Fun with Travis CI and PHP projects

I know I should have done this a long time ago, but I finally got my hands dirty with Travis CI.  I wanted to set up a php project on github to use Travis CI to monitor the status, in case I forgot to run the tests prior to pushing.  Unfortunately it was not as easy as it’s made out to be.  But now that I’ve done it once, it’ll be easier next time.  So, here is how I tackled it.

First, creating an account and getting started was easy.  I simply clicked the “sign in” link on the Travis CI site and entered my github credentials which authorized Travis CI to connect to my account. (the site informs you exactly what Travis CI will have access to)  Once that’s done Travis gets all my repos, so I can then activate them for Travis CI.  If that doesn’t happen automatically there is a handy “sync now” button to coax Travis CI.

NOTE: To connect public repos you would use https://travis-ci.org, while for private repos you would use https://travis-ci.com.  While pubic repos are free private ones cost money, though you do get 100 pushes free to get you started.

Second, it’s now time to click the + and add a new repo to be tracked by Travis CI.  After clicking you will be presented with a list of your repos to choose from.  It is simply a matter of turning the repo ON by clicking the switch.  I also clicked the wrench to select the option to “Built only if .travis.yml is present”.

Travis CI add repo

The structure of the app I added looks like this: (including all files needed for travis and unit testing) https://github.com/adamculp/api-consumer

Application structure

Third, I needed to create the .travis.yml file with the directives needed to make it all work.  Here is what my file looked like.

travis.yml file

Pretty simple.  Here is what it all means: I specified what language to use (php), and what versions of the language to test with (5.3, 5.4, and 5.5), I also instructed to have Composer install prior to any other scripts run (needed to ensure there was an autoloader, created by Composer), and finally I add the phpunit command and tell it where to find the phpunit.xml file (in this case it was in the tests directory).

Fourth, ensure that PHPUnit runs as expected locally.  Yes, you will need unit tests on your code.  That’s like one of the main reasons to do this in the first place.  Here is what my phpunit.xml and bootstrap.php look like:

phpunit.xml file

The phpunit.xml file is fairly simple.  It informs where PHPUnit can find the bootstrap.php file (same directory as a the phpunit.xml), and sets a whitelist of directory where code can be found (some use a blacklist and specify not to use the /vendor directory), and what directory to find tests in (the current directory).

phpunit bootstrap.php file

The bootstrap.php file specified by the phpunit.xml file is even simpler, as it only specifies where to find the autoload.php file created by the Composer install.

Fifth, take a quick peek at the settings for the repo on github and you will notice that Travis CI should be already set up and ready for something to be pushed.

github settings

Final, that’s it!  That is everything needed for Travis CI.  Of course this example is very simplistic, since the repo and tests are only on a single wrapper class I created.  But it’s good enough for a start, and if you need more the documentation is pretty good.  With these files created, all that remains is for me to commit changes to git, then do a push to origin at github.  Once the push to origin happens a Travis CI trigger at github fires and informs Travis CI to create a new build on a VM (virtual machine) then run the tests on the newest code.  After Travis CI finishes it lets you know with an email, and through the site. (green = good)

Travis CI feedback

One last thing you may want to do is add the Travis CI image to your README.md at github.  This will allow you and others to see whether the current master branch had a successful build, or if it failed.

[![Build Status](https://travis-ci.org/adamculp/api-consumer.svg?branch=master)](https://travis-ci.org/adamculp/api-consumer)

Travis CI build status indicator

Enjoy!

Developer Anxiety, we’re not alone

Yesterday I was approached by a developer, apprentice, friend, and sometimes mentor, who was having some personal issues.  I consider this person to be very strong, and capable of great things.  I’ve watched over some years, and I’m really impressed with their progress personally as well as professionally.  However, these facts only increased the shock of what they revealed to me, and must have been very difficult for them to share.

During the conversation it was revealed how they’re experiencing HUGE anxiety, complete with panic attacks, and are even consulting a physician who prescribed medication for it.  As this person spoke I could see the anxiety levels grow within through their body language , and witnessed the “deer caught in headlights” look as they wrestled on the precipice of going into another panic attack.  Though I had someplace I needed to be, I knew I couldn’t leave this person alone to struggle as I had so often in the past.  So I lingered, and we talked until the ebb had calmed.

My heart went out to my friend because I’ve dealt with the same feelings and problems, and had always done it alone. (Except for a few trips to the ER in past years to ensure it wasn’t really a heart attack.)  Oh, how well I can recall the feelings of fear and doubt.  Not knowing when my body will randomly boost my adrenalin to extreme levels that push me over the edge, fighting for my next breath until my chest loosens again.

Yes, I know I “seem” different in person as I talking loudly and laughing at conferences.  It has taken me many years to get to that point.  And yes, inside I’m constantly forcing down the roiling anxiety that never truly subsides.  So don’t get caught up in the stereotypical idea that someone with anxiety is this lonely person crying while huddled in a ball in the corner.  That is not me.  My stress and anxiety doesn’t come from being around people (unless they’re stupid), or from public speaking and such things.  I’m fairly social, but stress by other things such as deadlines, lack of requirements, distractions, fear of failure, and bad code, can be just as damaging.

