[ESS] feature request: shell support

Rodney Sparapani rsparapa at mcw.edu
Thu Oct 10 22:45:09 CEST 2013

On 10/10/2013 03:07 PM, Andreas Leha wrote:
> As I wrote the feature request, let me comment a bit.
> I completely understand your point.  And since (unfortunately) it won't
> be me who implements shell support in ess, I of course accept your
> point.
> That said, see my inline comments below.

Hi Andreas:

Well, I enjoy arguing more than actually working so see below...

> Rodney Sparapani<rsparapa at mcw.edu>  writes:
>> >Well then...  Although I am an ESS developer, this is only my
>> >personal opinion.  I too find myself writing Bourne shell scripts
>> >(for the last 20 years now ;o)  However, I feel that the emacs
>> >community is well aware of the Bourne shell and its imitators.
> Can you point to any emacs shell support, that comes close to what ess
> can do for real (?) statistical languages in terms of connecting the
> script with a process?

No.  But, that doesn't mean it doesn't exist.  I can't keep up with
all of the different emacs modes that are floating around cyberspace.

>> >
>> >IMHO the ESS developers want to fill the niche that
>> >statisticians and statistical programmers/analysts find
>> >in emacs.  There are a lot of things that would be nice to
>> >have that we are not going to be able to add due to time,
>> >warm bodies, climate change, etc.
> As also others have argued, shell scripting can be seen as being part of
> the full statistical workflow.  I assume, you'd not want to do your real
> (?) statistical scripting without ess' support for sending code from
> your script to the process.  Why would you not want similar support for
> the part of the data analysis, that is done in the shell?
> So, the step to shell support, for me, is a natural one, the step to
> climate change is not.

My point is that as statisticians, we pick our battles.  There is a
reason that SAS and R are prevalent in statistics while other
interactive languages like Perl and Python are not.  I do agree that
Bourne shell scripting is worth learning; but then I am a Linux/UNIX
bigot who has seen the error of my OS/2 ways; lots of Windows
folks would disagree.

>> >
>> >When we get to that point (and I feel it is a ways off yet),
>> >then we could re-consider.  Normally, at this point, I would
>> >say glibly "patches welcome".  However, I don't think they
>> >really are right now.  Whenever we accept a patch, then we
>> >end up maintaining it (except in the rare exception when we
>> >can convince the author to stick around).  So, I personally
>> >am in no hurry; I would postpone this until the rewrite is
>> >complete when we can consider what languages to add then.
> This already sounds as if such a rewrite will definitely happen -- even
> if ways off.  That is nice.

Yes, we have been talking about it, but talk is cheap ;o)

>> >
>> >I have my doubts whether the Bourne shell will be able to compete
>> >for attention with julia, polymode, SLIME[R] and/or whatever new
>> >fangled flavor of the month the kids come up with.  But that's
>> >just the opinion of one eternal pessimist.
> Given that you have done shell scripts for 20 years, you probably agree,
> that shell scripting is not one of the 'new fangled flavor[s] of the
> month'.

I do.  But, I meant it in the mindshare sense.  IMHO there will always
be something that we would rather add than shell scripting whether
right or wrong.  Polymode and SLIME[R] are just too sexy to resist
while it's easy to poo poo stodgy old shell scripts.
Rodney Sparapani, PhD
Manager of Statistical & Computational Operations
Center for Patient Care and Outcomes Research (PCOR)
Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW), Milwaukee, USA

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