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Book Review: Programming PHP 3rd Edition

samzenpus posted about 9 months ago | from the read-all-about-it dept.

Books 155

Michael Ross writes "As a hugely popular scripting language with an 18-year history, PHP has been the topic of countless computer language books. One of the most comprehensive offerings has been Programming PHP, published by O'Reilly Media. The first edition appeared in March 2002, and was written by Rasmus Lerdorf (the original developer of PHP) and Kevin Tatroe. A second edition was released in May 2006, and saw the addition of another co-author, Peter MacIntyre. With the many changes to the language during the past seven years, the book has again been updated, to cover all of the major new features made available in version 5 of PHP." Keep reading for the rest of Michael's review.This third edition was published on 22 February 2013, under the ISBN 978-1449392772, with the same three authors at the helm. At a substantial 540 pages, the information is organized into 17 chapters, each focusing on a particular area of the language and its usage. This material precedes an appendix of almost 130 pages, which serves as a reference for all of the language's built-in functions. In fact, not only could this book suffice as a reference guide, it could also serve as a tutorial, because it is accessible to programmers of all levels, including beginners who have never before worked with PHP. The preface notes that the material assumes only "a working knowledge of HTML." However, the example code seems to also assume that the reader is comfortable with fundamental programming concepts, such as conditionals and loops.

To learn more about the book, prospective readers and buyers may wish to visit the publisher's website, where they will find a description of the book, its table of contents, a free copy of its first chapter, and the example code for ten of the chapters. Speaking of formats, the book is available in print and electronic media. (This review is based upon a copy of the print version kindly provided by the publisher.)

The first three chapters explain the bedrock fundamentals of the language, including its lexical structure, data types, variables, expressions, operators, flow-control statements, code inclusion methods, and functions. All of the information appears to be valid, aside from several technical blemishes: In Example 1-1, most of the lines of code are duplicated. Example 1-5, which supposedly creates a PNG file, does not seem to work. The section on constants (page 21) should have mentioned the core predefined constants and also distinguished those from magic ones. The binary literal 0b01100000 is 96, not 1 (page 23). It is claimed that an object is evaluated as false if it contains no values or functions (page 25), and yet: "class C{} assert( new C );." The closure example code (page 29) fails because it includes a function name and no terminating semicolon. The example code in the middle of page 66 contradicts the claim that an inner function "cannot be called from code parsed after the outer function." The example code starting at the end of that page fails because $a in foo() is undefined. Nonetheless, even experienced PHP programmers could pick up knowledge not encountered before, or at least refresh what was learned years ago and since forgotten due to disuse.

The next two chapters explore in detail further essential components of PHP: strings, regular expressions, and arrays. As with the earlier chapters, readers will encounter example code that does not appear to have been tested. For instance, the print_r() output of an object is missing the class name (page 84). On the same page, print_r() and var_dump() of $GLOBALS do indicate "*RECURSION*," but do not loop infinitely or three times, respectively, as claimed. The $record on page 86 is missing its trailing tab character. For these errors and others, it is not clear whether the authors or the technical reviewers are ultimately responsible. Regardless, readers should find useful the tables summarizing regular expression character classes, anchors, quantifiers, and options. On the other hand, the treatment of conditional expressions is sorely in need of examples. Also, readers will be baffled when told that "The preg_match() function takes the same arguments and gives the same return value as the preg_match() function []" (page 112). Lastly, the callback example code is faulty (pages 131, 133, and 141). The sixth chapter, covering object-oriented programming is well-written, aside from the confusing phrase "including it to a different name" (page 160) and the anti-Nietzschean "this will fatal" (page 161).

With Chapter 7, the book shifts gears from the basic underpinnings of PHP to more applied topics, in this case, web techniques — specifically HTTP, global variables, server information, web form processing, sessions, and more. The narrative is quite clear, except when the reader is told that periods in field names are converted to underscores because periods are illegal in PHP variable names (page 178); the connection is not explained. The next chapter looks at server-side data storage, including the topics of PDO, MySQLi, SQLite, and MongoDB. Confusingly, readers are told that the sample SQL database code is available in a file, but they are not told where to find it (http://examples.oreilly.com/0636920012443/).

Chapters 9 through 11 address PHP's support for three specialized file types: graphics, PDF, and XML. The explanations are excellent, and the authors provide numerous examples. The only obvious flaws are in Example 11-1 (page 269), where the echo statement is missing the "<?" and two of the lines have mismatched single and double quotes.

The remaining half dozen chapters cover critical aspects of PHP development. The chapter on security does not attempt to be exhaustive, but instead explains the most common attack vectors and how to block them. The chapter on application techniques discusses code libraries, templating, output buffering and compression, error handling, and performance tuning. Any programmer intrigued by the idea of replacing clunky VBA code with PHP, should be interested in Chapter 14, which explores the differences in running PHP on Windows vs. other platforms, with a brief look at manipulating the contents of Microsoft Word and Excel files using PHP. RESTful web services and XML-RPC are the topics of the next chapter, whose only apparent blemish is that json_encode() does not add spaces between the array values (page 339). The penultimate chapter addresses multiple environments, manual debugging, and the use of an IDE. The last chapter briefly covers PHP support for dates and times, and thus should have been located much earlier in the book, with the other material on fundamental concepts.

Overall, this book is quite approachable. Throughout, one will find programming style recommendations, However, as with any technical work of this size, there are passages that could be made more complete or clear. Occasionally the authors will mention something explained only later — e.g., "short echo tag" (page 60) — which can be frustrating to anyone new to a language.

