Starting with Zend Framework - part 2

published on October 20, 2008.
Heads-up! You're reading an old post and the information in it is quite probably outdated.

This post is the second part of my introductory text on Zend Framework, Starting with Zend Framework. This time I cover the basics about controllers, actions, view scripts and view helpers. On request routing and the Front Controller I will write one (or more) big post(s), so this part won’t be explained now. I will also skip explaining the models; they deserve their own post :)

If anyone is into writing a guest-post on models, let me know!

The Controllers

The Controllers are the heart of every MVC based application. They control the execution of the application, what to do with the data, what to show the user, what to write to the database, etc. The Controllers that you will write all the time, are called Action Controllers. These Controllers subclass the Zend_Controller_Action abstract class. Every application module must have a default Controller, which will be accessed if no specific Controller is requested. The default name for this default Controller is Index. Examples of the IndexController and FooController:

<?php

// The IndexController class must be placed in the controllers folder
// and saved as IndexController.php
class IndexController extends Zend_Controller_Action
{
    public function init()
    {
    }

    public function indexAction()
    {
    }
}

// The FooController class must be placed in the controllers folder
// and saved as FooController.php
class FooController extends Zend_Controller_Action
{
    public function init()
    {
    }

    public function indexAction()
    {
    }

    public function barAction()
    {
    }

    public function someRandomFunctionDoingSomeFunkyStuff()
    {
    }
}

The Controllers must contain at least the indexAction() function; the others are arbitrary. I always have an init() function, in which I setup the cache object, call up the models, etc. Controller names that are not in the “default” module, must be prefixed with the Title-cased name of the module and an underscore:

<?php

// An example of the IndexController in the
// dummy module
// The file name remains IndexController.php!!!
class Dummy_IndexController extends Zend_Controller_Action
{
}

// An example of the FooController in the
// dummy module
// The file name remains FooController.php!!!
class Dummy_FooController extends Zend_Controller_Action
{
}

The actions

Actions are methods of the Controller class. Use them to do some specific task: show users, list news, insert to database (the actual INSERT SQL statement should be in the model), etc. As stated before, every Controller must have an index action — this one is called if no specific action is requested. By default the view object is instantiated, so if you don’t turn it off, you must create a view script with the same name as the action (without the “Action” word) in the views/scripts/foo/ folder.

Assigning variables to the view scripts is simple:

public function indexAction()
{
    $this->view->someVariable = "some value...";
}

The view scripts

View scripts are, well, for viewing. This is the only place where you should have statements like echo and print. The default templating engine is PHP itself, but it’s possible to change it to something like Smarty. I leave PHP; it has everything for templating, so why would I change it? The default file extension for view scripts is “phtml” — but as with everything, this can also be changed :)

Getting variables that are assigned from the action:

// Output: some value...
<?= this->someVariable ?>

The view helpers

The view helpers are simple classes that help in view scripts with things like formatting dates, creating links, etc. Here’s an example view helper that I use to show dates in “Serbian” format:

File name: views/helpers/SrDateFormat.php
<?php
/**
* View helper for returning dates in Serbian format
* dd.mm.yyyy.
*
*/
class Zend_View_Helper_SrDateFormat
{
    public function srDateFormat($dateToFormat)
    {
        return date('d.m.Y.', strtotime($dateToFormat));
    }
}

Usage is quite simple:

// somewhere in some view script...
<?= $this->srDateFormat($someDateToShow); ?>

Bringing it all together

Just for an overview, here is an example of a Foo Controller in the Dummy module with index and bar actions and their view scripts.

<?php
// File name: application/dummy/controllers/FooController.php
class Dummy_FooController extends Zend_Controller_Action
{
    public function indexAction()
    {
        $this->view->sayHello = "Hi there!";
    }

    public function barAction()
    {
        $this->view->sayHelloAgain = "Hi here :)";
    }
}

And the view scripts:

<!-- File name: application/dummy/views/scripts/foo/index.phtml -->
<h1>Saying hello</h1>
<?= $this->sayHello ?>

<!-- File name: application/dummy/views/scripts/foo/bar.phtml -->
<h1>Saying hello again</h1>
<?= $this->sayHelloAgain ?>

So if you direct your browser to “http://example.com/dummy/foo/&#148; or to “http://example.com/dummy/foo/bar&#148; you should get the “Saying hello” or the “Saying hello again” page…

This would be my introductory text to Zend Framework. Hope it’s not confusing and is easy to follow. I just want to help newcomers to ZF help settling in easily :) For a tutorial application with ZF, I recommend Rob Allen’s Zend Framework tutorial.

