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10 August 32009 / Robin Wellner

LaTeX on LiNuX

Until recently, I was in a very weird situation: to use LaTeX or LyX, I have to boot Windows.

So I decided to fix it. To install LyX, I had to download 200+MB, thank N.E.G. for Synaptic. That went fine, until my computer crashed. (Those kind of crashes are worryingly frequent. If I were on Windows at the moment, I would have blamed the OS. (On second thought, I’ll probably still blame Windows. (Lisp-like blog post FTW.))) Luckily, when I started the computer again, and started Synaptic, it told me to run
dpkg --configure -a
That worked well. It forgot to mention I had to prepend sudo, and I have no idea why Synaptic is not smart enough to run the command itself, but still. After that, it worked.

So, why is this important? Well, that means I can test‘s LaTeX output. That requires some explanation. You see, I’ve been busy working on a constructed language (one for humans), and recently decided to create a Git repository for it, complete with public GitHub repo. The entries in the improvised “dictionary” were all Dol Pi (the name of the language) to Dutch. It would be nice if everyone could understand the language, not the few (ahum) people out there speaking Dutch. So I decided to somehow add English translations as well. I wanted to avoid doing it the way I did it last time, with Mèkùbi. And, while I was at it, I decided to add Norwegian translations as well, since I am learning snakker in Norsk (although I’m not making too much progress lately).

The solution I settled on (as you can read in the README of the GitHub repo) was to use a format based on simple CSV, in the form of:
DP word1;Dutch translation;English translation;Norwegian translation
DP word2;NL1,NL2,NL3;EN1,EN2,EN3,EN4;NO1,NO2

Or, in human words: translations in different languages are separated by a semicolon, and different translations in one language are separated by commas.

Since the text file I used before was the de-facto standard dictionary (because it is the only one), I wanted to use the new version as such. I don’t know whether you can envision such a file (If not, see this), but it ain’t easily readable.

So I decided to write a Python script, that would gather the information from the source file, and build dictionaries in various formats. The text and html versions were easy. However, my experience with LaTeX was limited, since most of the time I just use LyX. I had to test the generated LaTeX files somehow, but all of the possible methods involved either rebooting the crap out of my machine or installing LaTeX on the Lin, so I opted for the latter. (I could of course move/copy the script to my Windows partition and test it on Windows, but I refuse to do such treachery.) However, what package to install? There are dozens. And none is simply named latex. So I decided to install LyX as well, since the lyx package just depends on the necessary packages, and I’ll want to use LyX more than plain LaTeX anyway. And that brings me to the beginning of this post.

At the time of writing, I’m still having some difficulties with the exporting-to-LaTeX function of Most of them relating to the why-the-fuck-won’t-LaTeX-do-what-I-want problem. And (not related to LaTeX), I’m still looking for a good English/Dutch-Norwegian dictionary.



Leave a Comment
  1. Devyn / Jan 23 2010 7:28

    Well, there’s always wiktionary. And Google Translator has a fair built-in dictionary… just type in a single word.

    • Robin Wellner / Jan 23 2010 12:11

      I actually use both, but more often than not neither gives a suitable Norwegian translation.


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