On the use of Enums

Submitted by Larry on 27 June 2022 - 10:38am

Enumerations are a feature of many programming languages. However, we should perhaps say "many languages have a feature called enumerations." What that means in practice has a lot of language-specific semantic nuance, and trying to use the feature of one language as though it were the feature of another language can lead to all kinds of broken code. (That's true of most language features.)

So how are Enumerations best used in PHP, specifically? Let's have a look at some examples, and see where they should, and shouldn't, be used.

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Much ado about null

Submitted by Larry on 13 May 2022 - 11:24am

null has a controversial history. It's been called "the billion-dollar mistake" by its creator. Most languages implement null, but those few that do not (such as Rust) are generally lauded for their smart design by eliminating a class of errors entirely. Many developers (myself included) have argued that code that uses null or nullable parameters/returns is intrinsically a code smell to be avoided, while others (also myself included, naturally) have argued that is too draconian of a stance to take.

Anna Filina has a very good three-part series (properties, parameters, and returns) on how to avoid null in PHP generally. Alexis King has a related post (excuse the Haskell) on how to avoid needing edge cases like null in the first place.

However, I want to go a bit deeper and try to understand null from a different angle, and tease out the nuance of why one would really want to use it, and thus what we should be doing instead. To get there we'll have to go through a tiny little bit of type theory, but it will be quick and painless, I swear.

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A robust, powerful, easy to use attribute parser for PHP

Submitted by Larry on 21 April 2022 - 4:56pm

After sitting on it for a while, I am pleased to release a PHP library for robust, powerful attribute handling in PHP 8.1: Crell/AttributeUtils. It's a robust, centralized tool for slicing, dicing, and reverse engineering classes in PHP using attributes.

The basics

The basic model of Attribute Utils is to analyze a class "with respect to" some attribute. That attribute may be defined on the class, or not. (Both options have meaning.) That attribute may be associated with attributes on properties or methods, which are all scanned together to produce a picture of a class.

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Advent of Functional PHP: Review

Submitted by Larry on 29 December 2021 - 7:10pm

Over the last few weeks, I've been following Advent of Code 2021, using Functional PHP as an approach. It's been a fun and educational process, at least for me and apparently for a few other people, at least given how popular the articles have been.

For reference, the full list of articles in this series is here:

Advent of Functional PHP: Day 10

Submitted by Larry on 24 December 2021 - 7:14pm

For the 10th Day of Advent of Code, we're asked to solve a matching braces problem. This is a common parser exercise, but it's made a bit more complex in this case by using multiple types of braces. Specifically, we're handling a series of lines that contain ( and ), but also < and >, [ and ], and { and }.

The story jazzes it up as being the code of our submarine's navigational computer, which consists entirely of braces in a sort of eldritch horror version of brainfuck, but that's mostly just a distraction.

Advent of Functional PHP: Day 9

Submitted by Larry on 23 December 2021 - 11:21am

Day 9 of this year's Advent of Code revolves around grid interpretation. Specifically, we are given a grid of numbers and want to find the low points, that is, the numbers that are smaller than any of their orthogonal neighbors. (We're told to ignore diagonals in part 1.)

After finding the low points, we need to do a bit of math on each one, and add them up. As usual, this last step is mostly just to produce a single verification number at the end. That part is easy as usual, but how do we find the low points?

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Advent of Functional PHP: Day 8

Submitted by Larry on 20 December 2021 - 10:06am

Advent of Code Day 8 was, to put it mildly, a pain in the ass. There's a couple of reasons for that. It's a naturally tricky problem, it's hard to genericize, and it's explained fairly badly. It took a while but with some help from others I was finally able to figure out (and refactor to) a good, functional solution to it. So let's dive in.

The problem boils down to one of encryption. Our input is several lines that all look like this:

acedgfb cdfbe gcdfa fbcad dab cefabd cdfgeb eafb cagedb ab | cdfeb fcadb cdfeb cdbaf

Where each letter corresponds to one segment in an LED display for a number. Each number appears once on the left side, which is enough for you to figure out what letter corresponds to what segment. Then we need to use that knowledge to decode the numbers on the right and figure out what the number is.

Advent of Functional PHP: Day 7

Submitted by Larry on 7 December 2021 - 3:38pm

Advent of Code Day 7 this year is another problem that's more about the math than about the programming, so we won't see much in the way of new functional techniques. Still, there's some interesting bits in there.

Today we need to calculate the fuel costs of moving a bunch of crabs in submarines all into a line. (Don't ask. Really, don't ask.) Essentially we want to center-align a series of points using the least "cost" possible. Crab positions are represented by a single number, as crabs can only move horizontally. (Because crabs.)

The trick for today is realizing that the crabs don't matter; it's a distance-cost calculation. In part 1, the cost for a crab to move one space toward whatever alignment number we want to pick is 1.

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Advent of Functional PHP: Day 6

Submitted by Larry on 6 December 2021 - 12:43pm

Day 6's challenge is a little fishy. Given what we've already done so far, it's pretty simple. The only catch is making sure you do it in an efficient way.

Specifically, we're asked to model the growth patterns of fictional lantern fish. In this silly model, we start with a list of fish at various ages. Each fish spawns a new fish every 7 days, and a newborn fish takes an extra 2 days before it starts spawning new fish. Fish also never die. (Someone warn the AI people that we've found the paperclip optimizer.)

Part 1 asks us how many fish there are after 80 days, all around the world, given the start data. Let's find out, but let's do so efficiently.

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