So You're Thinking Of Submitting A Talk

I've been a conference speaker for a lot of years now, which doesn't make me an expert but it does mean that people ask me for advice pretty regularly! With the Call for Papers open for PHP North West at the moment (awesome conference, first weekend in October, CfP at http://conference.phpnw.org.uk/phpnw15/call-papers/), I've taken this question a few times. Here's my advice in a nutshell:

  • Think about what's interesting that you could share with other developers. The key here is that the people listening should go away with something useful, rather than just the impression that you're awesome
  • Write it down. You don't need to write the talk before you submit - just a title and an abstract will do. The abstract should be one paragraph, maximum 200-250 words
  • A great abstract says why this topic is vital, what cool things will be covered, who should come and what they will learn. I'm paraphrasing but those are the basics!
  • Submit your abstract to http://helpmeabstract.com/ to get feedback from some lovely volunteers who will help you (bookmark the gist and keep revisiting it, the system doesn't notify you or anything ... yet. Pretty sure you can submit patches while procrastinating on a slide deck though)
  • Did you get this far without submitting? That's normal :) Remember that your community needs new voices. Each of us is ahead of *someone* on the path, you absolutely don't need to be the expert to have something to offer to the rest of us. So please, submit :)

PHP 7 Benchmarks

If you know anything at all about PHP7, you probably know it's fast. But did you know how fast? The alpha is out and looks very robust, so I decided I would create a new set of benchmarks to include it. Graphs first, disclaimers later :)

This graph shows the time it takes for each version of PHP to perform the same task, on average, with oldest PHP on the left and moving forward in time.

php-70-alpha-benchmarks

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PHP 5.4 and Short Tags

PHP 5.4 isn't exactly new; in fact the opposite is true! PHP 5.4 is end of life, but as our adoption rates show, as a community, PHP people aren't especially good at upgrading! I'm getting lots of questions now because some of the hosting providers, notably including Acquia's hosting, are finally upgrading away from those 5.2 and 5.3 offerings.

One thing in particular is tripping people up: the short open tag. I've had a few questions on this so here's the advice I am giving to clients and friends.

What Actually Changed

The short_open_tag configuration directive was removed, but the short echo syntax <?= is always available.

How To Upgrade Your Codebase

  • If you have <?= in your templates, leave it alone, those will still work
  • If you have short tags <? in your code, including in any of your libraries, then you need to do a global find-and-replace and turn them all into <?php

If you have short tags somewhere in your codebase, you probably won't get errors, you'll just suddenly start seeing PHP code in your output as PHP doesn't recognise the tag and therefore doesn't evaluate the code! To find them, try searching for <? followed by a whitespace character.

Hopefully that helps; there are a few gotchas to getting upgraded from older versions (especially from PHP 5.2) but this particular gotcha really isn't a problem and the instructions here should see you through.

Notify New Relic of Jenkins Deploys

I'm a fan of Jenkins as a build server, and on one particular project we've also started using New Relic (I haven't figured out how to blog fun things about New Relic without sharing graphs of client applications which doesn't seem like a cool thing to do). New Relic has a feature where you can notify it when you do a deployment, and it shows on the graphs a line marking when that happened, which is super useful for correlating performance changes with code changes.

new-relic-deploy

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Code Reviews: Before You Even Run The Code

I do a lot of code reviewing, both in my day job as principal developer and also as an open source maintainer. Sometimes it seems like I read more code than I write! Is that a problem? I'm tempted to say that it isn't. To be a good writer, you must be well-read; I believe that to be a good developer, you need to be code-omnivorous and read as much of other people's code as possible. Code reviews are like little chapters of someone else's code to dip into.

Over time I've developed some particular processes that I find helpful when reviewing code. In particular, I often surprise people at how much review I do before I run the code. Sometimes I grab the branch so that I can use my local diff tools, but I don't actually execute code until I've established some basic facts. This post is a little insight into what's happening in this not-running-the-code-yet zone. Continue reading

Recover Bitly Bundle Data

For some years I've been creating a bundle of links covering articles I recommend for various topics in the Zend Certified Engineer Exam (if you can here looking for the bundle itself, it's at http://www.lornajane.net/zce-links-collection). This was done using bitly's bundles feature, which I thought was a great way to share links. In fact I had 10-15 bundles that I had created from collating all the links in a particular training course or talk, so that people didn't have to try to write down URLs as I went along. Unfortunately they sunset their bundles and then removed them completely, and I missed the announcement (it all happened quite quickly, they'd seen some abuse of the feature, it's free, all totally reasonable) BUT they also didn't respond to my support questions about how to recover the data.

It turns out, it's an undocumented feature on their API, so here is everything I know about recovering your bundle data, including the script I used to rescue my own data. Continue reading

PHP7: Easiest Upgrade Yet

With PHP7 looking increasingly stable (relatively speaking, it's still pre-alpha so it's VERY early days and anything could happen!), and work going well on the GoPHP7-ext project to get extensions converted, I have been thinking about the migration guides we'll need to help people upgrade their existing applications. To this end, I took the simplest project I currently have (http://api.joind.in) and gave it a whirl on PHP7, using Rasmus' PHP7 dev box. The result:


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Count Changed Lines in Git

I have a favourite set of switches to git log, but today I wanted to answer the question "You deleted how much code today?" so I thought I'd share how I did that

git log --numstat will show you how many lines were added (first column) and removed (next column) per file, kind of a more scientific version of the --stat switch. And if you're thinking of scripting this to gather stats, try it with --oneline as well, it's easier to parse.

Scaling and Sizing with PDFJam

I find myself needing to take a PDF, output it at a specific size, and have the result offset to the top right hand side of the screen. To achieve it, I needed a few new switches to my good friend PDFJam, so I thought I'd share my command!

pdfjam --suffix converted --papersize '{1920px,1080px}' --scale 0.4 --trim "-6cm -1cm 13cm 8cm" slides.pdf

The --suffix is instead of giving an output filename, whatever you feed in ends up with the suffix in its filename. This is very handy because I use this command in a script and only need to pass in one variable. The --papersize isn't a switch I have used before either but you can set exact sizes for the final output which is nice. The --trim switch can also be used to set --clip=true to remove the trimmed space from the document if desired.

I find PDFJam a very handy tool but with not nearly enough blog posts and code snippets around, so I'm dropping my command for future reference (yours as well as mine!).

Vimdiff and Vim to Compare Files

At the moment I'm working on a tricky project where two similar projects diverged. Very similar things happened to them both, but not quite the same things - and now we're merging the codebases to give us as much common code as possible. All this simply serves to set the scene of exactly what I was doing spending a whole day with large code diffs - I had to look up a few things so I thought I'd capture them while I can remember. Continue reading