Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Bug Hunting

See Bug Hunting at its new home on

If you are a PHP developer in the Burlington, Vermont area then you should come to tomorrow (11/19) evening's PHP Users Group meeting at the newly opened Office Squared coworking space in downtown Burlington. This month we will be learning how to find and fix bugs in free and open source projects. From the meeting description:

Each third Thursday and Friday of the month, Zend Framework has Bug Hunt Days in which the community helps triage issues and resolve them. These efforts include everything from fixing typos in documentation to creating reproduce cases and capturing them in unit tests to actual creation of patches resolving reported bugs.

Since this month's meeting falls on the third Thursday, Matthew Weier O'Phinney, Project Lead for Zend Framework, thought we could join in on this effort or help contribute to other projects. He will be providing a short presentation on effective bug reporting and triage, after which we will jump into some actual bug hunting on projects you, the attendees, are interested in.

So come with your laptops ready, and let's fix some bugs!

PHP developers of all skill levels are welcome. There are many types of contributions needed to keep free and open source projects moving forward. You will likely have something you can contribute — and you'll learn a lot doing it!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Rackspace Cloud Sites

See Rackspace Cloud Sites at its new home on

We've been a Rackspace Cloud Sites (formerly Mosso) customer for about three years. In fact, I signed up as a beta tester when it was originally called "the system beats the machine." I doubt many people that work at Rackspace even know that it once had that rather odd name. Honestly, it was very rocky at the beginning (even after it was officially out of beta) but today it's a very solid platform. I've been a fan of Rackspace for years and would recommend them to anyone who needs dedicated and managed servers, virtual servers, storage delivery, our cloud hosting.

As much as I like Rackspace, the point of this blog post isn't to praise them. They've been making a big marketing push on their cloud offerings lately but I get the impression that Cloud Sites (the service we use) is the, "oh, yeah, we offer that too" service. They seem to be unaware of the potential of one of their own service offerings and push people who need a "serious" solution to Cloud Servers. Cloud Sites is an excellent platform as a service for people running PHP or .NET web applications who have better things to do with their time than manage the hardware or software layers below their PHP or .NET applications. Sure, Cloud Servers takes away the hardware layer management but you still have to manage the software layer (operating system, PHP or .NET, MySQL, etc.) yourself and deploy individual virtual servers if you need more capacity.

Part of this impression comes from Rackspace's recent marketing efforts around their cloud offerings. Some of it also comes from the technology behind Cloud Sites. For example, one of the big pain points (for me) with Cloud Sites is lack of support for features that would make application deployments easier. I understand why ssh isn't supported since there is no single machine to remote into. They do support sshfs which is useful and solves part of that problem. However, support for public key authentication and symlinks (symlinks work but aren't officially supported) would go a long way towards making application deployments less painful. It's my impression that features like these aren't included in Cloud Sites because Rackspace thinks that people who want them should use Cloud Servers instead. If that is what they think, then they're missing the point of how dead simple and awesome an application platform Cloud Sites could be.

Beginner PHP Code Examples

See Beginner PHP Code Examples at its new home on

At last month's Burlington, VT PHP Users Group meeting I presented a session on beginner PHP. The code examples can be downloaded (or forked) from GitHub. The talk was geared towards complete beginners and covered the basic structure of a PHP script, variables, comments, data types, arrays (enumerative, associative and multi-dimensional), operators, conditionals, iterative constructs, functions, scope, web forms and database access. I've licensed the code examples under the New BSD license in case anyone wants to use and/or modify them for their own beginner PHP talk.