Another common misconception is that anxiety is caused by the stress of the moment, which is simply not true.  A doctor I consulted with in the past informed me that anxiety can be caused by stresses from as long as six month ago.  So moving to a new home may seem OK at the time, but up to 6 months from now we suffer from the effects of the stress.  So, by the time we have an anxiety attack it’s too late to fix it.  All we can do is deal with the anxiety and push through it somehow.

For each of us the cause is slightly different, because we each struggle with our own problems and/or OCDs.  For my friend it was developer related stresses that many of us deal with:

  • Working on a development team and not kept busy enough, so we internalizing the many things that weigh on our shoulders in such situations.  Will we be downsized because someone realizes we’re not busy?  What should we do with our time?  Is the company failing due to lack of feature requests?  Is it fair to collect a paycheck for filling time?  Am I not good enough?  And the list goes on.
  • Working on a codebase that really needs a major refactor, but nobody will give the OK to do it.
  • Witnessing a company rewriting an application, and realizing it’s as bad as the original.
  • Wanting to contribute, but not knowing how to start.  Sure, it’s easy to say, “Just pick a project and start.”  But in reality it’s not that easy internally.
  • Impossibly tight deadlines.
  • Lack of requirements for a project.
  • Relocating.
  • Can’t seem to keep pace with new technologies.
  • Open work spaces.
  • Noises, motion, or cube drive-by ending in a meeting.
  • Having questions, but not wanting to bother others by asking.
  • Feel like an imposter. (see imposter syndrome)
  • Feeling your alone, or perhaps your some “weirdo” because nobody else speaks about these things.

Some advice I gave, based on how I handle things:

  • Tension Tamer tea by Celestial Seasons.
  • Licorice root capsules twice a day when stress is high. (but as one commenter added, can cause side-effects)
  • Learning how to say “no” to tight deadlines.
  • Take a walk during lunch time.
  • Read a book.  Not a technical one.  Something not related to work. Maybe something inspirational, or a fiction.
  • Learned how to gather requirements for projects, and do proper time estimates.
  • Running, or some other physical activity to get the heart rate up 20 minutes or more a day.
  • Talk with others, even though we would rather be alone. (maybe even professional listeners)
  • Join, or create, a user group to pull others like me together.
  • Teach others how to create better code, so I don’t need to see bad code as often. (never ending)
  • Work from home.
  • Get a new job. Not a new profession. (extreme, but sometimes it’s the only way)
  • Get an annual checkup, so I know I’m healthy and not having a heart attack when anxiety kicks in.

I don’t really have the answers, nobody does.  But felt I should create this post and put it out there.  Perhaps others will read it and realize they’re not alone.  And sometimes just knowing that can help lessen the stress levels.

How do you handle the stress?

NOTE: I received permission from my friend to share this story, so it wouldn’t cause any more stress and anxiety by sharing it without their knowing.

Categorized under: linux, php, Sendmail, Ubuntu, Zend Server

Zend Server and Sendmail failure bug

While trying to test the sendmail feature of Zend Server 6.3, on Ubuntu and CentOS, there was a bug.  I discovered that utilizing the Mail Preferences area of the Adminitration->Settings page and sending a test email to myself with the Sendmail option ended in an “Unknown error”.

The error returned by Zend Framework 2, which is used by Zend Server 6 was a generic error (Unknown error) if Sendmail returned an error status, but an empty error message.  Not much help, or was it?

Since the error appeared to be caused by Sendmail not returning a proper error the search for the issue led there.  See where my logic was going? My next step was to test sending an email with the PHP mail() function, and see if that shed any light on the issue.  Unfortunately it worked, which meant the issue was elsewhere.  But if the error wasn’t with PHP, Apache, Sendmail, Zend Server, or Zend Framework, where could it be?

At this point I enlisted one of my coworkers, Roman Basayev, who nailed it down.

Of course!  Zend Server on Linux installs Lighttpd for the Zend Server gui, and there must be a setting there for using Sendmail.  Sure enough in the file ‘/usr/local/zend/gui/lighttpd/etc/php-fcgi.ini’ there is a setting for ‘sendmail_path’ and it was empty.  So PHP running on Lighttpd was not able to find Sendmail, and therefore was not getting a decent error message.

The fix:

In the file ‘/usr/local/zend/gui/lighttpd/etc/php-fcgi.ini’ update the ‘sendmail_path’ to be ‘/usr/sbin/sendmail -ti’.  These are the paths on Ubuntu and CentOS, others may vary.

sendmail_path = "/usr/sbin/sendmail -ti"

After restarting Zend Server, all should be good  to go now.

