Those who know me know that I love linux and open source. One particular program that firmly committed me to open source software is the Mozilla project — a project that took the Netscape browser's codebase and ran with it to places I know I never anticipated when I first heard of the project.
What do I like about Mozilla? Well, for starters, and most importantly, tabbed browsing changed the way I work. What is tabbed browsing? It's the ability to have multiple tabs in a browser window, allowing you to switch between web pages without needing to switch windows.
Mozilla came out with a standalone browser a number of months back called, first Phoenix, then Firebird, and now Firefox. This standalone browser has a conservative number of basic features, which allow for a lean download — and yet, these basic features, which include tabbed browsing and disabling popups, far surpass Internet Explorer's features. And there are many extensions that you can download and integrate into the browser.
One such extension is a tabbed browsing extension that makes tabbed browsing even more useful. With it, I can choose to have any links leaving a site go to a new tab; or have bookmarks automatically load in a new tab; or group tabs and save them as bookmark folders; or drag a tab to a different location in the tabs (allowing easy grouping).
Frankly, there's few things I can find that Firefox can't do.
And, on top of that, it's not integrated into the operating system. So, if you're on Windows, that means if you use Firefox, you're less likely to end up with spyware and adware — which often is downloaded and installed by special IE components just by visiting sites — ruining your internet experience.
So, spread the word: Firefox is a speedy, featureful, SECURE alternative to Internet Explorer!
I've had a few people contact me indicating interest in Cgiapp, and I've noticed
a number of subscribers to the freshmeat project I've setup. In addition, we're
using the library extensively at the
National Gardening Association in developing our new
site (the current site is using a mixture of ASP and Tango, with several newer
applications using PHP). I've also been monitoring the
mailing list. As a result of all this activity, I've decided I need to develop a
roadmap for Cgiapp.
Currently, planned changes include:
Version 1.x series:
stripslashes (the Smarty "function" call will be
param() bugfix: currently, calling
param() with no arguments simply
gives you a list of parameters registered with the method, but not their
values; this will be fixed.
error_mode() method. The
CGI::Application ML brought up and implemented
the idea of an
error_mode() method to register an
error_mode with the
object (similar to
run_modes()). While non-essential, it would offer a
standard, built-in hook for error handling.
$PATH_INFO traversing. Again, on the
CGI::App ML, a request was brought
up for built-in support for using
$PATH_INFO to determine the run mode.
Basically, you would pass a parameter indicating which location in the
$PATH_INFO string holds the run mode.
Version 2.x series:
Yes, a Cgiapp2 is in the future. There are a few changes that are either necessitating (a) PHP5, or (b) API changes. In keeping with PEAR guidelines, I'll rename the module Cgiapp2 so as not to break applications designed for Cgiapp.
Changes expected include:
Inherit from PEAR. This will allow for some built in error handling, among
other things. I suspect that this will tie in with the
may also deprecate
load_tmpl(). In the perl version, you would
instantiate a template using
load_tmpl(), assign your variables to it,
and then do your
fetch() on it. So, this:
$body = $this->load_tmpl('template.html');
$tmpl = $this->load_tmpl();
$body = $tmpl->fetch('template.html');
$tmpl = $this->load_tmpl('template.html');
$body = $tmpl->fetch();
(Both examples assume use of Smarty.) I want to revert to this behaviour for several reasons:
Portability with perl. This is one area in which the PHP and perl versions differ greatly; going to the perl way makes porting classes between the two languages simpler.
Decoupling. The current set of template methods create an object as a parameter of the application object — which is fine, unless the template object instantiator returns an object of a different kind.
Smarty can use the same object to fill multiple templates, and the
current methods make use of this. By assigning the template object
locally to each method, this could be lost. HOWEVER… an easy
work-around would be for
load_tmpl() to create the object and store
it an a parameter; subsequent calls would return the same object
reference. The difficulty then would be if
load_tmpl() assumed a
template name would be passed. However, even in
CGI::App, you decide
on a template engine and design for that engine; there is never an
assumption that template engines should be swappable.
