contour labelling [was "Re: [R] image ()"]

Ross Ihaka ihaka at
Fri Dec 4 20:06:18 CET 1998

George White writes:
 > Rather than adding every capability known to science, improved interfaces
 > between R and other programs (e.g., GMT), would be a better investment
 > of resources.
 > Commercial packages (S-plus, Matlab) end up trying to incorporate every
 > application for which there is a market, and have no great incentive to
 > make it easier for people to work with external applications.
 > In contrast, free packages should strive to support flexible interfaces
 > between applications, although getting that to work smoothly outside unix
 > may not be feasible.

This is a pretty crucial point.  The technology in R (and S and Octave
for that matter) is OLD, and is not well suited to what you propose.
However, I think that a number of new things are coming along which
will help.

The first of these is CORBA which allows very general communication
between computational processes, the other is Java.  I'm not really a
Java fan, but I don't think that it can be ignored - it just has too
much momentum.

A number of us (including the current S authors) have been having
discussions about how we can use this new technology. I would expect
that the next couple of years will begin to see a new generation
software begin to emerge.  And yes, it will be open software, although
with a BSD style licence rather than GPL.

 > Returning to Bill's problem, many GMT routines can read from stdin and
 > will issue messages to stderr or stdout.  Most people write shell scripts
 > to run the series of GMT commands (programs) needed to perform an analysis
 > or generate a plot.  Such scripts often use awk or perl to perform some of
 > the calculations.  Currently, one could use R to save data to an ASCII
 > file and then run such scripts using "system".  For many problems,
 > however, translating the shell script to a series of popen2() commands
 > with data piped directly from R to a GMT program would save considerable
 > system resources and allow the use of R's computational capabilities.

I guess I have a couple of problems with GMT.  1) It is postcript only
and 2) it is pretty rigid.  But the authors have done an enormous
service in making their GSHHS database available.  All I'm really
proposing is to provide a simple R interface to that.

For binary data, the latest R has an interface to the HDF (version 5)
library (provided by Marcus Daniels).  This moves in the direction
of providing a standard means for binary data exchange.

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