Simple reminder to keep it simple

This morning a tweet caught my attention prompting me to read this post by Gary Hockin also known as @GeeH. (There’s just something about that voice.[inside joke])  In the post he talks of his experiences while attempting to simplify code in a project, and in the process uncovers hidden dependencies that increased the codebase significantly in order to gain the benefit of a mere 100 lines of code.  He also highlights that in today’s mainstream PHP development, where many are using Composer to blindly include packages into applications, we may not fully understand code being pulled in with the consequence of accepting responsibility to maintain those additional packages as well.

I’ll wait a second while that sinks in…

Yes, that’s right.  If you include additional packages and libraries into your application your accepting the responsibility to maintain them.  No, I’m not saying you are responsible for contributing to the software package…unless you care to.  What I’m saying is you are now in charge of updating the software within your application, which now includes additional packages created by others.  As security holes get fixed, or new versions come out fixing bugs, it is up to you to ensure you update these packages in your applications which include them.

You’ve been living in a dream world Neo

Ha, didn’t think about that, did you?  If you did, Bravo, your behaving like a professional.  For the rest, welcome to reality.  Now go update the applications you’ve neglected.  But first a side note.

I’m not saying Composer is bad.  Actually I think the opposite.  Composer is awesome, and you should be using it if your not already.  As in the post by Gary above I’m simply saying it’s our professional duty to know what we’re asking Composer to do on our behalf.  Use it responsibly and do a bit of research so you’re not blindly including potential issues, bugs, security holes, and nightmares to maintain in the future.  Then if your satisfied with what you see, go ahead and “require” away.

But wait!  Don’t just look at the packages you’re including into your codebase.  Also take a look at their dependencies as well, because you are also accepting them in the process.  Know what you’re saying “yes” to.

Past knowledge

None of what I’m saying is new stuff.  A while back, in the beginning of 2012 (I thought it was earlier for some reason), Ed Finkler @funkatron wrote the original MicroPHP Manifesto to voice his concern over many frameworks starting to grow in size. (NOTE: Later there was a separate domain dedicated to housing the MicroPHP Manifesto, but I like the original better because the blog post associated with it helps highlight why it’s a concern.)  I encourage you to check it out and consider the meaning, and how it relates to your projects.

Again, nobody is saying large full frameworks are evil or other libraries should not be used.  The idea behind all of this is to caution, so you go in with your eyes open and “know” what you’re including in the codebase.  Know the responsibilities accepted by including other libraries.

Happy coding!

Zend Framework 2 XML Sitemap

While tweaking the SunshinePHP site to be a bit more SEO friendly I realized we had neglected to create a sitemap for search engines to find.  I was pleasantly surprised to see the Navigation component of Zend Framework 2 includes a bunch of view helpers, including a Sitemap helper.  So now I have an xml sitemap created by Zend Framework 2 that works hand in hand with the site navigation.  However, the documentation was not complete as of this writing and caused me to do a bit of trial and error debugging to get it working.  Below I will post how I got it working, in hopes it will help others. (If the ZF2 folks like this post I will go in an update the documentation later.)  As with most things in Zend Framework 2 there may be more than one way to do things, but this is how I did it. (Until someone informs me of a better way.)

Module Config

In the Application module.config.php I created a factories node in the service_manager container where I pulled in the DefaultNavigationFactory.

factory

Then I also added a navigation container where I specified the sitemap for the site.

NOTE: To add navigation specific for each module you would simply create this container in the specific module.config.php.

navigation

Next I added a route for the future sitemap to be viewed.  Notice how I simply added a sitemapAction to the Application IndexController.  You can add it wherever you desire if you want to create a separate controller or whatever, I just left it there.

route

Layout

Because I just want the xml produced by the helper, I created a blank layout xml.phtml that does nothing more than output the content of the view.

layout

View

The sitemap.phtml view is also pretty simple and outputs the xml sitemap created by the helper.

view

Controller

In my controller I specified the layout to use, nothing more was needed.

controller

Verify

By navigation to the URL specified in the route we should now be able to view the XML output.

sitemap

Future

In this example someone would need to navigate to /sitemap to view the sitemap, but some automated tools would try to go to /sitemap.xml which would fail with this setup.  I will come back at some point in the future and enable the file extension to be ignored (after I figure out how).

Conclusion

The entire process is really pretty simple once the pieces are all in place, and the output was accepted by the various search engine webmaster tools…SCORE!

PHPUnit, Composer, PHPStorm, Oh my!

Installing PHPUnit within a project via Composer, then running tests through PHPStorm is not an intuitive process. However, with the right steps it’s actually pretty simple. Here is my story:

To launch the call for papers for the SunshinePHP Developer Conference it was a pleasure to use the OpenCFP project as a starting point rather than creating the entire thing from scratch.  While the project is still a “beta” with a few wrinkles to get ironed out, it’s still a pretty nice effort. (I have a pull requests pending, and another to submit.  Love open source!)

