The MapServer 5.0 beta is out. For a while, people had been mentioning the AGG support, and I even saw a pretty great demo put together by DM Solutions that demonstrated the functionality, and I had been impressed.
I was disappointed to learn recently that the fonts are still going to continue to be rendered by GD for the 5.0 release: really, the biggest case where I care about smooth lines is in fonts, because it makes the difference between the ability to use an 8px font, and the corresponding increase in number of labels, and being forced to use a 10px/11px font. (Small fonts become less and less readable at smaller sizes without sub-pixel rendering.) However, I was hoping that the rest of the support would be sufficient that I would be happy with switching the Boston Freemap over to using AGG instead of GD as the renderer.
This morning, I grabbed MapServer, and figured out how to build it after some stumbling. MapServer’s default of “Don’t include anything” is probably a great idea for most people, but for me, it definitely was at stumbling block. Just an example: I was trying to set up –with-agg. I knew I had installed it, and files were in /usr/include/agg2 and /usr/lib/libagg.a. But there’s only one directory! So I tried just pointing to /usr/lib, and got:
error: “could not find agg_rendering_buffer.h or libagg.a in /usr/lib.”
Well, obviously agg_rendering_buffer.h wasn’t there, but libagg.a was! I got there eventually by reading the configure script. It actually wants you to point to /usr, which would have been clearer if it asked for ‘AGG *prefix*’ instead of just ‘AGG directory’. I’m sure this stuff is obvious to people who roll their own, but I love my debian, damnit!
I then ran into an error in building mapagg.cpp, #2188, which I was able to fix by commenting out the offending lines, and an error in building php_mapscript, which I solved by removing that from the build.
I eventually got it built, and bumped into what I eventually filed as a bug: #2187: WMS Request for DRIVER AGG/PNG claims ‘invalid output format’. FrankW was kind enough to help me fix mapwms.c so I could continue to play.
I now have an agg demo of the Boston Freemap. However, I find it very disappointing. The lines actually look *more* jagged in some cases, and for fonts without an outlinecolor, the text is almost unreadable. Additionally, it seems that the blue of my water has changed to be a weird grey color. You can compare against 5.0’s GD rendering and 4.10’s GD rendering — the two differ only by what likely amounts to rounding errors.
The agg rendering is simply not up to snuff. I’ll admit I’ve put more than my fair share of work into getting the Boston Freemap to look good with previous versions of MapServer, but this definitely seems like a step backwards.
I’d love to be told that I’m missing some obvious “Make Output Pretty” option, but if there is one, the AGG RFC doesn’t mention it.
I’d hoped to have a brilliant demo of the power of MapServer. Instead, I’ve got disappointment and pain. It’s a shame that it has to end this way…
The mapfile for the Boston Freemap is, of course, available, if someone feels like trying to understand better why the problems exist. The data is also available, though it’s likely easier to just get it direct from MassGIS.