Minimal installation for TeX (pdflatex/pdftex)?



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Olli: I completely agree with the overall gist of your message. Just one detail:

Well, if you want to use a type setting system, you're going to need fonts.
True. But you can run (La-) TeX without using any MF (MetaFont) fonts. Instead you can use Postscript fonts exclusively. To do that, you need the font metric files (the .tfm) files for Postscript fonts, but those are (a) available, and (b) included in one of the smaller packages above. This requires using the correct setup files in your document, but then you can delete the texmf package.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, when dvips was already fully formed, but Postscript laser printers had really slow rendering engines and little memory, we used to do that, and print documents using only PS fonts. Why? For a printer to render a page with native Postscript fonts (which are stored inside the printer, in optimized form) is pretty fast. But when using MF fonts, it takes a long time to send the large font bitmap files in the various sizes to the printer over slow links (I still have a LaserJet 5MP at home, which uses a parallel port, at probably less than 100KB/second), and then it takes a long time for the tiny little CPU in the printer to put all the bitmap characters on the page.

One can argue whether using PS or MF fonts gives better quality output. Personally, I like the MetaFont "computer modern" serifed fonts better than the standard Times Roman fonts that one gets commonly in Postscript. For scientific papers (which I still read and write), it seems to be the only thing that looks right. The MF math symbols are leagues better than anything else, since they were designed by a person who had spent decades reading and writing papers full of mathematical symbols. But when it comes to sans-serif fonts, MetaFont just doesn't look right; there the standard has been set by the the Selectric's Gothic font, and by Helvetica.

You are allowing your hatred of Linux to cloud your mind.
This is a common problem, particularly here on the forum. There are unfortunately a lot of people here who are motivated by emotion (hating Windows, hating Linux, ...) or unreflected dogma (only open source is good, only the BSD license is good, ...). Those people too frequently then take their beliefs and create fake technical arguments from that, by being selective in their cognition: "my windows machine crashed twice last year, therefore Microsoft is an evil company that creates low-quality software just to suck our blood out, but we knew that beforehand". There is a lot of confirmation bias.