In the coming days/weeks I’ll write a detailed post about the Front Controller, so if you wish, grab the feed or subscribe by E-mail to stay tuned.

Cheers!

Ubuntu as a dev machine

published on October 15, 2008.
Heads-up! You're reading an old post and the information in it is quite probably outdated.

This post is more of a note to myself, ‘cause I keep forgetting all these Linux commands, and spend hours setting up stuff right…

I’m installing Ubuntu 8.04 on VirtualBox, with windows xp as the host machine. I must do it this way, because my wireless card is having some problems with Linux, something with the drivers. The possible solution includes kernel compiling — thanks, but no thanks.

Anyway… The installation itself is no trouble, so I’ll skip that. I always keep the apt-cache from previous installations, sparing hours of updating the system… On the host I have a folder that I share between the host OS and the client OS and first I need to reach that folder, to get from it the apt-cache.

First, need to install the Guest Additions. In Virtualbox go to Devices —> Install Guest Additions. In the console run:

sudo /media/cdrom/VBoxLinuxAdditions.run

After it’s finished, we need to mount the shared folder:

sudo mount -t vboxsf name_of_the_sharing_folder /path/to/mount_point

Now, for me, this command shows some error. Here’s what I have to do:

sudo modprobe vboxfs
sudo mount -t vboxsf name_of_the_sharing_folder /path/to/mount_point

Something with some modules not being loaded into the kernel, not bothered with it really… Now I can copy the apt-cache to where it needs to be:

sudo cp -r /path/to/mount_point/apt-cache /var/cache/apt/archives

Now do the system update. If the system update includes a kernel update, you’ll have to install Guest Additions once more…

Next installing the LAMP:

sudo apt-get install apache2
sudo apt-get install php5 libapache2-mod-php5
sudo /etc/init.d/apache2 restart
sudo apt-get install mysql-server
sudo apt-get install libapache2-mod-auth-mysql php5-mysql phpmyadmin
sudo /etc/init.d/apache2 restart
sudo a2enmod rewrite
sudo /etc/init.d/apache2 restart

That should do it. But hey! mod_rewrite still doesn’t work!

sudo gvim /etc/apache2/sites-available/default

And change AllowOverride None to AllowOverride All.

There. I have a basic LAMP on Ubuntu under VirtualBox. I made a few snapshots of the VirtualBox image, in case I trash it (which probably will happen soon), so I don’t need to reinstall over again.

Now, I’m of to setup SVN…

Optimizing MySQL and a Zend_Db_Profiler example

published on October 13, 2008.
Heads-up! You're reading an old post and the information in it is quite probably outdated.

Last night I came across on a post on TechFounder, about using Zend_Db_Profiler and a good example with real data on optimizing MySQL queries. For “geeks” who SQL speak fluently this will probably be no new stuff, but for great number of web developers (me included!) this will probably come in handy.

Cheers!

Starting with Zend Framework

published on October 07, 2008.
Heads-up! You're reading an old post and the information in it is quite probably outdated.

Zend Framework is a big & heavy object-oriented framework for PHP. I started working with ZF a couple of months ago, I liked it’s documention (it’s very well documented) and decided to stick with this framework. Here is the latest version of the framework — at the time of writing v1.6.1.

It supports the MVC pattern, which helps separating business logic from viewing logic. It supports a great number of API’s, such as Delicious API, Flickr API, Yahoo API, Akismet API and many more.

The advantages of using a framework is that it is enforcing the developer to write code using a coding standard, it is well documented and well supported, and it is a lot easier to work in a 2+ person team using a framework. If you are a one—man team, someday you may want to add more developers to your projects; the process of their settling in will be very comfortable if you are using a framework.

Choose yourself a framework that best suits your needs, or write your own (be sure to make good documentation, also!). To be honest, I wasn’t looking at other frameworks, just ZF, but I knew right away that it is good for me. Prior to this post I did a little research on other frameworks, and I’m still sure that I made the right choice by choosing ZF.

You can read a bit more about ZF in general on the overview page.

How does it work?

Before anything, we should take a look how does the ZF work, when used in the MVC manner. ZF has a thingy, called Front Controller. When a user is accessing a web page, the Front Controller is called: it’s determining what should be done with the input and which further objects should be instantiated and methods called, and in what order.

