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CakePHP Migrations plugin: easily version and deploy whole applications

This article is a quick introduction to the Migrations plugin, open sourced a few weeks ago by our company. You will see how simple it is to use the plugin and what you could do with it. I hope this article will show you the benefits of using migrations in your CakePHP applications and make you give it a try right after the reading!

Here is a one-sentence description of the plugin: the Migrations plugin allows developers to easily version and automate the creation / update process of any database schema and application data from the command line.

For information, CakeDC uses this plugin on its project since several years to make team collaboration and deployment easier. The plugin has been entirely rewritten a few months ago and fully tested (code coverage >95% as always at CakeDC) before being open sourced under the MIT license. It is now available to the community along with its documentation... and it is free!

Why is it useful?

It has been a while since companies integrated Source Code Management in their development process and CVS, SVN, Mercurial or Git are now common tools. Inspired from the open source movement it is also a good practice for single developers to version application source code.

As you might know, an application almost always depends of the database schema it is aimed to use... however it is not easy to version both the source code and database schema with a SCM. Let's take the example of a CakePHP application: until now the only way to do was to version a single file, either a sql dump or a CakePHP schema.php file generated with the cake schema shell. These two approaches are not very convenient to use on a daily basis, the first one forcing the developer to drop and recreate the whole database every time!

Moreover, a web application development is never really finished (there are always new features to add, software updates or bug fixing to do...) and deploying these change on a test or production server is always a delicate task.

Here comes the Migrations plugin! It provides a simple and easy way to version a database... and to perform many other different tasks thanks to its callback system. Here are some features:

  • keep a local database schema up-to-date: you just have to run all non applied migrations to update the local database schema to the latest version
  • make team work easier: when several developers work on the same application it is important that all of them work with the same database schema during all the development cycle. With migrations every commit is tied to the database schema at this precise instant, which makes easy switching branches and resetting a branch to a specific commit.
  • make installation and updates easier: ready to push the new version of your application live? You will only have to push the sources on the server and run all non applied migrations!
  • migrate more than database schema: the callback system allows you to do everything you want before (or after) applying (or reverting) each migration. Here are some examples: creating an initial admin account, add initial or test data to the application (lorem ipsums, categories, content...), update values from the database, send an email if debug > 0... The only limit may be your imagination ;)

Where can I find the code?

Announced a few weeks ago, a packaged version of the plugin can be downloaded from the "Plugins" section of CakeDC.com. This page contains a link to download the 1.0 version, the plugin documentation and the Github project for tickets and direct Git access to the repository.

To make people aware of the need to show their support to the Cake Software Fundation by donating a few bucks (this is unfortunately not done enough), the plugin was first available to donors only. The "Download without donation" button was added later, when the repository was made public! However, if you find this plugin useful please consider making a donation to the CSF... that is the best thing you could do for thanking us.

Click here to lend your support to: cakephp1x and make a donation at www.pledgie.com !

Even better! A sample application was also released for those who want to see how migrations could be used and integrated in an application. To play with it, Download the code or git clone the project using:

git clone git://codaset.com/cakedc/sample-migrations-application.git sample_migrations

You will only need to create a database.php configuration file and update CakePHP's core location to make the application work. Git users, run

git submodule init
git submodule update

to automatically add the migrations plugin as a submodule!

What do I need to use it in my application?

Note: the packaged plugin is for the CakePHP 1.3 version only. You can either download the 1.3-beta package of the framework, or use the 1.2 branch available in the Git repository.

Adding the plugin to an existing application is very simple. If you downloaded the archive containing the plugin code, unzip it in the "/plugins/migrations" folder of your application. Git users can add it as a submodule with the following command:

git submodule add git://codaset.com/cakedc/migrations.git plugins/migrations

To check that it is installed correctly, execute the following command from your application root (it will display the available command to use the plugin):

cake migration help

If you encounter any problem here, please read the official documentation about CakePHP's console usage.

How does it work?

This post is not aimed at providing a comprehensive tutorial on how to use the plugin, thus I will just introduce the most useful commands along with some use cases.