The concepts of PHP being taught are extensively illustrated with example code. Some of it is concise enough so as not to distract from the narrative flow, but far too many examples involve much more code than necessary. This at first glance might seem to be an advantage, but it actually makes it more difficult for the reader to see the parts of the code relevant to the topic at hand. Also, the authors underutilize whitespace in the code, instead jamming tokens and parentheses together.

In a book of this size, we should not be astonished to find some errata: "Wordpress" (page xv), "try and" (same page; should read "try to"), "tick function registered when register_tick_function()" (55; should read "with" not "when"), "eXtensible" (59), "super-global" (67; should read "superglobal"), "display_classes() function" (vs. "function displayClasses()"; 164), "$var" (294 and 295; should read "$value"), "functions of blocks" (323; should read "functions or blocks"), "retried" (337; should read "retrieved"), and "a.k.a." (350; should read "e.g.").

In terms of the production of the book, like most other O'Reilly titles, this one is nicely put together, with readable font. But sometimes words are jammed together so much that lines appear to be a single word, e.g., "codeitselfbutplentifulenoughthatyoucanusethecommentstotellwhat'shappening" (page 17). Also, the publisher should avoid splitting the function names as if they were English words, e.g., "addc" and "slashes()" on separate lines (page 91). The index is missing some obvious entries, e.g., "closures." Many code snippets are missing the "Example" numbers and captions. This may be fine if the authors do not reference those snippets, but makes it problematic for anyone else to reference them.

Even though this is arguably one of the most comprehensive PHP books on the market, it does not cover all aspects of the language. On page 1, readers learn that PHP can be utilized in three major ways — server-side scripting, command-line scripting, and client-side GUI applications; but only the first is covered in the book. The appendix consumes over 120 pages, and comprises information easily available online in the PHP manual's function reference. Those pages could instead have been devoted to at least introducing command-line scripting and GUI applications. In fact, there are two major changes the authors could take in bringing this book much closer to perfection: Firstly, retest all of the code and root out any technical snafus. Secondly, replace the lengthy appendix with full coverage of the topics of command-line scripting and client-side GUI applications.

Regardless, Programming PHP is both a tutorial and a reference resource packed with information and example code. Benefiting from the author's deep expertise in the language and its usage, the book is the most promising single source for anyone who wishes to learn this ubiquitous web scripting language.

Michael Ross is a freelance web developer and writer.

You can purchase Programming PHP, 3rd Edition from amazon.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews (sci-fi included) -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.

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155 comments

But... (2, Funny)

stewsters (1406737) | about 9 months ago | (#44218593)

I stopped after i read about GOTO [php.net]. Do you want raptors?

Re:But... (2, Insightful)

KalvinB (205500) | about 9 months ago | (#44218719)

Even the manual acknowledges it is bad practice and includes the XKCD comic

There are so many languages that try to hide bad programmers. Give me a PHP programmer and his code and I can tell you if he's worth anything, The language lets you code like an idiot. Which is great, because then I can either not hire you or pay you accordingly if I think you have potential.

GOTO is not a part of PHP so you can use it. It's part of PHP so that if you use it, you are immediately fired and blackballed from the industry. It's a trap.

Re:But... (1)

ackthpt (218170) | about 9 months ago | (#44218797)

Even the manual acknowledges it is bad practice and includes the XKCD comic

There are so many languages that try to hide bad programmers. Give me a PHP programmer and his code and I can tell you if he's worth anything, The language lets you code like an idiot. Which is great, because then I can either not hire you or pay you accordingly if I think you have potential.

GOTO is not a part of PHP so you can use it. It's part of PHP so that if you use it, you are immediately fired and blackballed from the industry. It's a trap.

I did encounter a piece of code, ages ago, where in a GOTO was the only possible way to accomplish something. They're pretty rare, but in the instance you need the option it is nice knowing it is there.

Re:But... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44218907)

I would actually like to see that code. I don't think it is the only way, but if it was that would be cool. If you ever see it again, post it here.

Re:But... (1)

noh8rz9 (2716595) | about 9 months ago | (#44219159)

All those errors in chapter one! Me thinks no thanx. Those sort of errors confound me the most, because I try to reconcile what I'm reading iwth my own understanding of the language, and I get a "does not compute" and smoke comes out my ears.

Re:But... (5, Informative)

vilanye (1906708) | about 9 months ago | (#44219217)

The linux kernel has many examples. A common usage is using goto to deal with exceptions so you don't fill up the critical path with branches and blow your cache.

Some newbie actually went on the kernel's mailing list a long time ago, shocked that GOTO's existed and proposed all sorts of lamebrained approaches just to avoid a clean usage of GOTO like this(shamelessly stolen from one of Robert Love's responses):

do A
if (error)
goto out_a;
do B
if (error)
goto out_b;
do C
if (error)
goto out_c;
goto out;
out_c:
undo C
out_b:
undo B:
out_a:
undo A
out:
return ret;

Easy to read, provides clean stack unwinding, avoids blowing out your cache and only branches on error conditions.

Linus was actually nice to this kid, which surprised me because he deserved all the vitriol he got and more.

One the other hand, that a newbie was actually reading Linux source code was pretty amazing to me. But going on the mailing list and chastising experienced kernel programmers was pretty funny.

Djikstra never gave his paper the title "GOTO's considered harmful", I think it was Wirth acting as editor and who is someone you can ignore safely.

