[R-gui] R GUI considerations (was: R, Wine, and multi-threadedness)

Walter Johnston walterj at ureach.com
Thu Oct 20 18:21:09 CEST 2005

A couple of non-flame comments and a question -

(1) I have used Smalltalk in various forms and recommend it
highly as an environment (try Squeak for a free implementation);
it is the origin of the model-view-controller paradigm for
interaction with a GUI. Tcl/Tk is also nice with its
event-driven model.

(2) DON'T keep re-implementing the same statistical algorithms
all over the place! Putting together software that can be
trusted is non-trivial - if you want to add to the available
resources I applaud you for it, but ADDing is not simply
translating to another language (though, if the "old" language
is no longer available or supported there are good reasons to do
so. :-) I use a package to accomplish something and I need to
trust the output from that package. I don't look for a "swiss
army knife" but rather a package that does what I need and does
it well (though I prefer packages that have more functionality).

(3) I like R because of the model which returns results in
"objects" (though, as a Smalltalker, I don't see much OO in the
language - maybe I missed something).

(4) AI seemed to make more demonstrable progress when they
started separting the reasoning mechanism from the rules and
data (as in the old "expert systems").

And the question:

Is there a "simple" way (e.g. some socket based mechanism) to
feed commands into R and retrieve the results of those commands?
 This would require that I program the sequence of commands I
want to use (or a means to generate them) and then be able parse
the resulting structure - I understand. But it would also allow
separation of the computation, the "statistical reasoning", and
the UI into (potentially) separate units which would not even
need to be on the same machine to inter-operate.  If there is a
reasonable way to do this, please tell me.


Walter Johnston

---- On Wed, 19 Oct 2005, Jeffrey J. Hallman (m1jjh00 at frb.gov)

> If you're looking for a GUI toolkit that:
>    1.  Is cross-platform,
>    2.  Has a good collection of widgets that look good on all
platforms, and
>    3.  Is easy to work with from R
> then it is hopeless.  There is no such toolkit.
> As one poster mentioned, most of the better GUI toolkits are
> object-oriented, because that paradigm is a good fit for GUI
> There are a few programming environments out there that do
have nice GUI
> abilities, but they all use base languages that are not very
R-like, and so
> the potential R GUI programmer is faced with having to use two
very different
> languages for his creation.  And even if that obstacle is
surmounted, there
> remains the difficulty of trying to package up his work in
such a way as to
> make it easily installed by others.  Things are always
breaking in the
> interfaces between R and whatever you're using.  Trying to
keep it all running
> and packaging it for deployment are thankless, gargantuan
> There is a better way, and that is to give up on R.  Start
over with
> a better programming environment, one that is object oriented,
as flexible and
> dynamic as R, is cross platform, easy to program in, and has
decent GUI
> facilities already.  Then port the stuff in R that does
> programming, and you have the best of all worlds. 
> The environment I am thinking about is VisualWorks Smalltalk,
which is free
> for noncommercial use.  As a language, Smalltalk is both
simpler and more 
> powerful than R, and the VM it runs on is much faster than the
R interpreter.
> It has superior garbage collection and the best IDE in the
> Callouts to C are just as easy as they are in R, but would
likely not be
> needed as often due to the faster VM and much better
programming facilities.
> Interfaces to various databases are possible, and the most
powerful web
> toolkit (Seaside) is written in Smalltalk and runs under
> There are a couple of other Smalltalk environments around that
could also be
> considered.  Squeak is an open source cross-platform Smalltalk
that is not as
> fast as VisualWorks, but still must faster and more robust
than the R
> interpreter.  Smalltalk/X is another possibility, though it
works only on
> Windows and Unix. 
> Think about it.  Once you have a basic math package that can
handle matrix
> programming and various mathematical functions, building the
> statistical modeling tools on top of them is not that hard. 
What makes S and
> R so much better than SAS is their programmability.  Smalltalk
is like that,
> only better.
> Jeff Hallman
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