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.
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.
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://firstname.lastname@example.org/ 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.
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...
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.
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.
So I'm back from OSCMS 2007, and it was a blast. I'll provide a more complete (and illustrated) writeup later, but for now suffice to say that Drupal developers are by and large totally cool people on top of being very smart cookies.
A lot of people have been blogging about PHP 5, too, and how Drupal needs to move to it or keep PHP 4 compatibility or whatever. One of the most important things to come out of this Drupalcon, as far as I'm concerned, is that I think we really do have a picture of how we can make it happen.
It's a somewhat belated announcement, but I am pleased to report the latest Drupal site on the Net, Washington University, St. Louis' College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
ArtSci is the first major Drupal site for Palantir.net, although we have several more in the pipeline. It is also one of many that Washington University will be launching. The entire Arts and Sciences school has decided to go Drupal. Yay for Open Source!