For a complete documentation, please read the official documentation provided on the plugin page. For a simple (but useful for understanding purpose) use case you can take a look at the sample application introduced above. Going through the commit history will allow you to understand how migrations could be used in a development process.

Create a migration

To generate a new migration, type the following command

cake migration generate

The tool will ask you to give a name to the migration and suggest to do a dump of the current database schema. If a "schema.php" file is found in the application, it will ask you if you want to generate a diff between this schema and your current database one.

Generated migration files will be added to the "/config/migrations" application directory.

Apply / Revert migrations

When you pull an application containing migrations, several commands are available to apply or revert migrations. The simplest one is:

cake migration

It will display all the found migrations along with their status (applied or not applied) and id number. Just enter a migration number to update your database to the correct version. Some convenience commands are also available. You can use:

cake migration up, down, all or reset

These commands will respectively:

  • apply the next migration
  • revert the latest applied migration
  • apply all non applied migrations (and thus update the schema to the most recent version)
  • revert all applied migrations (and empty the database)

Migrations for plugins

Adding plugins to an existing application often implies adding new tables to the database or altering existing ones. The Migrations plugin brings a quick and efficient way to automate this installation. On the one hand developers can easily add necessary migrations to their plugin (making upgrades easier), on the other hand users can apply them as easily.

The only difference compared with commands introduced above is the parameter "-plugin pluginname" that needs to be added. Here is how the user will install the database for the newly added / updated plugin "test":

cake migration run all -plugin test

I would like to highlight the fact that callbacks allow the developer to do everything they want before / after each migration. It is convenient for adding initial data, and one can even implement a callback method opening the bootstrap.php file to append plugin's configuration entries there (it is just an example ;)).

... going further

Of course, feel free to add any remark or example of migrations use in the comments.

As this post is not aimed at providing support for the plugin, I recommend you to use the official tools available:

  • If you found a bug or want to suggest enhancements: open a ticket!
  • An installation problem or a question about the plugin usage? Ask your question to the community!
  • You would like a custom version of this plugin, or professional related services... contact us, it is our job ;)

I hope you enjoyed this post, it is now time for you to start playing with the Migrations plugin...

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CakePHP Query Builder

CakePHP’s  database Query Builder provides a simple to use fluent interface for creating and operating database queries. It can be used to accomplish most database operations in your application, and works on all supported database systems.
Query builders allow us to create database queries that work with any supported database, without having to worry about differences between SQL implementations in the different database systems.


The CakePHP query builder uses PDO parameter binding to protect your application against SQL injection attacks. There is no need to clean strings being passed as bindings.
For creating a Query object in CakePHP, the easiest way is using find() from a Table object. In CakePHP, queries are lazily evaluated,  which means that they are not evaluated until any of the following actions happens: the query is iterated through a foreach, it’s called first(), all(), toList(), toArray(). 
You can check all the SQL queries that CakePHP is generating, you just need to enable the Database Logging. See here:  https://book.cakephp.org/4/en/orm/database-basics.html#query-logging
Let’s do a few samples using the Query Builder - this is the ER diagram of the database that we will be using for the queries. We have Orders, ProductsUsers and Items that will store the products sold in each order and the quantity sold. Let’s create some queries using the Query Builder SQL Functions: https://book.cakephp.org/4/en/orm/query-builder.html#using-sql-functions. SQL Functions as part of the Query Builder are abstractions of  some commonly used SQL functions,  and they allow the ORM to choose the specific implementation your application needs based on the Database that is being used. For example, CONCAT is implemented in a different way in MySQL and Postgres, using concat() function will work if you use MySQL or Postgres   Imagine we want to build a report of the products sold, including the following:

  1. Display the product in the following format “Products.name - Products.description”.
  2. Total of products sold.
  3. Total of products in stock..
  4. Total amount on sold products.
First, we need to build the Query object using find(), this needs to be done from the Table. $query = Table->find();. We want to get a report of the products sold and the current stock. Initially, we would need to build a subquery using ItemsTable where the information related to the products sold is present.  Don’t forget to use identifier() when referencing any column. This will tell us  the items sold per product. 

