Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Book review: CMS Design Using PHP and JQuery

A couple of weeks ago I got a request from Packt Publishing to review the book "CMS Design Using PHP and JQuery". I accepted the offer because we're using more and more JQuery in our applications these days and I thought this book would give me a better insight in how to best use JQuery.

After receiving the book I started reading it. But right from the start the author displayed bad practices and mis-use of PHP. Reading the book from front to back, the author Kae Verens (@kae_verens) has confronted me with bad use of variables (like $a, $b, $c), bad use of PHP structures and a complete wrong approach of using JavaScript, where JavaScript should enrich an application instead of incorporating business logic.

The good:
It was nice to see JQuery has a variety of plugins to get things done, most of the plugins discussed in the book were developed by the author himself.
I do like the way Kae Verens (@kae_verens) breaks up a CMS basic functionality and targets it one by one to describe it's functionality and purpose. Without the code samples, this book is a good guide for anyone who wants to build a home-grown CMS.

The bad:
It's not bad, it's worse!

The ugly:
As already stated in the introduction, this book is a complete contradiction to the things we try to promote. Clear separation of business logic and presentation layers (where JavaScript is another presentation layer) has gone out of the window in this book.

Since the audience for this book are beginner to intermediate PHP developers, I can only curse at the author to be more responsible. Never use meaningless variables like $a, $b, $c!!!

Filtering and Validation of received data was something I missed in the code.

Another thing, if you use SPL functions like DirectoryIterator to traverse a directory on your filesystem, use the SPL methods that come with it (e.g. $dir->isDot() to verify if it's a "." or "..").

At the end of the book the author says this application only works on a *NIX platform. I think this statement reflects how this application is build: poor design.

Conclusion:
After reading this book, I should advice Packt Publishing to put a sticker on it "Warning: explicit content - bad coding practices" as this book is dangerous in the hands of novice PHP developers.

I'm very sorry for the authors and Packt Publishing as the topic of this book is very promising and could be a good read for everyone, but at this point with this type of coding I strongly advice people NOT to buy this book. Maybe a next edition…

Saturday, February 19, 2011

PHP on Azure and you in Vegas

If you're developing apps in PHP and you want a challenge that will get you some places, be sure to check out the PHP on Azure contest. Build an app with PHP, deploy it to Windows Azure and participate in a contest with a killer prize: an all-in trip to Las Vegas!

The rules are simple:
  • your app has to be written in PHP
  • preferably own development app
  • use as much as Windows Azure services
  • blog about overcoming this challenge (good/bad/ugly)
A jury will review your app and give you points on implementation, challenge and usage of Windows Azure technologies. But also on how you documented the process of deploying your app to Windows Azure.

Register before February 28, 2011. The contest itself runs from February 1, 2011 until May 15, 2011. If you register quickly, you can get attend a free Windows Azure training course given by Maarten "Mr. Azure" Balliauw on February 22, 2011.

Show the world your skills and participate. Full details of the contest can be found on http://phpazurecontest.com.

If you're unsure how to start, I'm working on an example application to be deployed anywhere, including Windows Azure.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Book review: The Agile Samurai


About two months ago I purchased "The Agile Samurai" by Jonathan Rasmusson from Pragmatic Bookshelf after seeing his presentation "Agile in a nutshell". I was already impressed by how he presented the agile scrum management cycle, as he gave already some good hints and tips on how to implement scrum management processes in ongoing projects.

But it was not until I read the book that I discovered Jonathan is a true expert in this field. With "The Agile Samurai" Jonathan explains in simple words the idea behind scrum, what steps to take in starting scrum management giving pointers on how to deal with developers, managers and customers and how to get everyone involved.

He also gives a lot of hints with his "Master Sensei and the aspiring warrior" where he summarizes each chapter with a dialogue between a student and his master. Throughout the book he also reflects on his own experiences describing a circumstance and how he personally turned a bad situation into a success story.

The book is filled with pretty graphics that not only describes a given situation with one image, but also challenges the reader in thinking further ahead. Since agile processes aren't new, Jonathan refers in his book a lot to other books that go deeper on a given topic Jonathan only touches briefly.

Besides going into detail on managing projects, he also describes topics like "technical depth" (a topic very well explained by Elizabeth Naramore at several PHP conferences), test driven development and continuous integration.

All in all, a must read for anyone who's already familiar with scrum project management processes and want to learn tricks how to get management and customers along for the agile ride. But it's an excellent guide for people who want to start managing projects in an agile way. No matter if you're a developer, a lead developer, a manager or a customer… this book is the best reference for optimizing the way a project can be turned into a success story or dropped before too much time, money and resources are spilled. Become The Agile Samurai.
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