Archive | February, 2003

GIS and PHP: MapServer PHP MapScript Module

Posted on 12 February 2003 by Demian Turner

translated from

The PHP MapScript module is a PHP dynamically loadable module that makes MapServer‘s MapScript functions and classes available in a PHP environment.

The PHP module was developed and is currently maintained by DM Solutions Group.  The PHP MapScript FAQ contains instructions on how to get started with the PHP module.

PEAR also offers a GIS module by the name of Image_GIS.  As explained the the classes description:

Generating maps on demand can be a hard job as most often you don’t have the maps you need in digital form.  But you can generate your own maps based on raw, digital data files which are available for free on the net.  This package provides a parser for the most common format for geographical data, the Arcinfo/E00 format as well as renderers to produce images using GD or Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG).

Image_GIS is capable of parsing (vector) ArcView files, but not (bitmap) raster files and is somewhat smaller in scope than the Mapscript/PHP module.

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RIP <textarea>, or Web-Editing Made Easy

Posted on 12 February 2003 by Demian Turner

Thanks to the good folks over at, you
no longer have to waste your time with pseudo-HTML code or long-winded HTML
editing of your online content.  With the release of htmlArea
there is now free software that allows you to easily replace your
textarea tags with a single line of Javascript code that will generate a
Dreamweaver-like GUI interface for manipulating your text input, inserting
images/tables, viewing source, etc.

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Software Design Guidelines

Posted on 11 February 2003 by Demian Turner

Some really nice general rules for software design if you didn’t scoll down that far in PHP Everywhere’s recent article.

As Brian Kernignan once observed, “Controlling complexity is the essence of computer programming.”

  1. Rule of Modularity: Write simple parts connected by clean interfaces.
  2. Rule of Composition: Design programs to be connected to other programs.
  3. Rule of Clarity: Clarity is better than cleverness.
  4. Rule of Simplicity: Design for simplicity; add complexity only where you must.
  5. Rule of Transparency: Design for visibility to make inspection and debugging easier.
  6. Rule of Robustness: Robustness is the child of transparency and simplicity.
  7. Rule of Least Surprise: In interface design, always do the least surprising thing.
  8. Rule of Repair: When you must fail, fail noisily and as soon as possible.
  9. Rule of Economy: Programmer time is expensive; conserve it in preference to machine time.
  10. Rule of Generation: Avoid hand-hacking; write programs to write programs when you can.
  11. Rule of Representation: Use smart data so program logic can be stupid and robust.
  12. Rule of Separation: Separate policy from mechanism; separate interfaces from engines.
  13. Rule of Optimization: Prototype before polishing. Get it working before you optimize it.
  14. Rule of Diversity: Distrust all claims for “one true way”.
  15. Rule of Extensibility: Design for the future, because it will be here sooner than you think.

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NEW: php.NET?

Posted on 10 February 2003 by Demian Turner

Sterling Hughes is pushing the envelope of what PHP is capable of again – two weeks ago it was the Abstract Data Types extension, now it looks like .NET support in version 5 our favourite language could be a reality.

By leveraging the existing open source .NET library Mono, Sterling has been able to build a PHP extension that can access .NET assemblies – a very exciting prospect indeed.

A web site with some further details and download information can be found here, along with examples and the “to do” list.

Sterling has noted that while the extension is fairly full featured, it is still to be considered alpha software and will only work with the PHP 5 tree in CVS.

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Find Out What the Web Thinks About You ;-)

Posted on 10 February 2003 by Demian Turner

Although this is a fairly well known site, it’s good fun if it’s the first time you try it.

Check out your Karma at

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PHPkitchen Launches Spanish Sister Site

Posted on 09 February 2003 by Demian Turner

Please join me in raising a glass to the launch of la Cocina de PHPkitchen , the Spanish sister site of PHPkitchen.

Thanks to the amount of interest from Spanish-speaking PHP developers and the enthusiasm of the Spanish team, la Cocina has come together very quickly.

La Cocina features:

  • original PHP articles in Spanish
  • some translations from PHPkitchen’s more popular articles
  • a forum for Spanish PHP developers to submit content and share ideas

Special thanks go to Mario Izquierdo and Carlos Costa Portela  for putting the project together.

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Helping Google Target Content

Posted on 09 February 2003 by Demian Turner

The Google Helper block is a very simple block for users of the Geeklog content management system.  Needless to say it could be adapted for any other weblog in about 5 minutes.

The idea is that with more and more traffic reaching sites via Google, often the search results refer to an article that has since been archived or at least ‘scrolled off’ the weblog’s latest 10 homepage stories.

All the Google Helper does is recognise when a page hit comes from Google, and redirect it with some basic parameters to the advanced search page, original query intact.

To see the block in action you need to arrive at PHPkitchen from Google.  Try this query on “PHP freelance” and click the first non-sponsor link, which at the time of writing was PHPkitchen.  The Google Helper block should appear in the top  right corner.

From what I’ve been able to deduce, a fair proportion of traffic comes (in my case) to PHPkitchen from Google but users often can’t be bothered to re-enter their original query once they don’t find what they’re looking for.

One drawback to the block is the lack of a fuzzy search to connect the query to.  One option would be to modify Geeklog‘s search to OR the search terms in it’s query.

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Interface Domination with WebFX

Posted on 06 February 2003 by Demian Turner

Thank goodness it was such an easy name to remember, even though I could barely see straight when a friend started talking about WebFX in a bar the other night, I managed to retain the key search term for Google the next day.

Are you in for a treat, this set of GPL dHTML scripts really brings home the interface bacon.  Perhaps after slaving hours over your PHP scripts you don’t have the time (or inclination) to elevate you javasript to the same daring levels, well now Erik Arvidsson and Emil A Eklund have done the honours for you.  Check out their site for examples of

  • Sortable Table
  • Posted Grid Widget
  • DHTML Menu 4.2
  • Slider
  • XLoadTree 1.1
  • Help Tool Tip 1.1
  • Selectable Elements

The site’s a bit slow so be patient, all scripts are available under your choice of 3 licenses, GPL being one of them, and work under IE5, Mozilla and Opera.

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J2EE is too complicated

Posted on 05 February 2003 by Demian Turner

Apologies if you read this over at, the article echoes comments that come up time and again

Analyst firm Meta Group argues that enterprise Java standards are too complicated.

The complexity of Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) may be limiting the use of Java, because many companies lack the necessary expertise, according to findings from analyst firm Meta Group.

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MS losing developers to Linux

Posted on 03 February 2003 by Demian Turner

Mike Petitjean has been a dedicated Microsoft user for more than a decade, but now the software developer says he’s so fed up with the high prices and unreliable systems that he’s switching to Linux.

Linux’s popularity with programmers has already managed to make a huge dent on the market share of rival software Unix and now it’s gradually threatening to do the same with Microsoft’s dominance of the business software market.

“Windows is a lousy platform,” said Petitjean, who was attending the LinuxWorld show in New York last week.  “It’s just not reliable enough.”

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