[R-SIG-Mac] help: R on Mac's is "buggy", department reconsidering

Kasper Daniel Hansen khansen at stat.Berkeley.EDU
Thu Jan 31 18:23:13 CET 2008

Let me preempt Simon a bit and suggest that you give us very precise  
information about what happens. Especially these days since "Mac"  
actually covers 4 different architectures, several versions of the OS  
and several compilers.

1) Get a crash report and send it to Simon. If it is so easy to get R  
to crash it should be easy to get a report.
2) What version of R and the GUI was installed and exactly on what  
machine? How did you install packages? Which compiler was used  
(include gcc version and build number)?


On Jan 31, 2008, at 8:40 AM, Matthew Keller wrote:

> Hello all,
> I dread writing this because it may come across as being ungrateful to
> the hard work of those (esp. Simon Urbanek) who have made an otherwise
> fantastic R interface for the mac. Nevertheless...
> I do most of my work in R using Aquamacs and had, until recently,
> little interaction with the R Gui. People in my department (psychology
> at CU Boulder) are mainly mac users, and a few of us (including the
> chair and the statistics professors) are making a push to make our
> department an "R" department (such that it is the package taught to
> undergrads and grad students). I have been teaching a four week intro
> to the R language this semester to students, postdocs, and faculty,
> and the undergrad stats professors have taken the leap and are
> teaching R in the undergrad stats classes this semester. So far so
> good... but...
> There is beginning to be a backlash, not from what I had expected ("R
> is too user unfriendly"... this doesn't seem to come up!), but rather
> that R is "too buggy" and crashes too often. Since switching to the R
> Gui to teach this class, I myself have had R crash several times
> (previously a rare occurrence when I used Aquamacs). I cannot find a
> rhyme or reason to when it happens. The students/colleagues in my
> class who are mac users also complain about it (none of the windows
> users have). And this morning, an email went out from one of the
> undergrad stats teachers who said much the same thing (see his email
> below).
> Being one of the people who really pushed for this switch to R, I hate
> to see it go down in flames because of this. I have considered trying
> to teach using R via Aquamacs, but this presents its own set of
> difficulties.
> Does anyone out there who has experience with the R Gui for Macs have
> any suggestions re making it more stable? Are there steps we can take
> or advice we can give to students that would lessen the number of
> crashes we are experiencing? Might the crashes be due to the newness
> of the Leopard OS, etc?
> I apologize for breaking the listserve rules - I have not given a good
> explanation of the conditions under which these crashes occur. I could
> try to get the students to document exactly when they happen and send
> a summary back out to the list if this would be helpful.
> I really want this (our department's switch to R) to go through, but I
> am afraid the "bugginess of R" may be jeopardizing this. Any help
> would be most appreciated. And as I said before, thank you to the
> people who have selflessly spent their time making the R Gui - I
> wouldn't even know where to start! Best,
> Matt
> <message from an undergrad stats prof here at CU> :
> In the labs for my course, the R GUI has been buggy - i.e. will  
> crash at
> random times. I thought this had to do with using R Commander, but  
> after
> looking into it further, it has nothing to do with R Commander -  
> when I
> ran through some of the tutorial/homework for my course using the R  
> (rather than R Commander) the crashes were still there.  I also  
> thought
> it might have to do with computing labs (perhaps installing ALL R
> packages created the problem), but a quick survey in my course  
> suggested
> that people's personal apple computers are experiencing the same  
> thing.
> Greg and Matt Keller also mentioned to me that some of their students
> were having issues with the R GUI on Mac OS X. As everyone knows,  
> there
> are A LOT of Mac users in the undergrad student body.
> As far as I can tell (after discussing with Matt Keller), it has  
> nothing
> to do with the R "engine" - it's all about the R GUI interface (for
> example, I've never had a problem submitting R jobs in pseudo-batch
> mode).  I get slightly less buggy-ness on my Mac (intel dual-core,
> Leopard), but there are still some issues.
> Anyway, no real action items here other than to note that it  
> appears to
> be fairly common. The students are tolerating it, and I just keep
> telling them that it's "free" and "free" always comes at a price. If
> anyone has stumbled a more stable configuration, please let me know!
> -- 
> Matthew C Keller
> Asst. Professor of Psychology
> University of Colorado at Boulder
> www.matthewckeller.com
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