Getting system notifications with R

So today I was making quite time consuming simulations in R, and I was wondering if there was a way to know when the simulations were finished so I could have a look at the results. Relevant xkcd:

xkcd 303

For those familiar with bash scripting in Linux, you can use notify-send to, well, send desktop notifications using the libnotify library. For those familiar with R, you may also know that R can directly execute system commands using the system() function.

Having this in mind, the answer to my problem was just creating a function that

  • can execute any1 R call
  • prints the elapsed time to execute it
  • sends a permanent desktop notification
  • emits a completion alert sound2

Of course, I decided to call the function lok_regar():

lok_regar <- function(call) {
  print(system.time(call))
  system("notify-send -i rstudio -u critical 'Finished calculations' 'Get back to work!'")
  system("paplay /usr/share/sounds/freedesktop/stereo/complete.oga")
}

I’m not sure this function is the most elegant way to do this, but it’s pretty easy to use and does its job, and it looks pretty:

System notification on GNU/Linux

In the future I would like to print the elapsed time into the notification itself, but I’m not quite sure it’s possible.


  1. Well, probably not any, but it works in the scenarios I’ve tested it. ↩︎

  2. It doesn’t always work, I don’t know why. ↩︎

Alfredo Hernández
Alfredo Hernández
Physicist and Data Scientist

I have a passion for technology, maths, and design.

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