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RFC: Should we drop the rendering preferences for math?

 

 

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brion at pobox

Jul 18, 2011, 5:38 PM

Post #1 of 19 (2778 views)
Permalink
RFC: Should we drop the rendering preferences for math?

Bug 24207 requests switching the math rendering preference default from its
current setting (which usually produces a nice PNG and occasionally produces
some kinda ugly HTML) to the "always render PNG" setting.

I'd actually propose dropping the rendering options entirely...

* "HTML if simple" and "if possible" produce *horrible* ugly output that
nobody likes, so people use hacks to force PNG rendering. Why not just
render to PNG?
* "MathML" mode is even *MORE* limited than "HTML if simple", making it
entirely useless.
* nobody even knows what "Recommended for modern browsers" means, but it
seems to be somewhere in that "occasionally crappy HTML, usually PNG"
continuum.

So we're left with only two sane choices:

* Always render PNG
* Leave it as TeX (for text browsers)

Text browsers will show the alt text on the images, which is... the TeX
code. So even this isn't actually needed for its stated purpose. (Hi
Jidanni! :) lynx should show the tex source when using the PNG mode.)

It's conceivable that a few folks really honestly prefer to see the latex
source in their graphical browsers (should at least do a quick stat check to
see if anybody uses it on purpose), but I wouldn't mind removing that
either.


Fancier rendering like MathJax etc should be considered as a separate thing
(and implemented a bit differently to avoid parser cache fragmentation!), so
don't let future mode concerns worry y'all. Any thoughts on whether this
makes sense to do for 1.18 or 1.19?

https://bugzilla.wikimedia.org/show_bug.cgi?id=24207#c9

-- brion
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innocentkiller at gmail

Jul 18, 2011, 5:44 PM

Post #2 of 19 (2725 views)
Permalink
Re: RFC: Should we drop the rendering preferences for math? [In reply to]

On Mon, Jul 18, 2011 at 5:38 PM, Brion Vibber <brion [at] pobox> wrote:
> I'd actually propose dropping the rendering options entirely...
>

+10

> It's conceivable that a few folks really honestly prefer to see the latex
> source in their graphical browsers (should at least do a quick stat check to
> see if anybody uses it on purpose), but I wouldn't mind removing that
> either.
>

It *should* be ok to drop this, but checking first is nice too :)

> Fancier rendering like MathJax etc should be considered as a separate thing
> (and implemented a bit differently to avoid parser cache fragmentation!), so
> don't let future mode concerns worry y'all. Any thoughts on whether this
> makes sense to do for 1.18 or 1.19?
>

Definitely not 1.18. 1.19 or beyond sounds like a great idea to
me though.

-Chad

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en.wp.st47 at gmail

Jul 18, 2011, 6:36 PM

Post #3 of 19 (2786 views)
Permalink
Re: RFC: Should we drop the rendering preferences for math? [In reply to]

On Mon, Jul 18, 2011 at 8:38 PM, Brion Vibber <brion [at] pobox> wrote:
> Bug 24207 requests switching the math rendering preference default from its
> current setting (which usually produces a nice PNG and occasionally produces
> some kinda ugly HTML) to the "always render PNG" setting.

This would also close bugs:
* 25645: Improve decision when to render a formula as HTML (this
reporter complains about our PNG rendering including fonts)
* 26546: Option "MathML if possible" doesn't work
* 19177: XHTML parse error when using some math formulas (if we
convert to PNG-only you won't have XHTML garbage)

And may be related to:
* 15057: problems with forced PNG rendering (possibly a caching issue,
but does not seem to have been fixed)
* 17465: Port texvc to PHP, reducing external dependencies and
development impedence for Math extension (it would be easier to
mandate a particular solution if it was /our/ solution and perhaps
slightly less bad)
* 7208: Change font for texvc-generated images (if people think texvc
is ugly because of inconsistent fonts, that's easy enough to fix
before we make it the only option)
* 16719: Math hashes should include versioning to allow sensible
updates (this requires a schema change, so should probably be out for
a version or so to iron out the bugs before we really rely on it, but
it would be excellent if this was working before PNG rendering became
the only option, as it would make PNG rendering a much 'cleaner' only
option to have)

> I'd actually propose dropping the rendering options entirely...

