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Bug and/or feature? Complex data types in tables...

P: n/a
Hi all;

I just made an interesting discovery. Not sure if it is a good thing or
not, and using it certainly breakes first normal form.... Not even sure if
it really works. However, as I am able to CRASH the backend, there is a bug
here somewhere...

test=# select version();
version

----------------------------------------------------------------------------
----
-----
PostgreSQL 7.4 on i686-pc-cygwin, compiled by GCC gcc (GCC) 3.3.1 (cygming
spec
ial)
(1 row)

Try the following example:

CREATE TABLE test1 (
test_id SERIAL,
test_text TEXT
);

CREATE TABLE test2 (
other_test test1,
test_text text
);

The table is created without any problem. Of course there is no way of
inserting anything into the table, you write a function to create the data
type. So I created the following function:

CREATE FUNCTION test1 (int, text) returns test1 as '
declare retval test1;
begin
retval.test_id := $1;
retval.test_text := $2;
return retval;
end;
' language plpgsql.

Now I can insert into the table. But I cannot get anything out of the
table! If I try a simple
SELECT * from test2;
I get: ERROR: cannot display a value of type record

So, I figured I would write a function to turn the record into text. The
function I wrote is:
CREATE FUNCTION test1_to_text(test1) returns text as '
declare retval text;
begin
retval := test1.test_id;
retval := retval::text;
retval := retval|| '':'';
retval := retval|| test1.test_text;
return retval;
end;
' language plpgsql;

Here is where the crash occurs (after a brief hang):
test=# select test1_to_text(other_test) from test2;
server closed the connection unexpectedly
This probably means the server terminated abnormally
before or while processing the request.

Interestingly I can do:
test=# select test1_to_text(test1('1', 'hi there'));
test1_to_text
---------------
1:hi there
(1 row)

Best Wishes,
Chris Travers

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Nov 12 '05 #1
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P: n/a
"Chris Travers" <ch***@travelamericas.com> writes:
Try the following example: CREATE TABLE test1 (
test_id SERIAL,
test_text TEXT
); CREATE TABLE test2 (
other_test test1,
test_text text
);


This should in fact be disallowed, I think. Back in the pre-SQL days of
Berkeley Postgres, there actually was a feature that involved declaring
table columns this way, but it did NOT work the way you think ;-), and
in any case it has been broken for many years.

I'm not sure why we've never taken the step of preventing complex types
from being declared as fields of other types. I suppose there's some
thought that we'll eventually support it, but I don't believe that that
day is real close.

regards, tom lane

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Nov 12 '05 #2

P: n/a
This concept of using complex types in tables actually does have one
legitimate use. When used with casts and functions, you could use it as a
"poor-man's datatype" development method.

Here is a hypothetical example. Imagine for a moment that there was no CIDR
datatype. I could create a datatype as a set of ints and then create
casting functions which I could use for display of the data. This would be
similar to C except that it could be done by people like myself whose C
coding skills are not up to the level where I or anyone else would want them
in the database backend ;-)

Best Wishes,
Chris Travers
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Nov 12 '05 #3

P: n/a
On Dec 31, 2003, at 7:20 PM, Chris Travers wrote:
This concept of using complex types in tables actually does have one
legitimate use. When used with casts and functions, you could use it
as a
"poor-man's datatype" development method.

Here is a hypothetical example. Imagine for a moment that there was
no CIDR
datatype. I could create a datatype as a set of ints and then create
casting functions which I could use for display of the data. This
would be
similar to C except that it could be done by people like myself whose C
coding skills are not up to the level where I or anyone else would
want them
in the database backend ;-)


This is a situation where PostgreSQL's CREATE DOMAIN, or CREATE TYPE
support would be useful, I think. Is there a reason these wouldn't work
as well as using a "table type"?

Happy New Year!
Michael Glaesemann
grzm myrealbox com
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Nov 12 '05 #4

P: n/a
creating a complex type and using it in a table would create the same
problem, would it not?
If my type has more than one component, then it would not work well.

