[R-SIG-Mac]Package distribution for Macintosh R

Roger Peng rpeng@stat.ucla.edu
Mon, 17 Jun 2002 18:08:32 -0700 (PDT)

With the growing adoption of OS X and the soon-to-be discontinued Carbon
version of R, I have a question about how packages will continue to be
distributed for the Macintosh version of R.  This question arose from some
discussions over developing a GUI for Macintosh R and perhaps
incorporating a rudimentary "package manager".

Currently, it seems that for the Carbon version, one must rely on
precompiled binary versions of the packages (.sit files) due to the
scarcity of development tools on Mac OS < X. The situation here is similar
to that of the Windows platform where packages are precompiled and
downloaded as .zip files.  While compilation of source packages on either
of these platforms is far from impossible, it is not entirely
straightforward and probably out of the realm of the average R user.

On the other hand, Unix users, with the exception of a few Linux
distributions, must essentially build R from source and install packages
from source.  However, if the user's installation of Unix has a working
development environment (i.e. C, Fortran compiler, Perl, etc.), and most
do, then this can be very straightforward.  Similarly, given a good R
installation, Unix users can use install.packages() and friends to
install, update (and compile) packages.  Forcing (even casual) Unix users
to rely on this setup does not seem to cause a huge problem.

For the Darwin/X11/Quartz version of R, it seems that we are (perhaps
unnecessarily?) taking the Carbon/Windows approach, with Jan building
compiled versions of all the packages (as well as R itself).  My question
is are we going to continue this approach to package distribution or
should we abandon the precompilation method and just let users build
packages from source?  With gcc, g77, perl, latex, etc. appearing on OS X
it seems that we could allow the package distribution setup for OS X
mirror more closely that of the standard Unix platform.  

UCLA Department of Statistics