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v.feature.algebra - GRASS GIS Reference Manual

Table of contents


v.feature.algebra is a vector calculator program inspired by r.mapcalc.


It's much more complicated to deal with vector maps than with raster maps. Particularly, there are several levels on which we might want to deal with a vector map. For this reason the design of v.feature.algebra is that of a skeleton with plugins: A parser will interpret statements and call the appropriate functions it finds in dynamically loaded plugins.

The syntax should be able to deal with four different types: - numbers - points - point lists - maps

Numeric expressions should do what everybody would expect. There are some dozens of built in functions from the math library. Points and point lists are meant in the mathematical sense: A point is a set of two or three numbers, representing the coordinate. All points have three components, but the third, if missing has the value of 0.0/0.0 (NaN). An expression will yield a 3D result if all arguments a 3D. There is a set of basic built in operations like dot and cross product. Point lists are meant for polygons, lines, areas, etc. Points and point lists have no categories or attributes. And finally, of course, v.feature.algebra deals with map expressions.

For numbers, the infix operators do the obvious. For other types, the parser will translate them to function calls with predefined names. Some samples are set and can be replaced by something useful.

The plugins are designed to be as simple as possible. There is one example which actually doesn't do anything but shows how it can be called. Such a plugin needs three global functions: One which can be called to find out the name the user must type to use the function, one which returns a string denoting the return type and the type and number of arguments, and finally the function itself.

There are two more types which are somewhat special: One is type `argument' which can be any of the basic types. The parser will accept anything to be the argument to a function call, but the mechanism to actually call that function will check if the types match the prototype. The second special type `any' is sort of a backdoor: If something new comes up, it can be treated as type any, and it will be responsibility of the plugin to verify that it's the correct type. One case where the any-type can be useful is for SQL statement-pieces or other constructs when dealing with attributes, which can be literally of "any" type.

There is one problem with this approach within v.feature.algebra, which is calling a function with a variable list of arguments. This is a bit complicated, and before thinking of easy solutions, I need to recommend reading the code. Just before calling it, v.feature.algebra has a pointer to that functions and a linked list of structures which hold the argument types and values. It would be nice to be able to construct such a call argument by argument, but there is no portable way to do so: First assembly would be needed, and second, the way a stack frame is built for a particular compiler/architecture can vary. The solution is to maintain a list of typedef'd prototypes and call them in a switch. This means, if someone needs a new function and writes a plugin, either he finds a typedef which matches this prototype, or he needs to add the typedef and a case in the switch.

It makes only limited sense to mix arguments of different types: three at the power of map-A doesn't seem to be useful. So, the basic strategy is accept expressions only of the same type, while mixing types is always possible within the arguments to a function call.

There is a file listing some example expressions. I hope that it is what one could expect. Adding a few plugins should allow for very complex expressions and operations.


This is an empty statement, which is legal

Some built in constants:


The last one isn't really a constant, as it depends on what if found at startup, but it behaves just the like.


This gives an error. "a", which is (not yet) defined, is handled as a string. There is no operation associated, so this gives a parse error.

Next some simple assignments. Also here, the name of the variable is initially not more than a string, but after performing the assignment, they take the type of the expressionL:

         num = 10.3;
         pnt = (0,0);
         map = rivers;
         any = mkstring (hallo);

The last is only a backdoor for cases when exceptional things are needed. The function mkstring is a sample implementation of type ANY. For now, only one word could be passed, but when flex is being used a quoted string might contain just anything.

Next, I overwrite these variables. This is somewhat tricky. If you say "map = rivers", what should happen? In theory, we should actually duplicate this map, which could imply gigabytes on disk. This is not done, but if the map is changed, it must not change the former `value'. I hope it's doing now, what everybody would expect (including to free eventually the allocated memory).

         num = 3.1;
         pnt = (1,1);
         map = cities;
         any = mkstring (hello);

The pure numeric operations aren't new, beside that I'm trying to catch illegal operations:

         num = cos (pi/4);
         num = -num + 3 * num - sqrt (num^2);
         3.3 + 4.4;
         2.2 - 1.1;
         5 * 7;
         21 / 0;
         21 / 2;
         -21 / 7;
         -6.6 ^ 1.2;
         6.6 ^ 1.2;
         12.5 % 3.6;
         2 * (3.1 + 0.9);