Existing Cgiapp1 applications would need to be rewritten.
Plugin Architecture: The
CGI::App ML has produced a
namespace that utilizes a common plugin architecture. The way it is done
in perl is through some magic of namespaces and export routines… both of
which are, notably, missing from PHP.
However, I think I may know a workaround for this, if I use PHP5: the
__call() overloader method.
My idea is to have plugin classes register methods that should be
accessible by a Cgiapp-based class a special key in the
__call() method would check the key for registered methods; if
one is found matching a method requested, that method is called (using
call_user_func()), with the Cgiapp-based object reference as the first
reference. Voilá! instant plugins!
Why do this? A library of 'standard' plugins could then be created, such as:
Since the 'exported' methods would have access to the Cgiapp object, they could even register objects or parameters with it.
If you have any requests or comments on the roadmap, please feel free to contact me.
The new weierophinney.net/matthew/ site is now up and running!
The site has been many months in planning, and about a month or so in actual coding. I have written the site in, instead of flatfiles, PHP, so as to:
I've written it using a strict MVC model, which means that I have libraries for accessing and manipulating the database; all displays are template driven (meaning I can create them with plain-old HTML); and I can create customizable applications out of various controller libraries. I've called this concoction Dragonfly.
There will be more developments coming — sitewide search comes to mind, as well as RSS feeds for the blog and downloads.
Ever wonder what's keeping that device in use so you can't unmount it? It's
happened to me a few times. The tool to discover this information?
Basically, you type something like:
lsof /mnt/cdrom and it gives you a
output detailing the PID and process of the processes that are using the cdrom.
You can then go and manually stop those programs, or kill them yourself.
Okay, so that's actually direct quotes from the article. I took issue with it, immediately — I use Smarty for everything I do, and the decision to do so was not done lightly. I have in fact been advocating the use of template engines in one language or another for several years with the various positions in which I've been employed; I think they are an essential tool for projects larger than a few pages. Why?
So, reading the aforementioned article really got my hackles up. However, it got me thinking, as well. One issue raised is that PHP can be used as your templating language. While I can understand why this might be desirable — everything from load issues to flexibility — I also feel that this doesn't give enough abstraction.
Using PHP seems to me to be inefficient on two fundamental levels, based on my understanding of The Pragmatic Programmer:
The author of the article also makes a case for teaching web designers PHP — that the language is sufficiently easy to pick up that they typically will be able to learn it as easily, if not more easily, than a template language. I agree to a degree… But my experience has shown that web designers typically struggle with HTML, let alone PHP. (Note: my experience in this regard is not huge, and I'm sure that this is an exaggeration.) I find that it's typically easiest for me to give an example template, explain what the funny, non-HTML stuff can do, and let them go from there. Using this approach, they do not need to learn anything new — they simply work with placeholders.
Still, I think the author raises some fine points. I wish he'd bothered to do more research into why people choose template engines and the benefits that arise from using them before simply outright slamming them. Of course, the article is also a bit dated; it was written over two years ago, and much has changed in the world of PHP and many of its template engines. I'm curious as to whether they would feel the same way today.
Me? My mind is made up — the benefits, in my circumstances, far outweigh any costs associated. I'll be using template engines, and Smarty in particular, for years to come.
I'd read that you could get binary packages for gentoo, thus alleviating the need to compile everything. (Of course, then you lose some of the benefits of compiling everything, but you gain in speed…) Unfortunately, I mistook this with ebuilds, and never quite figured it out.
The key is to throw the
$ emerge -g gnumeric # which is like 'emerge --getbinpkg gnumeric'
I also learned how to update packages tonight:
$ emerge sync # to sync your mirror with the gentoo mirrors
$ emerge --update portage # if necessary
$ emerge --update system # updates core system files
$ emerge --update world # updates all packages
I've had a bunch of problems with my new computer — it uses ACPI, but if I load the ACPI modules, it won't boot; if I don't load them, I have to go through contortions to get the ethernet working, and it won't power down; and a bunch of other little stuff.
