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Herman J. Radtke III

fastly/lucet in five minutes

Lucet is Fastly's native WebAssembly compiler and runtime. I am a big fan of Rust, Fastly and WASM. Especially WASM on the server via WASI. I jumped right in and tried to get my own lucet program running, but the setup is a rather long process. My plan was to introduce lucet to some colleagues at my local Rust meetup. I am a huge fan of Rust, but the compile times are an issue. Spending 30 minutes on setup was a non-starter. I was excited when I saw that Fastly published a Docker container:

Managing Gearman With Gearadmin Tool

The more jobs flowing through Gearman, the more likely something will happen. Queues can get backed up, workers can crash and performance can degrade. It is important to monitor the status of the Gearman ecosystem and be proactive about fixing problems. We can do this using the gearadmin tool.

Using the Gearman Tool For Rapid Development of Clients and Workers

Gearman comes with a few tools that make development and testing easier. The gearman program creates boilerplate clients and workers. The gearman program comes default with the gearmand package. Do not confuse gearman with gearmand. The gearmand daemon is what manages the queue, clients and workers. The gearman program is a tool to quickly create simple clients and workers. The options for gearman can be slightly confusing, so I will go through a set of examples on how to use them.

Registering Functions With Gearman Workers

The Gearman examples on php.net are a great primer for groking how the Gearman client and worker interact with each other. One gripe I have is that the examples declare global functions for the worker to register. I feel this leads develpers down the wrong path. With PHP5.3, there is an easier solution though: anonymous functions.

The Painful Gearman Upgrade Path

The Gearman project has been slowly migrating from C to C++. This migration has gone under the radar due to the popularity of Cent OS 5 and given gearmand version of 0.14. This version of gearmand worked with any version of pecl/gearman and there was never any compelling reason to upgrade gearmand. That changed with the release of pecl/gearman 1.0

SPL FilterIterator in the real world

The Standard PHP Library (SPL) is a powerful set of tools that are often overlooked. It is very common to see an SPL talk at conferences, but those talks usually just introduce each SPL class to the audience without giving some real world examples. I am going to show you a real world example on how to use SPL FilterIterator in an ecommerce website.

PHP Gearman Bootstrap Script

Writing the scaffolding for gearman workers is a pretty trivial task using the pecl/gearman extension. Keeping that scaffolding consistent between all the gearman workers in your application can get tough. I created a script that will remove the boilerplate gearman code and allow gearman worker scrips to simply be function definitions.

Gearman Worker Exception Handling in PHP

Gearman is one of my favorite technologies to use. So much in fact that I recently decided to take over the maintenance of pecl/gearman. While asynchronous tasks are a great feature, I find the ability to run multiple tasks in parallel to be much more useful. One of the biggest shortcomings of this approach was that uncaught worker exceptions would be treated as a successful completion of a job. I used to wrap all my workers in a generic try/catch block to prevent this from happening.  With the latest commits to pecl/gearman, I can now use the exception callback to properly track the exceptions.

Hacking Google Reader API

I have wanted to replace the static Blogroll on my website with a listing of my Google Reader subscriptions. I figured this was easy and someone would have already made this a Wordpress plugin, but I was wrong. The Google Reader API is not yet official and not very well documented. I finally sat down to figure out exactly how to do this and with a little Google research I managed to hack together a working prototype.

managing multiple jQuery promises

The new jQuery 1.5 version has support for promises.  Promises allows code to be dependent on the completion of an asynchronous event.  Promises are most commonly used when making an AJAX request.  I recently had to solve a problem where I was issuing many AJAX requests and wanted to make sure all were completed before moving on to the next task.  To make matters more complicated, I was issuing the requests using jsonp.  Some of the requests were chained from other requests as well.  Trying to track all the promises by individually was becoming a mess.  After speaking with a colleague, I set about creating a function to manage multiple promises.

Building php pecl extensions

My last post I explained how to efficiently checkout the php svn repository.  Now we need to start building pecl extensions and even php itself.  I prefer to use Cent OS for my linux needs and naturally use rpm's to track all my packages.  This means I have a stable version of php installed with all the various extensions that I could want.  Rather than messing with this stable version, I am going to build a custom debug build of php in /usr/local.  I say "debug", because this build of php will use the --enable-debug option to allow easy debugging using gdb.  Since I am doing pecl extension development, I don't want to build the trunk version of php.  I want to build my pecl extensions against the most recent stable version of php to isolate environmental issues as much as possible.

Working with the PHP source tree

The svn repository for PHP is rather large.  Trying to checkout the entire repo is both time consuming and wastes a lot of space.  Most people, including myself, are only concerned with a subset of the repository.  One of the advantages svn has over git is the ability to do partial checkouts of the repository.  I am going to borrow from an old email Rasmus sent that details how to do a partial checkout of the PHP source code.

