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25 November 2011, 16:10

The R programming language gets 64-bit integer support

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R logo The R programming language, a software environment designed especially for statistical computations and graphing, will now be able to process 64-bit integer types. A patch to enable this capability, from French R developer Romain François, is available to download from the CRAN server network. His approach involves storing int64 vectors in R as pairs of 32-bit integers in S4 objects, with one holding the high order bits and the other the low order bits. Behind the scenes, the arithmetic operations are carried out in high performance C++ code; François has modified almost all of the standard arithmetic operations available in R to transparently work with the new class.

The developer's work has, in part, been sponsored by the Google Open Source Programs Office, which is responsible for organising the annual Google Summer of Code. "We were very happy to be able to fund his development of this package to solve the problem not just for us, but for the broader open-source community as well," said Google engineer Murray Stokely. R is used by Google for data analysis, but users have always had to utilise workarounds to deal with 64-bit integers. The patch has therefore been greeted with some enthusiasm as it also enables interoperability with 64-bit integers in CSV files and allows R to serialise 64-bit integers.

R is available as an free software GNU Project, licensed under GPLv2. The project is partly based on the statistical programming language S, developed by Bell Laboratories, and is intended as an alternative, open source implementation.


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