Serving ZF apps with the PHP 5.4 built-in Web Server

When teaching PHP to newcomers, I have found that (honestly to my surprise) one of the biggest barriers you have to cross is setting the stack up to serve PHP files properly, especially when it comes to Zend Framework apps and other rewrite rule based MVC applications. Even with strong development background, the idea of setting up Web Server configuration to get things working seems foreign to many.

Even as an experienced developer with good knowledge of the LAMP stack setup, setting up new vhosts and other configuration for each new project is sometimes a pain in the ass.

There are of course good news – starting from PHP 5.4, the Command Line Interface (CLI) version of PHP comes with a build-in Web server that can be used to serve PHP apps in development. This Web server is very easy to use – you just fire it up in the right place and it works, serving your PHP files. While it is by no means a viable production solution (it is a sequential, no-concurrency server meaning it will only serve one request at a time), it is very convenient for development purposes.

While it “just works” for simple “1-to-1 URL <-> File” apps, it can work almost as easily for rewrite based MVC apps, including Zend Framework 1.x and 2.x apps and probably for other frameworks as well.

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Generating ZF Autoloader Classmaps with Phing

One of the things I’ve quickly discovered when working on Shoppimon is that we need a build process for our PHP frontend app. While the PHP files themselves do not require any traditional “build” step such as processing or compilation, there are a lot of other tasks that need to happen when taking a version from the development environment to staging and to production: among other things, our build process picks up and packages only the files needed by the app (leaving out things like documentation, unit tests and local configuration overrides), minifies and pre-compresses CSS and JavaScript files,  and performs other helpful optimizations on the app, making it ready for production.

Since Shoppimon is based on Zend Framework 2.0, it also heavily relies on the ZF2.0 autoloader stack. Class autoloading is convenient, and was shown to greatly improve performance over using require_once calls. However, different autoloading strategies have pros and cons: while PSR-0 based autoloading (the so called Standard Autoloader from ZF1 days) works automatically and doesn’t require updating any mapping code for each new class added or renamed, it has a significant performance impact compared to classmap based autoloading.

Fortunately, using ZF2′s autoloader stack and Phing, we can enjoy both worlds: while in development, standard PSR-0 autoloading is used and the developer can work smoothly without worrying about updating class maps. As we push code towards production, our build system takes care of updating class map files, ensuring super-fast autoloading in production using the ClassMapAutoloader. How is this done? Read on to learn.

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Say Hi to Shoppimon – Magento Monitoring for “Normal” People

For a while now I have been telling people I am “working on a small project” – and now is the time to unveil the mystery and introduce Shoppimon – a new start-up which I founded together with a small group of friends, and am currently spending most of my time around.

The idea of Shoppimon is simple – we want to provide Web monitoring and availability analysis which will be useable by, and useful to “normal” people – not only the tech guy, the programmer or the IT specialist, but the site owner, the business owner or even the marketing guy – in other words the real stake holder.

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