For my CFP I wanted a few more fields of information than the “out of the box” setup, so I quickly added them to the app.  However, doing this meant the included unit tests would fail.  But wait, I hadn’t run the unit tests yet!  I realized immediately how spoiled I had become with today’s modern frameworks with a testing method built in.  This little project did not have that luxury, so I would need to run the tests the old fashioned way, or let an IDE do it for me.  I decided to configure PHPStorm do it. (I’ll do the same for Zend Studio in another post later.)

The way OpenCFP was set up, using Composer, meant that PHPUnit was already placed in the /vendor directory as a requirement in the composer.json.  So rather than taking the lazy way out and using the PHPUnit already installed globally on my system, I wanted to use the latest PHPUnit within the project.  This requires 2 setup steps in PHPStorm.

Step 1

To start I needed to inform the IDE where to find the Composer autoload file and leverage the awesome PSR-0 goodness to autoload PHPUnit in the /vendor directory.  To do this I open the Settings via the icon on the toolbar, or by using the File->Settings menu item, or hitting the Ctrl+Alt+S keyboard shortcut.  Then in the Project Settings (top section) I expanded PHP to get the PHPUnit dialog.

PHPUnit setup in PHPStorm

Step 2

Now I had to add a Run/Debug Configuration for the project.  I did this by clicking on the toolbar dropdown and selecting Edit Configurations.

Edit Configuration

Once the dialog opened I clicked the “+” to add a run configuration, and select the PHPUnit type.

Choose configuration type

Now it was just a matter of adding the directory where the tests reside. (Name the configuration to your taste.)

Location of tests

All done!!!  Now I was able to run the tests simply by selecting the new run configuration defined in the dropdown, and clicking the Run button in the toolbar.

Good luck, and happy testing!

Categorized under: Quick Tips, VirtualBox

Copy and paste from virtual machines to host

With the growth of using virtual machines as development environments, thanks to great projects like Vagrant and Puphpet.com, I have been using virtual environments for most of my development these days.  On some occasions, because I use Ubuntu as my primary operating system on my development laptop, I have the need for a Windows environment in order to work with certain clients. (Sad, I know.)

Well, while using these Windows environments it is a royal pain if I cannot copy and paste back and forth between the host and virtual machine.  So I have always resorted to installing the Guest Additions (I use VirtualBox) to make this possible.  However, recently this stopped working for some reason.  I honestly didn’t have the time to investigate so just overlooked it and kept going. (I honestly don’t use a gui very often within a vm.)

Today I finally got tired of looking the other way and investigated why I couldn’t copy/paste between host and vm.

The Fix

Turns out there is a very easy solution.  I guess at some point the copy/paste functionality setting is turned off by default.  So I simply needed to click on the VirtualBox “Devices” menu drill into the “Shared Clipboard” submenu and then select the option I desired.

Now things are working as I expected.

Categorized under: php, profiling, programming, Quick Tips

XHProf PHP Profiling

Today I set up my development environment so I can use XHProf to profile PHP scripts when needed, and it was pretty easy.

For starters, I use Ubuntu as the operating system for my desktop environment. So while the information below may be helpful, I will not cover any other OS in my descriptions.

XHProf is a PECL package, and can be easily installed by using standard PECL commands.  However, XHProf is still beta and the default settings of PECL will only install stable packages.  Don’t fear, there is a way within PECL to handle this by appending “-beta” to the end of the module name: (also note how I am using sudo to act as the admin user on Ubuntu)

sudo pecl install xhprof-beta

After issuing the command PECL will do its job of installing the PHP module but will not add it to the php.ini, so that must be done manually.  The default location of the php.ini in Ubuntu is at ‘/etc/php5/apache2/php.ini’, so we edit it there:

sudo vi /etc/php5/apache2/php.ini

We add a single line to the end of the php.ini to activate the module:

extension=xhprof.so

Then we restart Apache for the new setting to take affect:

sudo service apache2 restart

At this point we now have the XHProf module in PHP for Apache related calls to PHP.  If we add ‘phpinfo();’ to a PHP file and view it in a browser we see XHProf is now available for use.

NOTE: This does not make XHProf available for CLI activity. (command line run PHP scripts)  We also need to add the extension to the ‘/etc/php5/cli/php.ini’ file as well to make it available via command line PHP.

Now that XHProf is ready to be used I added it to the PHP script I wanted to profile.  Basically this is just a command to kick off the profiling at the beginning of the script, and some commands to save the results at the end of the script.

In the beginning add the following to start recording at the beginning, and adds CPU and memory info to the output:

xhprof_enable(XHPROF_FLAGS_CPU + XHPROF_FLAGS_MEMORY);

Then at the end add the following to halt profiling and then using XHProf utilities create the output:

$xhprof_data = xhprof_disable();
$appNamespace = 'some_namespace_here';
include_once '/usr/share/php/xhprof_lib/utils/xhprof_lib.php';
include_once '/usr/share/php/xhprof_lib/utils/xhprof_runs.php';
 
$xhprof_runs = new XHProfRuns_Default();
$xhprof_runs->save_run($xhprof_data, $appNamespace);

NOTE: XHProf will dump the results in the ‘/tmp’ location on the system named something like {run_id}.{app_namespace}.xhprof (Ex.- 51f384b8cb9f2.some_namespace_here.xhprof), but the contents are not truly human readable.  I recommend using the tools provided by XHProf to help make them viewable in HTML.