Here is a better example. Imagine creating a type for complex numbers.
Each complex number has 2 components: a real component (x, numeric) and an
imaginary component (y, numeric). The standard representation is x +/- yi,
so if the real component is 3.4 and the imaginary component is 5, it would
be written 3.4 + 5i.

Storing this data in the database would require either:
1: A text string which would be parsed by the app. (not really very
useful)
2: A native datatype consisting of 2 numeric components, that could be cast
as text by the rules above.

Obviously the second one is best. Currently in PostgreSQL, I would have to
write this in C, but with complex types, I could write this mostly in
PLPGSQL!

Best Wishes,
Chris Travers

----- Original Message -----
From: "Michael Glaesemann" <gr**@myrealbox.com>
To: "Chris Travers" <ch***@travelamericas.com>
Cc: <pg***********@postgresql.org>; "Tom Lane" <tg*@sss.pgh.pa.us>
Sent: Thursday, January 01, 2004 10:48 PM
Subject: Re: [GENERAL] Bug and/or feature? Complex data types in tables...

On Dec 31, 2003, at 7:20 PM, Chris Travers wrote:
This concept of using complex types in tables actually does have one
legitimate use. When used with casts and functions, you could use it
as a
"poor-man's datatype" development method.

Here is a hypothetical example. Imagine for a moment that there was
no CIDR
datatype. I could create a datatype as a set of ints and then create
casting functions which I could use for display of the data. This
would be
similar to C except that it could be done by people like myself whose C
coding skills are not up to the level where I or anyone else would
want them
in the database backend ;-)


This is a situation where PostgreSQL's CREATE DOMAIN, or CREATE TYPE
support would be useful, I think. Is there a reason these wouldn't work
as well as using a "table type"?

Happy New Year!
Michael Glaesemann
grzm myrealbox com
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Nov 12 '05 #5

P: n/a
On Jan 2, 2004, at 7:44 AM, Chris Travers wrote:
creating a complex type and using it in a table would create the same
problem, would it not?
If my type has more than one component, then it would not work well.
After a bit of experimentation, I see what you mean:
test=# select version();
version
------------------------------------------------------------------------
-----------------------------------------------
PostgreSQL 7.4 on powerpc-apple-darwin7.2.0, compiled by GCC gcc (GCC)
3.3 20030304 (Apple Computer, Inc. build 1495)
(1 row)

test=# create type complex_number as (real numeric, imaginary numeric);
CREATE TYPE
test=# create table numbers (num complex_number);
ERROR: column "num" has composite type complex_number
ERROR: column "num" has composite type complex_number
test=# create table complex_number_table (real numeric not null,
imaginary numeric not null);
CREATE TABLE
test=# create table numbers (num complex_number_table);
CREATE TABLE

You'd think the first CREATE TABLE numbers would work, and the second
wouldn't. (Unless I'm doing something wrong.)
Here is a better example. Imagine creating a type for complex numbers.
Each complex number has 2 components: a real component (x, numeric)
and an
imaginary component (y, numeric). The standard representation is x
+/- yi,
so if the real component is 3.4 and the imaginary component is 5, it
would
be written 3.4 + 5i.
In the language of Date and Darwen, you're talking about possible
representations, or possreps, I believe. One possible representation of
a complex number would be x +/- yi, another could be (x,y)
Storing this data in the database would require either:
1: A text string which would be parsed by the app. (not really very
useful)
2: A native datatype consisting of 2 numeric components, that could
be cast
as text by the rules above.

Obviously the second one is best.
Definitely. The default TIMESTAMP possrep is much different from how
it's represented internally. For that matter, NUMERIC is, too. There's
no reason to necessarily store the value in the form the user sees.
Currently in PostgreSQL, I would have to
write this in C, but with complex types, I could write this mostly in
PLPGSQL!