His paper was talking about GOTO's that can bounce all over the place, something essentially impossible in C where GOTO's are local in the function(ignoring longjmp). The paper was published several years before C was developed making his paper irrelevant to C style GOTO's.

I think I used GOTO once, in a virtual machine project that ran bytecode for a educational language that teaches parallel programming concepts.

Re:But... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44220181)

Use monads and flatMap that shit.

Re:But... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44221227)

Linus was actually nice to this kid, which surprised me because he deserved all the vitriol he got and more.

That is called class, maturity, and tact. It doesn't surprise me that you're unfamiliar with those concepts.

Vitriol eh? What are you going to do, aside from 'geeking out all over him'?

Personally I'd love to see better than 99% of you fat fucks right in front of the person against whom you're leveling the criticism. I'd kick your fucking teeth out.

Re:But... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44222341)

Personally I'd love to see better than 99% of you fat fucks right in front of the person against whom you're leveling the criticism. I'd kick your fucking teeth out.

Now that's a classy, mature, and tactful comeback!

Re: But... (1)

cripkd (709136) | about 9 months ago | (#44218935)

I don't think "the only possible way" means what you think it does.

Re: But... (1)

flimflammer (956759) | about 9 months ago | (#44220029)

Then, "the only way to accomplish something without avoiding goto with lamebrained alternatives just for the sake of avoiding goto"

Re: But... (1)

sg_oneill (159032) | about 9 months ago | (#44221777)

By "lamebrained" read "actually knows how to code".

Name JUST ONE circumstance where using a Goto in a higher level language isn't the wrong choice.

Just one.

Re: But... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44222117)

This thread has already discussed one.

Re: But... (1)

smellotron (1039250) | about 9 months ago | (#44221791)

the only way to accomplish something without avoiding goto with lamebrained alternatives just for the sake of avoiding goto

You may as well omit that long-ass conditional and just say "the simplest way to accomplish something."

Re:But... (4, Insightful)

narcc (412956) | about 9 months ago | (#44219153)

Indeed. GOTO is not inherently evil. You'll find it used appropriately in some surprising places -- including the Linux Kernel [oracle.com].

When describing a process, the oft-maligned GOTO certainly comes in handy. The over 30 crowd might remember seeing GOTO's in any number of guide books from auto repair to taxes. (The word wasn't always used, sometimes "skip to ..." or "continue with ..." etc.)

That's right: GOTO can actually make things easier to read and understand.

Even in software today, I'm willing to bet even the most ardent anti-GOT zealot has used a GOTO -- and recently at that -- cleverly disguised as a break or return statement.

Re:But... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44219443)

Intercal has "comefrom"!

Re:But... (1)

sg_oneill (159032) | about 9 months ago | (#44221769)

There is no circumstance where a Goto is the "only possible way". I've been coding for 20+ years, and the last time I used a goto was when as a teenager I graduated from BASIC to Pascal.

Literally, computer science style, *all* possible uses with one exception can be replaced.

And that one exception will never occur in PHP code, as its related to system level assembly programming where the CPUs jump-with-return instructions are not appropriate to the task at hand.

Re:But... (0)

fisted (2295862) | about 9 months ago | (#44219761)

> Give me a PHP programmer and I can tell you he isn't worth anything
FTFY

Re:But... (1)

Mister Mudge (472276) | about 9 months ago | (#44220473)

> Give me a PHP programmer and I can tell you he isn't worth anything

FTFY

Show me a programmer as snottily critical of a language as this and I'll show you a programmer who hasn't been one for very long.

Re:But... (0)

Spy Handler (822350) | about 9 months ago | (#44220721)

Give me a PHP programmer and I can tell you he isn't worth anything

Zuckerberg is worth billions. PHP was mentioned by name several times in the Facebook movie [wikipedia.org].

When was the last time you heard Python/Perl/Ruby/C++ mentioned in a movie?

Re:But... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44220825)

Give me a PHP programmer and I can tell you he isn't worth anything

Zuckerberg is worth billions. PHP was mentioned by name several times in the Facebook movie [wikipedia.org].

Sorry, but odds are in GP favor.

Re:But... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44218725)

The goto seems very arbitrary.
And since PHP supports exceptions (as far as I understand) what exactly is the point of the goto?
Literally the only valid use of goto is for error handling, and that is covered by exceptions.
Every single example they have given could be rewritten using standard control flow.

Re:But... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44218777)

Literally the only valid use of goto is for error handling, and that is covered by exceptions.

I use goto in C all the time to break out of loops and jump to a cleanup function at the end of the code. Of course C doesn't have exceptions and nobody compiles PHP to the metal AFAIK, so I think you're right.

Re:But... (1)

Mister Mudge (472276) | about 9 months ago | (#44220535)

Literally the only valid use of goto is for error handling, and that is covered by exceptions.

I use goto in C all the time to break out of loops and jump to a cleanup function at the end of the code. Of course C doesn't have exceptions and nobody compiles PHP to the metal AFAIK, so I think you're right.

Look up setjmp()/longjmp() and tell us again if you still think C needs GOTO in place of exception handling.

OTOH, using GOTO so that a procedure has limited nesting and only a single exit point is far preferable to having one with super-deep/complicated nesting and/or lots of different exit points (something a lot of PHP programmers seem prone to).

Re:But... (2)

OhSoLaMeow (2536022) | about 9 months ago | (#44218817)

The goto seems very arbitrary. And since PHP supports exceptions (as far as I understand) what exactly is the point of the goto? Literally the only valid use of goto is for error handling, and that is covered by exceptions. Every single example they have given could be rewritten using standard control flow.