How I made XHProf files pretty

I am Lazy a HUGE fan of doing things simple, so to make the XHProf output readable and easier to use I simply created 3 files in my document root of Apache like so:

index.php

include_once '/usr/share/php/xhprof_html/index.php';

callgraph.php

include_once '/usr/share/php/xhprof_html/callgraph.php';

typeahead.php

include_once '/usr/share/php/xhprof_html/typeahead.php';

No sense in reinventing the wheel.  These 3 files simply included the files already existing in the XHProf module, which call the output files directly from the ‘/tmp’ location on my system.

By calling to http://localhost/index.php I am now greeted with a list of links representing the different files output from XHProf to the ‘/tmp’ location as I executed the PHP scripts calling to XHProf. (shown below)

xhprof_files

Now when I click on the individual links I can view the output from XHProf in a friendly HTML format, like below:

xhprof_details

So, there we go.  Enjoy!

Developer advice

As the organizer of the SoFloPHP User Group I am often approached by entry to mid-level developers asking what they can do to advance in their career or become better developers.  Of course I am nowhere near perfect but have been around long enough to get a few bumps and bruises along the way, so below is what I usually share as some pointers:

Note: While some of these items are kind of PHP specific, others may find useful items as well.

  • No self-respecting person should be up at 4:05am sending emails.  Get some sleep. :)  It is OK to stay up late once in awhile, but force yourself to get to bed at a decent time (10) each day.  And try to get up early each day also (6 or 7), which will help you get much more out of your days. ;)
    • The myths about developers working all night on caffeine are false.  Yes, it happens sometimes, but it is rare.  Well rested developers learn more, write better code, and get more work done…period!
  • Track your time, and get in the habit of knowing what you did with each hour.  I personally use Hamster religiously, and find that I get much more done each day as a result. (I have it set to nag me every 15 minutes if I have not set an activity.)  If you are not using Linux as your desktop environment I am sure there are time trackers for the other operating systems, find one.
  • Certifications will not actually carry much value on your resume, so I would not make them a main focus.  Sure they do carry some value, but perhaps not in the way you desire.  Achieving a certification is a great personal accomplishment and will make you feel better about yourself, as well as give you bragging rights among developers.  (Most developers tell you they don’t care about certifications, but deep inside they are simply envious.)  While many certifications are not a true gauge of actual knowledge, they do represent a certain amount of skills.  However, I have found that most employers do not even notice certifications.  I am not saying don’t get them. What I am saying is to be aware the actual accomplishment may be different than you perceive.  When I started getting certifications it reinforced, in my own mind, that I knew what I was doing.  That gave me more confidence overall in my jobs, and was still a big “win”.  But do them in your spare time, not as a focus item.
  • Pick an IDE to use and learn it FULLY. I will not recommend one in this post, so explore and find one that fits how you want to work.  Then learn it COMPLETELY, and use it ALWAYS.
    • If an IDE causes you pain, don’t use it any more.  Pick another one.  This tool will be where you spend most of your day, so you should not be forced to spend your time debugging and fixing your IDE.  It should not crash regularly.  You should not dread opening it, instead you should look forward to launching it.
    • Use all parts of your chosen IDE. (FTP, version control, testing, coding, debugging, issue tracking, etc.)
    • Learn the keyboard shortcuts, they will save you time.
    • Just because an IDE is free does not mean it is good.  You should base purchases on value provided, not $$$.
  • Pick a plain text editor, and learn it well.  There are times you just need to do a quick edit, and opening an IDE, creating a project, etc. is just overkill for this.  Again, there are many of these available so I will not recommend a certain one.  Pick what you like best.
    • The best ones come with syntax highlighting.
    • There are some free ones, but don’t be afraid to pay a few bucks for a good one.
  • Pick a pet “full stack” PHP framework to learn, FULLY.  I recommend either Zend Framework 2, Symfony2, or CakePHP 2.* since these 3 are the most common.  But as with an IDE you should learn one COMPLETELY, and use it most of the time.  Each framework has its strengths and weaknesses, so choose one that works best for you.
    • Good frameworks have mechanisms in place where you can add plugins, modules, or helpers in case the framework does not fully support what your trying to do.  But stick to the framework as much as possible.
    • Feel free to write your own framework, but ignore the urge to use it for employers.  As professional developers we owe it to our employers to use more widely available frameworks.  It is just smart business.  It means businesses can find other developers easier, onboard them faster, and train the group more.
  • Always strive to make yourself replaceable.  If you are replaceable you are also promotable, and you can go on vacation pain free.
  • Learn to use GIT for source control, and use it for EVERY project you do no matter how small.  Sure there are other source control products out there, but currently GIT is the way to go.  All it takes is the command ‘git init’ in a directory and you are of and running.  No excuses!
  • Do things publicly so others can see.  Such as github, BitBucket, etc.  I recommend having code in some sort of public place for others to see how you code.  Don’t be shy.  I’ve had other developers provide feedback on code I posted on github, in a constructive way, and it helped me advance my skills.
  • Your LinkedIn profile is your best career tool as a developer.  Tweak it, adjust it, get everyone you can to contribute to it.  Add projects to it, etc. (See “Build your brand” below.)  Don’t connect with everyone who pops up, and be stingy with what recruiters you allow to connect with you.  If someone is not going to help your career in some way, they do not belong in your connections on LinkedIn.
  • Pick up small projects here and there that are NOT urgent, and you can take your time on.  These little projects will afford you a way to learn new things.
  • Get active in the PHP community.  I mean really active.  Sure, it’s OK to be a member of other communities as well, but the PHP community (world-wide as well as local) is what will really “do it” for you. (If you are going to make a career doing PHP.)
  • Give talks at local user groups, blog about your experiences, follow other blogs of good people (phpdeveloper.org is a good place to see activity of PHP community members blogs. Chris Cornutt does a great job at filtering out relevant posts and adds the best of them on this site.)
  • Get somewhat active on Twitter, join IRC channels, travel to a couple of conferences each year and get to know people “doing things”.  Then eventually start submitting talks to the conferences so you can go talk, and have your expenses covered to go to it.
  • Build your “brand”.  By this I mean to say YOU are the product.  Everything you say and do is your offering.  Your name is your “brand”.  Build the reputation carefully, and before you do anything ask yourself, “Will my customers like/buy this?”  If the answer is “yes”, then go for it.  If the answer is “no” re-evaluate.
  • If you are a woman, be careful.  While women are becoming a larger part of the tech community there are still many men who are not used to it yet.  They are jerks, and your feelings will get hurt sometimes in the process.  Learn to ignore them and focus on the good parts as you grow.  KNOW you are going to do great things, and work toward that progress.
  • Learn Linux via command line.  No need to go crazy with this one, but since most web servers are on Linux it is a good idea to have some knowledge in this area.  You should at very least know:
    • Basic vim commands to edit files on the server.
    • Be able to navigate the OS files and directories.
    • Be able to manipulate files on the server. (cut, copy, paste)
  • Spend some time each day on Stackoverflow.  Try to pick a problem someone posted and help them.  “Doing” is the best way to learn, and there are plenty of problems posted to Stackoverflow daily.  This is addictive, so manage your time and limit yourself.  But do it!

