GuzzleHttp VCR

Project

A few days ago I pushed out a very small library to help with testing APIs using Guzzle: dshafik/guzzlehttp-vcr.

This is a simple middleware that records a request’s response the first time it’s made in a test, and then replays it in response to requests in subsequent runs.

It does this by returning a Guzzle \GuzzleHttp\HandlerStack with either the \Dshafik\GuzzleHttp\VCRHandler middleware, or the GuzzleHttp\Handler\MockHandler added. The first will record the responses to JSON files, while the latter will be pre-loaded with those responses and will return them when requests are made.

It’s important to understand that the responses are returned in order regardless of whether it is the same request being made.

The purpose of this library is to just make it easier to create and update your tests for API clients.

Usage is simple, just call Dshafik\GuzzleHttp\VCRHandler::turnOn() passing in the storage location before running the test, and pass in the handler as a guzzle client option:

You can pass in the handler when instantiating the \GuzzleHttp\Client, or when making the individual requests — if you use the same instance for the individual requests it will re-use the same JSON file for storage, otherwise if you pass in unique instances (with unique storage files) it will create individual ones. I recommend passing in the handler to the constructor, but ensuring that you use a new instance (of the middleware, and the client) for each test.

Hopefully folks find this useful, do let me know if you do. If you have issues, please report them and pull requests are welcome!

I’ll be releasing a new Akamai library which uses dshafik/guzzlehttp-vcr next week (probably) so look out for that if you want to see it’s use in a real project.

Made for iPhone Hearing Aids (Resound Linx)

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For those that don’t know (and I usually mention it in my talks), I am hard of hearing, and earlier this week I tweeted this:

Over the following few days it earned an astonishing amount of attention compared to what I expected (as of Aug. 1st):

MFI Hearing Aids Battery Status Tweet Stats

I figured in light of this, folks might be interested in learning a bit more about Made for iPhone (MFI) Hearing Aids.

While there are many non-MFI Bluetooth hearing aids that will pair with the iPhone, they are treated more like a bluetooth headset than an assistive listening device. This means that you can route audio to them, just like bluetooth headphones. Some support Bluetooth 4.0/BTLE, A2DP, and such what. These are pretty awesome as-is. You can pair them with any number of BT enabled devices, with no restrictions beyond technical incompatibilities.

MFI Hearing Aids on the other hand are Apple certified hearing aids that are intended to connect via Bluetooth to an iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad device (I use an iPhone so I’ll just use that here). Due to being MFI, they integrate much more closely with the OS. Unfortunately, this bluetooth connection seems to have a proprietary handshake that disables them from connecting as generic bluetooth devices to other types of devices (this is my biggest issue).

I have the Resound Linx 961’s. I want to write a note about the cost, because it was impossible for me to find a price without seeing an audiologist: without any kind of insurance, these things run about $7400 (a pair). With my insurance, which has an agreement with a large national discount program (but not actual coverage), they were $5200. Having worn them for a year, while I was hesitant at first, these really have had a hugely noticeable difference in my life, and especially when it comes to music, which is extremely important to me.

With these, I can pipe music, videos, turn by turn directions, phone calls, and pretty much all audio directly to my ears. And while the quality isn’t the best, I now always have a way to privately listen to music on the go.

These things are tiny, as you can see below, and the batteries are standard size 312’s, which last 3-5 days. Unfortunately, no recharging here — it’s just too small.

Resound Linx 961

I say “pretty much all audio” because there are a couple of things that baffle me: No matter what, the FaceTime/FaceTime Audio outgoing dial tone always plays through the phone speaker. Inversely, the Find My iPhone locator ping plays through my hearing aids — less than useful when trying to find my iPhone in the couch! (Both of these issues are still present in iOS 9 PB 2)

This integration takes a number of forms, but it all pretty much comes down to two places:

Settings app > General > Accessibility > Hearing Aids (this option has moved down the screen in iOS 9, but it’s still there). In iOS 8 and 9 this will be where you pair the hearing aids, you cannot pair them in the general bluetooth preferences.

Additionally, you can enable access to the controls from the look screen, and turn on Hearing Aid Mode (which I don’t use, this seems to be for traditional hearing aids when using the phone).

Hearing Aid Settings Pane

Choosing my hearing aids gives me more information and settings:

Hearing Aid Detailed Settings

In particular, you can see the battery level (yes, 5 taps deep, as opposed to in the Today overlay…), the ability to choose which hearing aids I stream to, whether the volume can be adjusted independently, which preset I’m using, and the Live Listen feature (I’ll cover this in detail later).

