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DC PHP 2007 Slides

The slides from my “API Design in PHP” talk at the 2007 DC PHP Conference are up at Enjoy!

Subversion Time Machine

Jon Aquino, my talented cow-orker built a time-lapse view for Subversion. This is fantastic.

We switched from Perforce to Subversion recently (at Ning), and one of the things that I miss about Perforce was its handy time-lapse-view feature. No longer!

API Design Talk Slides

The slides from my API design talk yesterday are available.

If you missed Zendcon, come to the DC PHP Conference in a few weeks. I’ll be talking about API Design there on November 8.

Ning Turns Two

As Diego and Gina have pointed out, the Ning Platform has just celebrated its second birthday.

The past two years have been a lot of work and a lot of fun. It’s been gratifying to see the crazy, heartwarming, innovative uses folks have come up with for the platform and also extremely rewarding to work with such talented people.

I wonder what I’ll have to say in a blog post a year from now that links to this one?

Zendcon 2007

Zendcon (aka “The 2007 Zend/PHP Conference and Expo”) draws near. I’ll be there giving a talk about API Design in PHP and undoubtedly getting sucked into various conversations about how PHP’s disorganized ugliness is its greatest asset.

E-Mail Address Validation and Mission Creep

+1 to what ndg said in response to Jacob’s post about e-mail address validation.

I think Jacob sort of touches on this in his post but too often it’s not explicit what people are looking for under the vague and broad umbrella of “e-mail validation”.

If it’s “Did the AOL user signing up for my site forget the ‘.com’ part at the end of the address?” then some pretty simplistic text-based matching will do.

If it’s “Is the address supplied a valid mailbox that is controlled by the person who is supplying it to me?” then all the string parsing in the world isn’t going to save you. You’ll need to roundtrip something out to the mailbox with confirmation instructions. And even then you’re not out of the woods – maybe the user’s mailbox is full, or a transient DNS error is causing a problem.

I think e-mail address validation tends to be a bit of a tarpit for nerds (myself included) because the delicious complexity of RFCs 822 and 2822 makes writing code to handle the grammars they describe a fun challenge. That makes it easy to forget what the point of the address validation in the real world actually is: handholding well-meaning users that may have made a careless mistake, or robust protection against malicious users, or bot protection (in which case you probably want to ban RFC-valid addresses that have known-suspicious domain names or components), etc.

API Design in PHP at ZendCon 2007

I’m going to be giving a talk on “API Design in PHP” at ZendCon 2007 in October.

Our PHP API at Ning is a little over two years old at this point. There are some things I love about it that I think we’ve done really well, some things that we have revised, some things we can do better, and some interesting things planned for the future.

The talk is all about what we’ve learned developing, building, and supporting the API with both a ferocious devotion to backwards compatibility and a rapid new release cycle.

See you in October!

Runkit, "static", and inheritance

A PHP issue that comes up over and over again is how the static keyword doesn’t know about inheritance. That is, code such as:

class Masons {
    static $where = "World-wide";
    static function show() {
        print self::$where;

class Stonecutters extends Masons {
    static $where = "Springfield";


prints World-wide, not Springfield because the self inside Masons::show() is bound at compile time to the Masons class. This is different than how $this works in instances, so it can be unexpected.

There are plenty of good reasons why PHP 5 works this way and it seems that in PHP 6 the static keyword will be able to be used in place of self to get the dynamic behavior a lot of folks are looking for (that is, print static::$where; in Masons::show() would cause Stonecutters::show() to print Springfield.

All well and good once PHP 6 is done.

In the meantime, I was noodling around with runkit and came up with some glue that lets you do something like this:

class Model {
    public static function find($class, $filters) {
        // This method would actually do an SQL query or
        // REST request to retrieve data
        print "I'm looking for a $class with ";
        $tmp = array();
        foreach ($filters as $k => $v) { $tmp[] = "$k=$v"; }
        print implode(', ', $tmp);
        print "\n";

    public static function findById($class, $id) {
        return self::find($class, array('id' => $id));

class Monkey extends Model { }

class Elephant extends Model {
    public static function findByTrunkColor($color) {
        return self::find(array('color' => $color));

And then after the mysterious (for a few seconds) glue:


you can do:

Monkey::find(array('name' => 'George', 'is' => 'curious'));
// prints: I'm looking for a Monkey with name=George, is=curious

// prints: I'm looking for a Elephant with id=1274

// prints: I'm looking for a Elephant with color=grey

// prints: I'm looking for a Monkey with id=abe

(The innards of MethodHelper after the jump…)
Continue reading “Runkit, "static", and inheritance”

Visiting each character in a string

So I’ve got this string (in PHP) and I need to scan through it character by character. I can’t scan byte by byte because it’s 2007, our users write in all sorts of languages, and the string is UTF-8.

The PHP 5 solution uses mb_strlen() to find the length and then mb_substr() to grab each character:

$j = mb_strlen($theString);

for ($k = 0; $k < $j; $k++) {

$char = mb_substr($theString, $k, 1);

// do stuff with $char


In PHP 6, one would do:

foreach (new TextIterator($theString, TextIterator::CHARACTER) as $char) {

// do stuff with $char


Some rough benchmarks on a 1500 character (and 2900 byte) string (Linux, whatever processor is inside this Thinkpad T43 here, your mileage may vary, etc etc etc) give me about 61 scans/sec with PHP 5.2.1, where a “scan” is just moving through the loop above with mb_substr and doing one if() test comparing the char to ‘<’

Under PHP 6.0.0-dev with unicode.semantics=on, switching from mb_strlen() and mb_substr() to regular strlen() and substr() produces about the same result. And indexing with $theString[$k] is the same speed as substr().

However, the TextIterator case is much faster, about 450 scans/sec!

Nicely done!

Ubuntu Feisty Fawn vs. Cisco VPN Client

I upgraded a machine to Ubuntu Feisty Fawn (7.10) today and was having trouble recompiling the Cisco VPN client. Thanks to this thread, I went to this blog post and applied this patch and everything was fine.

I must admit that applying some random patch to one’s VPN client inspires a moderate amount of queasiness, but fortunately the patch is simple enough to understand so one can be confident no mischief is involved.