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A.5. Query-Related Issues

A.5.1. Case Sensitivity in Searches

By default, MySQL searches are not case sensitive (although there are some character sets that are never case insensitive, such as czech). This means that if you search with col_name LIKE 'a%', you get all column values that start with A or a. If you want to make this search case sensitive, make sure that one of the operands has a case sensitive or binary collation. For example, if you are comparing a column and a string that both have the latin1 character set, you can use the COLLATE operator to cause either operand to have the latin1_general_cs or latin1_bin collation. For example:

col_name COLLATE latin1_general_cs LIKE 'a%'
col_name LIKE 'a%' COLLATE latin1_general_cs
col_name COLLATE latin1_bin LIKE 'a%'
col_name LIKE 'a%' COLLATE latin1_bin

If you want a column always to be treated in case-sensitive fashion, declare it with a case sensitive or binary collation. See Section 13.1.5, “CREATE TABLE Syntax”.

Before MySQL 4.1, COLLATE is unavailable. Use the BINARY operator in expressions to treat a string as a binary string: BINARY col_name LIKE 'a%' or col_name LIKE BINARY 'a%'. In column declarations, use the BINARY attribute.

Simple comparison operations (>=, >, =, <, <=, sorting, and grouping) are based on each character's “sort value.” Characters with the same sort value (such as ‘E’, ‘e’, and ‘é’) are treated as the same character.

A.5.2. Problems Using DATE Columns

The format of a DATE value is 'YYYY-MM-DD'. According to standard SQL, no other format is allowed. You should use this format in UPDATE expressions and in the WHERE clause of SELECT statements. For example:

mysql> SELECT * FROM tbl_name WHERE date >= '2003-05-05';

As a convenience, MySQL automatically converts a date to a number if the date is used in a numeric context (and vice versa). It is also smart enough to allow a “relaxed” string form when updating and in a WHERE clause that compares a date to a TIMESTAMP, DATE, or DATETIME column. (“Relaxed form” means that any punctuation character may be used as the separator between parts. For example, '2004-08-15' and '2004#08#15' are equivalent.) MySQL can also convert a string containing no separators (such as '20040815'), provided it makes sense as a date.

When you compare a DATE, TIME, DATETIME, or TIMESTAMP to a constant string with the <, <=, =, >=, >, or BETWEEN operators, MySQL normally converts the string to an internal long integer for faster comparison (and also for a bit more “relaxed” string checking). However, this conversion is subject to the following exceptions:

  • When you compare two columns

  • When you compare a DATE, TIME, DATETIME, or TIMESTAMP column to an expression

  • When you use any other comparison method than those just listed, such as IN or STRCMP().

For these exceptional cases, the comparison is done by converting the objects to strings and performing a string comparison.

To keep things safe, assume that strings are compared as strings and use the appropriate string functions if you want to compare a temporal value to a string.

The special date '0000-00-00' can be stored and retrieved as '0000-00-00'. When using a '0000-00-00' date through MyODBC, it is automatically converted to NULL in MyODBC 2.50.12 and above, because ODBC can't handle this kind of date.

Because MySQL performs the conversions described above, the following statements work:

mysql> INSERT INTO tbl_name (idate) VALUES (19970505);
mysql> INSERT INTO tbl_name (idate) VALUES ('19970505');
mysql> INSERT INTO tbl_name (idate) VALUES ('97-05-05');
mysql> INSERT INTO tbl_name (idate) VALUES ('1997.05.05');
mysql> INSERT INTO tbl_name (idate) VALUES ('1997 05 05');
mysql> INSERT INTO tbl_name (idate) VALUES ('0000-00-00');

mysql> SELECT idate FROM tbl_name WHERE idate >= '1997-05-05';
mysql> SELECT idate FROM tbl_name WHERE idate >= 19970505;
mysql> SELECT MOD(idate,100) FROM tbl_name WHERE idate >= 19970505;
mysql> SELECT idate FROM tbl_name WHERE idate >= '19970505';

However, the following does not work:

mysql> SELECT idate FROM tbl_name WHERE STRCMP(idate,'20030505')=0;

STRCMP() is a string function, so it converts idate to a string in 'YYYY-MM-DD' format and performs a string comparison. It does not convert '20030505' to the date '2003-05-05' and perform a date comparison.

If the date cannot be converted to any reasonable value, a 0 is stored in the DATE column, which is retrieved as '0000-00-00'. This is both a speed and a convenience issue. We believe that the database server's responsibility is to retrieve the same date you stored (even if the data was not logically correct in all cases). We think it is up to the application and not the server to check the dates.

