Programming

Topics related to programming

Relaunch Rocket Well the redesign and rebuild is complete. I’ve gutted my site and rebuilt it from the ground up. There are more changes than just a shiny new design though. With this redesign I’m shifting the focus of the site around a bit as well.

Hacking the Form Helper and Editing Multiple Rows with CakePHP 1.1

CakePHP 1.2 is a fantastic improvement over 1.1. However like many, my work has a stable release only policy. So I’m stuck using 1.1 at work for the time being. But after drinking the 1.2 juice, 1.1 is missing some of the potent automagic flavours. First up editing multiple rows in models. The stock syntax is lacking in that it doesn’t support this at all.

PHP's isset() and arrays

Earlier this week I learned that isset() behaves a little differently than I had expected when dealing with arrays. Now I already knew that isset() would return false on a variable not existing, or being set to null. However, I was not expecting it to return false on an array key existing and being set to null.

Eating my own dogfood Upgrading to CakePHP RC1

Well today I took the time to upgrade to CakePHP 1.2 RC1 in the spirit of ‘eating your own dogfood’. I got the usual warnings about vendor() being deprecated. I also took the time to switch over all my Bindable calls to the fresh core Containable Behavior. Which for the most part consisted of changing restrict() calls to contain() calls.

More dogfood

Well I just got back from a wonderful 2 week vacation of europe. My wife and I went to Amsterdam, Rome and Paris, for an art-geekout. We went to every museum we could and saw tons of beautiful works that really need to be seen in the stone and paint. We took tons of photos and I hopefully will find the time to do some painting based on them in the upcoming months.

Session debugging in CakePHP

Often on IRC and the CakePHP google group, I hear people asking how to get values out of the Session or how to find out what is currently in the Session. Generally this is connected to AuthComponent, which is can be complicated component. However, some simple ‘crude’ PHP tactics can make the “whats’s in my session?” question very simple.

Fancy routing examples with CakePHP 1.2

Routing in CakePHP is quite flexible in how you can route your urls to your controllers and actions. Offering both variable replacement and regex routing. You can route almost any parameter that is set by dispatcher and more. So lets try a few of these.

Anatomy of a CakePHP Test Case

With all the talk of testing going on, I thought it would be good to look at how tests work and what is makes them tick. SimpleTest handles the bulk of test case execution, however, there are a few CakePHP specifics that are not part of a normal SimpleTest::UnitTestCase.

CakePHP Easter eggs

The documentation for CakePHP has grown in leaps and bounds since the creation of the cookbook. Today I wanted to look at a few methods and conventions that may not be crystal clear from reading the book or api.

Object::_set().

Object is the parent class for almost all other classes in CakePHP.

Github hooked up

As I post more and more code here, I’m finding it tedious to update all the various .zip files of code as I make changes. So I’ve taken a page from Tim and Felix and made an account at gitHub. This makes it easy for me and you to find the newest revision of whatever you may be looking for.

CakePHP RC3 released and CakePHP 1.1 new release

If you are following the development of CakePHP today is a good day for you. RC3 was released today! We have all been working really hard to make this Release Candidate better than the last one. There have been over 400 commits since the last RC2. Some of the big changes are related to performance. Larry Masters and the rest of the team have been hard at work making CakePHP snappier and all around speedier.

Getting a new Oven, Migrating from CakePHP 1.1 to 1.2

So 1.2 is nearly complete, the code is frozen and there are only a few bugs left to squash before the final release is ready. So you want to upgrade your application from 1.1 to 1.2. Although the 1.2 moniker suggests a ‘minor’ version, a lot has changed under the hood and entire API’s have been rebuilt.

New home, new sideproject

I’ve had quite the busy last little month or two. My wife and I have been house shopping for a while, and found a place about 2 months ago. However, just last weekend we moved into our new (to us at least) condo in west Toronto.

The new sideproject is the CakePHP DebugKit . I’ve been hard at work building a ‘debug toolbar’ for CakePHP.

Paginating long lists in the CakePHP Console

I’ve recently been doing some work on some CLI tools, and I came across the need to “paginate” a long list of file. Instead of dumping out 40+ items to the screen all at once, which would be confusing and hard to read, I wanted a more elegant way of showing only a section on the huge list at once.