Retrying Failed Gearman Jobs

The gearman job queue is great for farming out work.  After reading a great post about Poison Jobs, I limited the number of attempts the gearman daemon will retry a job.  This seemed fairly straight-forward to me: if a job fails, then the gearman daemon will retry the job the specified number of times.  I learned the hard way that it was not that simple.  There is specific criteria the gearman daemon follows in order to retry a job.

Bootstrapping PHPUnit tests

I just recently stumbled upon PHPUnit's --bootstrap flag. I used to bootstrap each of my unit tests using a require statement at the top of the file. I always found this very tedious, but did not want to write some script to wrap each unit test. The --bootstrap flag solves this problem quite nicely.

Stop Inverted Reuse

Reuse is a term often used amongst developers.  It usually carries with it a positive connotation and a developer writing reusable code is seen as a good thing.  I think there are a lot of developers who have a completely different understanding of what code reuse means.  When I talk about code reuse, I am talking about reusing logic within the code.  Based on code reviews, it seems the most common definition of reuse is: anytime a function or method is used by two or more callers.  This definition fails to realize the true meaning of reuse and can lead to problems.  In the name of "reuse", I have noticed some developers group common code at the application level by creating functions or methods that solve some pseudo-generic problem.  I call this type or reuse inverted reuse.

Updating PHP Documentation

I sometimes help update the PHP documentation.  I have not done it in a while since I started maintaining pecl/memcache.  However, there was a recent bug submission where I felt the documentation for pecl/memcache should be updated.  A lot of work has been done to the documentation tools since I last updated documentation.  I went to http://doc.php.net for a quick primer on how to generate some new documentation output so I could test my changes and found the documentation for generating documentation a little hard to follow.

Crimson Framework Updated to PHP 5.3

I have updated my Crimson framework to use PHP 5.3 namespace support instead of the old PEAR style class namespacing.  I did this primarily as an exercise in migrating a code-base to use namespaces.  Just in case anyone was relying on the old framework code, there is a pre-5.3 branch on github.

Learning To Use MongoDB

I have heard of MongoDB for some time and have read quite a few articles and attended some conference seminars about it.  I had put off using MongoDB because I could find no project that really made good use of it.  About two weeks ago I started a project that doesn't really fit into the relational database mold.  I finally had the perfect excuse to devote the time and effort to learning all about MongoDB and take my place among the ranks of developers using NoSQL (whatever that means).

Don't Overuse Use

Nate Abele just announced Lithium 0.9 on the rad-dev blog.  I think Lithium is a great looking framework and can't wait for it to get a 1.0 release and really start to take off.  However, looking through the examples I started to notice that the use of the "use" namespace keyword was an often used convention.  It reminded me of the require/require_once creep of the days of old.  I was discussing it with Nate via Twitter, but I couldn't seem to get my point across.  Maybe I will have better luck here...

Using Absolute URL's In The View

We recently had a project at work that involved replacing all the relative URL's from the application with absolute URL's. In the past, developers had just hard-coded an absolute URL only when they need to force the browser over to https. Now we are using multiple subdomains, so this approach is no longer sufficient. We also wanted a way to easy rotate assets through multiple CDN URL's to speed up the time it takes a user's web browser to load all the content.

PHP 5.3 is the new JavaScript (almost)

In my last post, I argued that the best way to start developing functional PHP applications was to code review some JavaScript projects.  I think this is a good place to start as most web developers have written some JavaScript at one point during their career.  I briefly mentioned that the array is pretty similar to the JavaScript object too.  However, if you start hacking away at PHP based on JavaScript's functional syntax, you will quickly run into some problems.

Mocking Zend Framework's Row and Rowset objects

If you separate your business logic from your data access logic, the last thing you want to do is make your business logic unit tests reliant on the database.  This is normally not a big deal: retrieve the data, store it in an array and pass it off to the class with the business logic.  Mocking the data for the unit test simply requires you to hardcode from array information in the test.  However, I recently ran into a case where I wanted to pass Zend_Db_Table_Row and Zend_Db_Table_Row objects to the business logic and mocking them was not so easy.

Logging Exception Traces To syslog

If you have ever visited StackOverflow.com you may have noticed the ads for Splunk.  Splunk aggregates log files together and provides a web interface to search through those logs.  The setup for php is easy: set the php.ini error_log value to "syslog".  The Splunk instructions show you how add a single line to your syslong.conf to have syslog send those messages over to Splunk.

Canonical Version Numbers with Git

Brandon Savage wrote a controversial blog post about why subversion is still more relevant than git.  His main point was that enterprise requires canonical version numbering to track progress in the application and that git cannot do this.   There was a lot of debate about this on Brandson's, but a recent comment by Morgan proved Brandon wrong.

