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TIPS, INSIGHTS AND THE LATEST FROM THE EXPERTS BEHIND CAKEPHP

The updates that CakePHP 3 brings to the table – why we love it and so should you!

 

With a year under its belt and 34 releases, we are still in love with CakePHP 3; and some of you are already on board and loving it. With an average of nearly 3 releases a month, you can easily tell that the team is working against a rapid release cycle where they are tirelessly working at adding and improving features. - but do you know the philosophy behind it?

Looking at all of the improvements and benefits that this updated framework brings, you can clearly see that the biggest turning point for the core team was the increased functionality with clear foresight and thinking brought to the table. A plan was had right from the start, to be a framework well documented, one that was simple (as the Core Team live by – less lines the better!). Another big input from the team, was the ability to integrate and make newer versions of PHP compatible with the framework, never before has the movement in the code base been so fast paced. And as the team comments, this is brought to the fore by the rotating code between open source teams – truly, we live in a space where without each other’s contributions to the code base there would be no movement and action.

That is why we are in love with CakePHP 3, because the team have put forward a framework that integrates, pulls in outside assistance, accepts community help and specifically puts itself out there for the community’s input.

Some quick backgrounds to the updated framework. The first commit to CakePHP 3 was done on May 24 2012, by Juan Basso. A long time coming, but as the common phrase goes, good things come with time. – that and the fact that the core team and lead developers were working in their spare time, after work, late nights, to bring this forward.

We thought that we would reflect, and bring to you the top changes/improvements/benefits/total awesomeness of this framework!

  • All of the core feature development was done as pull requests. This was done intentionally, to encourage people to get involved and the main core team is distributed across the world. The community is vital to the framework, and without them, we wouldn’t be here!

  • To give you an idea of what this has meant. It ended up with over 6000 commits before launch! – from over 20 contributors.

  • CakePHP 3 documentation had over 1500 commits – from 51 contributors! – the document writing was so important to the team, every time there was a feature or a break in backwards compatibility, it was documented.

  • More big news for CakePHP 3 is that it targets PHP 5.5 and newer. It is designed with composer support (Although you don’t need to use composer). It has also required a couple of additional extensions (the mb_string and the intl extension) – this was for 2 reasons, we were handling multi-byte internally, if you didn’t have the mb_string extension, we would fall back to pure PHP code; and for internationalization - there are really powerful tools built into the language that CakePHP 2 wasn’t capitalizing on and the team wanted to leverage those tools – to give the CakePHP community better tools.

  • Now the entire CakePHP code is Unicode aware, and additionally through the intl extension, everything is localized. All of the core classes localize depending on your locale (so if you switch your locale to Germany..) – everything will work, your numbering, date formatting, language formatting (provided you have the translation file) etc.

Over above these changes (and associated benefits), a few other things came out of the cracks..

Such as, through the use of composer, you have to have separate repos for separate things - so the team created a new app skeleton, basically this is the app directory of the old framework but in a separate repo. – What this allows you to do is mold or easily customize and fork it when you want to pull in changes. You don’t have to worry about merge conflicts with the app directory or similar types of issues.

It also gives us the ability to release them independently in the future, so for instance, the app can be upgraded and add or remove dependencies while having no need to modify the framework.

Many of us have had that experience and confusion of configuring classes; you don’t know if it’s a property or method, or even what the method name is.

Well getting more into the detailed features, we all know that there were a lot of different method names for configuring things, some classes used properties, others used methods of various names.

For CakePHP 3 however, it was decided that this is a little silly, so all of the static/instance/runtime classes use one method called config (YAY!). More can be found at http://book.cakephp.org/3.0/en/development/configuration.html

The ORM has also been replaced, we have moved on with the model layer, and CakePHP has advanced quite a bit over the past years. Now you have Tables and Entity objects (no more arrays!), and a powerful Query class to build your queries using a fluent interface. You'll be amazed how easy is to create deep filters, custom finders (and stacking!), subqueries. Validation was also refactored, improving flexibility and customization.

The router was also noted as being a performance bottleneck for a lot of applications in the past, and it was also, somewhat, verbose when you were connecting a lot of routes.

So with CakePHP 3, the old way of connecting routes is still there, but a new scope system has been added. This allows you to declare routes in a much clearer way – so if you have a common prefix, you can put this in the scope, and don’t have to re-declare this in each route. Less typing necessary, but more importantly it allows you to partition your routes so that you can create a much faster parse tree.

A lot of work has also been done on fixing reverse routing, previously it was based on a linear search but now, the key parts of the route are taken (the action or controller name) and generate a list of what that route may be and then search a much smaller subset of routes.

Another change is the helper layer. Previously HTML formatted through arrays, and that had both good and bad points.

The team got rid of the sprintf and replaced it with a very simple templating system, that has no conditions. This lets you define templates file, and you consistently use those templates throughout. This also yields a bit of a performance gain and it doesn’t use number replacements, it uses named replacements.

