resource sharing. He demonstrated the prototype of
the server, and its protocol and integration with kpathsea.
Before the closing ceremony of TUG 2002, delegates were treated to a video
display that showcased the attractions of Big Island, Hawai'i, the venue
of TUG 2003, the Silver Anniversary of TeX.
At the closing ceremony, Satish Babu thanked all those who had worked
tirelessly to make the conference a success. Dominik Wujastyk summed
up the achievements of TUG 2002, noting, in particular, how potential
disruptions had been managed in a quiet, unobtrusive and peaceful
As TUG 2002 came to a close, and delegates began exchanging hugs and
goodbyes (or ``Alohas'', which is Hawai'ian for both ``goodye'' and
``hello''), all eyes were trained on the Outrigger Waikola Beach Resort,
Big Island, Hawai'i, where, from July 20 to 24, TeXies will
congregate to celebrate 25 years of TeX.
See you in Hawai'i!