It used to be worse. Much worse. Cobol used to have this notion of "ALTER X TO PROCEED TO Y" whereby X was a paragraph containing a GOTO statement. After the ALTER statement is executed, the paragraph X code was modified to now transfer control to paragraph Y. So you had no idea where the logic flow was going because it depended upon whether or not the ALTER was executed.

Life was hell.

Re:But... Spiders on drugs (1)

Aguazul2 (2591049) | about 9 months ago | (#44218933)

So what you're saying is that PHP is better than COBOL -- hmmm. PHP reminds me of those spider webs made by spiders on different drugs. PHP is like COBOL reimplemented under the influence of which drug, I wonder?

Facebook? (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44218609)

People still use PHP outside of Facebook? And, honestly, they're not even really using it with their cross compilers.

Re:Facebook? (5, Interesting)

Literaphile (927079) | about 9 months ago | (#44218663)

This just in, people still use the most popular programming language on the web, the size of which makes all other web programming languages niche choices by comparison.

Re:Facebook? (5, Insightful)

Grishnakh (216268) | about 9 months ago | (#44218705)

Honestly, I don't understand what all the complaining is about. It just seems like a lot of language snobbery to me. I used PHP on my small website because every cheap web host out there supports it, there's tons of example code, and it's easy to learn if you have a C/C++ background. It seems to work just fine. Is it suitable for a gigantic website like Facebook? I have no idea really, and I don't care, just like I don't care that bash shell scripts probably aren't suitable for writing, for instance, a full-featured application like a spreadsheet or a video editor, as shell scripts work quite well for the things I do use them for.

Re:Facebook? (5, Insightful)

dkleinsc (563838) | about 9 months ago | (#44219023)

Honestly, I don't understand what all the complaining is about. It just seems like a lot of language snobbery to me.

As someone who works with PHP every working day: It's a language that wasn't designed, it was congealed. Its lack of design is very evident as soon as you start trying to build anything interesting with it. It was something that was created to solve a short-term problem for one guy, and more-or-less accidentally grew into what it is today. What structures it does have are poor attempts at imitating other languages.

Some examples of what went wrong:
- Arrays and hashes are the same data structure, for no readily apparent reason. Also, the simplest way of using that data structure is "array(a,b,c,...)", not "[a,b,c, ...]" like everyone else.
- All variables start with $, in imitation of Perl, but don't use the @ or % prefixes the way Perl does, instead just pretending everything's a scalar even though it's not.
- For a long time, OOP was an afterthought.
- Unlike other scripting languages like Python, Ruby, and Perl, PHP can't figure out which files to include for you when you reference something outside of the current file. Instead, it offers a global facility called an "autoloader" that allows you to write your own code to tell it how to find it, which completely breaks when multiple libraries have competing autoloaders trying to pick up two different classes with the same name.
- Library functions display no consistency whatsoever. Some are camelCase, some are under_scored. Some search functions put the needle before the haystack, some the other way around.
- Some operators are funky: Values can be equal without being the same thing, for example.
- A significant number of errors, instead of generating exceptions that can be caught and handled, generate fatal errors, which crash your application no matter what. By comparison, Perl, Python, Ruby, and Java allow you to handle almost any error.

I could go on, but the point is there's real reasons for hating PHP.

Re:Facebook? (1)

noh8rz10 (2716597) | about 9 months ago | (#44219209)

- Library functions display no consistency whatsoever. Some are camelCase, some are under_scored. Some search functions put the needle before the haystack, some the other way around.

I never liked the term camelCase. it always reminds me of camelToe.

Re:Facebook? (4, Interesting)

johnkoer (163434) | about 9 months ago | (#44219263)

Someone did go on, and on, and on, on this topic. Interesting read that makes never want to go near PHP again:

http://me.veekun.com/blog/2012/04/09/php-a-fractal-of-bad-design/ [veekun.com]

Re:Facebook? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44222253)

And pragmatists opposite view:

- PHP is easy to deploy, usable on almost any host.
- PHP code can, and is clean, when written by a professional. Like any code.
- PHP code is easy to maintain when written by a professional.
- PHP is very, very fast. Much faster than Python or Ruby. Not much else fits into web world.
- PHP is inconsistent only on some parts. Nowadays you can write most of the stuff on top of PHP 5.x's object oriented classes (instead of old_procedural_funcs()), which are all consistently named, take parameters in consistent order, etc. But this usually doesn't matter to PHP flamers, for some reasons. PHP sucks, you know.
- PHP is also very fast to develop and nowadays offers more than excellent, safe API's to get rid of old-world security problems like SQL injections (PDO and prepared queries, hello).
- PHP has by far the best XML/XSLT- classes and tools, for those who create use and create real UI's instead of these messy string parsers ;-)

In the end, what PHP is supposed to do, is to execute a page as fast as possible, and then die off. And it's very good at it.

Re:Facebook? (1)

MortenMW (968289) | about 9 months ago | (#44222711)

Its pretty interesting reading. However he used a carpenter analogy which renders any argument invalid. If he had used a car analogy I would have believed everything he's written.

Re:Facebook? (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | about 9 months ago | (#44219325)

How many of these are still problems now, as opposed to in earlier versions of the language/interpreter? Perl is another language that wasn't all that well designed at first, but was added onto later as it grew into popularity and was used in roles that were unthinkable in its early days.

