I’ve had a cold for the last few days, and while it hasn’t been the most debilitating I’ve had, I’m both slow on the uptake and disinclined to go anywhere. That kind of pressure towards sitting-around activities usually drives me to the comfort of electronic screens: games, videos, and tinkering with my computer. Two movies yesterday was our limit, and my XBox is still packed away, so there was a fair amount of tinkering time. I decided to install LaTeX, everyone’s favorite mathematical typesetting language.
I never did my problem sets in LaTeX, the way some people did, but it’s hard to get through a mathematico-scientific education without significant exposure. In my case, I wrote my college thesis, a solutions manual, two term papers, and a whole bunch of teaching materials for the class I TAed. It can be persnicketity and confusing, and some tasks are much harder than they ought to be, but when you get in the LaTeX groove, the quality-typesetting high can be quite a thrill.
In any event, I can report that LaTeX on OS X is both easier to install and much easier to work with than any LaTeX environment I’ve ever used on a PC. Given OS X’s strong Unix roots and high-quality graphical interfaces and development tools, this should not be surprising. As refresher exercises, I’ve typed up two thing I’ve been meaning to throw online for a while. Both were very easy work in LaTeX, and would have been nightmares using HTML. Both are fun exercises using ordinary first-year calculus: