[R] Re: R-1.1.0 is released : GUI

cstrato@EUnet.at cstrato at EUnet.at
Fri Jun 16 23:02:29 CEST 2000

Dear Prof Ripley, dear R developers

I hope this mail does not upset any of the R developers, in which case
I apologize. There are some questions which I wanted to ask for some time, but
did not do. However, the mail of Prof. Ripley regarding Java/Swing did
confuse me, so I decided to ask the questions now:

I am using S-Plus and R for some time now and find it very elegant and enjoy
programming in it. It simplifies coding so much and has so many statistical
functions built in that it would be great to be able to write programs completely
in R/S.

However, I have two problems, which other people have also mentioned in
r-help a couple of times: I have very large datasets to work with and thus I
i, the ability to handle large data sets, and
ii, speed, speed, speed.
For this reason I am currently thinking to re-write my programs in C++, since
my program needs 2hrs in S-Plus on a 733MHz machine with 1GB RAM, and
would take much longer in R.

Furthermore, it would also be great to have a GUI to work with in R, similar
to S-Plus.

My first question is:
Since S/R is a full featured language it would be great to have a native
compiler, so that I could write stand-alone programs which profit from the
full speed, and ability to handle large data-sets, of a stand-alone application.
Wouldn´t this be an option to consider?

Related to the first question and to the GUI question is my second point:
It would be great if I could wrap some S/R code in a GUI, so that other
people not knowing the language could use my programs.
Do I understand it write that the bindings to Tcl/Tk offer just this possibility?

Regarding Java: I would really like to learn Java, but everytime I consider
doing something in Java, I decide to do it in C++, since in my opinion,
Java does not solve my two problems, speed and size of data.

Besides that Java is re-inventing an old technology of the seventies:
Do you remember UCSD-Pascal, which was developed at UCSD to make
Pascal machine-independent? It compiled Pascal code into "p-code" (also
called pseudo-code), which in effect was a virtual machine. It did not
succeed because it was way tooo slow. About 15 years later Sun tries to
sell this as a new principe. Although computers are much faster now, Java
still suffers performance problems, and I do not want to waste computer
power, so I decided to stick with C++.

Now comes my last question, which I hope the R developers don´t
Most current R developers have decided to re-implement R in Java, called
"The Omegahat Project" (see: http://www.omegahat.org/)
If Prof. Ripley mentions in the mail below the problems with Java/Swing,
and if I consider the problems mentioned above:
Why do you re-implement R in Java and consider this as ultimate solution?

I have the feeling the Java implementation will not solve my two main
problems, speed and data-size.

In my very personal opinion it would be great to have one of the
following two options:
a, a native R/S compiler
b, an implementation of the R functionality as C++ classes.

Please consider this as my personal view, and as discussion only.
I really like S/R and would enjoy to be able to use it also for large

Best regards
Christian Stratowa, Vienna, Austria

Prof Brian D Ripley wrote:

> On Thu, 15 Jun 2000, Mathieu (Castor) Ros wrote:
> > En réponse à Peter Dalgaard BSA <p.dalgaard at biostat.ku.dk>:
> >
> > hello all,
> >
> > >
> > > I've rolled up R-1.1.0.tgz a moment ago.
> > > ...
> > >     o       New package tcltk, providing interface and language bindings for
> > >     the Tcl/Tk graphical interface toolkit. This makes it possible
> > >     to do some rather nifty things with buttons and entry fields
> > >     and so forth in very few lines of code.  It is still somewhat
> > >     experimental so don't go churning out thousands of lines of
> > >     GUI code and then blame us for changing the API later on. It does
> > >     not currently work with GNOME because of event loop differences.
> > >     See demo(tkttest) and demo(tkdensity).
> >
> > woooh, this is great !
> > I know it must have been discussed before but I'd like to know why not to use
> > java (awt,swing...?) instead of tcl/tk. It would be a better solution for the
> > portability (the same GUI for MS-Win & linux/unix), even if java is not open
> > source (?) (ok, I just understood, sorry for this mail ;)
> > Thanks to all who must have worked hard on this topic, I'm also one of those
> > who think that R needs a minimum of GUI (and not only for MS-windows).
> > regards,
> 1) Do you know the resources needed for Java/Swing?  Last time I looked
> A Java 1.2 Runtime Environment was several times the size of R (Tcl/Tk
> is alrady sizeable) and there were severe demands on the system if Swing
> was in use. (Like, a 96MB Solaris machine was too small, and working to
> a remove Xserver was faulty.)
> 2) Swing might look the same on any platform, but it looks non-native on
> all.
> --
> 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 272860 (secr)
> Oxford OX1 3TG, UK                Fax:  +44 1865 272595
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