It is pretty obvious that PHP started out small and grew into its present form, which can be seen with the inconsistency with library function names; obviously they didn't want to break compatibility arbitrarily so they stuck with the old names, but there's several functions that have been deprecated, such as the old MySQL interface library.

I'm not saying PHP is the greatest language ever (or even a great language), but it seems to get the job done for smaller sites, and there don't seem to be many really good alternatives that are well-supported, or so easy to embed into HTML like PHP does. It'd be nice if they'd fix some of these issues that seem to mostly stem from legacy issues, but I guess that conflicts with the goal of backwards compatibility so that's probably why that isn't done so quickly.

Re:Facebook? (1)

Crudely_Indecent (739699) | about 9 months ago | (#44219337)

PHP Array Short Syntax [php.net]

There are answers to most of your gripes....except search function needle/haystack ordering. That one bugs me too, as I can never remember which function uses which order.

Re:Facebook? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44219589)

Create your own.

function my_blah(stuff)
{
              call blah(stuff);
}

Re:Facebook? (1)

Literaphile (927079) | about 9 months ago | (#44219381)

As someone who also works with PHP every working day, I'd just like to respond to your examples of "what went wrong":

- Arrays and hashes are the same data structure, for no readily apparent reason. Also, the simplest way of using that data structure is "array(a,b,c,...)", not "[a,b,c, ...]" like everyone else.

So? Does this gripe have any practical implications? Or is it just a whine for a whine's sake? Also, as of PHP 5.4 (which has been March 2012 BTW), you CAN use the [a,b,c] syntax to create arrays.

- All variables start with $, in imitation of Perl, but don't use the @ or % prefixes the way Perl does, instead just pretending everything's a scalar even though it's not.

Again - so what? You presumably learned how PHP variables work, so you're doing OK. Don't worry about Perl when you're using PHP.

- For a long time, OOP was an afterthought.

But it's not an afterthought now. Or are you still using PHP 4?

- Unlike other scripting languages like Python, Ruby, and Perl, PHP can't figure out which files to include for you when you reference something outside of the current file. Instead, it offers a global facility called an "autoloader" that allows you to write your own code to tell it how to find it, which completely breaks when multiple libraries have competing autoloaders trying to pick up two different classes with the same name.

Again, don't worry about other languages. You're using PHP. And, more importantly, why are you using libraries with their own autoloaders?

- Library functions display no consistency whatsoever. Some are camelCase, some are under_scored. Some search functions put the needle before the haystack, some the other way around.

I agree that this is annoying. But is it a show-stopper?

- Some operators are funky: Values can be equal without being the same thing, for example.

Once again: so what? It's not random behavior. Learn how this stuff works and then move on with your life.

- A significant number of errors, instead of generating exceptions that can be caught and handled, generate fatal errors, which crash your application no matter what. By comparison, Perl, Python, Ruby, and Java allow you to handle almost any error.

What do you mean by "handle"? If you mean catch and log, then PHP allows you to catch all errors, including fatal ones (see register_shutdown_function for example). If you mean "recover from", I would suggest that attempting to "recover" from a fatal error is a very bad idea. A fatal error means that something is seriously wrong with your application - the "recovery" should be fixing it, not pushing it under the rug.

Your points just touch on the same old, tired "but it's not like $randomLanguageName and therefore it's bad!" If you constantly compare PHP - or any language - to other languages than I'm afraid you'll have a long road to hoe. If PHP is your chosen tool - as it is for me - learn it inside and out and stop comparing it to other languages.

The list of absuridities just never ends... (4, Insightful)

js_sebastian (946118) | about 9 months ago | (#44219413)

Honestly, I don't understand what all the complaining is about. It just seems like a lot of language snobbery to me.

As someone who works with PHP every working day: It's a language that wasn't designed, it was congealed. Its lack of design is very evident as soon as you start trying to build anything interesting with it. It was something that was created to solve a short-term problem for one guy, and more-or-less accidentally grew into what it is today. What structures it does have are poor attempts at imitating other languages.

Some examples of what went wrong: - Arrays and hashes are the same data structure, for no readily apparent reason. Also, the simplest way of using that data structure is "array(a,b,c,...)", not "[a,b,c, ...]" like everyone else. - All variables start with $, in imitation of Perl, but don't use the @ or % prefixes the way Perl does, instead just pretending everything's a scalar even though it's not. - For a long time, OOP was an afterthought. - Unlike other scripting languages like Python, Ruby, and Perl, PHP can't figure out which files to include for you when you reference something outside of the current file. Instead, it offers a global facility called an "autoloader" that allows you to write your own code to tell it how to find it, which completely breaks when multiple libraries have competing autoloaders trying to pick up two different classes with the same name. - Library functions display no consistency whatsoever. Some are camelCase, some are under_scored. Some search functions put the needle before the haystack, some the other way around. - Some operators are funky: Values can be equal without being the same thing, for example. - A significant number of errors, instead of generating exceptions that can be caught and handled, generate fatal errors, which crash your application no matter what. By comparison, Perl, Python, Ruby, and Java allow you to handle almost any error.

I could go on, but the point is there's real reasons for hating PHP.

You could go on forever. Every day that I work on PHP code, I discover another absuridity in this moronic language. Here is today's: take the php function intval, which is meant to parse a string and return an integer:

- if you pass it an object, it emits an E_NOTICE and returns 1
- if you pass it NULL, an array(), and perhaps other things, who knows, it returns 0
- if you pass it a garbage string that is not a number it returns 0
- if you pass it a number with garbage appended it returns the number (e.g., "123aaaa" returns 123)
- if you pass it an overly large number it returns MAXINT

Apparently it did not occur to the people designing this that using valid return values to indicate error conditions is not a good idea.

