Mon, 21 Nov 2011

RPostgreSQL 0.2-0, 0.2-1 and an unsung Open Source hero

RPostgreSQL goes back to a topic suggestion I had made for the Google Summer of Code 2008, and specifically for the R Project participation that year. And Sameer Kumar Prayaga (whom I then mentored for the project) did a fine job that summer putting together a working framework of package connecting R and the excellent PostgreSQL database system. Unfortunately, Sameer vanished once the summer was up; I heard he got himself a job a another db company.

Fast-forward a few years. A caretaker group had maintained the package in the meantime, but without really writing any new code. But thanks to the tireless efforts of Tomoaki Nishiyama, who not only wrote a lot of new code addressing some of issues logged at the Google Code project page, but also stepped forward and became the new lead maintainer, things are much, much better now.

The first 0.2-0 release a few weeks ago already addressed a rather large number of issues, bringing the feature set much closer to what one would expect from a feature-complete package. But one big thorn remained: builds on Windows still required a local PostgreSQL library installation as well as local compilation. And as we can tell from the mailing list(s), this is a little daunting for many potential users. But what did release 0.2-1 bring: a complete set of libpq sources so that builds on Windows no longer require presence of local PostgreSQL sources! We tested this using Uwe Ligges' excellent win-builder service for R, and after I reminded Uwe on the weekend to no longer blacklist build attempts of RPostgreSQL, we now have Windows binaries for direct installation. Just call install.packages(), and you're good to go -- much nicer!

Tomoaki achieved this pretty much single-handedly, and for that reason he greatly deserves some extra praise as an unsung Open Source hero!

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