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Ed Finkler - Founder, Open Sourcing Mental Illness

Do you know who Ed Finkler is or what OSMI does? If you are in the developer community, then it definitely is a name you should get to know.

Open Sourcing Mental Illness is a non-profit organization  dedicated to raising awareness, educating, and providing resources to support mental wellness in the tech and open source communities.

CakeDC and CakePHP has long supported and stood behind OSMI - Ed Finkler has been instrumental in making mental health a topic of discussion, and opening up lines of support for mental wellness in tech. Mental health and wellness are close to our hearts and we want to share with you OSMI and why you should support it.

Ed has been active in bringing forward a previously rarely discussed topic - mental health. Being an advocate of mental health awareness and using his own experiences as a developer, he has recently announced that he is now able to go full time into OSMI. This is really fantastic news and CakeDC stands 100% behind him. We caught us with him to find out more.

We love that you are now putting all your time into OSMI - but what was the Catalyst for your decision to focus full time into OSMI?
What we found is that we simply had to much to do, and not enough time to do it. Everyone at OSMI are volunteers, and it was becoming increasingly challenging to find the bandwidth for anyone to complete major tasks. We are ambitious, and our ambition far exceeded the time available. I couldn’t ask it of anyone else, but I could make a decision myself -- that I would step away from my CTO role at a tech startup and dedicate myself to OSMI full-time.
What is your favorite thing to do out of ‘office’ hours (Hobbies/activities etc)?
Generally I find myself watching movies or good TV shows, or playing video games (I’m deep in Mass Effect: Andromeda right now). I also write electronic music, which you can hear at
Do you think that companies are becoming more receptive to your message and becoming more open about speaking about mental health?
Yes, I think so. Companies in general are gradually becoming more aware of the need to discuss mental health openly, the same way we discuss other serious public health issues, like cancer and heart disease. But there’s a long, long way to go, and we are just taking our first steps as an industry to deal with this in a healthy way.
Have you seen a marked difference in people opening up about their personal experiences?
I definitely have observed, over and over, that when someone takes that first step forward, others follow. Fear is the thing that keeps mental illness hidden, and fear is why so many suffer in silence. Seeing someone speak without fear about their own issues empowers the listener. They may not need to stand up on stage like I do, but I’ve had numerous people tell me that hearing someone speak openly was what allowed them to seek help and/or start speaking openly about the subject.
What would you say is the biggest misconception that you have encountered when speaking about and sharing your personal experiences?
I think the biggest misconception I encounter is companies believing that by simply offering some level of mental health care in medical coverage, they’ve done all they can. That would be fine if we treated mental disorders like we do cancer or heart disease or diabetes, but we don’t -- we are afraid to discuss it, and as a consequence, we don’t know what to look for, why it matters, and how to seek help. In the absence of consistent, positive affirmation that it’s a safe topic, our default is to be afraid to discuss it. That keeps people from seeking the help they need.
Biggest piece of advice that you would give someone battling with mental health issues
You are not alone. Lots of people are like you. There is no shame in what you deal with. You are stronger than you know.
You recently spoke about mental health breaks on the OSMI blog, how would someone know they are in need of one and how would you suggest for employees to bring this topic up with their employers?
I am leery of giving specific health advice, but in general I’d say this: listen to your mind and your body, and remember that your own health is far, far more important than any job. Plus, if you’re healthy, you’ll be able to do your job much better.
In the last 5 years, you have achieved incredible breakthroughs and achievements in bringing this to the fore - where do you see OSMI and mental illness awareness in the next 5 years?
Ultimately, those two things are intertwined. OSMI will continue to grow because so many of us suffer from this, and more and more of us are realizing that we aren’t alone. That we aren’t broken. That we aren’t without hope. OSMI is about giving hope to those that felt they had none. Giving compassion to those who are hardest on themselves.
It’s my sincere hope that OSMI will drive the awareness of mental health in the tech workplace and change what we choose to value in employers and employees. However we get there, I believe we will succeed.

As someone suffering and wanting to find out more or be involved, how do we reach out, what should we expect and where should we go?
There are lots of ways to help OSMI, and all you really need is a willingness to spend some of your time working with us. You should visit and learn more about our work, and then email to talk to us about volunteering.
As a business with employees in the tech industry, what should we do to make mental health more accessible
For each employer there’s a different answer, but there are some general things to keep in mind. The biggest one is that the well-being of your employees must be a top priority. It’s an easy thing to say, but if you truly value it, you’ll avoid doing what so many organizations do: rewarding overwork and unhealthy “loyalty.” Ping pong tables and bean bag chairs don’t make people healthier, and neither do free snacks and beer at the office. They’re short-term tricks to get people to come to you and maybe stay in the office longer, but they don’t encourage a healthy work/life balance. Too many developers think their work IS their life. That’s a mistake.
Long term, what works are reasonable work hours, easy access to mental and physical health care, and promoting healthy preventative habits. Employees who feel that their well-being is demonstrably valued will be more productive and stay with your organization longer.
I also strongly encourage everyone in a leadership position to take Mental Health First Aid <>, a program that teaches the skills to respond to the signs of mental illness and substance use.
Quote to live by or key advice to follow every day
One time I was encouraged to do a six-word memoir, and this is what I came up with:
“By helping others, I save myself.”

Thanks to Ed! We absolutely loved catching up with him about OSMI, we hope that you take a moment to check out the links and find out more to get involved and continue this important conversation!

For more information, be sure to check out


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A CakePHP Docker Development Environment

We sponsor a monthly CakePHP training session (register here ) 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: 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 |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:    We hope to see you in our next training session!   

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]:  [2]:  [3]:  [4]:  [6]:

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