Furthermore, in iOS 9, they added two new options, “Hearing Aids Play Ringtones” (which will make it play your incoming call ringtone) and “Audio Routing” which lets you decide where Call Audio, and Media Audio is routed by default.

Audio Routing Settings Pane

Hopefully this last setting will solve the issue I have in iOS 8 of audio jumping between my hearing aids and my car stereo which is also connected via bluetooth — sometimes they fight for control, and as you can imagine, that’s very frustrating.

The second integration point is around the triple click of the home button. A triple click will show the accessibility menu, which will include the Hearing Aids option:

Accessibility Triple Click

Choosing this option will then bring up a whole host of settings. Mostly the same as are available through the settings app, but globally available (including, optionally, on the lock screen), and in my opinion, better organized:

MFI Settings Overlay

Here we have the battery levels (triple click + tap), independent volume (regardless of the setting above) and combined volume, preset option, and again, Live Listen.

I use this screen approximately a billion times a day.

Presets

The presets are actually why I love these devices. These particular ones can have 4 different presets, and there are many to choose from (though they have to be setup by an audiologist, and they can be tweaked individually). Presets are realtime audio filters, that will enhance the audio on it’s way to my ears.

In my case, these presets are:

  • Softswitch — auto-pilot, I use this most of the time
  • Outdoor — this will cut things like wind noise, great for cycling, or walking in windy conditions (imagine getting turn by turn directions directly in your ears while cycling)
  • Restaurant — this will enhance voices, and dim things like clattering silverware, making it much easier to hear in crowded spaces
  • Music — this is my favorite, it will actually remove all filters, and let me hear just the raw audio, with the volume boosted.

If we’re having a conversation, and you see me reach behind one of my ears, or fiddle with my phone, it’s actually me trying different presets to make your voice as clear as possible in whatever situation I’m in — it’s not perfect, sometimes Outdoors is great in crowds, other times Music is the best option to be able to hear (I find that when listening to anything through a PA, Music works better).

Live Listen

Another feature, which I really don’t use, but is still pretty cool, is the Live Listen feature. This lets your iPhone act as a remote microphone. Simply place it near the person/thing you’re trying to hear, and it will stream whatever the microphone picks up directly to your hearing aids via bluetooth.

Part-Cyborg

In addition to all of this, through the accompanying app, you can also change the treble and bass, as well as set geo-fences for automatically switching programs (and treble/bass) based on location.

All-in-all, I’m super glad I made the plunge to get hearing aids (again), they have had a remarkable impact on my life, and the technology packed into these things is crazy. They’re almost invisible, and I’ve had many people say they would like the abilities of these even if they have good hearing!

I hope this post shows you just how cool we’ve come with the technology, and that if you have avoided them till now that you consider getting something like this.

I also evaluated the Resound Linx 700-series, and the Starkey Halo. I settled on these as having the best features and app.

However: while looking stuff up for this post, I came across the Kirkland Signature™ Hearing Aid at CostCo, which looks to be the same device branded under another name. These run just $1799 a pair! I was also reminded that there is an additional piece of hardware to allow generic bluetooth connections, as well as connecting to things like TVs and streaming to the hearing aids.

An Exceptional Change in PHP 7.0

Project

With PHP 7 errors and exceptions are undergoing major changes. For the first time, the PHP engine will start to emit exceptions instead of standard PHP errors for (previously) fatal, and catchable fatal errors. This means that we can now handle them much more gracefully with try... catch.

But with this change, comes a whole new exception hierarchy:

At the top we now have an interface, \Throwable, which the original \Exception implements. Earlier versions did not have the interface and the root of the hierarchy was \Exception. We then have the new \Error exception, which is a sibling of \Exception as opposed to extending it, which also implements the new interface.

The reason \Error does not extend \Exception is so that the new exceptions will not get accidentally caught by legacy catch-all statements (catch (\Exception $e) { }) — and just like in older PHP versions, an uncaught exception is still a regular fatal error, preserving backwards compatibility.

If the ability to create a real catch-all is desired, you can catch the \Throwable interface. This means that to catch both regular exceptions, and engine exceptions, you would use catch (\Throwable $e) { } instead.

Error Exceptions

As you can see above, there are four new error exceptions, each one used for a different purpose:

\Error

Standard PHP fatal, and catchable-fatal are now thrown as \Error exceptions. These will continue to cause a “traditional” fatal error if they are uncaught.

