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March 28th, 2005

The Long Road to MathML

Anybody following my progress with the exercises in SICP will have noticed that it’s been a while since I last posted a solution. I’m at problem 1.13, which turns out to be a mathematical proof. A mathematical proof requires a mathematical notation, so I’m taking a small diversion into the land of MathML to learn how I might present the equations on this blog. Fortunately, the W3C has an article on how to embed MathML in a website.

I’ve been using OpenOffice to generate MathML, but I’m not entirely happy with the output, which contains several mysterious unprintable ASCII characters; parentheses, I think. Any suggestions on a better MathML editor? The W3C maintains a list of MathML editors, none of which seem particularly remarkable to me. Basic requirements: free of charge, for Windows.

Update: After wrestling with MathML for most of the morning, I’ve completely given up on it. In order to work (on Firefox, at least), the page containing MathML must be named with an .xml extension. Compare this XML MathML test page from the W3C MathML site versus the HTML equivalent. Same contents, different renderings.

Note: Do not attempt running either one through the W3C HTML Validator.

So why don’t I just rename my files to have the .xml extension? Besides the fact that there are gobs of files to rename and as many redirection pages to create, if I were to rename all my files to xml, I could no longer use PHP, because my webserver uses the .php extension to identify PHP files. Even though I don’t use PHP for anything right now, it is the only server-side scripting language available from my hosting service and I’m not ready to throw it way so I can display a few equations.

I’ve started looking into image-based solutions. Eric Raymond’s eqn2graph seemed very promising until I ran it under Cygwin and discovered that ImageMagick’s convert tool was inexplicably generating blank images.

I’d consider using MathType if it cost a little less. The $129 they are asking is too steep for the amount of use I plan to get out of it.

There is some almost helpful information in Math Typesetting for the Internet, which has me almost considering manually manipulating screenshots of OpenOffice, though the very thought sickens me.

Posted by Ken Dyck in Uncategorized

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