Drop all of the preferences.

> It's conceivable that a few folks really honestly prefer to see the latex
> source in their graphical browsers (should at least do a quick stat check to
> see if anybody uses it on purpose), but I wouldn't mind removing that
> either.

Not likely, latex is hardly pretty, but it's easy enough to check
whether it's in use on WMF wikis. I'm not really up to date on the
release cycle but is seems really late to do this for 1.18, especially
given that we'll likely see a few more complaints about texvc's flow,
and it would be nice if there was time for someone to check on bugs
15057, 24445, and 16719.

--Dan

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amir.aharoni at mail

Jul 18, 2011, 9:16 PM

Post #4 of 19 (2719 views)
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Re: RFC: Should we drop the rendering preferences for math? [In reply to]

2011/7/19 Brion Vibber <brion [at] pobox>:
> I'd actually propose dropping the rendering options entirely...

I'm mostly OK with it, but see below.

> * "MathML" mode is even *MORE* limited than "HTML if simple", making it
> entirely useless.

So that's why it doesn't work.

> It's conceivable that a few folks really honestly prefer to see the latex
> source in their graphical browsers (should at least do a quick stat check to
> see if anybody uses it on purpose), but I wouldn't mind removing that
> either.

I know one such person, a respected university professor. Leave this
option and kill the rest.

--
Amir Elisha Aharoni · אָמִיר אֱלִישָׁע אַהֲרוֹנִי
http://aharoni.wordpress.com
"We're living in pieces,
I want to live in peace." - T. Moore

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shyan.s at gmail

Jul 18, 2011, 10:33 PM

Post #5 of 19 (2719 views)
Permalink
Re: RFC: Should we drop the rendering preferences for math? [In reply to]

Why not consider building in SVG rendering natively while we are at it,
instead of relying on extensions.

Many browsers have joined the SVG bandwagon anyway, and it would cut down on
the "pixelated look" which we see when zooming in on tablets, as well as on
PCs with very large displays. I'm sure we can use PNG as a fall-back, like
the extension "LaTeXSVG" does.

On Tue, Jul 19, 2011 at 9:46 AM, Amir E. Aharoni <
amir.aharoni [at] mail> wrote:

> 2011/7/19 Brion Vibber <brion [at] pobox>:
> > I'd actually propose dropping the rendering options entirely...
>
> I'm mostly OK with it, but see below.
>
> > * "MathML" mode is even *MORE* limited than "HTML if simple", making it
> > entirely useless.
>
> So that's why it doesn't work.
>
> > It's conceivable that a few folks really honestly prefer to see the latex
> > source in their graphical browsers (should at least do a quick stat check
> to
> > see if anybody uses it on purpose), but I wouldn't mind removing that
> > either.
>
> I know one such person, a respected university professor. Leave this
> option and kill the rest.
>
> --
> Amir Elisha Aharoni · אָמִיר אֱלִישָׁע אַהֲרוֹנִי
> http://aharoni.wordpress.com
> "We're living in pieces,
> I want to live in peace." - T. Moore
>
> _______________________________________________
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>
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cbm.wikipedia at gmail

Jul 19, 2011, 8:58 AM

Post #6 of 19 (2714 views)
Permalink
Re: RFC: Should we drop the rendering preferences for math? [In reply to]

On Mon, Jul 18, 2011 at 8:38 PM, Brion Vibber <brion [at] pobox> wrote:
> It's conceivable that a few folks really honestly prefer to see the latex
> source in their graphical browsers (should at least do a quick stat check to
> see if anybody uses it on purpose), but I wouldn't mind removing that
> either.

Some people are using this method to have MathJax render the math on
Wikipedia pages, by installing the MathJax javascript in their user
javascript. Disabling the text-only option would also break this.

It would really be worthwhile for us to look into making MathJax
available as an option for all users without forcing them to modify
their user javascript. It's basically just a few javascript files and
some static files on a webserver. They claim very broad browser
compatibility (
http://www.mathjax.org/resources/browser-compatibility/ ) , and
everything is released under the Apache license IIRC.

