Archive | May, 2005

Seagull Docs Available in Chinese

Posted on 25 May 2005 by Demian Turner

Thanks to Henry Juan and his team, the Seagull docs are now available in Chinese!

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Fix Email Line Breaks

Posted on 25 May 2005 by Demian Turner

Looking for a useful regex? How about one that reflows text that’s been cut & pasted from a text email and consequently chopped at 72 chars/line?

Here goes:

print preg_replace("/\n(?!\n)/", "", $foo);

where $foo is your text. Not perfect yet but contributions welcome. Thanks to Andrew, who’s known as Mr. Walking Regular Expression around the office, for his help. Given a text pattern problem of arbitrary complexity, Andrew blinks twice then speaks the regex in reply.

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SourceForge Stats Back from the Dead

Posted on 23 May 2005 by Demian Turner

They may have been laying low with Lazarus for almost 1/2 year now, but let’s hand it to the guys at SF for finally getting the project stats back online today.

The Seagull project certainly has benefitted from being kept in the dark these past few months, we now seem to be in the top 300 and exceeding 1000 downloads/month – cool!

You never know with OSS, on the one hand you hear that an open source strategy is the ace up the big corporate sleeve, on the other it takes 6 months to fix what no professional site would have left broken more than a few days.

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Learn More About IP: copyrights, trademarks, patents, and trade secrets

Posted on 22 May 2005 by Demian Turner

Good ol’ Redhat has released another video this month where Mark Webbink, Deputy General Counsel, compares and contrasts four types of intellectual property: copyrights, trademarks, patents, and trade secrets.

A worthwhile watch, especially as the subject can be somewhat tedious when you have to go through reams of text. There are also two articles you might like to check out:

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Effortlessly Create a Demo for your Product

Posted on 22 May 2005 by Demian Turner

As usual, I have to thank the dudes that hang on seagull-general for this great suggestion, check out wink if you need a screen recorder to put together a demo of your software, or anything else for that matter.

Wink allows you to capture whatever is happening on your screen, and outputs it in a variety of formats, including swf.

Inspired by RoR’s slick intros, I thought it was time Seagull got a movie demo, here’s a first attempt though admittedlly it runs too fast – soon to be tweaked.

Cheers Miha Vrhovnik.

Also:

> BTW, there’s another open source tool called vnc2swf which save a vpn
> session into a swf (flash) video: http://www.unixuser.org/~euske/vnc2swf/.

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Sending SMS Thru HTTP

Posted on 13 May 2005 by Demian Turner

Introduction

SMS (also known as text-messaging) has grown into a very popular method of communication. It has been around in Europe and Asia since the early nineties and its use is steadily increasing in the US as well.

SMS stands for "Short Message Service" and uses mobile phones to transmit (surprise, surprise) short messages to and from mobile phones and whilst many of us might not know this, it is also possible to send SMS messages from a website or a piece of software.

There are an infinite number of reasons why you might want to use your website to send SMS. You might want to add a "send by SMS" option to your headlines, for example, or you might want to provide 24/7 support in which your technician is alerted by SMS or you might simply want to provide your viewers with Free SMS to drive traffic to your site.

Although it is also possible to send SMS via e-mail, this tutorial will teach you how to send SMS using GET and POST HTTP methods in PHP (since it’s the language I know).

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How To Test Methods that Write to the Database

Posted on 11 May 2005 by Demian Turner

This question came up in a conversation with Marcus Baker, maintainer of the SimpleTest project, and he was kind enough to give the following detailed response:

Ok, there are three main strategies here. You can go all for one
strategy or mix and match. Here they are…

1) The most extreme – mock the database connection always. It means that
the mocks have to check SQL queries. Although this is a very quick way
to initially write the code, the sensitivity of these tests to changes
quickly buries you. Even changing a table name will ripple through the
test suite. What you can then do is refactor to make these tests easier,
for example using a SQL object rather than a string. I have personally
managed to make this scheme work, but it puts a lot of flexibility into
the code that you probably don’t need. And as always with mocks you
still need an integration test or two to confirm that it is all working.
Runs fast though.

2) The dumbass approach – send the objects to the database and confirm
the existence with low level calls. So you might have $object->save() in
the code and then you write assertRow(…) to confirm a table row was
written out. This has all of the test sensitivity problems of number 1
plus anyone reading the tests has to understand the mapping between the
two layers. This is pretty effective at getting you started though, so
it’s often the first test you write. Sometimes you just keep a few for
sanity checks, but otherwise refactor your way out of this pickle as
fast as you can.

3) Mathematical purity – the complete set of operations. This is my
currently prefered method. You only write your test code in the object
language you are trying to create. So if you are testing the search,
then you first save the objects using you new code. Something like…

class MyTest extends UnitTestCase {

    …

    function testSearch() {

        $apple = &new Fruit(‘Apple’);

        $apple->save();

        $finder = &new FruitFinder();

        $result = $finder->findAll(‘Apple’);

        $fruit = &$result->next();

        $this->assertEqual($fruit->getType(), ‘Apple’);

    }

}

The catch is that you need to be able to clean up before and after the
tests, so you will have to add methods like Fruit::deleteAll(), etc.
This is what I mean by a complete set of operations, coding one means
that you have to code the lot. The problem is bootstrapping this process
so that you can still develop incrementally.