A.5.3. Problems with NULL Values

The concept of the NULL value is a common source of confusion for newcomers to SQL, who often think that NULL is the same thing as an empty string ''. This is not the case. For example, the following statements are completely different:

mysql> INSERT INTO my_table (phone) VALUES (NULL);
mysql> INSERT INTO my_table (phone) VALUES ('');

Both statements insert a value into the phone column, but the first inserts a NULL value and the second inserts an empty string. The meaning of the first can be regarded as “phone number is not known” and the meaning of the second can be regarded as “the person is known to have no phone, and thus no phone number.

To help with NULL handling, you can use the IS NULL and IS NOT NULL operators and the IFNULL() function.

In SQL, the NULL value is never true in comparison to any other value, even NULL. An expression that contains NULL always produces a NULL value unless otherwise indicated in the documentation for the operators and functions involved in the expression. All columns in the following example return NULL:

mysql> SELECT NULL, 1+NULL, CONCAT('Invisible',NULL);

If you want to search for column values that are NULL, you cannot use an expr = NULL test. The following statement returns no rows, because expr = NULL is never true for any expression:

mysql> SELECT * FROM my_table WHERE phone = NULL;

To look for NULL values, you must use the IS NULL test. The following statements show how to find the NULL phone number and the empty phone number:

mysql> SELECT * FROM my_table WHERE phone IS NULL;
mysql> SELECT * FROM my_table WHERE phone = '';

See Section 3.3.4.6, “Working with NULL Values”, for additional information and examples.

You can add an index on a column that can have NULL values if you are using MySQL 3.23.2 or newer and are using the MyISAM, InnoDB, or BDB storage engine. As of MySQL 4.0.2, the MEMORY storage engine also supports NULL values in indexes. Otherwise, you must declare an indexed column NOT NULL and you cannot insert NULL into the column.

When reading data with LOAD DATA INFILE, empty or missing columns are updated with ''. If you want a NULL value in a column, you should use \N in the data file. The literal word “NULL” may also be used under some circumstances. See Section 13.2.5, “LOAD DATA INFILE Syntax”.

When using DISTINCT, GROUP BY, or ORDER BY, all NULL values are regarded as equal.

When using ORDER BY, NULL values are presented first, or last if you specify DESC to sort in descending order. Exception: In MySQL 4.0.2 through 4.0.10, NULL values sort first regardless of sort order.

Aggregate (summary) functions such as COUNT(), MIN(), and SUM() ignore NULL values. The exception to this is COUNT(*), which counts rows and not individual column values. For example, the following statement produces two counts. The first is a count of the number of rows in the table, and the second is a count of the number of non-NULL values in the age column:

mysql> SELECT COUNT(*), COUNT(age) FROM person;

For some data types, MySQL handles NULL values specially. If you insert NULL into a TIMESTAMP column, the current date and time is inserted. If you insert NULL into an integer column that has the AUTO_INCREMENT attribute, the next number in the sequence is inserted.

A.5.4. Problems with Column Aliases

You can use an alias to refer to a column in GROUP BY, ORDER BY, or HAVING clauses. Aliases can also be used to give columns better names:

SELECT SQRT(a*b) AS root FROM tbl_name GROUP BY root HAVING root > 0;
SELECT id, COUNT(*) AS cnt FROM tbl_name GROUP BY id HAVING cnt > 0;
SELECT id AS 'Customer identity' FROM tbl_name;

Standard SQL doesn't allow you to refer to a column alias in a WHERE clause. This restriction is imposed because when the WHERE code is executed, the column value may not yet be determined. For example, the following query is illegal:

SELECT id, COUNT(*) AS cnt FROM tbl_name WHERE cnt > 0 GROUP BY id;

The WHERE statement is executed to determine which rows should be included in the GROUP BY part, whereas HAVING is used to decide which rows from the result set should be used.

A.5.5. Rollback Failure for Non-Transactional Tables

If you receive the following message when trying to perform a ROLLBACK, it means that one or more of the tables you used in the transaction do not support transactions:

Warning: Some non-transactional changed tables couldn't be rolled back

These non-transactional tables are not affected by the ROLLBACK statement.

If you were not deliberately mixing transactional and non-transactional tables within the transaction, the most likely cause for this message is that a table you thought was transactional actually is not. This can happen if you try to create a table using a transactional storage engine that is not supported by your mysqld server (or that was disabled with a startup option). If mysqld doesn't support a storage engine, it instead creates the table as a MyISAM table, which is non-transactional.

