Stop the pain, upgrade to PHP 7

When I was young I played football at my local middle school…very terribly. I didn’t enjoy running with the heavy pads in the heat, and I definitely didn’t enjoy running into and hitting the other kids, most of which were larger than me. But in high school that all changed. Why? Because in middle school football was painful. Meanwhile in high school, well, it was still painful but there was something more pleasurable to offset the pain. It was the praises from the coach and the sounds of people cheering my name that truly made the difference.

See, in middle school, the coach seemed to focus more on the larger kids who could bully others, or the popular kids whose parents were the cornerstone of our small community. However, in 9th grade, it changed a bit because the coach was great at distributing his attention to the entire team. He would tell me “good job”, or “you can do better”, and he even let me play a game while my skills were catching up. These are things I didn’t have before, and it made a huge difference. I came to love playing and worked harder than I ever had to stay first string all season long rather than being satisfied with sitting on the sidelines watching others play.

So, now you may be asking, “What does this have to do with upgrading to PHP version 7?” The answer, because many are letting the pain of moving to PHP 7 prevent them from experiencing the pleasure and rewards.

PHP version 7.0 was released almost 2 years ago. (1 year 10 months to be exact.) And many are still running PHP version 5.something. As a matter of fact, PHP version 7.0 is already going to run out of active community support in only 1 month and will only receive security fixes for another year after that.

You can see the supported versions of PHP at http://php.net/supported-versions.php

The Pains

I get it. Upgrading to a new major version is painful. There are backward compatibility issues that caused it to be a new major version, to begin with, and now we need to jump through some hoops without any good reason. I mean, the app already works, right?

Add to this that there may be compatibility issues that have nothing to do specifically with PHP, but rather the individual libraries and packages we used in the past have not updated yet. Dependency hell is only a step away.

Also, how can we possibly endure the pain of explaining why we should upgrade to PHP version 7+ to management!?!

So we should just give up. Perhaps remaining on PHP 5.4, 5.5, or 5.6 is not so bad after all.

NO WAY! Read on!

Acclimation

Those pains aside, there are more that we’ve become acclimated to over time. We avoid upgrading because we’ve become used to the pain faced on a daily basis with what we currently have. It has become our comfort level. Meaning, we avoid the pleasures of advancing because we settle for what we already know.

Pleasure

In case you haven’t heard, PHP 7 brings a whole new level of FAST. Some companies have even recorded speeds of some apps to double. You read that right, “Double the speed in some apps.” That means customers get served web pages in half the time. Internal employees are able to navigate intranets, accounting software, and other internal apps in half the time. Imagine the productivity gains and reductions in salary required to have employees sitting at a screen waiting for the next page to come up. Imagine the customers who don’t click away from our products because it now loads faster!

In addition, many companies also noticed their resources (servers) running PHP apps with PHP 7 have dropped drastically. (about half) Meaning they can serve the same PHP applications on half the number of servers they used previously. If a company was using 100 servers to do business, they are now able to do the same thing with only 50 servers! That is a saving of 50 fewer servers needing to be hosted. Imagine the carbon footprint impact of that!

Note: Your mileage may vary, but many have shared real-time stats on this.

Some supporting posts and stats:

There are other pleasures of upgrading to PHP version 7.0. Among them are new features in the PHP language, such as scalar type declarations, return type declarationsnull coalescing operator, spaceship operator, constant array using define(), anonymous classesUnicode codepoint escape syntaxClosure::call()Filtered unserialize(), IntlChar, Expectations, Group use Declarations, Generator Return Expressions, Generator Delegation, Integer division with intdiv(), Session options, preg_replace_callback_array(), and CSPRNG functions

The upgrade to PHP version 7.1 brings pleasures in the form of even more performance improvements, as well as, Nullable types, Void functions, Symmetric Array Destructuring, Class Constant Visibility, iterable pseudo type, multi-catch exception handling, support for keys in list(), support for negative string offsets, convert callables to closures, asynchronous signal handling, and HTTP/2 server push support in ext/curl

And PHP version 7.2 also looks to carry many more great things, as PHP 7.3 is gaining form.