Of course there are many more tips, but I wanted to hit on some key items without writing a book on this blog post.  I hope you find this information helpful, and if you can think of some other hints and tips please feel free to share in the comments.

Good luck!!!

Categorized under: linux, OS, Quick Tips, servers

CentOS networking not active after installation

I needed to install a CentOS 6.4 server in a VM and after installing I was not able to hit anything on the Internet, or any network for that matter.  When I tried using the yum packages manager I received the error “Couldn’t resolve host ‘mirrorlist.centos.org…” and I was at a loss on what to do next.  I was not able to ping anything.

This led me to look into the networking and and upon opening the /etc/resolv.conf I found it totally empty.  So I then opened /etc/sysconfig/network-scripts/ifcfg-eth0 and found the issue.  The line “ONBOOT” was set to “no”.

The complete file /etc/sysconfig/network-scripts/ifcfg-eth0 after I altered it: (NOTE: the only thing I altered was the ONBOOT flag.)

DEVICE=eth0
HWADDR=09:00:27:D7:61:8D
TYPE=Ethernet
UUID=q93perfj-earf-ewrf-wqer-546877145475
ONBOOT=yes
NM_CONTROLLED=yes
BOOTPROTO=dhcp

After changing “ONBOOT” to “yes”, then rebooted for the configuration to take effect, all is good now.  I probably could have simply done a networking restart, but reboot on a fresh system was pretty fast.

Categorized under: php, php community, programming

PHP usage statistics

Every once in awhile I stumble across someone who is trying to find their way and decide what they  will do in their career.  As the organizer of a PHP user group I see many new developers passing through.  Of course I always speak of how strong PHP is in the web markets, and encourage new web developers to pursue PHP as a tool in their box of goodies.  Because as a web developer it would be a career limiting move to not have any knowledge of PHP.  Here is why:

Stats on website technologies

http://w3techs.com/technologies/overview/programming_language/all

In the link above we can see some enlightening metrics on PHP usage in websites:

  • PHP is used by 79.8% of all websites where the server technology is known.
  • The next closest competitor is ASP.Net at 19.8%.
  • Java is seriously trailing in web at 3.5%.
  • Ruby is hardly represented at 0.5%.

NOTE: A website may use more than one technology, so the numbers are not a perfect 100%.