Add to this, the fact that to know what a PHP API function REALLY does, you often have to read the comments under the API documentation page so you can find out of all the weirdnesses and special cases that the documentation does not mention.

Re:The list of absuridities just never ends... (1)

flimflammer (956759) | about 9 months ago | (#44220295)

Then perhaps you should be using the companion function is_numeric() on the variable before attempting to convert it and then you wouldn't have this problem of vague return values!

Re:The list of absuridities just never ends... (1)

js_sebastian (946118) | about 9 months ago | (#44220639)

Then perhaps you should be using the companion function is_numeric() on the variable before attempting to convert it and then you wouldn't have this problem of vague return values!

Sure, there are always ways to get stuff to work despite the language and API's bad design, I myself get stuff done in PHP when I have to and hey, it beats writing machine code by punching holes in punch cards, but that does not mean the design is not bad and harmful to productive development... Unless you can find a rational reason why intval on an object should return 1, while intval on an array returns 0, and for so many other equally absurd decisions in the language, runtime and API. Try giving this a read:

http://me.veekun.com/blog/2012/04/09/php-a-fractal-of-bad-design/ [veekun.com]

Re:The list of absuridities just never ends... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44221601)

The better question is why are you passing an object or an array into intval? It says right in the docs that you shouldn't pass an object into that function.

Re:Facebook? (1)

Nerdfest (867930) | about 9 months ago | (#44220525)

The sad part is that both of the two big languages for web development are like this (with JavaScript) being the other one. When you need to write software that's reasonably maintainable, flexible and secure, having a language that's consistent and predictable is pretty much required.

Re:Facebook? (1)

TopSpin (753) | about 9 months ago | (#44219125)

Is it suitable for a gigantic website like Facebook?

Yes. Facebook is actually implemented in PHP. At one point they used a compiler to compile PHP directly to machine code. Today they have an alternative to Zend called the HipHop Virtual Machine [facebook.com] (HHVM.)

Re:Facebook? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44219133)

It's also harder to learn how to do things WELL in PHP. PHP is full of gotchas that complicate programs and catch even veteran programmers, ending up as bugs.

It is a bad language as far as languages go. It's ONLY upside, in today's world, is it's ubiquity, which is not really much of a bragging point.

Node, or Python/ruby with a good framework (which unsurprisingly, the php frameworks are now emulating), is a better choice for someone starting a new project, hands down.

Re:Facebook? (2)

dgatwood (11270) | about 9 months ago | (#44219143)

... I don't care that bash shell scripts probably aren't suitable for writing, for instance, a full-featured application like a spreadsheet ...

I so know what my next shell script should be.

Re:Facebook? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44219367)

The choice to use PHP is made with a bias of picking the most popular language. If a task is suited to PHP, it's equally suited to a number of other languages.

I hate PHP. I've been forced to use it (it's probably my primary language) and it's burned me time and again. I wouldn't call that snobbery.

I also wouldn't say the OP is a snob. I, too, am surprised that people are still picking that language solely because it's the most popular.

Re:Facebook? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44220035)

I feel the same way. Yes, it's easy to find laundry lists of everything people hate about PHP, and yes, it's quirky and not well designed. But I've been building lightweight webapps with it for years and they've worked just fine with minimal maintenance, and none of the problems folks drone on about are showstoppers, not to me anyhow. "Oh gosh, I have to look up the order of the arguments for array_key_exists() again, kill me now ..."

Re:Facebook? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44218735)

Yes, on Wikipedia.

Re:Facebook? (2, Informative)

SJHillman (1966756) | about 9 months ago | (#44218739)

Similar questions:
People still use automobiles outside of Detroit?
People still eat food outside of McDonalds?
People still have sex outside of brothels?
People still say stupid shit outside of anonymous Slashdot comments?

Re:Facebook? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44219423)

I think Facebook deeply regrets using this shitty language. That one decision has cost them 10's of millions of dollars and lots of time.

One page book (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44218611)

DON'T

Re:One page book (1)

jellomizer (103300) | about 9 months ago | (#44218709)

Ok you hate PHP. But how many other Popular alternatives are out there.
JSP Oracle is the bad guy right.
ASP Microsoft is the bad guy right.
Perl The 1990's called and they want their programming back.
Ruby on Rails, good alternative however it will be hard to find replacement programmers.
Python, Python is my favorite language, however it isn't that good for web.

Re:One page book (2)

kthreadd (1558445) | about 9 months ago | (#44218773)

There is a nice looking framework for Scala called Play. I think that could be a good alternative. http://www.playframework.com/ [playframework.com]

Re:One page book (0)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about 9 months ago | (#44218787)

If you're using PHP and you've got something against Perl, you're a fucking idiot.

Re:One page book (-1, Troll)

Noughmad (1044096) | about 9 months ago | (#44218859)

If you're using PHP, you're a fucking idiot.

FTFY

Re:One page book (2)

narcc (412956) | about 9 months ago | (#44219195)

Yeah, only idiots use PHP -- that's why it's only used by 80% of the web [w3techs.com].

Language snobbery benefits no one. Unless you're Chuck Moore, it also makes you look like an idiot who can't form their own opinions.

Re:One page book (2)

iamgnat (1015755) | about 9 months ago | (#44219633)

it also makes you look like an idiot who can't form their own opinions.

So does using the "but everyone else is doing it" argument.

