Archive for the ‘Life: Work and Techy’ category

Snippet: Yahoo YUI Datatable and Internet Explorer (IE)

October 3rd, 2008

I must remember that if I’ve using the Yahoo! (Yahoo User Interface) Datatable and the page validates and works in Firefox, but doesn’t work in Internet Explorer (IE), then the problem is most likely caused by an additional comma at the end of an array.

The YUI logger will not record any actions from that point on and no error will be reported by Microsoft Internet Explorer (at least not IE 6 or IE 7) – it’ll just stop the Javascript from working from the stray comma onwards.

Annoying!

Contracting: Finding Freelance Work

September 23rd, 2008

If you are looking for freelance work (and therefore the list of work resources previously listed is not suitable), then the following sites may be useful:

Work: 10 Principles of the PHP Masters

September 11th, 2008

I’ve just come across 10 Principles Of The PHP Masters which has the following points (with my commentry added):

1. Use PHP Only When You Need It (Rasmus Lerdorf, creator of PHP)
PHP, like Perl, Javascript, ASP, C, Ruby, Python, C++, C# etc has it’s limitations and is more suitable for some jobs than others. Whilst it’s possibly to run PHP in the web browser, you wouldn’t really want to (as you’ll need to get your visitors to install a PHP interpreter on your machine) – likewise, you wouldn’t use PHP on embedded systems due to its size. However, if you are writing a big web application, you’ll be a masochist if you were to use Perl nowadays (back when I was a Perl web developer creating web applications in Perl – PHP was still in its very early stages) and you’ll be hitting a large performance penalty if you were to get the server to interpret Javascript for each page.
2. Use Many Tables With PHP and MYSQL for Scalability (Matt Mullenweg, creator of WordPress)
If you store a lot of data in a single MySQL (or PostgreSQL) table, then it’s going to take a long time for the server to search through the data to pull up a single row: if you have multiple tables, it’s got a smaller data set to scan
3. Never, ever trust your users (Dave Child, the brains behind Added Bytes – previously ilovejackdaniels)
This isn’t just a PHP issue – never ever trust user input more than you really really need to: otherwise, that way leads to security exploits and it’s best to write secure code. If you’re expecting digits, use preg_replace to remove anything that isn’t a digit, if you’re only expecting letters A-z, then again strip out anything that isn’t a letter. Work on the premise “what do I want to keep” and disregard the rest: I’ve seen people go down the “what do I want to get rid of” route instead and then get most upset when I say “well, what about this character?” and they have to add it to the “get rid of” list
4. Invest in PHP Caching (Ben Balbo, writer on Site Point)
Database calls are more processor/hard drive “expensive” than reading flat files off the hard drive, fetching remote pages is more processor/network intensive than reading them out of a local database (or a hard drive), counting database rows is slow: but reading a “row count” table or flat file isn’t, parsing templates (especially using regular expressions) are slow – reading prepared/precompiled files isn’t. Spot a pattern?
5. Speed up PHP Development with an IDE, Templates and Snippets (Chad Kieffer, author 2 tablespoons)
Personally, I prefer hand coding than using IDEs (Integrated Development Environments) as most of them get in my way: things like auto-closing brackets (I’ve been programming so long that I automatically close them myself – and I don’t want two sets of closing brackets) and within editor debugging usually doesn’t take into account the different environments in use (it’s often I’m developing on Windows XP/Vista, saving the file which is then picked up by a Virtual Machine for testing running Linux and all the appropriate PHP modules before been sent live to a physical Linux machine). However, I may just read his getting started with Eclipse guide.
6. Make Better Use of PHP’s Filter Functions (Joey Sochacki, author Devolio)
Filters (as detailed by Joey) are new on PHP5: so if you’re still writing for PHP4 environments or you can’t guarantee that the server administrator has installed the necessary PECL module – then you’re a bit stuck. I prefer to “roll-my-own” validation/filtering routines anyway – at least I’ll know how they work and not be shocked when bugs in the filter affect my code.
7. Use a PHP Framework (Josh Sharp)
See point 8
8. Don’t use a PHP Framework (Rasmus Lerdorf, creator of PHP)
I prefer not using a framework myself as they tend to be overkill for most tasks, don’t do exactly what’s needed: and, over the years, I’ve got a collection of routines on my hard drives (and memorised!) which do most of the common options. As Rasmus shows in an article, frameworks are also quite slow compared to “pure PHP” – because, of course, it’s a “generic tool” and isn’t optimised for “this” particular scenario.
9. Use Batch Processing (Jack D. Herrington, author of PHP Hacks book)

Why process building stats and things “on the fly” which slows down the user experience – why not run them automatically at 2am? In my previous work, I had to produce a sales commission report of 60+ sales personnel out of a months sales figures (which was several hundred thousand “items” per month) and work out which items attract what commission and what each sales person should receive. Doing that sort of processing and data extraction is slooow (even with a perfectly tuned optimised database) – however, running a batch process overnight which just extracted the sales made in the last 24 hours by each sales person (ignoring ones sold online for example) and store that information in a separate table meant sales reports could be produced within a minute or two instead of an hour or two (it still took a little time as some of the commission data was “dynamic” and had to take certain other things into account).
10. Turn on Error Reporting Immediately (David Cummings, HannonHll)
If you have PHP error reporting turned to the maximum during development (so you get the tiniest little issues highlighted immediately), it’s a lot easier and quicker to find potential issues and resolve them – before it’s deployed to a client. Turning error reporting to just “ERRORS” means you’ll miss the vital warnings which could save your code!

Contracting: Looking for work: Unusual job sources

September 9th, 2008

I’m aware that a number of people reading this blog at the moment are looking for work – well, here’s a few resources you can try that you may not have considered:

(yes, Workcircle should be paying me a small commission if you find a job through their system).

Are there any unusual resources for IT jobs that you know about which you’d like to share?

FreeAgentCentral – Brilliant customer support

September 7th, 2008

In my previous post, I mentioned that I was considering switching to the FreeAgentCentral system to handle invoice creation, book keeping and general “keeping things in one place” sort of stuff – mainly because Free Agent Central offers a much more UK orientated system than FreshBooks.

However, I hit a snag. The agency I’m currently working through )Ashdown Group) requires signed printed timesheets from the client – and I’d like to be able to keep these in the same place as the invoice. Ideally, I’d like to have the scanned in timesheets attached to the invoice when it’s sent out to Ashdown. Freshbooks has a “documents” facility where you can classify files to a client/customer: but you can’t attach them to invoices. Free Agent has the facility to attach files to Expenses: but you can’t upload files for any other purpose.

I therefore asked them via their quite good public help system if they had any plans to implement this sort of facility – and the response I got from them was outstanding – not only did they say it was a good idea, but when they said they couldn’t get it implemented before my free trial ran out they would extend my trial free of charge until it’s implemented!

You can’t say much better than that: quick, accurate and customer orientated support which goes beyond boundaries (ok, Ed, who responded, does appear to be the “main guy” behind FAC so he’s got authority to make changes such as offering people FOC extensions) – and I’ll certainly be switching to Free Agent for my online book keeping and accounting and will be recommending them to my other half for her web design services and a PR company in Leicester who ask for suggestions yesterday.

Thanks again Ed!

gamy-dance
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