Enhancement Libraries

The enhancement libraries add essential functionality to the PLplot core library (see the Section called The PLplot Core Library). They consist of a cubic spline approximation library, libcsirocsa; a natural neighbours interpolation library, libcsironn; and a time format conversion library libqsastime.

The CSIRO Cubic Spline Approximation Library


The CSIRO Natural Neighbours Interpolation Library


The QSAS Time Format Conversion Library

This library grew out of a discussion with Steve Schwartz of the QSAS Support Team, Cluster Science Centre, Imperial College and our mutual frustrations with the poor time conversion capabilities of POSIX-compliant computer operating systems. For such systems, the continuous time variable is often stored internally as a 32-bit integer containing the number of seconds since 1970. This gives a limited date range of only 136 years, and a limited numerical precision of only a second. Furthermore, although the POSIX standard includes gmtime which provides a conversion between broken-down time (year, month, day, hour, min, sec), and the continuous time variable, the inverse of gmtime (called timegm on Linux) is not a POSIX standard. Finally, the POSIX standard ignores leap seconds. All these limitations are not acceptable for plotting of scientific time series and are addressed by the qsastime library which was originally donated under the LGPL to the PLplot project in early 2009 by Anthony J. Allen of the QSAS team and substantially modifed after that by a PLplot developer, Alan W. Irwin (e.g., to add leap-second functionality).

The qsastime library uses MJD (modified Julian Date = Julian Date - 2400000.5) for the internal continuous time variable. This variable is stored as a signed int (to hold the integer part) and a double (to hold the seconds since midnight). On 32-bit systems, this combination gives an effective date range of roughly +/- 6 million years from the MJD epoch in late 1858 and an effective numerical time precision of 0.01 ns. This should cover most range and precision requirements of those doing plots of scientific time series.

The qsastime library provides internal routines to convert between the broken-down time representation and the internal continuous time variable and vice versa using the formal rules of either the Gregorian or Julian calendars. These routines have been tested extensively for the internal consistency of the routines both for the Gregorian and Julian calendars and also by comparing the Gregorian results against the equivalent Linux C library gmtime and timegm routines on a 64-bit platform. These tests were done for a number of epochs including every year from -5000000 to 5000000 for critical dates in the year (January 1, February 28, February 29, March 1, and December 31). These extensive tests give some confidence that the formal conversion from broken-down to continuous time (and vice versa) should be reliable for the qsastime library on all 32-bit and 64-bit platforms.

The qsastime library also provides an internal routine that gives formatted time results as a function of continuous time. This routine has been lightly tested against the results of the C library strftime routine on Linux.

The three internal routines described above are wrapped by functions that provide the externally visible API for the qsastime library. This API is described below.