PHP Day Lima 2009 – Retrospective

Before I forget all about it, I want to make a note of what happened, what was good and what could be improved for the PHP Day event we organized jointly with Mobile Bridges, another software development company in Lima.

The schedule was the following (translated to English for the purpose of this article):

  • 5.00-5.10pm: Welcome words
  • 5.10-6.00pm: High availability, efficiency, efficacy and interoperability in PHP – Humberto Bejarano, RPP
  • 6.00-6.50pm: Flash with PHP – Alexander Quevedo, Mobile Bridges
  • 6.50-7.40pm: Increasing the coverage of PHP solutions in scenarii of Microsoft platform – José Alania and Daniel Ramirez, Microsoft (or partners)
  • 7.40-8.00pm: Break
  • 8.00-8.50pm: Experiences with PHP: “El Comercio” case – César Soplín, El Comercio
  • 8.50-9.10pm: High efficiency of PHP applications in Firefox 3.5 – Percy Cabello, The Mozilla Foundation
  • 9.10-9.30pm: High efficiency of PHP applications in Internet Explorer 8 – Jorge Oblitas, The Mozilla Foundation
  • 9.30-9.45pm: Word from the organizing communities
  • 9.45pm-10.00pm: Words of closure

First, a few words about the program… The idea was to be really useful to the PHP developers community. The title “High efficiency of PHP applications in Internet Explorer 8” was actually proposed by Microsoft. As much as this title doesn’t make sense for me as a PHP developer, the title was imposed for the Firefox part (I opposed to that), so both talks sounded as ridiculous to me.

Enter the actual speeches.

The first speaker, after presenting the configuration of his media website, was holding the position that files (on disk) were the most efficient (=fast) way of caching data (faster than database and memory accesses). Any person having followed a Computer Architecture course would understand how impossible that is. A few assistants were surprised and asking to confirm that they heard well… the only point we got to was to make the speaker admit that *maybe* implementing an additional in-memory caching system would improve this further.

When asked to please continue the questions & answers in the next room to leave place to the next speaker (we were already 15 minutes out of schedule at that point, which was entirely caused by him), he denied and said he would be taking *just one more question*, and actually took 3 more, lasting 10 more minutes. On several occasions when sharing comments with speakers in other events (and notably one in France), I was told the most unrespectful thing to do for a speaker was to take more time than allowed (if not invited to), as it was actually directly reducing time for other speakers.

That would explain why I was upset with such an answer. He also mentioned there was no recognized PHP certification, which is wrong (the Zend certification has been around for more than 5 years now and is internationally recognized).

The Flash with PHP stuff was actually interesting in terms of PHP development. It discussed a library that allowed conversation between PHP and Flash apps.

Now before I detail the third speech, let’s just say that we had specified to all speakers that the presentation had to focus on what is useful to PHP developers, and not be a commercial show, so to speak. Microsoft people approved that before being programmed, but apparently we have a different notion of what is a commercial speech. The second slide (after the title) was saying in huge letter: INTEROPERABILIDAD, and the speaker at the time explained how, as a huge development company, Microsoft was pushing towards interoperability. I had to laugh. When you know about Microsoft’s huge lawsuits in Europe because they don’t want to disclose how to work with their NTFS filesystem and about not making Internet Explorer independent of Windows, and so many other things around this…

Anyway, the talk was about the new integration work of PHP in Microsoft Server 2009’s IIS, and how it was faster than Linux. I wonder how much money Microsoft is pouring into the PHP integration marketing glass, but I’m sure it’s much more than what it is actually putting in development. Then a short explanation on how to install PHP on a Windows Server, actually passing over all the crispy bits (like the IIS configuration), and then flying over to their new web-based installer which allowed to install open-source software in PHP (Drupal, SugarCRM, …) which, “of course”, was not to be used in production because only the professional, paid-for, versions of open-source software were actually safe to use in production (referring to SugarCRM, between others). So basically, a kind of CPanel made by Microsoft to automatically install and configure open-source software, all the way calling it innovation. When detailing the efficiency of the solution, one comment that slipped through was that the IIS server was *just* a little slower than a Linux solution.

In the end, 3 speakers shared the 40 minutes speech, and one more (all Microsoft or Microsoft partners employees) helped answer the questions. It felt like they needed to actually be that many to answer questions about Microsoft’s movement of so-called “interoperability” and “high efficiency PHP integration”. The only question I had was why there was never an effort on developing a native PHP library for Active Directory, instead of passing through buggy, undocumented LDAP compatibility mode in order to be able to do that (and if Microsoft’s intention was so good, why not put 3 developers on it for a month). The answer was fuzzy, and then the Microsoft marketing clown, Jorge Oblitas, came to the rescue from the public (he wasn’t invited into this talk as far as I knew but hey, any help to answer my question was welcome) and explained that it *wasn’t that easy*. I agreed at the time that it was probably not that easy, but actually thinking back I don’t think 3 developers for a month would be a low estimate. It’s like taking the secret Active Directory documentation from inside the Microsoft’s library and developing a C library that respects the PHP libraries standard (and apparently they are keen to mention that they have a lot of people working on this).

Anyway, this talk got me upset because of the lack of accuracy, the lack of respect for the pre-set organization (two speakers on the list, one more appearing out of the blue and another answering questions of the public!?) and the underlying commercial features about how open Microsoft was.

I couldn’t assist to the fourth talk, mainly due to administrative stuff I had to do at that point, but I was told it was “good” and killed the Microsoft speech about how easy it was to install PHP on Windows, by an example of a, Ubuntu system and a sudo apt-get install apache2 libapache2-mod-php php5-mysql

Nor could I assist to the entire Firefox presentation, but people were reporting it was good and useful.

I did, however, assist to the Internet Explorer 8 speech, and it was neither useful for PHP developers, neither innovative and neither sincere. One of the most important stuff they hammered down was that it was *safer* than Firefox because it was actually reporting suspicious websites more than was Firefox. But we all know that, from the user base of Internet Explorers 6, 7 and 8, Microsoft gets much more visibility on what sites might actually be suspicious. Instead of sharing that database, making something really useful for everyone, they’re keeping that well locked down and consider it a primary feature of their new browser.

When discussing the possibility of PHP developers to actually use Internet Explorer 8 to test their developments *without* the need to install Windows, the answer was pretty much “just buy a copy of Windows, it’s not that costly”, going down into the least it can cost you (US$100 if you’re under a campus agreement up to US$700 – for Windows 7, that is). Apparently this is what is considered “acceptable” by Microsoft and a real help to PHP developers. Apparently, this point actually upset the speaker and put him in a corner, where he started saying ungraceful stuff like that he thought that we preferred Linux because it was a better system, not because it was cheaper, which kind of got him a very bad press from the whole audience.

Finally, the community word allowed me to mention the bi-monthly PHP events we are organizing, and allowed the other organizers to indulge themselves with the great organization and thank the audience.

It did, however, prove interesting to get 77 PHP developers together that night, and I think I’d better get things done by myself next year, to make this really good and avoid a night of Microsoft commercials.

The PHP Perú forum is a great tool to get those PHP developers contacts together and organize meaningful events.

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