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.


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.


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

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.


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.


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.



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.



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



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



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



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).


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!

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!!!

Using JOIN within the Zend Framework

I found documentation very sparse on the subject of using JOIN with the Zend Framework. So i set out on a quest of many hours figuring out how to get it to work. Here is what I ended up with.

I do not claim that this is the best way to do it, or that it is correct, but here is how I solved this and got JOIN working within Zend Framework.

Continue reading Using JOIN within the Zend Framework