Re: [Rd] Internal error in 'ls' for pathological environments (PR#14035)

From: Peter Dalgaard <>
Date: Sun, 01 Nov 2009 12:02:25 +0100 wrote:
> nchar(with(list(2),ls())) gives an internal error. This is of course
> a peculiar call (no names in the list), but the error is not caught
> cleanly.
> It is not clear from the documentation whether with(list(2)...) is
> allowable; if it is not, it should presumably give an error. If it is, then
> ls
> shouldn't have problems with the resulting environment.

>> qq <- with(list(2),ls())                         # An incorrect call (no

> names in list)
>> nchar(qq)

> Error in nchar(qq) : 'getEncChar' must be called on a CHARSXP # ls returned
> a bad object
>> qq

> [1]Error: 'getEncChar' must be called on a CHARSXP
>> qq[1]

> [1]Error: 'getEncChar' must be called on a CHARSXP
>> qq[2]

> [1] NA
> Apparently related:
>> with(list(a=1,2),ls())
> Error in ls() : 'getEncChar' must be called on a CHARSXP

Thanks, yes, this looks wrong.

Also, closer to the root cause:

 > eval(quote(ls()),list(a=1,2))
Error in ls() : 'getEncChar' must be called on a CHARSXP

 > e <- evalq(environment(),list(2))
 > ls(e)
[1]Error: 'getEncChar' must be called on a CHARSXP

It is not quite clear that it should be allowed to have unnamed elements in lists used by eval (which is what with() uses internally). I suppose it should, since the intended semantics are unaffected in most cases. (I.e., there is nothing really wrong with eval(quote(a+b), list(a=1,b=2,3,4)), and people may have been using such code unwittingly all over.)

However, it IS a bug that we are creating ill-formed environments. The culprit seems to be that NewEnvironment (memory.c) is getting called in violation of its assumption that

" This definition allows

   the namelist argument to be shorter than the valuelist; in this    case the remaining values must be named already. (This is useful    in cases where the entire valuelist is already named--namelist can    then be R_NilValue.)

Removing the assumption from NewEnvironment looks like an efficiency sink, so I would suggest that we fix do_eval (eval.c) instead, effectively doing l <- l[names(l) != ""]. So in

     case LISTSXP:
	env = NewEnvironment(R_NilValue, duplicate(CADR(args)), encl);

we need to replace the duplicate() call with something that skips the unnamed elements.

The only side effect I can see from such a change is the resulting environments get a different length() than before. I'd say that if there are coder who actually rely on the length of an invalid environment, then they'd deserve what they'd get...

    O__  ---- Peter Dalgaard             ุster Farimagsgade 5, Entr.B
   c/ /'_ --- Dept. of Biostatistics     PO Box 2099, 1014 Cph. K
  (*) \(*) -- University of Copenhagen   Denmark      Ph:  (+45) 35327918
~~~~~~~~~~ - (              FAX: (+45) 35327907

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