Inaugural Preston CodeJo, November 28th 2011

Facilitated by @ruby_gem and hosted by @phpcodemonkey, the first Preston CodeJo was held last night at Magma Digital’s offices on Winckley Square. Using themed ‘katas’, this is the first of an open-ended series of events designed to challenge and extend developer abilities and interaction across programming/development disciplines.

This month’s kata asked attendees to use a Test-Driven Development (TDD) approach to solving a simple problem using the Ruby language.

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Final thoughts on PHP North West 2011

PHP NW 2011 informationSunday’s track choices

My second day at the PHP North West Conference 2011 kicked off with Paul Lemon’s ‘Feeling Secure?’ talk.

Paul used succinct code samples and made a point of covering the basic attack methods, assuming no great depth of knowledge for some and the need to re-iterate its importance to the rest of us. For each attack type, variant methods were demonstrated that perhaps would have been unfamiliar to some – this was certainly borne out during the Q&A session. Paul had far more topics to cover and hopefully there’ll be an extended security presentation at a future conference.

Following this I attended Walter Ebert‘s talk on URL design. Walter had gone to some trouble to locate examples of good practice in human-readable, RESTful web addressing as well as some neat workarounds for common problems – for example url handling routines for those long descriptive links that email clients break when they wrap text.

Finally I listened to Richard Backhouse talk about compiling PHP to .NET using open source tool Phalanger. Richard covered the background to his company’s adoption of the approach, client considerations, use cases and opportunities for mixing languages & libraries for a best-of-both approach.

Take Away

I tend to take away both strong themes and important (though sometimes small) messages from conferences that stick with me, influencing the design decisions and production routes on current and future projects. They’re not always from a favourite or most enjoyable presentation, but they highlight the event’s greater whole.

Laura Beth Denker‘s Saturday track 1 talk emphasised the need to retain practicality and perspective in software production (in particular, testing). Yes we have the tools, but are we using them effectively, are we curtailing our own faculties in favour automated methods, do we put enough trust in our collaborators?

The major frameworks has a strong showing, but Alistair Stead and Paul Lemon provided timely reminders of those areas that still require careful thought and action – response times, the right caching techniques regardless of chosen technology, the importance of validation and knoweldge of protocols and security basics.

Finally, Ian Barber‘s keynote brings all this together – the tools exist to allow you to contribute to great developments and create new ones. Use the right tools for right purpose and keep a keen eye on what’s around you – in programming, and in the wider world.

PHPNW11 was all about (as @Elblinkin put it) ‘Keyboard, mouse and You’.

Saturday at PHP North West 2011

The PHP North West conference gets bigger and better every year, and 2011 sees the Saturday and Sunday conference enlived by a Friday tutorial day and an unconference running alongside the scheduled tracks.

Saturday morning kicked off with keynote speaker Ian Barber‘s revealing tour of the small steps that made great software even better, and the ways that diverse personal interests, hobbies and a willingness to ignore conventional wisdom led to innovations that we in turn can build upon and contribute to.
Having a broad range of work and hobby interests, I could only agree with Ian on his belief in cross-fertilisation of ideas and approaches, and it was good to be reminded that being interested and aware is often more effective than aiming high.

Starting off Track 1, Enrico Zimuel introduced the new features and architecture of Zend Framework 2 followed by Sebastian Bergmann‘s talk on PHP Testing tools. Sebastian compared the various approaches and features of the most ubiquitous and newly released tools including his own project PHPUnit , the Atoum framework and the behaviour / scenario driven BeHat.

In the afternoon I attended Alistair Stead‘s track 2 talk about the Varnish reverse proxy cache. In addition to presenting Varnish’s impressive capabilities, Alistair examined the pitfalls of adding multiple cache layers, configuration gotchas, as well as privacy and security concerns in good depth.

Track 2 continued with Stefan Koopmanschap‘s introduction to the recently released Symfony2 framework. For those of us with experience of prior releases, Symfony2 appears to differ significantly and will take some getting used to. The Bundles approach follows the components theme running through the conference this year.

The final talk in track 1 was Laura Beth Denker‘s ‘Are your tests really helping?’. After informing the crowd that her company pushed code every 20 minutes or so, you would have expected a breakdown of intensive automated test routines, but what was presented was a practical approach involving well organised unit testing; having faith in fellow developers and trust in the external services (and if you don’t have faith or trust, you should probably replace both) in order to reduce the need for extensive integration and functional testing.

PHPNW11 continues today, Sunday 9th October. Feedback for talks can be read and provided on JoindIn.

Rustbucket and I

Rustbucket (My 1980′s Raleigh Equipe and it’s patina) and I will be riding in the Manchester to Blackpool charity cycle event this coming Sunday, 10th July.

If you’d like to sponsor me for the sixty-miler then click the JustGiving link, all funds raised go the Christie Charitable Fund.

Despite the name, Rustbucket‘s already proved capable of holding up under pressure and distance.

Let’s hope the months of training mean my riding buddies and I can do the same.

Denting from the Desktop – a shortcut for posting Identi.ca updates

One positive thing that has come out of Ideas of March is the number of new posts I’m reading on the blogs I already follow and the new blogs I’m taking the time to read.

Rick Hurst, a fellow BathCamper from a couple of years ago posted his thoughts about Twitter, Identi.ca and a future for distributed social microblogging. Like Rick I hastily bagged my identi.ca name when I heard about the service, but haven’t posted to it in anger. Continue reading

My Ideas Of March

A post in support of Chris Shiflett‘s call for a blogging revival.

I follow around sixty bloggers and blog sites on topics that include the arts (artists blogs such as Martin Greenland‘s blog); alot of web, mobile, application design and programming commentary; Institutional IT views from Brian Kelly, Mike Ellis as well as long form writing about online marketing, data visualisation , typography and graphic design.
There are history and archaeology blogs too. Paul Barford’s Portable Anquity Collecting and Heritage Issues and the Heritage Journal.

Why blogs matter to me

I’ve seen and met many interesting people that share my interests, work in my field, or both. Their weblogs provide me with an astonishing wealth of written, visual and auditory entertainment, information and commentary on the things that matter to me.

Such wealth, archived online. Ready to entertain, inform and inspire the next visitor.

Its Alexandria on speed.

Re-birth of the Author

I came to blogging proper in late 2006, I’d begun study for a computing MSc and had begun to dip my toes into Open Source development. I installed WordPress and have stayed with it for the sense of control and ownership of content.

I write about my interests – visual design, photography, painting, history, heritage issues, archaeology and on occasion personal things – usually the joys.

I also write about the events I’ve attended and the technologies I am using, evaluating, or developing in my role as a Higher Education web developer or for other projects. I enjoy sharing the things I find out and on occasion they assist others too.

Ideas of March

This month I’ll be writing about the personal goals and challenges I have ahead of me. I’ll be rounding up the threads about the recently launched Guerilla Gardening the Institutional Web Course Finder UX project I kicked off many moons ago, and perhaps write some more on the PHP frameworks I use.