You can check the storage engine for a table by using either of these statements:

SHOW TABLE STATUS LIKE 'tbl_name';
SHOW CREATE TABLE tbl_name;

See Section 13.5.4.18, “SHOW TABLE STATUS Syntax”, and Section 13.5.4.5, “SHOW CREATE TABLE Syntax”.

You can check which storage engines your mysqld server supports by using this statement:

SHOW ENGINES;

Before MySQL 4.1.2, SHOW ENGINES is unavailable. Use the following statement instead and check the value of the variable that is associated with the storage engine in which you are interested:

SHOW VARIABLES LIKE 'have_%';

For example, to determine whether the InnoDB storage engine is available, check the value of the have_innodb variable.

See Section 13.5.4.8, “SHOW ENGINES Syntax”, and Section 13.5.4.20, “SHOW VARIABLES Syntax”.

A.5.6. Deleting Rows from Related Tables

MySQL does not support subqueries prior to version 4.1, or the use of more than one table in the DELETE statement prior to version 4.0. If your version of MySQL does not support subqueries or multiple-table DELETE statements, you can use the following approach to delete rows from two related tables:

  1. SELECT the rows based on some WHERE condition in the main table.

  2. DELETE the rows in the main table based on the same condition.

  3. DELETE FROM related_table WHERE related_column IN (selected_rows).

If the total length of the DELETE statement for related_table is more than 1MB (the default value of the max_allowed_packet system variable), you should split it into smaller parts and execute multiple DELETE statements. You probably get the fastest DELETE by specifying only 100 to 1,000 related_column values per statement if the related_column is indexed. If the related_column isn't indexed, the speed is independent of the number of arguments in the IN clause.

A.5.7. Solving Problems with No Matching Rows

If you have a complicated query that uses many tables but that doesn't return any rows, you should use the following procedure to find out what is wrong:

  1. Test the query with EXPLAIN to check whether you can find something that is obviously wrong. See Section 7.2.1, “Optimizing Queries with EXPLAIN.

  2. Select only those columns that are used in the WHERE clause.

  3. Remove one table at a time from the query until it returns some rows. If the tables are large, it's a good idea to use LIMIT 10 with the query.

  4. Issue a SELECT for the column that should have matched a row against the table that was last removed from the query.

  5. If you are comparing FLOAT or DOUBLE columns with numbers that have decimals, you can't use equality (=) comparisons. This problem is common in most computer languages because not all floating-point values can be stored with exact precision. In some cases, changing the FLOAT to a DOUBLE fixes this. See Section A.5.8, “Problems with Floating-Point Comparisons”.

    Similar problems may be encountered when comparing DECIMAL values.

  6. If you still can't figure out what's wrong, create a minimal test that can be run with mysql test < query.sql that shows your problems. You can create a test file by dumping the tables with mysqldump --quick db_name tbl_name_1 ... tbl_name_n > query.sql. Open the file in an editor, remove some insert lines (if there are more than needed to demonstrate the problem), and add your SELECT statement at the end of the file.

    Verify that the test file demonstrates the problem by executing these commands:

    shell> mysqladmin create test2
    shell> mysql test2 < query.sql
    

    Attach the test file to a bug report, which you can file using the instructions in Section 1.8, “How to Report Bugs or Problems”.

A.5.8. Problems with Floating-Point Comparisons

Note that the following section is relevant primarily for versions of MySQL older than 5.0.3. As of version 5.0.3, MySQL performs DECIMAL operations with a precision of 64 decimal digits, which should solve most common inaccuracy problems when it comes to DECIMAL columns. For DOUBLE and FLOAT columns, the problems remain because inexactness is the basic nature of floating point numbers.

Floating-point numbers sometimes cause confusion because they are not stored as exact values inside computer architecture. What you can see on the screen usually is not the exact value of the number. The data types FLOAT, DOUBLE, and DECIMAL are such. DECIMAL columns store values with exact precision because they are represented as strings, but calculations on DECIMAL values before MySQL 5.0.3 are done using floating-point operations.

