R does not handle package non-ASCII DESCRIPTION files properly

Markus Hoenicka markus.hoenicka@mhoenicka.de
Tue May 5 08:47:43 GMT 2020

Am 2020-04-30 22:17, schrieb Marco Atzeri via Cygwin:
> Am 30.04.2020 um 17:28 schrieb Markus Hoenicka:
>> Hi,
>> I've contacted the processx package maintainer on a problem reported 
>> here previously (see 
>> https://cygwin.com/pipermail/cygwin/2020-April/244667.html). He 
>> suggested to try the github version but that triggered a different 
>> type of error which does not seem to be package-specific.
>> 1st try: build from a local copy of the github package sources with 
>> default locale settings on a German Windows 10 system
>>> install.packages("/cygdrive/c/Temp/processx-master",repos=NULL,type="source")
>> Installing package into ‘/usr/lib/R/site-library’
>> (as ‘lib’ is unspecified)
>> * installing *source* package ‘processx’ ...
>> ** using staged installation
>> Error : Invalid DESCRIPTION file
>> Authors@R field gives no person with maintainer role, valid email
>> address and non-empty name.
>> See section 'The DESCRIPTION file' in the 'Writing R Extensions'
>> manual.
>> ERROR: installing package DESCRIPTION failed for package ‘processx’
>> * removing ‘/usr/lib/R/site-library/processx’
>> Warning message:
>> In install.packages("/cygdrive/c/Temp/processx-master", repos = NULL,  
>> :
>>    installation of package ‘/cygdrive/c/Temp/processx-master’ had 
>> non-zero exit status


> Noted. I will look on both the two issues but it could take a bit.
> I never looked at the build process of R packages in such details


kind of "while you're at it": I've noticed one additional problem with 
non-ASCII characters. This may or may not be related to the problem 
reported above. Several packages throw an error during installation, in 
my case questionr, readr, pls, and vegan. The output of the latter is 
shown here:

installing to /usr/lib/R/site-library/00LOCK-vegan/00new/vegan/libs
** R
** data
** inst
** byte-compile and prepare package for lazy loading
** help
*** installing help indices
Error in Rd_info(db[[i]]) :
   missing/empty \title field in 
Rd files must have a non-empty \title.
See chapter 'Writing R documentation' in manual 'Writing R Extensions'.
* removing ‘/usr/lib/R/site-library/vegan’

The file in question (man/sipoo.Rd) starts like this:

\title{ Birds in the Archipelago of Sipoo (Sibbo and Borgå)}

Please note that the encoding is set to UTF-8 explicitely. Nonetheless, 
the a with overring in "Borgå" seems to mess up the title, which makes R 
think the \title field is missing. Changing the å to a circumvents this 
problem. I've also noticed that non-ASCII characters outside the title 
field do not hurt at all.


Markus Hoenicka
AQ score 38

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