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Snow Leopard and WIFI

I updated my mother's Mac Mini from Tiger to Snow Leopard last night and I did not enounter many issues during the one-hour-long installation (or update) process.

In advance — in order to be save than sorry — we had bought an external hard drive and did a backup of her home folder (6 GB — I wish my own backup was that size ;-)).

The one thing I ran into was that after the installation finished, I tried to reconnect to our wifi — but if failed. It wouldn't even show the network.

Since I knew that hooking up the Mini using a cable required me to move everything from her desk in one room to another room, I gave up last night and had myself a beer instead.

A solution

This morning, I briefly researched the issue on Google and found a thread on where people suggested to do the following:

  • Go into System preferences > Network
  • Click on Airport
  • Delete the "Automatic location" profile
  • Add your own
  • Disable/enable Airport
  • Done

Well, that almost worked for me.

I also re-added our wifi to the preferred network list and we were instantly reconnected.

Anything else?

Aside from the wifi issues almost everything migrated without issues.

This is still a pre-Intel Mac Mini. All her email, pictures and documents are in place. The only thing I need to reinstall is something called Kodak Easy Share since whatever she has installed doesn't seem to work right now.

And as a bonus, Snow Leopard feels faster even on this aging little piece of technology.

Anyway, I just thought I'd share.

A case for PEAR and PHP4 (Or, why BC is important!)

Every once in someone likes to argue that PEAR is all fugly PHP4 code and why you should not use it, and instead go and use another framework or component library. Most of those people also say that they looked at or used PEAR x years ago and then act all surprised when someone else disagrees.

In related (BC) news, most people probably read my blog because of Zend Framework, and I remember that one of the reasons I sold my clients on Zend Framework was a supposedly backward compatibility and clean API. Well, a couple years later one knows it's not all that and since another BC break was argued today on one of the mailing lists and the project lead said I spread fud, I felt l needed to write something on the topic.

Facts first.

A small history of PEAR.

I don't know how old exactly PEAR is, but the manual is copyrighted since 2001 and none of the other current frameworks have been around eight — almost nine — years.

Because PEAR has been around much longer, we also have more older code than any of those PHP5-only frameworks. In comparison, Zend Framework's first stable was release in June, 2007, almost six years later.

Major versus minor releases.

A package' version consists of x.y.z.

The rules are as follow:

  • A BC break (see below) — increment x, and set y and z to 0.
  • Adding a new feature — keep x, increment y and set z to 0.
  • Fixing a bug — keep x and y, but increment z.

When someone refers to a major release in PEAR's context (and a lot of other projects such as Zend Framework, Solar and ezComponents follow this), it's one with a change in x. :-)

What is backward compatibility?

Backward compatibility, or BC, describes that a component, package or library preserves compatibility with an older versions.

Because programming itself and developers tend to evolve, PEAR tries to keep BC in all minor versions, but allows you to break compatibility to an earlier version with a new major release.

The exception to the rule is that you may break BC during alpha and beta releases before the package reaches a stable 1.0.0. Once a 1.0.0 is reached, BC may not be broken — for whatever reason.


Because PEAR aims to provide BC all the way, BC includes the PHP version when the package was first released. Which in turn means that of course you may make the code compatible to a later PHP release, but not without breaking compatibility to the initial release.

If you followed the above, you understand the reason why for example there is a Mail_Queue and (a soon to be) Mail_Queue2, or more importantly: why the Mail_Queue release in 2009 is still compatible to PHP4. Even though PHP4 EOL'd a while ago.

The first Mail_Queue package was released in September of 2002, the 1.0.0 stable release followed in December of the same year. Because its 1.0.0 was compatible with PHP4, we keep it backwards compatible with PHP4 until we release Mail_Queue2-0.1.0.

A principal

A lot of people argue that with the official end of life of PHP4, one should break BC anyway. But here is why you should not.

  • Even though we all love to use PHP5, there is still a lot of PHP4 in the enterprise. And like it or not, many of those apps use PEAR, and not your funky PHP5 framework.

  • How do you keep so-called necessary and unnecessary BC breaks apart? From another point of you (which is not your own), there is always a necessary BC break to fix implement something else.

  • Because there is no such thing as small or acceptable BC breaks. There are BC breaks or there are none, it's one of those things that is black and white.

