Blog Entries

OpenShift, ZF2, and Composer

I was recently shopping around for inexpensive cloud hosting; I want to try out a couple of ideas that may or may not have much traffic, but which aren't suited for my VPS setup (the excellent ServerGrove); additionally, I'm unsure how long I will maintain these projects. My budget for this is quite small as a result; I'm already paying for hosting, and am quite happy with it, so this is really for experimental stuff.

I considered Amazon, Orchestra.io, and a few others, but was concerned about the idea of a ~$50/month cost for something I'm uncertain about.

When I asked in #zftalk.dev, someone suggested OpenShift as an idea, and coincidentally, the very next day Zend announced a partnership with RedHat surrounding OpenShift. The stars were in alignment.

In the past month, in the few spare moments I've had (which included an excellent OpenShift hackathon at ZendCon), I've created a quick application that I've deployed and tested in OpenShift. These are my findings.

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Screencasting on Linux

I've been wanting to do screencasts on Linux for some time now, and my big stumbling block has been determining what tools to use.

The tl;dr:

  • Use recordMyDesktop to record video clips, but afterwards, re-encode them to AVI (see the script I used)
  • Record audio to WAV, or convert compressed audio to WAV format afterwards.
  • Use OpenShot to stitch clips together and layer audio and video tracks.
  • Remember to reset the video length if you change the playback rate.
  • Export to a Web + Vimeo profile for best results.

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ZF2 Modules Quickstart (Screencast)

One of the exciting features of the newly released Zend Framework 2 is the new module system.

While ZF1 had modules, they were difficult to manage. All resources for all modules were initialized on each request, and bootstrapping modules was an onerous task. Due to the difficulties, modules were never truly "plug-and-play", and thus no ecosystem ever evolved for sharing modules.

In Zend Framework 2, we've architected the MVC from the ground up to make modular applications as easy as possible. Within ZF2, the MVC simply cares about events and services — and controllers are simply one kind of service. As such, modules are primarily about telling the MVC about services and wiring event listeners.

To give you an example, in this tutorial, I'll show you how to install the Zend Framework 2 skeleton application, and we'll then install a module and see how easy it is to add it to the application and then configure it.

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On Microframeworks

A number of months ago, Ed Finkler started a discussion in the PHP community about “MicroPHP”; to summarize, the movement is about:

  • Building small, single-purpose libraries.
  • Using small things that work together to solve larger problems.

I think there are some really good ideas that have come out of this, and also a number of questionable practices1.

One piece in particular I've focussed on is the concept of so-called “microframeworks”.

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ZF2's New Controller::init()

In Zend Framework 1, controller's had an init() method, which was called after the controller was instantiated. The reason for it was to encourage developers not to override the constructor, and thus potentially break some of the functionality (as a number of objects were injected via the constructor). init() was useful for doing additional object initialization.


class MyController extends Zend_Controller_Action
{
    public function init()
    {
        // do some stuff!
    }
}

But this feature is missing from ZF2; how can we accomplish this sort of pattern?

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ZF2 Forms in Beta5

Forms are a nightmare for web development. They break the concept of separation of concerns:

  • They have a display aspect (the actual HTML form)
  • They have a validation aspect
  • And the two mix, as you need to display validation error messages.

On top of that, the submitted data is often directly related to your domain models, causing more issues:

  • Not all elements will have a 1:1 mapping to the domain model -- buttons, CSRF protection, CAPTCHAs, etc. usually are application-level concerns, but not domain issues.
  • Names valid for your domain model may not be valid names for HTML entities.

Add to this that the validation logic may be re-usable outside of a forms context, and you've got a rather complex problem.

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On Visibility in OOP

I'm a big proponent of object oriented programming. OOP done right helps ease code maintenance and enables code re-use.

Starting in PHP, OOP enthusiasts got a whole bunch of new tools, and new tools keep coming into the language for us with each minor release. One feature that has had a huge impact on frameworks and libraries has been available since the earliest PHP 5 versions: visibility.

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Automatic deployment with git and gitolite

I read a post recently by Sean Coates about deploy on push. The concept is nothing new: you set up a hook that listens for commits on specific branches or tags, and it then deploys your site from that revision.

Except I'd not done it myself. This is how I got there.

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Why Modules?

I've blogged about getting started with ZF2 modules, as well as about ZF2 modules you can already use. But after fielding some questions recently, I realized I should talk about why modules are important for the ZF2 ecosystem.

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Developing A ZF2 Blog

This post tells a story.

A long time ago, I set out to write my own blog platform. Yes, WordPress is a fine blogging platform, as is Serendipity (aka "s9y", and my previous platform). And yes, I know about Habari. And, for those of you skimming ahead, yes, I'm quite aware of Jekyll, thank you anyways.

Why write something of my own? Well, of course, there's the fact that I'm a developer, and have control issues. Then there's also the fact that a blog is both a simple enough domain to allow easily experimenting with new technology and paradigms, while simultaneously providing a complex enough domain to expose non-trivial issues.

When I started this project, it was a technology-centered endeavor; I wanted to play with document databases such as CouchDB and MongoDB, and with caching technologies like memcached and redis.

Not long after I started, I also realized it was a great playground for me to prototype ideas for ZF2; in fact, the original DI and MVC prototypes lived as branches of my blog. (My repository is still named "zf2sandbox" to this day, though it technically houses just my site.)

Over time, I had a few realizations. First, my actual blog was suffering. I wasn't taking the time to perform security updates, nor even normal upgrades, and was so far behind as to make the process non-trivial, particularly as I had a custom theme, and because I was proxying to my blog via a ZF app in order to facilitate a cohesive site look-and-feel. I needed to either sink time into upgrading, or finish my blog.

My second realization, however, was the more important one: I wanted a platform where I could write how I want to write. I am a keyboard-centric developer and computer user, and while I love the web, I hate typing in its forms. Additionally, my posts often take longer than a typical browser session -- which leaves me either losing my work in a GUI admin, or having to write first in my editor of choice, and then cut-and-paste it to the web forms. Finally, I want versions I can easily browse with standard diffing tools.

When it came down to it, my blog content is basically static. Occasionally, I'll update a post, but it's rare. Comments are really the only dynamic aspect of the blog... and what I had with s9y was not cutting it, as I was getting more spam than I could keep up with. New commenting platforms such as Livefyre and Disqus provide more features than most blogging platforms I know, and provide another side benefit: because they are javascript-based, you can simply drop in a small amount of markup into your post once -- meaning your pages can be fully static!

Add these thoughts to the rise of static blogging platforms such as the aforementioned Jekyll, and I had a kernel of an idea: take the work I'd done already, and create a static blog generator.

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