The way the event subsystems were handled is another change that CakePHP 3 brings to the table, allowing a much more consistent approach to handling events. The new changes have also led to another performance enhancement!

The framework has also gotten some outside help - in the past CakePHP has been criticized for being insular and not making use of the existing ecosystem. This has since changed and one of the reasons was the team wanted to make the install really easy. Because composer is now being use, you can include dependencies and when you create your application or install your applications dependencies, CakePHP 3’s can be installed at the same time.

CakePHP 3 has used:

Chronos (A fork of Carbon) has been used for date time improvements, (but now its part of CakePHP itself and maintained by the core)

Aura/Intl – improved i18n and L10n features

A great wrap up to these things is the fact that the team has hugely increased functionality and features, while keeping performance constant (in most cases, actually increasing it!!). There are so many reasons that you should start and continue using CakePHP 3 but more importantly, there are so many reasons for being a part of this insanely great, collaborative community.

Latest articles

A CakePHP Docker Development Environment

We sponsor a monthly CakePHP training session (register here https://training.cakephp.org ) where we cover different topics about the framework. One of our sessions, the "Getting Started with CakePHP 4" is aimed to help developers starting a new project quickly and following the best practices.   Our previous "recommended" quick setting for a CakePHP development environment was using a vagrant box. See details here:  https://www.cakedc.com/jorge_gonzalez/2018/01/17/using-a-vagrant-box-as-quick-environment-for-the-getting-started-with-cakephp-training-session. However, we've switched internally to use docker as our primary development environment and also we started using docker in our training sessions.   Here's a quick overview of a simple docker based development environment for CakePHP.  

1. Create a new CakePHP project skeleton using 

composer create-project cakephp/app myproject   A new folder "myproject" will be created with a CakePHP project skeleton inside. Go to this new directory and proceed.  

2. Create a new "docker-compose.yaml" file with the following contents

version: '3' services:   mysql8:     image: mysql:8     restart: always     container_name: mysql     environment:         MYSQL_ROOT_PASSWORD: root         MYSQL_DATABASE: my_app         MYSQL_USER: my_app         MYSQL_PASSWORD: secret     volumes:       - ./:/application     ports:       - '9306:3306'     cakephp:     image: webdevops/php-apache:8.0     container_name: cakephp     working_dir: /application/webroot     volumes:       - ./:/application     environment:       - WEB_DOCUMENT_ROOT=/application/webroot       - DATABASE_URL=mysql://my_app:secret@mysql/my_app     ports:       - "8099:80"
 

3. Run "docker-compose up"

You'll create 2 containers named mysql and cakephp -  check the docker-compose configuration to see default database and users created in the mysql container, and the same environment params passed to the cakephp container via DATABASE_URL to allow the cakephp container to connect with the mysql database.   NOTE: the ports exposed are 9306 for mysql and 8099 for cakephp webserver. You can list them using docker-compose ps.  

4. Access your database and cakephp shell

  • To access the database you can use the command:
mysql --port 9306 -umy_app -psecret my_app   To restore a database dump for example, you can use the command: curl -L https://raw.githubusercontent.com/CakeDC/cakephp4-getting-started-session/master/my_app.sql |mysql --port 9306 -umy_app -psecret my_app   You can also configure any database tool to access the database in: localhost:9306  
  • To access the cakephp environment and shell you can use the command:
docker exec -it --user application cakephp bash   You'll go to the webroot folder, so in order to run the cake shell you'll need to: cd .. bin/cake 
  Now you have a working environment to play with the training session contents.   In this previous article, we covered another approach to setting up a local docker environment: https://www.cakedc.com/rochamarcelo/2020/07/20/a-quick-cakephp-local-environment-with-docker    We hope to see you in our next training session! https://training.cakephp.org   

Updating Model Layer

One reason to migrate from CakePHP 2.x to newer versions, is the very powerful ORM system that was introduced in CakePHP 3.x.  

Improved ORM Objects

The CakePHP model layer in CakePHP 3.x uses the Data Mapper pattern. Model classes in CakePHP 3.x ORM are split into two separate objects. Entity represents a single row in the database and it is responsible for keeping record state. Table class provides access to a collection of database records and describe associations, and provides api to work with a database. One notable change is afterFind callback removal. In CakePHP 3.x, it is possible to use Entity level getters to provide calculated fields on entity level.  

