using R + ess-remote with screen in emacs

Dear list,

I brought up this issue before but a good solution never arised: being able to use screen on a remote server (so if something goes wrong on my side I can always resume that R session) inside of emacs in order to utilize ESS. The closest thing I found to a good work flow was to use ansi-term or multi-term and copying and pasting code in Emacs (ESS only worked nicely with shell-mode; reason at the end). Some would advise to use screen and open emacs inside of that screen, and voila, you have the luxuries of screen (attaching the session anywhere) and emacs+ESS (keybindings, etc). However, I prefer to use one main emacs session on my laptop/netbook (all my configurations are there), where I can have multiple projects and multiple R jobs opened at once.

I would like to share what I have working (for the time being), with the help of Michael Zeller in case others are interested.

  1. Place the following in .emacs:
  <pre class="src src-sh">;; used to send screen keybindings to shell<span style="color: #00ffff;"> in</span> emacs

(define-key shell-mode-map (kbd “C-l”) (lambda (seq) (interactive “k”) (process-send-string nil seq))) (define-key inferior-ess-mode-map (kbd “C-l”) (lambda (seq) (interactive “k”) (process-send-string nil seq)))

  1. In xterm (or the likes), ssh to the remote server and start screen. Detach it. (Need to do this first as starting the initial screen in emacs shell-mode becomes very ugly with the printing; resuming the same screen session also becomes messy in xterm)
  2. In emacs, M-x shell. Set:
  <pre class="src src-sh">$ <span style="color: #eedd82;">TERM</span>=xterm <span style="color: #ff4500;">## </span><span style="color: #ff4500;">give clearing capabilities to shell-mode</span>

  1. ssh to remote server. screen -r to resume the screen session. start R. M-x ess-remote.
  2. Send R code from R source files like before!
  3. To detach or do anything screen related, precede EACH keybinding with C-l. For example, C-a C-d to detach will now be C-l C-a C-l C-d. Yes this is cumbersome, but I don’t imagine screen keybinding to be used much at this stage since we are developing and debugging R code for say a simulation study =].

I would also like to note (for archival reasons) that ess-remote does not work with ansi-term and multi-term because of the inferior-ess-mode command, which stems from comint-mode and inferior-ess-send-input. If you remove this command in ess-remote, you don’t get an error but u can only send one line of code at a time from the R file.

Hope this helps someone out there.

Open remote file while in emacs ansi-term buffer/window: ansi-term + tramp

In emacs, I can edit files remotely using tramp. While ssh’d to a remote server in ansi-term at a specific location, I can open the remote files in emacs as if that remote location is my working directory. This is taken form here. Put the following in the remote server’s .bashrc file:

## Emacs: ansi-term + tramp integration
## in ansi-term, ssh to this remote computer, can do C-x C-f and find file in REMOTE working directory
#Emacs ansi-term directory tracking
# track directory, username, and cwd for remote logons
if [ $TERM = eterm-color ]; then
 function eterm-set-cwd {
 echo -e "\033AnSiTc" $(pwd)

# set hostname, user, and cwd function eterm-reset { echo -e "\033AnSiTu" $(whoami) echo -e "\033AnSiTc" $(pwd) echo -e "\033AnSiTh" $(hostname) }

for temp in cd pushd popd; do alias $temp="eterm-set-cwd $temp" done

# set hostname, user, and cwd now eterm-reset fi

For SunOS servers, /usr/ucb is not in path, and whoami is not found. I need to put /usr/ucb in PATH in my .bashrc file. Credit belongs to this thread. Now while ssh’d to a remote server in ansi-term, try C-x C-f, and see the working directory on the remote server available by default.