Next are points. Note that 2D and 3D are dealt with identically; in case of 2D, the z-value is 0.0/0.0 (NaN, "Not a Number"). This should be pretty portable. Generally, if at least one point is 2D, the result of a point operation will be 2D even if 3D points are involved too, ignoring the third dimension. I've defined some infix operations a bit arbitrarily. Of course, this could be changed. The double () in case of a single function argument are surely ugly, but not avoidable.

         origin2d = (0,0);
         p1 = (1,1);
         p2 = p1;
         p2 = v_copy (p1);
         v_add ((1,0), (0,1));
         (1,0) + (0,1);
         v_sub ((1,1), (0,1));
         (1,1) - (0,1);
         v_abs ((-2, -1));
         v_neg ((2, 1));
         v_mul ((2,4), 3.3);
         (2,4) * 3.3;
         3.3 * (2,4);
         v_div ((6.6, 13.2), 3.3);
         (6.6, 13.2) / 3.3;
         v_unit ((12, 8));
         v_cross ((1,2), (4,5));
         v_cross ((1,2,3), (4,5,6));
         (1,2,3) ^ (4,5,6);
         v_val ((3,3));
         v_dot ((1,2), (3,4));
         (1,2) % (3,4);
         v_dot ((1,2,3), (4,5,6));
         (1,2,3) % (4,5,6);
         v_area ((1,2,3), (4,5,6));
         v_eq ((1,2), (1, 2));
         v_eq ((1,2), (1.0001, 2.0001));
         epsilon = (1e-3, 1e-3);
         v_eq_epsilon ((1,2), (1.0001, 2.0001), epsilon);
         v_isortho ((0,1), (1,0));
         v_ispara ((0, 1), (0, -1));
         v_isacute ((0, 1), (0, 0.5));
         3 * (pnt + (2,2));

This is planned, but doesn't work yet:

         line = ((1,1), (2,1));
         triangle = (line, (1.5, 2));

And finally the map operations, which also aren't new, beside some internal details (freeing memory, not duplicating, etc.). I think that there is no map-operation which makes sense if it is not assigned to a variable. So all map expressions need to follow a variable and an equal sign. The very first expression, hence, will give an error:

         rivers + cities;
         map = rivers;
         map = rivers + cities;
         map = testmap (rivers);
         map = test2map (rivers, cities);
         map = dltest (rivers, cities);


- The lexical scanner. At this point, there is a very simple and limited scanner. My plan was to provide 4 methods of input: + from the command line + from stdin, interactively, using GNU readline and history + from stdin by IO redirection like in "script | v.feature.algebra" + from a file, like in "v.feature.algebra -i statementfile" Of course, this should be done with Flex, with the input selection as needed for all methods, as well as support for Bison to indicate the position of a parse error. - There should be several built in commands allowing to: + include a file with statements + document the meaning of a variable or function + attaching documentation to a variable or function + saving certain things in a readable script like documentation or constant values. + a command to terminate the program (right now, only with Ctrl-D) - There is not yet any support for loops and conditionals. These do not seem to be of much use with maps, but can prove powerful on points and point lists. - There are certain operations which need to be performed always, like opening a map. For now, they need to be done in the plugin, but should definitively move to v.feature.algebra. - Point lists are not working yet, though much of the basic infrastructure is already done. - There seems to be a bug in memory management which can cause the program to crash. Probably there are many more than that.




Christoph Simon <ciccio at kiosknet>


Available at: v.feature.algebra source code (history)

Latest change: Monday Jun 28 07:54:09 2021 in commit: 1cfc0af029a35a5d6c7dae5ca7204d0eb85dbc55

Note: This document is for an older version of GRASS GIS that will be discontinued soon. You should upgrade, and read the current manual page.

Note: This addon document is for an older version of GRASS GIS that will be discontinued soon. You should upgrade your GRASS GIS installation, and read the current addon manual page.

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