(To avoid confusion since we're talking about complex numbers, I'm
assuming you mean what PostgreSQL refers to as composite types.) It
definitely would be nice to be able to define composite types that can
be used as attributes and functions. It seems like there's quite a bit
of, er, functionality with composite types already. I don't have
pl/pgsql installed, but I was able to create some simple operators with
just SQL (see below). They're not perfect (and don't let us use
composite types in tables); just exploring what I could do. I wonder
what it would take to allow these user-defined types defined in
PostgreSQL (rather than C) usable in tables.

Michael Glaesemann
grzm myrealbox com

test=# create or replace function THE_REAL(complex_number) returns
numeric as 'select $1.real as real;' language sql;
CREATE FUNCTION
test=# create or replace function THE_IMAGINARY(complex_number) returns
numeric as 'select $1.imaginary as real;' language sql;
CREATE FUNCTION
test=# create function complex_number(numeric,numeric) returns
complex_number as 'select $1,$2;' language sql;
CREATE FUNCTION
test=# select THE_REAL(complex_number(4::numeric,3::numeric));
the_real
----------
4
(1 row)

test=# select THE_IMAGINARY(complex_number(4::numeric,3::numeric ));
the_imaginary
---------------
3
(1 row)

test=# create or replace function
display_ordpair_complex_number(complex_number) returns text as 'select
''('' || $1.real || '','' || $1.imaginary || '')'';' language sql;
CREATE FUNCTION
test=# create function display_irep_complex_number(complex_number)
returns text as 'select $1.real || '' '' || $1.imaginary || ''i'';'
language sql;
CREATE FUNCTION
test=# select
display_ordpair_complex_number(complex_number(4::n umeric,3::numeric));
display_ordpair_complex_number
--------------------------------
(4,3)
(1 row)

test=# select
display_irep_complex_number(complex_number(4::nume ric,3::numeric));
display_irep_complex_number
-----------------------------
4 3i
(1 row)

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Nov 12 '05 #6

P: n/a
> (To avoid confusion since we're talking about complex numbers, I'm
assuming you mean what PostgreSQL refers to as composite types.) It
definitely would be nice to be able to define composite types that can
be used as attributes and functions. It seems like there's quite a bit
of, er, functionality with composite types already. I don't have
pl/pgsql installed, but I was able to create some simple operators with
just SQL (see below). They're not perfect (and don't let us use
composite types in tables); just exploring what I could do. I wonder
what it would take to allow these user-defined types defined in
PostgreSQL (rather than C) usable in tables.

AFAICS, there are only one thing missing and it could probably be worked
around if the backend did nto crash when you try to retrieve the information
via a casting function. It is:

Some way to define a standard input and output representation (how it is
done in C).

If you can define your own casts, you can then select complex::text from
mytable (but this would crash the backend again :-( )

Of course for complex numbers, you might be able use a domain off of points,
and then define special operators for them (for example, adding complex
numbers is meaningful, but adding points is not). But this might not work
for other sorts of types.

Best Wishes,
Chris Travers
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Nov 12 '05 #7

P: n/a
"Chris Travers" <ch***@travelamericas.com> writes:
AFAICS, there are only one thing missing and it could probably be worked
around if the backend did nto crash when you try to retrieve the information
via a casting function. It is:
Some way to define a standard input and output representation (how it is
done in C).


Actually, we could very easily punt on that, instead saying you have to
select out individual fields or else write your own formatting function.

The thing we are missing (i.e., what makes it crash) is an internal
representation that allows a tuple to be embedded as a field of a larger
tuple. I've looked at this a couple of times, and each time concluded
that it was more work than I could afford to spend at the moment. The
support-such-as-it-is for tuple return values uses a structure that has
embedded pointers, and it doesn't make any effort to get rid of
out-of-line TOAST pointers within the tuple. Neither one of those
things are acceptable for a tuple that's trying to act like a Datum.

regards, tom lane

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Nov 12 '05 #8

P: n/a
Understanding in complete detail why it is hard to
have tuples as column values, I still see the need
and uses for composite datatypes.

As Chris said, it allows people to use objects at
a plpgsql level without having to throw them into
creating datatypes with C. This is very important
because it explodes the object capabilities of
postgres exponentially. That is why it was designed
that way in the first place--to use objects in a relational
database.

