Malware? Schmidt?

Very odd. This evening, I want to read Chris Schmidt’s latest blog post, and what I saw was this:

What? Apparently Chris is distributing “badware”. I’ll be interested to see how this shakes up, if Chris’ site got schmutzed or if the “anti-phishing site” Firefox is aligned with made a mistake.

What is very odd is that Firefox resolutely refuses to take me to Chris’ site. Safari, on the other hand, cannot display anything at all from the site, which perhaps means “bad things afoot”. Glad I am not Chris’ sysadmin tonight (or Chris, assuming sysadmin == Chris).

Mapserver Debug Logging

Daniel Morissette spills the beans on the mapserver-users list:

IIRC, LOG only logs some info on the mapserv request status at the end of its execution. I don’t use it much and don’t know much about it.

To get debugging output, with MapServer 5.0+, set:

CONFIG “MS_ERRORFILE” “/var/tmp/ms.log”

… and then set DEBUG level (ON, or number between 1 and 5) at the top-level in the mapfile and in each layer for which you want debugging output.

More details are available in RFC-28:

If there is something definitively “bad” about modern Mapserver it is the migration of configuration directives into “magic string” blocks of the map file, which are much less well documented that the “official” elements of the file.

CONFIG, PROCESSING, METADATA, that’s right, I’m looking at you.

Mapserver and Lat/Lon

One of the problems with open source is how much interesting stuff hides beneath the surface, only visible to those willing to read the source code… interesting features you do not even know are there!

On the bright side, you can find these Easter Eggs, if you look.

For example, today I found a case where Mapserver renders projected maps even when the extents you send in are in lon/lat!

My map file looks like this (note the output projection is defined as Mercator):

  SHAPEPATH "/Users/pramsey/Code/mapserver/msworldtest/"
    NAME continent
    DATA continent
      OUTLINECOLOR 10 10 10
      COLOR 200 200 200

My request URL looks like this (note the mapext coordinates are lon/lat):


And the output looks like this:

So my request was in geographic coordinates, but my output was still in Mercator.

This is, of course, a brutal bug-in-waiting for someone with a projected coordinate system that happens to include valid requests in the range of (-180,-90 180,90). Mercator does, but a 180x180 meter patch of the Atlantic ocean will probable never be zoomed in on – if it is, the user will suddenly see the whole world, to their great surprise.

That's Billion with a "B"

This article on scaling PostgreSQL to support Skype’s operations is well worth a read for anyone running a high-end PostgreSQL installation.

PostgreSQL is used “as the main DB for most of [Skype’s] business needs.” Their approach is to use a traditional stored procedure interface for accessing data and on top of that layer proxy servers which hash SQL requests to a set of database servers that actually carry out queries. The result is a horizontally partitioned system that they think will scale to handle 1 billion users.

Snapping Points in PostGIS

Fun question on the #postgis IRC channel today, just hard enough to be interesting and just easy enough to not be overwhelming:

Given a table of points and a table of lines, snap all the points within 10 metres of the lines to the lines.

My first thought was “PostGIS doesn’t have that snapping function”, but it actually does, hidden in the linear-referencing functions: ST_Line_Locate_Point(line, point).

OK, that returns a measure along the line, but I want a point! No problem, ST_Line_Interpolate_Point(line, measure) returns a point from a measure.

Great, so now all I need are, for each point within 10 metres of the lines, the nearest line. Yuck, finding the minimum. However, with the PostgreSQL DISTINCT ON syntax and some ordering, it all pops out:

            ST_line_locate_point(ln_geom, vgeom)
        ln.the_geom AS ln_geom,
        pt.the_geom AS pt_geom, AS ln_id, AS pt_id, 
        ST_Distance(ln.the_geom, pt.the_geom) AS d
        point_table pt, 
        line_table ln 
        ST_DWithin(pt.the_geom, ln.the_geom, 10.0) 
    ORDER BY pt_id, d
) AS subquery;

The sub-query finds all the points/line combinations that meet the 10 meter tolerance rule, and returns them in sorted order, by point id and distance. The outer query then strips off the first entry for each distinct point id and runs the LRS functions on it to derive the new snapped point.