New features brewing for DebugKit 1.1

So I’ve been working away on DebugKit the last few weeks. And I think its at a level where I can suggest other people give it a whirl. Its not at a stable release point. But if you are feeling adventurous and don’t mind using beta code give it a try. There are a few notable features have been added, so in no particular order here they are.

Calculating Documentation Coverage with ApiGenerator

Generating code coverage for test cases is a handy feature, it gives you a quick and easy way to determine how much of your code is running during your tests. It doesn’t ensure that the tests are good or that you have enough assertions, but code that doesn’t run definitely has not been tested. Before code coverage was created it was very difficult to determine how much code was being run.

Using the PHP Reflection API for fun and profit

When PHP got a real object oriented system in 5.0, it also got a neat feature taken from Java land. Reflection allows you to introspect & reverse engineer functions, classes, and extensions. In addition you can use reflection to extraction of documentation from classes and functions. In PHP Reflection is done using a number of Reflection classes.

5 signals that can indicate its time to re-factor

Re-factoring code is a part of any programmers life or should be. Very few people write beautifully clean and well factored code from the start, and I am certainly not one of them. Most times my code starts out a sprawling tangle that takes an additional pass or two to look like something I would consider clean. I find that when programming and designing I start with a rough idea or sketch of what I want to accomplish.

Simplifying Controller logic with Exceptions

In the ongoing struggle against code bloat and creative ways to do things, I’ve been playing with throwing exceptions from model methods. While not earth shattering stuff, I’ve found it to have a few advantages over returning false. First, you can end up with less if and else statements.

How I debug PHP errors and issues

I spend a lot of time in various IRC channels answering questions and helping out, and one recurring theme that pops up again and again is people not knowing what to do when things go wrong. Whether it be a simple error or a logical mixup, people often lack the tools or processes to figure things out. So I thought I would share how I approach errors and problems.

AclExtras Shell

With the help of Oscar Carlsson I’ve updated the AcoSync Shell and renamed it to the AclExtrasShell. With Oscar’s help we’ve added quick and easy ways to recover and verify your tree structures. AclExtras Shell also incorporates all the existing functionality of AcoSync Shell.

Acl Menu Component

By now you’ve got an awesome Acl and Auth controlled app running. However, making navigation menus is a pain with dynamic, and variable permissions. Outside of making menu elements for each type of Aro and including them in your layout, there currently aren’t many options (at least none that I’m aware of). I was faced with this exact problem a while back, and couldn’t find a suitable solution, so I made one.

How using requestAction increased performance on my site

So originally when I built this site, I was in the “requestAction is bad” camp. So much so that I created a convoluted Component to assist in the creation of the sideboxes featured on this site. A sample of that code is as follows:

Show Plain Text
  1. //Recent Posts
  2. $options = array(
  3.     'position' => 5,
  4.     'type' => 'list',
  5.     'format' => array(
  6.         'title' => '{n}.Node.

Unit Testing CakePHP Shells

Shells are one of the more difficult objects to properly unit test. Since they normally run in a CLI context instead of a web context they provide some interesting challenges. The biggest hurdles are separating the Shell from the CLI environment, and simulating the correct arguments and parameters.

Generating vCards with CakePHP using extensions

vCards are a nice added touch for an application that acts as a Address book, or contact management. vCards are easily used by most mail clients, and are a plain text standard making them nice and easy to implement. While hCard and other microformats are gaining popularity, the widespread support still doesn’t exist. Leaving vCard as the primary format to transfer contact information out of a web application

Auth and ACL an end to end tutorial pt. 1

Now, there are many tutorials out there for Auth and ACL in CakePHP. However, none of them (as far as I know of) cover putting together Auth and ACL from beginning to end. That is what I’m going to do in this article. I am splitting the article into two parts; the first about setting up our app and getting the Aros running, the second on building Acos and putting it all together.

Quick and dirty 'Down for Maintenance' page with CakePHP

Websites need maintenance, and sometimes that maintenance requires the site to go down for a little bit as you tweak the database, add additional capacity or make large changes to the application code. In these circumstances you cannot afford to have users mucking about on your application. However, you might need access to ensure all your amazing upgrades go smoothly or perhaps do the upgrading inside the application itself.

