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CakePHP ORM 3.0 Unleashes New, Flexible, and Powerful Functions

 

In line with its overall goal of eliminating redundancy and increasing efficiency, the new ORM has replaced several functions in the earlier versions with newer and significantly improved functions or functionality. Among the functions affected, we will confine ourselves here to three functions, commands, or processes:

1. afterFind or virtual fields

Developers of previous versions will recall how extensively they had to use afterFind callback and virtual fields to generate data properties. In the new CakePHP 3.0, this is no longer necessary and has been removed in favor of virtual properties on entities which are easier and more powerful. For example, using this method, properties can be generated on the fly to user entities with both first and last names by adding an accessor for full_name. Here is a code example.

By defining accessors you can provide access to fields/properties that do not actually exist. For example if your users table has first_name and last_name you could create a method for the full name:

namespace App\Model\Entity;

use Cake\ORM\Entity;

class User extends Entity
{

    protected function _getFullName()
    {
        return $this->_properties['first_name'] . '  ' .
            $this->_properties['last_name'];
    }

}

You can access virtual fields as if they existed on the entity. The property name will be the lower case and underscored version of the method:

echo $user->full_name;

Do bear in mind that virtual fields cannot be used in finds.

Once a code segment similar to the above has been defined, the new property can be accessed easily using $user->full_name. Moreover, you can build aggregated data sets from your results. Note also that though virtual fields no longer constitute an explicit feature of ORM, you will still be able to achieve the same result using query builder and expression objects which are more powerful and flexible. Here is a code example that will make this clear.

2. Definition of Associations

Another extremely important feature introduced in CakePHP 3.0 is the use of methods to create associations. Instead of defining associations using properties like $belongsTo and $hasMany, this significant attribute uses methods that bypass the many inherent limitations of class definitions by allowing only one way of defining associations. Furthermore, the same API handles the “initialize” method and all other parts of your application code when manipulating associations. This is much more efficient and significantly improves productivity. Here is a code snippet to illustrate this.

class ArticlesTable extends Table
{

   public function initialize(array $config)
   {
       $this->belongsTo('Authors');

       $this->hasMany('Comments', [
           'className' => 'Comments',
           'conditions' => ['approved' => true]
       ]);

       $this->hasMany('UnapprovedComments', [
           'className' => 'Comments',
           'conditions' => ['approved' => false],
           'propertyName' => 'unapproved_comments'
       ]);
   }
}

Beside the use of methods to create associations as shown in the example above, the awkward name hasAndBelongsToMany has been renamed to belongsToMany.

As if the above enhancements were not enough, CakePHP 3.0 has equipped developers with the ability to create custom association classes which will be a welcome relief as a safety valve for situations where the built-in relation types do not meet specific requirements. For more details on creating associations, please consult our section: Associations – Linking Tables together.

3. Validation Rules

Validation plays a crucial role in all software development efforts but if they are to contribute to the overall productivity of the development cycle, the way they are defined and used must be straightforward and easy. When it comes to validation rules, CakePHP 3.0 team introduced an elegant solution to many problems with earlier versions through the use of Validator object to generate validation rules. With this feature, defining multiple sets of rules has become a breeze! Here is an example:

 

class UsersTable extends Table
{

    public function validationPasswordConfirm(Validator $validator)
    {
        $validator
            ->requirePresence('password_confirm', 'create')
            ->notEmpty('password_confirm');

        $validator->add('password', 'custom', [
            'rule' => function ($value, $context) {
                $confirm = Hash::get($context, 'data.password_confirm');
                if (!is_null($confirm) && $value != $confirm) {
                    return false;
                }
                return true;
            },
            'message' => __d('Users', 'Your password does not match your confirm password. Please try again'),
            'on' => ['create', 'update'],
            'allowEmpty' => false
        ]);

        return $validator;
    }

}

In Patch entity validationPasswordConfirm will be applied if is passed in ‘validate’ param.

 

 $user = $this->Users->patchEntity($user, $this->request->data(), ['validate' => 'passwordConfirm']);

What is noteworthy about the above code segment is the ability to define as many validation methods as needed. Notice how each method should be prefixed with validation and should be structured to accept a $validator argument.