BC in other frameworks

I know for a fact that ezComponents is very strict on BC. I cannot comment on Solar or Symfony, but at least in Solar's case, I'm assuming that adhere to BC as well since a some former PEAR developers are active and they also follow the PEAR Coding Standard in many respects.

Zend Framework?

A friend of mine said that if Zend Framework really kept BC, we would at 10.0.0 and not on 1.9.3.

Reasons why Zend Framework likes to break BC, even though it advertises full BC:

  • No versioning per components but per framework.

  • Missing peer review and QA leads to unstable code in a so-called stable release. (Which in turn also fakes the stability of the entire framework since it suggests that a component that was added a couple weeks ago is as stable as a component added in 2007.)

  • Because it fixes an "issue". (Biggest WTF of them all.)

The issue in question, I'm not even sure what they were trying to fix. Supposedly some developers found it too hard or did not understand how to write an adapter for Zend_Db and someone committed a fix in the 1.9 tree/branch and apparently it was OK to break BC because it was the easier way out.

I haven't updated some projects since late 1.8.x because of these BC breaks because no one can tell me what the issue is and I don't have a day to debug my application to figure out where and how it breaks. This is annoying as hell, especially since they are supposed to be tailored to the business.

On a side-note, I know of a couple components (e.g. Zend_Session) which really deserve (!) a BC break and don't get one until 2.0. And I totally get why, but why is it OK in some cases? All BC breaks fix issues!

(Btw, as I finish this post, I see an email to [email protected] in my inbox where someone considers pulling the 1.9.3 release (because it obviously breaks BC). Guess I didn't spread that much FUD after all.)

My first PHP Unconfernce

I went to Hamburg last weekend to visit the PHP Unconference, which was probably my first conference ever. I've been to a couple barcamps and other smaller events, but anyway, this felt more like a real conference to me. That is, if I exclude ALA and the various ad:tech's I had to go to.

The reasons why I usually avoid tech conferences include foremost the price tag (working for myself, I can technically label it as an expense, but I still have to pay for it), doubts that it'll be worth it in terms of knowledge gained and probably time. I tend to catch up with people outside of conferences (when they are in Berlin :-)) and that has worked well for me.

I'm glad I set all these things aside for Hamburg (and it was all too easy). A lot of people expressed how much they liked their (often 3rd) PHP Unconference, and I can second, or third that — job really well done. Ulf Wendel took it one step further, blogged and asked, "Is perfect too boring?", because everything worked out so well. I guess I would say, "No, it's not boring", and I'm inclined to add, "Thanks, it really felt like having a weekend off, yet I still learned something and met a ton of nice people (or connected online nicknames to real faces)!".

I can definitely see why people visit the PHP Unconference each year, and I'll be one of them next year! ;-)

As I said, I had a great time, both my topics were accepted too. One was merged with another PHP performance talk which was overbooked with PHP VIPs which is why I decided to listen to Kore Nordmann's talk on CouchDB instead, and the other one ("Deployment") — I kind of overslept. And I'm sorry about that! I'll make sure to avoid party, party Hamburg next year.

Here are the slides for my Zend Framework (performance) talk, I hope you find them interesting:

The slides and speaker-notes contain…

  • a small intro as of why I think it's worth while to get into the ring with it
  • hints and pointers on general PHP optimization
  • I detail on a couple components (e.g. things to look out for and how to overcome them)

Make sure to check the speaker notes (using this link) — I didn't put everything in there, but a lot.

(The deployment slides will be up later this weekend.)

This also reminds me to improve my presentation-fu. I need something as kickass as keynote, but for Windows (currently). If anyone has a pointer, let me know. ;-)

Managing software deployments of your PHP applications II

This is not (really a part) two of my series, but an Intermezzo (1) between Part I and Part III — because I have no time to finish Part III.

In Part I, I talked about my approach to deploying a website and I offered pear and subversion as solutions to the problem. To briefly elaborate on my subversion part, I want to share the following Capistrano recipe with you.

Capistrano, isn't that Ruby?

Yes it is! Capistrano is a nifty piece of software. Not because it's so super-duper complex, but because it's pretty robust and works really well.

