PostGIS in Action by Regina O. Obe & Leo S.Hsu (Manning)

This is another book from Manning publications in the excellent ‘.. in Action’ series, which guides the reader through some practical uses of the book’s subject. In this case the subject is PostGIS, which for people that come across the term for the first time, is a spatial database extender for the PostgreSQL database management system. As described in the introduction the audience of this book includes GIS Practitioners and Programmers, DB Practitioners as well as Scientists, Researchers, Educators and Engineers. That makes it obvious that the audience covers a wide spectrum of professionals that would have various degrees of experience with the subject matter.

The material is divided in three main parts, which are: Learning PostGIS, Putting PostGIS to work, and Using PostGIS with other tools as well as four additional appendices.

The first part about Learning PostGIS is an introduction to GIS database concepts and practices, that introduces the geometry, geography, raster and topology types and what problems can be solved by each one of them. There is a thorough explanation of what PostGIS is and what you can do with a spatially enabled database that is not possible with a relational database. There are also chapters describing the spatial types that PostGIS offers and their related functions, an introduction to spatial reference systems and their concepts, tools for loading spatial data as well as desktop tools for viewing and querying them, and the use of geometry, geography and raster functions, geocoding and finally an introduction to spatial relationships.

The second part Putting PostGIS to work, is where all the pieces are put together, using the theory foundation from the previous part, in order to solve real world problems to questions like: which places are within X distance and what are the N closest places?
These cover the traditional methods of finding closest neighbours as well as KNN indexes. Following that there is a section dedicated to geotagging. Geometry and geography processing has its own chapter to demonstrate techniques to manipulate geometries, and some of the most common problems and solutions related to them. Other chapters include raster processing, topology which includes creating a topology, and building and working with topogeometries as well as the simplification and validation of them. The final two chapters of this part offer the reader practical solutions in how to organise the spatial storage depending on the requirements, and some very useful tips about query performance tuning and optimisations. It should be also noted that throughout the book there are plenty of examples for the reader to follow, and especially in this part, that are of great practical use.

In the Using PostGIS with other tools part we are told how PostGIS can be extended by means of add-ons like the PostgreSQL procedural languages PL/R and PL/Python that allows us to use the wealth of statistical functions and plotting capabilities of R as well as the numerous Python packages. A variety of travelling-salesperson problems are displayed in this section, and the pgRouting used for building routing applications is also covered. The remaining chapters cover server-side mapping servers and client-side mapping frameworks to display PostGIS data on the web.

Finally the appendices have a very useful section with additional resources, instruction for installing PostGIS, an SQL primer and a separate section with the PostgreSQL features that includes table inheritance, roles, functions and performance tips.

To summarise, this is an extremely useful book for a variety of professional people interested in discovering PostGIS and at the same time PostgreSQL. It does not require any previous knowledge of geospatial databases as there is a great explanation and coverage of the theory, systems and tools needed. It would be helpful if the reader has some knowledge of SQL in order to follow the examples provided, even though there is very good appendix that covers SQL.
A highly recommended book for starting your exploration in the world of spatial databases.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to readers.

ERROR: could not open extension control file “/usr/share/postgresql/9.3/extension/plr.control”: No such file or directory


You are trying to install the PL/R extension to PostgreSQL, after install R in your linux ubuntu development environment, but when trying to install the extension inside your PostgresSQL with:

create extension plr;

you are getting the following error:

ERROR:  could not open extension control file "/usr/share/postgresql/9.3/extension/plr.control": No such file or directory


Install the necessary package for your PostgreSQL version with the following, and install the extension in your psql:

sudo apt-get install postgresql-9.x-plr

Book Review: Exploring Everyday Things with R and Ruby by Sau Sheong Chang (O’Reilly)

Exploring Everyday Things with R and Ruby, as the title suggests, is a book about data exploration, written in a very easy and very unusual way, that will make it hard to put down.

In the beginining it starts with a short introduction to the two languages used to achieve its purpose.

It gives a short explanation about the reason of using Ruby, followed by installation instructions and some basic ruby information. After that there is a short introduction to Ruby’s UI toolkit called Shoes.

The second initial part covers the other language to be used in the examples to follow, R. There are again the reason for picking R, installation instructions and a brief introduction to the capabilities of the language and especially the data analysis and graphing abilities.

Following the first two parts, is where the book starts to get really interesting and fun and it will certainly make you want to try the examples worked on.
Subjects like ‘Offices and Restrooms’ which is about deternining the correct people-to-restrooms ratio, ‘How to Be an Armchair Economist’ about a market economy simulation, ‘Discover Yourself Through Email’ dealing with email data mining, ‘In A Heartbeat’ for measuring the hearbeat, including a homemade digital stethoscope, ‘Schooling Fish and Flocking Birds’ a simulation of the Boids algorithm in Ruby, and finally ‘Money, Sex and Evolution’ an entire artificial world populate by the roids of the previous example.

All of the examples are fascinating, something that I would never imagine it would be possible to simulate before reading this book, and also include information about their specific fields.

So in conclusion, it is a very enjoyable, interesting and out of the ordinary book, helped greatly by the author’s unique writing style, and one that I would recommend to anyone with an interest in Ruby or R to read.