I've used all kinds of languages for different purposes and the only thing I can say nice about PHP is that it is nearly as ubiquitous as Perl. Otherwise it is neither as capable or well thought out as it's competitors. My personal pet peeve is the inconsistent error handling (some functions just return true/false, some use NULL and false interchangeably, some write their error messages to STDERR, some to STDOUT, most give you no way to programmatically capture the error in a reasonable manner, and a few actually use the built exception functionality (though I still saw a handful that just used a generic exception with no details about the failure). The top failure of the language that gets the majority of my venom is their poor use of the __FILE__ macro and the maintainers refusal to recognize that they are the ones doing it wrong (translates links rather than giving you the raw value like every other major language).

Really the biggest problem with PHP is not the language itself, however, it's all the bad information out there about how to use it. Many of the helpful examples (especially for form processing or database work) are so full of security holes it's not funny. Sadder still is that it's the newbies that don't understand such concepts that read this bad advice as gospel and then continue to promote it by posting it again in their turn. All languages have their holes and flaws, but PHPs are more visible because of it's ubiquity (e.g. anyone can get a cheap hosting account that supports PHP) and because it drives the majority of the UIs on the web.

Re:One page book (1)

narcc (412956) | about 9 months ago | (#44220167)

So does using the "but everyone else is doing it" argument.

That's not the argument I'm making :)

PHP is ubiquitous. That's certainly an advantage as far as maintaining it's share of the web. However, that didn't happen overnight. PHP is ubiquitous today because it did the job it was designed to do better than competing languages. This is still true today, as evidenced by several "superior" fad-languages failing to gain any ground. If PHP was garbage that no professional would touch, it couldn't have possibility achieved such an astonishing share!

You can criticize any language you want. With enough effort, you can make C appear to be the worst language ever improperly designed. (Just poke around the usenet archives and you'll see what I mean.) PHP has it's share of warts, no question, but it's not the worthless pile of garbage that language snobs have made it out to be.

Really the biggest problem with PHP is not the language itself, however, it's all the bad information out there about how to use it.

You'll find that's true of all popular programming languages. (You should see the nonsense out there about JavaScript -- written by respected professionals!) Though I'll admit that it might be a bit worse for PHP due to the large number of beginners the language attracts due to it's astonishing ease-of-use.

Really, I think that ease-of-use is exactly why we see so many "PHP is garbage" comments on forms like this. Developers are (undeservedly) considered by the general public to be brilliant-- a bit like MD's. The difference, of course, is that anyone can become a computer programmer in their spare time -- even children. Hell, I'll bet that the majority of Slashdot users were writing games for their home micro before the age of 12. It's an easy skill to learn -- and everyone developer knows it. Being insecure, the last thing they want is some easy language out there that's easy to learn and use. If their little secret got out, no one would think they were brilliant! They'd just be another nobody -- their worst fear!

Languages like PHP are a huge threat to those insecure developers. I'm not surprised that they bash it at every opportunity.

Re:One page book (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44220765)

Nail, meet head.

Re:One page book (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44222085)

Software development will get easier, cheaper, and unprofitable and that's OK because that the nature of technological. The goal should be making tech easier to use and develop for.

Re:One page book (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 9 months ago | (#44219771)

Yeah, only idiots use PHP -- that's why it's only used by 80% of the web

While I agree with your point about language snobbery, popularity doesn't imply user intelligence. There was a time when 80% of the web was written in Comic Sans with green text on a yellow background ;)

Disclaimer: I actually do like PHP, in spite of the inconsistencies that do admittedly plague it.

Re:One page book (1)

narcc (412956) | about 9 months ago | (#44220211)

Not quite what I meant -- see my other reply. Apparently I can't communicate ideas today.

Re:One page book (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44219825)

+1 Insightful
+1 Informative
+1 Redundant

Re:One page book (0)

garyebickford (222422) | about 9 months ago | (#44221833)

Yes, Perl is a paragon of structure and consistency:

Exactly what the EXPR argument to when does is hard to describe precisely, but in general, it tries to guess what you want done. Sometimes it is interpreted as $_ ~~ EXPR, and sometimes it is not. It also behaves differently when lexically enclosed by a given block than it does when dynamically enclosed by a foreach loop. The rules are far too difficult to understand to be described here. See Experimental Details on given and when later on.

- Perldoc [perl.org]

Re:One page book (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44218881)

Python can be pretty good for the web. If mod_python development had been more active it probably could have approached the market penetration of mod_php, because the reason why PHP got popular in the first place is because shared hosting providers could just build it into apache and forget about it, without having to babysit people's application servers chewing up ram while idle, and falling over and crashing every 30 minutes when not.

Re:One page book (2)

jon3k (691256) | about 9 months ago | (#44219221)

Why isn't python "good for the web" ?

Re:One page book (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44219329)

Because it's not type safe. And you need type safety on the web.

Re:One page book (2)

vilanye (1906708) | about 9 months ago | (#44220009)

Python and Ruby are strongly typed, unlike PHP which doesn't even rise to the lofty title of weakly typed, stupidly typed is more accurate.

I am more familar with Ruby, so I will comment based on that, but my recollection of Python isn't much different. An object in Ruby is a specific type and will never be a different type, you can not coerce it(although you can get the object to return its representation in a different object: to_s, to_a, etc) to anything else and has no casting. You can't get much safer than that.

It also provides a mechinism that it cares more about what an object can do(the real point of OO) than what it is(Kingdom of nouns-profound misunderstanding of OO) unlike Java that requires so much verbosity to achieve the same effect.