- Carl

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helder.wiki at gmail

Jul 19, 2011, 10:36 AM

Post #7 of 19 (2712 views)
Permalink
Re: RFC: Should we drop the rendering preferences for math? [In reply to]

On Tue, Jul 19, 2011 at 12:58, Carl (CBM) <cbm.wikipedia [at] gmail> wrote:

> On Mon, Jul 18, 2011 at 8:38 PM, Brion Vibber <brion [at] pobox> wrote:
> > It's conceivable that a few folks really honestly prefer to see the latex
> > source in their graphical browsers (should at least do a quick stat check
> to
> > see if anybody uses it on purpose), but I wouldn't mind removing that
> > either.
>
> Some people are using this method to have MathJax render the math on
> Wikipedia pages, by installing the MathJax javascript in their user
> javascript. Disabling the text-only option would also break this.
>

For more info, see:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special:PrefixIndex/User:Nageh/mathJax


> It would really be worthwhile for us to look into making MathJax
> available as an option for all users without forcing them to modify
> their user javascript.


+1

Helder
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rkaldari at wikimedia

Jul 19, 2011, 1:03 PM

Post #8 of 19 (2710 views)
Permalink
Re: RFC: Should we drop the rendering preferences for math? [In reply to]

Sounds like someone should propose MathJax as a gadget:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Gadget/proposals

Ryan Kaldari

On 7/19/11 8:58 AM, Carl (CBM) wrote:
> On Mon, Jul 18, 2011 at 8:38 PM, Brion Vibber<brion [at] pobox> wrote:
>> It's conceivable that a few folks really honestly prefer to see the latex
>> source in their graphical browsers (should at least do a quick stat check to
>> see if anybody uses it on purpose), but I wouldn't mind removing that
>> either.
> Some people are using this method to have MathJax render the math on
> Wikipedia pages, by installing the MathJax javascript in their user
> javascript. Disabling the text-only option would also break this.
>
> It would really be worthwhile for us to look into making MathJax
> available as an option for all users without forcing them to modify
> their user javascript. It's basically just a few javascript files and
> some static files on a webserver. They claim very broad browser
> compatibility (
> http://www.mathjax.org/resources/browser-compatibility/ ) , and
> everything is released under the Apache license IIRC.
>
> - Carl
>
> _______________________________________________
> Wikitech-l mailing list
> Wikitech-l [at] lists
> https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/wikitech-l

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cbm.wikipedia at gmail

Jul 19, 2011, 1:36 PM

Post #9 of 19 (2717 views)
Permalink
Re: RFC: Should we drop the rendering preferences for math? [In reply to]

On Tue, Jul 19, 2011 at 4:03 PM, Ryan Kaldari <rkaldari [at] wikimedia> wrote:
> Sounds like someone should propose MathJax as a gadget:
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Gadget/proposals

That solves some of the problems, but making it a gadget isn't
technically very different from just putting it in user javascript.

Not all the MathJax files are javascript: there are also web fonts and
fallback image fonts. Ideally these would be served from Wikimedia
servers. The system they are using right now loads them from off-site
somewhere, and that would not be fixable by the gadget system. Users
can also install the fonts locally but that is not a good solution for
a widespread roll-out.

The ideal implementation would be a system that detects whether the
user has javascript enabled and a decent browser, and if so rolls them
over to MathJax automatically. Users who fail that test or who
intentionally opt out would receive images only. This would
completely replace the current system (but re-use texvc to make the
images).

This system would not be hard to implement, but there is little
incentive for anyone to spend time on it without some pre-commitment
from the site admins to make it live. If we just want something that
users can opt in to get, we already have that.

- Carl

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drmichaelhardy at gmail

Jul 20, 2011, 7:25 PM

Post #10 of 19 (2710 views)
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RFC: Should we drop the rendering preferences for math? [In reply to]

After getting an email that said:

> You are now authorized to post to the
> gmane.science.linguistics.wikipedia.technical newsgroup.

I made five separate attempts over a number of hours
to post. All unsuccessful. I had on-topic comments,
and I am unwilling to type them yet another time before
finding out whether this sixth attempt works.

