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Getting Started

Location on the Web

This book is currently published at This is an early access version that gives people a chance to comment on the book before making an "official" release. The goal is to collect sufficient feedback that we can move forward with the publication of a paper (printed) version of the book without concerns that the material will still require significant revisions.


If you find an issue with the current version of the book or have a suggestion for improving it, there are several ways you can contribute to the book. They are listed here in order of most likely to be incorporated first:

  • Send me a pull request. By submitting a pull request to me, you make it very easy for me to comment on and/or incorporate your suggested change. As such, I strongly recommend you take this route since it is much more time consuming for me to apply your changes myself (and, therefore, it makes such changes less likely).
  • Report the issue as an issue in the issue tracker. This helps me keep track of all the various issues. This approach should be a last resort for changes where the "fix" isn't obvious (and therefore you cannot make the change yourself).

If you send me email suggesting something, I will almost certainly send you back to this section. It is much harder for me to keep track of issues via email. So if you aren't willing to submit a pull request, please take the second option of submitting an issue to the issue tracker.


I welcome translations. My goal is that translations should be distributed under the same terms as the English language of the book. Specifically, this means:

  • An HTML version of the book will be hosted at and published under a creative commons license.
  • ePub and PDF versions of the book should be made available for purchase using a "pay what you can" pricing model.
  • Publication of a paper version of the book are a possibility, but I can't commit to physical publishing without further discussion.

In all cases where there is potential revenue, I would be willing to enter into a revenue sharing agreement with the translators.

To learn more about what translations are planned, who to contact about helping with translations or instructions about the translation workflow, please see this dedicated document on translations.

Technical Details


This book is being written using Sphinx. I chose this system after evaluating several others. The main things I liked about Sphinx were:

  • The numerous output formats it supports (HTML, ePub and PDF being the important ones).
  • The extensibility of the Sphinx system.
  • The fact that it supports internationalization.
  • The fact that it allows custom templates and CSS to be used.


Sphinx is completely portable so in theory, it should be possible to run Sphinx under nearly any operating system.

Although previous versions required a bunch of tools to build the book, the current version only requires that you have Node and Docker installed. I highly recommend the Docker for Mac and Docker for Windows flavors if you are on macOS or Windows, respectively.

Recently, I had some success using the Remote - Containers extension in Visual Studio Code along with the mtiller/flat-book-builder image mentioned below. If you open this folder in Visual Studio Code and you have the Remote - Containers extension installed, you should get an option to re-open VS Code in the container. Doing so, you should be setup to build. As such, I've bundled the .devcontainer directory that include the configuration necessary to do the builds in containers. This could also be useful when building on Windows (if you have VS Code and the Remote - Containers extension installed).

In order to build this, the first thing you need to do is ensure all submodules have been checked out, i.e.,

$ git submodule init
$ git submodule update

There is now a root level Makefile. You should be able to simply run:

make all

...which should build the book (if I'm forgetting something, send me a pull request for this README adding any further instructions). The source will be generated in ./text/build/dirhtml.

M1 Macs

I've seen two odd things while building on M1 Macs. The first was related to clang not being able to determine the proper CPU target. I fixed that by forcing some specific CFLAGS values (although I also realized that I could fix it simply by setting the ARCH variable to x86-64 during the build process) when running on an M1.

The other issue is trickier. As I've reported here, you can occasionally get an out of memory error while building. This appears to be a bug in the current M1 support in Docker Desktop. It is an intermittent bug so the only solution I've found is to simply restart the build whenever it comes up. It seems to be localized to the OpenModelica compiler omc because it only triggers while running that. This is frustrating because it can take many, many attempts to build all the necessary results files.

Flat Image

The original mtiller/book-builder Docker image had multiple layers and this led to lots of warnings like this during builds:

Unexpected end of /proc/mounts line `cker/overlay2/l/TH5GPGEDJZF3YVOCTK2ZVB6S7X:/var/lib/docker/overlay2/l/JP6Q3UKNSJBYBAGJCE4R2BAOIS:/var/lib/docker/overlay2/l/IPRRIXJ6IQ3FUHM67CYISMADBD:/var/lib/docker/overlay2/l/U24HKOEVMHAXULWB3YYLUHRLJK:/var/lib/docker/overlay2/l/H4OLNB6XZPU7OHA2XDXMCXNUY4:/var/lib/docker/overlay2/l/EF4M5E33IEXKDQ6OMU2D3QRH7A:/var/lib/docker/overlay2/l/5OIOMB6J7SBUOYA3SZZY7J2WYK:/var/lib/docker/overlay2/l/ZK5AEX73ZAABW7ZY2Y6YWWFYWW:/var/lib/docker/overlay2/l/NTTTRZPNBKPKTMQ7YAKMGG5ILF:/var/lib/docker/overlay2/l/MUVGOVJFK'

So I created a new image called mtiller/flat-book-builder to avoid those messages. Both images still exist in case there are any issues with the "flat" version.