In Closing

Yes, there may be a little pain in upgrading to PHP 7, but overall the good parts far outweigh the pain. You’ll be glad you did it.

What are you waiting for? Get out there and feel good by upgrading your apps and servers to PHP 7 today!

Not to make this a sales pitch, but if you need any help upgrading, let me know. My team at Rogue Wave are here to help.

There is a great recorded webinar sharing more thoughts on migrating to PHP 7.

Happy PHP’ing!

Easy Docker dev environments for PHP with CloudEstuary

Lately I’ve been messing around with Docker, and specifically with containerizing PHP applications to perform quick services, such as static analysis of PHP code, compatibility of existing PHP code to specific versions of PHP, and performing security checks on PHP libraries included in my projects. However, I’ve not created a development environment for my projects using Docker.

Like most professional PHP developers, I’ve been using Vagrant to create virtual environments for most of my development. It works fantastic, but one of the downfalls is that it leads to a large VM file for each virtual machine taking up disk space on my laptop. This is unfortunate for a consultant like myself, who creates a separate VM for each client.

But today I found another way. A way to easily create PHP development environments with Docker. The fine folks at CloudEstuary have created an easy to use web-based tool to create PHP development environments (yml files) for use with Docker-compose.

CloudEstuary

The entire process was super easy, assuming we already have Docker and Docker-Compose installed.

Create a Project

To start I selected the framework, of which I decided to try this with the very popular Zend Framework in an application I’ve been working on, so I clicked the Zend Framework icon. The tool chosen will cause the runtime settings in the next section to be altered to accommodate.

Next I added a custom name for my project and chose PHP 7.1 for the Runtime, but left the rest of the items set as default.

Following that, there is a list of pre-existing Addons to be enabled as desired. It seems Postgres is selected by default, but it is simple enough to Remove it and select another solution if desired.

 Then the final step, as of this writing, was to add any workers if I desired. I’m not sure of the limits of what can be put there, but I’m sure documentation will be forthcoming.

Then, finally, I was able to click the Generate Docker Compose button to receive the docker-compose.yml file. The final result was a brief explanation of what to do next, and of course, the file contents.

The docker-compose file expects to be placed in a directory where the application to be served resides in an ‘html’ directory. Don’t worry, you can change this as needed. In my case I simply change the following portions of the yml file (3’ish places):

To become:

I placed the docker-compose.yml file to the root of my Zend Framework application. (on the same level as the composer.json file)

Additionally, I have a local installation of Apache running on port 80, so the docker-compose file would not work for me out of the box. It sets the Nginx server port forwarding to expect the host port 80 to forward to the Docker container port 80. So I updated the ports from this:

To become this:

Use It

Now I was ready to fire up the Docker container. I did this via CLI by navigating to the root of the application and issuing the docker-compose command.

After a couple minutes of Docker fetching various images, the container was running. Note: the terminal continues showing what it happening inside the container. (Nginx and other apps logs are output to the terminal)

Now I was able to pull up my awesome Zend Framework PHP app in the browser using the address http://localhost:8888

Add Account

One other nice feature of the site is the ability to create an account. I am told there will be more functionality around this later, but for now it allows you to see a list of all projects you’ve created, and enables you to edit the configurations.

Simply click the link to create an account:

Then you can see projects created while you were logged in via the “My Projects” menu item.

Closing

I hope you found this post helpful. Using Docker to create PHP development environments is easy. Enjoy!

Setting up local step debugging with Zend Studio

Setting up debugging in an IDE with a local PHP development environment has gotten so easy it can be done in a couple automated steps. In this post I will demonstrate how to get step debugging functioning with Zend Studio and Zend Debugger when the server is set up on a local environment.

