Running R on the iPad

September 17, 2010

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

I'm a hardcore Mac user, so it's annoying to me that we don't yet support Revolution R Enterprise on MacOS X. Believe me, I've argued the point. But MacOS is still a relatively uncommon platform in business, and there's just not the demand yet from customers to justify porting the Revolution R extensions to MacOS X. (Open-source Revolution R Community is available for MacOS X, but doesn't include big data or the IDE or other extras.) But Jan de Leeuw points out there's another option:

If you want your Mac to run Revolution R Enterprise, or some of the CUDA/GPU packages that run best under Linux, then this can of course be done by running the appropriate OS in an emulator such as Parallels Desktop.

Better yet, you can make it run on the iPad too, using this technique:

Parallels now also has Parallels Mobile for the iPad, which is basically a screen sharing app. You have a Parellels running on a remote desktop that you login to from the iPad, and then you start (for example) Revolution R from your iPad, and you can enter commands directly into the R interpreter from the iPad keyboard.

Before the end of the year you'll also be able to print remotely.

It's still clunky, but it can be done. And it can be done over 3G as well.

OK, that's not quite running R on the iPad — it's more like using the iPad as a remote terminal — but still very cool. If you want to run R natively on the iPad, things aren't quite so simple: the rules of Apple's App Store forbid implementing language interpreters like R, so the chances of an R app being approved seem slim. So you're stuck with jailbreaking iOS to install non-approved apps (a practice the US courts recently ruled legal over Apple's objections). There are detailed instructions for running R on an iPhone running iOS4 here, and there have been reports of it working with some limitations: the base and recommended packages appear to work fine, but CRAN packages that rely on a Fortran compiler are proving problematic to build. In any case iOS4 won't be available for the iPad until November, and even then there's no guarantee it will be jailbroken. Guess we'll just have to wait and see.

Computational Mathematics: R on the iPhone

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