There has been very slow adoption of OR. One of PostgreSQL's
reasons (Illustra and informix had other reasons) is that
you always have to go down to C to do complex things.
Obvious and easily understood complex features like composite
data types should have always been supported at a higher level.

I'm not trolling for a R vs. OR flamefest or criticizing
the decision. I do understand the technical issues
involved. However, from an advocacy and usablity and
feature rich point of view this particular feature is
valuable IMHO.

Sorry to join the discussion so late.

elein

On Sat, Jan 03, 2004 at 12:31:10AM -0500, Tom Lane wrote:
"Chris Travers" <ch***@travelamericas.com> writes:
AFAICS, there are only one thing missing and it could probably be worked
around if the backend did nto crash when you try to retrieve the information
via a casting function. It is:
Some way to define a standard input and output representation (how it is
done in C).


Actually, we could very easily punt on that, instead saying you have to
select out individual fields or else write your own formatting function.

The thing we are missing (i.e., what makes it crash) is an internal
representation that allows a tuple to be embedded as a field of a larger
tuple. I've looked at this a couple of times, and each time concluded
that it was more work than I could afford to spend at the moment. The
support-such-as-it-is for tuple return values uses a structure that has
embedded pointers, and it doesn't make any effort to get rid of
out-of-line TOAST pointers within the tuple. Neither one of those
things are acceptable for a tuple that's trying to act like a Datum.

regards, tom lane

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Nov 12 '05 #9

P: n/a
Hi Tom

On Jan 3, 2004, at 2:31 PM, Tom Lane wrote:
The thing we are missing (i.e., what makes it crash) is an internal
representation that allows a tuple to be embedded as a field of a
larger
tuple. I've looked at this a couple of times, and each time concluded
that it was more work than I could afford to spend at the moment. The
support-such-as-it-is for tuple return values uses a structure that has
embedded pointers, and it doesn't make any effort to get rid of
out-of-line TOAST pointers within the tuple. Neither one of those
things are acceptable for a tuple that's trying to act like a Datum.


Would you mind explaining this a little more, or pointing me to where I
can learn more about this? I looked through the html docs for TOAST,
and only found a brief mention regarding large objects and user-defined
types, but it doesn't get into it in very much detail. (Well, there's
the sliced bread index entry, also. :)

Michael Glaesemann
grzm myrealbox com
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Nov 22 '05 #10

P: n/a
Hi Chris,

I know this thread is a little old, but it's something I'm interested
in learning more about.

On Jan 2, 2004, at 9:59 PM, Chris Travers wrote:
AFAICS, there are only one thing missing and it could probably be
worked
around if the backend did nto crash when you try to retrieve the
information
via a casting function. It is:

Some way to define a standard input and output representation (how it
is
done in C).

If you can define your own casts, you can then select complex::text
from
mytable (but this would crash the backend again :-( )


Could you explain this a little more? My strengths (such as they are)
are more on relational theory rather than implementation.

My interpretation of what you're saying (which is probably just
restating what's obvious to others) is that there isn't a way to define
the input and output functions in (the PostgreSQL flavor of) SQL. You
have to do it in C, as described in the "User-Defined Types" section
(33.10).

I'm unclear about what follows. Using SELECT complex::text FROM mytable
would be used to get data out of the table. How would you get it in?
How do user-defined casts help out with this?

Thanks for your time! I'm slowing trying to learn here. I'm interested
in figuring out how to implement point and interval/duration types for
temporal work, but know I have a lot to learn to make this possible.

Michael Glaesemann
grzm myrealbox com

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Nov 22 '05 #11

P: n/a
Hi Tom

On Jan 3, 2004, at 2:31 PM, Tom Lane wrote:
The thing we are missing (i.e., what makes it crash) is an internal
representation that allows a tuple to be embedded as a field of a
larger
tuple. I've looked at this a couple of times, and each time concluded
that it was more work than I could afford to spend at the moment. The
support-such-as-it-is for tuple return values uses a structure that has
embedded pointers, and it doesn't make any effort to get rid of
out-of-line TOAST pointers within the tuple. Neither one of those
things are acceptable for a tuple that's trying to act like a Datum.


