Archive for packages

Extending R

Posted in Books, Kids, R, Statistics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 13, 2016 by xi'an

As I was previously unaware of this book coming up, my surprise and excitement were both extreme when I received it from CRC Press a few weeks ago! John Chambers, one of the fathers of S, precursor of R, had just published a book about extending R. It covers some reflections of the author on programming and the story of R (Parts 2 and 1),  and then focus on object-oriented programming (Part 3) and the interfaces from R to other languages (Part 4). While this is “only” a programming book, and thus not strictly appealing to statisticians, reading one of the original actors’ thoughts on the past, present, and future of R is simply fantastic!!! And John Chambers is definitely not calling to simply start over and build something better, as Ross Ihaka did in this [most read] post a few years ago. (It is also great to see the names of friends appearing at times, like Julie, Luke, and Duncan!)

“I wrote most of the original software for S3 methods, which were useful for their application, in the early 1990s.”

In the (hi)story part, Chambers delves into the details of the evolution of S at Bells Labs, as described in his [first]  “blue book” (which I kept on my shelf until very recently, next to the “white book“!) and of the occurrence of R in the mid-1990s. I find those sections fascinating maybe the more because I am somewhat of a contemporary, having first learned Fortran (and Pascal) in the mid-1980’s, before moving in the early 1990s to C (that I mostly coded as translated Pascal!), S-plus and eventually R, in conjunction with a (forced) migration from Unix to Linux, as my local computer managers abandoned Unix and mainframe in favour of some virtual Windows machines. And as I started running R on laptops with the help of friends more skilled than I (again keeping some of the early R manuals on my shelf until recently). Maybe one of the most surprising things about those reminiscences is that the very first version of R was dated Feb 29, 2000! Not because of Feb 29, 2000 (which, as Chambers points out, is the first use of the third-order correction to the Gregorian calendar, although I would have thought 1600 was the first one), but because I would have thought it appeared earlier, in conjunction with my first Linux laptop, but this memory is alas getting too vague!

As indicated above, the book is mostly about programming, which means in my case that some sections are definitely beyond my reach! For instance, reading “the onus is on the person writing the calling function to avoid using a reference object as the argument to an existing function that expects a named list” is not immediately clear… Nonetheless, most sections are readable [at my level] and enlightening about the mottoes “everything that exists is an object” and “everything that happens is a function” repeated throughout.  (And about my psycho-rigid ways of translating Pascal into every other language!) I obviously learned about new commands and notions, like the difference between

x <- 3


x <<- 3

(but I was disappointed to learn that the number of <‘s was not related with the depth or height of the allocation!) In particular, I found the part about replacement fascinating, explaining how a command like

diag(x)[i] = 3

could modify x directly. (While definitely worth reading, the chapter on R packages could have benefited from more details. But as Chambers points out there are whole books about this.) Overall, I am afraid the book will not improve my (limited) way of programming in R but I definitely recommend it to anyone even moderately skilled in the language.

Le Monde puzzle [#913]

Posted in Books, Kids, Statistics, University life with tags , , , , , , , on June 12, 2015 by xi'an

An arithmetics Le Monde mathematical puzzle:

Find all bi-twin integers, namely positive integers such that adding 2 to any of their dividers returns a prime number.

An easy puzzle, once the R libraries on prime number decomposition can be found!, since it is straightforward to check for solutions. Unfortunately, I could not install the recent numbers package. So I used instead the schoolmath R package. Despite its possible bugs. But it seems to do the job for this problem:

for (t in 1:1e4) 
  if (prod(is.prim(prime.factor(t)+2)==1)) 

which returned all solutions, albeit in a lengthy fashion:

> lem
 [1] 1 3 5 9 11 15 17 25 27 29 33 41 45 51 55
 [16] 59 71 75 81 85 87 99 101 107 121 123 125 135 137 145
 [31] 149 153 165 177 179 187 191 197 205 213 225 227 239 243 255
 [46] 261 269 275 281 289 295 297 303 311 319 321 347 355 363 369
 [61] 375 405 411 419 425 431 435 447 451 459 461 493 495 505 521
 [76] 531 535 537 561 569 573 591 599 605 615 617 625 639 641 649
 [91] 659 675 681 685 697 717 725 729 745 765 781 783 807 809 821
[106] 825 827 841 843 857 867 881 885 891 895 909 933 935 955 957
[121] 963 985 1003 1019 1025 1031 ...