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php|works Toronto Conference Sept 12 – 15 2006 

Rasmus Lerdorf’s keynote address at the php|works conference in Toronto opened in typical iconoclastic style: 

“The web is broken. You can all go home now.”  

(See http://talks.php.net/show/torkey06/1 for a complete overview.) This is something of an overstatement but a serious reference to security flaws in Internet Explorer, Apache and Flash. Rasmus went on to present the steps and tools useful for optimizing a web database application giving detailed stats as he went.

Despite this early dismissal there were many good reasons to stick around and lots of great stuff to make the PHP programmer’s life easier. 

As usual a number of PHP core developers were present. Ilia Alshanetsky gave a good overview on PHP 5.2, telling what’s new and how to migrate from versions 4 or 5 to 5.2 (coming shortly). The Javascript Object Notation (JSON) extension will be included with this release. This extension gives PHP easy-to-use AJAX functionality. Other extensions added in 5.2 include a basic Filter class, full zip compression support and finally, the previously introduced but quickly withdrawn PHP DateTime class. 

Derick Rethans, another core PHP developer and employee of ez Systems, 

talked on ezComponents. It’s certainly worth the investment in time to acquaint yourself with these components and not reinvent the wheel. The ImageConversion, Mail, Template and Graph classes looked especially useful and the intuitive method names make it easy to use these classes. 

ez Systems was also represented by Zak Greant who spoke on contracts and licences. Not the most exciting material perhaps and I must admit I attended out of a sense of duty more than anything else. But when the hour was up I found myself wanting more. I’d like a part two that explains why licence differences mean that some extensions can’t be included with PHP by default - something along those lines anyway. 

Likewise, another good friend to open source, and PHP in particular, was well represented -- OmniTi. Chris Shiflett spoke on security and Wez Furlong on best mail practices and on the PDO extension. As the author of this extension, this was a great opportunity to hear about PDO straight from the horse’s mouth. 

PDO will eventually be the only maintained database extension in PHP. This won’t happen any time soon but it is a good incentive to get started with PDO sooner rather than later. The database specific extensions won’t be dropped entirely but instead moved over to the PHP Extension Community Library (PECL). 

Paul Reinheimer covered the certification course and REST and SOAP web services in bring-your-own-laptop sessions. This way you could experience first-hand just how easy web services are using PHP.

One of the surprises of this conference was to find that Microsoft was a sponsor with a keynote speech by Joe Stagner, a program manager with Microsoft. He had a sense of humor about the situation and posted the pseudo code below as his first slide: 

if (PHPWorks->Keynote['Thursday']->Speaker = 'MicrosoftGuy') 

    SleepLate = FALSE;



As might be expected, Joe Stagner spent some time promoting the Windows, Internet Information Server, SQL Server and PHP (WISP) stack. For obvious reasons, this acronym carefully avoids MS SQL Server or MySQL as the database element.  

PHP is easy to install on Windows but compiling it requires Visual C ++ so right away there’s a major stumbling block for many developers and a major shortcoming of the WISP stack. 

One very interesting statistic did come out though -- 80% of PHP developers develop on Windows and deploy on Linux. Most of them are probably using Apache and MySQL but this is still noteworthy and implies a few things. For instance, it’s probably safe to say that extensions unavailable under Windows will be widely ignored. 

One or two of the seminars were misnamed or needed a fuller description in the conference program. “High volume PHP and MySQL Scaling Techniques” by Elliott White of digg.com was an interesting talk but not really MySQL specific. The converse was true of “Database Administration for Programmers” -- this was all about administration of MySQL. 

One other gripe --  speakers who don’t post slides of their talks.  But, in the overall scheme of things, these are very minor quibbles.

About the Author

Peter Lavin runs a Web Design/Development firm in Toronto, Canada. He has been published in a number of magazines and online sites, including UnixReview.com, php|architect and International PHP Magazine. He is a contributor to the recently published O'Reilly book, PHP Hacks and is also the author of Object Oriented PHP, published by No Starch Press.

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