Would you mind explaining this a little more, or pointing me to where I
can learn more about this? I looked through the html docs for TOAST,
and only found a brief mention regarding large objects and user-defined
types, but it doesn't get into it in very much detail. (Well, there's
the sliced bread index entry, also. :)

Michael Glaesemann
grzm myrealbox com
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Nov 22 '05 #12

P: n/a
Hi Chris,

I know this thread is a little old, but it's something I'm interested
in learning more about.

On Jan 2, 2004, at 9:59 PM, Chris Travers wrote:
AFAICS, there are only one thing missing and it could probably be
worked
around if the backend did nto crash when you try to retrieve the
information
via a casting function. It is:

Some way to define a standard input and output representation (how it
is
done in C).

If you can define your own casts, you can then select complex::text
from
mytable (but this would crash the backend again :-( )


Could you explain this a little more? My strengths (such as they are)
are more on relational theory rather than implementation.

My interpretation of what you're saying (which is probably just
restating what's obvious to others) is that there isn't a way to define
the input and output functions in (the PostgreSQL flavor of) SQL. You
have to do it in C, as described in the "User-Defined Types" section
(33.10).

I'm unclear about what follows. Using SELECT complex::text FROM mytable
would be used to get data out of the table. How would you get it in?
How do user-defined casts help out with this?

Thanks for your time! I'm slowing trying to learn here. I'm interested
in figuring out how to implement point and interval/duration types for
temporal work, but know I have a lot to learn to make this possible.

Michael Glaesemann
grzm myrealbox com

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Nov 22 '05 #13

P: n/a

On Jan 15, 2004, at 6:40 PM, Chris Travers wrote:
I'm unclear about what follows. Using SELECT complex::text FROM
mytable
would be used to get data out of the table. How would you get it in?
How do user-defined casts help out with this?
Simple, you have to define a complex() function which takes real and
imaginary components and returns a complex type.


Sorry. This is what I had shown already. I was trying to figure out how
casts were involved.
You can then insert it as:
insert into complex_nums (c_num, text_rep) values (complex('2', '3'),
complex_to_text(complex('2','3'));
This will successfully return, however, you can only retrieve the
value that
is stored as the text string. Anything else causes the backend to
*crash.*


So basically you're storing a representation of the complex number (or
other type) as text, rather than as the type itself. So, as Tom
mentioned, you're left writing a function to parse that text string and
return a the value as the composite type you want. Am I catching on?

Thanks for your time! I'm slowing trying to learn here. I'm interested
in figuring out how to implement point and interval/duration types for
temporal work, but know I have a lot to learn to make this possible.

Is there a problem with the built in definitions of point and interval?


I'm thinking along the lines of the temporal proposals Date, Darwen,
and Lorentzos ("Temporal Data and the Relational Model"). Their
"interval" type is more along the lines of a beginning and end time,
such as ['2003-1-23':'2003-1-25'], rather than just '2 days'. They
generalize this to be useful for any ordered, discrete sequence, such
as integers, even numbers, weekdays, part number sequences (if
appropriate), or primes. A point type, in this case, is a value that is
part of such a sequence, e.g., '2003-1-23' could be a date point type
useful in a date interval. Here's a link to Hugh Darwen's summary of
the book:

<http://www.hughdarwen.freeola.com/Th...Manifesto.web/
TemporalData.pdf>

Michael Glaesemann
grzm myrealbox com
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Nov 22 '05 #14

P: n/a

On Jan 15, 2004, at 6:50 PM, Chris Travers wrote:
Would you mind explaining this a little more, or pointing me to where
I
can learn more about this? I looked through the html docs for TOAST,
and only found a brief mention regarding large objects and
user-defined
types, but it doesn't get into it in very much detail. (Well, there's
the sliced bread index entry, also. :)
Tom can correct me if I am wrong, but iirc, there is a limit to how
much
information can be stored inline in a table. In order to store larger
rows,
these can be compressed or moved out of the table into TOAST.
PostgreSQL
needs to be able to know how to handle these issues. TOAST is then
significant because it allows you to store, say 1GB of text in a field
without using a large number of pages in the table and thus slowing
down the
seq_scan's, and possibly introducing other problems.


