Tag Archives: PHPCon

Takeaways from PHPCon, day 2

Get my day one takeaways here.

Day two at PHPCon in Nashville, TN was packed with lots of information that frankly, I’m still digesting. It was well worth the trip and ended much too quickly!

Download my notes (PDF)

Morning Keynote

In his “brain dump,” Rasmus Lerdorf shared a collection of unrelated but very useful tips and observations about PHP.

  • PHP is the bottleneck, there is no significant difference between nginx/lighthttpd/apache
  • Error handling is not optimized in PHP because it should be an infrequent event. Set error_reporting = -1
  • Insufficient realpath_cache_size in PHP 5.2 can cause excessive filesystem STATs
  • Use gearman for out-of-band processing. Threads aren’t needed in PHP.
  • Don’t overload apache (8 core CPU = 25-30 apache clients; never more than 50)
  • Deploy processes should be atomic and robust (can use Capistrano or Rasmus’ own weploy script)
  • Node.js-style event programming is fast and easy (see http://php.net/libevent)

Slides: http://talks.php.net/show/phpcon2011 (ya gotta love the homegrown web-based presentation system!)

The Original Hypertext Preprocessor

Drew McLellan‘s presentation was particularly relevant for me in my role as CTO at Company52, and I consider it one of the best presentations at PHPCon. Drew’s goal was not to market Perch (although he did an awesome job of it without even trying), but rather to share his philosophy of what really great client support is all about, and how it has impacted his work.

  • Throwing new features at a problem often doesn’t solve it. Functionality is not enough.
  • Find ways to reduce support requests.
  • Every support request should be unique (no FAQs).
  • Fix areas of confusion rapidly.
  • Support your own software – programmers should see issues firsthand.
  • It’s OK to be opinionated (“WYSIWYG is evil”), but don’t be dictatorial. It’s not our place to tell people how to work.
  • Help customers look good in front of their clients.
  • Accept when users are having problems.
  • Really great developers solve problems. Excuses simply are not helpful.

The WonderProxy story

Paul Reinheimer shared the story of how he built (and self-funded) WonderProxy, born out of a personal need to test applications that use IP-based geolocation.

  • Mistakes – “crouch and hope you don’t get hit”
    • No account de-activation
    • NIH – wrote paypal IPN code instead of re-using own code
    • Mixing Linux distros
    • Server account renewals
    • Afraid to look at profitability numbers
  • Old strategy: blog about problems we encounter – competitors find posts
  • New strategy: blog about problems customers have – bring customers instead of competitors

Is it Handmade Code If You Use Power Tools?

Laura Beth Denker of Etsy shared an overview of their continuous integration processes, and how it has greatly improved both confidence and deployment speed. True to Etsy style, Laura came dressed in a handmade outfit from a Nashville-based Etsy vendor, earning a “too much swag” tweet from one listener!

  • NEED CONFIDENCE in your code
  • Effective testing strategies include functional (human) testing, integration testing (database), and unit testing (foundation)
  • Don’t use random data in unit tests
  • Test each case in control structures
  • Use DBUnit for testing database interaction
  • Tests should run rapidly
  • Group unit tests and target test groups to run
    • caches
    • databases
    • network tests (third-party APIs)
    • sleep
    • time
    • smoke, curl, regex
    • flaky

What happened to Unicode in PHP

Andrei Zmievski’s talk was a frank de-briefing of the failed attempt to bring native Unicode support to PHP6. Although this story is a rather personal one for Andrei, he was honest and incorporated a few surprisingly hilarious bits of humor. The conclusion: native Unicode support will only come to PHP if and when the community wants it — and is willing to put noses to the grindstone. The task is simply too big for his elite band of 10 (including Rasmus himself). Most of the content was historical in nature, but there were a few nice tidbits of information.

  • Complete I18N is more than language stuff:
    • Character set
    • Date/time formats
    • Currency formats
    • Collation (sorting, contractions – thanks to Andrei for finally helping me to understand what a “collation” is)
  • pecl/intl has some useful classes left over from the PHP6 unicode project (Collator, NumberFormatter, MessageFormatter)

Closing Keynote

Terry Chay’s closing keynote wove a common thread through all of the presentations given at PHPCon, along with a heaping helping of humor (seedy at times). My favorite part were the Chayisms: http://phpdoc.info/chayism/

Takeaways from PHPCon, day 1

I’m here at PHPCon, the first PHP community developer conference in Nashville, TN. The first day consisted of two rather lengthy workshops, both of which were very informative.

Download my notes (PDF)

Web Services

This talk was given by Lorna Jane Mitchell, whose totally awesome British accent I could listen to all day. I consider myself no novice on consuming web services, but being a relative newcomer to building web services, I got a real education on how to do it right.

Key takeaways:

  • Use curl, it eliminates points of failure for more accurate testing. Lorna rejects any bug ticket that does not come with a curl test case, which reduced support requests by 50%!
  • Every web service should have a heartbeat method that echos the variables you pass to it.
  • Every web service should have documentation, (real) examples, and a support mechanism. If you’re not going to do this, don’t bother building a web service, ’cause nobody’s gonna use it.
  • Utilize the HTTP protocol as fully as possible, including HTTP headers (Accept, Content-Type, User-Agent), verbs (GET [read], POST [create], PUT [update], DELETE [delete]), and status codes (HTTP 200, 201, 301, 302, 400, 401, 403, 404, and 500).
  • Give consumers a choice of formats. text/html is useful for debugging purposes.
  • Parse the Http-Accept header and deliver content in first format listed that you support.
  • Don’t confuse HTTP 401 with HTTP 403 (“I don’t know who you are, so I’m denying access” vs “I know who you are, and you don’t have permission”).
  • pecl_http is an easier way to access web services than curl.
  • Error handling defines API quality. Provide complete, useful, and consistent error messages in the expected response format.

Link bundle: http://bit.ly/bundles/lornajane/2

Frontend Caching

This talk was given by Helgi Þorbjörnsson (I will not even attempt his Icelandic surname). Helgi is a long-time PEAR contributor and experienced front-end developer. Key takeaways:

  • 80% of response time is spent downloading resources.
  • Don’t abuse cookies. Large cookies hurt performance because of slow upload speeds, and because they are sent with every request. When you use cookies, be sure to set an expiration date and limit them to only the domains they are needed on.
  • Browsers have per-domain concurrent download limits. You can spread static assets across 3-4 multiple subdomains as a workaround.
  • Combine files judiciously. Be aware of the trade-off between fewer server requests and larger file size.
  • Load above the fold first.
  • Minify Javascript and CSS, preferably at build time.
  • Use gzip compressiononly for text-based content.
  • Save HTTP 404 bandwidth by ensuring that you have a robots.txt file and a favicon.
  • Compress images more (Photoshop doesn’t cut it; better alternatives include pngcrush and jpegtran).
  • Test with slower connections (tread the user’s path).