\AssertionError

With PHP 7, we also have enhancements to assertions, using the assert() function, with the addition of zero-cost assertions, and the ability to have them throw exceptions. To enable this, you should simply set assert.exception to 1 in your php.ini (or via ini_set()).

These exceptions are (you guessed it) \AssertionError exceptions.

\ParseError

Thanks to error exceptions, you can now handle includes with parse errors, and eval() parse errors, as both now throw \ParseError exceptions:

\TypeError

With the introduction of scalar, and (especially) strict types in PHP 7, these will also throw exceptions when a type mis-match occurs. It is important to understand that this does not apply only to scalar type hints, but to traditional type hints such as class/interface names, callable and array.

Catchable Fatal Errors

Another important change in PHP 7 is with catchable fatal errors. Previously, these would have been caught and handled using set_error_handler(). However, with PHP 7, they are now \Error exceptions, which, because an uncaught exception is now a real fatal error, will no-longer be catchable in set_error_handler().

This is a backwards compatibility break and means that to work in both PHP 5.x and 7, you need to use both set_error_handler() and try... catch.

This is considered a minor BC break due to limited usage.

\Throwable and Userland

It would not be a big jump to conclude that now we have a common interface, we could create our own branches in the exception hierarchy for completely custom exceptions by simply implementing the \Throwable interface. Unfortunately, due to the fact that exceptions are magical under the hood, to be able to do things like capture line/file and stack trace information — this means that you still must still extend either \Exception or \Error, and cannot directly implement \Throwable alone.

Trying to implement \Throwable results in the following:

However, this is not the full story. You can extend \Throwable and then — while still extending \Error or \Exception — you can implement your extended interface:

Fin

As alluded to in the (pun intended) title of this post, these changes are actually quite big, allowing us to gracefully handle almost all previously fatal errors. The fact that the core team were able to maintain almost complete backwards compatibility while doing so is astounding. Kudos to them!

Class constants, how do they work? (Or: You Learn Something New Every Day…)

Project

Yesterday on Twitter there was a conversation started by Marco Pivetta regarding a particularly horrible bit of code he had spotted:

If it’s unclear, this creates a string using sprintf() by prefixing ::PARAMNAME with the result of calling get_class() on the $api variable, and then passes that string into constant() which will give you the value of a constant using it’s string name.

At which point Elizabeth Smith chimed in to point out that $api::PARAMNAME would not work in older versions of PHP, necessitating this horrible workaround.

I then added this to the conversation:

Turns out, I was wrong. Whoops. Trevor Suarez created a past on 3v4l.org showing that this did indeed work, going back to PHP 5.3 even.

Additionally, with PHP 7 — thanks to Uniform Variable Syntax — there are many more ways to achieve this too, as you can see below:

Now, obviously, a lot of these are facetious, I mean, who is going to do ['Foo'][0]::BAR, really? But it’s interesting to see just how consistent, and flexible the new Uniform Variable Syntax is.

The someFunction()::CONSTANT, SomeClass::method()::CONSTANT, and $obj->method()::CONSTANT are much more realistic, and likely to be something you will use at some point.

There were a few syntaxes that didn’t work, which on the one hand, I’m grateful for, but on the other, I think at least some of them should be possible. Presented without further comment:

As with everything in any programming language however:

just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should

Use with caution.

Changes to Engine Exceptions in PHP 7.0alpha2+

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Pre-Release Software

This blog post is about PHP 7.0 which at the time of writing is currently pre-release software (7.0.0alpha2) and subject to change.

While updating my PHP 7 talk “What to Expect When You’re Expecting: PHP 7” for the DutchPHP Conference 2 weeks ago I noticed a small but significant change to the new Engine Exceptions feature in the newly release alpha 2.

Prior to alpha 2 and as per the Engine Exceptions RFC the exception hierarchy looked like this:

BaseException (abstract)
 ├── Exception extends BaseException
      ├── ErrorException extends Exception
      └── RuntimeException extends Exception
 └── EngineException extends BaseException
      ├── TypeException extends EngineException
      ├── ParseException extends EngineException
      └── AssertionError extends EngineException

The primary reason for doing this was to ensure two things:

  1. That \EngineException‘s didn’t get caught in pre-.7.0 catch-all blocks (i.e. catch (\Exception $e) { } to preserve backwards compatible behavior (fatal erroring appropriately
  2. That it was possible to build new catch-all blocks for all both old and new exceptions using catch \BaseException $e) { }

