Thursday, 18 December 2008

Enterprise PHP

I arrived home last night after a slightly mind numbing day of reviewing and fixing tests (30 done, another 80 to go) for PHP's ext/imap extension to find that my copy of php|architect had arrived! A cup of tea, a warm fire and something good to read - heaven!

I work for a company that has a bit of a history in enterprise computing, so I read Ivo Jansch's article with interest, I'm certainly looking forward to more in his series. Ivo mentions WebSphere sMash (aka Project Zero), inside sMash we run PHP on a JVM - this really is PHP, many of the extensions we use are PHP extensions we just use a different engine from that in the reference implementation because of the cool things we can do by making it easy for PHP and Java to communicate.

This leads on to something else that happened last week. You probably don't realise it but it's very likely that sometime during the last week you will have have used IBM's CICS technology. Really? Yes - if you have bought something at a supermarket, taken money out at an ATM, had a parcel delivered to your house you have probably been a user of CICS because it forms so much of the underlying structure of commercial systems.

Last week PHP made it into CICS, PHP is now being used to build agile front ends and RESTful interfaces for the technology that underpins most of the world's large scale commercial systems. You don't get much more into The Enterprise than that!

I'm going to stop there because I can feel a bad Captain Kirk joke coming on....beam me up ScottMac!

Friday, 14 November 2008

Lateral thinking

As test writers, when we see code with poor test coverage the most natural approach is to think that we ought to write more test cases, indeed we have been doing exactly that for PHP. The number of test cases for the PHP implementation has increased from roughly 3000 to 5000 over the past two years.

But - there is another way, and as usual the PHP core developers are showing us the way. The fastest way to improve percentage of code covered is to REMOVE UNTESTED CODE! Accordingly we saw the test coverage of PHP 5.3 increase from about 55% to a little over 70% over the summer of 2008. At the same time the lines of code in PHP dropped by about 50KLOC. How can this be?

To be serious, what's been done is perfectly legitimate. Several libraries that are used in, but not tested by, the PHP project have been removed from the statistics, they should probably never have been included in the PHP5.2 figures. The only misleading thing is that if you don't look closely you might think that PHP5.3 was a lot better tested that PHP5.2, in fact it's a bit better tested and we still need more tests.

Coverage of 70% looks good, but the goal 2009 PHP TestFest should be 80% coverage to be achieved by writing more tests!

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Tea break's over....

So I'm back at IBM after a year of being a student. I spent the first couple of weeks easing myself in gently by doing a little more PHP opcode documentation, see here. I'm hoping we can move this into the manual.

Things have moved on a little whilst I was out getting educated. In October 07 the PHP runtime used in Project Zero (aka WebSphere sMash) was just running PHPBB. Now it's really looking much more capable, in addition to PHPBB it runs SugarCRM and more recently also WordPress and MediaWiki. I'll be interested to see how the team exploit the possibilities for close integration of Java and PHP code.

Friday, 29 August 2008

PHP Opcodes

For most of the last three months I have been keeping myself busy working on a project that's related to PHP and has involved looking at PHP performance.

It's been interesting and led me to try to understand a lot more about how the Zend engine works. I spent a lot of time reading some sections of the code, and using my favourite technique (yes, I'm sorry - it's printf()) to understand how things work.

After one particularly frustrating day I asked a colleague (Andy Wharmby) about the issue I was looking at. Then a miracle happened - he'd not only looked at it but had documented it (and many other things) in a set of charts.

When I read the charts a lot of things I didn't understand got clearer - so, with Andy's permission - I'm making his work available to the PHP world in case other people find them as useful as I did. You can download them in Open Office format here.

Andy asked me to make it clear that he wrote the charts almost two years ago, so there may be bits that are out of date, or even just plain wrong. If you see things that need to be fixed please send me a mail ( and I'll be happy to update the slides. Andy made extensive use of Sara Golemon's blog posts and tools written by Sara and Derick Rethans. Apart from that, like me, he used printf() and a debugger to look at the source for the engine.

I know that Gwynne is working on internals documentation for PHP, I am really looking forward to that. These charts, although very useful, are no substitute for a well written manual section!

Monday, 4 August 2008

PHP test coverage

I thought it might be interesting to compare the PHP test coverage from before the 2008 testfest with today's test coverage.

Here are two sets of gcov results - one based on a CVS extract of PHP 5.3 from May 1st 2008 and the second based on a CVS extract of PHP 5.3 from August the 1st 2008.

I had to copy a few files into odd places to make lcov run, however since I copied the same files in both source trees I think the results are comparable, even if they look a bit odd in places.

We know that 158 new tests came in from people submitting tests to the testfest site, three of the areas that these were targeted for improvement were ext/dom, ext/reflection and ext/exif. Here is how the coverage changed in these extensions:

/ext/reflection went from 73.6 up to 84.6

/ext/dom went from 56.7 to 60.3

/ext/exif went from 44.2 to 57.1

An average of nearly 10% over the three of them.

I'm looking forward to helping to run 2009 testfest. If we build on the successes of the 2008 we could aim to get several more extensions up to the same coverage as reflection.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008


A couple of weeks ago I implemented a feature called --XFAIL-- in the PHP test runner (run-tests.php). The idea was not mine – it was Pierre's and I admit I had a few reservations about it when he first suggested it but I convinced myself that it might be useful. There was also some helpful discussion on the PHP QA list.

In this post I'll explain what I have done and a give a couple of instances in which I think it might be of some use.