Association Upgrade 

In CakePHP 2.x associations are defined as arrays properties like this:     public $belongsTo = [         'Profile' => [             'className' => 'Profile',             'foreignKey' => 'profile_id',         ]     ];   In CakePHP 3.x and 4.x associations are declared in the initialize method. This gives much more flexibility in association configuration.     public function initialize(): void     {         $this->belongsTo('Profile', [                 'className' => 'Profile',                 'foreignKey' => 'profile_id',         ]);              }   Or using setters syntax, it could be done this way: public function initialize(): void     {         $this->belongsTo('Profile')         ->setForeignKey('profile_id')     }  

Behavior Upgrade

In CakePHP 2.x, behaviors are initialized as arrays properties:     public $actsAs = [         'Sluggable' => [             'label' => 'name',         ],     ];   In CakePHP 3.x and 4.x,  behaviors are configured in the initialize method. This gives much more flexibility in configuration, as in params it's possible to pass anonymous functions.     public function initialize(): void     {         $this->addBehavior('Sluggable', [             'label' => 'name',         ]);              }  

Validation Upgrade

In CakePHP 2.x, behaviors are  initialized as arrays properties:     public $validation = [         'title' => [             'notBlank' => [                 'rule' => ['notBlank'],                 'allowEmpty' => false,                 'required' => true,                 'message' => 'Title is required'             ],         ],     ];   In CakePHP 3.x and 4.x, validation is defined in validationDefault method which builds validation rules.     public function validationDefault(Validator $validator): Validator     {         $validator             ->scalar('title')             ->requirePresence('title', 'create')             ->notEmptyString('title');           return $validator;     }   Additionally, CakePHP introduced the buildRules method, which is where  described foreign keys constraints, uniqueness, or business level rules.     public function buildRules(RulesChecker $rules): RulesChecker     {         $rules->add($rules->existsIn(['user_id'], 'Users'));         $rules->add($rules->isUnique(['username'], __('username should be unique')));                            return $rules;     }  

Finder Methods

In CakePHP 2.x, the custom finder method is called twice - before and after fetching data from the database, which is defined by the $state parameter. Parameter $query contains current query state, and in $results passed data returned from database.     protected function _findIndex($state, $query, $results = array()) {         if ($state == 'before') {             $query['contain'] = ['User'];         } else {             // ...         }     }       In CakePHP 3.x, custom finder method accepts query object and some options passed from client code and returns an updated query. This allows for combining multiple finder methods in the same call, and has better grained finder logic.     public function findIndex(Query $query, array $options): Query     {         return $query->contain(['Users']);     }   The afterFind method could be implemented with the Query::formatResults method, which accepts an anonymous function to map each collection item.

Why Database Compression?

Nowadays people are not concerned about how large their database is in terms of MB. Storage is cheap. Even getting cheap SSD storage is not a big deal.    However, this is true if we are talking about hundreds of MB or even several GB, but sometimes we get into a situation where we have massive amounts of data (i.e Several tables with lots of longtext columns). At this point it becomes a concern because we need to increase the hard disk size, and find ourselves checking to see  if the hard disk is full several times per day or week, etc.   Now, if you have faced a situation like this before, it's time to talk about database compression. Compression is a technique, developed theoretically back in the 1940s but actually implemented in the 1970s. For this post we will focus on MySQL compression, which is performed using the open-source ZLib library. This library implements the LZ77 dictionary-based compression algorithm.   Before going into MySQL compression details, lets name some of the main DBMS and their compression techniques:

  • MySQL: ZLib (LZ77) [1]
  • Oracle: Oracle Advanced Compression (Proprietary)[2]
  • Postgres: PGLZ or LZ4 (if added this option at compilation level) [3]
  • DB2: Fixed-length compression or Huffman in some systems [4]
  So, now that we know this useless information, lets learn how to implement this in MySQL.   Firstly, you need to know that you CAN'T enable compression if:
  • Your table lives into `system` tablespace, or
  • Your tablespace was created with the option `innodb_file_per_table` disabled.
  It is important to test if the compression is the best solution for you.  If you have a table with a lot of small columns, you will probably end up with a larger-size table after "compressing" because of the headers and compression information. Compression is always great when you have longtext columns which can be heavily compressed.   Then, to enable compression for a table, you just need to include the following option when your table is created, or execute it as part of an alter statement: ROW_FORMAT=COMPRESSED These are the basics but you may find more useful information in MySQL manual.   You can also take a look at Percona which implements a Column level compression. This is interesting if you have a table with a lot of small fields and one large column, or if you have to optimize your database as much as possible. [6]   Finally, just say that even that storage is cheaper than ever, the amount of information has increased as well and we are now using and processing an incredible amount of data... so it looks like compression will always be a requirement.   I hope you find this information useful and please let me know if you have any questions or suggestions below in the comments section.

  [1]:https://dev.mysql.com/doc/internals/en/zlib-directory.html  [2]:https://www.oracle.com/technetwork/database/options/compression/advanced-compression-wp-12c-1896128.pdf  [3]:https://www.postgresql.org/docs/devel/runtime-config-client.html  [4]:https://www.ibm.com/docs/en/db2-for-zos/12?topic=performance-compressing-your-data  [6]:https://www.percona.com/doc/percona-server/8.0/flexibility/compressed_columns.html

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