29 Feb

php.ie in Dublin

Today, Ken Guest and I manned the PHP.ie stand at the first IWTC conference. It was also our own first conference. We learned a few things.

  • Have something to give to people. Almost everyone that turned up to the table wanted to take away one or more of Damien Seguy’s plush ElePHPant toys we had on the desk. They were really just there for decoration, but we did give some away (luckily, my son Jareth already had one put aside!).
  • People want to join, so provide something solid which allows people to feel they are joining something real. We ended up having to ask people to join the IE-PHPUG mailing list. Next time, maybe a small form to fill in would be cool – some people might not want to join a mailing list and are more interested in occasional information.
  • There are a few companies out there that are interested in recruiting PHP writers, and active PHPUG members have a greater chance of getting their feet through the door than people who simply claim they know PHP.
  • There are a lot of people out there that have not heard of us! I spoke to two PHP writers from Techwest in Galway who guessed there might be a PHPUG, but didn’t know for certain – there are about 50 PHP developers in Galway, they said. Coming across us in the conference was a good way to open up to a more national network. Hopefully, they’ll be joining the mailing list tonight, and next month will have the first Galway PHPUG meeting, along with the Cork, Dublin and Monaghan meetings (yes, I insist on calling my monthly drinkfest an Official PHPUG Meeting).
  • Next time, bring a few extension cables – there were no sockets where our table was, and my poor lappie’s power ran out very early just as I was going to show some of my stuff to someone!

Some ideas, then, to improve the PHPUG network. I’m just putting the ideas out there, and hope that some feedback will come of it.

  • Actively push for content on the php.ie website. At the moment, it has the barest of content, and looks “un-lived-in”. We need to improve that and provide a vibrant first-stop for people interested in learning about PHP and the Irish community.
  • Built up a network – we need to know what companies use PHP developers, what companies are looking for PHP developers, and we also need a way for these companies and potentially employees to find each other.
  • Maybe each month, we could have a “spotlight” feature on selected members of the community. I’ve been told that there are 120 or so people signed up to the mailing list. I know perhaps 10-15 of them by name and casual IRC meetings. It would be great to get a bit more information about them – how/why they learned PHP, what interesting projects they’ve worked on, what they’re doing now, what current PHP thing excites them.
  • The plush elephants were a hit. Maybe badges and/or t-shirts for the next meeting? I think we might need to think about finance. I’m willing to throw what little money I can spare at this, as PHP is what I work at and a vibrant community is pretty much essential for my own work.
  • Competitions! PHP|Architect recently started running coding competitions. It would be interesting to do this ourselves as well.
  • Debates would be cool as well. I have my own opinions of what frameworks/libraries are good in PHP. It would be great to hear other people’s opinions, and to try provoke a lively comparison which would eventually provide us with a short-list of “essential” frameworks.
  • And to keep us a bit more broad-based, it would also be interesting to know what other languages people rate, and how they compare with PHP. I talked today about how I had found some applications easier to code in Java, for example, and it would be great to know what people’s opinions are about when PHP is the right language, and when some other language should be used instead.

In all, today was fun. I talked to a lot of cool people, including Romans Malinovskis, who showed me his in-house library (“A-Model”, I think he called it [update: A Module]). I listened to Sean Hanley‘s talk on Agile Web Development, which described the economic reasoning behind the “release early, release often” philosophy. Afterwards, we held the first combined Dublin/Monaghan PHPUG meeting in Eddy Rocket’s (I had a coke, and Ken had a burger and malt).

I’m looking forward to doing it again!

19 Feb

oki b2200 shared over samba

Spent a while looking for info on this online, but couldn’t find it.

We have a windows machine which has a few printers on it. I want to connect to it from Linux (Fedora 8).

First, share the printer via windows share. Give it a name like OKIB2200.

Now, open system-config-printer

Choose “New Printer”, then “Windows Printer via SAMBA”. If that option does not appear, then close out of system-config-printer and install samba (yum install samba*) then repeat the above.

Enter the appropriate smb address. In my case, it was smb://mshome/

Click “Verify” to make sure it’s accessible (if not, check spelling in the URL. if still not, I dunno…).

For the Make, choose Generic

For the Model, choose PCL 4 (laserjet).

test, and you’re done.

19 Feb

popularity of php vs java

I had a conversation with a co-worker last night, who was trying to convince me that Java, unlike PHP, is always gaining in popularity, so should be used instead.