$itemsQuery = $this->Items->find() ->where(['Items.product_id' => $query->identifier('Products.id')]);

Now, let’s build each query needed for the information required:
  1. Let’s start displaying the  product in the following format: “Products.name - Products.description”. Using concat() we could get it: $query->select([             'display_name' => $query->func()->concat([                 $query->identifier('Products.name'), ' - ',  $query->identifier('Products.description')]),         ]);
  2. Total of products sold. Using sum() we could get it, we just need to sum Items.quantity per each product,  this  is why we use $itemsQuery and then we sum the quantity per each product. $query->select([
      'quantity_sold' => $itemsQuery->select(['sum' => $itemsQuery->func()->sum($query->identifier('Items.quantity'))]),
    ]);
     
  3. To get the income, we need to multiply the Quantity of items  *  Price  and sum all of them.    $query->select([
              'income' => $itemsQuery->select(['sum' => $itemsQuery->func()->sum($query->newExpr('Items.quantity * Items.unit_price'))
                ])]);
     
  4. Stock. to get the stock we need to take advantage of the quantity_sold we just got in #2, and subtract it from the real quantity Products.quantity. For getting this, we would need to create a subquery in the FROM clause using the previous queries, and then subtract in the target query something like quantity - quantity_sold. $products = $query->cleanCopy()->select([
                'id' => 'ProductDetails.id',
                'price' => 'ProductDetails.price',
                'quantity' => 'ProductDetails.quantity',
                'display_name' => 'ProductDetails.displaye_name',
                'quantity_sold' => 'ProductDetails.quantity_sold',
                'income' => 'ProductDetails.income',
                'stock' => $query->newExpr('ProductDetails.quantity - ProductDetails.quantity_sold'),
            ])->from([
              'ProductDetails' => $query->cleanCopy()->select([
                    'id' => 'Products.id',
                    'price' => 'Products.price',
                    'quantity' => 'Products.quantity',
                    'display_name' => $query->func()->concat([$query->identifier('Products.name'), ' -  ', $query->identifier('Products.description')]),
                  'quantity_sold' => $itemsQuery->select(['sum' => $itemsQuery->func()->sum($query->identifier('Items.quantity'))]),
                  'income' => $itemsQuery->cleanCopy()->select(['sum' => $itemsQuery->func()->sum($query->newExpr('Items.quantity * Items.unit_price'))]),           ])
        ]);
     
Notice that we are using cleanCopy(), this is useful when the same Query object is affected previously by a select(), from() or where clauses, if you run this same example without using cleanCopy() you will get unexpected results.  The SQL query generated is this: SELECT ProductDetails.id AS id, ProductDetails.price AS price, ProductDetails.quantity AS quantity, ProductDetails.display_name AS display_name, ProductDetails.quantity_sold AS quantity_sold, ProductDetails.income AS income, (ProductDetails.quantity - ProductDetails.quantity_sold) AS stock FROM (SELECT Products.id AS id, Products.price AS price, Products.quantity AS quantity, (CONCAT(Products.name, :param0, Products.description)) AS display_name, (SELECT (SUM(Items.quantity)) AS SUM FROM items Items WHERE Items.product_id = (Products.id)) AS quantity_sold, (SELECT (SUM(Items.quantity * Items.unit_price)) AS SUM FROM items Items WHERE Items.product_id = (Products.id)) AS income FROM products Products) ProductDetails
CakePHP QueryBuilder gives a ton of possibilities to create queries with clean and robust code. So go play with it and enjoy!  

Are you ready for PHP 8?

