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Tag: latexrender

working archive plugin, please!

Over the last two weeks Ive ported all old neverendingbooks-post from the last 4 years to a nearly readable format. Some tiny problems remain : a few TeX-heavy old posts are still in $…$ format rather than LaTeXrender-compatible (but Ill fix this soon), a few links may turn out to be dead (still have to check out those), TheLibrary-project links do not exist at the moment (have to decide whether to revive the project or to start a similar idea afresh), some other techie-things such as FoaF-stuff will be updated/expanded soon, et. etc. (and still have to port some 20 odd posts).

Anyway, the good news being that we went from about 40 posts since last july to over 310 posts, all open to the internal Search engine. Having all this stuff online is only useful if one can browse through it easily, so I wanted to install a proper up-to-date archive-plugin…

The current theme Redoable has build-in support for the Extended Live Archives v0.10beta-r18 plugin which would be ideal if I could get it installed… Im not the total newbie in installing WordPress-plugins and Ive read all the documentation and the support-forum and chmodded whathever I felt like chmodding, but still no success… If you know how to kick it into caching the necessary files, please drop a comment!

The next alternative Ive tried was the AWSOM Archive Version 1.2.3 plugin which gave me a pull-down menu just under the title-bar but not much seems to happen when using bloody Safari (Flock was OK though). Maybe Ill give it another go…

UPDATE (jan. 9th) : The AWSOM Archive seems to be working fine with the Redoable theme when custom installed in the footer. So, there is now a pulldown-menu at the bottom of the page.

**UPDATE (jan. 12th) : Ive installed the new version 1.3 of AWSOM Archive and it works from the default position **

At a loss I opted in the end for the simplest (though not the most aesthetic) plugin : Justin Blanton’s Smart Archives. This provides a year-month scheme at the top followed by a reverse ordered list of all months and titles of posts and is available as the arXiv neverendingbooks link available also from the sidebar (up, second link). I hope it will help you not to get too lost on this site…

Suggestions for a working-from-the-box WordPress Archive plugin, anyone???


mathML versus LaTeXRender

No math
today. If you’re interested in the latest on noncommutative geometry,
head over to the NCG-blog where Alain Connes has a post on
Still, Alain’s post is a good illustration of what Ill be rambling about
TeX and how to use it in a blog.

If you’re running a math-blog,
sooner or later you want to say something more than new-age speak like
‘points talking to each other’ and get to the essence of it. In short,
you want to talk math and it’s a regrettable fact that math doesnt go
well with ASCII. In everyday life we found a way around this : we all
use TeX to write papers and even email-wise (among mathematicians) we
write plain TeX-commands as this language is more common to us than
English. But, plain TeX and the blogosphere don’t mix well. If you’re
expecting only professional mathematicians to read what you write, you
might as well arXiv your thoughts. Im convinced the majority of people
coming here (for whatever reason) dont speak plain-TeX. Fortunately,
there is technology to display TeX-symbols on a blog. Personally, I was
an early adapter to
LaTeXRender and even today a
fair share of page-views relates to the few
posts I did on
how to get latexrender working on a mac. Some time ago I
switched to mathML and now I’m
regretting I ever did…

Mind you, I’m convinced that mathML is the
‘proper’ way to get TeX to the internet but there are at the moment some
serious drawbacks. For starters, it is highly user-unfriendly. You
simply cannot expect people to switch browsers (as well as installing
extra fonts) just because they come to your site (or you have to be a
pretty arrogant git). Speaking for myself, Im still having (against my
better judgment) Safari as my default browser, so when I come to a site
like the n-category cafe I just
skim the plain-text in between and if (and only if) the topic interests
me tremendously I’ll allow myself to switch to Flock or Firefox to read
the post in detail. I’m convinced most of you have a similar
surfing-attitude. MathML also has serious consequences on the
server-side. If you want to serve mathML you have to emit headers which
expect everything to follow to be purified XHTML. If I ever forget a
closing tag in a post, this is enough to break down NeverEndingBooks to
all Firefox-users. I’ve been writing HTML since the times when the best
browser around was something called NCSA Mosaic so Ive a
pretty lax attitude to end-tags (especially in IMG-tags) and Im just
getting too old to change these bad habbits now… It seems I’m not the
only one. Many developers of WordPress-plugins write bad XHTML-code, so
the last couple of weeks I’ve been spending more time fixing up code
than writing posts. If you want to run a mathML-wordpress site you might
find the following hints helpfull. If you get a ‘yellow screen of
death’ when viewing your site with Firefox, chances are that one of your
plugin-authors missed a closing tag in the HTML-rendering of his/her
plugin. As a rule of thumb : go for the IMG-tags first! I’m sorry to
say, but Latexrender-Steve
is among the XHTML-offenders. (On a marginal note, LaTeXrender also has
its drawbacks : to mathematicians this may seem incredible but what
Latexrender does to get one expression displayed is to TeX an entire
file, get the image from the ps-file turn it into a gif and display it,
so one gets a GIF-folder of enrmous proportions. Hence, use Latexrender
only if you have your own server and dont have to care about memory
constraints. Another disadvantedge was that the GIFs were displayed with
a vertical offset, but this has been solved recently (use the ‘offset
beta’ files in the distribution)). Wrt. to that offset-beta version, use
this latex.php file instead (I
changed the IMG-line). Some plugins may not serve the correct headers
to display mathML. So, if you want to allow readers to have a
printer-friendly version of your mathML-post, get the WP-print plugin BUT
change to this wp-print.php file in order to
send the proper headers. Sometimes there are just forgotten lines/tags
in the code, such as in the [future calendar plugin](
plugin.html). So, please use this version
of the future.calendar.php file. And so on, and so on. The joys of
trying to maintain a mathML-based blog… So, no surprise I’m seriously
considering to ditch mathML and change to normal headers soon. One of
the things I like about LaTeXRender is that it can be extended, meaning
that you can get your own definitions and packages loaded whereas with
mathML you’re bound to write iTeX, which Ill never manage. But, again,
mathML will be the correct technology once all major browsers are mathML
capable and the font-problem is resolved. Does anyone know whether
Safari 3 (in Leopard, that is Mac OS 10.5 to the rest of you) will be

