[R] Windows Vista issues

Prof Brian Ripley ripley at stats.ox.ac.uk
Sat Apr 14 15:44:28 CEST 2007

On Sat, 14 Apr 2007, John Fox wrote:

> Dear Brian,
> I don't yet have a Vista machine, but it occurs to me that some of these
> problems might be avoided if R installed by default into c:\R rather than
> c:\Program Files\R. Is that the case?

If C:\R is not a system area, the first para of 2) applies: in fact I 
tried installing into E:\R as an unprivileged user.  That's what I would 
recommend a sole user of R to do (and have long done myself).  However, 
if you are a sysadmin installing for many users of the machine, you will 
want to install into a system area (or else a standard user is likely to 
be able to uninstall R, for example).

My memory is that long ago the default for the R installer was c:\R, and 
user pressure made us change it.  BTW, the default is only c:\Program 
Files\R for an administrator account: for unprivileged users it is under 
c:\Documents and Settings\<name> for XP and c:\Users\<name> for Vista.
We have some control in the installer script of these things, but have 
chosen to take the defaults which give the most familiar experience to end 

The file access reporting issues were occurring in ordinary user space.


> Thank you, by the way, for pursuing these issues.
> John
> --------------------------------
> John Fox
> Department of Sociology
> McMaster University
> Hamilton, Ontario
> Canada L8S 4M4
> 905-525-9140x23604
> http://socserv.mcmaster.ca/jfox
> --------------------------------
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: r-help-bounces at stat.math.ethz.ch
>> [mailto:r-help-bounces at stat.math.ethz.ch] On Behalf Of Prof
>> Brian Ripley
>> Sent: Saturday, April 14, 2007 1:57 AM
>> To: R-help at R-project.org
>> Subject: [R] Windows Vista issues
>> It seemed FUD [*] has been prevailing here and elsewhere on
>> Vista security features.
>> I asked our sysadmins to set up a Vista box for me on which I
>> have access to all levels of accounts.  Many of the issues I
>> found were covered by earlier answers and all in the upcoming
>> rw-FAQ (currently available at
>> http://www.stats.ox.ac.uk/pub/R/rw-FAQ.html and in the 2.5.0
>> pre-releases) but a quick reprise may help.
>> Most of my testing was of 2.5.0 beta, but I did some quick
>> tests of 2.4.1.
>> 1) The R installer and uninstaller are from an 'unidentified
>> publisher'
>> and you may have to agree that you trust them.  This is a
>> problem of the Inno Setup installer kit we use.  An
>> ultra-cautious sysadmin could configure Vista to stop you
>> installing via such a program.
>> 2) Permission problems:
>> If you install R as an ordinary user (into your own file
>> space) you should see no permissions problems.  (There would
>> have been problems, including under XP, with some recent
>> daily binary builds as the installer kit had changed one of
>> its defaults to disallow non-administrator installs, but
>> these have been fixed.)
>> I also encountered no problems installing R under the
>> Administrator account (normally hidden) and installing
>> packages under the same account.
>> Things are more complicated if you use an account which is in
>> the local administrator group (but is not Administrator
>> itself).  Such accounts are no longer (by default) equivalent
>> to Administrator, and run programs as ordinary user accounts.
>> They need to 'Run as Administrator' to do things in the
>> system area such as C:\Program Files.  You will be asked if
>> you want to run as administrator if you try to install
>> software such as R, but you will not be asked if you try to
>> install packages in the main R library (since asking is
>> something that applies to a program, not part of a particular
>> session).  One simple solution is to elevate your credentials
>> when running an R session to install packages in the same way
>> that you needed to when installing R.  (Unix and MacOS X
>> users will recognize a somewhat automated reincarnation of 'sudo'.)
>> It looks like the best practice will be to change the (full)
>> ownership of the R installation to the account used to
>> install it, something which would be standard practice in the
>> Unix world.  Also, we are encouraging people as from 2.5.0 to
>> install packages into a site or personal library where these
>> permission issues should not arise (except when updating
>> recommended packages).
>> 3) The most worrying problem is that Vista is reporting quite
>> incorrectly file permissions through the POSIX interfaces
>> used by file.info() and file.access(), and furthermore
>> allowed me as a standard user to create directories in areas
>> over which it says I do not have write permission. We will
>> look further into possible solutions, but it seems the Win32
>> API functions are giving the same answers.
>> Problems with 'access' (the C call underlying file.access())
>> mean that the MinGW compilers do not currently run on Vista
>> without a lot of hoop-jumping.
>> [*] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fear,_uncertainty_and_doubt
>> --
>> 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 272866 (PA)
>> Oxford OX1 3TG, UK                Fax:  +44 1865 272595
>> ______________________________________________
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>> PLEASE do read the posting guide
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>> and provide commented, minimal, self-contained, reproducible code.

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 272866 (PA)
Oxford OX1 3TG, UK                Fax:  +44 1865 272595

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