To begin with, I had the following:

  • Local installation of Zend Server 8.5.+ (basic LAMP stack, but with Zend Debugger included in the Zend Server installation). Alternatively I could have had a vanilla LAMP environment with Xdebug.
  • Ensure that Z-Ray is active in the Zend Server settings.
  • A local project set up on Zend Studio, without the server set up in the Zend Studio project configuration. (in this example I have a Zend Expressive Skeleton ready)
  • The local project set up as an Apache virtualhost.

Ensure Zend Studio is running with the project we will debug open.

In a browser with the application rendered I click the debug icon in the Z-Ray toolbar at the foot of the window, and select the desired debugging action.

This will cause Zend Studio to prompt if we desire to use the Debug Perspective after it receives the debug connection from Zend Debugger. In most cases we can simply click Yes and let things happen normally.

That’s about it, we are debugging!

Closing

This was a very simplistic local development environment setup. We didn’t have a firewall to contend with, and the server was set up locally rather than inside a virtual machine. I have other posts, linked below, to help with some of these alternative setups.

Happy Debugging!

Other posts on Debugging you may find helpful:

Setting up local step debugging with PhpStorm

Setting up PHP debugging in an IDE with a local development environment has gotten so easy it can be done in a few automated steps. In this post I will demonstrate how to get step debugging functioning with PhpStorm and Zend Debugger when the server is set up on a local environment.

To begin with, I had the following:

  • Local installation of Zend Server 8.5.+ (basic LAMP stack, but with Zend Debugger included in the Zend Server installation). Alternatively I could have had a vanilla LAMP environment with Xdebug.
  • Ensure that Z-Ray is active in the Zend Server settings.
  • A local project set up on PhpStorm, without the server set up in the PhpStorm project configuration. (in this example I have a Zend Expressive Skeleton ready)
  • The local project set up as an Apache virtualhost.

With the project open in PhpStorm I click the icon to inform the IDE to start listening for debugging sessions. (Usually in the upper right corner, looks like a telephone receiver with a red indicator that it is not listening, and turns green when you click it)

Then a browser with the application rendered I click the debug icon in the Z-Ray toolbar at the foot of the window, and select the desired debugging action.

This will cause PhpStorm to prompt after it receives the debug connection from Zend Debugger. In most cases we can simply click Accept and let things happen normally.

That’s about it, we are debugging!

Behind the scenes, PhpStorm created a site and associated it with the project.

Of course we could have created the server ahead of time and not be prompted to Accept the incoming connection, but what is the fun in that?

Closing

This was a very simplistic local development environment setup. We didn’t have a firewall to contend with, and the server was set up locally rather than inside a virtual machine. I have other posts, linked below, to help with some of these alternative setups.

Happy Debugging!

Other posts on Debugging you may find helpful:

PHPMyAdmin blank whitescreen (414 Request-URI Too Long)

Ran across an interesting issue where PhpMyAdmin on a newly installed CentOS server was not rendering in a browser. Or more accurately, it was rendering but the CSS kicked in and caused the browser to display a blank page rather than the desired login screen. (Doing a View Source on the page showed that the login form was in fact there, but hidden by CSS.)

After checking the obvious things: PHP running (with error reporting on), file permissions, Apache working, VirtualHost definition correct, I was stuck. There were no indications of a problem, and PHP reported nothing. (Because, as we will see, there were no errors to be displayed…or was there?)

Finally, I turned on Firebug and refreshed the page. Voilà! There were actually two issues, but they were hidden within additional calls in the backend:

Screenshot from 2016-05-05 17-29-03

Wow, those two long URL strings! One URL was:

A quick search uncovered a possible fix. The default Apache limit of the request line needed to be made longer to accomodate PhpMyAdmin. Doing this was simple. I added the directive to ‘/etc/httpd/conf/httpd.conf’ like so:

LimitRequestLine 800

I tried a few different lengths and found that 700 was too short, but 800 worked fine. Also, though I simply added this to the conf file, according to the docs you can add this within the VirtualHost rather than making it blanket covering the entire server.

Hope this helps others.