Posts Tagged "php"

On the Importance of Documentation Updates

Published on September 20, 2012

Even though the site aggravated me at first, I still occasionally troll Stack Overflow. One of the leading problems I see in questions pertaining to PHP & MySQL, is people’s use of the MySQL extension in PHP. This extension, it turns out, is being deprecated. But does the documentation reflect this fact? Yes and no.

Certain function pages, such as mysql_real_escape_string, have big red boxes at the top indicating that the extension is being deprecated. “Don’t use this”, they seem to shout. Other function pages, however, such as the mysql_result page, don’t have these warnings. Likewise, the top-level MySQL Drivers and Plugins page lists the MySQL extension first, with no indication whatsoever that the extension is being deprecated.

At the very least, every single documentation page that deals with the MySQL extension in any form or fashion, needs to include information about its intended deprecation. Otherwise, thousands upon thousands of programmers will write code using a plugin that is quickly nearing it’s end-of-life. Which, based on what I see at Stack Overflow, already seems to be the case.

Getting Form Data With PHP

Published on September 19, 2011

A couple of years ago, I blogged about two helper functions I wrote to get HTML form data in PHP: getGet and getPost. These functions do a pretty good job, but I have since replaced them with a single function: getData. Seeing as I haven’t discussed it yet, I thought I would do so today. First, here’s the function in its entirety:

 * Obtains the specified field from either the $_GET or $_POST arrays
 * ($_GET always has higher priority using this function). If the value
 * is a simple scalar, HTML tags are stripped and whitespace is trimmed.
 * Otherwise, nothing is done, and the array reference is passed back.
 * @return The value from the superglobal array, or null if it's not present
 * @param $key (Required) The associative array key to query in either
 * the $_GET or $_POST superglobal
function getData($key)
            return $_GET[$key];
            return (strip_tags(trim($_GET[$key])));
    else if(isset($_POST[$key]))
            return $_POST[$key];
            return (strip_tags(trim($_POST[$key])));
        return null;

Using this function prevents me from having to do two checks for data, one in $_GET and one in $_POST, and so reduces my code’s footprint. I made the decision to make $_GET the tightest binding search location, but feel free to change that if you like.

As you can see, I first test to see if the given key points to an array in each location. If it is an array, I do nothing but pass the reference along. This is very important to note. I’ve thought about building in functionality to trim and strip tags on the array’s values, but I figure it should be left up to the user of this function to do that work. Be sure to sanitize any arrays that this function passes back (I’ve been bitten before by forgetting to do this).

If the given key isn’t found in either the $_GET or $_POST superglobals, I return null. Thus, a simple if(empty()) test can determine whether or not a value has been provided, which is generally all you care about with form submissions. An is_null() test could also be performed if you so desire. This function has made handling form submissions way easier in my various work with PHP, and it’s one tool that’s worth having in your toolbox.

MySQL and Localhost Performance

Published on April 5, 2011

I ran into an interesting phenomenon with PHP and MySQL this morning while working on a web application I’ve been developing at work. Late last week, I noted that page loads in this application had gotten noticeably slower. With the help of Firebug, I was able to determine that a 1-second delay was consistently showing up on each PHP page load. Digging a little deeper, it became clear that the delay was a result of a change I recently made to the application’s MySQL connection logic.

Previously, I was using the IP address as the connection host for the MySQL server:

$db = new mysqli("", "myUserName", "myPassword", "myDatabase");

I recently changed the string to localhost (for reasons I don’t recall):

$db = new mysqli("localhost", "myUserName", "myPassword", "myDatabase");

This change yielded the aforementioned 1-second delay. But why? The hostname localhost simply resolves to, so where is the delay coming from? The answer, as it turns out, is that IPv6 handling is getting in the way and slowing us down.

I should mention that I’m running this application on a Windows Server 2008 system, which uses IIS 7 as the web server. By default, in the Windows Server 2008 hosts file, you’re given two hostname entries: localhost
::1 localhost

I found that if I commented out the IPV6 hostname (the second line), things sped up dramatically. PHP bug #45150, which has since been marked “bogus,” helped point me in the right direction to understanding the root cause. A comment in that bug pointed me to an article describing MySQL connection problems with PHP 5.3. The article dealt with the failure to connect, which happily wasn’t my problem, but it provided one useful nugget: namely that the MySQL driver is partially responsible for determining which protocol to use. Using this information in my search, I found a helpful comment in MySQL bug #6348:

The driver will now loop through all possible IP addresses for a given host, accepting the first one that works.