Making elements drag resizable with Javascript

Drag resizing is a great interface interaction for web apps using panes, or window regions. Most Javascript libraries have convenient and simple methods to make drag-resizing a snap. However, what if you didn’t have a library at your disposal or were just interested in how to implement this interaction, just for the sake of knowing? Well I did just that when I implemented drag resizable panels for DebugKit 1.

Creating Simple Ajax Pagination with CakePHP 1.3 and Mootools

Creating ajax pagination has gotten more simple and flexible for 1.3. In 1.2 you could only use the built in Ajax pagination if you were using Prototype as your javascript library. With the addition of the JsHelper you can use any Javascript library that an engine has been implemented. My example today will be using mootools. I’ll be basing this, off of a freshly baked index view using the default core templates.

Updating to Cake 1.3

Last night I updated this site to run on the latest 1.3 build. While I know I should have done it earlier, I simply haven’t had the time. And since I went through it, I figured I could document it and share what the upgrade process is like for a small site, that doesn’t see a ton of maintenance action like this one.

The argument for flag arguments

I recently read “Clean Code” by Robert Martin an excellent book on writing clear, easy to maintain and well factored code. In it Robert Martin raises the point that methods should do what their names say, shouldn’t have ‘flag arguments’, and should do only one thing. This implies that overloaded methods are out.

Using custom Route classes in CakePHP

New for CakePHP 1.3 is the ability to create and use custom route classes for your application’s routing. In the past the router did double duty, managing route collections and routes were just arrays. In 1.3 Router underwent some surgery and CakeRoute was extracted as an object to represent a single route. While Router was left as a manager of routes.

Testing CakePHP Controllers the hard way

By now you already know or should know about CakeTestCase::testAction() and the wondrous things it can do. However, testAction has a few shortcomings. It can’t handle redirects, it doesn’t let you use the power of Mocks, and its impossible to make assertions on object state changes. Sometimes you need to do things the hard way, stick your fingers in the mud and work it out.

The value of a simple release process

I’ve been doing many of the CakePHP releases, since “the great framework apocalypse of imminent doom”. Between then and now, CakePHP has had quite a few releases. During these past few months, I’ve really begun to understand the value of a simple release process. When I initially started doing releases for CakePHP, our release process involved many steps and I was doing them all manually.

Asset Compress plugin released

I’ve just released another plugin for CakePHP. This one helps reduce the number of HTTP requests made by helping you concatenate and compress your asset files. I’ve been working on it on and off for about 3 months now, and am pretty happy with where it is. It includes both server side and client side libraries for loading compressed files.

E_NOTICE is your friend

Errors and error reporting an important part of the development and debugging cycle. In interpreted languages, there are a number of runtime errors that can really help you debug your code. Some languages like python don’t give you a way to make the errors go away, but for better or worse PHP does.

Using bindModel to get to deep relations

Often times you will need to query a distant table based on a condition on a close table. For example we have a store that has a table structure like the following:

Now we want to find the Division that a particular Item belongs to. In normal SQL we could do

PHP floats, localization and landmines

Since PHP lacks a decimal type, it only has floats and integers. Arbitrary precision floating points are reasonable once you stop expecting them to be precise. I’ve learned to deal with PHP’s floats, and arbitrary precision floats in general. However, floats behaving totally different based on the current locale, was something I didn’t expect.

The CakeRequest object in CakePHP 2.0

Work on CakePHP 2.0 is moving along, and I wanted to take some time to discuss and explain one of the sizeable refactorings that has been done for 2.0. In previous versions request parameters were just a bunch of arrays that were copied to the various places they were needed in the framework.

CakeResponse in CakePHP 2.0

Previously I wrote about the changes that have been done for the request handling in CakePHP 2.0. Response handling is another subsystem that has received a significant facelift. As with request information and functionality, response related features were spread across several objects. Controller, RequestHandler and Dispatcher all had a slice of the pie.

Understanding MVC and CakePHP

Continuing with the trend of CakePHP information here, I’m going to cover some of the acronyms and lexicon of CakePHP. I hang out a lot on #cakephp and there are repeating trends in some of the questions that get asked so hopefully I can answer some of those questions here. As well as provide a bit of my personal experiences.

