[R] open source and R
mbmiller at taxa.epi.umn.edu
Sun Nov 13 23:23:33 CET 2005
On Sun, 13 Nov 2005, Roger Bivand wrote:
> On Sun, 13 Nov 2005, Robert wrote:
>> If I do not know C or FORTRAN, how can I fully understand the package
>> or possibly improve it?
> By learning enough to see whether that makes a difference for your
> purposes. Life is hard, but that's what makes life interesting ...
None of us "fully understands" what we are doing with computer software.
If you understand R code, that's great, but then there is the R
interpreter -- do you understand how it works? That interpreter was
written in another language that was then compiled by a compiler which was
written by someone else for some other purpose -- do you understand the
compiler? Then it all gets processed by some very complex hardware that
practically none of us *fully* understands. We have to accept that we
can't have a complete grasp of what R is doing, but we can still read the
R docs and test R in many ways.
When functions are written in R, they may be easier for you to read, but
they may run much slower than code written in C, C++ or FORTRAN. I don't
think it is wise to forgo the speed improvement so that people who don't
know FORTRAN can enjoy contributing to R development. The contribution of
FORTRAN libraries R functionality and efficiency is probably much greater
than the contributions would be from any group of people who could code in
R but could't code in C or FORTRAN.
That said, I appreciate the sentiment and I think we should prefer
straight R code for many functions, but some things just run too slowly
when written that way.
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