Latest articles

Remote Work, Actually Works!

As a fully remote company, the Cake Development Corporation team is used to working from home. We communicate with our team daily, keep on top of tasks, hold each other accountable and support one another. Heck, a lot of us even do it with kids in the household, too! I consider us extremely lucky to be able to work while juggling an at home life at the same time.  It has worked for CakeDC over the past decade, and in my opinion, can work for most companies.   As of last month, an estimated 4.7 million people were working remotely, which grew 44% over the last 5 years. This is just in the United States. Remote work is becoming the norm.  Obviously for the next few weeks, this number will be drastically increased, but perhaps this will educate companies on the advantages of a WFH culture. Advantages to employers, besides the operations cost (other than payroll, of course), which can decrease by close to 90%, includes increased productivity. Decreased overhead results in higher salaries, which results in more quality candidates and employees.  I understand the concern of the ability to micro-manage (UGH) being unavailable, but according to statistics, 85% of businesses that work remotely confirmed that productivity increased in their companies. When there is more flexibility, there will be higher employee morale.  With the current situation arising from COVID-19, a lot of businesses are forced to transition employees to WFH in order to stay afloat. This not only keeps employees and clients safe, but family members too.  I have put together some stats and resources that may help CEO’s and employees transition a little bit easier.  

Communication:

It is absolutely essential to keep open communication among a team when everyone is working remotely. Our team uses RocketChat* ( I will include some links in the resource section at the end of this blog), and it has proved to be effective. A chat allows for quicker response time, as well as allowing individuals to set their status (like busy, away, at lunch, sick, etc.). This is a good way to get quick answers, as users can be alerted when they have been messaged or tagged in a company chat. Most of our team work in different timezones, so this is a good way to “stay in the know” about everything happening day to day. We separate chats according to their department. For example: marketing, development, general, etc. We also have the option to private message with co-workers when needed.  Other ideas, if not daily chat interaction, include scheduled meetings. For most of our team meetings, we use Zoom. This tool allows for audio only, as well as video chats.  

Accountability & Time Management:

It is important that tasks are managed and followed through. We use programs like Redmine* to track hours and work, in addition to weekly, or monthly conference calls for each department.  If you or your team are new to remote work, it may be in your best interest to assign a project manager, someone who will assign work, track hours, and ensure that work needed is being completed in a timely manner. Without each person being held accountable, the ship will sink, fast. For personal accountability, there are many free apps and tools available. One example is Trello*. This is a scheduling board so that tasks are not forgotten and you can plan your work week and stay organized. Once tasks placed on your “schedule board” are completed, you can make note of it and stay focused on each one according to their priority. You can also keep track of documents and reports. The boards look like this:    

Resources:

Documents & Recording - We <3 Google Docs - we are able to share and edit internally, we couldn’t function without it.  Docusign is a good tool for contracts / documents needing signatures Invision Freehand - this is a tool where you can create presentations, and allows comments and feedback between designers. Good for freelance designers!    Organization/Tasks -  Trello - for individual time management scheduling.  Redmine - for project assigning, time recording, HR management,    Communication -  RocketChat - allows for multiple internal chats all rolled into one link (allows for individual logins) Zoom - good for meetings. Allows audio and video chats for teams or reps and clients.  Slack - also a great option for expanded chats. Each person has a “screen name” and can be personally messaged, or public groups can be created (we use this as well). Slack also allows video calls with their paid subscription.  Google Hangouts WhatsApp - if your team is diverse, like ours, WhatsApp is a must. We are able to text each other, regardless of location - no fees, no service problems (if you have wifi of course).  World Time Buddy - this is a tool that I am not familiar with, but being the designated “scheduler of meetings”, I think I would find it useful. If your team works within different timezones, this allows you to add the location of your teammates, compare times, and find ideal times for meetings.    Community - In the development world, community support sites are absolutely one of the most important tools. This allows for individuals - inside or outside of your company - to communicate and help each other out. Most developers are aware and utilize these, but if not, may I suggest: Discourse - chat support  GitHub - our favorite team collaboration tool. GitHub allows for hosting, editing and managing products. We use it for building software and allow for community interaction. It also integrates with a lot of other tools, which is a plus!  

