[GRASS-dev] any special reason why choice of raster compression method is done via environmental variable ?

Markus Metz markus.metz.giswork at gmail.com
Sun Dec 15 12:41:23 PST 2019

On Tue, Dec 10, 2019 at 6:47 AM Moritz Lennert <mlennert at club.worldonline.be>
> On 9/12/19 22:50, Markus Metz wrote:
> >   Hi Moritz,
> >
> > On Wed, Dec 4, 2019 at 10:28 AM Moritz Lennert
> > <mlennert at club.worldonline.be <mailto:mlennert at club.worldonline.be>>
> >  >
> >  > Hi Markus,
> >  >
> >  > In recent days, I've been confronted several times with the issue of
> >  > people trying to share data among themselves, but using different
> >  > versions of GRASS, and so raster data compressed in a more recent
> >  > version of GRASS was not usable in an older version of GRASS.
> >  >
> >  > Now, I agree that generally the solution is to tell people to use the
> >  > latest and greatest, but this is not always possible / it is not
> >  > necessarily highest on the list of priorities of people to see how
> >  > can install the latest version of GRASS within their particular
> > environment.
> >  >
> >  > Obviously, those with the latest version of GRASS can simple
> >  > using ZLIB. However, compression method is defined as an environment
> >  > variable. This is somewhat daunting to many MS Windows users out
> >  > Is there any specific reason that lead to the choice of not using a
> >  > parameter to allow the choice of compression method (possibly to
> >  > override a default that is still defined by an environment variable)
> >
> > Such a parameter would need to be added to every module creating raster
> > output.
> My request is more linked to use cases where one would like to share
> data (e.g. with r.pack) with other GRASS GIS users who do not
> necessarily have access to the same compression method, not necessarily
> to changing the default compression method. I was just wondering whether
> it might be easily possible to just implement r.compress method= as a
> quick way to recompress a specific map with a chosen method, overriding
> the default method. Currently, to do that, you have to change the
> default method by changing the env variable, run r.compress, then change
> the variable back to the value one wishes generally to use as default.

recompressing an existing raster map seems like a waste of time. Why not
compress it in the first place with the appropriate method?

Recompressing an existing map with a chosen method via r.compress method=XY
means that a new raster map should not be compressed with the default
method but another supported method. This would require a new function in
lib/raster like Rast_open_new_compression_method() that overrides the
default compression method. Of course this is possible, but it requires
substantial changes to lib/raster.

About the use cases:
People want to share a mapset: in this case all GRASS raster maps should be
compressed with the most compatible compression method (ZLIB). Currently,
this can be done with an env var. Alternatively, a new mechanism via
g.gisenv could be established.
Another option could be to set the default compression method per mapset,
to be stored in in the mapset's VAR file, to be set with e.g. r.compress

The point is that it is fairly easy to set a suitable compression method
before the raster lib is initialized, and there are different possible
mechanisms apart from the current method using an env var that are easy to

> Obviously, you can always just export as tiff and share that, but that
> just feels less elegant. Anyway, this is probably somewhat of a luxury
> problem :-)

This only a luxury problem if you don't need to care about processing speed
and disk usage. The different compression methods by now available in GRASS
allow for optimization for speed (LZ4) or for optimization for disk usage
(BZIP2 for larger CELL maps). An easy (easier) way to set the compression
method seems reasonable.

Markus M

> Moritz
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