My question: Is it possible to prevent ESS from saving a ".Rhistory" file?

While I know this question has appeared in ess-help before (in September 2009), I'd like to resurrect it. Briefly, the previous discussion pointed out that running R from the command line with
    R --no-save
will prevent R itself from even asking about writing a workspace ".RData" file, and will prevent it from creating a .Rhistory file. However, using
    (setq inferior-R-args "--no-save")
prevents the RData file but *not* the Rhistory file. The explanation had something to do with the (comint-write-input-ring).

I'd like to request that the behavior be changed, by explaining the use-case that got me to this point.

The application is that I am the "honest broker" who holds the keys to update a clinical data file. That is, I have a password-protected Excel file that contains the keys mapping between HIPPA-safe identifiers (like Sample013) to the protected health information of either the medical record number or patient name. Then there is a second password-protected Excel file that contains the updated clinical information using unsafe identifiers. I have to open both files, put the HIPAA-safe identifiers on the updated clinical information, remove the protected information, and write the results.

For obvious reasons, I don't want to hard-code the password into the R-script running in ESS. So, I use the following lines to get the password

cat("Password? ")
pwd <- readLines(file("stdin"), 1)

and go merrily on my way, reading the data, deleting traces that might have existed in temporary files, and all should be good.

But it isn't. Because ESS saves the .Rhistory file at the end, AND the .Rhistory file contains the password that I typed. So now there is a record of the password in a file left on my machine, and I have to manually track down that file and delete it.

Oh, and I'd like a solution that works by using a local file variable to set inferior-R-args (or something similar) in the script so that it automatically prevents the history file from being written.

So, is my use case strong enough to inspire someone to figure out if the current behavior of ESS can be modified? I would be very happy to help test things....


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