One of the new features I'm excited about in upcoming PostgreSQL 9.1 are extensions. It is also my hope
that for PostGIS 2.0, we'll be able to package PostGIS 2.0 as an extension.
Reinspired in my mission by David Wheeler's recent post and video on Building and Distributing Extensions without C, I decided to take some time to investigate how all the extension pieces fit together.
The three things I like most about extensions
- It has a companion sql CREATE EXTENSION and catalog of what's installed and available right from the db, which makes installing/uninstalling relatively painless
- Installed functions don't get backed up with data, which is really a bit of a nightmare for PostGIS folks and relief be much welcome as you can tell in Paul's PostGIS backup and restore
which gets a bit more of an adventure in PostGIS 2.0 now that we have raster and topology and many more fun fun GEOS functions.
- The ease with which you can uninstall,migrate your extension to another schema, and upgrade (in theory). There will be caveats here of course
with changes that require on disk format and involve data.
Of course the ease is all in the thoughtfulness of the packaging. To get some ideas of how we would go about packaging
PostGIS 2.0 as an extension (it could very well be 3 extensions if we decide to package the core postgis, raster, and topology (and even tiger geocoder) as separate extensions), I thought I would take a look at how others have packaged theirs, and how one goes about registering one of these packages
to make it available in CREATE EXTENSION.
Figuring out the extensions you have available ready to install
First I decided to start by doing a little snooping, by applying some lessons from our previous article Querying table, view, column and function descriptions
I wrote this query to figure out what useful functions are available to learn about extensions.
SELECT p.proname AS funcname, d.description
FROM pg_proc p
INNER JOIN pg_namespace n ON n.oid = p.pronamespace
LEFT JOIN pg_description As d ON (d.objoid = p.oid )
WHERE n.nspname = 'pg_catalog'
AND (d.description ILIKE '%extension%' or p.proname ILIKE '%extension%')
ORDER BY n.nspname, p.proname ;
-- which output this --
funcname | description
pg_available_extension_versions | list available extension versions
pg_available_extensions | list available extensions
pg_extension_config_dump | flag an extension's table contents to be emitted by pg_dump
pg_extension_update_paths | list an extension's version update paths