PHP 5.6 and the Splat Operator

We have a couple of new features coming in to PHP 5.6 with names that sound much less exciting than the features they actually represent: "variadic functions" sound positively academic, and "argument unpacking" isn't exactly catchy. However they both use a new operator in PHP which looks like an elipsis (three dots ...) and is referred to as either the splat operator or the scatter operator. I included them in a recent version of my "Upgrading PHP" talk so I thought I'd share the examples here too in case anyone is interested. Continue reading

Using Composer Without GitIgnoring Vendor/

Recent additions to the API have introduced some new dependencies so we decided we'd start using Composer to manage these - but we don't want to run composer unsupervised. I'm sure this will bring the rain of "just run composer install, it's probably mostly almost safe" criticism, but actually it's quite tricky to run Composer without excluding vendor/ from source control so I thought I'd share how we did it so that anyone who wants to do so can learn from my experience!
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Working with PHP and Beanstalkd

I have just introduced Beanstalkd into my current PHP project; it was super-easy so I thought I'd share some examples and my thoughts on how a job queue fits in with a PHP web application.

The Scenario

I have an API backend and a web frontend on this project (there may be apps later. It's a startup, there could be anything later). Both front and back ends are PHP Slim Framework applications, and there's a sort of JSON-RPC going on in between the two.

The job queue will handle a few things we don't want to do in real time on the application, such as:

  • updating counts of things like comments; when a comment is made, a job gets created and we can return to the user. At some point the job will get processed updating the counts of how many comments are on that thing, how many comments the user made, adding to a news feed of activities ... you get the idea. 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

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

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

This pack is now available from

As well as questions, this includes answers with detailed explanations of how those are reached and links to further reading. There is also some advice about the format of the exam and what to expect on the day itself.

Links Bundle

The PHP Manual is fabulous, but sometimes you need a more conceptual explanation. I maintain a bundle of links to blog posts or other tutorials on the various topics involved in ZCE, which you may find helpful to dip into for your own study:

If you find any broken links, or have any resources you think should be included, just let me know. I intend for this to be a living document that we can share.

Revision Flashcards

My advice for cramming for ZCE is always the same: you need to recap all areas of the manual but focus especially on strings and arrays, because while there will be an average number of questions on these topics, it's common to see strings and arrays used in questions that are really about function scope, or inheritance, etc.

For my own revision, I created flashcards by taking the PHP manual and making them into double-sided PDFs that I could cut up and use (you could do this with a single-sided printer, print the odd pages first and then put the paper through again - for duplex printers beware that you need to choose "short side").

Here are the String and Array flashcards that I used for myself (they're not perfect, but I found them useful so if you want to download them, you can. The main omission is that I stripped < and > characters which makes for interesting string comparison documentation).
Hopefully some of these resources will help you prepare for your own professional certification - good luck :)

OAuth Middleware for Slim

OAuth can be anything you want it to be, the standards are lax and give you plenty of room for getting the right implementation for your system. However you proceed, though, you'll need to check an access token on every request - and in a Slim application, a middeware can help enormously since it hooks in to every request by design. I've recently implemented this and thought I would share. Continue reading at the PHPNW Hackathon

It's that time of year again, the PHP North West conference is almost upon us, and this year they are once again running a hackathon. These events are a great way either to carve out some time to get your head down and hack on an idea that's been in the back of your mind for a while, but they're also a fabulous way to get involved in collaborating on projects. At PHPNW, you'll find there are quite a lot of open source projects at the hackathon, standing by to take on anyone interested in getting involved, either just for the evening or beyond. I'll be there, representing, a tool which is used by the conference itself. So what kinds of things will there be to do and how can you get involved? Continue reading

Changing Content Type with Slim Framework

Slim framework has recently invaded my life, I picked it up for a hobby project, recommended it to a client who then contracted me to do quite a lot more development, and it's also used for One thing that has tripped me up a couple of times is how to return not-HTML from Slim as it just bins any headers you try to send yourself. I think also that the "right" way to do this may have changed between versions as I also found some examples that didn't work! What did work for me was this:

        $response = $app->response();
        $response->header("Content-Type", "text/javascript");

The $app variable is the Slim\Slim instance for your application, once you have that, you can just add on any headers you need to with this call to header(). It wasn't obvious to me and there weren't a lot of resources for this, so I thought I'd share!