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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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Aug 25, 2008 | 04:53:48
PHP Programming in Mumbai
By marcwan

And so it came to pass that I was wandering around downtown Mumbai the other day, purchasing a new Canon snapshot camera, since mine had mysteriously gone missing upon my arrival in Mumbai (mysteriously = I left it on the seat of the taxi from the airport to the hostel). In this neighbourhood, near Victoria Terminus (or VT), I just so happened to run into a number of computer book stores. I made a point of popping in and seeing what sort of PHP books they had.

The answer was: not many. This country is mostly a Microsoft shop, with a few Java people here and there.

But in one store, I did manage to find they had a “low price edition” of my book, which I knew had been published. 30-50$ USD for a book in India is outragageously expensive, so publishers print copies of the exact same book on cheap newsprint paper, and sell them for 10-12$ USD (500 Rs or so) instead.

So, I asked the kind guy who runs the store to take a photo of me with my book, and he was more than happy to oblige, in return for an autograph. I’m famous, hahah!

Marc with his book in downtown Mumbai

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Jun 07, 2007 | 19:30:33
Website Design Gone Horribly, Horribly Wrong
By marcwan

There are lots of ways in which a website can be annoying. Favourite methods include: rotating and blinking animated GIFs (or worse, Flash), popup advertising windows, unexpected background music files, or just plain all around atrociously ugly page design. (I’ve been quite guilty of this in the past!)

But until you’ve lived in China, or at least spent some time browsing around websites here on the mainland, there’s probably one way to annoy the living bejeezus out of people that you’ve never thought of.

To demonstrate, simply visit any Chinese website, such as the Bank of China or something else such as Chinaren. Don’t worry if you can’t see the characters, they’re not important for this experiment. (Windows XP users can add them by going to Control Panel /International and installing the Asian Font Pack, while Vista and Mac users will have all these fonts installed already).

Once you have one of these pages up in your browser window, click on a link or two. Click on some more links on those pages. Try to get back to where you came from. Within minutes, you’ll have at least a dozen browser windows littering your desktop, or at best, for those Firefox users with the correct settings, dozens of tabs.

You could be forgiven for thinking that this was specific to a few sites with particularly bad design. And you’d be totally wrong. This is completely endemic here in local website design, and is how the locals think that the “Internets” should work. Indeed, there is almost no concept of forward or back button usage any more, and it is not uncommon to see users with well over twenty browser windows littering their desktop at any given time. While Windows users can at least expect the Task Bar to group similar windows, Mac users just end up using the mouse to move the windows out of the way until needed later, or until they just close the browser application completely.

Ultimately, the problem becomes such that, if you want to fix the site design to not do things this way, you will confuse your user. When they click to go to a new page, and they then subsequently finish visiting it, they will close the browser window and proceed to go looking through their other browser windows until they find the one from whence (they hope) they came.

The only thing I can say? At least blatent ripoffs of other sites on the internet don’t seem to have felt compelled to introduce this behaviour into their clones. For everybody else, it’s going to take a while to change this design.

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Apr 20, 2007 | 22:58:33
When MySQL Attacks!!!
By marcwan

The Setup

Imagine, if you will, the following scenario:

  • You design a whole new database schema for your cool new scalable web-application. You’re using MySQL and the InnoDB datbase engine for everything, because your schema is so cool it uses all sorts of foreign keys and transactions and the like.
  • You quickly set up MySQL and get your application going with your new schema on your development staging machine.
  • You get MySQL up and running on your live server, play around with it for a bit to make sure it’s working, and then set up a my.cnf file with all sorts of caching and security goodies in it.
  • You do a backup from your dev machine, restore it to the live server, and ta-daa!!! Your web application is up and running on your live server.

What you might not have noticed, especially if you – like me – have a few thousands rows of data, is that MySQL might have screwed you along the way and not really told you all that clearly.

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Aug 24, 2006 | 02:11:10
Announcing Payjacks, an Object-Oriented PHP Ajax Web Application Framework
By marcwan

I am happy to announce the immediate availability of Payjacks, currently at version 0.2.0. Payjacks is a PHP/Ajax web application framework I’ve written using the object-oriented features in PHP5+.

Payjacks can be downloaded here:

http://chipmunkninja.com/download/payjacks-0.2.0.tar.gz

What is Payjacks?

Payjacks is an object oriented PHP-Ajax web application framework I’ve written to help write robust and organised web applications. It was designed to require a minimal amount of effort to get your own web application up and running, while helping with such tasks as accessing a (MySQL, currently) database or providing a framework for sending asynchronous Ajax requests back to the server.

Payjacks uses many of the new object-oriented features in PHP 5 to do its work, and handles most of the details required to run a robust web application.

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Feb 04, 2006 | 10:59:23
PHP5 and Database Sessions: Busted
By marcwan

One of my favourite things about PHP 5 is how nifty the object-oriented features are. I have been able to put together surprisingly robust web applications using simple class hierarchies and abstract classes, features that only took off in PHP with the version 5.0 release. One of the other things I have loved is using the the various built-in object-oriented classes provided by the runtime, most notably the mysqli and related functionality.

One extremely common task I complete is to use database storage for session data. When you are running multiple web servers and individual HTTP requests might go to different machines, trying to come up with a scheme to synchronise session data files between the individual servers becomes prohibitive. Far better a solution is to simply put these data in the database server along with everything else (see Figure 1) – your application servers hold only the code needed to generate the pages from the database.

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Feb 04, 2006 | 10:57:01
PHP Book Addenda I
By marcwan

As I sat down to edit “Core Web Application Programming with PHP and MySQL”, I would sometimes find errors in the text so blindingly obvious and stupid that I would question whether or not I was truly qualified to write such a book. And yet, after talking with some other people who write books (and recalling days when I wrote huge amounts of code), it seems that this is all common and with much proof-reading and the hard work of some friendly reviewers, I was able to write a book of extremely high quality.

Of course, that just meant I would be even more devastated when the first technical errors WERE found in the book.

There have been a couple, but they’re not that killer serious.

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Sep 09, 2005 | 06:57:27
URLs as APIs
By marcwan

On a recent contract, I was the lead developer on a web application to help gather information about open source projects called Swik (If you haven’t checked it out yet, do so and send feedback on it). The project is written using PHP and MySQL, and one of the key things about which the designer of the site, Alex, was adamant was in how the URLs looked.

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