Cran2deb4ubuntu: An Update for 2014

January 5, 2014

(This article was first published on The Ubuntu R Blog, and kindly contributed to R-bloggers)

I have been a little quiet on the update front for the past few months, so I thought I would give a quick update as 2014 begins. Between increased responsibilities at work (pseudo-department chair) and some family health issues, work on cran2deb4ubuntu (c2d4u) slowed a bit in the last half of 2013. Here is the current state of cran2deb4ubuntu.

Precise and Raring continue to be updated

During the last half of 2013, Precise and Raring have been updated on more or less a weekly basis. In fact, additional packages from the CRAN Task Views have been added, bringing the total number of R packages available now exceeding 2000.

Quantal has been removed from c2d4u

Although Quantal (12.10) is still supported officially until April, I have a policy of maintaining only three releases on c2d4u. Space is a big issue, as well as trying to deal with build issues for 2000+ packages on four releases. I will always keep the latest LTS (currently Precise) and the latest two releases updated and available. With the release of Saucy, it was Quantal’s time to go. Base R packages will still be released for Quantal on CRAN and the RRutter PPA.

Saucy has been added to c2d4u

This took a while. With the move to shorter support schedules (Saucy will only be supported until July 2014), I was hesitant to put the time into building 2000+ plus packages for a release with a life span of only 9 months. However, I have recently spent some time with the Python interface to the Lauchpad API, and have created a series of scripts that allow me to copy 95% of the packages from one release to another. And that is how I created the Saucy c2d4u packages.

One problem with copying packages is that the have the same file name as the original packages. Therefore, 95% of the packages in the Saucy c2d4u PPA have “raring” in the file name. They still work in Saucy, and the only way you would notice is this if you closely watch apt output or the results of a synaptic search. As long as you keep your version of R current, I don’t see any reason why these “copied” packages will not work. If there is an issue, please let me know.

Changes going forward

I still plan on supporting only three Ubuntu releases at a time on c2d4u. However, to save myself and Launchpad time and effort, I will only be building packages for the latest LTS (currently Precise). Any other supported releases (Raring and Saucy) will now have the packages copied from the latest LTS to that release. To help with this, I will be eliminating the release name in the package build. For example, “lme4 – 1.0-5-1cran1precise0 ” will become “lme4 – 1.0-5-1cran1ppa0″. If the package was rebuilt especially for a non-LTS release, I will add the release name to the build.

If anyone discovers a copied package that does not work, let me know and I will add the package to a list to be built, not copied. This move should also allow for frequent and timely updates.

Honestly, with the move to shorter support cycles, I think a majority of R users who use Ubuntu will stick to the LTS releases. Therefore, I will concentrate my effort on those releases. The non-LTS releases will still be supported, but with the “copy” vs. “build” approach, I think the workload on my end will be more manageable.

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