The following example (for older MySQL version than 5.0.3) demonstrate the problem. It shows that even for the DECIMAL data type, calculations that are done using floating-point operations are subject to floating-point error. (In all MySQL versions, you would have similar problems if you would replace the DECIMAL columns with FLOAT).

mysql> CREATE TABLE t1 (i INT, d1 DECIMAL(9,2), d2 DECIMAL(9,2));
mysql> INSERT INTO t1 VALUES (1, 101.40, 21.40), (1, -80.00, 0.00),
    -> (2, 0.00, 0.00), (2, -13.20, 0.00), (2, 59.60, 46.40),
    -> (2, 30.40, 30.40), (3, 37.00, 7.40), (3, -29.60, 0.00),
    -> (4, 60.00, 15.40), (4, -10.60, 0.00), (4, -34.00, 0.00),
    -> (5, 33.00, 0.00), (5, -25.80, 0.00), (5, 0.00, 7.20),
    -> (6, 0.00, 0.00), (6, -51.40, 0.00);

mysql> SELECT i, SUM(d1) AS a, SUM(d2) AS b
    -> FROM t1 GROUP BY i HAVING a <> b;
+------+--------+-------+
| i    | a      | b     |
+------+--------+-------+
|    1 |  21.40 | 21.40 |
|    2 |  76.80 | 76.80 |
|    3 |   7.40 |  7.40 |
|    4 |  15.40 | 15.40 |
|    5 |   7.20 |  7.20 |
|    6 | -51.40 |  0.00 |
+------+--------+-------+

The result is correct. Although the first five records look like they shouldn't pass the comparison test (the values of a and b do not appear to be different), they may do so because the difference between the numbers shows up around the tenth decimal or so, depending on computer architecture.

As of MySQL 5.0.3, you will get only the last row in the above result.

The problem cannot be solved by using ROUND() or similar functions, because the result is still a floating-point number:

mysql> SELECT i, ROUND(SUM(d1), 2) AS a, ROUND(SUM(d2), 2) AS b
    -> FROM t1 GROUP BY i HAVING a <> b;
+------+--------+-------+
| i    | a      | b     |
+------+--------+-------+
|    1 |  21.40 | 21.40 |
|    2 |  76.80 | 76.80 |
|    3 |   7.40 |  7.40 |
|    4 |  15.40 | 15.40 |
|    5 |   7.20 |  7.20 |
|    6 | -51.40 |  0.00 |
+------+--------+-------+

This is what the numbers in column a look like when displayed with more decimal places:

mysql> SELECT i, ROUND(SUM(d1), 2)*1.0000000000000000 AS a,
    -> ROUND(SUM(d2), 2) AS b FROM t1 GROUP BY i HAVING a <> b;
+------+----------------------+-------+
| i    | a                    | b     |
+------+----------------------+-------+
|    1 |  21.3999999999999986 | 21.40 |
|    2 |  76.7999999999999972 | 76.80 |
|    3 |   7.4000000000000004 |  7.40 |
|    4 |  15.4000000000000004 | 15.40 |
|    5 |   7.2000000000000002 |  7.20 |
|    6 | -51.3999999999999986 |  0.00 |
+------+----------------------+-------+

Depending on your computer architecture, you may or may not see similar results. Different CPUs may evaluate floating-point numbers differently. For example, on some machines you may get the “correct” results by multiplying both arguments by 1, as the following example shows.

Warning: Never use this method in your applications. It is not an example of a trustworthy method!

mysql> SELECT i, ROUND(SUM(d1), 2)*1 AS a, ROUND(SUM(d2), 2)*1 AS b
    -> FROM t1 GROUP BY i HAVING a <> b;
+------+--------+------+
| i    | a      | b    |
+------+--------+------+
|    6 | -51.40 | 0.00 |
+------+--------+------+

The reason that the preceding example seems to work is that on the particular machine where the test was done, CPU floating-point arithmetic happens to round the numbers to the same value. However, there is no rule that any CPU should do so, so this method cannot be trusted.

The correct way to do floating-point number comparison is to first decide on an acceptable tolerance for differences between the numbers and then do the comparison against the tolerance value. For example, if we agree that floating-point numbers should be regarded the same if they are same within a precision of one in ten thousand (0.0001), the comparison should be written to find differences larger than the tolerance value:

mysql> SELECT i, SUM(d1) AS a, SUM(d2) AS b FROM t1
    -> GROUP BY i HAVING ABS(a - b) > 0.0001;
+------+--------+------+
| i    | a      | b    |
+------+--------+------+
|    6 | -51.40 | 0.00 |
+------+--------+------+
1 row in set (0.00 sec)

Conversely, to get rows where the numbers are the same, the test should find differences within the tolerance value:

mysql> SELECT i, SUM(d1) AS a, SUM(d2) AS b FROM t1
    -> GROUP BY i HAVING ABS(a - b) <= 0.0001;
+------+-------+-------+
| i    | a     | b     |
+------+-------+-------+
|    1 | 21.40 | 21.40 |
|    2 | 76.80 | 76.80 |
|    3 |  7.40 |  7.40 |
|    4 | 15.40 | 15.40 |
|    5 |  7.20 |  7.20 |
+------+-------+-------+

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