[R] Deprecating download method='wininet' in R on Windows causes trouble with corporate proxy

Selke, Gisbert W. g|@bert@@e|ke @end|ng |rom w|do@bv@@ok@de
Fri Sep 30 00:42:40 CEST 2022

Method="wininet" is deprecated and scheduled to go away, the standard method is now libcurl. This causes trouble for all R users in our shop, because we are sitting behind a corporate proxy, which uses Kerberos authentication. (We're all on Windows.)

Using wininet, this used to work without problems and without additional effort; it currently still does with explicit method="wininet" (which, by the way, precludes use of the handy menu command "Update packages", which will use the default method, i.e., libcurl as of now.)

For the future, when wininet will be gone for good, the only option we have is to resort to first setting environment variables HTTP_PROXY and HTTPS_PROXY and then tricking the proxy out of using Kerberos, setting HTTPS_PROXY_USER to a dummy string.
This is certainly doable for R users with enough knowledge of the technicalities of internet access, but our average R user will just be lost. As has been pointed out elsewhere (https://github.com/rstudio/rstudio/issues/10163#issuecomment-1154071514) , this will create a lot of blood, sweat and tears (and swears), and it is a moderate nightmare to maintain consistently and up-to-date for many users.

My first question is: Since we are probably not the only institution in this situation, has anyone come up with a robust and maintainable solution other than our approach described above?

Failing that: would it be possible at all to change the use that the R core makes of libcurl in such a way that it would automagically Do The Right Thing (tm)? In principle, this should be possible; after all, wininet did the trick, and ordinary browsers can handle this situation. (Disclaimer: I know nothing about the R internals so cannot say whether I am being overly na�ve here.)

Any help appreciated.

(I'm new to this list, so if this has been discussed here before, I apologize and would be grateful for a pointer to do my reading.)

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