Okay. This much I think I follow.
With complex types, this could become far harder, especially if you
want to
move only parts of the complex type into TOAST...
This part I'm not sure I understand. (Again, you're meaning composite
types in general, not complex types (x + yi) in particular, right?). I
did find the TOAST developers site where there's a little more
information about TOAST. What you're saying is that it might be
difficult to figure out how to split a composite type to off-load part
of it onto a TOAST table?
I would settle for an implimentation that:
1: Moved all or none of the entity into TOAST, (i.e. not moving
individual
components) as this is not done for other datatypes.
Thus you don't need to figure out how to split it, right?
2: Could only do functional indexing of complex types, as this would
get
around the issues of display and searching.
3: Required explicit casting to simple data types.


Could you give an example of this last one?

Michael Glaesemann
grzm myrealbox com
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Nov 22 '05 #15

P: n/a
On Thu, Jan 15, 2004 at 08:29:41PM +0900, Michael Glaesemann wrote:
Is there a problem with the built in definitions of point and interval?


I'm thinking along the lines of the temporal proposals Date, Darwen,
and Lorentzos ("Temporal Data and the Relational Model"). Their
"interval" type is more along the lines of a beginning and end time,
such as ['2003-1-23':'2003-1-25'], rather than just '2 days'.


Maybe it's tangential to this discussion, but there's a type to store
that kind of intervals. It's called tinterval. ISTM it's not too much
documented, and I haven't really used it.

alvherre=> select tinterval('2003-10-28', '2004-11-05');
tinterval
-----------------------------------------------------
["2003-10-28 00:00:00-03" "2004-11-05 00:00:00-03"]
(1 fila)

alvherre=> select tinterval('2003-10-28', '2004-11-05') && tinterval('2003-10-05', '2003-10-15');
?column?
----------
f
(1 fila)

alvherre=> select tinterval('2003-10-28', '2004-11-05') && tinterval('2003-10-05', '2003-11-15');
?column?
----------
t
(1 fila)

(There are other operators, of course ...)

--
Alvaro Herrera (<alvherre[a]dcc.uchile.cl>)
Criptografía: Poderosa técnica algorítmica de codificación que es
empleada en la creación de manuales de computadores.

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Nov 22 '05 #16

P: n/a
Hi Alvaro,

On Jan 15, 2004, at 10:31 PM, Alvaro Herrera wrote:
Maybe it's tangential to this discussion, but there's a type to store
that kind of intervals. It's called tinterval. ISTM it's not too much
documented, and I haven't really used it.

alvherre=> select tinterval('2003-10-28', '2004-11-05');
tinterval
-----------------------------------------------------
["2003-10-28 00:00:00-03" "2004-11-05 00:00:00-03"]
(1 fila)

alvherre=> select tinterval('2003-10-28', '2004-11-05') &&
tinterval('2003-10-05', '2003-10-15');
?column?
----------
f
(1 fila)

alvherre=> select tinterval('2003-10-28', '2004-11-05') &&
tinterval('2003-10-05', '2003-11-15');
?column?
----------
t
(1 fila)

(There are other operators, of course ...)


Well, lookee here! Thanks a lot, Alvaro!. Tangential or not, it's
definitely something I'm interested in! More exploring to do!

Michael Glaesemann
grzm myrealbox com
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Nov 22 '05 #17

P: n/a
On Thursday 15 January 2004 13:31, Alvaro Herrera wrote:

Maybe it's tangential to this discussion, but there's a type to store
that kind of intervals. It's called tinterval. ISTM it's not too much
documented, and I haven't really used it.


Just a note to echo Michael's thanks for the pointer on this one. A whole type
I've not come across before - excellent :-)

--
Richard Huxton
Archonet Ltd

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Nov 22 '05 #18

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