📖 Read: Open source beyond the market (Signal v. Noise)

“Keynote on the topic of open source, markets, debts, purpose, and no less than the meaning of life. Delivered at RailsConf 2019. Also available as a long read below.”

Signal v. Noise

When I was getting into the industry in the mid-to-late 90s, it seemed like we were witnessing the peak of an epic battle between proprietary and free software.

This war was embodied at the proprietary end of the spectrum by Bill Gates and Microsoft. The ultimate proprietary extractors, dominators, and conquerers. And at the free-software end of the spectrum, by Richard Stallman and Free Software Foundation. The ultimate software freedom fighters.

And there’s no doubt that these two men were diametrically opposed on many of the key questions about how software should be made and distributed. But that stark contrast also had a tendency to overshadow the way in which they were strikingly similar.

* By “The Right Way”, I mean following the guidance and practices at the PHP: the Right Way website. I make no claims this is the “best” way 🙂

Works n my machine badgeMac OS X is a pretty good web developer OS. It comes as standard with PHP, Ruby and Apache all out of the box, and the underlying UNIX system makes it easy to add in other languages and components to suit your needs. On top of that, some of my favourite development tools are on the Mac, so unless I’m writing .NET code, nearly all my development is on an (ageing) Mac Mini.

Now, while all that stuff comes as standard on OS X, lately it seems Apple has made it harder to get to. The versions shipped with OS X also tend to be a little behind the latest releases. As a result, most Devs I know use something like MAMP to make the server-side of their environment as easy as running an app. Personally, while I think MAMP works, and is a good time-saver (and I’ve been using it for the last year or so), but I like to get into the nitty-gritty of the system and get things running “native”. So last night I fired up the terminal and got PHP set up on my Mac with the latest version, and following the Right Way Guidelines. As a result I have PHP 5.4, Composer, the PHP Coding Standards Fixer, and MySQL all setup quite slickly (i.e. to my preferences).

The whole process was pretty easy, but does involve the command line. If this makes you uncomfortable, then it might be best to skip the rest of this post.

This all worked on my Mac, but I make no guarantees about it working on yours, and I’m not responsible if you break something.

If you find any glaring problems with this guide then leave a comment/get in touch, and I’ll make any required edits.

Step 1: Setup Your PATH

Edit the hidden .bash_profile file in your home directory. If you use Sublime Text 2 you can use the following command:

subl ~/.bash_profile

TextMate has a similar mate command, or you can use vi(m)/nano/emacs/whatever.

It’s possible you already have a line defining your PATH variable. It’ll look something like export PATH=<something>. I’ve found it most useful to change the PATH so /usr/local/bin is at the start, making sure anything you install there is used over the system defaults in /bin. Add this as a line below your existing PATH definition (or just add it in, if you don’t have an existing line):

export PATH=/usr/local/bin:${PATH}

Step 2: Install Brew

Strictly speaking, Brew (aka Homebrew) isn’t required, but I used it to install MySQL later, and it does make it stupid easy to install stuff into OS X. I think you should install it. The best instructions are found on the Homebrew home page, so go have a read there. There are a few pre-requisites, but nothing too difficult.

Step 3: Install PHP-OSX

Now we’re beginning to get somewhere! PHP-OSX is the latest versions of PHP compiled for OSX by Liip. Installation is a real doddle, from the command line:

curl -s http://php-osx.liip.ch/install.sh | bash -s 5.4

Follow the prompts given, including entering your password. After a few moments everything will have installed. For convenience I created a symbolic link to the newly installed PHP binary in /usr/local/bin:

ln -s /usr/local/php5/bin/php /usr/local/bin/php

Step 4: Install Composer

Now we have PHP installed, it’s time to look at the nice-to-haves, like a good package/dependency manager. Composer is relatively new on the block, and allows others to download your code and automatically grab any dependencies by running a simple command.

You can install Composer in your project, or you can install it globally. I prefer globally. As with PHP, installation is simple, from the command line:

curl -s http://getcomposer.org/composer.phar -o /usr/local/bin/composer
chmod +x /usr/local/bin/composer

Step 5: Install PHP Coding Standards Fixer

Another nice-to-have, this little tool will try to find and fix parts of your code where it does not conform to one of the PHP Coding Style Guides. Installation is almost identical to Composer:

curl http://cs.sensiolabs.org/get/php-cs-fixer.phar -o /usr/local/bin/php-cs-fixer
chmod +x /usr/local/bin/php-cs-fixer

Step 6: Install MySQL

If you installed Brew in step 2, then you’re good to go with this little command:

brew install mysql

It’ll take a few minutes, but you shouldn’t need to intervene at all. Once done you will need to run two more command to setup the MySQL tables:

unset TMPDIR
mysql_install_db --verbose --user=`whoami` --basedir="$(brew --prefix mysql)" --datadir=/usr/local/var/mysql --tmpdir=/tmp

If you didn’t install Brew, then you will need to install MySQL through some other means, such as packages on the MySQL website. I can’t help you with that, I’m afraid.

For managing MySQL, I use the excellent Sequel Pro, which is a successor to the venerable CocoaSQL.

As a next step you should look into changing the root password of your MySQL setup. This is a local dev environment, and likely only used locally by yourself, but it’s the proper thing to do.

Errata

  • Pear doesn’t seem to work, which is slightly annoying, but (to me) no real biggie. I didn’t test this with the built-in version of PHP, so I don’t know whether it worked beforehand. I’ll post an update once I figure it out.
  • I’d like to make bash script smart enough to stop MySQL when the PHP web server stops, but my early attempts haven’t managed to get this working (most likely due to the Ctrl-C used to stop the web server also stopping the script).
  • Throughout this process we’re running scripts directly from the web. This is pretty risky behaviour, especially with unknown/untrusted sources. You should always take a look at the raw script before running it, so you don’t get hit by something malicious.

So I’m writing my first serious bit of PHP in aaaages. This last few months, I’ve either been adapting existing systems to fit the bill, or I’ve been writing ASP (all while learnng Ruby on Rails).

I feel like I’ve been out of the game. Before I fell out of writing my own PHP every day, I was using the CakePHP framework. CakePHP is a wonderful framework. It greatly speeds up development and makes things so much easier.

Unfortunately, frameworks are only of use to the developer or your customer has someone who knows what they’re doing to set up everything for them. When you’re building a product for those who aren’t so technically minded, giving them something like CakePHP/Rails/Django, etc, to install – before they can use the product – is a big no-no1.

So anyway, I’m writing this new product. It’s not terribly exciting, nor should it be particularly difficult… but what looked a piece of cake on paper is going slower than I would like. I need to get my head around the fact I don’t have a framework or existing application doing 90% of the grunt-work for me. All those framework-specific shortcuts and existing functions I’ve grown used to don’t work any more so I need to do things manually2. Joyful.

On the plus side, this is probably the coding equivalent of getting back into shape for a World Championship fight, after getting slower and fatter from being too comfortable – a la Rocky in Rocky III.

Frameworks are a wonderful thing for speeding up development in large projects where you have control over your environment. Just remember not to rely on them too much.

  1. This isn’t to knock the work of the developers of frameworks like CakePHP and Rails, et al – not at all. I think they’re doing great, great work, which makes the lives of countless developers worldwide just that little bit easier.
  2. Another thing keeping me from top-speed is an insistence I’ve put on myself to follow best coding-practices all the way, and most importantly, document everything as I go. I usually write something then document it later once everything else is finished.