Some good and bad things from PHP

28Oct11

As a PHP developer I recognise that I’m not as opinated as I should be. When someone asks me “Why I’ve choose PHP” I just say that it’s because it was the first language I’ve deep into and I’ve keep developing myself into PHP (it’s what it allows me to develop more in less time). Once you know a language and you have enough knowledge is interesting to move into other languages so you can open your mind and get a better understanding of your preferred language (exactly like learning another spoken language). I hope I can learn any other language soon ;)

I’m going to summarize some pros and cons from PHP as a interesting excersise for myself:

Advantages:

  • Documentation: At the beginning is difficult to get use to (like any other documentation) but when you are into it, it’s pretty handy. My usual searches on google are “php array functions” or “php string functions”. A good point is allowing the comments from the users, some of them really interesting.
  • Easy to start: It’s easy to install WAMP (on Windows) or using php on cli with *NIX. There are lots of tutorials and all-known open source projects to look at the source code to learn more (WordPress, Drupal, etc.). Furthermore, you can got a cheap host easily.
  • Web optimized: Really easy to access to GET and POST variables and by default there is a direct map between the file and the URL. This kind of things make it easy to learn.
  • Right model: Requests are isolated from other requests and if it goes wrong, that is too isolated, which means that you can leak memory, have terrible bugs or infinite loops and you will not kill your server beause Apache is on top of that.
  • Scaling: Is relative common knowledge to scale PHP, you can search on Internet and you will find lots of tutorials, tips, etc.

Disadvantages:

  • Error handling: There is more than a single way to handling errors: trigger_error(), Exceptions and returning codes. Not having a unique and organized way make libraries mix all of this methods and sometimes makes it difficult to trap.
  • Too many falses: Not having a typed variables makes all this expressions evaluate as false: null, false, empty string, zero, the string containing ’0′ and empty array.
  • Initialization: There is a lot of things that can be modified on the php.ini and it could change from server to server. Not a big pain but should be aware.
  • Returning arrays: If a function returns an array you have to assign it to a variable before accessing an element, you can’t just add an index after the function call.
  • No multiple inheritance: PHP doesn’t support multiple inheritance.
  • Evolving language: The fact that it’s evolving and having new features in each release has other constraints: “register_globals” (“script.php?auth=1″ sets $auth as TRUE by default), “magic_quotes” (that’s not for security and people is relying on that) and “PHP4′s object reference model” (where references didn’t point to the object, they were pointing to the variable).
  • Others: Lack of case sensitivity (“$variable” is the same than “$VaRiaBLe”), needle and haystack vs haystack and needle in different array methods, having to use “array()” instead of just “[]“.

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