Blog Entries

XP + Cygwin + coLinux == Productivity

I wrote earlier of my experiences using Windows XP, a move I've considered somewhat unfortunate but necessary. I've added a couple more tools to my toolbox since that have made the environment even better.

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Using Windows XP

Those of you who know me well know that I've been using Linux as my primary OS for many years now. At this point, for me, using Windows is like deciding I'm going to use a limited vocabulary; I can get the idea across, but not quite as well.

Due to the nature of where I work and the fact that I'm telecommuting, I've been having to maintain a dual-boot system. I use Ubuntu for my daily OS, and boot into Windows when I need to interact with people at work via Webex or Skype (we're using the new Skype beta with video, and it only works on Windows XP at this time).

This week, however, I've had to stay on Windows quite a bit -- lots of impromptu conference calls and such. So, I've been customizing my environment, and been pretty pleased with the results.

Continue reading for some tips on customizing your Windows XP environment to work and feel a little more like... linux.

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Name recognition

Don't know if this is actually possible, but it appears Liam is already starting to associate names with people!

Just now, Jen was holding Liam, and turned him to face Maeve and I, who were sitting on the couch. He wasn't looking anywhere in particular. Then, Jen said, "Hi, Papa!" and his eyes moved to focus on me. A moment later, she said, "Hi, big sister!" and he moved is eyes to focus on Maeve.

As I type this, Jen just tried the experiment again with Maeve, and again he moved his eyes and head to look at her!

How cool and amazing it is to witness child development!

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Cgiapp 1.7.1 Released

I was able to roll a long-needed (and by some, long awaited) bugfix release of Cgiapp this morning. Cgiapp 1.7.1 corrects the following issues:

  • Cgiapp5::run() was corrected to call query() instead of cgiapp_get_query() (which caused a fatal error)
  • Cgiapp::__call() and Cgiapp5::__call() now report the name of the method called in errors when unable to find matching actions for that method.

As usual, downloads are available on my site as well as via SourceForge.

Update: The link on my site for downloading Cgiapp has been broken; I've now fixed it.

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Simple Caching for PHP

I ran across an article on "How to build a simple caching system, with PHP" on PHPit today. Overall, it's a fairly decent article, and uses some good principles (using the output buffer to capture content, using a callback to grab the captured content). There are a few minor improvements I'd make, however.

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Zend PHP Expo Presentation

Mike and I have just finished our talk on "Setting Up PHP". The number of attendees was N + 1, where N is the number of speakers... which was to be expected, as we were presenting opposite a session on web services, Shiflett's PHP Security talk, and a crash course on the ZCE. However, it's undoubtedly the best presentation missed by attendees. :-)

You can grab our presentation online.

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Review: php|architect's Guide to PHP Security

I flew in to San Jose today to visit Zend, and later attend the Zend/PHP Conference and Expo (two days left... register now if you haven't, and have the time to attend; the conference sessions promise to be very interesting).

During the flight, I had plenty of time to go through Ilia's Guide to PHP Security, which I'd ordered several weeks ago, but hadn't had time to read since.

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Zend Conference

Around the time I was hired by Zend, I was asked, along with Mike Naberezny, to fill in for a tutorial session entitled 'Setting up PHP' for the upcoming Zend/PHP Conference and Expo. The basic premise of the session is to give a step-by-step tutorial on how to setup and configure PHP for various scenarios, such as development, testing, and production.

Mike and I have been working in parallel developing ideas and outlines for the session, and I'm fairly excited to have the opportunity. However, if you're attending the conference and, in particular, this session, I'd love to hear any input you might have -- any tricks you'd love to learn, configuration settings you don't understand, use cases you might need. Leave a comment!

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Transitions

Life is in transition for me now. Two weeks ago, we got to bring our handsome baby boy home, and I haven't been sleeping much since (though more than Jen). On top of the sleep deprivation, however, comes more exciting news: I've been hired as a PHP Developer by Zend Technologies!

I was approached by Daniel Kushner in late July regarding another position at Zend, and was flown out at the beginning of August. While I felt the interview went well, I harbored some doubts; work got fairly busy shortly thereafter, and then, of course, Liam was born, and the interview went completely out of my head. Until about three days after Liam's birthday, when Daniel contacted me again about the PHP Developer position.

Work started yesterday, and I was flown to Zend's offices in Cupertino, CA, for orientation and to sit down with both Daniel and others to prepare for the projects on which I will be working. Thankfully, the job will not require that I move, and I will be working out of the 'home office' in Vermont when I return later this week.

The decision to leave NGA was difficult, but the opportunity to work with Zend is just too good to miss. I am honored to be selected by them, and hope this is the beginning of many good things to come.

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File_SMBPasswd woes

I've been cobbling together a system at work for the last couple months to allow a single place for changing all network passwords. This includes a variety of database sources, as well as passwd files and smbpasswd files. I've been making use of PEAR's File_Passwd and File_SMBPasswd, and they've greatly simplified the task of updating passwords for those types of systems. However, I've encountered some issues that I never would have expected.

I have the web user in a group called 'samba', and I have the smbpasswd file owned by root:samba. I then set the smbpasswd file to be group +rw. Simple, right? The web user should then be able to update the smbpasswd file without a problem, right? Wrong.

I kept getting errors, and on investigation continually found that the smbpasswd file permissions had reverted to 0600 -- i.e., only the root user could access it. I tried using 'chattr -i' on the off-chance that the file had been made immutable (which didn't make sense, as I was able to see the permissions change). No luck.

Based on observations of when the permissions reverted, it appears that the various SMB processes will reset the permissions! An example is when someone attempts to mount a resource from the server; this accesses the smbpasswd file to perform authentication -- and at this point the file permissions change. I can find no documentation to support this; these are simply my observations.

So, to get around the behaviour, I created a script that will set the file permissions to what I want them, and then gave sudo privileges to the samba group for that script. This script is then called via system() in the update script just before processing.

It's a hack, and could be made more secure, but it works.

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