Archive > September 2005

All Bless PHP

29 September 2005 » In PHP » 22 Comments

Today’s issue of Wall Street Journal has an article by David Bank, “PHP Language Wins Supporters As Tool for Making Web Software: Alternative to Sun’s Java Is Adopted by Companies, Developers Like Andreessen”. On the whole, it plays up PHP and its success over the years, but contains several things that I could not help but talk about here. I hope WSJ doesn’t mind if I quote a few sentences.

Back when the Web was young, Marc Andreessen, then the wunderkind co-founder of Netscape Communications Inc., gave his backing to a new software programming language from Sun Microsystems Inc. That blessing launched the Java language as a counterweight to Microsoft Corp.’s technology dominance. A decade later, Mr. Andreessen is endorsing another programming language called PHP as an alternative to Java for creating a new generation of Internet software.

I like Marc. He’s a bright guy who did a lot for the Web by driving the development of NCSA and Netscape browsers and trying to fight Microsoft. But “blessing” and “endorsement”? I would really hope we’re past the point where intelligent developers — and would you want any other kind — are swayed by a celebrity endorsement that tells them what programming language they should use. I think PHP’s record speaks for itself, and hardly needs any “blessing”. My guess is that this is a marketing maneuver designed to capitalize on the recent news of Marc joining Zend’s board of directors.

“When it comes to the Web and Web applications, Java is not the right language,” Mr. Andreessen says.

Indubitably so.

But he adds: “[..] PHP is to 2005 what Java was to 1995.”

If that means that all of a sudden there are hundreds of half-assed books written by people suffering from what can only be called delusions of self-grandeur and whose only skill is the ability to copy-and-paste text from the online manual, no, thank you. If that also heralds the day that I see thousands of job postings asking for overpaid and underqualified PHP consultants with “10 years of experience” who don’t know their 404 from 403 and whose highest qualification is building a personal guestbook, I can live without that too. Although, maybe it’s already happening..

Zend, originally based in Israel, includes two of the leaders of the open-source PHP effort, Andi Gutmans and Zeev Suraski, who took over the project from Rasmus Lerdorf, who released the first version in 1995.

That’s just plain wrong. Rasmus didn’t hand off the project to Zend, but to the open source community that Zend and Andi are part of. Keep your facts straight, WSJ.

IBM has assigned 20 engineers to PHP and is particularly focused on improving the technology’s security, considered a weak point.

These must be phenomenally stealthy engineers, sneaking onto our CVS server and planting in the bug fixes under the cover of the night. Because that’s the first that I have heard of 20 IBM engineers working on PHP, and the article makes it sound like they are engaged in it full-time. What are they producing exactly? Maybe I’m senile, but other PHP developers, such as Edin and Ilia, confirmed that there has not been a single official security patch from IBM. The only regular contributor from IBM that I know if is Dan Scott, and he himself acknowledges that he only spends about 10% of his time on PHP-related stuff. If I am incorrect, then I would invite IBM to share with the PHP community all the work that these engineers have been producing.
I don’t know who David Bank interviewed for this story exactly — aside from Zend folks, Marc, and Rod Smith — but next time he should include a couple more relevant people, like, oh, say, Rasmus. It’s only fair. Me, I’m going to listen to a song from 1995.

How to Sell a Bulldozer

28 September 2005 » In Funny, Work » 7 Comments

Yahoo! has an internal mailing list that started off as a way for employees to buy from and sell things to fellow coworkers. However, over the years it has evolved into a much more diverse tool used for recommendations, rides, advice, offers of services, and general venting and ranting. People even try to sell their houses on it.
Being in a mischievous mood on a slow Friday, I decided to see exactly what one could get away with:

Subject: SALE: Caterpillar 814F Wheeldozer
One Caterpillar 814F Wheel Dozer for sale. Only used once. Picked it up new on eBay, but doctor says I shouldn’t operate heavy machinery. This dozer will be perfect for you all your earth moving needs.
* Redo your backyard in no time, or annex the neighbor’s.
* Build a sledding hill.
* Turn it into an armored fortress. Because you know the end of days is coming, and there is nothing like an armor-plated dozer to help you through the crunch.
* Use it as a prop for your political campaign photos.
Benefits & features:
* Ginormous Engine
* Straight Blade
* Air Suspension Contour Seat – comfy!
* Fast Fuel Fill Adapter (up to 100 gallons per minute)
* Built-in storage space for cups, lunch box, insulated bottle and personal items
Disclaimer: might not fit into a full-size parking spot on Yahoo! campus.
Asking $22K OBO. Will throw in a hood ornament.

