TeX Live 2009 freeze date

I’m not sure how many TeX/LaTeX developers read what I write here, but nonetheless.

TeX Live is the major distribution for TeX and LaTeX and related programs, released yearly by the TeX Users Group and coordinated by the tireless Karl Berry. TeX Live contains essentially everything on CTAN modulo the non-free branch, and is now the only supported distribution for Linux and Unix systems, including Mac OS X. (Windows users also have the option of using MiKTeX.)

Karl has just contacted me about fixing up a couple of my packages to go along nicely with a new feature that will be in TeX Live 2009 — a new “shell escape” feature that doesn’t need to be turned on by default and that accepts a restricted (but customisable) set of commands.

Shell escape can’t be turned on in TeX Live because it is a security hazard; one could write an obfuscated TeX document to delete your home folder, for example. However, it’s absolutely essential for some of the more convenient features that I (at least) rely on: being able to convert EPS figures on the fly (Heiko Oberdiek’s epstopdf); being able to pre-compile psfrag graphics from Matlab and Mathematica (see the pstool package), and so on.

So I have to go and look at auto-pst-pdf and the aforementioned pstool to make sure they behave correctly in this new mode, and to see if they can be improved to take advantage of it.

The initial freeze date for TeX Live 2009 is March 31, which has kind of snuck up on me. While TeX Live won’t be ready for some time after that (ironing out the wrinkles can sometimes take months), it would be unfortunate to miss the date.

I’ll have to go and check to see what we can do about the expl3 code, too…