---- Mike Hardy

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drmichaelhardy at gmail

Jul 20, 2011, 8:13 PM

Post #11 of 19 (2714 views)
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RFC: Should we drop the rendering preferences for math? [In reply to]

Helder started a discussion at

[[Wikipedia_talk:WikiProject_Mathematics#RFC:
_Should_MW_developers_drop_the_rendering_preferences_for_math.3F]].

I followed his link to this present discussion, and there I
followed the instructions on how to post to this list, and I
got an email telling me I am now authorized to post here,
and after that I spent my whole day trying unsuccessfully
to post here.

Helder doesn't seem to have informed this list of the
discussion he started there so that people here could
read that discussion or participate in it, nor did he say
anything that made it particularly feasible for people there
to post here. So just what his purpose was seems hard
to figure out.

The two discussions should not be separate. The issues
in this thread have been talked about frequently since
February 2003 on that wikiproject talk page. Various
views exist, but there is general agreement about the
less-than-perfect nature of existing system.

To me "displayed", as opposed to "inline" TeX looks very
good in Wikipedia articles. "Inline" TeX usually looks
about three or four times as big as the surrounding text,
which looks bufoonish. Simple things like a^b and a_b
are formatted wrong: obviously in both cases the a should
be at the same level as the surrounding text and the b
respectively higher or lower.

Making everyone use mathJax may be the solution, but
mathJax still has bugs. Wikipedia needs more sophisticated
behavior from mathJax than do other forums that use it,
such as stackexchange and mathoverflow.

After all the hours I've devoted to merely figuring out how
to post here, I am in no condition to do better than these
present comments. --- Mike Hardy

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innocentkiller at gmail

Jul 21, 2011, 9:56 AM

Post #12 of 19 (2700 views)
Permalink
Re: RFC: Should we drop the rendering preferences for math? [In reply to]

On Wed, Jul 20, 2011 at 8:13 PM, Michael Hardy <drmichaelhardy [at] gmail> wrote:
> The two discussions should not be separate.  The issues
> in this thread have been talked about frequently since
> February 2003 on that wikiproject talk page.  Various
> views exist, but there is general agreement about the
> less-than-perfect nature of existing system.
>

I encourage more people to join this thread then, rather than having a
discussion on enwiki. Perhaps we should also write up a more formal
RfC on mw.org. Brion?

-Chad

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brion.vibber at gmail

Jul 21, 2011, 10:06 AM

Post #13 of 19 (2702 views)
Permalink
Re: RFC: Should we drop the rendering preferences for math? [In reply to]

+1 on that -- using the wiki's the right thing! The list is great for devs
but it's a high bar to figure out for feedback.

My position for now is to recommend reducing the existing options to just
PNG and text, and after that look more solidly at auto-enabling mathjax etc
for the next major improvement.

Will whip up a proposal page shortly.

-- brion
On Jul 21, 2011 9:56 AM, "Chad" <innocentkiller [at] gmail> wrote:
> On Wed, Jul 20, 2011 at 8:13 PM, Michael Hardy <drmichaelhardy [at] gmail>
wrote:
>> The two discussions should not be separate. The issues
>> in this thread have been talked about frequently since
>> February 2003 on that wikiproject talk page. Various
>> views exist, but there is general agreement about the
>> less-than-perfect nature of existing system.
>>
>
> I encourage more people to join this thread then, rather than having a
> discussion on enwiki. Perhaps we should also write up a more formal
> RfC on mw.org. Brion?
>
> -Chad
>
> _______________________________________________
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brion at pobox

Jul 21, 2011, 11:38 AM

Post #14 of 19 (2701 views)
Permalink
Re: RFC: Should we drop the rendering preferences for math? [In reply to]

Ok, I've set up an RfC page on MediaWiki.org which'll be easier to comment
on for folks not on the lists:
http://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/Requests_for_comment/Reduce_math_rendering_preferences

and added some links, comments & requests for further feedback at:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia_talk:WikiProject_Mathematics#RFC:_Should_MW_developers_drop_the_rendering_preferences_for_math.3F

I'd also appreciate if folks who know some of the math-heavy editors who
work on other projects -- other languages, or wikibooks/wikiversity etc --
can poke around and get more feedback.

