I've been using PHP for a number of years and have seen the same things being done with return values from functions over and over again. I have always thought of this as pretty standard, but the more I think about it the less it makes sense. Looking back over my career I am quite sure that a few serious bugs could have been avoided if I had not mixed return types.
As PHP is a loosely typed language this gives the developers the ability to change the type of value that is returned from a function. This happens quite often within the PHP codebase itself as many built in functions will return false if an error happened.
A common practice in userland code is to return false from a function if something went wrong. This might be because it is encouraged in PHP itself.
I wanted to impart a piece of advice to do with validation and formatting of user input, although I've never seen anyone suggest it. I guess it would come under the single responsibility principle so it might seem obvious to some people. There can be reasons why this might at least seem like a good idea at the time.
Essentially, if you want to validate that something is correct, don't format it at the same time. These two actions should be done in separate functions or even classes. I hope to demonstrate that using a single function validate and format anything is a bad idea. I'll mainly be using PHP to demonstrate this, but the principle should be pretty much the same in any language.
Take the following function called isValid(). This is an arbitrary and simple example but shows validation and formatting in use in a single function.
Following on from my last post about sorting colors I have been thinking about different ways of sorting colors. I have been looking at interfaces that allow people to select colors and they will quite normally have a band of colors that does look nicely sorted. As it turns out this is perfectly possible to do if the colors are normalised to remove light and dark variations of different colors.
The easiest way to remove different amounts of lightness and darkness from a color is to convert it to the HSV color space. This way we can just set the value (brightness) and saturation (amount of grey) to be 1. This will change the color by simply removing any information that does not pertain to the actual color. For example, a color that is a very light shade of blue will be changed to be simply blue.
I came across this sorting algorithm the other day called 'bogo sort'. This is a sort of joke sorting algorithm that is highly ineffective at actually sorting arrays. The name comes from the word 'bogus'.
Here is how it works.
- Take an array.
- Shuffle it.
- If the array sorted then stop.
- If the array is not sorted then return to step 2.
As you can see, this isn't so much a sorting algorithm, more of a game of chance. Due to the random nature of the sort you might need to wait a very long time before the array is actually sorted.
Here is an implementation of a bogo sort in PHP.
I have been doing some reading and watching lectures of programming theory recently and I was reminded of this algorithm I learned about in university. Binary searching an array is a divide and conquer algorithm that takes an array and searches for a value in that array by splitting the array into halves. The algorithm works like this.
Drupal 8's comment system has the ability to be threaded so that users can reply directly to other users comments and create threads of conversation. I have always found this difficult to use and difficult to read so I wanted to turn it off when I set up this site. The only issue I had was I could turn off the threading but couldn't alter the ordering of the comments.
The default ordering of comments in Drupal 8 is by thread. This means that even if you turn off threading the comments are always displayed in thread order. The CommentDefaultFormatter class is used by Drupal to display comments and contains this line of code.
Sorting colors is the sort of thing that you never really think about until you need to do it. Sorting a bunch of items by their color is useful in a number of applications, but the simplest is just to display items to the user in a more controlled manner. As it happens sorting with colors is a much more complex topic than I originally thought and required digging into quite a bit more maths than I expected.
Incidentally, there is a whole world of color maths that I didn't know existed until I started looking into this. It was worth learning about though.
To start with, I created a little Color class so that I could have a standard way of storing a color. This just takes the red, green and blue values for a color and allows a simple way of accessing those values.
Deployer is an amazing tool that is used to deploy websites (hence the name). I have looked at other tools, but because Deployer is built and run using PHP, using it to deploy PHP sites makes sense. It also means that I don't have to figure out complex XML documents or learn Ruby just to understand what the deployment is doing.
I have been using Deployer for a little while now to deploy my own site but I have been using the root user to accoumplish the deployments to get around any permissions issues. When I sat down with the developers at work we looked into how to setup the server so that deployments could be run without giving the tool unfettered access to the server. To this end we set out a plan to create a 'deployer' user on our servers that would be the user Deployer uses to deploy sites.