So, long story short, it seems as though the PHP MySQL driver searches for the appropriate protocol to use every time (it’s amazing that this doesn’t get cached). Apparently, Windows Server 2008 uses IPV6 routing by default, even though the IPV4 entry appears first in the hosts file. So, either the initial IPV6 lookup fails and it then tries the IPV4 entry, or the IPV6 route invokes additional overhead; in either case, we get an additional delay.

The easiest solution, therefore, is to continue using as the connection address for the database server. Disabling IPV6, while a potential solution, isn’t very elegant and it doesn’t embrace our IPV6 future. Perhaps future MySQL drivers will correct this delay, and it might go away entirely once the world switches to IPV6 for good.

As an additional interesting note, the PHP documentation indicates that a local socket gets used when the MySQL server name is localhost, while the TCP/IP protocol gets used in all other cases. But this is only true in *NIX environments. In Windows, TCP/IP gets used regardless of your connection method (unless you have previously enabled named pipes, in which case it will use that instead).

PHP and Large File Sizes

Published on March 28, 2011

It’s incredible to me that in 2011, programming languages still have problems with files larger than 2GB in size. We’ve had files that size for years, and yet overflow problems in this arena still persist. At work, I ran into this problem trying to get the file size of very large files (between 3 and 4 GB in size). The typical filesize() call, as shown below, would return an overflowed result on a very large file:

$size = filesize($someLargeFile);

Because PHP uses signed 32-bit integers to represent some file function return types, and because a 64-bit version of PHP is not officially available, you have to resort to farming the job out to the OS. In Windows, the most elegant way I’ve found so far is to use a COM object:

$fsobj = new COM("Scripting.FileSystemObject");
$f = $fsobj->GetFile($file);
$size = $file->Size;

Uglier hacks involve capturing the output of the dir command from the command line. There are two bug reports filed on this very issue: 27792 and 34750. The newest of these was filed in late 2005; a little more than 5 years ago! It’s sad to see a language as prolific as PHP struggling with a problem so basic. Perhaps this issue will finally get fixed in PHP 6.

A PHP Include Pitfall

Published on February 22, 2009

I ran into an interesting problem with the PHP include mechanism last night (specifically, with the require_once variant, but this discussion applies to all of the include-style functions). Suppose I have the following folder structure in my web application:

 |-- includes.php
 +-- admin/
      |-- admin_includes.php
      +-- ajax/
           +-- my_ajax.php

Let’s take a look at the individual PHP files in reverse order. These examples are bare bones, but will illustrate the problem. First, my_ajax.php:

// my_ajax.php


Here’s the code for admin_includes.php:

// admin_includes.php

And finally, includes.php:

// includes.php
function some_generic_function()
    // Do something here

When I go to access the my_ajax.php file, I’ll get a “no such file or directory” PHP error. This immediately doesn’t make much sense, but a quick glance at the PHP manual clears things up:

Files for including are first looked for in each include_path entry relative to the current working directory, and then in the directory of the current script. If the file name begins with ./ or ../, it is looked for only in the current working directory.

The important part is in that last sentence: if your include or require statement starts with a ./ or ../, PHP will only look in the current working directory. So, in our example above, our working directory when accessing the AJAX script is “/myapp/admin/ajax.” The require_once within the admin_functions.php file will therefore fail, since there’s no ‘../includes.php’ in the current working directory.

This is surprising behavior and should be kept in mind when chaining includes. A simple workaround is to use the following code in your include statements:

require_once(dirname(__FILE__) . "../../some/relative/path.php");

It’s not the most elegant solution in the world, but it gets around this PHP annoyance.

Unicode and the Web: Part 1

Published on July 25, 2008

Dustin and his wife recently uncovered an interesting limitation of my Monkey Album software: characters outside of the ISO-8859-1 (Latin 1) character set don’t render properly. This comes as no surprise, seeing as I didn’t design for Unicode. Being a rather egregious display error, I decided to set out and fix the problem. In the process, I learned quite a lot about Unicode, and how it affects web applications. This post will be the first of two detailing how to add Unicode support to a web application. I will only be exposing a tip of the Unicode iceberg in these posts. The ideas and practices behind Unicode support can (and do) fill the pages of many books. That said, let’s jump in.

Read the rest of this entry »

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