In addition to the immediate issue of tweaking the rendering modes, there's
been some good feedback about related issues such as the lack of proper
baseline alignment of the math PNG images, which should be taken into
account for the next set of improvements on Math -- improving or replacing
texvc with another tool, maybe dusting off Blahtex and making sure it does
everything we need, etc.

-- brion
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brion at pobox

Nov 28, 2011, 2:53 PM

Post #15 of 19 (2548 views)
Permalink
Re: RFC: Should we drop the rendering preferences for math? [In reply to]

Hey folks, remember this discussion from a few months ago?

I've gone ahead and implemented the initial part for 1.19 (disabled the
math rendering options other than PNG and source), and opened another bug
entry with some details on how to add the baseline shifting that should
make PNGs nicer inline:

<https://bugzilla.wikimedia.org/show_bug.cgi?id=32694>


While I'm mucking about in there, I'd like to note that I'm also interested
in making higher-resolution images, suitable both for printing and for
high-density screens (iPhone 4 being the best-known example in use in the
wild). Generating another PNG or two should be easy; getting them to
display reliably might be slightly funkier. :)

<https://bugzilla.wikimedia.org/showdependencytree.cgi?id=32696>

When I've got something working for that I'll check around to make sure it
works consistently for people and doesn't break any tools.

-- brion


On Thu, Jul 21, 2011 at 11:38 AM, Brion Vibber <brion [at] pobox> wrote:

> Ok, I've set up an RfC page on MediaWiki.org which'll be easier to comment
> on for folks not on the lists:
>
> http://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/Requests_for_comment/Reduce_math_rendering_preferences
>
> and added some links, comments & requests for further feedback at:
>
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia_talk:WikiProject_Mathematics#RFC:_Should_MW_developers_drop_the_rendering_preferences_for_math.3F
>
> I'd also appreciate if folks who know some of the math-heavy editors who
> work on other projects -- other languages, or wikibooks/wikiversity etc --
> can poke around and get more feedback.
>
> In addition to the immediate issue of tweaking the rendering modes,
> there's been some good feedback about related issues such as the lack of
> proper baseline alignment of the math PNG images, which should be taken
> into account for the next set of improvements on Math -- improving or
> replacing texvc with another tool, maybe dusting off Blahtex and making
> sure it does everything we need, etc.
>
> -- brion
>
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z at mzmcbride

Nov 28, 2011, 3:05 PM

Post #16 of 19 (2547 views)
Permalink
Re: RFC: Should we drop the rendering preferences for math? [In reply to]

Brion Vibber wrote:
> I've gone ahead and implemented the initial part for 1.19 (disabled the
> math rendering options other than PNG and source), and opened another bug
> entry with some details on how to add the baseline shifting that should
> make PNGs nicer inline:
>
> <https://bugzilla.wikimedia.org/show_bug.cgi?id=32694>
>
> While I'm mucking about in there, I'd like to note that I'm also interested
> in making higher-resolution images, suitable both for printing and for
> high-density screens (iPhone 4 being the best-known example in use in the
> wild). Generating another PNG or two should be easy; getting them to
> display reliably might be slightly funkier. :)
>
> <https://bugzilla.wikimedia.org/showdependencytree.cgi?id=32696>
>
> When I've got something working for that I'll check around to make sure it
> works consistently for people and doesn't break any tools.

Did you have a chance to evaluate MathJax? <http://www.mathjax.org/> I know
it's come up in past math discussions and that a lot of math folks think it
looks promising. A technical analysis of its feasibility on Wikimedia wikis
would be great. Killing the less-used, ancient math options is great, but
perhaps adding one wouldn't be too bad to do too. :-)

MZMcBride



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brion at pobox

Nov 28, 2011, 3:16 PM

Post #17 of 19 (2547 views)
Permalink
Re: RFC: Should we drop the rendering preferences for math? [In reply to]

On Mon, Nov 28, 2011 at 3:05 PM, MZMcBride <z [at] mzmcbride> wrote:

> Brion Vibber wrote:
>
[.snip my notes about removing the non-PNG non-source options, wanting
higher-resolution renderings]

> Did you have a chance to evaluate MathJax? <http://www.mathjax.org/> I
> know
> it's come up in past math discussions and that a lot of math folks think it
> looks promising. A technical analysis of its feasibility on Wikimedia wikis
> would be great. Killing the less-used, ancient math options is great, but
> perhaps adding one wouldn't be too bad to do too. :-)
>

That's an excellent thing to bring up -- MathJAX *does* look very
promising, and things seem to render pretty nicely. Need to make sure that
we can either do that type of rendering cleanly with the PNG fallback
(older browsers will still need the PNGs, so it may still be worth spending
the time to fix baselines).

