Monday 30 November 2009

PHP on Windows

According to Microsoft 70% of PHP developers are working on Windows, although the majority of PHP services are hosted on Linux (in my case this was actually true so maybe they are right about that). This leads to situation where most of the apps are being developed in an environment different than they are deployed to. This is obviously not the best way to that.

Microsoft claims there are 2 main reasons for that:

  1. Installation process

  2. Although there are many packages available for one-click installation of all necessary PHP components on Windows (e.g. WAMP) they are all configured to work with Apache server. Although IIS is recommended server to be used for PHP on Windows (to get most of what the system offers), developers are afraid of configuring/using it with their apps.

    Microsoft decided to change it by introducing Web Platform Installer. This free tool will download, install and configure all components required to run web applications on your machine for you (both and PHP). It also offers installation of popular OpenSource scripts/engines (e.g. for blogs, galleries, etc.) so you can start development faster.

    This seems to be a step in a good direction and makes configuration of PHP and IIS easy like never before. However, there are still some some weak points in my opinion:

    • Developer is limited to one version of PHP (what if you need to install older version?)

    • The installer supports mainly Microsoft technologies e.g. drivers/extensions for MsSql. I haven't seen any option for installation of MySql extensions.

    • Some very popular php apps are missing e.g. phpBB (probably MS promotes an equivalent supported by them)

  3. Performance

  4. This one is actually more important than installation. Microsoft admits that PHP did not performed well on older versions of IIS. However, together with introduction of IIS7 most of the performance issues should have been resolved. The key aspects for improving performance are:

    • Microsoft contributed to creation process of PHP build for Windows e.g. rewritten parts of the code to make better use of the system

    • Implementation of FastCGI for Windows (can by installed with Web Platform Installer)

    • Windows Cache Extensions for accelerating PHP

    • Ability to work in a cloud (thanks to Windows Azure)

    I asked the speaker about any reliable benchmarks comparing performance of PHP in Windows vs. Linux environment that would prove that it is worth considering deployment of my PHP apps to Windows. Unfortunately this strongly depends on the app itself so there is no simple answer to that question.

Soo, who's convinced?

BTW. When I asked the Microsoft guy about examples of large, commercial PHP applications deployed on Windows and performing well he answered that there are some but he's not allowed to name them ;)

Tuesday 17 November 2009

Code comments generators

Writing comments for your code is not the most interesting part of development. I admit that sometimes it's hard to follow company/project guidelines for code comments in a restrictive way, mostly because the lack of time (I know that's a pure excuse).

Some time ago somebody recommended me to use GhostDoc, which would take care of that for me. Tried it today - simple Shift+Ctrl+D combination and your code is fully commented. Some of the generated comments were even quite descriptive. After quick investigation I found out that all the descriptive comments were copied from base classes (e.g. when method overrides the one in the base class, implements interface member etc). For the new members the comments were generated basing on their names.

In my opinion this could be a handy tool if used correctly i.e. only for generating draft versions that would be corrected/extended manually. However, there is a great danger that most of generated comments would be left unchanged (especially if time is limited). Although it would cause all possible StyleCop rules to pass it would still affect the code quality. I will uninstall it right now because I don't want to be tempted when a deadline is close ;) We don't really need comments that don't introduce any new knowledge.

I'm wondering if there are any positive aspects of using them that I didn't think of? Are there any developers who admit that they're using them and can give some examples proving that this can be very useful?