Report on PHP Hacker Night

Last night John, Jonathan, Alvaro and I got together to talk PHP over dinner and dessert. I had fun and learned a lot. Here are my notes:

  • Sitening is a web development consultancy with a bunch of cool online tools and what appears to be a good blog. (I haven’t read it yet.) John printed a post from their blog about databases and PHP. I’m going to subscribe to it.
  • We talked about Qcodo, a code generator that John likes because it’s simple.
  • Alvaro really likes Propel for creating database objects to perform CRUD operations. It’s “intuitive” to use.
  • We discussed apt-get vs. yum, with the winner being apt-get.
  • We discussed Ruby on Rails and the similar frameworks for PHP such as Cake, Symfony, and PHP on Trax. John and Alvaro think these frameworks are too limiting, though if the scope of your project falls within the conventions of the framework they can be nice. They both prefer a lighter-weight framework.
  • Alvaro is building a custom, light-weight framework that will be simply combine Propel and Smarty. He’ll release it at when it’s ready.
  • Alvaro recommends the Selenium Firefox extension for code testing and automation. It can record each of your steps as you use your web app, then you can set up assertions (unit tests?), then you can run the recorded tests each time you make changes to your web app. This seems like a great way to test web apps consistently and thoroughly. I’m looking forward to trying Selenium.
  • We discussed the virtues of SVG and lamented that Internet Explorer doesn’t have better support for it. John uses SVG extensively for creating reports and modeling streets and traffic flow in his work.
  • Alvaro really likes XPath, a language for querying an XML document. On the browser side, XPath is useful for finding a certain node in the DOM. Firefox has a built-in Javascript function for running XPath queries on the DOM.
  • With AJAX John can change SVG reports in real time by changing the specific DOM node that needs to be updated. XPath could be useful here.
  • On the server side, XPath is useful for screen scraping. You can retrieve an HTML page, run it through Tidy to convert it to XML, then use XPath (through the PHP DOM library) to query it. Alvaro says its easier and more portable than writing regular expressions, which is how I currently do my screen scraping.
  • There are Firefox extensions for working with XPath. They allow you to click anywhere on a web page and see the XPath query that would retrieve that element.
  • Martin Fowler’s book was recommended.
  • By using the Apache directive “ForceType”, you can forgo the “.php” extension on your files and create pretty URL’s. (ALL of your files are parsed for PHP.)

The food was good and the company was excellent. I look forward to doing this again.

5 thoughts on “Report on PHP Hacker Night”

  1. I have to agree. I discovered it aout two months ago. The tools on Sitening are very good, practical and quite useful. I’m placing a link to this site in my directory for visitors to preview.

    I was able to score an 85 wtih one of their tools.

    Good stuff indeed

  2. I hope there will be more of these. If I had known about it in advance, I might have attended. So, let me know about the next one. Thanks. 🙂

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