Getting Started with Beanstalkd

I had a good experience implementing beanstalkd for the first time last week, so I thought I'd write down how that went and what I learned.

Why Beanstalkd?

My requirements were simply to add both asynchronous (for processing things like recalculating counts) and periodic (mostly for garbage collection) tasks to a PHP application. The application has a separate web application and backend API, both made of PHP's Slim framework, and the API talks to MySQL. It's all very lightweight and scalable, and I was looking for something to fit in with what we have, with good PHP support.

Enter beanstalkd, it's a super-simple job queue and has great PHP support in the shape of Pheanstalk (I'm saving my PHP + beanstalkd examples for another day because this post would get too long to read otherwise!). I've used gearman in the past but beanstalkd seemed lighter, and when I started looking at their documentation I discovered that I had a working installation in about the time it would take me to fall off a log - which is always a good indicator of a tool that will be fun to work with :) Continue reading

PHP and Git Training Course Dates

I've had a little flurry of enquiries about training lately, so I thought I'd mention the courses I have coming up, as especially the PHP ones are topics that I don't run public classes on all that often. At the time of writing I have some space on all of these classes: Continue reading

Use a GitHub Branch as a Composer Dependency

My current project sees Celery (a python distributed task queue) added to my PHP application. There's a handy PHP interface to the RabbitMQ that Celery uses as a backend, which makes it easy for me to create jobs, called celery-php. This requires either the PECL AMQP extension or alternatively it has experimental support for the PHP library for AMQP - I would normally prefer the PECL version but ran into version compatibility problems, missing manual pages, and decided that a pure PHP solution might be more portable and perhaps I would just add the experimental branch to my composer.json file for this project. Continue reading

Git Log All Branches

I can't be the only person who always seems to be switching between multiple development branches. Sometimes I get distracted for a few days (I'm also part time, which doesn't help!) and then I can't even remember what I was doing or what the branch was called.

The remedy for this situation? The --all switch to git log. Continue reading

Ubuntu and the X220T Touch Screen

I have a thinkpad laptop with a touchscreen and a swivel so it can fold up and pretend to be an oversized tablet. I like it a lot, but the touch screen interface hasn't been all that useful since I normally use this machine docked and then it maps the whole of one screen as a touch interface across my multiple monitors as a desktop space!

I recently sorted this out, so I thought I'd share the scripts that worked for me on Saucy Salamander Ubuntu 13.10 with Unity.

First, work out which device you actually want:


$ xsetwacom --list
Wacom Bamboo stylus id: 11 type: STYLUS
Wacom ISDv4 E6 Pen stylus id: 13 type: STYLUS
Wacom ISDv4 E6 Finger touch id: 14 type: TOUCH
Wacom Bamboo eraser id: 19 type: ERASER
Wacom Bamboo cursor id: 20 type: CURSOR
Wacom Bamboo pad id: 21 type: PAD
Wacom ISDv4 E6 Pen eraser id: 22 type: ERASER

Then, use xsetwacom to get the right touch input relating to the correct screen, even with multiple monitors:


$ xsetwacom set "Wacom ISDv4 E6 Finger touch" MapToOutput LVDS1

At this point I should point out that my touch screen is incorrectly configured and therefore needs the script above running every time I plug or unplug an external display. Since I dock my machine, move it almost daily, and regularly present ... that's kinda irritating. Any solutions on improving that are welcome.

GitHub-Powered Changelog Scripts

My current project does periodic releases, we build a few things, then we work on getting a bunch of user feedback and changing/fixing things before we actually release. This means we need to be organised with tags and branches. We're using GitHub for collaboration, including our issue trackers, commits which contribute to an issue have the issue number in the commit message, and when a branch merges in to the main line, we use the "fixes #42" notation to simultaneously close off the issue that it relates to.

This has been working pretty well, and today I got the question "what's new since I last saw this project?" - so I created a changelog. It's rather rough-and-ready but I had fun so I thought I'd share. Continue reading

Splitting And Combining Odd/Even Pages With Pdftk

I'm working on a fun printable project at the moment, but part way through I realised I would need to process odd and even pages of the document separately. So separately, that I split the doc into two separate ones, with odd pages in one and event pages in another - and then had to recombine them. Here's the commands that I used, with an excellent tool called pdftk. Continue reading

Zend Certified PHP Developer 5.5

Yesterday I updated my previous ZCE certificate to the Zend Certified PHP Developer qualification (the new ZCE for PHP 5.5 also got a new name). Since the ZCE 5.3 exam is no longer available and I work with various clients to prepare their teams for these certifications, it was important to me that I keep my own certification up to date. Now I've done that, I'd like to share some resources for others doing the same thing.

Sample Questions Pack

One really important step in preparing for this exam is to get an idea of what kind of questions you might be asked - in terms of the format of the questions and the topics. I have a pack of 70 questions which I use when delivering ZCE preparation courses, but I also sell it separately and it is now updated for PHP 5.5:

Sample Questions Pack: $25 Buy Now Continue reading

Upcoming Git Courses

Three git courses are coming up in the next few weeks, and a few people have asked me which courses I'm running, so here's a quick roundup (feel free to drop me a line if you need any more detail):

  • Dublin, 30th January: Git and GitHub Foundations
  • Dublin, 31st January: Git and GitHub Advanced
  • London, 6th February: Git for Teams

I have fantastic partners for these events: the Dublin ones are with Github and the London ones with FLOSSUK, and I look forward to both. Right now they all do still have places remaining, visit my courses page for the links you need to book. Training days are a great opportunity to boost your skills and discuss specific aspects of technology that you can't really get from a textbook - hope to see you at one of these sessions, I am standing by for difficult questions :)

Git, Vimdiff, and Merge-Base

git merge-base is this week's favourite git command. I use it to show me in a vimdiff everything that has changed on a particular branch since it was created. This took a little bit of looking around to find how to combine the tools, so I thought I'd write it all down in one place. Continue reading