Unit Testing and the Law of Demeter

I was writing some code today and not using Test-Driven development.  The reason was that I did not have a good understanding of what I was writing, so I decided to write some of the guts before writing the tests.  In the process of writing the guts, I recognized that I was paying very close attention to how I was going to later test each of the methods I was writing. I was paying especially close attention to the Law of Demeter.   The idea behind the Law of Demeter is to keep units of code distinct from one another. So how did this relate to my code?  To put it simply, my business logic methods did not use get methods.

Facebook Thrift PHP Client

A while back I wrote a post about using Facebook's Thrift.  One comment asked me to post the PHP client used to connect to the C++ server I was demo'ing.  Most of the client is boiler-plate code generated by Thrift, so I chose to omit it at the time.  Here it is:

Phing - phplint task

Phing is a PHP port of Java Ant.  It is a great tool to use in development.  It standardizes a lot of build scripts you would have to maintain internally.  Unfortunately, examples seem to be lacking.  As a quick introduction to Phing, I will show how you can check all your php scripts for syntax errors.

Zend_Soap_AutoDiscover and eAccelerator

The Zend Framework ships with SOAP functionality and one especially neat class called Zend_Soap_AutoDiscover.  This class uses a comment docblock to auto-generate a WSDL at runtime.  I won't go into the details how it works here, but you can check the Zend Framework documentation for an example.  When using this class at work, I noticed the WSDL would not always generate correctly.  After a lot of digging around, I found the cause: eAccelerator.

Using the PHP 5.3 __DIR__ magic constant

There is a new magic constant in PHP 5.3: DIR. This new constant does not actually do anything new. It replaces the use of dirname(FILE) that is commonly found code using prior PHP versions.

Scaling URL's

Using non-relative URL's during early development can alleviate a lot of growing pains. This may seem counter-intuitive at first, but hear me out. We all learned long ago to stop hard-coding the domain name into the href attribute of an anchor tag. Instead, we used relative URL's such as '/index.php' to make our code much more portable. However, relative URL's become a pain point when trying to scale your website. Let's review some common scenarios that can be averted with some proper planning.

Doing It "Right"

I have always been of the opinion that doing a task the correct way the first time is the best way to complete the task. I don't mean to imply that there is one correct way of completing a task, only that doing it correctly does not involve cutting corners or using hacks to complete the task.  I have always preached this ideal as a developer, never the decision maker.  Now, I am currently working on a project with a few colleagues of mine where I am a decision maker.  Earlier today I began wondering whether my ideals will change as this project grows.

Static Method Abuse

When I began taking over the web development project at work, I noticed a developer using a lot of static members and methods in his class definitions. His explanation was that it was an optimization he used to improve performance. Unfortunately, he had no metrics to back the statement up. So I set out to do some of my own.

Exploring Facebook's Thrift

At work we have a number of services written in C. These services use the same core libraries our legacy C application uses. Keeping all this business logic in a central place makes life much easier, but the way services are written is horribly inefficient. I am on a mission to find a better way.

Frustration with vim.org

I started using the phpDocumentor for Vim (PDV) script written by Tobias Schlitt.  Very quickly I found a bug with one of the regular expressions used to parse apart the class definition.  Tobias does not seem to be maintaing this plugin anymore, so I decided I would fix the bug and submit a new version to vim.org.  I packaged up the new version of the script and went to update the PDV page on vim.org only to find out I can't.  There isn't even a mechanism for me to post a comment.

Choosing VIM

At work we were using VIM for all editing, except PHP.  Back when the decision was made to use PHP for all web development, consultants told us we needed an IDE that offered all kinds of tools that VIM lacks.  So we shopped around for IDE's and eventually bought Zend Studio licenses for everyone.  Today those licesnses are collecting dust.  Even with the feature rich toolset of Zend Studio, and other IDE's, none seem to satisfy our need like VIM does.

Crutching on MySQL's INSERT IGNORE

MySQL has a lot of nice additions to the SQL-92 standard that make life easier for developers. The drawback to these shortcuts is that many developers don't learn how to cope in other database environments, like PostgreSQL. Take INSERT IGNORE for example: PostgreSQL does not have support for this syntax. A resourceful developer can do a quick google search to learn an alternative, but many of the solutions at the top of google will show the wrong way to solve this problem.

PHP extension debugging hack

At work I maintain a handful of custom PHP extensions.  When someone reports a problem with one of the extensions, I want to fire up gdb right away and see exactly what is going on.  In order to do this, I build a custom php binary with debugging enabled.  I leave this binary inside my home directory so as not to affect my installed production php binary.  I should now be able to rebuild my custom extensions now with debugging enabled and start debugging.  But wait, the configure script rejects the flag.