Take Away:

These resources are just a drop in the bucket compared to what is available to remote workers. I think this is a reflection of how WFH is becoming more accepted and more normal in the corporate world. I’d love to hear some of your favorites: amanda.goff@cakedc.com.  Let’s take away some positivity to the current quarantined times, and encourage more companies to follow suit. In today’s world, flexibility goes a long way and this type of transition can be mutually beneficial for employers and employees. I mean look at us, we are PRETTY normal… right?  Speaking of being in quarantine - stay healthy, stay inside, and wash your hands!  

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Two Factor Authentication & CakeDC Users Plugin

Why 2FA?

Nowadays we have noticed that many of the websites or applications that we access offer the option to activate an extra layer of security called Two Factor Authentication, better known as 2FA. Most of our lives happen on our mobile devices and laptops, so it’s not a secret that cyber-thieves would like to gain access to our personal and financial data. This is why adding an extra layer for protecting logins is worth it.  2FA  is an extra layer of security to make sure that someone that is trying to gain access to an account is who they say they are. The first layer is generally a combination of a username and password, and the second layer could ask for a code that is sent to your phone, a fingerprint scan or the name of your best friend. Currently 2FA has become a security standard in the digital world.

How does it work?

First the user will enter his username and password, then instead of getting in immediately into the system, he will be required to provide  additional information. Which could be one of the following options or factors:
  • Something you know : This could be a password, a personal identification number (PIN), answers to a secret question or a specific keystroke pattern.
  • Something you have: This is something the user owns, a physical device, like a mobile phone, an id card, an usb stick, a token, etc.
  • Something you are: This could be face or voice recognition, retina scan,  fingerprint, DNA, handwriting.

CakeDC Users Plugin and 2FA

There are various ways to implement Time-based One-Time Password (TOTP), Short Message Service (SMS), Electronic Mail (Email),  Universal Second Factor (U2F). CakeDC Users Plugin provides the ability to enable in your site TOTP or U2F. 
 

TOTP Google Authenticator

Enabling 2FA Google Authenticator in CakeDC Users Plugin is quite easy, it just takes a few minutes. In case you have not installed CakeDC Users Plugin in your application, follow the installation steps described here. Once you have installed the plugin and your basic login is working, you just need to do the following:
  1. Run the next command: composer require robthree/twofactorauth
  2. In Application::pluginBootstrap() add the following: Configure::write('OneTimePasswordAuthenticator.login', true);
  Once you have 2FA enabled in your site, when you try to login will happen next 
  1. Type your username and password.   
  2. You proceed to the next step where you are asked for the authentication code
    • First time you will be shown a QR code that you need to scan from your authenticator application.   
    • Next time you will only get the input to type your authentication code  
  3. You open the authenticator application to get a secondary code called a one-time password (OTP)—usually six characters in length. There are many options in the market for the authenticator application, some of the most used are: Google Authenticator, Duo Mobile, FreeOTP etc.
  4. You type the 6-digit code into the website, and you’re in!
 

FIDO U2F

If you want something more solid and reliable, then you could use U2F (Universal 2nd Factor) standard created by the FIDO Alliance. With this kind of authentication you use a physical security key, and insert that into your PC, touch the key’s button, and you’re “automatically” logged in.  U2F standard was implemented in CakeDC Users Plugin by using  the YubiKey, the most famous and common example of U2F. To enable 2FA via Yubico follow the next steps:
  1. Run the next command: composer require yubico/u2flib-server:^1.0
  2. In Application::pluginBootstrap() add the following: Configure::write(‘U2f.enabled’, true);
     
Yubico is a hardware based 2FA, it’s a small device with one end that slots into a standard Type-A USB port. You just need to Insert your YubiKey and touch it! You won’t need to manually enter the code. Take into account that you will need to use https to be able to use 2FA features in your applicatins.

So, what to choose for two-factor authentication? There is no universal answer, it will depend on the level of security you are expecting, but start protecting your account by enabling 2FA! In this article you could noticed how easy is to enable 2FA in any CakePHP application by using CakeDC Users Plugin.
  References: https://github.com/CakeDC/users https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multi-factor_authentication https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/One-time_password https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FIDO_Alliance https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universal_2nd_Factor  

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