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Marc Wandschneider is a professional software developer with well over fifteen years of industry experience (yes, he really is that old). He travels the globe working on interesting projects and gives talks at conferences and trade shows whenever possible.

My Publications:

My book, "Core Web Application Programming with PHP and MySQL" is now available everywhere, including Amazon.com

My "PHP and MySQL LiveLessons" DVD Series has just been published by Prentice-Hall, and can be purchased on Amazon, through Informit, or Safari


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GLint zeroOpacity = 0;
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Posted to: Things I've learned about CoreImage (and Quartz, and OpenGL) in two weeks
Dec 29, 2008 | 03:00:51
2008: The year that PHP nearly died
By marcwan

PHP started 2008 out on a roaring positive note. With adoption of PHP 4 finally dropping off to barely perceptible levels (apart from the occasional user complaining about how great things were in the good ole’ days and why do we have to change and – hey, get off my lawn you punk kids), PHP 5 had truly joined the big leagues, and the main complaint about the language shifted from it being be a quirky language with horrific (potential) security holes like register globals and klunky HTTP_POST_VAR arrays to it being a quirky language with crappy Unicode support. Talk about PHP 6, already quite vocal in the second half of 2007, was reaching a fever pitch, and some overly zealous people even started publishing books based on only some white-papers and vague ideas of what it would look like.

Along came March, however, and PHP 6 was nowhere to be seen. At conferences, questions from attendees and developers about rough guestimates for a final release dates were met with awkward coughs, sideways glances, and the inevitable “it will ship when it’s ready” response. When asked what they were working on, many people pointed out how focused they were on PHP 5.3 and near-term releases.

In fact, the more you looked, the farther and farther PHP 6 seemed to get, and the community suddenly got very quiet. As summer rolled around, much of the mindshare and energy seemed to be switching to framework development, as companies such as Zend realised they weren’t going to make money selling PHP and related IDEs alone, and other big name developers found themselves having to work to make money. News on the PHP website was hard to come by and limited largely to conference announcements.

While the rest of the web development community started to get excited about developments in new and exciting languages such as Ruby, Erlang, or even Python, PHP was starting to feel decidedly stale and old. The blogosphere went on one of its periodic “PHP sucks” campaigns, and loyalists found themselves on the defensive, trying to explain the whole needle-haystack / haystack-needle thing again and again. Late in the summer, a pretty alert colleague with whom I develop sites even commented that “PHP’s dying. It might be time to look at other options.” Throw in a non-trivial amount of bad press that MySQL seemed to be receiving after its merger with Sun Microsystems along with the latter’s subsequent mismanagement of employees and community, and it was beginning to look like time to worry about people jumping off the PHP/MySQL platform ship.

As the year grew old, however, and PHP 6 looked like a depressing myth, something interesting happened: PHP 5.3 started to gel together and enter alpha-release. Many features that had originally been planned for version 6 had been pushed forward into this release, including namespaces (including the much-derieded \ syntax), some international support, and some better math functionality.

Indeed, many of the non-vague or extremely optimistic features of PHP 6 will be showing up in this release, and I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see PHP 6 completely rebooted as a new branch and new project based on the current 5.3 line. Looking more closely, you’ll see that there were many of the same people this year quietly working behind the scenes on the project, developing and adding new features, and advocating in favour of the platform. People are still developing for PHP in huge numbers, and the language’s sheer productivity and ease of use make a compelling argument even in the face of sexier or more innovative-seeming languages.

With the arrival of 2009, and the pending release of PHP 5.3, one can feel the excitement in the air. With namespaces, closures, and continually improving i18n support (which is already workable, if not optimal), there is no reason to doubt that PHP will continue to be a dominant platform for years to come. Rest assured the language isn’t dead or dying. It just took a breather for a few months.

Happy 2009 to everybody, whatever platform you use!

[Read Rest of Article]
Jul 15, 2007 | 03:34:39
End of an Era
By marcwan

For the last 17 years or so, I’ve been a huge fan of the various BSD-inspired operating systems, starting with SunOS 4.1.x, and then moving on towards the various free flavours available for the PC, such as Bill Jolitz’s 386bsd, then FreeBSD, NetBSD, and OpenBSD. For a while, even I was a regular contributer to the NetBSD community, and enjoyed playing with them all.

When I started installing and running my own servers for mail and web application purposes about 8 years ago, there was an abortive few-month attempt to use Microsoft Windows Server, but since then it’s all been FreeBSD, with the latest lanfear.com server being FreeBSD 4.9-RELEASE (and with an uptime of 2 years, which would have been nearly 3 had my ISP not hacked and rebooted my machine one day).

To this date, various SYSV-inspired features, such as initd and their directory structure leave me with a bad taste in my mouth. I have repeatedly stuck with types of linux such as SuSE (before it sucked), and Ubuntu, that still gave me /etc/rc and familiar directory structures. Mac OS X still gives me warm tingly feelings to this day.

So, it is with some sadness that I recently decided to move from my own dedicated server to a virtual server hosting solution. I’m simply never in the USA any more, and I don’t want to have to worry about my computer going down. A virtual server comes with a guarantee that all hardware problems are the ISPs, and is a bit cheaper to boot. I usually hover around a 0.00 load average, so serious computing power isn’t a necessity for me.

However, the cheapest package with the best bandwidth means my server will, henceforth, be running Ubuntu Server. It is reasonably familiar to me … I can still add things to /etc/rc.local, and the rest of /etc isn’t too alien, and the apt-get scheme seems to work reasonably well. My needs are less these days, as I slowly admit defeat in the email world and let people like Google do it for me, so as long as I can run web apps and a few other fun things, I’m happy. All of my sites and addresses have already been moved to the new server.

The old FreeBSD 1U Dell server will be shut down by the old ISP on Thursday, and put in a box for a friend to go pick up sometime after that. I’ll miss it.

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