Technical Thoughts, Tutorials, and Musings

Yes, I am certifiable!

So it only took them a month to grade it (silly paper exams), but I finally heard back from Zend about the Zend PHP 5 Certification exam I took at php|tek last month. I passed, of course. :-)

Let the bad puns begin!

On code legacy

Dries has been commenting recently, both on his blog and elsewhere, about one of the chief advantages of using open source: All developers/users are on equal footing. If you try to learn a proprietary app or framework, you know what the main developer feels like deigning to let you know. Anything else is either a mystery or, in some cases, illegal for you to find out (if there's any encryption or copy-prevention involved). You can never be as good an expert as the author, because the author has access to the Holy Book (code) and you don't. With an open source project, everyone gets the same access to the code. The only thing stopping you from being the best expert on the planet is your own skills and time.

He's very right about why you should choose to use an open source project. But what about why you should start one, or release your own code open source? As a developer, that's a far more interesting question for me.

People vs. Process

I am a regular reader of TheDailyWTF. Aside from being thoroughly entertaining, it's a great way to learn what not to do by example. Sometimes, though, they have a really insightful article, like The Great Pyramid of Agile. It's spot-on.

POTM for May: jQuery

There was a time when I hated Javascript. I'm sure many people hated Javascript at one point. Many still do. Back in the 90s, Javascript seemed to exist primarily to confuse web developers, to provide buggy stock code that designers could copy and paste to provide pointless effects that broke in every browser but the one they were using, and to make web pages cute and therefore unusable.

In the modern day, though, that has changed. Javascript is now cool, and actually fun to program in. There are two main reasons for that, in my experience: browsers that only mostly suck instead of completely suck, and jQuery.

Drupal and PHP 5 again

Nick Lewis has set off a bit of a firestorm with his latest blog, "Drupal is Part of the Problem". In short, his argument is the same chicken-and-egg that the PHP dev team keeps saying: Hosts won't move to PHP 5 until the applications are there, so the big applications need to lead. In a sense he's right; web hosts are by necessity cautious and conservative. At the same time, though, developers can't take the whole blame.

Version wars again

Over on the Planet PHP site, another author has brought up the monthly PHP 4/PHP 5 rant again with regards to why the major open source packages (he picks on Drupal and Wordpress in particular) are still developing for PHP 4. It's like clockwork how often the question comes up. The answer, as always, is dead-simple. I'd love to use PHP 5's features, but can't. Check out the latest PHP usage stats, published on the same planet site, to see why. (Hint: See the 3th chart.) Until that changes, developers can't drop PHP 4 support.

POTM for April: WinSCP

I'm really setting a bad example here, given that I started this thing. Bah.

In my day job, one of the most regular tasks I have, after writing code, is managing code on remote servers. In KDE, that's trivially simple; just open up sftp://myname@server.com/ in a window and you have full access to the remote files with complete network transparency in any application. In Windows, though, I don't have that. So where do I turn? WinSCP.

What did I do to deserve this?

My copy of Pro Drupal Development arrived in the mail the other day. So far it's very programmer-targeted, but good. I need more time to just sit down and read it. :-)

I did notice one thing that caught my eye, though. In the Acknowledgments, the authors thank

...the members of the #drupal internet relay chat channel, who put up with the constant questioning of how things worked, why things were written a certain way, or whether or not a bit of code was brilliant or made no sense at all.... Among them are... Larry Crell...

The documentation problem

Over on the Planet, someone posted a link to a budding Drupal user who was having the usual first-time-user troubles. "I want to do X, Y, Z, but I can't figure out how and no one will tell me, help!" Been there, done that, I suppose. But how can that be if there's so much Drupal documentation? Simple. The questions most people ask are the hardest to answer, because there isn't just one kind of documentation.

Finally on 5

Last week this web site developed a completely bizarre bug interacting with the database that affected only blog entries. I blamed the database. My web host insisted the problem was with the PHP code. So I took the opportunity to just upgrade the site to Drupal 5, finally, and see what would happen.

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