How we are fixing our installer for Microsoft R Open on Linux


This post is authored by Nagesh Pabbisetty, Partner Director of Program Management at Microsoft.

On Monday, we were alerted to an issue in the Microsoft R Open install script on Linux-based systems, including Debian. We appreciate that Norbert Preining highlighted the problem. This blog describes what went wrong, what we learned and what we are doing to make sure something like this doesn't happen again.

We learned that the issue caused installation and de-installation scripts to modify the system shell and did not follow the standard practices for software installation.  We have described more about the issue and how we fixed it in the Microsoft R Open forum.  And last night, we released a hotfix update for Microsoft R Open 3.5.0. With this fix, Microsoft R Open will no longer attempt to modify the system shell on install or uninstall, and now uses the standard dpkg-divert process.

While we work hard to be a good steward in all the open source communities we participate in, this one did not stand up to the community's or our high expectations. In response to this incident, we have deeply examined our review processes for install scripts. Given that Microsoft R Open is released on a wide variety of platforms, we know that it is essential we have experts from each of these communities review our methods and scripts to make sure that we adhere to the norms of that community. We have now made these changes and assigned internal code reviewers for our supported open source platforms. We have put processes in place to help us fix things like this as soon as they are discovered (this issue was identified in 2016 but wasn't fixed) and named individuals have been identified to monitor and address any issues as soon as possible. We are lucky at Microsoft to have many experienced Linux contributors at our company, and we will do better at getting their input going forward.

For those not familiar with Microsoft R Open, it is Microsoft's distribution of R, a language and system for data analysis. Microsoft R Open includes open source R from the R Foundation and comes bundled with additional open source R packages developed by Microsoft and others. It also includes the Intel Math Kernel Library (distributed under license from Intel), which improves the performance of R on many systems. Microsoft R Open is also used by several Microsoft products, including SQL Server, Azure HDInsight, and Azure SQL Database.

We recognize that without the contributions of the open source community generally, and the R project specifically, these products would not have the statistical modeling, advanced analytics and data visualization capabilities our customers rely on. We are committed to being responsible members of both Debian and R open source communities. Microsoft ships over 100 Debian packages for flagship products like SQLServer, .NET Core and VS Code. We are a Platinum supporter of the R Consortium, by providing Azure credits for the R-hub project, and as a sponsor of many open source community events.

We always welcome your feedback on Microsoft R – or any of our open source projects. You can post your comments and suggestions for improvement in the official Microsoft R Open forum, or via the Microsoft R Open Github repository. Most importantly, as a company committed to developer freedom, openness and innovation, we thank the community for flagging any potential issues in any open source ecosystem.


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