The Spectre of Math

October 4, 2010

Damn Murphy!

Filed under: LaTeX,Mathematics,Teaching,Technology — jlebl @ 7:45 pm

Murphy’s law strikes again. The moment you publish something (be it a textbook or a software), you find a bug. Yesterday I put on the web new versions of both my diffyqs notes and my real analysis notes. Already yesterday I found that when I posted the real anal notes on lulu, I forgot to update the book cover to state that I’m now at UCSD. OK, that’s a minor thing, who cares.

Today I was preparing for my diffy qs class and found an error in the notes. Actually I think I spotted this error in the spring when I taught at UIUC, but somehow forgot to fix it. So I find the first significant typo in the notes the day after posting new versions of the notes. And putting up new versions of the diffy qs notes is not as trivial as it may seem. It takes about 2 hours just to build the HTML version. This is because I have tex4ht do all math as images. Doing some of the math using CSS is faster, but then you get different font for some equations (as some are done using images and some using CSS).

If jsmath actually worked right, I would use that. But since I generally have a hard time making jsmath display things correctly on my own system, I assume that it doesn’t work right for a lot of people. Also jsmath seems to break for me for the pages as large as the notes. Mathml would be the perfect solution if it would work properly and consistently on all browsers. Right now for mathml and tex4ht you have to first decide on a browser to support, which beats the whole idea.

Browser developers are generally interested in floating 3d fish rather than actually useful stuff like supporting mathml properly. One of the reasons I am sticking to firefox is because the fact that they do support mathml reasonably, and have for a while, is an indication of sanity on the part of the developers.



  1. You may be interested in MathJax ( It is the successor to jsMath and its creator, Davide Cervone, is its primary developer. The MathJax project has corporate support and we are committed to making it display MathML and LaTeX on all modern browswer, even on mobile devices. It was recently released as 1.0 so it is still got some growing to do but it ought to work better for you than jsMath which is no longer being actively developed.

    Comment by Paul Topping — October 5, 2010 @ 6:07 am | Reply

    • Is there support for tex4ht?

      Comment by jlebl — October 5, 2010 @ 5:37 pm | Reply

    • Or perhaps another question. I don’t necessarily have to use tex4ht. But is there a way to translate a long and somewhat complex LaTeX document, without too many changes, using mathjax?

      Comment by jlebl — October 5, 2010 @ 5:42 pm | Reply

  2. Have you tried It works for me…

    Comment by César — October 5, 2010 @ 9:23 am | Reply

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