Posts Tagged ‘frameworks’

Lithium

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012 | Programming

Recently, I’ve been re-developing Authority Forums and as part of the re-development, the site has been re-built from the ground up, using the Lithium framework.

Lithium, which bills itself as “the most RAD framework for PHP” is a spin-off from CakePHP. I’ve used the CakePHP framework for previous projects, and it’s an OK framework, but I didn’t find it to be something special. Neither did some of the core developers apparently, who left to start Lithium. It’s also contributed to by Richard McIntyre, who gave the talk on The Future of PHP that I blogged about last month.

It is an easy framework to get started with. I say that; it took me twenty minutes to work out that I needed to download both the Lithium and framework packages to get started. But once I had stopped missing the obvious, everything was up and running very smoothly.

In particular, creating models was very easy. All you do is create a class with the name of your database table and have it extend the Lithium base model. That’s it! You don’t have to tell Lithium what the content of the table is, it figures all of that out by itself and gets you up and running with a CRUD-supporting model immediately.

Of course, this isn’t always ideal for performance and security reasons, but you have significant customisation options that you can dig into to tweak things as you need them. Or, if Lithium just isn’t doing the trick to you, you can easily replace it with Doctrine, or any other ORM of your choice.

It also comes with a good range of built-in libraries. Perhaps not quite as comprehensive as Symfony2, but certainly easy to get started to and that just turn on and off as you wish – most are off by default but can be turned on my uncommenting a few lines. It also has ground-up support for MongoDB.

Deploying was easy too. Lithium automatically figures out whether the current install is dev, test or production and adjusts everything appropriately, so all you do is enter the connection details for databases on each environment and Lithium intelligently figures out which ones to use without you having to tell it, removing the need for slightly different code or a non-writable configuration file.

That said, deployment wasn’t quite as smooth as it could have been, and resulted in a bit of last minute panic. Lithium’s major weakness right now is the lack of community support and documentation. The documentation they provide is fairly good, but unless you’re doing exactly what the example is showing you will run into problems.

I would say I spent more time digging around the API documentation than I did the manual. This isn’t the case with Symfony2 (though I’m not a fan of the Symfony2 documentation either), so if you’re not comfortable doing this, it’s a tough framework to work with. More importantly, though, there just doesn’t seem to be other users doing real-world stuff, and so on several occasions, I had to find myself guessing at how to use functionality.

A good example of this is how to filter a query based on a range. It is easy to do a “I need this column to equal this” for example, but what happens when you want to do “I need this column to be greater than this.” In the end I guessed you could supply a sub-array with the value and the operator – and it turns out you can! But I couldn’t find any documentation for this, even though the functionality clearly is there. What they really need is a user forum (and users! It could just be on Stack Overflow like every other piece of knowledge you ever need).

Overall, I’m really enjoying using the Lithium framework. Its lack of user community is a massive drawback, but wider adoption will solve that and it should be more widely adopted because it’s a great framework.

Symfony2 custom validation constraints

Friday, June 15th, 2012 | Limited, Programming

The Symfony2 framework comes with a really nice validation library and on top of the built in constraints that you can use you also have the ability to add your own custom constraints to perform any other validation checks you need to do.

The Cookbook has an article on how to create such a custom constraint, but unfortunately, as has happened a few times with the Symfony2 documentation, it misses out some fundamental and sometimes rather obscure step in order to get it working.

The problem is, it doesn’t tell you where to put the files. That leaves two options – either you have somewhere they need to be in order for Symfony to find them, or you need to fell Symfony where they are.

After hours of digging around, we eventually found the answer – in your validation.yml file you need to register the namespace and then reference that name when you call the validation rules.

Start by registering the namespace at the top of your validation.yml file.

namespaces:
  myValidator: Acme\ExampleBundle\Validator\

Lets say you have added a custom validation constraint called Postcode. When you want to invoke that from your validation rules, you need to reference the namespace you have just created.

postcode:
    - myValidator:Postcode: ~

You can then use this namespace with your custom validation rules, place them in the appropriate directory (in this case src/ExampleBundle/Validator, but you can store them somewhere else if you change the namespace – remember that Symfony2 will extract the path from the namespace).