[R] which operating system + computer specifications lead to the best performance for R?

santosh santosh.srinivas at gmail.com
Sun Jan 23 04:49:43 CET 2011

Hi Josh,

I was referring to the below point that I read a while back when I
installed my first R (didn't mean to imply that 64 bit was not
needed). Some packages also had issues on 64bit (I think I ran into
some with RQuantLib). Maybe this could be worked around if there is
enough time. The issues were on Windoze though, not sure about how
things turn out on Linux (yet to try).

2.28 Should I run 32-bit or 64-bit R?

For most users (especially beginners) we would recommend using the 32-
bit build.

The advantage of a native 64-bit application is that it gets a 64-bit
address space and hence can address far more than 4GB (how much
depends on the version of Windows, but in principle 8TB). This allows
a single process to take advantage of more than 4GB of RAM (if
available) and for R's memory manager to more easily handle large
objects (in particular those of 1GB or more). The disadvantages are
that all the pointers are 8 rather than 4 bytes and so small objects
are larger and more data has to be moved around, and that less
external software is available for 64-bit versions of the OS.

The toolchain (compilers, linkers, ...) used to build 64-bit R is less
mature than that for 32-bit R, but testing so far (and all the CRAN
packages provide an extensive test suite) suggests that they are
mature enough for production use. The compilers are able to take
advantage of extra features of all x86-64 chips (more registers,
SSE2/3 instructions, ...) and so the code may run faster despite using
larger pointers.

For advanced users the choice may be dictated by whether the
contributed packages needed are available in 64-bit builds (and if
they are not that is some indication that installing them from sources
is problematic). At the time of writing the most commonly-used CRAN
packages without 64-bit versions were BRugs and rggobi. The
considerations can be more complex: for example 32/64-bit RODBC need
32/64 ODBC drivers respectively, and where both exist they may not be
able to be installed together. An extreme example is the Microsoft
Access/Excel ODBC drivers: if you have installed 64-bit Microsoft
Office you can only install the 64-bit drivers and so need to use 64-
bit RODBC and hence R.

2.29 Can both 32- and 64-bit R be installed on the same machine?

Obviously, only relevant if the machine is running a 64-bit version of
Windows – simply select both when using the installer. You can also go
back and add 64-bit components to a 32-bit install.

For many Registry items, 32- and 64-bit programs have different views
of the Registry, but clashes can occur. The most obvious problem is
the file association, which will use the last installation for which
this option is selected, and if that was for an installation of both,
will use 32-bit R.

On Jan 23, 7:56 am, Joshua Wiley <jwiley.ps... at gmail.com> wrote:
> On Sat, Jan 22, 2011 at 6:37 PM, Santosh Srinivas
> <santosh.srini... at gmail.com> wrote:
> > Hi Marc,
> > I've exactly the same question and it looks like most of the heavy users
> > from the threads I've followed use Unix/Linux/Mac.
> > Some threads have given rationale for a 64bit system due to memory benefits
> > but there seems to be not much buy-in from the guys here (so I'd give that a
> > pass). The CRAN page also isn't very excited about 64bit for now.
> Really?  Perhaps I do not understand what you meant, but doesn't most
> HPC work take > (2^32) bytes of memory?
> > As David mentioned, Dirk's work seems to be hungry from speed and I closely
> > (try to) follow his work.
> > >From his blog, he uses a  "Debian Linux system" and that is what I've set up
> > for myself. This obviously may just be a matter of coincidence.
> > (But, saves me a lot of time trying to figure out issues related to the
> > other OS's. Also, many authors of the packages that I use really don't have
> > the time or inclination to make is Windoze friendly.)
> > My 2p in transition.
> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: r-help-boun... at r-project.org [mailto:r-help-boun... at r-project.org] On
> > Behalf Of David Winsemius
> > Sent: 22 January 2011 21:02
> > To: Marc Jekel
> > Cc: r-h... at r-project.org Help
> > Subject: Re: [R] which operating system + computer specifications lead to
> > the best performance for R?
> > On Jan 22, 2011, at 10:03 AM, Sascha Vieweg wrote:
> >> On 11-01-22 14:56, Marc Jekel wrote:
> >>> I have the opportunity to buy a new computer for my simulations in
> >>> R. My goal is to get the execution of R code as fast as possible. I
> >>> know that the number of cores and the working memory capacity are
> >>> crucial for computer performance but maybe someone has experience/
> >>> knowledge which comp specifications are especially crucial
> >>> (especially in relation to R). Is there any knowledge on the
> >>> performance of R for different operating systems (Linux, Win, Mac
> >>> etc.) resp. is performance dependent on the operating system at
> >>> all? Even small differences in performance (i.e., speed of
> >>> calculations) matter for me (quite large datasets + repeated
> >>> calculations etc.).
> >> Not really a recommendation, just my considerations: That depends on
> >> your budget, Mac Pro (5k$ in the U.S.) would probably serve your
> >> needs for a long time ;-). I am running R 2.12.0 on a MacBook Pro,
> >> 2.4 Dual Core with (only) 2G ram, together with (paid) TextMate as
> >> editor, and Sweave. 2G ram is few! And I noted remarkable
> >> improvements whan I was lucky to use a MBP Intel Core i5 for a
> >> couple of days. Whatever processor and memory, I like the easy
> >> interplay between R and the Unix environment (things like passing
> >> shell commands from R to my system or other interpreters), easy
> >> graphics etc.
> > I also use a MacPro (circa early 1998) R 2.12.1 with 24 GB and still
> > find it generally very capable for a dataset of 5.5 MM rows and about
> > 150 variables using the survival and rms packages. I seem to remember
> > a price of 4KUS$ but I didn't write that check. I haven't succeeded in
> > getting the multi-processor applications to work, however, and my
> > guess is that Linux boxes (and Linux users) may be more likely to
> > offer paths to success if that is an expectation. I am mostly
> > interested in having adequate memory space for one core anyway, as
> > most of the packages I use don't seem to be set up for parallel
> > execution.
> > It may depend on what development system you use and which packages
> > you expect to install. I know there are people with the StatET-
> > equipped systems out there but I have never been able to get a working
> > setup on my Mac. Too many moving parts and the gears don't seem to
> > mesh out of the box. Same with GTK2+ and its R friends.
> > This would be better posted on the HPC mailing list anyway:
> >https://stat.ethz.ch/mailman/listinfo/r-sig-hpc
> > You might want to search with "Dirk Eddelbuettel" in your search
> > string, since he seems to share your "need for speed" and has
> > championed various approaches to High Performance Computing with R:
> >http://dirk.eddelbuettel.com/bio/presentations.html
> > --
> > David Winsemius, MD
> > West Hartford, CT
> --
> Joshua Wiley
> Ph.D. Student, Health Psychology
> University of California, Los Angeleshttp://www.joshuawiley.com/
> ______________________________________________
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