However, for alpha2 this hierarchy changed. Engine Exceptions lost their “Exception” suffix, and became \Error and and \*Error exceptions, and the abstract \BaseException class was changed to a \Throwable interface. This makes the new exception hierarchy look like this:

Throwable interface
 ├── Exception implements Throwable
      ├── ErrorException extends Exception
      └── RuntimeException extends Exception
 └── Error implements Throwable
      ├── TypeError extends Error
      ├── ParseError extends Error
      └── AssertionError extends Error

With these changes, you still cannot create your own exception hierarchy as you cannot implement \Throwable, you must still extend from \Exception or \Error exceptions (or their children), however you can extend \Throwable and (while still extending \Exception or \Error) implement that new interface.

Personally, I prefer this hierarchy, but, as with any pre-release software: everything is subject to change!

Edit:
As pointed out to me on Twitter, there is an RFC for this change: Throwable interface RFC

Farewell Engine Yard!

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After almost 4 years at Engine Yard, my last day will be July 3rd.

It is a sad thing, but it also means I am moving on to hopefully bigger, exciting, more challenging, and better things.

On Saturday I gave my last conference talk as a Yardee, and I think it was fitting that it was about “What’s new in PHP 7”, as my first talk for Engine Yard was at PHPUK 2012 and it was about “What’s new in PHP 5.4”.

I have had an amazing time working for Engine Yard, learned a lot from lots of smart people, been able to travel the world and meet even more fabulous people. I have been allowed to shape my job around the life I want to lead: to be a good person, to teach and help people, and to spread the joy of the things I love to as many people as possible.

I will be moving on to Akamai Technologies on July 6th as a Developer Evangelist.

I will be working on some thing bigger than I can conceive and I’m excited at the prospect of helping people — particularly in the PHP community — to achieve amazing things using these tools and more.

But I wouldn’t be here if not for all I’ve been enabled to do the last four years:

Thank you Engine Yard ❤️

P.S.
Y’all should go check out Deis and Deis.com/Deis PRO, they’re pretty awesome!

Celebrating 20 Years of PHP

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Twenty years ago today, Rasmus Lerdorf released Personal Home Page Tools (PHP Tools) version 1.0 to the world.

This is what Ben Ramsey tells us in his blog post celebrating 20 years of PHP.

Anyone who has talked to Rasmus knows that its popularity and success were all entirely accidental, and that he never planned for it to take over the world.

Except… it wasn’t really an accident was it?

Ben suggests that we all write about our own first encounters with PHP — I saw it on a Simpsons website, bought a book, pre-PHP 4.0, read three chapters, hacked on stuff, the rest is history — but I’d like to do something a little different. I want to tell our story.

As Erika Heidi points out in her blog post PHP powers about 80% of the web. Much of that (~25%1) is WordPress, including this blog.

That didn’t happen overnight, or accidentally. There were several factors that helped though:

  • PHP was easy to learn
  • mod_php made Apache2 integration fast, and easy
  • The MySQL extension made database access and use, fast, and easy3

The creation of great4 off-the-shelf software, like phpNuke, phpBB, phpMyAdmin, and the aforementioned WordPress, meant that end-users started to use PHP without even really understanding what it was… but they sure made a lot of software!

Even still, none of this was accidental, it was the result on a lot of hard work, by many thousands of people.

During my research for my talk, Open Source, Love, and Social Responsibility, I put together some numbers:

  • PHP is 1.5 million lines of code
  • Apache is 533,000 lines of code
  • MySQL is 3.4 million lines of code

All in all, a standard LAMP stack, those four little letters, amount to over sixty-nine and a half million (69,500,000) lines of code, which, more importantly were contributed by over 4800 people.

These days our skills as a community have risen dramatically since the days of phpNuke, we have amazing tools like composer, and PHPUnit. Four of the top ten websites are written in PHP.

Every single person who has used PHP, contributed to an open source PHP project, contributed to PHP, the docs, or even “just” been part of the community conversation: We are all responsible for this success.

So, think back, pat yourself on the back, and lets make things even better.

P.S.

If you’re interested in more PHP history, check out my blog posts on the history of PHAR files and ten years of PHP 5.0.0.


  1. That is, ~25% of the 80%, or ~20% of the web. 
  2. Yes, I know, it’s technically Apache httpd, deal with it. 
  3. Fast, easy, and insecure. Thank goodness for PHP 7: bye bye ext/mysql
  4. For the time. Our understanding of great software wasn’t itself very great in the 90’s.