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mathML and work ahead

It has
been a difficult design decision, but I’m going to replace the LaTeXRender WordPress
for mathML as the
default TeX-interface for NeverEndingBooks. I will keep LaTeXRender on
standby as I may have to use exotic packages or commands that iTeX does
not deliver, but for most math-related posts, MathML will do the job
nicely (as the n-category
shows every day (or even more often)). Not that I stopped being
a dilettante but I’m going to do most of my writings (including
blog-posts) using Scrivener (more on this
another time) and Scrivener supports MultiMarkdown and allows exporting to LaTeX and XHTML (using MathML).

I could never have pulled this off in such a short time without Jacques Distler
more or less on constant stand-by (thanks Jacques!). Looking at the
times his emails were send I have no idea in which time zone he lives
(let alone sleeps…). So, here a walk-through the changes :

I’m on WP 2.0.5 I’ll start with Frederick’ post. He tells me I have to install first the itex2MML binary as
explained by
but I find that there is more recent
and therefore download the most recent imath2MML-package
and follow the readme. There is a Mac OSX binary but it’s not clear
for what processor (PPC/Intel/Binary) but a quick mail to Jacques learns
me that it’s PPC which is fine by me but on the spot he puts a
universal binary online, so whatever your Mac is you can just download
the binary, copy it to /usr/local/bin and make sure its chmodded

Back to Frederick’s post, download and install the plugin itexToMML.php in the usual way
(fortunately I spot just in time that I have to change one line saying
where my itex2MML binary is (in Frederick’s file it is NOT the default
location)). You can verify whether the plugin and itex2MML do what they
are supposed to do by typing a LaTeX-command in a post and save it. The
output will not produce the desired formula but have a look at the
source file and see whether there is some mathML code in it. If so,
fine! If not, go back and check everything.

If this works, it is
“merely” a problem of getting your mathML served. Frederick suggests
to unpack in the wp-includes directory (but you
better make sure you have made a copy of the original class.php and
functions-formatting.php files. In the end I decided against this
approach (that is, to replace only the functions-formatting.php but NOT
the class.php file). If you have two or more themes you want to
maintain, it is probably better to change the headers (because this is
what we have to do to get mathML served) only in those themes which are
XML-sound. In my case, the Command Line Interface theme most certainly is NOT!!!).

Go to your
theme-files and look for the header.php (or similar) file and replace
the default header by the code in the addendum to
this post
within php-tags. If you can go to your blog-page then you
are in good shape and things should work well (apart possibly from
layout considerations, see below). Of course, in my case i was greeted
by ” XML “yellow screen of death” (as Jacques calls
it) and I was convinced I did something wrong, so I tried out several
useless things for a couple of hours before it dawned on me that the
reason might just be that my blog-files were not valid XHTML (and the
new headers are very demanding on serving only well-form XHTML). I had
to modify all changes I made to sidebars etc. as well as rewrite parts
of my first posts (I used to take a rather liberal view on writing
blog-posts, writing a mixture between Markdown and improvised HTML and
in the process was very lax about closing IMG-tags and the likes).
But after some time and numerous corrections to the files I got the
main-page up and running (and even had the mathML served as a readable
formula) apart from the fact that I barely recognized my own site.

I printed out source files of the page with and without changed
headers and couldn’t find a difference. So, it had to do with the
CSS-style files, but why on earth would the new headers be picky about
CSS? But as a last resort, after narrowing the search down to one
CSS-line, I asked Jacques whether he had an idea what went on. His reply
will be remembered for quite some time :

A fascinating
question. The answer is that it *is* following the CSS directive, but
in XHTML, ‘body’ is not what you think it is. ‘body’ is just big enough
to contain its content. It does not fill the viewport. ‘html’ fills the
viewport. The solution (a solution) is described in

Many hours later, I still haven’t got a clue what
this is all about, but I blindly followed the hint and surely all
problems vanished. In short, another day wasted in front of a

At the moment I’m back to old headers and
will not be writing mathML for some time as I have the vast job ahead to
validate all my previous posts to XHTML-standards (if not you would see
more yellows screens of death than anything else. So, here’s the
strategy I’ll be taking in the weeks ahead (I’ll sleep on it tonight
so if any of you think there is a better way, reply quickly)

  • rewrite each and every post in proper MultiMarkdown using iTeX for
    the most common math and only resorting to LaTeXRender for exotic things
    (such as Sudoku, Chess, Dvonn) and run these posts through Markdown
    (to get basic HTML and all links in place).
  • download these
    files to the WP-database (so that in the CLI-interface you will be able
    to follow all links, but will read all iTeX as TeX-commands (as the
    command line intended after all).
  • in the process change all
    broken links to the default permalink-structure (with index.php?p=231 or

Clearly, this is a work that will take a couple of
weeks but it may be fun to reread these old posts and possibly add new
information about the subjects. When I’m making these changes, I’ll
use the new headers so if you are using a smart browser look out for the
yellow screens. When they happen, either use a dumb browser (such as
Safari) or go into CLI-interface mode where everything should still
work. I plan to start with the oldest posts as this seems more fun to

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