Or are you referring to static and string typing Java style? You might want to know that many Java frameworks go to extreme contortions to get around its verbose and broken type system.

Python is just fine for the web (1)

js_sebastian (946118) | about 9 months ago | (#44219501)

Python, Python is my favorite language, however it isn't that good for web.

The standard for making a python application interact with a web server is wsgi, you can run it inside apache with mod_wsgi or run it in a dedicated server such as uwsgi. Or if you want to go asynchronous you can try tornado.

Re:One page book (1)

vilanye (1906708) | about 9 months ago | (#44219627)

How is it hard to find replacement programmers for Ruby on Rails?

If you hire actual programmers that have not only domain knowlege but understand computation they will pick up both Ruby and Rails quickly.

Hire programmers, not programming language/framework end-users.

When you are writing a web app you can use whatever you like and there are a lot of good options:

Perl
Python(with or without the various framworks)
Ruby(with or without Rails or Sinatra) & JRuby
Smalltalk
Haskell
Lisp & Clojure
Ocaml
Scala
Erlang
Javascript(node or Rhino, maybe a few others)
even C++ has web frameworks if you really want C++
I am sure I missed about a dozen of so viable candidates

The only reason to use PHP is ignorance of the craft.

Re:One page book (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44218731)

Well.. if not PHP.. then what? And don't tell me C# or Java please.

Re:One page book (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44219051)

Also don't tell me about c, c++, go, python, erlang, scala, ruby, groovy, or javascript! LALALALA

Re:One page book (0)

vilanye (1906708) | about 9 months ago | (#44219665)

If your field of vision is PHP, C# and Java, you should find employment elsewhere like Walmart.

Re:One page book (5, Insightful)

schneidafunk (795759) | about 9 months ago | (#44218783)

Get over your bias, and use whatever programming language needed for the job. I'll take a job doing PHP, perl, ruby, python, java, even actionscript. If I'm paid well, I'll learn it. My resume gives me the flexibility to get jobs using different languages, precisely because I'm not biased and have worked professionally in most of them.

Re:One page book (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44219361)

My resume gives me the flexibility to get jobs using different languages, precisely because I'm not biased and have worked professionally in most of them.

Average HR Drone: "So, according to your resume you have 10 years of experience in C++, PHP, perl, ruby, python, java, and JavaScript. Well, you look wonderful for a man of no less than 93 years."

Re:One page book (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44219497)

+1 Insightful

There is never any good reason to use this broken by default "language".

However it is a great telephone interview question:

Interviewer: "Have you ever willingly used PHP or recommended it for any project"

Brain-dead amatuer pretending to be a professional: "Why yes"

*click*

Brain-dead amatuer pretending to be a professional: "hello? hello?"

Bulletproof way to remove the dregs from the list.

Of course any mention of PHP in a resume earns its spot in the paper shredder.

Either way, it helps narrow down your candidate list AND increases the quality of the candidate pool

Haters gonna hate (1)

Bigbutt (65939) | about 9 months ago | (#44218833)

Honestly. If you can't offer a better solution, stop bitching about it. I and others have asked for something other than PHP for website programming over the past few articles and all I hear is bitching about how bad PHP is.

I use perl for sysadmin scripting stuff. I like perl. For sysadmin scripting stuff. It's a fricking pain in the ass to set up and maintain for the creation of web pages though.

[John]

Re: Haters gonna hate (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44219049)

Since when? Have you tried Mojolicious or Dancer? Catalyst?

Re: Haters gonna hate (1)

Bigbutt (65939) | about 9 months ago | (#44219105)

Never heard of them. Are they better languages than PHP for creating websites?

(Actually I assume they're perl package managers of some sort but it's hard to parse from your answer.)

[John]

Re: Haters gonna hate (1)

Bigbutt (65939) | about 9 months ago | (#44219175)

Ahhh, Web Application Frameworks. Not a language but a way of getting Perl to work writing websites. I may have to poke around and check it out but I do want to say that I'm more interested in writing my own stuff than using a framework to mask the work. Most of what I do doesn't require the excess of any of the available libraries. Besides I think frameworks hide the stuff you should know in order to write code well.

Thanks for the pointers though. I will poke around at them.

[John]

Re:Haters gonna hate (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44219131)

I'd understand "If you can't offer a better solution, stop bitching about it." if there really weren't any alternatives, but there are *dozens* of web languages out there and *all* of them are better than PHP. It really can't be defended, and there is no reason whatsoever to start new projects in PHP.

Re:Haters gonna hate (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44222575)

> It really can't be defended, and there is no reason whatsoever to start new projects in PHP.

Except that it's currently quite easy to find developers who know PHP. That's not a value judgment, I'm just pointing out that's the actual situation "on the ground."

Languages in job postings are misnomers (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44219045)

If a job advertises they want PHP in pretty short order you are digging around their Perl code. If a job advertises they want .NET pretty soon you are trying to fix MFC code. I've seen this all throughout my career in programming most times these languages that seem easy or are popular...well usually its just a trap. This separates the men from the boys pretty quickly IMO. Cherry-picking is not for professionals and never has been. In the real world you learn this rather quickly if you intend to survive as a programmer.

Re:Languages in job postings are misnomers (2)

kcmastrpc (2818817) | about 9 months ago | (#44221033)

i was hired primarily as a php/backend dev. what am i doing? a lot of devops, javascript, and mobile app programming. ah well, at least it makes my resume look fatter (and in turn my paycheck).
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