[R]Running R remotely in Windows Environment?

Pikounis, Bill v_bill_pikounis at merck.com
Thu Jan 29 15:24:52 CET 2004

I would really like to reiterate Professor Ripley's and Arne Henningsen
comments. The problem goes for any analytic software or system you might
want to use, not just R. My impression is that at least for part of it, you
want the individual users to use R as they would on their own desktops.  (If
that is not the case, much of the rest of this note is pure FYI.) Even in
its most advanced 2003 Server edition, Windows is simply not designed to be
a multi-user system.  Sure, it can reliably host a web server that may need
to run quick bursts of R batch-type jobs ("analytics") and return results to
a client (e.g. web browser), but that does not sound like what you are
looking for (at least in part). And beyond the technical limitations, use of
Windows Terminal Server (Remote Desktop) / Citrix, etc. will cost much money
and implementation hassle and probably even legal headaches.  We have had
colleagues here at Merck (over my and Andy Liaw's disbelief) that have tried
to shoehorn Windows this way, and even the speed of single, small jobs by 1
logged-on took longer on the server than on their much less powerful

A Linux solution is very flexible, in our experiences (we have Windows XP as
corporate desktop standard).  As stated, with Samba, you can map directories
that look like just another drive in Windows Explorer.  Printing is just as
transparent in either direction.  VNC (Virtual Network Computing) is very,
very nice to provide the individual user's Linux environment as just another
window on their Windows desktop. With the free utility of "autocutsel",
clipboards can be synchronized for ease of cutting and pasting. And KDE, one
of several window manager analogues to Windows, is very sophisticated and
shares a lot in common with the Windows GUI from a user operations
standpoint. While it may sound like a hassle to get up and running now if
your shop is currently "99% Windows", the benefit will absolutely be clear

Hope that helps,
Bill Pikounis, Ph.D.

Biometrics Research Department
Merck Research Laboratories
PO Box 2000, MailDrop RY33-300  
126 E. Lincoln Avenue
Rahway, New Jersey 07065-0900

Phone: 732 594 3913
Fax: 732 594 1565

> -----Original Message-----
> From: r-help-bounces at stat.math.ethz.ch 
> [mailto:r-help-bounces at stat.math.ethz.ch] On Behalf Of Arne Henningsen
> Sent: Thursday, January 29, 2004 3:45 AM
> To: Jim Porzak
> Cc: r-help at stat.math.ethz.ch
> Subject: Re: [R]Running R remotely in Windows Environment?
> Hi, 
> I also suggest to use a Linux Server. You can work on this 
> machine via ssh 
> (e.g. with PuTTY) and transfer the input and output files 
> with scp or a samba 
> server (which is easy to install and very convenient to use 
> for windows 
> users).
> Arne
> On Thursday 29 January 2004 08:53, Prof Brian Ripley wrote:
> > On Wed, 28 Jan 2004, Jim Porzak wrote:
> > > We are considering setting up a fast, RAM loaded machine 
> as an "R-server"
> > > to handle the big problems not suitable for individual 
> desktops and,
> > > also, to process ad hoc analysis requests via our portal. 
> We are 99% a
> > > Windows shop, so first choice is a windows server. We'll 
> use (D)COM for
> > > the portal interface and understand that.
> > >
> > > What has me stumped is how to easily interface individual 
> analyst's
> > > Windows desktops to the R-server. I haven't seen anything in the
> > > archives, but I can't imagine this hasn't been done. What 
> am I missing?
> >
> > R is not designed to be client-server on Windows.  People I 
> know who do
> > this use Windows Terminal Server or Citrix.
> >
> > I would question the value of this approach.  Unless you 
> propose to run
> > 64-bit Windows, a `RAM loaded' machine isn't `loaded', and 
> R under Windows
> > handles large amounts of memory much less effectively than 
> under Linux.
> > 64-bit Windows is uncharted territory for R, whereas 64-bit 
> Unix/Linux is
> > well trodden.
> -- 
> Arne Henningsen
> Department of Agricultural Economics
> University of Kiel
> Olshausenstr. 40
> D-24098 Kiel (Germany)
> Tel: +49-431-880 4445
> Fax: +49-431-880 1397
> ahenningsen at agric-econ.uni-kiel.de
> http://www.uni-kiel.de/agrarpol/ahenningsen/
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