Book Review: PHP Oracle Web Development

I recently received another one of Packt Publishing’s PHP-related offerings that’s targeted at more than just the PHP programming population. Their “PHP Oracle Web Development” seeks to be a sort of crossover book – take one part PHP, one part Oracle database work and toss together to make an interesting mix.

The book is laid out simply enough:

  • Getting started with PHP and Oracle
  • PHP and Oracle Connection
  • Data Processing
  • Transactions
  • Object-oriented Approach
  • Security
  • Caching
  • XML-enabled Applications
  • Web Services
  • AJAX-Based Applications
  • and an appendix showing how to install the PHP and Oracle software on different OSes.

Overall, the book is well-written – there were a few places where I don’t know if I agree with how they presented the material (somewhat confusing), but at least it was there. I like that they have a range of topics covered in the book – unfortunately, this is also one of the bad points about it. Since they did try to appeal to both the Oracle developers learning PHP and the PHP developers looking to learn how to work with Oracle, they didn’t get much of a chance to really dig into some of the fun things below the surface. After the first few chapters, you could basically replace the Oracle-ness in the examples with a lot of the other database systems out there (MySQL, PostgreSQL, etc) and you wouldn’t have to change much.

The book became more of a “just another PHP projects” book by focusing on things that could be done with any other system out there. I wanted to see more of an Oracle focus, maybe looking more at things like installing the updated PDO drivers for the OCI8 connection or suggestions on tuning the actual connection between the script and the database. There’s also almost no mention of working with settings on the database side to optimize anything for the connecting script.

Overall, I’d recommend this book to a certain audience – ones just starting out working with the PHP/Oracle combination. I passed it around to a few of the database developers here that work with PHP some and they found that most of the material covered in the book wasn’t anything you couldn’t learn from five minutes of googling when you had a question. It is good, though, to have as a “first guide” if you’re not familiar with the territory.



Wanted: Developers (but who are they?)

So, because of PHPDeveloper.org, I get lots of emails (more recently lately) about people looking for skilled PHP/MySQL/Apache/etc developers to help them with projects. They’re not really recruiters from what I can tell, but they do seem to be in need of some names to give a call.

My question for you all is – what do you normally do with these sorts of emails? Since I don’t really have a good resource to look at an recommend people from, I usually just end up telling them that I don’t know of any offhand. I’d love to be able to turn around and give them a list of names, though, to help out others in the PHP community.

Does anyone out there have a good resource for this? Is this something that the PHP community might be in need of? I know there’s lots of job boards out there, but would something more tailored to PHP be called for?

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ZendCon07 Comes to a Close

Well, the party’s over – the booths have been packed up, the X-Boxes put away and most of the attendees have already scattered back towards which ever of the four corners of the world they arrived from. Happily, things seemed to go really well this year and overall, I feel like it was a better conference than the previous years.

Things seemed to flow well – the sessions were easy to find and were usually full up with eager developers wanting to glean what they could from the talk. A great range of topics was presented – here’s just a small list:

  • API Development
  • PayPal’s developer offerings
  • memcached
  • PHP Security
  • mobile application development with PHP
  • High performance MySQL tips
  • Unicode (because, after all, what PHP conference these days would be complete without a talk on this)
  • DateTime
  • Agile development

And that’s not even the half of it – there were around fifty-five talks in all presented over three days (including the tutorials on the first day). Thankfully, for those that weren’t able to attend, the folks over at the Zend Developer Zone will have podcast recordings (and slides too, I think) of each of them posted soon.

I also want to make mention of someone who played a big part in helping make sure things came together both before and during the conference this year – Cal Evans. His daily duties included not only being the MC for the event, but also more behind the scenes magic that helped the whole event come off so well. The best part about it all was that, despite the Zend duties that he always had to attend to, he always had the time to stop and work with the people in the community – even if it was just to stop off and connect two people (“you gotta meet this guy…”).

The hotel was nice and the events in the evenings were a nice chance to mingle with ther developers in a bit more informal setting (oh, and Yahoo – maybe not so much with the comedian and magician next time around). There were a few things that I imagine couldn’t be helped too much (the quality of the service at the hotel, the coordination of the vegetarian meals), but they didn’t distract too much from the overall feel of the conference.

Here’s hoping to see you all next year (and hoping I get to come! heh)

php.communityshirts.com?

I wonder how hard it would be to create a service, targeted at smaller groups (like the PHP Women) to make the distribution of their t-shirts easier.

I know there’s sites like CafePress and Zazzle out there that let you set up custom stores with custom shirts on them, but a more community-centric site might be nice too. The shirts could even be tagged with the conference they were given out at so people could “collect them all” if they wanted. php.communityshirts.com anyone?

Any comments/suggestions/flames on the topic? Would this even be something that would be used?

ZendCon07: The Story So Far

So it’s two days in to this year’s ZendCon and things are already better than ever. It just feels like there was that little bit of extra effort put into things this year and it shows. There’s tons of great talks and lots of cool people around to meet – but official (like those from Zend) and the more unofficial – like the members of the PHP Women group.

It’s day three now (I’ve been slacking on writing my posts this time) and I’ve already had more knowledge crammed into my head than I’ll ever remember, but I’m enjoying it. It’s nice to balance talks like “Extending PHP” talk from Sara/Wez/Marcus with things like Terry’s talk “The Internet is an Ogre: Finding Art in the Software Architecture”. Everything’s been good so far, and I’m looking forward to today’s talks. I’m planning on hitting up a few more than yesterday (sleep does wonders for the attention span), so we’ll see how things are at the end of today.

