[Rd] Re: [R-SIG-Mac] R version on gifi

Don MacQueen macq at llnl.gov
Tue Jun 17 09:11:25 MEST 2003

I appreciate the extra explanations from Simon, Jan, Thomas, and 
Tony. All in all, after having read what you all have to say, the 
things that I found potentially alarming in Jan's message yesterday 
are not so alarming anymore.


At 2:33 PM +0200 6/17/03, Simon Urbanek wrote:
>On Monday, June 16, 2003, at 08:45  PM, Don MacQueen wrote:
>>Specifically for X11, does it assume the user has separately 
>>installed Apple's X11 and QuartzWM, and if so, is it in any way 
>>dependent on anything unique to Apple's X11? That is, will it work 
>>if the user is using XFree86/XDarwin and some (any) other window 
>The really native version doesn't really need to depend on X11 
>anymore since the use of X11 on Mac OS X was meant for applications 
>that are not properly ported to OS X yet. Once Quartz and RAqua are 
>complete there is no need for X11.

Except for one major flaw in Aqua--the absence of "focus follows 
mouse", as it is sometimes called in an X Windows context. I consider 
the absence a flaw because I find it incredibly useful to be able to 
type R commands into a window that is partially covered by another 
(usually graphics device) window. This is, of course, a (strongly 
held) personal preference, and I'm well aware that many do not 
consider this to be an issue. The Mac OS has always had this 
limitation, and probably always will, so there's nothing to be done 
about it.

More generally, having RAqua, a version of R that is as "Mac-like" as 
possible, is a good thing; I have co-workers who are more likely to 
use such a version of R. As someone who likes OS X a lot, I like 
anything that promotes it, and a good R gui will do that around here.

>>>This means that all references to /sw in configure.ac can go.
>>Do you mean that at some point in the future you intend that the 
>>configure.ac in the source distribution will remove all references 
>>to /sw? I'm not sure this is a good idea; I think I would prefer to 
>>have the option of building from sources using fink for those other 
>>things (readline, jpeg, png, tetex, etc) if I want to. Otherwise I 
>>have to learn how to get them from several other sites, increasing 
>>my system maintenance load and making it harder to keep them up to 
>>Can you give specific and substantive reasons why fink should be avoided?
>Jan already listed the main technical reasons why it is indeed a 
>very good idea. Apart from that, fink is not an official package and 
>was only meant as a temporary solution for people who need a (no 
>matter how ugly) way to run existing unix programs on OS X.

Jan cited "Gerben Wierda's i-installer" as a source for jpeg, png, 
and teTex. This source is somehow more "official" than fink? But, 
considering what Jan says, i.e. "everything needed in /usr/local 
will" be included with the installer package, it doesn't matter to 
the end user.

>  Hardly any real OS X user has installed fink (especially since 
>Jaguar is out). Fink was great during the first couple of months 
>when native OS X ports were hardly existent, but is now obsolete for 
>mainstream OS X use.
>>I get the impression that R for OS X is being moved away from being 
>>another unix R variant (in the sense that Solaris, various Linuxes, 
>>SGI, etc. are unix variants), and moved toward being a specialized 
>>platform-specific version. Assuming my impression is more or less 
>>correct, I'd like to understand the pros and cons of this move.
>It is not a "move" of R. Mac OS X is simply not "another unix 
>variant". Darwin is indeed, but Mac OS X is not. You can compile X11 
>for Darwin and use it exactly the way you can use Linux on a PPC 
>hardware. But Mac OS X has many very nice (often proprietary) layers 
>that are important to the Mac users, but that part of OS X is not 
>"unix". The goal here is to release R which fits in the philosophy 
>of the system - ease of use, good integration with the existing 
>frameworks, appealing design. These are not properties of unix, but 
>of OS X. So what we need is in fact Mac-OS-X-like look and feel. The 
>fact that OS X is unix-based helps with respect to the R engine 
>itself - we need no special ports of packages anymore, but it has a 
>totally different GUI.
>Fortunately R makes a distinction between GUI and the engine, 
>therefore we can create a real OS X GUI without affecting other 
>platforms - including Darwin ;). "Unix" users are used to compile 
>their own software, therefore moving fink support to the category 
>'optional' is only logical, since you can still easily enable it 
>with configure parameters and/or environment settings.

I'm glad to hear that, but when Jan says "all references to /sw in 
configure.ac can go" I do tend to wonder whether that is actually the 

>  Real Mac OS X users are used to nice, binary distributions, 
>therefore we cannot assume fink and we need Quartz device and RAqua. 
>It will be a big help for most OS X users. (BTW: no Mac users I know 
>(non-developers) have installed X11.)

I subscribe to Apples "scitech" mailing list, for people interested 
in using the Mac in scientific applications. I'd say X windows is 
pretty common among those folks. Don't know how many of them would 
consider themselves "developers."

>Therefore the recent changes are IMHO really important from Mac OS X 
>user's view - so far most binaries were rather experimental and 
>assumed some unix knowledge (note: there was is no official OS X 
>binary!). It was ok to use fink for those as a temporary solution, 
>but the official binary cannot rely on unsupported non-Apple 
>packages. The only thing external part we really need is libdl and 
>I'm sure we can supply it simply with R - such as pcre etc., all 
>other libraries are optional.
>Simon Urbanek
>Department of computer oriented statistics and data analysis
>University of Augsburg
>Universitätsstr. 14
>86135 Augsburg
>Tel: +49-821-598-2236
>Fax: +49-821-598-2200
>Simon.Urbanek at Math.Uni-Augsburg.de

Don MacQueen
Environmental Protection Department
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Livermore, CA, USA

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