[Rd] Non-default build options

Dirk Eddelbuettel edd at debian.org
Wed Jan 25 22:29:49 CET 2012

On 25 January 2012 at 12:33, Ivan Zaigralin wrote:
| Hi! I am a current maintainer of the R slackbuild script (for Slackware
| GNU/Linux distribution). I received requests from users to build R with
| --enable-R-shlib and --enable-BLAS-shlib, so now I am trying to decide
| whether to do so by default.
| Is there a downside to building R with either option?

To some, building as a shared library is a bad choice because a few percent
of peak performance may be left behind.  That's the static vs dynamic linking
debate of yore.  [ And whether this applies to an interpreted language which
is not going to be the fastest horse in any race is best left for another
debate... ]

To others, it gives you a large amount of flexibility and allows a few good

   a) having R as a shared library permits easier linking against R (which
      has after all a pretty stable APU) as well as embedding into other
      applications; examples are rApache, rkward, littler (ie "r"), RInside,
      and probably a few I am forgetting now

   b) having BLAS as a defined interface is wonderful for swapping default
      (unaccelerated) BLAS for accelerated BLAS like Atlas, Goto, OpenBLAS,
      MKL, ... Several of these BLAS have in fact been available for either
      Debian or Ubuntu in some form (sometimes involving a helper script as
      eg Goto could never be part of an FLOSS distro).

I have been somewhat involved with the Debian builds of R since the late
1990s and we enthusiastically support both options.  We have had a drop-in
replacement of Atlas (to accelerate linear algebra) for probably a decade.
Derivative distro like Ubuntu, Mint, Arch, ... don't seem to mind, and
neither do the users.

In fact, apart from the repated calls by one vocal R Core member (who, to the
best of my knowledge, uses neither Debian nor a derivative), nobody ever
asked for a change in this policy...

So my two cents would be to go for it as your users suggest.

Cheers, Dirk

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