So, a few weeks ago, I thought, what the heck? Why not try Gentoo? I've been reading about it since it first came out, and I remember talking with Duane about it once, and it has a reputation for both being cutting edge and stable. Heck, even Wil Wheaton's endorsing it… it can't be all bad, right?
I had a few misstarts — bad CDs, not quite getting how the chroot thing worked, problems with DNS (which I still don't understand; and Rob has them as well, so it's not just me). But once I got it installed… well, I'm impressed.
The thing about Gentoo is, it compiles everything from source. It's like Debian, in that it fetches all dependencies and installs those… but it's all source. So it's not exactly fast. But because everything is compiled, and because you setup C flags specific to your machine, what you get is incredibly optimized for your own machine. This 1.6GHz machine simply flies. And the memory usage just stays low.
I'd like to use it for my server… but I can't really take the server down at this point when it's making both my mom and myself money. But what a great system… I only wish I'd used it for the mail server at work.
After working on some OO classes yesterday for an application backend I'm
developing for work, I decided I needed to create a
BREAD class to make this
simpler. You know, Browse-Read-Edit-Add-Delete.
At first, I figured I'd build off of what I'd done yesterday. But then I got to
thinking (ah, thinking, my curse). I ran into the
BREAD concept originally
CGI::Application; a number of individuals had developed
CGI::Apps that provided this functionality. I'd discarded them usually because
they provided more functionality than I needed or because they introduced more
complexity than I was willing to tackle right then.
But once my thoughts had gone to
CGI::App, I started thinking how
nice it would be to have
CGI::Application for PHP. And then I thought, why
not? What prevents me from porting it? I have the source…
So, today I stayed home with Maeve, who, on the tail end of an illness,
evidently ran herself down when at daycare yesterday, and stayed home sleeping
most of the day. So, while she was resting, I sat down with a printout of the
non-POD code of
CGI::App and hammered out what I needed to do. Then, when she
fell asleep for a nap, I typed it all out and started testing. And, I'm proud to
say, it works. For an example, visit
my development site to see a
very simple, templated application in action.
I just read coverage of a panel of programming luminaries on Salon; the topic of discussion was about the state of programming. In the course of the discussion, the subject of Open Source came up. Several of the luminaries — which included architects of the Mac OS and Windows, as well as others — derided the community for basically reinventing the wheel, and wheels that need to be re-thought entirely anyways. One questioned, "Why is the idealism just about how the code is shared — what about idealism about the code itself?"
Andy Hertzfeld (who helped develop the original Mac OS) was sitting on the panel, and jumped in. He has been working with Eazel and Chandler in recent years, and thus has an inside view of open source. His initial comment: "It's because they want people to use the stuff!" Basically, they program Windows- or Mac-like interfaces because then people will be willing to try it out. They program office suites because people "need" an office suite to be productive. Such offerings hook them into the OSS movement.
Another participant, Dan Bricklin (of VisiCalc, a pioneering spreadsheet program) shared an anecdote from Bill Gates. Evidently, Gates gave an interview (with Lammers — look up this person) in which he explained that his work on MS's BASIC compiler was done by looking at how other programmers had accomplished the task. In his own words, "The best way to prepare is to write programs, and to study great programs that other people have written. In my case, I went to the garbage cans at the Computer Science Center and I fished out listings of their operating systems."
So basically, Gates was an early adopter of OSS methodologies… Interesting to see that today he's so protective of MS code. Guess money might do that to you.
I was lamenting at work the other day that now that I've discovered OO and templating with PHP, the only major feature missing for me is a way to easily document my programs. I'm a big fan of perl's POD, and use it fairly extensively, even for simple scripts — it's a way to provide a quick manual without needing to worry too much about how to format it.
So, it hit me on the way home Friday night: what prevents me from using POD in multiline comments of PHP scripts? I thought I'd give it a try when I got home.
First I googled for 'POD for PHP', and found a link to perlmongers where somebody recounted seeing that exact thing done, and how nicely it worked.
Then I tried it… and it indeed worked. So, basically, I've got all the tools I love from perl in PHP, one of which is borrowed directly from the language!