[R-sig-Debian] Confused about versions of R and Debian

Michael Dewey info at aghmed.fsnet.co.uk
Mon Feb 18 18:31:51 CET 2008

At 12:32 18/02/2008, Dirk Eddelbuettel wrote:

Thanks for the comments Dirk, specific points below in the text. I 
obviously appeared more knowledgable than I am, which may be an 
advantage in the day job in front of a roomfull of students but not 
here I think.

>On 18 February 2008 at 09:49, Michael Dewey wrote:
>| I have recently acquired an Asus EEE PC which runs a version of
>| Xandros which I believe to be a fork of Debian. I have been using R
>| under various versions of Windows for some years but this is my first
>| move into the world of Unix. I have installed Texlive from a CD and I
>Well, "a" cd?  Was it source? Was it binary? If binary, was it versioned?

It was the Texlive 2005 CD. I just ran the installation script so I 
have no idea whether it was binary or source. I suspect the former.

>| have successfully added a UK-based repository and installed Texmaker.
>| Now I would like to add R. There are dire warnings on the EEE forums
>| about the dangers of using Debian repositories so I would like some
>| more advice before I download things.
>| 1 - If I download from the Debian repository using stable (which is
>| the distribution I have - etch) will I get old versions of R? I do
>| not understand what stable means here, is it like being frozen at
>| some point in time?
>Correct, with the version that was current at the time of the freeze.

I have now established that was 2.4.0 and that testing has 2.6.1

>| Do I need to using testing, and if so is that
>| likely to have compatibility problems with my system?
>Maybe. We can't tell as we don't run Xandros.
>Note that CRAN has backports of R for Debian testing.

I am not sure what a backport is, but I see that in the stable 
directory there is 2.6.2.

>| 2 - If I download from my favourite CRAN (Bristol, UK) it seems I do
>| not get all the contributed packages. Is that correct? If so I do not
>| quite see the point so I suspect I misunderstand here.
>You get the current R for Debian testing. You would need to call
>install.packages() yourself for packages you need.
>We cannot and do not know how testing and Xandros mix.

Does install.packages() compile from source? Presumably for packages 
which are purely in R that is not necessary?

>| 3 - As a last resort I should install from sources but a poster to
>| R-help suggested he had had problems with this. Where do I find what
>| versions of compilers and so on I need to build from source?
>         sudo apt-get build-dep r-base
>which installs them for you (if you have deb-src entries for apt).

That's helpful although I suspect quite dangerous as it may want to 
install things which are a core part of the EEE system. Presumably I 
could run it with a switch which just reports.

>| I know I should just try it and see but I am reluctant to do that
>| because of the dire warnings about damaging the system by using
>| non-Xandros repositories. I also do not yet know how to un-install
>| things either.
>| For the record I am using the command line and apt-get and I have
>| enabled pinning to give the EEE repositories highest priority.
>One thing you have not mentioned is to backup your Xandros installation, and
>go to regular Debian. If I were you, I'd consider that. Just run Debian
>testing on the Eee. See eg
>   http://syn.theti.ca/articles/2008/02/16/bits-from-the-debian-eee-pc-team
>for the latest from the Debian Eee team.

That is very helpful but I think I need to learn a lot more before I 
attempt that and buy a bigger USB stick. The first of those is going 
to be the sticking point. It is certainly nice to know that somebody 
is trying to make some sense out of the EEE. At the moment it is fine 
for what it does but a bit frustrating if you want to extend it in 
ways which the manufacturer probably did not really intend.

Thanks again.

Michael Dewey

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