PHP Team Development book review

Book coverSo I’ve finally finished the book!  OK, I finished it a couple weeks ago but haven’t had a chance to post up a review yet.  Of course, I had every intention of finishing it a lot earlier considering I was flying for nine hours to the States and then another few hours on to Mexico – and the journey back again! – but that really was just wishful considering I was travelling with my two year old son.  Oh well! 🙂

On with the book review…

The book, as the title makes it plainly obvious, is about developing your team in relation to working with PHP.  It’s aimed at, well, pretty much anyone who has an interest in developing or working in a team, be it managers who need to set up and manage teams or developers working within a team who want to improve their work flow and procedures, or anyone in between.  It does this by giving an overview on several subjects, but doesn’t go as far as to tell you that you must do x, y or z.  This is understandable, though, as every team is different and the book acknowledges this.

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PHP Team Development (book)

Book coverThe other day I had a new book sent to me called PHP Team Development, written by Samisa Abeysinghe and published by Packt Publishing. Unfortunately, it arrived at work when I was on holiday so I haven’t been able to have a look at it yet. :-/ However, I’m back today and have the book in my hands (well, not literally, of course, else typing would be much more difficult), so am looking forward to diving in to it.

Hopefully have a bit of a review posted up here some time soon!

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Easy table sorting with jQuery

I came across a jQuery plug-in the other day to sort tables, and it works great and is exceptionally simple to implement (and as anyone who’s flicked through this blog knows, I like the simple things in life… Don’t need any more gray hairs popping up, you know!).

The plug-in is called tablesorter (found at, by Christian Bach.
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What a productive day!

You know how sometimes you have those awesome productive days? Well, mine has been one of those… Got up at 6:45am (yeah, thank my little boy for that one! :-P) and figured I might as well stay up, so unloaded the dishwasher, put in another load, cleaned the house from top to bottom, entertained friends for lunch, wrote my first jQuery plug-in, wrote my first set of PHPUnit test cases for a new app I’m working on, write two blog posts (OK; so one of them is this one, but it counts, damn it!), and posted my first proper twitter message!

Now if I can squeeze in a little tv watching or Overload playing, I’ll be golden!

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Application running really slow

While working on an application built on Zend Framework, I experienced a really odd slow-down of the system while running on the web cluster at work as opposed to my machine at home. I couldn’t see what the issue was myself, and it seemed to baffle people on #zftalk a bit as well as work colleagues. The speed difference was quite dramatic – going from near instant on my home computer to around 30 seconds for a page display while running on the cluster.

Naturally, this required a fair amount of investigation…

It was quickly ruled out to be any fault of ZF. After all, it is being used by companies such as IBM, Zend, Sourceforge, Fox, and more. If the framework were not suitable and produced slow results then they would obviously not use it, nor would any of you!

Next to be ruled out was custom code built on top of ZF. With the exact same code-base producing faster results on one machine and not on another it was highly unlikely to be the code.

Profiling the code proved a little helpful. I profiled the database connection for each query and ruled out any slowness with that as they were taking fractions of seconds. Code profiling was a little bit more tricky, as everything seemed proportionally slower, not any one thing in particular. However, the Zend_Loader component seemed to be taking quite some time to perform its tasks.

With a little command-line magic (using ktrace, kdump, grep, awk, etc. – not by me, but by talented colleague) it was determined that the OS itself, Mac OSX ‘Tiger’, was mainly to blame. The cause of the problem was trying to determine relative paths and the slow speed at which Tiger was doing this… As I understand it, to determine the current directory, ‘.’, the OS needs to back track all the way to the root, get the whole list of directories and work out which inode matches the one your current path is, and then work its way back down the directories until it finds a match. Once it’s done that you have your current path. If it sounds intensive, that’s because it is.

When comparing Tiger to Leopard we were seeing a 1000x improvement (4 microseconds as opposed to 4 milliseconds) to do various getdirentries() calls.

If you used the include path for a handful of files you’d never notice a significant drop in speed, but the application I’m working on, together with ZF will typically include 140+ files.

So how was the issue resolved?

For the short term there was a very simple fix; simply alter the include path so that the current path is last to be checked and the more significant paths (such as where the application or Zend library is located) are first. This simple tweak took a 30+ second load time to around two seconds – a vast improvement! Still, two seconds is not ideal so we will be having Leopard-based machine installed on the web cluster to see if that also helps to increase performance.

I’m curious; has anyone else had a similar problem?

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Email address being used to spam

Some little *insert a whole stream of expletives* has used my email address as the sender of a lot of spam.  I know this because opening my email box today resulted in no less than 400 failure notices, undelivered notices, auto replies and bounce messages.

Needless to say; I was not the one sending you spam!

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