Xamin version 5.0 introduces the tabbed layout for grid formatted query results. This new output format replaces the current multi-window grid output. All new queries will be added to one main panel and each can be displayed by clicking its associated tab (figure 1). Tabs are labeled with the query number and mousing over the tab will display the more descriptive table name. Grids can be separated from the panel with a drag gesture, typically by clicking on the associated tab and dragging it to the desktop (figure 2). Tabs cannot be dragged back to the main panel.
An interactive visualization component using the AladinLite data visualizer developed at the Centre de Données astronomiques de Strasbourg (CDS) has been added to Xamin grid queries. This new feature allows users to select regions visually and to display the location of observations and targets against images of the HEASARC archive holding. User can also select an area within the Aladin widow to transfer coordinates to the Xamin window for a new query.
Positional grid-formatted queries will trigger the associated region and query results to be displayed in the Aliadin Lite window (figure 1). Results will be shown as markers on the image.
Selecting a row in the results grid highlights the element in the Aladin window and vice-versa. (1, 2). Users can immediately determine the identity of interesting objects, or pick out objects with special non-spatial characteristics. The bar below the image window (3) shows the title of the associated grid. Clicking the Aladin icon (4) on the desktop will redisplay the Aladin window and bring it to the forefront. Clicking the Update icon (5) will replace the markers in the Aladin window with currently displayed query results. Clicking the Restore icon (6) will return the Aladin window to the initial state of the displayed query results.
Different background image data can be selected from a list of missions (figure 2).
A shift-click in the Aladin window (figure 3) will encircle the clicked position (1) and transfer the center coordinates and radius of the enclosed circle to the Xamin window (2) in quick preparation for a new query.
For this Xamin update we have reinstated the Product Explorer for Grid queries and added bibliography table options.
- The Product Explorer allows users to see and select the kinds of products associated with query results displayed as a grid. Look for the Product Explorer button in the top toolbar of grid table results. Documentation can be found on our Xamin Web Guide
- Xamin now accepts two new arguments at run time:
can be used to point to a table you want to use as your base zzbib table. In principle this can be a user table (but you need to log in separately).
can be used to point to a table you want to use to supplement the zzbib table. I.e., if you want to use mybib as your base bibliography table use
This assumes (but does not check) that a table mybib exists.
Release notes for the new version:
- The Application Console:
The overall look for the Xamin Web interface is very different. It emulates a computer console. If you expand your browser to use the full screen the console emulation can be quite close. There are buttons along the bottom of the interface that allow you to display and hide each major pane active in your Xamin session. Buttons in the background can be used to activate the query, feedback, information and user panes.
- Start Button:
The ‘Start’ — named for its location more than its functionality — button (bottom left) allows users to get to standard windows, to change the background and to organize, hide, or delete all data windows.
- Session configuration:
The Session menu in the Query pane now has a submenu allowing you to set up a saved session configuration that will be automatically applied when you start an Xamin session. This uses a persistent cookie so that it does not require a user account. However since the amount of information that can be stored in the cookie is small, it is mostly useful for storing default menu configurations and the like. Adding a table may exceed the capacity of the cookie and the attempt to save the configuration will fail.
- Output formats:
In the Options menu in the Query Pane users now have many more output format options including text downloads and rendering text in other windows.
Theme option removed:
There were three somewhat different themes allowed in the old version. These changed the color scheme (and sometimes scaling) of the display but had no other effect on functionality.
The Options menu has been reorganized a bit to try to put things together more logically in the sub menus. E.g., the Output content submenu now controls the coordinate and time formats, whether data are rounded and which fields are shown by default.
- Query start buttons:
The buttons used to start queries have been simplified a bit. Instead of two buttons used to start index queries where we look for tables which have data matching your criteria, there is now a single button whose label text indicates if the query will be made for all HEASARC tables or look only within the set of tables you have specified.
- Index and table query buttons switched:
The relative positions of the index and table query buttons have been reversed. The table query buttons now come first.Similarly, there are now only three buttons to submit queries of tables. You use the same button to start a single table query or a correlation. You pick the button based upon whether you wish to see the results as a table, do a plot or save the results in your Xamin environment.
Users can now explicitly enter bibcodes for discovery and table queries.
- File uploads:
You can immediately upload a file to use in queries in Xamin without having to first log in to a user account. The file can be used in a sequence of queries, but it will be uploaded each time. [We originally made this change in the development version, but moved it into the operational system early.]
- Virtual Observatory Tables:
Many more virtual observatory resources are available.
- Keyword search results:
The results for a keyword search of tables are now formatted where you can collapse and expand the results for HEASARC and VizieR to focus on the tables you are interested in. More information about VO table resources is now available through the information panel.
- Keyword search results queries:
You can now choose to add the list of HEASARC tables matching your keyword search into the selected tables. You can then do a search (typically an index query since you cannot do correlations on more than 4 tables) on those tables. Xamin V2 also had facilities to search these tables in an index query but did so using an inefficient query syntax. Results will now return much faster.
- Selecting parameters:
The parameter explorer has been substantially revised. Previously a red parameter bar was used to signal the end of the displayed parameters. Users could drag this bar to change what parameters were to be displayed, or move parameters around. It is still possible to move parameters (including groups of parameters) around, but there are now icons on each parameter to select/deselect the parameter. Each row also an icon for changing the boundary between the selected/deselected parameters
The ability to print queries has been improved and expanded. Discovery queries (where a list of tables containing matching objects is retrieved) and plots can now also be printed. Any pane that can be printed has a printer tool on the right of the title bar.
