Installing the Open Source Shiny Server on Dreamhost VPS / Debian

So, you’ve decided you want to make your shiny application available to the world? Good news! You can do that easily with a VPS or a dedicated server, since shared hosting will not allow you to have the necessary shell access to complete the installation. One day, RStudio may open up the Shiny cloud. Until then, I am using Dreamhost’s VPS to house my shiny creations. These are the steps that I took.

Install steps

To install R the latest version of R (v3.0.3), we must follow the steps listed here:

First, log in to your server using PuTTY or an alternative client.

Special Install Instructions for Dreamhost VPS!

For those using Dreamhost VPS, note that the OS is Debian Squeeze (6.0.x) and NOT Debian Wheezy (7.~)! As a result, a modification to the /etc/apt/sources.list must be made:

# Make /etc/apt/sources.list writable
sudo touch /etc/apt/sources.list
sudo chmod a+w /etc/apt/sources.list

# Opens VIM to edit the file
vim /etc/apt/sources.list

# Add to the last line of /etc/apt/sources.list
deb squeeze-cran3/

# If you are far away from wustl, view the list of cran mirros to choose from here:
# To exit out of vim use :wq

Back in terminal execute the following:

# Add the key signed by Debian backports archives on CRAN
apt-key adv --keyserver --recv-key 381BA480

End Dreamhost Specific Install Instructions

General Install Guidelines:

# Download newest information on the package lists
sudo apt-get update

# Install the latest and greatest r/r-dev.
sudo apt-get install r-base r-base-dev

# Make sure we are fully up-to date by fetching new versions of existing packages
sudo apt-get upgrade

Official Shiny Open Server Instructions:

# Install Shiny package in R terminal
sudo su - \
-c "R -e \"install.packages('shiny', repos='')\""

# Error came up? See below for specifics!
# Install gdebi
sudo apt-get install gdebi-core

# Download the prebuilt server image

# Install image
sudo gdebi shiny-server-

Assuming there are no errors, you are done! But, alas, life isn’t so simple. So, here are a few errors I ran into.

Errors. Errors Where art thou?

Do NOT open R without sudo! Using regular R will give:

# In terminal, open r without sudo!

Inside R:

Installing package into '/usr/local/lib/R/site-library'
(as 'lib' is unspecified)
Warning in install.packages("shiny", repos = "") :
  'lib = "/usr/local/lib/R/site-library"' is not writable
Would you like to use a personal library instead?  (y/n) y
Would you like to create a personal library
to install packages into?  (y/n) n

This does NOT work well, since the packages are then installed to a specific library. They need to be installed into: /usr/local/lib/R/site-library, which is the site wide library. Therefore, make sure you do:

# In terminal, open _R_ WITH `sudo`!
sudo R

The dreaded configure error courtesy of RJSONIO. The error will be given as:

* installing *source* package 'RJSONIO' ...
** package 'RJSONIO' successfully unpacked and MD5 sums checked
ERROR: 'configure' exists but is not executable -- see the 'R Installation and Administration Manual'
* removing '/usr/local/lib/R/site-library/RJSONIO'
ERROR: dependency 'RJSONIO' is not available for package 'shiny'
* removing '/usr/local/lib/R/site-library/shiny'
The downloaded source packages are in
Warning messages:
1: In install.packages("shiny", repos = "") :
  installation of package 'RJSONIO' had non-zero exit status<br />
2: In install.packages("shiny", repos = "") :
  installation of package 'shiny' had non-zero exit status

The solution?

# Option 1
# create directory
mkdir ~/tmp
# Make read/write.
chmod 777 ~/tmp
export TMPDIR=~/tmp

# Option 2
mkdir /home/YOUR-USERNAME-HERE/tmp
chmod 777 /home/YOUR-USERNAME-HERE/tmp

Within sudo R:

# First, check to see if TMPDIR was set:

# IF this responds with the above path, skip this
# Set the TMPDIR variable to be the correct folder.

# Install packages like normal:
install.packages('shiny', repos='')
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