I am sure everyone heard of the "the right tool for the job" theory and this is along those lines. Please don't be afraid of a little Ruby to ease the deployment process. (They don't deserve your fear anyway. ;-))


On FreeBSD:

cd /usr/ports/devel/rubygem-capistrano && make install clean

On Debilian/Ubuntu:

apt-get install rubygems
gem install capistrano

Go on and create a capfile in $HOME, and this is where we'll keep our tasks.

Forced contribution

I'm not exactly neutral when it comes to anything remotely related to the GPL license. Personally, there's a bit of a GPL scare when I see code that's released under that license and I usually try to avoid it.

But (primarily) due to RoundCube being licensed under the GPL, I think I do know what it entails to release code using this license. In addition to that I have read a lot about the license, I even wasted spent three hours one night to listen to RMS.

In the end — the GPL just did not grow on me, or made me happy.

Open source

I am a firm believer in open source. I release code for free. Whenever I have the choice, my free contributions include the freedom to really do whatever you want with my code. Because if I did not meant it, I would either sell the code, or not share it at all.

I recently read Zed Shaw's reasoning why he believes in the [A,L]GPL and that same day I walked into yet another license discussion on PEAR's IRC channel (#[email protected]), and I felt like I need to write it all out.

The GPLs

GPL in a nutshell

  • The GPL means that whenever I use code that is licensed under it in my code, my code automatically becomes GPL too.
  • The GPL requires me to release the source code of the software when I give it to others [them].
  • The GPL allows them to give it to other people as well, license still applies.
  • (Contrary to popular believe, ) The GPL also allows me to sell software. I'm not required to give it away for free.

If you still do not understand what the above means, here's an example: Wordpress. Wordpress is GPL and therefor all plugins written for Wordpress are GPL too. I realize some people may think that there might not be too much that you can do in a plugin, but if you wanted to make money of your work (plugin), the options are pretty limited.

LGPL in a nutshell

The LGPL is basically the same as the GPL, but if I use LGPL software inside my software, my software does not become GPL.

Affero (L)GPL

Because web software is often not distributed (think of SAAS), the GPL people came up with an Affero clause.

This clause requires you to open source your changes to a software/library even if it's only accessible through the network. In plain English — if you do SAAS (Remember, plain English!), or a simple website, and do not directly distribute your source code to your customer, you will still have to open source your changes because your customers can access it anyway.

The Affero clause is currently available as AGPL, and soon as ALGPL.

Non-restrictive licensing

When I speak of non-restrictive (or liberal :-)) licenses, I think of the (new) BSD, MIT and Apache licenses. In a nutshell, they all allow you to really do whatever you want. Whatever, of course except for removing the copyright on the source code.

  • They do not force you to open source your changes to the code.
  • They do not force a license on your own code just because you happen to use it.
  • The do not force you to release the source code to your customers.

Reading the above, one would see that these licenses are very compatible with typical business interests. They all come in handy for frameworks such as ezComponents or the Zend Framework — and many PEAR components use them as well. They really bring freedom of use the user, without imposing any duties on the user, and the best of all: the user can contribute anyway.


For a lot of people the world is black and white. You see other people benefiting from your own work hiding everywhere. And it's all too easy to find a license to impose your own beliefs on others. Because if they do not get it, there is a way to make them.

This rather simplified approach to a pretty complicated topic is easier to comprehend and therefor popular. And I can't blame anyone. Think further — religion. People who convert or find a thing for themselves easily become outspoken about and start preaching their new found happiness to others.

It's very human. If it makes you happy, you want to share.

This is of course meant with no offense to people like Zed Shaw who feel like they did not get their share of the cake (even though — Hey Zed! — a ton of people run your software (Mongrel)). I do understand Zed's point of view though. Visibility in the open source world does not pay your monthly bills. I'm not naive like that. On the other hand, there are more than a few examples from the the open source world where a company is build around an open source product and the company offers services — such as consulting and support — for said product.

The bottom line for myself is that I do not like to force people to do something. And no one does, right? (Except when the motives allow it!)


I believe that more people will contribute to open source because they believe in the cause. Not because some license forces them to do so. A lot of people get into open source because they use(d) open source software already and decided to contribute to the community. A lot of commercial entities fund open source development — heck, for whatever reason, even Microsoft does it.

If anything, the Affero clause will cause is to hinder the adoption rates of the software in question. And that is not just because all these licenses are written in English which requires a law degree, but because when you manage to understand them, they impose a threat on your own intellectual property.