My goal was to make it just plausible enough for people to wonder whether I had a real bulldozer or was simply looking for laughs. Apparently, I made it too authentic, because in about 15 minutes I got a reply from someone (let’s call them Bob):

Bob: Is this serious? If you really have this thing let me know.
Andrei: (speechless)

By this time other replies were rolling in: commenting on the hilarity and absurdity of the ad, offering submarines and space stations for sale in paltry imitation, and complaining about list pollution (losers). I noticed that Bob posted his own ad for a tricked-out RV, which coincidentally was priced at $22,000 as well.

Andrei: I’ll swap you for the RV.

And soon:

Bob: Would be happy to… Amazingly, I really have use for a bulldozer. I also really have said RV.
Andrei: (deciding not to ask questions, but to gently let Bob know that the ad is fake)

Just to mess with their minds a little more, that afternoon I sent another email to the list:

Sold – thanks, this list is really useful.

One of the replies:

U really had a bulldozer for sale? I thought it was a Fri joke. And you really sold it too??!! This list rocks!


Truth or Onion?

27 September 2005 » In Funny » 1 Comment

Donald Rumsfeld is giving the president his daily briefing. He concludes by saying:
– “Yesterday, 3 Brazilian soldiers were killed.”
– “OH NO!” the president exclaims. “That’s terrible!”
His staff is stunned at this display of emotion, nervously watching as the president sits, head in hands. Finally, the president looks up and asks,
– “How many is a brazillion?”


27 September 2005 » In Funny » 1 Comment

Vernon is a friend of mine at Yahoo!, who invariably comes up with things that stick in your head for a while. He’s funny, to say the least. The latest:

Vernon: If you ever need to kick an old grandma to death, Slayer is the music to do it to.. No wait, Ministry is better.

Soup du Jour

21 September 2005 » In Food, Funny » 5 Comments

Seen on the cafeteria lunch menu at work:

Stockpot: Scarlet Runner Bean Soup with Ham Hocks

I hesitate to ask what “scarlet runner” means in this context. And in general, to think of it. Although, mmmm, ham hocks.

Rendezvous at the Fiction Corner

19 September 2005 » In Books » 1 Comment

I love books. But I adore new books.
To me there is something singular about picking up a crisp volume, feeling it heft or lightness in my hands, turning it over to inspect how well it’s been put together. I like to run my fingers over the texture of the cover and the pages, flicking them like playing cards, one thin sheet after another in a deliberate and languorous movement, catching a glance of a letter, a word, a sentence. I look at the unbroken spine, binding the book until its proper owner decides to make the first crease by unfolding it harshly, to keep it in its place during breakfast or lunch.
I like to glimpse through the quotes and adulations on the back cover, all unequivocally promising a remarkable experience. I look at the foreign objects affixed to the book by the book mongers, the promotional stickers and pricing labels, pinning its value to a specific amount and categorizing it among its brethren. I open a page at random and look at the typeface, noting its stylistic grace, the seriffed letters, the elaborate initials, the ascenders and the descenders, forever trying to fill the empty space between the lines. I hold the book closer and gently inhale its unique and tangy smell: the ink, the glue, and the paper melting together into a characteristic bouquet that makes you swoon slightly and triggers the memories you thought were long gone.
I sit and look at the new book in my hands, thinking about the promise contained inside this veritable Schrödinger’s box, the work that went into it all, the time someone spent in a dusty office, in a country house, in a dark room illuminated by the glow of a screen, capturing the words out of ether and into their solid form, struggling against the entropy, stringing one sentence after another, and another, and another. I wonder whether I will be absorbed for hours or abandon it after just a few chapters, condemning it to sit in the book case until given away to someone more appreciative. I savor the anticipation of turning to the first page and being seized by the opening sentence. But until I do that… this moment is mine, and this experience will remain, always, a sublime one.
Here’s to a new book.

UPS or Oops?

19 September 2005 » In Funny » 11 Comments

I got home after work and noticed the red message light blinking on the house phone. The voicemail was from UPS, “Please call us, we think we might have a package for you”. How tentative, I thought. The call went something like this:

Andrei: “I got a message that you might have a package for me?”
UPSer: “Yes, we have one with half of its label torn off. It’s addressed to your street and apartment number, but we have no building number. Are you expecting a package?”
Andrei: (trying to recall) “Maybe. Where is it from?”
UPSer: “New England.”
Andrei: (boggles) “New England? Can you be more specific?”
UPSer: “No, that’s all it says: NE.”
Andrei: (wishing one could smack people over the phone) “Yes, it’s mine.”

I was in fact expecting a package. From Nebraska. Clearly UPS has superior training for its associates.