Getting PHPUnit setup from Git

I recently had a fun idea, that I wanted to try and implement for PHPUnit. I really like coloured console output. PHPUnit already has the option for coloured output, but I wanted more. I wanted to get coloured text for F, E, S, and I that showed up in the test run progress.

AssetCompress 0.3 released

Today, I tagged the 0.3 release for my AssetCompress plugin. A few new features have been added, and several issues resolved. You can get the code from github

Build tool

The AssetCompress shell is now able to generate all the build files that are named in your project. This is great for integration with build/deployment scripts.

CakeFest 2011 slides posted

In case you were not able to attend CakeFest 2011. I’ve posted my slides up on slideshare. The event was a great success. Thanks to Graham for organizing the event and to all the attendees. Its great to meet the community and put faces and names to irc handles and mailing list email addresses.

New errors in PHP 5.4

I’ve been running the PHP5.4 RC builds for the last few months, and there are some interesting changes in the upcoming PHP release. On top of all the great new features coming in PHP5.4. After updating to PHP5.4-RC4, a few things that used to not trigger errors and silently do the wrong thing, now trigger notices or warnings.

Using bcrypt for passwords in CakePHP

CakePHP uses salted sha1 hashes for passwords by default, and has for a while. There has been some talk on the mailing list lately of switching the default hashing to something more secure, such as bcrypt. I think this is a great idea, and will find its way into CakePHP in a future release. Providing a reasonanle upgrade experience is the biggest problem to solve, if the default hashing strategy was to change.

Configuration in CakePHP 3.0 redux

In a previous post, I outlined some changes that would be coming for configuration in CakePHP 3.0. I’ve recently been thinking a great deal about configuration as well as building some prototype applications. I’ve come to the conclusion that configuration needed to change. Coupling all the classes to Configure while convenient and simple, had a big drawback.

PHP Generators - A useful example

PHP5.5 has support for generators which are a powerful language feature available in other languages like Ruby and Python. While generators in PHP are very much like their Python counterparts, I wanted to give them a spin and try a few simple but useful examples of generators in action.

Compatibility Breaks in CakePHP 3.0

There will be a number of backwards compatibility (BC) breaks in the CakePHP 3.0.0 release. I thought it might be helpful to go over some of the reasons breaks in compatibility have been made. Each time we’ve had to break compatibility with 2.x we’ve done so because the existing behaviour fell into a few categories of problems. I’ll go over a few of the bigger categories in detail.

Upgrading to CakePHP 3.0

I recently finished upgrading this site to CakePHP 3.0.0-dev from 2.5.5. I thought I’d share my experiences, as they might be helpful to other people attempting to update a CakePHP 2.x application to 3.0.

In terms of scale & size, this site is pretty small and simple. It has a mere 12 tables, and ~5000 lines of code including HTML, and uses 3 plugins.

Introducing Stickler-CI

I’d like to introduce a project I’ve been working on over the past few months. Stickler-CI helps automate the tedious process of ensuring coding standards are followed during pull requests. Like many teams, FreshBooks uses pull requests as a way to solicit feedback from other developers, ensure consistent coding practices and catch bugs before they can cause real problems.

Evolution of Container Usage in Stickler CI

Stickler CI is a software as a service application that automates a tedious part of code review; enforcing consistent style and preventing lint errors. By integrating with GitHub, Stickler checks each pull request for style errors and post review comments when an error is found. This helps your team align on coding standards and provide more valuable feedback. Stickler is free for public repositories; private repositories require a paid plan.

Creating Deployment ready Javascript with Sprockets

If you’ve ever worked on a medium to large Ajax application, you know the headaches that Javascript can give you. On one hand you want to serve as few as possible Javascript files to users, but on the other you want to keep your sanity and work with lots of smaller files. This is where a build process comes in. It allows you to transform lots of files into one big file! You can even minify the big file for additional savings.

hashgrid for Mootools

You may have seen the Analog.coop site recently and found some of the easter eggs, like the grid hot keys. I loved the concept, and made a mental note to spend some time reverse engineering/rebuilding it for my own uses. Well it just so happens that the guys at Analog have released the #grid on Github, which is great because it made it easier for me to adapt the code and do some small improvements.

