Category Archives: Various

The rise and fall on my newborn startup

As a freelance developer I use my résumé almost daily, it’s my main tool to get new jobs. I also have other websites, like:

  • a personal “commercial website”, which is more or less just my CV plus a few other things
  • a tech blog
  • some websites for some of my personal/open source/commercial projects

Obviously I have a LinkedIn profile, which is also a very important tool for my job. Continue reading

Magento PHP developer’s guide

It really was a long time since my last review of books about Magento, in the meanwhile some of you may know that I’ve been to a Magento U class in Berlin and I’ve taken 3 of the 4 Magento certifications. I’ve been through some really busy months but now I should be back on track. Continue reading

Instant Magento performance optimization howto

I just finished reading the Instant Magento performance optimization howto ebook by Packt and I’m about to write a quick review.

First of all this book is short (50 pages), quick and easy to read. Don’t misunderstand me, for me this is a big plus: Magento is a big universe and for me it’s better to have more specialized books instead of one big book covering everything (which is actually impossible).

Performance are also a big trouble for everyone who works with Magento so anyway this book is a little investment for a nice and complete (also if not very deep) reading (but also a practical manual) on Magento performance overview.

The book covers all the aspects of the optimizations, from CSS/Javascript compression to logging to compiling etc. It also covers some advanced topics like mysql configurations and clustering but here I would have liked to see more details (on mysql tuning we probably need more than just a my.cnf sample and on clustering we’d need to talk about percona, how to configure mysql clusters with practical configurations or link to video tutorials).

I’d rate this book 7.5/10, as an advanced developer I would have liked more advanced details but probably this should have gone beyond the scope of the book itself so at the end… it’s totally worth its money and most of all it’s a good read for all the kind of Magento workers, from designers to coders to system managers.

“Mastering Magento” first look

I just received the Mastering Magento ebook from Packt a few hours ago, I’m really out of time in these weeks but I wanted to share a couple of thoughts from the first look at this book.

If you’re a Magento developer, than get it, from a really quick view (I’m gonna review it later) I think I’ll buy the printed copy to keep on my desk, as a senior Magento developer I already know most of the things writting in the book but it is really well written, full of useful information and it will become helpful when you’ve to do something quick but you don’t remenber exactly how to do it or a particular meaning of a Magento terminology.

It seems to cover all the main areas and it has a really lifesaver section which is the pre-launch checklist.
Also very useful if you’re teaching a junior developer/designer and you need a deeper introduction to Magento (this book is not for who didn’t see Magento before in his life).

Another thing I think, it could be easily split in 2 version cause the introduction says that the book is intended for developers and store owners but I think that store owners should not be bothered with all the dev stuff, anyway part of the book would be really perfect to be given to store owners saying “hey this is the Magento manual” :-)

PHP 5.4, Zend Framework 2, Zend Studio 9

A lot of things are moving in the PHP ecosystem, but it seems to me that those things are going a little bit out of control and I’ve a few philosophical questions…

PHP 5.4

Hey great, we’ve traits and a built-in web server. Hemmm what about the damn UTF8 support? It’s 2012 and still a substr can split a character in half! And I don’t think the whole world is still using ANSI or ISO-8859, everyone now uses UTF8 and working with UTF8 inside PHP is always a pain. Traits and that web server were really more important?

At least we’ve a useful new feature: array dereferencing, something python had since maybe 10 years (along with the utf8 support…). I’m not telling python is better otherwise I won’t be using 99% PHP since 12 years.

Zend Framework 2

I hated pretty much every MVC framework out there but ZF is really much more than just an MVC framework (also if not so many people can see that). I used its MVC only a little so I won’t talk about that but I loved the entire ZF1 project, it was just perfect, really easy to use, simple code so the documentation is something useless and it was also really easy to include a single element in your project. That was great and it’s ended.

