composer pain.json

July 15th, 2013

So tonight I decided to try and use Composer, a “dependency management” tool for PHP. I’ve had my eye on doing this for a while, and finally got to it tonight.

I use a custom rolled version of PHP 5.5, because I want to actually use the new functionality that PHP has finally added. So, on to the install I went.

curl -sS | php

Already, the first critique here, I’m downloading a file and piping it right on into PHP. I’m not going to go into that, because this guy already has. So, on to the next step, after I took a quick poke through the installer code I downloaded.

Woops, need to recompile my PHP binary without --disable-phar. Now, done that, I ran the installer again, and had a clean install this time.

Next step, create a composer.json file after running through the Composer install steps. I wanted to use Zend Framework, so I copied the snippets of composer JSON from this site and assembled them into a coherent composer file (not the easiest thing, since the Composer manual didn’t seem to have a nice example file linked somewhere that I could find).

My basic composer.json file:
"repositories": [
"type": "composer",
"url": ""
"require": {
"zendframework/zend-config": "2.*"

Next, ran a composer validate composer.json on my file, and got this output:
composer.json is valid for simple usage with composer but has strict errors that make it unable to be published as a package:
See for details on the schema
name : is missing and it is required
description : is missing and it is required
No license specified, it is recommended to do so. For closed-source software you may use "proprietary" as license.

After a quick look over the messages, I decided to soldier on anyway, crossed my fingers, and ran composer install.

The installer seemed to laugh at me after it downloaded the files, and told me that I needed to --enable-zip before I could install the packages. THANK YOU COMPOSER, for mentioning that on install.

Another recompile, and finally I managed to get Composer to behave.

Lessons Learned

  • Composer needs both PHAR and Zip enabled to work, but doesn’t like to mention those things
  • Custom PHP is fun to do, but can be a pain when you need to turn things on that you didn’t plan on using

Globally Scoped

July 14th, 2013

Global variables are a code smell. This statement is both true and false. What is true is that they are a problem when they are no longer the right variables to be global.

Today I had to re-factor a function to be able to use multiple servers inside one script instance. Initially, the server connection was created and stored in one variable that was then referenced. This worked well, because the code that called this function didn’t have to worry about what server connection was involved.

Of course, the problem started when I added a second server into the mix. Now, this function had to be able to access either server, selected by the code in some of the places that called it. The easiest way to solve this would have been to keep the global and add a second optional parameter to override it, but that would not be as clean a fix as just fixing the global.

And so I re-factored the function call to pass in the server connection to use. This makes the function more flexible, because I can add new servers to the mix and just pass in the variable for the one I want to use. The other benefit is that in eliminating the global, this function is now finally completely self-contained, making it that much easier to test and fix.

Lesson Learned
Globals can be useful, but will make it harder to properly test a function, and complicates matters if the function that uses them is widely used and has to be changed.

Choose carefully how to use them.

Problem Solving

July 13th, 2013

Yesterday’s lesson was that the better solution to a problem usually only becomes obvious when you’re almost done solving the problem.

PHP Heatmap Gradient Color Generator

December 25th, 2011

Based on the awesome work done here Samson PHP Color Gradient Generator, I have packed up his code into two functions that are by default set to generate heatmap blue to red color gradients, in as many steps as you need.

[php]function heatSteps($config){
$config[‘colorStart’] = (isset($config[‘colorStart’])) ? hexdec($config[‘colorStart’]) : 0xdee7f8;
$config[‘colorEnd’] = (isset($config[‘colorEnd’])) ? hexdec($config[‘colorEnd’]) : 0xff0f15;
$config[‘colorSteps’] = (isset($config[‘colorSteps’])) ? $config[‘colorSteps’] : 10;

$config[‘colorStart’] = (($config[‘colorStart’] >= 0x000000) && ($config[‘colorStart’] <= 0xffffff)) ? $config[‘colorStart’] : 0x000000;
$config[‘colorEnd’] = (($config[‘colorEnd’] >= 0x000000) && ($config[‘colorEnd’] <= 0xffffff)) ? $config[‘colorEnd’] : 0xffffff;
$config[‘colorSteps’] = (($config[‘colorSteps’] > 0) && ($config[‘colorSteps’] < 256)) ? $config[‘colorSteps’] : 256;

$theR0 = ($config[‘colorStart’] & 0xff0000) >> 16;
$theG0 = ($config[‘colorStart’] & 0x00ff00) >> 8;
$theB0 = ($config[‘colorStart’] & 0x0000ff) >> 0;

$theR1 = ($config[‘colorEnd’] & 0xff0000) >> 16;
$theG1 = ($config[‘colorEnd’] & 0x00ff00) >> 8;
$theB1 = ($config[‘colorEnd’] & 0x0000ff) >> 0;

$colorSteps = array();
for($i = 0; $i <= $config[‘colorSteps’]; $i++){
$theR = interpolateHeatSteps($theR0, $theR1, $i, $config[‘colorSteps’]);
$theG = interpolateHeatSteps($theG0, $theG1, $i, $config[‘colorSteps’]);
$theB = interpolateHeatSteps($theB0, $theB1, $i, $config[‘colorSteps’]);

$colorSteps[] = dechex(((($theR << 8) | $theG) << 8) | $theB);


function interpolateHeatSteps($pBegin, $pEnd, $pStep, $pMax){
if ($pBegin < $pEnd){
return(($pEnd – $pBegin) * ($pStep / $pMax)) + $pBegin;
return(($pBegin – $pEnd) * (1 – ($pStep / $pMax))) + $pEnd;

The Reddit pi Icon and :hover

October 19th, 2011

Today I had a task come up on my list that I’ve been interested in digging into for a while. After seeing the reddit π icon, and learning that it’s awesome, as well as reference to the movie The Net, I wanted to make use of the idea to hold some info on page generation times and a few other things useful as a dev on a site I’m working on.

So, digging in with Chrome’s developer tools, I looked into figuring out how to do it. At first, I thought it was a Javascript thing, using jQuery and mouseOver events, because that’s how it could have been done. However, that seemed a little heavy for this purpose, since it’d require some Javascript be loaded on each load. So, examining it a bit closer, I dug into the CSS, and discovered a new use of the pseudo property :hover.

Today I learned that you can use :hover on a parent element to change properties on a child element. Of course, it makes perfect sense now to use it like that, but it was one of those Ooohhhh! moments that you get when something obvious smacks you in the face.

Here’s one way to do the reddit π icon:
<style type="text/css">
#pibottom{float: right; padding-top: 4px;}
#pi{color: #a0a0a0; font: 16pt serif; padding: 2px;}
#picontent{font-size: 11pt; display: none;}
#pibottom:hover #picontent{display:inline;}

<br clear="all">
<div id="pibottom">
<span id="pi">&pi;</span>&nbsp;<span id="picontent">Load in ‘ . getScriptTiming() . ‘ sec. Ran ‘ . getCountDBQueries() . ‘ queries.</span>

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