I know I mentioned in it a previous post, but one of the coolest things about coming to a conference like this – really any PHP conference that’s out there – is the chance to meet people. The trading cards this year are an effort to jump-start this kind of networking. Honestly, I can’t day I’ve seen a group of people at a table at lunch (or breakfast for that matter) just sitting around and not talking all that much. That is, of course, unless they’re laptops open and on IRC (*cough*). It’s wonderful to see this kind of participation – people talking about anything and everything: where they’re from, what they do, something fun their working on, etc. There’s even some out there arguing the finer parts of certain PHP-related projects.

It’s wonderful to see such a thriving, vibrant community surrounding this great “little” language of ours. It’s a great mix of both those experienced, beginner and everyone in between and it comes out the other side a nice, rounded whole.

So, if you’re here at the conference and you’ve been a little timid up until now, be bold – step out and meet people. Talk to anyone, pass out business cards or come grab a free t-shirt from the PHP Women. I’ll have my PHPDeveloper.org t-shirt on today and some extras floating around with me, so if you spot me and want a shirt, just let me know!

The Close-Knit PHP Community

One of the nice things about conferences is getting to meet people that you’ve only talked to online and meeting those you’ve never talked to before. No matter what, though – at a PHP conference – you’re just about guaranteed to meet someone you’ve heard of or read something online by.

A few of us were sitting around at the hotel bar tonight and the comment was thrown out (thanks Elizabeth) about how small the PHP community is. Not in the number of people in it, but in how it feels. Several other communities have their divisions and factions all around the world, but it seems like the PHP community has bridged those gaps and seen its way to making more of a unified whole. A little while back (on Ben Ramsey’s blog I think) there was a mention of another conference attendee that found it amazing that he was sitting at the same table with “the cool kids” of the PHP community and that they were just like any other developer.

In my opinion, it’s things like this that make the PHP community one of the best out there. It’s just as large as any of the other language groups on the web, but it still manages to keep that feeling of closeness that others have lost. The community pulls together to help with projects on the language (like the upcoming PHP 5.3) and with pushing their own applications to their limits. People offer help and, sure there are times of disagreement and code gets tossed out, but overall, the PHP community is a pretty friendly place.

It’s a place where the people you read about in daily blogs (like Chris Shiflett, Wez Furlong, Sara Golemon, etc) aren’t these “higher developers” off doing their own thing away from the rest of the community. They’re right there with the rest of us, hacking at code and fixing those bugs to help make PHP’s slice of the web an even happier place to be.

If you happen to be at this year’s ZendCon (going on now) don’t be afraid to jump right into the conversations. As the speakers questions – trust me, they love ‘em – and get to know others in the group here for the week. Not only could you make connections with other developers that live all over the world, but you could make some good friends in the process.

Book Review: Packt’s “PHP Web 2.0 Mashup Projects”

I recently received a great little book from Packt Publishing that’s a bit out of the norm for some of the PHP-related books these days. A lot of them tends to rehash the same details over and over again or focus too tightly on one particular aspect of the language to get much value from a wide audience range. This new book (PHP Web 2.0 Mashup Projects), however, takes PHP and applies it to one of the more popular topics of the times – mashups – and, via five difference projects, shows how to make your code place nice with the outside world.

Shu-Wai Chow introduces mashups first by talking about the importance of the sharing of data on the web and some of the methods that they will use to create the mashups in the book. From there, it’s all about the examples and their technologies:

  • Buy it on Amazon – creating a simple application that uses Amazon’s API, XML-RPC, the REST protocol and the Internet UPC database’s API to find information and pricing for the items matching the user’s search term.
  • Make Your Own Search Engine – mixing together the MSN search API via SOAP requests and responses to get the information for a user’s search.
  • You own Video Jukebox (my personal favorite) – a mashup of the YouTube and Last.fm APIs to pull the song information and videos for the titles in the feed (in either XSPF, RSS or YouTube’s XML format).
  • Traffic Incidents Via SMS – Scraping the California Highway Patrol’s website, they combine this data with the interface from 411Sync.com to send SMS updates to users of the system when new accidents arise.
  • London Tube Photos – a huge chapter crammed full of information and different mashup components including Google Maps, Flickr, SPARQL, the RDF API for PHP, using the XMLHttpRequest object in Javascript (along with JSON) to create a system that allows the viewer to locate images of the London Tube based on a location on a map rather than just a description on the site.

My personal favorite of the mashups is (as mentioned) the Video Jukebox one – I just think it’s a cool idea to be able to bring those two things together pretty easily thanks to two of the most powerful APIs out there.

Even if you’re not into the mashup aspect of the book, but you are a budding SOAP developer looking for a few helpful hints when it comes to WSDL structure, you’d do well to pick up a copy too. In Chapter 3, he’s written up a great little primer to the structure of a WSDL document (types, message, portType, etc) and has made it simple enough for just about anyone to catch. I know when I was starting out with SOAP, this was the one thing that I could definitely have used. Plus, without a built-in method for PHP5’s SOAP extension to make the WSDL for you, this can help you bridge the gap.

Overall, it’s a great book – a definite purchase for anyone out there looking to see how to combine two or more web services into one seamless application. Plus it gives a great overview of a lot of handy web service type bits of functionality.