[R] CDs for R?

(Ted Harding) Ted.Harding at nessie.mcc.ac.uk
Wed Nov 17 21:18:06 CET 2004

Thanks to everyone who joined in the discussion about
this and made comments or suggestions.

Special thanks too to those who mailed me off-list
with further suggestions, and offers to help me privately.
I'm appreciative of the latter, and may take up some
offers, but I hope it was clear originally that I was
raising the issue as one which might affect several
people and perhaps justify making some special provision
which would ease the situation.

The most positive general suggestion, I thought, came from
Jari Oksanen:

On 17-Nov-04 Jari Oksanen wrote:
> [...]
> 5 CDs sounds 4 too many. I once burnt CDs for my students,
> and they fitted nicely in one CD (Windows binaries, all
> packages as Windows binaries and sources, contributed
> documents).  I guess you can fit Windows, Mac and some
> Linux binaries all in one CD.
> Now comes my suggestion to CRAN maintainer: this all would
> be easier, if you would produce a CD image file ('iso') that
> would contain a snapshot of the latest version: main binaries,
> all contributed packages, and docs. Getting somebody to help
> downloading this iso would be much easier than trying to
> collect all first and then make up your own cd image.

This would provide a ready target for people who need to ask
someone else to do the job for them. It's much easier to
specify "download the ISO image from the following URL and
burn me a CD" then to hope that a possibly ill-specified
'wget' would produce the desired result (as happened when
Linux Emporium did me a CD: it was mostly there, but there
were gaps and some things I hadn't wanted).

So I'd like to back Jari's proposal for an ISO image to be
planted on CRAN as a separate file with its own unique URL.
Exactly what its content should be may still be discussable,
but I would be satisfied with full sources and documentation
for R base and all contributed packages (maybe the Newsletter
would also be handy).

I was also interested in Dirk Edelbuettel's suggestion related
to Quantian:

On 17-Nov-04 Dirk Eddelbuettel wrote:
> I'll cc this reply to Mark Walker. His shop, budgetlinuxcds.com /
> blcds.com, is one of the resellers of my Quantian 'scientific /
> cluster-computing workstation on a bootable dvd' Linux
> distribution / environment
> (see http://dirk.eddelbuettel.com/quantian for more on this).
> Mark has been consistently responsive while offering a low-cost
> cd/dvd service (of which I receive no cut, in case you're
> wondering about disclaimers).  I think he'd be happy to add
> regular snapshots of certain portions of
> http://cran.r-project.org/src/ , maybe for the sources and/or
> windows binaries, for his failry reasonable fees. 

Since Mark would need a specification of what to download
and burn, this could pehaps be a convenient primary source of
burned CDs derived from the proposed CRAN ISO.

I also liked David Whiting's suggestion of "R buddies" who
would be willing to provide CDs for cost + postage to people.
Though I am (for obvious reasons) not in a position to
download and burn the CD in the first place, I'd be happy
to join in, and help coordinate and distribute (once someone
has sent me a CD, it's then straightforward to produce more
copies and mail these on, though like David I don't have
"industrial strength hardware" and would only be able to
do it on a small scale -- but that reinforces the case for
a group of "buddies" who could share the load!):

On 16-Nov-04 David Whiting wrote:
> [...]
> I have been in a similar situation a fair bit in the past
> and understand your position. Now I'm back in the UK and
> have a reasonably fast broadband connection at home I'd be
> willing to help out now and then. I guess that to make this
> work more generally we would need to work out how to make
> sure that only the CDs get burned and not the prospective
> "customer" or "supplier". 
> As for charges, I think I'd only be interested in covering
> costs of the CDs and postage. I don't have industrial
> strength hardware so I could not get into mass production.
> Perhaps we could establish informal groups of "R buddies"
> where, for example, I help you and a small number of other
> people out each time there is an update and we establish
> some kind of trust between ourselves, rather than new people
> coming to me each time. People could sign up to be "suppliers"
> and be allocated or choose a group of people they provide the
> service to.
> I would feel comfortable with something like this working for
> people who have been on the R-help list for a while and have
> some recgonised identity, and something to lose in terms of
> reputation if they take advantage. But, it is possible that
> new users might need it the most and, by definition, we might
> not feel comfortable dealing with new people.

This suggestion could conveniently be linked with the suggestion
for "ISO on CRAN".

On a final point:

On 16-Nov-04 Adaikalavan Ramasamy wrote:
> [...]
> But the real question is that if there are enough people on
> slow connection that are interested in obtaining R.

Well, I have to agree with that! If I were the only person
in this position then it wouldn't be fair to put pressure on
others to provide the "general support". As I explained, I do
feel that there are probably a number of people who might
benefit (though, apart from David whose woes are in the past,
there have so far been no "me too!" posts).

Hoping for further comment,

E-Mail: (Ted Harding) <Ted.Harding at nessie.mcc.ac.uk>
Fax-to-email: +44 (0)870 094 0861  [NB: New number!]
Date: 17-Nov-04                                       Time: 20:16:51
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