I was a little shocked to see how high the numbers were when I saw them.  I mean, what about github, and Basecamp, and other sites using alternative technologies?  Well, after more thought I realized that while these popular sites do use non-PHP technologies, they are just single sites.  However when taken into account in the scope of the entire web, they only count as one.

Note on limited career moves

Now don’t take what I am saying totally wrong.  I am not so naive to think a web developers cannot survive without PHP in their toolbox.  I realize there are many developers using alternative technologies who have never touched PHP, and they are able to survive.  I am simply saying that if a web developer really wants to do well they will run into PHP more often than not, and it would be a shame if they were not able to play in that ballpark.

The 20.2% of websites not using PHP is still a very large number.  According to Netcraft there are around 672 million active websites at last estimation.  Which means there are around 139 million websites not running PHP.

PHP Versions

To get a little more fine grain, lets look at what version of PHP is being used:

http://w3techs.com/technologies/details/pl-php/all/all

In that link we see:

  • PHP version 5 is used for 97.1% of all PHP websites.
  • PHP version 4 is used for 2.9%

For those still using PHP 4, it is time to make solid plans to get updated.  It has been almost 9 years since PHP version 5 was released.  That is a very long time, and those old PHP 4 sites and applications need to be updated. (Aim for the current version 5.4)

Now within PHP version 5 there are many sub-versions, so to gain more insight into how this breaks down we look at the following link:

http://w3techs.com/technologies/details/pl-php/5/all

So:

  • PHP 5.2 and 5.3 make up the largest share with 93.2% of the overall
  • PHP 5.3 is 49.6%, which I think should be higher
  • Newer 5.4 is very low at only 4.1%.

I was sad to see version 5.3 was not significantly higher than 5.2, but it kinda makes sense.  Because 5.3 was such a drastic change in the object model introducing namespaces, late static bindings, and closure, many developers feel intimidated to update their servers from 5.2 to 5.3 even though the upgrade would most likely not break anything in their code.

I would encourage anyone running their code on 5.2 to try out 5.3 or 5.4 on a “testing” server, then if all is well plan to migrate in production as well.  Then they can take advantage of more speed and include some of the new technologies that came with 5.3 and 5.4 in their code.

We can clearly see how much PHP rules the web space.  But what about elsewhere?

Overall programming language usage

I thought I would share another stat about programming languages as a whole, regardless of where they are used.

http://www.tiobe.com/index.php/content/paperinfo/tpci/index.html

Here we can see PHP still ranks pretty high, and has been holding pretty steady for some time. While PHP rules where it was “intended” to be used (websites), it is versatile enough to still rank high overall.

In closing

So yes, there are many programming languages out there and I encourage all developers to learn as much as they can. But as professionals we cannot possibly learn them all and be good at all of them.  So I say pick one, and learn it very well while still dabbling with others.

There is nothing wrong with building a career around PHP, and it can be quite profitable since PHP is so wide spread.

Above all, live up to the title “Professional Developer” and always strive to learn more. And if you are a web programmer it would be a mistake in your career (in my opinion) not to know the most predominant technology in the space…PHP.

Skype sounds audio distorted in Ubuntu

Now that I have Skype installed on Ubuntu 13.04 I discovered that the various Skype sounds were distorted.  It was almost like the sounds had some static mixed in with them.  I thought it was probably just a problem with the new version of Skype, or the new sound drivers.  However, I made a discovery that fixed the issue.

I tried the AlsaMixer fix, but it didn’t work. (A reboot simply resets the PCM to 100 again, and the sound is still crackly.)  So it all came down to a simple file edit to get it fixed.

Edit the file /etc/pulse/default.pa using the command:

sudo gedit /etc/pulse/default.pa

Add the following to the end of the line shown:

pulse audio file

So after adding “tsched=0″ to the end of the line “load-module module-udev-detect” you will be all set.  After a reboot the sounds is still good.

Enjoy!  Hope it works for you.

Skype for Ubuntu 13.04 Ringtail

I am running the new version of Ubuntu 13.04 Raring Ringtail, and so far really like it.  However I’ve had a bit of trouble with Skype, because I could not get it to use the indicator area of the tray.  Other than that it seemed to work fine.

When I installed Skype I did it from the Skype website, and didn’t realize there was a package at http://archive.canonical.com/ partners already carrying it because that repository is not turned on by default for Aptitude.

The repository can be activated by either command line, or by using the Software & Updates which enable it for command line or Ubuntu Software Center, or Synaptic Package Manager.

Via terminal:

sudo add-apt-repository "deb http://archive.canonical.com/ $(lsb_release -sc) partner"
sudo apt-get update

Via GUI:

Open the System Settings and click on the Software & Updates icon, or using the Dash you can simply type “Software & Updates”.  Once it opens you can select the “Other Software” tab and check the first box titled Canonical Partners.

Software and Updates

Now we are able to install Skype from the Canonical Partners repository no matter what method you wish to use.