Creating custom selectors with jQuery

I recently re-discovered a powerful, but mostly hidden feature of jQuery. If you’ve used jQuery for any length of time you’ve probably used filter selectors like :input, :visible or :hidden. What you may not know is, it is really simple to add your own filter selectors. The secret lies in $.expr.filters which is an object of filters.

Selenium, jQuery and pending ajax requests

We use selenium extensively at work for automated acceptance tests. If you’ve never used selenium, it allows you to record and playback browser sessions and create integration tests from the perspective of a browser. Its generally a great tool, and really helps make sure we don’t release broken code. Recently, however I’ve found Selenium can have adverse reactions with jQuery.

Camera and Audio capture in web browsers

If you’ve ever built a web application that wanted access to the visitor’s camera you know what a painful experience that can be. If used to involve flash or silverlight plugins or clunky java. Thankfully, browsers have started providing new API’s which are collectively referred to as WebRTC or Web Real Time Chat.

Changes, they are a comin

Well Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone. I’ve been busy as always and have put up a new character painting in the Digital Section. This is the first painting that I’ve done in Photoshop that is approaching the quality and feel of my oil work. As time is always at a premium these days, I will probably be doing a few more digital paintings. They are easier and less fussy to work on than oils.

CakeFest argentina approaches

Cakefest 2 Argentina is quickly approaching. If you are sitting on the fence on going until the last minute then get off and come on down. Its going to be a good time with lots of great talks. I’ll even be there! I’m giving two talks one on Unit Testing and the other on plugin development. Hope to see you there.

To find out more about Cakefest follow the link.

CakeFest Argentina after thoughts.

Well I’m finally back in Canada after a somewhat hairy experience at JFK airport in New York, I’m home in the great white north. I had an awesome time at CakeFest and would like to thank all the sponsors and all the people who came out. It was a really great experience for me, and a pleasure to finally be able to put faces to the names and lines of text/code speak to / read each day.

CakePHP RC4 released

Earlier this evening the last 300 changes to CakePHP were merged into the trunk forming CakePHP RC4. It should be a painless update for all, and it brings us one step closer to a final stable release of 1.2, something we all look forward to.

The new face of CakePHP's API

If you’ve been to the http://api.cakephp.org today you may have noticed a few changes. First its no longer powered by doxygen. Doxygen has been giving us a few headaches in the last few months. So gwoo and myself have taken it upon ourselves to write our own Api generation tool. We called it ApiGenerator you can see it running at api.cakephp.org.

Year one of baking CakePHP

Today is the one year anniversary of my first commit to CakePHP, amazing how time flies. It seems not too long ago that gwoo and nate approached me to join the core team and help with writing the tests for 1.2. What started with test cases soon bloomed into full blown commit access and had me working on all parts of the core. Year one also saw the creation of DebugKit which is nearing its 1.

Re-designing CakePHP

Myself and the rest of the CakePHP team recently embarked on a journey to refresh and redesign the CakePHP website and brand. I wanted to delve into my process and thinking around the changes.

The cakephp.org website has been around for quite sometime. Its previous incarnation served the project amazingly well.

Configuration in CakePHP 3.0

Early work has started for CakePHP 3.0, and I’ve started re-visiting how CakePHP handles configuration and bootstrapping. I want to focus on configuration for this post, as bootstrapping, while related is worthy of its own post. The goal of this post is to provide some context on the planned changes, and to get feedback on those changes. My hope is that by getting feedback early on we can avoid problems & surprises later on.

Installing CakePHP with Composer

I really like how composer simplifies dependency management & installation. It can make applications more portable, and simpler to deploy when compared to the pear installer. Another really nice feature of composer is that you can easily install any pear package, making it perfect for installing CakePHP. While installation was simple, some extra work was required to get things up and running smoothly.

Using composer in CakePHP 3.0

For 3.0 the team and I are re-visiting how we’ll recommend installing CakePHP, and as always I wanted to try to provide context on what my thoughts are, and get some feedback on the plans.

Background & context

CakePHP is currently availiable in a few different ways. Generally people either download zip files, or clone the repository. Both of these methods provide a quick easy way to get started.

Changes to the Events system in CakePHP 3.0

The events system has become an integral part of CakePHP since its introduction in 2.1. When originally introduced, we needed to make a number of compromises in the implementation to facilitate compatibility with the code it was replacing. For 3.0, I wanted to revisit the event subsystem and try to make things more efficient and streamline the API a bit.

