Making it easier to use C++ in R has been a really nice and rewarding side effect of the work on Rcpp. One really good idea came from something Jay Emerson, Michael Kane and had I kicked about for way too long: shipping Boost headers for easier use by R and CRAN packages (such as their family of packages around bigmemory). The key idea here is headers: Experienced C++ authors such as library writers can organise C++ code in such a way that one can (almost always) get by without any linking. Which makes deployment so much easier in most use cases, and surely also with R which knows how to set an include path.
So after years of “yes we really should”, Jay deserves the credit for actually sitting down almost three years ago and creating the first version. So at the end of January 2013, we released BH version 1.51.0-0. By now the package is used fifty-four other CRAN packages — clearly a much stronger uptake then we ever expected. I took over maintenance at some point, and we are currently in-line with the most recent Boost release 1.60.0.
But some people were always lusting after (some) parts of Boost which also require linking. For some libraries (such as Boost.Date_Time in my RcppBDT package) you can set a
#define to not require linking (and forego some string formatting or parsing we get from R anyway). Some others are trickier; Boost Regex is one example. I do not think you can use it without linking (but then C++11 helps and finally brings regular expression in the default library).
Another library which the systems / network programmers at work would frequently rely upon is Boost.Asio, a cross-platform C++ library for network and low-level I/O programming. It was already used on CRAN by the iptools package by Bob Rudis and Oliver Keyes which shied away from building on Windoze (while ‘doze and Boost do get along, but the CRAN system makes it a little more involved).
A couple of days ago, I somehow learned that the Asio library actually comes in two flavours: the well-known Boost.Asio (requiring linking), and also as a header-only standalone library! Well, well, well — so I ran that by Bob and Oliver asking if that would be useful. And the response was a resounding and pretty much immediate Hell, Yes!.
So I wrapped it in a package, told Bob about it, who tested it and gave the thumbs up. And after a slightly longer-than-usual on-boarding, the package is now on CRAN. As network (and systems) programming is not entirely uncommon even at CRAN, I hope that this package may find a few more use cases. A new version of iptools should be forthcoming “shortly”, including for the first time a Windows build thanks to this package. The indefatigable Martin Morgan already spotted our GitHub repo and scored the first fork.