Install Methods:

From terminal

sudo apt-get install skype

Or search for it through Ubuntu Software Center or Synaptic Package Manager and install nromally.

It will install some other required packages with it, but after the install it now works as expected with the indicator and all.

Enjoy!

Hack-a-thons are not “normal”

In life I tend to do things a bit strange.  Not what most would consider “normal”.  For instance, I run thousands of miles each year and have been known to run up to 100 miles in a single week. (Yes, run.)  I am a black belt in Judo, and enjoy being thrown to the ground, only to bounce up and get my turn bouncing someone else.  I love scuba diving, and feel a great sense of relaxation while deep under water with only the sounds of my own breathing and bubbles around me.  I’m the organizer of a PHP user group, and the organizer of a PHP conference.  My family and I take vacations where we hike 30 or more miles over a few days, and come home feeling rested.  To top it all off, I love to refactor code!

So, no, I do not live life in the “normal” zone.

However, when it comes to coding PHP I do things pretty much as you would expect from a senior developer.  Most of what I do is pretty normal, with only a small dash of interesting here and there to satisfy some exotic needs.  Of course I spend most of my time these days refactoring other people’s code, but even then it is pretty normal and usually falls into a normal pattern.

Then a couple weeks ago I had the great opportunity to organize my first hack-a-thon for the South Florida PHP User Group (SoFloPHP), and it sure was an eye opening experience for me.  Things kicked off pretty normal as most attendees split up into groups and started discussing their projects for the day, and the coding began.  I also had a small project I intended to work on, but ended up spending most of my day pulled between groups to help out in one way or another.  Questions on how to set up hosting, how to use Git version control and github, as well as how to use CakePHP.  I loved it, and really enjoyed helping others with their projects.

Later in the day I was helping someone with a Git workflow when he said something that hit me squarely in the face.  He said, “I do not get to use Git in my normal job, so it is nice to do it here.”  Now this is not the first time I have heard such a thing, but for some reason it really sunk in this time as I realized that hack-a-thons are not for “normal” things we do every day.  Instead we enjoy hack-a-thons and other social coding activities because it affords us a chance to learn new things, use technologies we would not normally get to touch, and to go beyond our “normal” things.

This opened up a whole new world for me, and from now on I have another way of looking at these social activities.  Attending activities like this are educational, enlightening, and door opening as well as presenting a social aspect that really helps developers advance their skills and networks.

I can’t wait until the next one.

Categorized under: command line, linux, mac, programming, Ubuntu, vi, vim

Saving a read-only file edited in vi / vim

We’ve all done it…opened a file using vi or vim to inspect the contents, and realize we need to alter it.  Of course we totally ignored the message informing we didn’t have permission to edit, so we’re only allowed to view it as “read-only”.  Then after we find the troublesome spot we hit “i” and happily edit the place needing changed, only to “face-palm” when we realize we cannot save the wonderful edit we just made.

In the past I handled this one of three ways: I either copied and pasted the change after reopening the file using sudo, or I reopened and retyped everything once again, or I save the file as a temp file and then rename it using sudo.  Very stupid, stressful and time consuming.

However, now I know a better way.  Using a combination of ‘tee’ and ‘sudo’ commands I can now save the read-only file rather than jumping through the hoops in the previous paragraph.  Here is how:

Open a file as normal, forgetting to use “sudo”, and therefore viewing a read-only file.
001-b_open_read_only

Then mistakenly try to edit the read-only file in the traditional manner.
002-b_insert-in-readonly-file

But when we try to save using ‘:w!’, SHIFT+ZZ, or :qw!, or whatever combination we normally fail with as an alternative.  Here is sample output of what we see:
003-b_try-to-save

At this point is where the new magic can happen. Instead of the normal “face-palm” we do not “ENTER” and move on. We can enter a new command and successfully save the file after entering the sudo password:
005-b_sudo-password

At this point we will be presented with the content of the file and a prompt to press ENTER or type another command. To simply save the file and move on we just press ENTER, and then press the letter “O” (oh). (NOTE: “L” seems to do pretty much the same thing.)  The file will be saved but remains open in vi/vim for more editing or reading.  We can now exit normally by typing “:q!” since the file is still open as “read-only”.
006-b_final-save

What the command does:

  • :w = Write a file.
  • !sudo = Call shell sudo command.
  • tee = The output of the vi/vim write command is redirected using tee.
  • % = Triggers the use of the current filename.
  • Simply put, the ‘tee’ command is run as sudo and follows the vi/vim command on the current filename given.
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About Me

Adam Culp (GeekyBoy)
Adam Culp (GeekyBoy) I am a South Florida PHP developer passionate about technology and post things here I find interesting, mostly so I remember, but also to help others. I'm a PHP 5.3 certified engineer and serve on the Zend Certification Advisory Board, and currently work as a Senior Professional Services Consultant with Zend Technologies. I am very active in national and local PHP community and organize the South Florida PHP Users Group (SoFloPHP), as well as the SunshinePHP Developer Conference in Miami. Read More >>
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