E.g., if one makes a page request like: http://example.com/news/last/, first, the Front Controller is called. The Front Controller sets up the environment, loads up some files and classes, etc., then it calls a controller called “News” and an action called “Last” which is to be found inside the “News” controller. If it fails to find the “News” controller or the “Last” action, than it can show the user some error page, or to print out the error itself, depending how it is set up. If everything is OK, then it shows the user the content…

This explanation is very basic, as I intend to dedicate one big post to the Front Controller itself, going deep into details…

Some terms explained

Bootstrap file: all page requests are routed through this file, the Front Controller object is created here.

A module is a part of an application which has it’s own controllers, actions, view scripts, models, configuration files. For example, a page can have a default module and a blog module, where each module has its own Index Controller, Administrator Controller, and have its own unique controllers, like a Comments Controller for the blog module.

A controller is a class which has its own actions and can have its own functions. It controls the data received from the user or from the database, and decides what to do with it. The controller is responsible for one set of things, e.g. a News Controller would list latest news, list news from a particular source, show the archive, etc.

An action is a function inside a controller, which is responsible for doing some action, e.g. action for showing news.

A model receives data from the Controller, and sends data to the Controller. Database related stuff — selecting, inserting, updating, deleting — should be only in the model. Filtering data that is to be inserted into the database should be done in the Controller, not in the model.

A view script is responsible to show the data received from the Controller to the user.

A view helper script is to help to do some automating in the view scripts, like formatting dates, generating form elements, etc.

Just for the record, in further examples, “Dummy” will be referring to a module, “Foo” will be referring to a controller inside the “Dummy” module and “Bar” will be referring to an action inside the “Foo” controller.

Basic file structure

Here’s an example of a file structure for a ZF based application — after the # sign are comments:

/
|--library/
|  |--Zend/ # Zend core
|--application/ # Core of our application
|   |--default/ # The Default module
|       |--config/ # Some configuration files
|          |--config.ini
|       |--controllers/ # Controllers go here
|          |--IndexController.php
|          |--FooController.php
|       |--models/ # Models...
|          |--ModelName.php
|       |--views/ # View related stuff...
|          |--helpers/
|          |--scripts/
|             |--index/ # View files for the Index Controller
|               |--index.phtml # For the default index action
|             |--foo/ # View files for the Foo Controller
|               |--index.phtml # For the default index action
|               |--bar.phtml # For a bar action in the Foo Controller
|             |--layout.phtml # For layout
|   |--dummy/ # A Dummy module...
|       |--config/
|          |--config.ini
|       |--controllers/
|          |--IndexController.php
|          |--FooController.php
|       |--models/
|       |--views/
|          |--helpers/
|          |--scripts/
|             |--index/
|               |--index.phtml
|             |--foo/
|               |--index.phtml
|               |--bar.phtml
|--public/
   |--css/
   |--images/
   |--js/
   |--.htaccess
   |--index.php

With this file structure, http://example.com/ should point to the public folder; this way, the application or the library can not be accessed through the browser, which improves security of the application.

The .htaccess file

The .htaccess file’s responsibility is to route requests to existing resources (existing symlinks, non-empty files, or non-empty directories) accordingly, and all other requests to the front controller. Example:

RewriteEngine on
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-f
RewriteRule .* index.php

The bootstrap file

The biggest problem is setting up correctly the bootstrap file. Here’s an example of my bootstrap file, I use it on several projects, never had any problems :)

<?php
/**
* This is a general bootstrap file, change it to fit your needs
* Pay attention to the paths
*
*/
error_reporting(E_ALL|E_STRICT);
ini_set('display_errors',1); // set this to 0 on live version

// This is my timezone, change it to yours
// See timezones here: http://www.php.net/timezones
date_default_timezone_set("Europe/Belgrade");

/**
* We need to set some include paths
* To the library
* And to the models
* And add it to the current include path
*
*/
set_include_path('.' . PATH_SEPARATOR . '../library' .
					   PATH_SEPARATOR . '../application/default/models' .
                       PATH_SEPARATOR . '../application/dummy/models' .
					   PATH_SEPARATOR . get_include_path());

include("Zend/Loader.php");

/**
* This little fella loads up a class when needed
* So we don't need to bother with including class files
*
*/
Zend_Loader::registerAutoload();

/**
* This config part is needed only when you
* store stuff for db connections in a .ini file
* I do it this way all the time, so it's a part of my general bootstrap
*
*/
$config = new Zend_Config_Ini('../application/default/config/db_config.ini', 'offline');
$registry = Zend_Registry::getInstance();
$registry->set('config',$config);

// Only needed if you plan to use layouts in your app
Zend_Layout::startMVC();

/**
* Get an instance of the Front Controller
* Tell him where to look for controllers
* And off we go!
*
*/
$frontcontroller = Zend_Controller_Front::getInstance();
$frontcontroller->throwExceptions(true);
$frontcontroller->setControllerDirectory(array(
        'default'   =>  '../application/default/controllers',
        'dummy'       =>  '../application/dummy/controllers'
        ));
$frontcontroller->dispatch(); // GO!!!