Luckily, I’m not a person who believes everything that I’m told, no matter how convincingly, so I decided to go looking.

The most recognised index for this kind of thing is the Tiobe Programming Community index (the TPC). here

According to that, Java is, indeed the most popular language, but it is in-fact losing popularity, while PHP is in-fact gaining.

From a numbers point of view, Java has dropped from 26% in 2001 to 21% in 2008, while PHP has gained from 2.4% to 9.89% – more than 4 times as popular as it was in 2001!

And so, I think I’ll stay with PHP. I personally believe Java is only useful if you are working in an already Java environment – otherwise, you are just hurting yourself.

On another note in the Java vs PHP game – we wrote an application a while back in both PHP and Java, and it turned out that the Java was faster. However, the PHP was written in MVC using the Zend Framework. It is well known that ZF is slow (particularly if you use Zend_Loader), so this was not really a fair comparison.

14 Feb

couple of globe puzzles

I was thinking about the Earth on the way to work today. Here are a few puzzles I compiled on the way:

  1. you are standing an the north pole. you travel 8000 miles south, then 8000 miles east, then 8000 miles south again. How far are you from the north pole?
  2. you are standing on the north pole. you travel 3 miles east, then 4 miles south. how far are you from the north pole?
  3. you are standing on the north pole. you travel 3 miles south, then 4 miles east. how far are you from the north pole?

try to guess the answers – they’re not as obvious as they seem.

of course, I suspect that anyone that reads my blog has already guessed the answers…

you probably think it’s very easy, don’t you!

here’re the answers for those people that didn’t figure them out:

  1. trick question. you cannot travel 16000 miles south because the circumference of the earth between the two poles is only 24860 miles, meaning that the maximum distance you can travel south 12430 miles.
  2. trick question. when standing on the north pole, you cannot travel east or west, as they’re one dimensional at that point (no, turning around is not traveling).
  3. not a trick question, but also not obvious. the first answer to pop into someone’s head would be 5 miles (via Pythagoras), but you need to remember that the Earth is not flat – if you are 3 miles south, you could travel a million miles east and still be 3 miles south. The answer is 3 miles.
08 Feb

alternative medicine

I drink quite a lot. I won’t say how much, as it would shock some people, and other more serious drinkers (who I might call alcoholics) might think it trivial. Suffice to say it is enough that my wife thinks I’m in danger of my liver exploding and taking out the neighbourhood with it.

So, she “proposed” that I take milk-thistle tablets to make sure that doesn’t happen. In fact, it was less of a proposal than that I came home one day and she shoved a box of the things in front of me and said “take two”.

That annoyed me – not the fact that she might have been looking out for my welfare, but the fact that she, instead of asking a doctor about it, bought some pills because they are “believed” to have good effects on the liver.

Believed by who? Whenever I see a sentence which is qualified by “it is said” or “it is believed”, I always add in a modifier – “by gullible people”, which injects a bit of reality into it.

Example sentences: milk thistle is said, milk thistle is believed, it is said that milk thistle

Never mind whether any of that is true or not. There is a more fundamental problem here. You should never undergo a course of self-medication without the prior approval of your doctor; especially if the medicine has not been clinically proven to be safe.

The actual brand that was thrust upon me was Sona Milk Thistle. Have a read of that page.

There are vague sentences in there – “helpful during the festive season”, “supports the liver”. “helpful” and “supports” are not clearly defined terms – exactly what does it mean to be helpful during the festive season (here – let me help you with those drinks)? Exactly what does it mean to support the liver (oops – that liver is slipping – let me prop it up)?

The only clearly stated sentence in the descriptive paragraph is “Milk Thistle has been used extensively for liver diseases and jaundice”. Now, the thing is – I don’t have liver disease, and I also don’t have jaundice, so why should I take it?

I prefer my medicines to have very clear purposes – “anti-inflammatory” – “anti-histamine” – “pain relief”. If the purpose of the medicine is “said to support”, then I don’t want to know.

By the way – read Derren Brown’s autobiography – it’s full of logic and wit. One piece explains that alternative medicine by definition has not been proven to work – if it has undergone clinical trials and has been proven to work, then it automatically becomes medicine, and is no longer alternative. So, avoid “alternative” medicine as there is no way to know what the hell you’re doing to your body.