In the following example I have added an XFAIL section to a test called cos_basic1.phpt in ext/standard/tests/math:

Expected to fail because I've messed with expected output to make it fail

I have also messed with the expected output to ensure that the test really does fail.

When I use run-tests.php to execute all the tests in the math directory the final section of the report looks like this:

Number of tests : 110 109
Tests skipped : 1 ( 0.9%) --------
Tests warned : 0 ( 0.0%) ( 0.0%)
Tests failed : 0 ( 0.0%) ( 0.0%)
Expected fail : 1 ( 0.9%) ( 0.9%)
Tests passed : 108 ( 98.2%) ( 99.1%)
Time taken : 1 seconds
Test return type and value for expected input cos() [math/cos_basic1.phpt]

The test cos_basic1.phpt fails, the usual .out, .exp etc files are generated - the only difference is in the way that the failure is reported. There is a new line in the summary data (Expected fail:) and a new section called EXPECTED FAILED TEST SUMMARY.

The intention of XFAIL is to help people working on developing PHP. Consider first the situation where you (as a PHP implementer) are working through a set of failing tests. You do some analysis on one test but you can't fix the implementation until something else is fixed – however – you don't want to lose the analysis and it might be some time before you can get back to the failing test. In this case I think it's reasonable to add an XFAIL section with a brief description of the analysis. This takes the test out of the list of reported failures making it easier for you to see what is really on your priority list but still leaving the test as a failing test.

The second place that I can see that XFAIL might be useful is when a group of people are working on the same development project. Essentially one person on the project finds a missing feature or capability but it isn't something they can add immediately, or maybe another person has agreed to implement it. A really good way to document the omission is to write a test case which is expected to fail but which will pass if the feature is implemented. This assumes that there is general agreement that implementation is a good idea and needs to be done at some stage.

Both of these situations have more to do with what is useful for a developer than a tester, so XFAIL is probably not a feature that I'll use much myself. One person also raised the possibility that the function is really already covered by the SKIPIF section. I don't think it is and I think the distinction is simply that if something is in a SKIPIF section it is something that is never expected to work – like some of the file system tests on Windows. I also can't think of a good reason that there would ever be XFAILing tests in released code, in contrast we often use SKIPIF sections in released levels of PHP.

The XFAIL feature is only implemented in PHP 5.3 and PHP6. It's documented in the usual place

Friday, 30 May 2008

Zoom Splatter

Several people have asked me why this blog is called zoomsplatter, someone even suggested that it might be a reference to what I do on the motorbike. Thankfully it isn't – or not since I was 19.

It's actually a reference to IBM's office system. When I first joined IBM we all used PROFS, IBM's office system. It was amazingly good and had one invaluable feature that I have not seen in anything since – the “unsend” function. This was an absolute godsend to those of us with poor impulse control.

The PROFS spell checker used to offer a few alternatives if it didn't like what you were typing – and frankly it was not very keen on either of my names. Zoom Splatter was what it thought I should be called – and who am I to argue?

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

How can we tell if we're making a difference?

It's quite hard to tell how well the PHP TestFest is succeeding in the aim of improving the PHP test coverage. Next time we do this we should take a snapshot of the coverage before we start - hindsight is a wonderful thing.

Here is what I did to try and find out:

From the CVS change log for May 2008, 101 PHP test files were added or changed in PHP 5.3 under the ~ext directory.

Looking at these I can identify 49 that I know come from TestFest activity, these are 30 new mcrypt tests – we have David Soria Parra to thank for these – having a one-man TestFest there :-)

Of the others there are 17 new DOM tests – for which we thank the London PHP group and 2 new reflection tests that came from the Dutch PHP TestFest. Given that there currently about 5000 tests in PHP, if we only count the tests committed that's about a 1% increase.

So where are the rest of the tests? There are still 73 tests in waiting to be reviewed and committed – we really need someone who understands reflection to review and commit reflection tests. I notice that there is a new cURL test today as well – that's brave.

What about coverage? I believe that the mcrypt coverage leapt from less than 30% up to over 75% thanks to David's efforts! The DOM coverage will go up by about 3.5% by the time all the London tests are in and there is plenty more to do in that extension. As for reflection - I can't tell but I'd love to know. In case anyone wants to check later it's at 75% today without the the new tests.

In case anyone is looking for places to help, check this for some interesting analysis of what is and is not tested. Oh yes, there's plenty more to do :-)

Sunday, 11 May 2008

My wildest dreams get wilder every day

The Flatlanders, not a prolific band but it terms of country music - absolute perfection. What made me think of them? Partly the Dutch - literally the “flat landers”, the land of windmills, clogs, tulips and now, PHP tests.

On May 10th, led by Sebastian Bergmann and Stefan Koopmanschap a team of 10 dedicated PHP programmers wrote 37 tests tests for the Reflection extension and had a lot of fun doing it.

The Dutch beat the UK[*] team, led by Scott MacVicar, Steve Seear, Ant Phillips, Josie Messa and YT[**], into an honourable second place. With 18 skilled PHP programmers we managed 26 tests for the DOM extension in 3 hours.

Why? It's a PHP TestFest. This is the wild dream – that PHP should have a complete set of test cases for the implementation.

With the extraordinary power of open source and the good will of PHP programmers around the world, this particular wild dream is fast becoming a reality!

Zoe Slattery

[*] I say UK, but have to admit help from several people with the sort of names and accents that romantic novelists give their heros.

[**] I really mean Yours Truly. Not the YT of SnowCrash , that would be a wild dream. In Snowcrash terms I'm more like YT's mom but with Poor Impulse Control.