This kind of bootstrap file should be enough in most cases; it is for me.

This post is starting to get out of control, so I’ll stop here for now. Next time I’ll show some basic stuff with controllers, actions, views etc. Until then be sure to get familiar with the coding standard, especially with the naming conventions.

Hope that this text isn’t too confusing. I tried to keep it simple and explain all that is needed for starting with Zend Framework.

Any thoughts on ZF, or frameworks in general? Do you use any?

Wordpress paging navigation

published on October 06, 2008.
Heads-up! You're reading an old post and the information in it is quite probably outdated.

As I’m not a big fan of Wordpress plug—ins, and I wanted to use a normal page navigation, not just the default “Previous posts” and “Next posts”, I decided to play around a bit and create my own paging navigation, or pagination.

Preparation

First, I wrote on a piece of paper which links I need: first page, last page, next page, previous page and the links with the page numbers. Next, I needed to see what functions are already in Wordpress, to reuse as much as I can. After a little searching, I found that the functions for the default navigation are located in the link-template.php file, under the wp-includes folder. There are the functions for the next and previous pages, and the function that creates the URL. Furthermore, I wanted a sliding pagination (like Yahoo has on it’s search page), ‘cause it’s easy to use and looks cool.

The function

So, let’s take a look at the code. I called the function simply get_pagination; it’s quite self—describing. I put it in the link-template.php file, that way, all functions for navigation are in one place.

<?php
/**
* A pagination function
* @param integer $range: The range of the slider, works best with even numbers
* Used WP functions:
* get_pagenum_link($i) - creates the link, e.g. http://site.com/page/4
* previous_posts_link(' &laquo; '); - returns the Previous page link
* next_posts_link(' &raquo; '); - returns the Next page link
*/
function get_pagination($range = 4){
  // $paged - number of the current page
  global $paged, $wp_query;
  // How much pages do we have?
  if ( !$max_page ) {
    $max_page = $wp_query->max_num_pages;
  }
  // We need the pagination only if there are more than 1 page
  if($max_page > 1){
    if(!$paged){
      $paged = 1;
    }
    // On the first page, don't put the First page link
    if($paged != 1){
      echo "<a href=" . get_pagenum_link(1) . "> First </a>";
    }
    // To the previous page
    previous_posts_link(' &laquo; ');
    // We need the sliding effect only if there are more pages than is the sliding range
    if($max_page > $range){
      // When closer to the beginning
      if($paged < $range){
        for($i = 1; $i <= ($range + 1); $i++){
          echo "<a href='" . get_pagenum_link($i) ."'";
          if($i==$paged) echo "class='current'";
          echo ">$i</a>";
        }
      }
      // When closer to the end
      elseif($paged >= ($max_page - ceil(($range/2)))){
        for($i = $max_page - $range; $i <= $max_page; $i++){
          echo "<a href='" . get_pagenum_link($i) ."'";
          if($i==$paged) echo "class='current'";
          echo ">$i</a>";
        }
      }
      // Somewhere in the middle
      elseif($paged >= $range && $paged < ($max_page - ceil(($range/2)))){
        for($i = ($paged - ceil($range/2)); $i <= ($paged + ceil(($range/2))); $i++){
          echo "<a href='" . get_pagenum_link($i) ."'";
          if($i==$paged) echo "class='current'";
          echo ">$i</a>";
        }
      }
    }
    // Less pages than the range, no sliding effect needed
    else{
      for($i = 1; $i <= $max_page; $i++){
        echo "<a href='" . get_pagenum_link($i) ."'";
        if($i==$paged) echo "class='current'";
        echo ">$i</a>";
      }
    }
    // Next page
    next_posts_link(' &raquo; ');
    // On the last page, don't put the Last page link
    if($paged != $max_page){
      echo " <a href=" . get_pagenum_link($max_page) . "> Last </a>";
    }
  }
}

The “range” is the range of the sliding effect, i.e. how many numbers are shown besides the current number: if the range is 4, and the current page is 5, then the numbers 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 are visible.

Usage

It’s quite simple to use it: where the pagination is needed, just call the get_pagination() function, and it will show up. Add some CSS style to it, and your good to go.

Hope someone will find this useful :)

Robert Basic

Robert Basic

Software engineer, consultant, open source contributor.

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