[Rd] update.packages with ask = FALSE will sometimes ask about updates

Prof Brian Ripley ripley at stats.ox.ac.uk
Fri Feb 13 08:11:06 CET 2015

On 11/02/2015 10:46, Richard Cotton wrote:
> Today while running update.packages(ask = FALSE), R stopped to ask me
> a question:

The 'at a minimum' information required by the posting guide is 
conspicuous by its absence.

At a guess, this is R-devel and Windows.

In response to a misled follow-up: he most likely did not ask for binary 
packages ... that is not the default on Windows in R-devel.

>    There are binary versions available but the source versions are later:
>              binary  source needs_compilation
> KernSmooth 2.23-13 2.23-14              TRUE
> mixture        1.2     1.3              TRUE
> Do you want to install from sources the packages which need compilation?
> y/n:
> update.packages calls install.packages which calls getDependencies,
> which was where there question originated.
> It seems to me that if I've set ask = FALSE, stopping to ask questions
> is a bug.  There are a few possible interpretations of the best
> behaviour though, so I thought I'd put it up for discussion here
> before (maybe) submitting as a bug.

> 1. The existing behaviour is correct: the case of out-of-date binaries
> causes a special situation, and R is right to ask.
> 2. ask = FALSE means I want all updates, so don't ask me any
> questions, just install all possible updates.
> 3. ask = FALSE means that I don't want any interactivity, but
> out-of-date binaries is a special case, so R should just fail to
> update these packages, with an error message stating that they need to
> be manually updated.
> 4. There should be an extra argument that decides between the some or
> all of the behaviours described in 1, 2 and 3.
> Which of these options is best?  (Or have I missed an option?)

He missed the documented options (and the NEWS items, the posting guide 

Brian D. Ripley,                  ripley at stats.ox.ac.uk
Emeritus Professor of Applied Statistics, University of Oxford
1 South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3TG, UK

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