How to do "manual configuration" to install a package

From time to time, I get the following message when installing a package from source.

WARNING: this package has a configure script
It probably needs manual configuration

Most of the time, I ignore the message and the package installation goes correctly. But from time to time something breaks and the installation aborts -- typically without an error message that tells me how to fix things. I have looked on line for information on how to do a manual configuration, but I have found nothing to help. Some messages seem to say that editing of the Makevars file is needed, but I can find nothing that tells me what the Makevars file does or how it is structured, let alone how one is supposed to "manually configure" it.
Are there any URLs that tell one how to do "manual configuration," or that explain where to find the information about the "manual configuration" that is needed to install a specific package?
Thanks in advance for any help on this issue.
Larry Hunsicker

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Can you please add information about your operating system, and ideally also an example of the package that fails the installation?

You can find some (rather cryptic) information about the configuration process in the R manuals at:

Sorry to have omitted the details. I am running Windows 10 -- up to date, Version 1909. Running R 3.6.1 and RStudio 1.2.5019.

The specific package that I was trying to install is OpenMx, version 12.15.4. But I am not trying to harass them. There will evidently be a Windows compiled version relatively shortly.

My basic question is generic -- how to do the "Manual configuration" that a package warns may be needed. As you note, the relevant material in the R Manual is indeed "cryptic." I would say downright opaque. But in any case I think that one would have to know from the package providers what "manual configuration" will be needed. It would help them were RStudio (for one possibility) to have documentation on package configuration in general which:
a) would give the user a general clue about what might have to be done, and which,
b) might make it easier for the package provider to provide terse and comprehensible configuration instructions.
For instance, it appears that the Makevars files mostly seem to have options for the required compilers. There may be a way to include temporary edits to the user Makevars file in the install.packages() function, but I have no idea if there is such a function or option. Similarly, a table of commonly required "non-standard" options might be helpful both to the package provider and to the inexperienced user (like me).
Thanks for your interest.
Larry Hunsicker

That's helpful, thank. I can see from the OpenMX CRAN page that there is a binary for the 12.15.3 for the current version of R, and a binary for 12.15.4 for R-devel.

So, in the short term, you could try installing R-devel to see if that helps.

You can inspect what happens in the "manual configuration" by reading two files in the package source:

  • configure

The file is specific to a windows installation. What strikes me from that file is a reference to RTools 2.12:

if [ -d inst/npsol/windows/x86_64/rtools2.12 ]; then
  cp inst/npsol/windows/x86_64/rtools2.12/libnpsol.dll inst/libnpsol64.dll;
  cp inst/npsol/windows/x86/rtools2.12/libnpsol.dll inst/libnpsol32.dll;

I have no idea whether the following will help, but it might be worth ensuring you have RTools 2.12 installed.

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Gee. That may well be the problem. I have the current Rtools (3.5) installed. Rtools 2.12 is way out of date. Maybe the file in their installer is out of date. As you note, the windows compiled version of OpenMx 12.15.4 is now available in CRAN, so my problem has been solved.

But your note suggests where I should be looking the next time I encounter a problem like this. Thanks.

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