[Rd] Plans for tighter integration of reference classes in R.

Vitalie S. spinuvit.list at gmail.com
Sun Oct 24 11:53:41 CEST 2010

Thank you for the answer, John.

John Chambers <jmc at r-project.org> writes:
> Second point first:  The actual environment of a function is tightly 
> bound to low-level implementation at the C level.  Only a _really_ 
> strong practical argument would even tempt us to change that, such as by 
> going away from the requirement that the type of the environment be 

But, how about parent.env() functionality? The "S4" envelope is lost:

> setClass("myenv", contains = "environment")
[1] "myenv"
> env <- new("myenv")
> envp <- new("myenv")
> parent.env(env) <- envp
> parent.env(env)
<environment: 0247a650>

Here I have in mind, as an application, the "prototype" programing paradigm
(akin to JavaScript, also implemented in R's proto package).

If environment manipulation functions would not strip the "S4" envelope from
environments, a considerably wider scope for implementation of "foreign"
programing paradigms would open up. All, by using the "existing techniques"
already available in S4 system.

Proto package makes it possible by using S3 classes, because they are not
striped away. Currently I am struggling to build a prototype based system, similar to
proto,  but in S4 framework. With all the advantages of S4, I am still doubting
that I made a right decision.


> ... (As mentioned in another thread, one point in favor of 
> reference classes is that they have not messed with internals of R 
> evaluation, just used existing techniques.)
> The API  says nothing about what the environment of a reference method 
> is, only that you aren't allowed to use any of the other R tricks that 
> depend on the environment, such as generic functions.
> Assigning attributes directly to an environment is a bad idea, as 
> discussed in the past on this list.  That's why we went to the S4 
> mechanism for subclasses of environments.
> As for .self, the documentation says that the "entire object can be 
> referred to in a method by the reserved name .self|"|.  That's a bit 
> vague, and it's possible that one could update the slots of .self as 
> part of slot assignment, but absent a serious example, it may be better 
> to just clarify the documentation.
> On 10/23/10 5:43 AM, Vitalie S. wrote:
>> Hello Everyone!  Here are a couple of thought/questions on refClasses
>> integration in R core functionality.
>> First, coexistence with S4:
>>> X<- setRefClass("classX", fields = c("a", "b"),
>> +                  representation = list(c = "character"))
>>> x<- X$new()
>>> x at c<- "sss"
>>> x
>> An object of class "classX"
>> <environment: 059bf6a4>
>> Slot "c":
>> [1] "sss"
>> The above is cool, S4 and refClasses apparently live happily together.
>> But,
>>> x$.self
>> An object of class "classX"
>> <environment: 059bf6a4>
>> Slot "c":
>> character(0)
>> This is not a surprise, taking into account the copping paradigm of R.
>> Are there any plans to tighten S4<>refClasses integration? Or it's just not a
>> good idea to mix them as in the above example?
>> Second, R core integration (this bothers me much more):
>>> X$methods(m = function(t) a*t)
>>> environment(x$m)
>> <environment: 059bf6a4>
>> environment(..) does not return the refObject but the basic type. I assume that
>> it is the same with other core functionality. Usage of refObjects as parent.env
>> is also probably precluded in the similar way (don't have a patched R, so can
>> not test yet).
>> Would it be possible, some day, to use refObjects as parent.env or function's
>> environment  without "loosing the class"?
>> Parenthetically, the attributes of an object (including S3 classes) are not lost:
>>> env<- structure(new.env(), a1 = "fdsf", class = "old_class")
>>> tf<- function(x)x
>>> environment(tf)<- env
>>> environment(tf)
>> <environment: 056570a0>
>> attr(,"a1")
>> [1] "fdsf"
>> attr(,"class")
>> [1] "old_class"
>>> class(environment(tf))
>> [1] "old_class"
>> Thanks,
>> Vitalie.
>> ______________________________________________
>> R-devel at r-project.org mailing list
>> https://stat.ethz.ch/mailman/listinfo/r-devel>
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