[Rd] Reproducible use case for R crash after updating R

Henrik Bengtsson hb at biostat.ucsf.edu
Thu May 12 20:26:10 CEST 2011

On Thu, May 12, 2011 at 10:55 AM, Henrik Bengtsson <hb at biostat.ucsf.edu> wrote:
> This might have been discussed before, but below is a
> "not-so-unlikely" use case where the user follows normal procedures,
> updates R to a major release version, and then R crashes:
> 1. Use runs R stable (e.g. v2.13.0).
> 2. User installs a package with a namespace, e.g. install.packages("fortunes").
> 3. User uses the package and one of the package's objects are assigned
> to the global env, e.g. foo <- fortune.
> 4. The user quits R and stores the session data, e.g. q("yes").  The
> session is stored in users home directory.
> 5. User update to new major release of R (e.g. 2.14.0).
> 6. User starts R.  R crashes with "Fatal error: unable to restore
> saved object in .RData" because 'fortunes' is not installed for this
> new version of R.  There is also an error message before that
> reporting "Error in loadNamespace(name) : there is no package called
> 'fortunes'".
> This can also be reproduced using a single R version as follows:
> 1. Start R and do:
> install.packages("fortunes")
> library("fortunes")
> foo <- fortune
> remove.packages("fortunes")
> q("yes")
> 2. Restart R.  R crashes.
> For a GUI-only user this is complicated, because although the users
> sees the informative error message that "Error in loadNamespace(name)
> : there is no package called 'fortunes'", s/he cannot get to the point
> where it is possible to install that missing package.  The key for the
> user is to understand to remove the .RData.  In order to do this, s/he
> has to locate that file first.
> To simplify this, a few alternatives exists:
> 1. R reports the full path to the problematic .RData file.
> 2. R renames the problematic .RData file to
> erroneous_20110512-123404UTC.RData and reports the new full pathname.
> In both cases there could be the option for R to either exit, or
> ignore the problematic .RData file and give the user access to the
> prompt.  One could also imaging a fancy recovery feature where R
> detects "erroneous" .RData files and asks the user if s/he wish to try
> to load them (maybe the packages has been installed since).

On Windows, the easiest way to give a GUI-only user access to the R
prompt is to also install an "R (vanilla mode)" shortcut/icon on the
Startup menu and Desktop (with target "...\Rgui.exe" --vanilla) in
addition to the default one.


> I'm sure there are complications to implement the above, because
> .RData is loaded during startup, but that's my $.02 to this problem
> /Henrik

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