DebugKit for CakePHP 3.0.0

A few weeks back during CakeFest 2014, I had the opportunity to hunker down and get DebugKit upgraded to CakePHP 3.0. While it was less of an upgrade and more of a re-design and re-write, I think the end results justify the drastic approach I took. First, a few of the problems I was trying to solve in the new version:

1. It is hard to make DebugKit look great as it lives on the same page as your app.

Using CakePHP and a Horizontally Sharded Database

One approach to scaling out a database for a multi-tenant application is to horizontally shard or partition the data by customer. This often takes the form of having multiple identical copies of an application’s schema in each shard. For example customer A’s data would be in shard 1, while customer C’s data would be in shard 2.

CakePHP 3.0 Retrospective

With CakePHP 3.0 out the door, I thought it would be good to reflect on the project. CakePHP 3.0 is the longest and largest open source project milestone I’ve ever participated in. At FreshBooks we do retrospectives on large projects as a way to see what went well, and what could have gone better. The goal is to discover things we should keep doing, and what to improve the next time around.

Geshi CSS Pack

A CSS pack to be used with geSHi clones 4 Textmate themes to be used on your site. Included themes are Mac Classic, Twilight, Dawn and Vibrant Ink

Cleaning house and sprucing up the place

Its been a few weeks of working in the evenings but its pretty much done. I’ve been wanting to do this redesign for a while now. 2 years ago when I built the version of this domain you’ve all come to know, I attempted to create a design that was different from other programming blogs, and fused my interests in both design and programming. I feel it turned out well.

Creating folded ribbons edges with CSS

While working on tweaking a notification box design, I wanted to include the element’s heading in a folded ribbon element. I also wanted to avoid using any images and just use CSS. Mostly to try my hand at using generated content and some CSS that I don’t normally get to use.

Redesign!

Well its almost done. As you can see, the main interface is done and the content has been reformatted and appended to. Futhermore, there are more images to look at. An entirely new section makes it debut as well. The clothing section has my t-shirt designs and will expand over time to other apparel. The shop section is still under construction, but should be done soon.

My quest for a new programming typeface

I’ve been working all day everyday with Monaco for the last 6 years. Monaco is a great typeface, it has a number of really great properties. It has a large x-height, and a large m-width. This make it great typeface at small sizes. While monaco is a perfectly good typeface, I wanted experiment and see if there is another typeface that would be even better.

Creating easy reports with pivot tables

I’ve been working on a project that collects various surveys and stores the data very much like below.

table schema

While this is a data structure is very normalized and provides a flexible base to build various surveys with. What it does not provide is an easy interface for building reports.

Moving to linode

I recently moved hosting for this blog and my wife’s site to a shiny new linode. I did this because I wanted to have control over the versions of PHP, and other server software I ran. I had some issues with email blacklists at my previous host. I chose linode as I’ve heard nothing but good things from friends and my operations folks at work recommended them.

Learning Rust

I’m always looking for new challenges. With my background mostly being in web development, I have little to no experience in low-level languages. In the past I’ve tinkered with C, and go-lang. This summer, I decided to try and learn Rust. Rust aims to be a very safe and performant systems-level language.

Simplifying host identification with rainbow terminals

In my daily work, I end up having to ssh into a variety of hosts. Keeping track of which terminal is on which host can become challenging when I have 3 or 4 terminals all at a mysql prompt, or tailing log files. A co-worker of mine came up with a pretty clever solution that I wanted to share. The clever solution involves some bash, and Applescript (as we’re working off of OSX).

Blazing Fast Fuzzy Find in Vim

Many people are surprised when they find out I use VIM as my primary editor. While vim seems like a ‘basic’ editor, it can have IDE like features added through its massive plugin community. I recently upgraded how I do fuzzy file navigation and find in project, and wanted to share how you can get blazing fast search in vim.

Using Git commit hooks to prevent stupid mistakes

I’m pretty prone to making stupid mistakes all the time. I think its a mixture of being busy, and being a natural scatter brain. In any case, mistakes happen, and thankfully over time developers have come up with a number of ways to combat mistakes. These usually take the shape in automated toolds. Unit tests are a great way to automated tool to help prevent stupid mistakes from happening, Git commit hooks are another.