[R] R on Linux - a primer

Emmanuel Charpentier charpent at bacbuc.dyndns.org
Tue Mar 16 21:37:09 CET 2010

Le dimanche 14 mars 2010 à 18:04 -0400, Axel Urbiz a écrit :
> Hi,
> I'm looking to move from Windows into a 64-bit Linux environment. Which is
> the best Linux Flavor to use within R? To install R on this environment, do
> I need to do any compiling?

I'd like to add two cents of folly to the (wise) advice you've received

Indeed , Ubuntu is one very good distribution whose management system
has made the care and feeding of a Linux system a *lot* easier for the
not-so-system-oriented people like yours truly. Whereas my first
contacts with a Unix-like system were about 30 years ago (Oh my, how
time flies, and how far away are Xenix and our 68000 systems ...), I'm
*still* not fond of system maintenance for it's own sake. Ubuntu added
an (almost) fool-proof maintenance system to an excellent distribution
called Debian, thus lowering the Linux entry bar to as low as it can be
humanely made. Some pretended that "Ubuntu" was a code word for "I'm too
stupid to configure Debian" ; quite untrue ! It only means "I'm too
busy|lazy to configure Debian", which is a Good Thing (TM).

But Debian has its strong points,  and one of them is *extremely* strong
for an R user : Dirk Eddelbuettel (whose name I'm almost surely
misspelling (sorry, Dirk !)) has created a marvelous system called
cran2deb which routinely creates binary Debian packages from (almost)
the 2000+ R packages available nowadays.

That might look small change : the basic tools used for
developing/compiling most R packages are small beer (at least by today's
standards).But some of them might depend on fiendishly
difficult-to-maintain foreign libraries. Dirk's cran2deb takes care of
that and creates any information that Debian's dpkg maintenance system
needs to automate *your* R maintenance chores by integrating them in
Debian's maintenance scheme, which is as automatic as you can get
without becoming an incomprehensible beast.

In fact, cran2deb is so good that Im seriously tempted to go back to
Debian (after almost 8 years of Debian use, Ubuntu's ease-of-use, easy
access to no-so-exotic hardware drivers (and the then-incessant
politically correct yack-yacking on some Debian mailing lists...) made
me switch to an early Ubuntu distribution). I did not yet switch back
(mostly for not-so-"superficial" hardware support reasons), but I
maintain a backup Debian installation "for the hell of it" and to test
waters. So far, they have been a lot less rough than they used to be,
but there are still occasional rows (e. g. a recent gotcha with
openoffice.org, which would have render myself unable to work with those
d*mn Word files for about a month, or forced me to do a maual repair
(which I hate...)).

So consider Debian as a (desirable) alternative to Ubuntu.


					Emmanuel Charpentier, DDS, MSc
					<affiliation withdrawn,
					notwithstanding Frank Harrell's

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