Re: [R] Hashes as S4 Classes, or: How to separate environments

From: Charilaos Skiadas <cskiadas_at_gmail.com>
Date: Sat, 10 May 2008 08:58:32 -0400

On May 10, 2008, at 7:30 AM, Hans W Borchers wrote:

> For learning purposes mainly I attempted to implement hashes/maps/
> dictionaries
> (Python lingua) as S4 classes, see the coding below. I came across
> some rough S4
> edges, but in the end it worked (for one dictionary).
>
> When testing ones sees that the dictionaries D1 and D2 share their
> environments
> D1_at_hash and D2_at_hash, though I thought a new and empty environment
> would be
> generated each time 'new("Dict")' is called.
>
> QUESTION: How can I separate the environments D1_at_hash and D2_at_hash ?

The problem you are encountering is that the "prototype" is only created once. Because environments are passed by reference, D1_at_hash and D2_at_hash are the exact same environment:

 > D1 <- new("Dict")
 > D1
 > D1_at_hash

<environment: 0x182ac870>
 > D2 <- new("Dict")
 > D2_at_hash
<environment: 0x182ac870>

You have assumed that setClass will be executed for each new dictionary, or at least that the prototype(...) part of it would run each time. Not wanting right now to dig into the internals of setClass, my guess is that it only creates a prototype once, and then just reuses it each time, with something like an assignment operator. One solution, very similar to what Martin just suggested, is below. I believe another solution might be to have the hash be a list containing an environment, though I haven't tried that.

The solution is to create a constructor function, the function "newDict" below:

setClass("Dict",

     representation (hash = "environment")) )
newDict <- function() {

	obj <- new("Dict")
	obj_at_hash <- new.env(hash=T, parent = emptyenv())
	obj

}

In practice, you would probably want newDict to accept an arguments, which may be a list or another Dict object, and then use that as a starting point for the new hash.

Here's a sample run:

 > # ---- Some tests ----
 > D1 <- newHash()
 > D2 <- newHash()
 > D1_at_hash
<environment: 0x1e80c98>
 > D2_at_hash            # Notice the different address
<environment: 0x1e868fc>
 > hput(D1, "a", 1)
 > hget(D1, "a")
[1] 1
 > show(D1)
[1] "a"
 > hput(D2, "c", 3)
 > hget(D2, "a") # Does the correct thing this time NULL
 > hget(D2, "c")
[1] 3
 > show(D2)
[1] "c"
 > hclear(D2)
 > show(D1) # Works properly now
[1] "a"
 > #---------------------

Haris Skiadas
Department of Mathematics and Computer Science Hanover College

> Reading the articles mentioned in "Tipps and Tricks" didn't help me
> really.
> Of course, I will welcome other corrections and improvements as well.
> Working in R 2.7.0 under Windows.
>
> Hans Werner

>
> #-- Class and method definition for dictionaries
> -------------------------------
>
> setClass("Dict",
> representation (hash = "environment"),
> prototype (hash = new.env(hash=T, parent = emptyenv()))
> )
>
> setMethod("show", signature(object="Dict"),
> definition = function(object) ls(object_at_hash)
> )
>
> setGeneric("hclear", function(object) standardGeneric("hclear"))
> setMethod("hclear", signature(object="Dict"),
> function(object) rm(list=ls(object_at_hash), envir=object_at_hash)
> )
>
> setGeneric("hput", function(object, key, value) standardGeneric
> ("hput"))
> setMethod("hput", signature(object="Dict", key="character",
> value="ANY"),
> function(object, key, value) assign(key, value, envir=object_at_hash)
> )
>
> setGeneric("hget", function(object, key, ...) standardGeneric("hget"))
> setMethod("hget", signature(object="Dict", key="character"),
> function(object, key) {
> if (exists(key, envir=object_at_hash, inherits = FALSE)) {
> get(key, envir=object_at_hash)
> } else {
> return(NULL)
> }
> }
> )
>
> # ---- Some tests ----
> D1 <- new("Dict")
> hput(D1, "a", 1) # Same as: D1_at_hash$a <- 1
> hput(D1, "b", 2)
> hget(D1, "a")
> hget(D1, "b")
> show(D1)
>
> D2 <- new("Dict")
> hput(D2, "c", 3)
> hput(D2, "d", 4)
> hget(D2, "a") # Wrong: was defined only for D1
> hget(D2, "b")
> show(D2)
>
> hclear(D2) # Wrong: clears D1 too
> show(D1)
> #---------------------



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