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Frank Mittelbach writes:
 >  > MS applications prepend a "signature" to UTF8 files.  It's not
 >  > really in the specs, just a MS thing.
 >
 > which is exactly what i mean: you have to shout from the
 > outside. so if i get a file by mail and process it i wouldn't know
 > what to do with it.

If you didn't tell me anything, I would run it with the (hopefully
some day to be default) input encoding UTF8.  If your file was clean
ASCII, it would work in any case.  Only if you had used some limited 8
bit encoding you would need to tell me about the encoding explicitly.

 >  > LaTeX is what most people use.  TeX just "magically gets
 >  > installed" when they install LaTeX.  People will use whatever
 >  > LaTeX uses.
 >
 > first of all you are unfortunately wrong in that respect. a lot of
 > people do not want to see any change especially if they don't see
 > immediate benefits for themselves and if that happens to be the
 > majority ...
 >
 > the switch to 2e was a very valuable and sad lession in this
 > respect.

I am not sure what you are referring to.  From my limited experience I
can see two problems with 2e:

- Many users weren't using the new features and running in
  compatibility mode.  This may be sad, but it has nothing to do with
  the underlying engine, and everything to do with changes (to the
  better) in the LaTeX user interface.

- Some system andministrators had difficulties with correctly
  installing LaTeX2e.  However, the most problematic installations I
  have seen (and "used") were the ones where the administrator chose
  to update only the official LaTeX core from CTAN, rather than
  compile a fresh distribution like teTeX.  I think this problem is
  slowly going away, because much of academic end-user Unix is
  actually Linux nowadays, and there it's most a matter of typing "rpm
  -Uvh ..." or equivalent to upgrade.  I assume in the Windows world
  it's also mostly distribution driven.

 > but more importantly and that is my second point or the point i
 > tried to make: LaTeX should "work" on TeX as a platform. so if i
 > would build the kernel in a way that this is not possible then
 > people would not go with LaTeX not for a long time.

It is not for me to judge if TeX as an engine is sufficient or
desirable, I don't know the real issues well enough.

Anyway, Frank, I just got your last mail in my inbox (need to read the
details more carefully), and I think we agree that it's worth
exploring if there would be a substantial advantage for having some
engine with Unicode internal reprentation.  Anyway, I think that
Knuthian TeX should not be treated as a holy cow (if sound arguments
can be made), and a move to LaTeX3 which will by definition break the
"stability" of LaTeX may be a good point to make a move beyond TeX if
such a more is deemed eventually necessary.

--Marcel