PHP Recap/Redux

I've been pretty damned busy of late (we're in the late stages with going gold for our next Message Systems product release), but have managed to be involved in a couple of things PHPish, although I haven't had much time to follow up and talk about them.


I was invited to be a panelist at Microsoft's MIX conference for a discussion on the traditional pain points of getting PHP to run in a Windows environment and interoperating with ASP apps, and how Microsoft have taken a number of steps to help make the experience nicer, by improving the developer experience with IIS, shipping FastCGI support and working with PHP core developers to identify and tune some hotspots in PHP. The panel was pretty well attended given that it was one of the last sessions of the conference. You can find a recording of this session online here.

At MIX, the hot news was mostly Silverlight. It really demos very nicely and really does seem like a Flash killer, particularly because the tools are very nicely done. The really nice thing about Silverlight from my perspective is not so much the eye candy (sweet as it may be), as the Dynamic Language Runtime (DLR). The DLR allows you to run a subset of "dot-net" on the client side (both Windows and Mac), including scripting languages like Ruby and Python. This allows for some interesting possibilities, from something as basic as being able to use the same languages on both the client and the server side (very compelling from a maintenance perspective), to being able to use multiple languages (and libraries written in those languages) and call between them in your client side app.

This stuff isn't really all that new (you've been able to do some of that with COM compatible scripting interfaces for years--there's also a PHPScript implementation for the brave), but what's exciting is that it is bundled up into a runtime that has eye candy and support for two common OS platforms. The trick is in the eye-candy; that feature will wow people and cause a more rapid adoption of Silverlight than if it was just the DLR on its own.

Speaking of the DLR, Andi Gutmans and myself made it to the excellent Just Glue IT! talk presented by Jim Hugunin and John Lam (I love that URL!), on Python and Ruby (and more) in the DLR on Silverlight. It was very informative as well as humorous and with some nice live demos. You might be wondering if we're interested in PHP running on the DLR. I would love to see it there, even if it was just a subset of the PHP that we know and love. Perhaps the Phalanger project might shift in that direction?

From an organizational point of view, MIX, the conference, was very well put together. Some nice touches included: a speaker room equipped with snacks (ranging from power/protein bars and fruit to chips and candy), soda (which is typically very difficult to find at a conference without having to walk out of the conference area and paying exorbitant prices. This is very important for me, as coffee is a migraine trigger.), and what really clinched it for me: red bull (including sugar free).

Another nice touch was a double-sided laminated name tag--those things have a habit of flipping around so that you can't read them and find out who you're talking to. There was also a "sandbox" for you to bail out from the conference and sit down and play with the new technologies (they provided a number of machines for that purpose) or just sit down and talk. Minus points for not having enough (any?) power strips in the sessions themselves though; it made it difficult to get some work done while absorbing a session.


It felt like php|tek was the first true PHP conference I've done this year (and that might even be true--I didn't bother to look back and check), so I was looking forward to being there, and also to see a bit more of Chicago, although I was a little disappointed to find that the conference was set in the "airport town", just far enough away from the real city to make visiting it a hard prospect. Such is life.

I think the php|architect folks did a fine job considering that the hotel threw a few spanners (or wrenches for you American folks) into the works, pushing a number of people (myself included) out of the conference hotel proper and into its more plain cousin a block or two down the street. I particularly wanted to attend Jeff Moore's talk on maintainable code but there was no room--people literally fell out of the session when I opened the door to get in there.

It was good to catch up with people again (and slightly weird to meet people that I'd seen a couple of weeks earlier at MIX--it's a bit surreal to be jumping timezones and locations and still see the same people), and to meet some more PHPWomen face-to-face. We had fun in the PHP trivia competition, and some of us were roped in to doing a podcast which came out surprisingly coherent despite the amount of alcohol in the room (I suspect that's because it was largely consumed by one of the Facebook guys ;-)

As someone who's been doing these conferences for a few years now, it's interesting to see the increasing number of MacBook laptops in use. I didn't count everybody's laptop, but the areas I frequented during the conference appeared to have MacBooks in the majority.

One of these conferences, I'll make it to one of Joe Stagner's talks and be there for the whole thing--I've tried to make that happen for at least the last 4 that I've been to, but it hasn't managed to work out how I've planned it, so far.