The same form is now used to both submit new feedback requests and display existing feedback.
- No prompt on exit:
Xamin no longer prompts for confirmation that you want to leave the service when you have more than one plot/table displayed.
- Multiple plot control windows:
Previously only a single plot control window was allowed. When a new plot request was made any existing plot control window was destroyed and replaced by the result from the new plot request. Since these are bulky windows, users may want to remove them as soon as they are finished with a particular plot. Plot control windows are cleaned up when users use the Clear Data option on the Start button.
- Single box notice:
When using the single box interfaces users will be notified immediately when the single box query initiates. Previously the system could appear inactive while Xamin was checking whether input parameters were target names.
- Tutorial movies:
The introductory tutorial in the Xamin Web Users Guide is now given as a set of movies rather than text. We also have a Introduction to Xamin page.
A new information pane is now included in the main Xamin web interface. This pane shows information about groups of tables and the detailed table documentation. Previously this information had been displayed in the bottom of the main query pane. The new arrangement makes it much easier to browse table documentation.
At approximately 9:30 AM EDT October 2 2012 we have moved the handling of batch queries to use our Xamin system. For most users we hope this will be transparent, but see our previous articles for potential changes. Benchmarks have shown Xamin to be about twice as fast.
On October 2, 2012 we will begin sending batch queries to our Xamin interface. Internal tests have shown Xamin about twice as fast as the current interface.
The switch will be accomplished by internally redirecting batch queries sent to the current URL to an Xamin URL. Non-batch queries (used by our Browse interface) are not affected. The redirection will be done internally within our site so that web clients will not see an HTTP 30x redirection response.
There are some small differences in the formats of data returned discussed in a previous post, but we hope that this transition should be largely invisible to users. If you want to switch over early, you can query the URL
rather than the
URL currently invoked. After next Tuesday batch requests to the w3query.pl URL will be transparently redirected to Xamin. If you want to invoke the old behavior after next week you can switch to using
for your batch requests.
Versions of our batch scripts that will point consistently to either Xamin or Browse are available at http://heasarc.gsfc.nasa.gov/FTP/software/web_batch. We recommend that you use the wget versions of scripts if possible since the simple webquery.pl tool used as an alternative has no ability to negotiate firewalls or redirections.
Over the next couple of weeks we plan for Xamin to take over responsibility for batch queries sent to the HEASARC. In our initial tests the Xamin queries ran about 4 times faster. While we’ve made some efforts to minimize the differences between Xamin and the current Browse-based results there are still a few.
The differences include:
- The name of the column giving the offset between the target position and the row in the table is _offset, not Search_offset
- The value of the offset column does not include the central position. E.g., if you have asked for rows near the position 00 40 24, 40 32 , the current offset column might contain 0.235 (00 40 24, 40 32) but it will just be 0.235 in the new version.
- Class codes will be returned for the HEASARC classifications, not the string value corresponding to the class code.
- The mission name is not given when the list of available tables is shown. In Xamin not all tables are associated with missions (some are associated with regimes or object types). We added a ‘archive’ column to keep the format similar.
- Error messages are very different. E.g., If a user requests a VOTable output, Browse still gives an HTML error message when there is an error retrieving data, but Xamin returns an VOTable with the error status. If there are errors when the user is making a FITS or Excel format request, then there may be no output where Browse might have returned an HTML error message.
- There are numerous detailed format differences in the Excel and FITS outputs. E.g., Xamin uses a binary table format while Browse uses ASCII tables.
There are some new features. Since we are limited to the interface that the Xamin batch script provides only a few of the new capabilities of Xamin are available, but a few do leak though e.g.,
- The fields displayed can contain expressions of fields, not just one or more column names: fields=’SomeText’, ra+dec,cos(ra/57)
- Results can be sorted by multiple columns (sortvar=col1,col2) and in both ascending and descending order (sortvar=col1:+,col2:-).
Please let us know if you have any problems with the new format. If you would like to test this out before we release it change the URL the batch script points to from http://heasarc.gsfc.nasa.gov/cgi-bin/W3Browse/w3query.pl to http://heasarc.gsfc.nasa.gov/xamin/BrowseBatch.
A new version of Xamin, 1.6, was released this morning. The most noticable changes are a new notice facility and links to the Xamin Blog in the help menu. We will use the notice facility to inform users of new features and scheduled downtimes. Error messages are now displayed when SAMP connections (e.g., to TOPCAT or Aladin) fail, and the HTTP headers in data responses now give a suggested time to the next query which is set based upon the current system load. Some modifications to the cone search responses ensure better compliance to the VO Cone Search standard and more compatibility with the format used in Browse-base cone searches.
Starting next week, queries to the HEASARC using the Virtual Observatory Cone Search protocol will use our Xamin interface rather than a script that invokes Browse. While the results for queries should be the same, the VOTables returned are not byte identical (e.g., they include differing white space). For a few tables changes have been made to column definitions to meet the requirements of the cone search protocol. In some cases ID columns that were returned as integers are now considered to be strings to meet the spec. Please get in touch with us if you have any problems. Our internal tests show the Xamin queries running about twice as fast.