[Rd] Implementing a single-precision class with raw (now integer)

Prof Brian Ripley ripley at stats.ox.ac.uk
Thu Aug 25 08:04:37 CEST 2005

On Wed, 24 Aug 2005, Colin A. Smith wrote:

> On Aug 22, 2005, at 3:38 , Prof Brian Ripley wrote:
>>> Unfortunately, R sometimes hits the 2GB memory limit of Win32.
>> The rw-FAQ explains why that is _not_ the limit!
> Sorry to be uninformed, I see from the Microsoft documentation that the limit 
> can be increased to 3GB when you change the boot parameters of Windows and a 
> flag in the R binary.
>> Why via "raw"?
>> I believe the intention is that this sort of thing be done via external 
>> references, but as float and int are the same size on all current 
>> platforms, I would have considered R integers for storage. Then for example 
>> subsetting would work and you had a 4x larger size limit on 64-bit 
>> platforms. (You would also have got automatic handling of endianness.)
> I was concerned that on some platforms (particularly 64 bit ones) an integer 
> may actually be 64 bits. However, if all current platforms have standardized 
> on float and int being the same size, then using the integer data type would 
> be more elegant and solve any endian issues. (Is that really the case?)

Yes, configure tests for int being 32 bit, and R if set to fail to compile 
it not.  As we assume IEC60559 arithmetic, a float is 32-bit.

> Another motivation for using raw was so other R functions (particularly 
> internal ones) wouldn't assume the data was integer and produce erroneous 
> results. I'd rather have user-visible error thrown.
> To have the best of both worlds, I'm now using an S4 class with a single slot 
> (f) that stores the float data as an integer vector. It uses the extensible 
> conversion mechanism created by Duncan Lang to allow the .C() function to 
> handle float objects. (The custom converter also allows proper checking for 
> single-precision NA values, which don't get caught if passed as integers.)
> At some point, I would like to release this for others to use. Before I get 
> too far into it, I would greatly appreciate it if anyone had any ideas, 
> unforeseen caveats, or other suggestions about my current direction. My 
> implementation is available here:
> http://abagyan.scripps.edu/~csmith/float.R
> http://abagyan.scripps.edu/~csmith/float.c
> http://abagyan.scripps.edu/~csmith/float_0.1.0.tar.gz
>>> I've run into a limitation with the .C() function where it does not
>>> handle raw vectors, which it will do in 2.2.0.
>> That is just not true!
> I should have been a bit more explicit and said that R 2.1.x doesn't 
> have RAWSXP handlers in either RObjToCPtr() or CPtrToRObj(), so all the C 
> code gets is a SEXP. R-devel does and passes raw vectors as unsigned char *. 
> Of course that doesn't matter now that I'm using an extensible converter.
> Cheers.
> -Colin

Brian D. Ripley,                  ripley at stats.ox.ac.uk
Professor of Applied Statistics,  http://www.stats.ox.ac.uk/~ripley/
University of Oxford,             Tel:  +44 1865 272861 (self)
1 South Parks Road,                     +44 1865 272866 (PA)
Oxford OX1 3TG, UK                Fax:  +44 1865 272595

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