[Rd] [patch] giving library() a 'version' argument

Ken Williams Ken.Williams at windlogics.com
Thu Apr 12 19:46:33 CEST 2012

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Duncan Murdoch [mailto:murdoch.duncan at gmail.com]
> Sent: Thursday, April 12, 2012 12:27 PM
> To: Ken Williams
> Cc: r-devel at r-project.org
> Subject: Re: [Rd] [patch] giving library() a 'version' argument
> I haven't tested it, but according to the documentation in Writing R
> Extensions, the dependencies are enforced at the time library() is called.

Oh, I hadn't suspected that.  I can look into testing that, if it's true then of course that changes this all.  I probably won't be able to do that for a few days because I'll be traveling though.

I've never noticed a package failing to load at runtime because its prereq-version dependency wasn't met though.

> [...]
> But a single line at the top of the script would fix this:
> stopifnot(packageVersion("foo") == "3.14")

For the most common use case, that would look more like:

    stopifnot(compareVersion(packageVersion("foo"), "3.14") < 0)

which gets less declarative, and I'd argue less clear about exactly what it's trying to enforce.

And I can see myself (& presumably others) getting that comparison operator backwards a lot, having to look it up each time or copy-paste it from other code.

And then that still doesn't add nice error messages, that would be yet more code.

*And*, it doesn't actually behave correctly if the package is already loaded by other code, because it might have been loaded from a different location than the one that would be found in the packageVersion() call.  (Or am I maybe wrong about what packageVersion() does in that case?  I don't think the docs specify that behavior.)

For prior art on this whole concept, a useful precedent is the 'use()' function in Perl, which accepts a version argument, even though there is also robust version checking at installation/testing time.

> Another problem with putting this into library() is that packages aren't
> always loaded by library():  there is require(), and there are implicit
> loads triggered by dependencies of other packages.

That's not really a problem.  If someone wants to enforce a runtime dependency, they stick the enforcement line into their code, and it will correctly stop if the criterion is not met.


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