CXXR and Add-On Packages

Runnalls, Andrew R. (2010) CXXR and Add-On Packages. UNSPECIFIED. (The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided)

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CXXR is a project to refactor (reengineer) the interpreter of the R language, currently written for the most part in C, into C++. It is hoped that by reorganising the code along object-oriented lines, by deploying the tighter code encapsulation that is possible in C++, and by improving the internal documentation, the project will make it easier for researchers to develop experimental versions of the R interpreter. The design of CXXR endeavours to reconcile three objectives: (a) Above all, to be functionally consistent with standard R, both at the R language level, and at the C/Fortran package interface level. (b) For the core of the interpreter to be written in idiomatic, standards-conforming C++, making best use of the C++ standard library, and providing a well documented C++ API on which C++ package writers can build. (c) To provide a reasonably simple mechanism for CXXR to be upgraded to parallel the continuing evolution of standard R. Development of CXXR started in May 2007, then shadowing R 2.5.1; at the time of this abstract it reflects the functionality of R 2.10.1. At useR! 2009 Chris Silles described an offshoot project to introduce provenance-tracking facilities into CXXR, so that for any R data object it will be possible to determine exactly which original data files it was derived from, and exactly which sequence of operations was used to produce it: in other words, an enhanced version of the old S AUDIT facility. In principle any R add-on package should work without alteration under CXXR, provided it conforms to the R.h or S.h APIs. (Code using Rinternals.h may need alterations, usually minor, as explained in the CXXR documentation.) The primary purpose of this paper---after giving a general update on the CXXR project---is to gauge to what extent this is true in practice, by describing the author's experiences in installing and testing under CXXR a number of the most widely used packages from CRAN. A particular observation will be how CXXR can quickly bring to light memory-protection errors (i.e. incorrect use of PROTECT(), UNPROTECT() etc.) that may long lie dormant under the standard R interpreter. The paper will go on to explain how CXXR offers the prospect of making life simpler for package writers incorporating native C/C++ code, and allowing---in a controlled way---closer interaction between package code and the underlying interpreter. For example, the following are already feasible: 1. Direct access to the underlying garbage collection system via a well-documented and well-encapsulated API. 2. In CXXR the SEXPREC union is replaced by a C++ class hierarchy. Package writers can extend this class hierarchy as they see fit, rather than needing to use external pointers and finalizers. In particular, new R classes can be wrapped around new C++ classes within the hierarchy. 3. Instead of using PROTECT() and kindred functions, package writers can use C++ smart pointers which afford memory protection to whatever they point to. This is much simpler and less error-prone than the PROTECT() mechanism. These points will be illustrated by showing how the ff package can be reengineered under CXXR. (Admittedly, these facilities come at the expense of compatibility with the standard R interpreter.)

Item Type: Other
Uncontrolled keywords: determinacy analysis, Craig interpolants
Subjects: Q Science > QA Mathematics (inc Computing science) > QA 76 Software, computer programming,
Divisions: Faculties > Sciences > School of Computing > Programming Languages and Systems Group
Depositing User: Andrew Runnalls
Date Deposited: 21 Sep 2012 09:49 UTC
Last Modified: 21 Sep 2012 09:49 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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