Size of the library, and compatibility, could be an issue for mobile but is
worth checking on. (Looks like it *does* work in Android and iPhone
browsers, so has a good chance of being something we could use as a
progressive enhancement.)

It's actually probably a better idea to go ahead in that direction than to
worry about high-resolution renderings from texvc for now. (Other image
types, including icons in the UI, will still need high-resolution versions
though.)

-- brion
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brion at pobox

Nov 28, 2011, 3:16 PM

Post #18 of 19 (2547 views)
Permalink
Re: RFC: Should we drop the rendering preferences for math? [In reply to]

On Mon, Nov 28, 2011 at 3:05 PM, MZMcBride <z [at] mzmcbride> wrote:

> Brion Vibber wrote:
>
[.snip my notes about removing the non-PNG non-source options, wanting
higher-resolution renderings]

> Did you have a chance to evaluate MathJax? <http://www.mathjax.org/> I
> know
> it's come up in past math discussions and that a lot of math folks think it
> looks promising. A technical analysis of its feasibility on Wikimedia wikis
> would be great. Killing the less-used, ancient math options is great, but
> perhaps adding one wouldn't be too bad to do too. :-)
>

That's an excellent thing to bring up -- MathJAX *does* look very
promising, and things seem to render pretty nicely. Need to make sure that
we can either do that type of rendering cleanly with the PNG fallback
(older browsers will still need the PNGs, so it may still be worth spending
the time to fix baselines).

Size of the library, and compatibility, could be an issue for mobile but is
worth checking on. (Looks like it *does* work in Android and iPhone
browsers, so has a good chance of being something we could use as a
progressive enhancement.)

It's actually probably a better idea to go ahead in that direction than to
worry about high-resolution renderings from texvc for now. (Other image
types, including icons in the UI, will still need high-resolution versions
though.)

-- brion
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worden.lee at gmail

Nov 28, 2011, 6:34 PM

Post #19 of 19 (2543 views)
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Re: RFC: Should we drop the rendering preferences for math? [In reply to]

On 11/28/2011 05:46 PM, wikitech-l-request [at] lists wrote:
> Date: Mon, 28 Nov 2011 15:16:55 -0800
> From: Brion Vibber<brion [at] pobox>
>
> On Mon, Nov 28, 2011 at 3:05 PM, MZMcBride<z [at] mzmcbride> wrote:
>
>> > Brion Vibber wrote:
>> >
> [.snip my notes about removing the non-PNG non-source options, wanting
> higher-resolution renderings]
>
>> > Did you have a chance to evaluate MathJax?<http://www.mathjax.org/> I
>> > know
>> > it's come up in past math discussions and that a lot of math folks think it
>> > looks promising. A technical analysis of its feasibility on Wikimedia wikis
>> > would be great. Killing the less-used, ancient math options is great, but
>> > perhaps adding one wouldn't be too bad to do too. :-)
>> >
> That's an excellent thing to bring up -- MathJAX*does* look very
> promising, and things seem to render pretty nicely. Need to make sure that
> we can either do that type of rendering cleanly with the PNG fallback
> (older browsers will still need the PNGs, so it may still be worth spending
> the time to fix baselines).

Not sure, but you might get better performance by translating the tex to
mathml on the server, and having MathJax render the mathml on the client...

> Size of the library, and compatibility, could be an issue for mobile but is
> worth checking on. (Looks like it*does* work in Android and iPhone
> browsers, so has a good chance of being something we could use as a
> progressive enhancement.)
>
> It's actually probably a better idea to go ahead in that direction than to
> worry about high-resolution renderings from texvc for now. (Other image
> types, including icons in the UI, will still need high-resolution versions
> though.)
>
> -- brion
>

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