ZF2 is surely a great software but the devs seems not to remember that PHP was born with simplicity in mind and ZF2 is millions light years beyond simplicity:

  • you won’t ever be able to use a single component (let’s say you just want to use zend\db) without having to deal with the autoloader
  • today we’ve ZF2 beta3, I always knew that “beta” meant “API freeze” and instead from beta2 to beta3 something like EVERYTHING changed! I was writing some code using Zend\Db and I had to throw it all in the garbage because Zend\Db was completely rewritten for beta3. This make me think of a pre-alpha, not a beta.
  • ZF2 is a complete rewrite of ZF1 and thus I bet it will be a hell of bugs for a long long time, in fact I just started using it in real life and I found 2 blocking bugs (blocking for me obvious), one about Zend\Db (unable not to quote values) and one about Zend\Locale (unable to get territory list), both were perfectly working in ZF1
  • ZF bug tracker is like the most silent western movie, you can’t ever hear a voice, that’s just a bit disappointing
  • ZF2 code is so complex that it’s nearly impossible to go through it just to find how a method works so if there won’t be a really great documentation it will really end in a developing pain

Keeping in mind all of the above, would you go back to ZF1 for your new project knowing that in 18 months you’ll have to completely rewrite everything ’cause ZF1 will be out of support? The answer is no but we’re stuck in a limbo.

And a question for the developers, do you really think that pushing things so high about complexity is a good thing for the success of ZF? I’m not so sure about that. ZF1 could be used by every junior dev out there, I wouldn’t say that for ZF2.

Zend Studio 9

At the moment Zend Studio is IHMO the most updated (9.0.2 already supports PHP 5.4) and feature rich PHP IDE but I still can’t understand if the devs are actually using it, just a few examples:

  • Most of the time I’m on ZS it compiles, indexes and refreshes the workspace, completely eating my cpu and sometimes preventing me from saving a file until the indexing process is finished.
  • GIT is widely used now that really big PHP projects are all over the world (anyone said Magento?) but the GIT plugin for ZS is incomplete and caused me some big problem in the testing phase. One feature missing is the support for GIT submodule, but there is not a single project I’ve ever worked on that didn’t have submodule => I’ve to use an external GIT client and this really bothers me

Probably those problems are Eclipse’s problems but that’s not the point.

Conclusions

It’s a long way to the top…

“Magento 1.4 Themes Design Cookbook” review

As I wrote a few days ago, I was asked to review the Magento 1.4 Development Cookbook by Packt so I took the right time to read it deeply and with great attention to point out every pro and con of this mid-length book (249 pages).

First of all the book is available at a price of ~40 USD (~31 EUR) if you want the paper book, or ~32 USD (~25 EUR) for the digital copy (in PDF format), the price is right (maybe just a little high) for a highly technical book like this. You’ll also receive a comprehensive archive of all the code that’s used in the book, really useful for a quick cut&paste to try out things!

Now, I’ve to say that Magento 1.6 is near to be released and still we’ve no book about 1.5, and also if 1.4 documentation is still valid I think that it would be the time to update all the books on the new releases.

Chapter 1: I think it’s completely useless unless for the section about the differences between 1.3 and 1.4, in this moment every designer about to design and/or code a Magento themes already know what can be done and surely has seen enough themes in the wild so I think that we don’t need an introduction or a showcase.

Chapter 2: this is one of my preferred chapters, ok it’s not so difficult but it explains all the basic concept and it’s really needed for the first timers. I think this chapter should have been the first one but anyway it’s great.

Chapter 3: probably it could be merged with the 2nd ’cause it keeps talking about the basic things you need to know when you’re about to start working on a Magento themes, useful but anyway I think none needs a “where do I get inspiration for a favicon” section. The “display products on the homepage” section is instead really useful and raises the level of this chapter.

Chapter 4: first real steps into customizing a default Magento theme to fit your design, with some more basic hits (like enabling template path hints and block names hints) and some detailed info about CMS pages (which actually area managed pretty bad in Magento).

Chapter 5: creating a theme from scratch, pretty advanced things are going on here :) and that’s the kind of things I like the most.

Chapter 6: starts with a useless section about integrating font-face into a Magento theme, actually I don’t understand why this kind of info should be in a Magento book, it should have been in a HTML/CSS one… but finishes with some pretty handy documentation about “navigation” and the “product view” template.

Chapter 7: the part I liked the most about this chapter is about creating a custom block and using it in a layout xml file, other things (adding javascripts or stylesheets) are a little too basic at this point.

Chapter 8: talks about mail templates, pretty basic stuff in the beginning, getting interesting later with variables in emails and a good section about how to integrate external newsletter systems and another one on upgrade-proof email templates.

Chapter 9: integrating social stuff, absolutely basic notions about copying facebook’s html widgets and paste it in your templates…

Chapter 10: print styles, once again I think that this topic should be covered in a HTML/CSS guide.

Conclusions: if you never wrote a Magento theme buy this book, it will help you in a lot of ways. The second time you’ll have to do the same work again… you won’t need it.