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4.1.1.12 GBIN

GBIN format is a special-interest file format used within DPAC, the Data Processing and Analysis Consortium working on data from the Gaia astrometry satellite. It is based on java serialization, and in all of its various forms has the peculiarity that you only stand any chance of decoding it if you have the Gaia data model classes on your java classpath at runtime. Since the set of relevant classes is very large, and also depends on what version of the data model your GBIN file corresponds to, those classes will not be packaged with this software, so some additional setup is required to read GBIN files.

As well as the data model classes, you must provide on the runtime classpath the GaiaTools classes required for GBIN reading. The table input handler accesses these by reflection, to avoid an additional large library dependency for a rather niche requirement. It is likely that since you have to supply the required data model classes you will also have the required GaiaTools classes to hand as well, so this shouldn't constitute much of an additional burden for usage.

In practice, if you have a jar file or files for pretty much any java library or application which is capable of reading a given GBIN file, just adding it or them to the classpath at runtime when using this input handler ought to do the trick. Examples of such jar files are the MDBExplorerStandalone.jar file available from https://gaia.esac.esa.int/mdbexp/, or the gbcat.jar file you can build from the CU9/software/gbcat/ directory in the DPAC subversion repository.

The GBIN format doesn't really store tables, it stores arrays of java objects, so the input handler has to make some decisions about how to flatten these into table rows.

In its simplest form, the handler basically looks for public instance methods of the form getXxx() and uses the Xxx as column names. If the corresponding values are themselves objects with suitable getter methods, those objects are added as new columns instead. This more or less follows the practice of the gbcat (gaia.cu1.tools.util.GbinInterogator) tool. Method names are sorted alphabetically. Arrays of complex objects are not handled well, and various other things may trip it up. See the source code (e.g. uk.ac.starlink.gbin.GbinTableProfile) for more details.

If the object types stored in the GBIN file are known to the special metadata-bearing class gaia.cu9.tools.documentationexport.MetadataReader and its dependencies, and if that class is on the runtime classpath, then the handler will be able to extract additional metadata as available, including standardised column names, table and column descriptions, and UCDs. An example of a jar file containing this metadata class alongside data model classes is GaiaDataLibs-18.3.1-r515078.jar. Note however at time of writing there are some deficiencies with this metadata extraction functionality related to unresolved issues in the upstream gaia class libraries and the relevant interface control document (GAIA-C9-SP-UB-XL-034-01, "External Data Centres ICD"). Currently columns appear in the output table in a more or less random order, units and Utypes are not extracted, and using the GBIN reader tends to cause a 700kbyte file "temp.xml" to be written in the current directory. If the upstream issues are fixed, this behaviour may improve.

Note that support for GBIN files is somewhat experimental. Please contact the author (who is not a GBIN expert) if it doesn't seem to be working properly or you think it should do things differently.

This format can be automatically identified by its content so you do not need to specify the format explicitly when reading GBIN tables, regardless of the filename.

Example: Suppose you have the MDBExplorerStandalone.jar file containing the data model classes, you can read GBIN files by starting TOPCAT like this:

   topcat -classpath MDBExplorerStandalone.jar ...
or like this:
   java -classpath topcat-full.jar:MDBExplorerStandalone.jar uk.ac.starlink.topcat.Driver ...


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TOPCAT - Tool for OPerations on Catalogues And Tables
Starlink User Note253
TOPCAT web page: http://www.starlink.ac.uk/topcat/
Author email: m.b.taylor@bristol.ac.uk
Mailing list: topcat-user@jiscmail.ac.uk