[R-gui] The hidden costs of GPL software?
zedshaw at zedshaw.com
Thu Nov 18 03:40:35 CET 2004
I've been lurking on the list for a while, but found this thread very
interesting. Basically, I agree with Felix's article except it's
assumption that these problems are open source only. I've used plenty
of crap commercial software as a professional programmer.
I used to work on a GUI for R, but found that continuing was impossible
for me. Part of this was personal, but part was also related to how the
R community thinks of GUIs. In general I found that the R community was
not that interested, and many people were violently opposed to a usable
GUI. In the end I felt that my time would be better spent on something
that would actually be appreciated, rather than ridiculed as useless.
Having said that, I really would like to give this advice to people
trying to solve the "R needs a GUI" problem:
* One half of R is already a GUI. If it's not, then why are there so
many plotting functions?
* R is also a programming language. All this talk about CLI vs GUI
completely ignores this fact.
* There are incredibly fantastic GUIs for many other programming
languages available. Take a look at Eclipse for Java as a great example
of how to create a platform for a language and not get in the way of the
* Rather than focusing on this false "CLI vs. GUI" dichotomy, maybe
someone should sit down with users and analyze how they actually use the
system. I assume that the folks on the R list would be pretty good at
analyzing user behavior. These same people should also be good at
researching language usability.
* I believe that you actually can have both CLI and GUI living hapily,
but only after the "programming language", "data management", and
"plotting" parts are componentized and separated.
* I found that R would need to go in one of two directions before a GUI
is feasible: more like a compiler, or more like a service.
* More like a compiler means to make R more like Python, Ruby, Perl,
and other languages: have a compiler, make byte code, use a VM, and
have the UI (no matter what type) use this system.
* More like a service means to turn R into a separate service that is a
"black box". I tried this route with limited success by exposing the R
interpreter with a CORBA wrapper.
That's my .02 USD from having tried this once before. I still use R
professionally, but I just don't bother with improving it.
I won't be responding to this message, but feel free to reply anyway.
On Wed, 2004-11-17 at 10:53 +0100, Philippe Grosjean wrote:
> In the latest 'Scientific Computing World' magazine (issue 78, p. 22), there
> is a review on free statistical software by Felix Grant ("doesn't have to
> pay good money to obtain good statistics software"). As far as I know, this
> is the first time that R is even mentioned in this magazine, given that it
> usually discuss commercial products.
Zed A. Shaw
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