In just two days we will get a new PHP release, PHP 8. It’s been almost  5 years since PHP 7 was born and now we are about to enjoy the new major version, which will include some breaking changes and performance improvements.   It comes with a lot of new features, including:  

  • PHP JIT
  • Union types
  • Named arguments
  • Attributes
  • Match expression
  • Constructor property promotion
  • New static return type
  • New mixed type
  • Throw expression
  • Inheritance with private methods
  • Weak maps
  • Allowing ::class on objects
  • Non-capturing catches
  • Trailing comma in parameter lists
  • Create DateTime objects from interface
  • New str_contains() function
  • New str_starts_with() and str_ends_with() functions
  • New fdiv() function
  • New get_debug_type() function
  • New get_resource_id() function
  • Abstract methods in traits improvements
  • Object implementation of token_get_all() 
  • Variable syntax tweaks
  • Type annotations for internal functions externals
  • ext-json always available
  We will explain some of these features in future posts.   Remember that PHP 7.4 active support will remain until November 2021, with security fixes until November 2022. PHP 7.3 active support is almost over and the team will provide security fixes for 1 more year. Finally, PHP 7.2 is already out of active support, and almost out of security fixes (in 5 days). If you want to check PHP versions and support you can go HERE.   So, Are you ready for PHP 8?  

The Making of a Marketing Plan

Listen, although 2020 felt like it lasted 25 years, it’s still hard to believe that we are wrapping up this roller coaster of 12 months.  As companies prepare for 2021, crossing their fingers and wishing for a better Q1… it is important to start thinking about marketing strategies and plans for the next year. Without ideas and a solid goal for your company, it is very unlikely that things will change.   Reasons that making a marketing plan is important:  1. It organizes your goals and provides clear plans of actions to achieve them  2. It keeps everyone on track and on the same page  3. Promotes motivation and accountability
  I know making a marketing plan can sound time consuming, and a little complex, but it doesn’t have to be! I am going to walk you through the steps of making clear cut goals and plans for 2021 (with some actual examples!).  

1. Brainstorming

Our team is great at making notes of things that need attention, whether it's good or bad. We keep open lines of communication on things that are going well, or may need some extra work. It is important for everything to bring their ideas together, no matter how big or small.  I suggest keeping a notepad with things / ideas you have for your team moving forward, and organize them in a way to present to your marketing team.  

2. Team meeting

Now it is time for a group session to compare ideas, talk about what should be the priorities and get approval on anything needed. These meetings are super beneficial, because it is always refreshing to see if your team’s ideas mimic yours, or perhaps they even have some additional great ideas.   

3. Start building your plan

There are ample amounts of templates and checklists that you can find online to ensure that you’re including important information on your strategy plan. Some of the things I recommend including are:
Of course your main table of contents - easy to view for your team     Company mission - WHO ARE YOU?  
  Product Overview - what are you offering your clients?     Goals / Challenges - we all have them, don’t be shy  

Target market - Who are you working for?       Expansion Plan - how will you make it to the next level?   Upcoming Actions - Making a clear timeline for the next year. It is important to make the timeline obtainable... in other words, don’t make goals that are impossible to meet.   Other important topics include additional small actions, goal timeline, campaign calendars, advertising outlets, social media platforms (and the importance, utilization for each one).  

So making a powerpoint or pdf presentation for your team will allow all of the ideas and goals  to come together and be available in one place. I am a big checklist type of person, so in addition to my marketing plan, I always create a document.   

4. Create a spreadsheet

A spreadsheet doesn't have to be fancy, but it holds the team accountable, and we are able to make notes so that we can track the status of certain actions. This also helps me stay on track, and know what actions need to be executed next.    Something like this for internal works just fine:  
 

5. Budget & Execution 

It is extremely important that your team supports the marketing efforts. It is also important to know what your marketing budget will allow. Will you have additional funds for new goals? Will you need to reduce funds on other outlets to allow for new ideas? These are things that will need to be discussed with your financial department.   This is a good reason to create a marketing metrics / budget spreadsheet to track these items. I will share my examples on this in a future blog.    So, once your team is on the same page, and they have clear goals…. IT’S GO TIME. Start working on your plan of actions and preparing to let them fly. For us, some of our goals will take some prep work, so we are gearing up in Q4. 
  Hopefully, you have helpful ideas that you implement on your marketing plan… maybe it’s something I haven’t thought of (i’d love to hear yours! Email me - amanda.goff@cakedc.com). Either way, I wish everyone good luck on their strategies, and may all of your goals come true in 2021. If you’d like more insight on any of the ideas I have included, feel free to reach out, I’d be happy to chat!   

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