Run screen in emacs with ansi-term (combine this with emacs + ess + remote R)

This is actually an update to this post, but since I discovered a few more things, I’ll write a new post. To run screen within a shell buffer in emacs, I tried M-x shell and fired up screen (ditto with M-x term). It gave me this error: Clear screen capability required. I found the solution to this here. To fix this issue, do M-x ansi-term (use /bin/bash when asked of course). screen now works inside emacs. Combine this with running a remote R session in emacs, and there you have it, the perfect work flow for developing and running computationally intensive R code! I can utilize screen to not have my R sessions interrupted, and I can utilize ESS to send code to an R session/buffer. I have to say, this WILL be the way I use R for any computationally-intensive project!


So screen doesn’t work in emacs after I ssh to a remote server inside ansi-term. I get the error: Cannot find terminfo entry for 'eterm-color'. To fix this, I put the following in my remote server’s .bashrc file (info from here.):

if [ "$TERM" = "eterm-color" ] ; then

UPDATE AGAIN (better solution)

This page (Remote Term Type section) shows how to fix the e-term color issue. Do make sure you create the .terminfo folder if its not there:

$ scp /usr/share/emacs/22.1/etc/e/eterm-color username@remoteserver:~/.terminfo/e/eterm-color
$ scp /usr/share/emacs/22.1/etc/e/eterm-color.ti username@remoteserver:~/.terminfo/e/eterm-color.ti


So copying files into .terminfo didn’t fix everything. I guess SunOS servers don’t look in my home directory for those files. I guess we can copy things into /usr/share/lib/terminfo/?/* (more information at man terminfo), but I don’t have access to this location in some of my servers. I will have to resort back to the old trick (changing TERM). This time, change it to xterm (this doesn’t give me funny characters in emacs ansi-term); found this at the bottom of this page. Put the following in the remote .bashrc file:

if [ $TEMP = "SunOS" ]; then
 if [ "$TERM" = "eterm-color" ] ; then

I hope there aren’t any more issues. What the previous trick does is check if system is SunOS, and if so, use xterm. I got the unix command information from here. I got the uname command info from here.


To get eterm-color to work in SunOS, put the following in my .bashrc file:

##following to get eterm-color working in SunOS

I guess I’ve been doing this, but I never exported TERMINFO. Didn’t know this was needed. Make sure the eterm-files are copied over (see top of post). Now everything should work, hopefully flawlessly. To summarize, copy eterm files into ~/.terminfo, and put the TERMINFO stuff in ~/.bashrc.

Now screen works in emacs. An issue that arised from this method is that when screen is run inside emacs, I can’t execute ess-remote anymore because I can’t press M-x. In ansi-term, C-x C-j : behave like emacs, cursor can go anywhere C-x C-k : behave like a terminal (default) This is documented here and here. Press C-x C-j and I can press M-x again. However, ess-remote still doesn’t work.

I guess when I use screen, I am forced to copy and paste code. If I really must use screen with ESS, do the regular M-x shell. After logging into the remote server, execute “TERM\=’vt100′” in the shell. Now, run screen -> R -> ess-remote. I can send code with keypresses now, but screen steals some of my emacs key bindings. To fix this, put the following,

escape \^Oo

in my remote ~/.screenrc file to switch the default command key from C-a to C-o so it doesn’t conflict with my emacs key bindings (documented here).

More information on ansi term (like remaping C-x to C-c) can be found here.

This was a long post. Summary:

  1. ansi-term in emacs behaves VERY much like a terminal. I can run vi, emacs, etc, inside of it. Emacs behavior is ‘term’ and ‘shell’.
  2. I can change things by editing the env variable, TERM.
  3. Change keybinding in the remote .screenrc file.

NEED TO DO: get ess-remote to work with ansi-term and screen in emacs!

UPDATE2: It seems the best way to do things so far is to use ansi-term -> ssh to remote server -> screen -> R, then go to line run (C-c C-j) and copy and paste code from there. To get screen commands to work (like detach, etc), need to go back to char run (C-c C-k). Remember, I now use C-o instead of C-a (defined in .screenrc); this only works on a regular terminal or in emacs with ansi-term, not using ‘shell’ in emacs with the hack I mentioned up there.