[DB-SIG] PROPOSAL: Portable Argment Format

Jim Fulton jim.fulton@Digicool.com
Tue, 23 Jun 1998 12:40:26 -0400

I'd like to lobby for a portable argument format for the DBI
interface.  While this *does* require parsing SQL, this is
not really all that hard and I think the benefits are well
worth the effort. I volunteer to provide a utility to assist 
with this.

Here's what I think the format needs to do:

  - Not interfere with SQL.  That is, it must be unabiguous
    to find parameters in SQL.  

  - Support optional argument names, which may be given
    a positional interpretation.

  - Capture type information, to make type explicit.

Maybe this is all that's needed.

I propose the following format:


where : signals a parameter and code is a type code.

Valid type codes are:

    c, b, B, h, H, i, I, l, L, f, d, and s -- 
       as defined in the struct module

    t -- Date/Time
    $ -- Money (???)
    r -- Binary data (raw/blob) gotten from a string

Note that, after some consideration, I decided to use ':'
rather than '%' to signal a parameter, because:

  - % has a meaning in string substitution that is
    too similar and not similar enough to sql parameters.
    I don't want to worry about conflicting or confused
    type codes.

  - One might want to use string formating to generate
    sql containing parameter references (without wanting to 
    escape %s).

  - I was too lazy to try to determin if % could be
    confused with some SQL syntax element and figured
    that : was OK because it was used by Oracle. :-)

I'm not wed to ':'. '?' would be OK too.

The name is optional and defaults to a generated name, 
_x, where x is the index of the argument in the
unnamed arguments.  For example:

     select * from spam 
     where foo=:s and bar=:d

is equivalent to:

     select * from spam 
     where foo=:(_0)s and bar=:(_1)d

Note that positional arguments could be given explicitly
and intermixed with non-positional arguments, as in:

     select * from spam 
     where foo=:(_1)s and bar=:(bar)d and baz=:i

is equivalent to:

     select * from spam 
     where foo=:(_1)s and bar=:(bar)d and baz=:(_0)i

Note that arguments may be repeated as in:

     select * from spam
     where x1 > :(minx)i and x2 > :(minx)i and
           w == :s and a == :(_1)i and b < :(_1)i

When used with ODBC, this would be converted to:

     select * from spam
     where x1 > ? and x2 > ? and
           w == ? and a == ? and b < ?

and two of the arguments would have to bound twice.

I propose that non-positional arguments be assigned positions
according to their order of appearence, with positional arguments
ordered before non-positional arguments.  So in the example above, 
the arguments and their positions would be:

    _0   at position 0,
    _1   at position 1, and
    minx at position 2.

I propose that arguments be treated in a similar fashion to 
Python function arguments, allowing either positional or 
non-positional actual arguments.  For example, the signature 
of the above example would be "_0, _1, minx".

Someone could pass the parameters like this:

  sql=("select * from spam "
       "where x1 > :(minx)i and x2 > :(minx)i and "
       "    w == :s and a == :(_1)i and b < :(_1)i")

  c.execute(sql, 'eggs', 10, 20)
  x.execute(sql, 'eggs', 10, minx=20)
  x.execute(sql, _0=eggs, minx=20, _1=10)

I think that this proposal hase a number of advantages over 
the current scheme:

  - It provides greater portability.

  - It provides some measure of type safety.

  - It supports more user-friendly calling mechanism 
    (e.g. keyword arguments)

  - It is more powerful than some database-specific 
    mechanisms.  For example, ODBC's mechanism forces
    parameters that are *used* more than once to be bound 
    more than once.

The only real downside is that module developers may have 
a bit more work to do.  I'll volunteer to reduce the work
required by providing a utility that parses an sql statement
and returns a new SQL statement that uses database-specific
format and that provides information needed to bind parameters.


Jim Fulton           mailto:jim@digicool.com
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