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I would like to ask which of these two installation methods is better for Texlive 2012 on Fedora 17.

Which gives me the most stable and up-to-date system? I have read that distro-specific does not use tlmgr to update. What does that mean for me? tx

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Usually the LaTeX system that comes with the distribution-specific is very old (2 or 3 years behind) and doesn't include tlmgr (the package manager to facilitate updates). You should go with the installation from TUG. –  Gonzalo Medina Aug 18 '12 at 22:57
    
The only inconvenient is: sometimes, to install some programs using terminal, it will ask to install texlive-base, etc... My native installed version is not recognized by the apt-get. –  Sigur Aug 18 '12 at 23:29
    
@Sigur you can "fool" your computer to believe you have those installed. –  Gonzalo Medina Aug 18 '12 at 23:52
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@Sigur Stefan Kottwitz has described the process in his blog. It's Ubuntu oriented, but it surely can be adapted for/used with other distros. –  Gonzalo Medina Aug 19 '12 at 0:01
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Also, Enrico Gregorio (egreg) has written an article in TUGboat about installing TeX Live on Ubuntu: tug.org/TUGboat/tb32-1/tb100gregorio.pdf –  Torbjørn T. Aug 19 '12 at 0:18
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1 Answer

up vote 3 down vote accepted

There are reasons in favour of both approaches, with the balance more likely to come out in favour of the 'vanilla' version for may end-users, but in favour of the 'managed' version for server set ups.

In favour of the 'vanilla' TeX Live from TUG, apart from the small 'freeze' period each year, this is updated most days from CTAN. This makes it easy to update your TeX system to get the most recent version of packages, which is often useful to get new features or fix bugs. It also means that you will get most 'free' packages without having to install them yourself. A 'stand alone' installation is managed by tlmgr, allowing you to selectively add or remove individual packages, etc.

In favour of the 'system managed' installation, this will contain binaries compiled dynamically against system-managed libraries. Thus if an update is necessary to some third-party code, it will automatically apply to the TeX binaries when your general system update takes place. (In comparison, the 'vanilla' TUG version is entirely independent, which means that if there is a bug in some third-part code, TeX Live has to update this and you then have to install the update for TeX Live to fix the issue.) The 'system managed' TeX will also be required by other TeX-dependent packages (e.g. most TeX editors available for Linux), and so installing the managed one is often required/easier if you want to install say TeXworks using your package manager.

A point highlighted in comments, and one of the reasons that for end users a 'vanilla' installation is usually recommended, is the fact that Linux distributions do not necessarily use the latest TeX Live. As such, they will get no fixes for the (La)TeX code they contain (as this does not updated 'across' TeX Live versions). They do get the library fixes I've mentioned, which are important for security, but for most end users it's changes in (La)TeX packages that are significant. Even if a distro is using the latest TeX Live version, the need to repackage material almost certainly means that updates to (La)TeX material will lag behind those in 'vanilla' TeX Live.

The question asks which set up is more 'stable'. That depends on what you want. If you never update installed (La)TeX packages, and only change the binaries for security reasons, then 'vanilla' TeX Live is essentially identical in this respect to a managed installation. However, being able to add/update installed packages does in that sense reduce stability (change packages => change output).

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Great. Just a few more questions. What do you mean with the update necessary to some third-party code? Can you give an example? Binaries compiled dynamically against system-managed libraries is an advantage? Enrico Gregorio in his guide to install on Ubuntu warns before "possible damages to the system" when using tlmgr instead of 'system managed' installation. Is this a common or severe problem? I just want to run "tlmgr update -self -all". –  Slazer Aug 20 '12 at 9:31
    
@Slazer On the 'third-party' code, for example pdfTeX uses libpng for including .png files: this is written by people outside of the TeX world, but does need to be kept up to date. I'm not sure what egreg means about 'damage'. –  Joseph Wright Aug 20 '12 at 9:39
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