My prefered approach is to start with 1 and once up switch to 3. I still
keep some ones around to simulate failure conditions.

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Programming Your Way out of a Paper Bag

Posted on 11 May 2005 by Demian Turner

I really enjoyed Jeff Moore’s (creator of WACT) post today, I thought I’d post it in its entirety.  It’s a compelling question, what is it that makes some programmers more adept than others?  While this article is a good stab in the right direction, it still doesn’t shed sufficient light on the phenomenon where you have the programmer who is highly intelligent, considerably experienced, with a broad exposure to CS concepts but not a particularly good software maker.

An article on Java World, Hiring the phantom Java architect, sparked an interesting debate at the server side
regarding what it means to be a developer versus an architect. I very
much dislike the term architect and like to think of this instead in
terms of programming skill level.

Cognitive science research on
problem solving tries to examine the difference between experts and
novices in a domain. Rather than distinguish between developers and
architects, I think it is better to distinguish between experts and
novices at programming. The Dreyfus model of skill acquisition details
five skill levels to help in this task. Here is a summary from Coding Horror:

Level 1: Beginner

  • Little or no previous experience
  • Doesn’t want to learn: wants to accomplish a goal
  • No discretionary judgement
  • Rigid adherence to rules

Level 2: Advanced Beginner

  • Starts trying tasks on their own
  • Has difficulty troubleshooting
  • Wants information fast
  • Can place some advice in context required
  • Uses guidelines, but without holisitic understanding

Level 3: Competent

  • Develops conceptual models
  • Troubleshoots on their own
  • Seeks out expert advice
  • Sees actions at least partially in terms of long-term plans and goals

Level 4: Proficient

  • Guided by maxims applied to the current situation
  • Sees situations holistically
  • Will self-correct based on previous performance
  • Learns from the experience of others
  • Frustrated by oversimplified information

Level 5: Expert

  • No longer relies on rules, guidelines, or maxims
  • Works primarily from intuition
  • Analytic approaches only used in novel situations or when problems occur
  • When forced to follow set rules, performance is degraded

The Java World article laments about
companies that advertise for experts, but don’t interview for it. I
have to say this struck a nerve with me. Multiple choice tests like the Zend Certification disappoint me. Tests like this don’t measure skill on this scale at all, they measure exposure.

In
the past, I’ve used a coding sample as an interview question. The code,
about 250 lines, was distilled from an existing system and is horribly
bad in so very many ways, but functional. By showing the code to an
interviewee and asking them what they would do to improve it, I found I
could get a good idea of their skill level. Novices simply had no idea
what to do with it and would just move code around. Sometimes they
would insert comments, trying to make the code "better." Some
candidates only found and fixed one problem (there were several major
ones.) No one fixed all the problems. The one person that I interviewed
and didn’t have look at the code (for time reasons), we had to let go.
He simply fooled us at his interview about his skill level. The thing
is that I am certain he could have passed a Delphi certification test.
(like the one I took at Brain Bench.)

Moving from novice to expert programmer takes a very long time. From Teach Yourself Programming in Ten Years:

Researchers (Hayes, Bloom) have shown it takes about ten years to
develop expertise in any of a wide variety of areas, including chess
playing, music composition, painting, piano playing, swimming, tennis,
and research in neuropsychology and topology. There appear to be no
real shortcuts: even Mozart, who was a musical prodigy at age 4, took
13 more years before he began to produce world-class music. In another
genre, the Beatles seemed to burst onto the scene with a string of #1
hits and an appearance on the Ed Sullivan show in 1964. But they had
been playing small clubs in Liverpool and Hamburg since 1957, and while
they had mass appeal early on, their first great critical success, Sgt.
Peppers, was released in 1967. Samuel Johnson thought it took longer
than ten years: "Excellence in any department can be attained only by
the labor of a lifetime; it is not to be purchased at a lesser price."
And Chaucer complained "the lyf so short, the craft so long to lerne."

So you can’t become an expert without
experience. However, you can have experience without becoming an
expert. Some people just put in their time and never develop
themselves. So these people may have the answers to the certification
trivia question for their specific environment and be able to get past
the HR resume screeners with their buzzword detectors, but they will
not have the impact that a true expert would have in the same
situation. Just like our Delphi Dud.

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Badboy 1.5 is now available

Posted on 11 May 2005 by Demian Turner

Now is a good a time as any to attack your webapp with Badboy:

This release contains many many
new features both large and small. Thanks to your feedback
we have been able gather the requirements from hundreds of users to
determine what to add to Badboy to make it better than ever. The
following major features are brand new in Badboy 1.5:

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I18N Presentation from PHPlondon

Posted on 08 May 2005 by Demian Turner

Check out this fine i18n presentation by Jon Ramsey from the last php-london meetup:

http://babylon.idlevice.co.uk/phplondon/2005-05/

update: chatting with Jon, he used S5: a simple standards-based slide show system, to put his stuff together, looks like an interesting system.

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