Wednesday, May 28, 2008

NetBeans 6.1 EA for PHP

Nice work by the people at Sun - there really is a NetBeans specifically for PHP. While I complained about missing support for a PHP plugin in 6.1 that was there in 6.0, one of my blog readers alerted me to this early availability release. Though, if you are used to NetBeans coming loaded with application/web servers, this version doesn't. But you can always install WAMP, which will provide the database, web services, and PHP engine for you.

To get NetBeans working with WAMP, the steps couldn't be easier:
  1. Create a new project in NB.

  2. Set where files should be copied to when you run the project.

  3. Make sure the Copy To Folder path points a web-accessible directory in WAMP, usually the www directory. So when you "run the project" in NB, files will be copied directly into the web server.
  4. Start the WAMP stack, and run the project. Should be accessible at http://localhost/TestApp (your substitues).
That's all there is. I like that NetBeans maintains the simplicity of developing PHP in this IDE. It's lightweight and poised to become a great development environment for all PHP scripting. I honestly had some trouble finding a [free] IDE for PHP development - that I liked, no strings attached.


Thursday, May 22, 2008

NetBeans Pulls PHP Plugin

In April, I mentioned that you could develop PHP in NetBeans 6.1. But at this writing, the plugin required has been quietly removed from NetBeans update/plugin centers. The search I describe in the article will only yield a jMaki plugin. This is disappoining because PHP developers would have liked using the scripting plugin for its pure orientation to PHP than jMaki that's a Java-oriented feature.
The plugin is not available for 6.1, but may be found for 6.0. Here's one reason to keep an older IDE around!

Monday, May 19, 2008

"War Dance" Of Ugandan Children

I spoke at an elementary school last week, and one of the topics that interested the kids most was what kind of life kids their age have in Africa. Somehow the discussion came around to the plight of tens of thousands of kids in northern Uganda that have lost their innocence at such tender ages. It's hard to imagine any tough situation until you experience it somehow.

In northern Uganda, a war has raged for a couple of decades. It started along tribal lines, but has since escalated into a rebel movement that has rendered the region unstable. Somehow the Ugandan government has not been able to completely weed them out - hard as they have tried. Whenever government solders are present, the region is quiet. With a limited military budget as most developing countries have, it's not feasible to keep soldiers deployed. So rebels have learned to only act when the military are withdrawn. Adding salt to injury, this particular rebel group has sanctuary and supply bases in southern Sudan, out of reach of Ugandan military. If you know what's going on in Darfur, you might understand why Khartoum hasn't been willing to help squash the uprising.

In this war, villagers are rounded up, kids abducted and introduced into rebel ranks, human trafficking, and other crimes against humanity. The strangest thing is that rebels are by and large attacking their own people - one of the reasons it's remained focused in the north. The story of ceasefires and reconciliation and amnesty and peace talks is as untrustworthy as a morning sunset.

But out of the misery comes a small film called "War Dance" (review) that chronicles the lives of 3 youngsters. The feature does a good job shedding some light on the personal lives of people affected by the conflict, hardly anything glamorous. You might see the scars of conflict all over their faces, but notice glimmers of hope in their human spirit. I like how music is the last thing about a populace to die when everything else crumbles; in it, the kids are hopeful. It's what kept the people's spirit aflame in South Africa during the days of apartheid, for example, or that energized slaves on cotton farms in the south. There's something about music that breeds resiliency - and you will see it in this film, along with deeply authentic moments of experience our comfortable lives in America can't afford us.
[It is produced by Shine Global. (If you have Netflix, it is available for viewing online already). Production note: some scenes are staged, so if you are a purist for documentaries, relax the rules. But it's nicely done] ...

Finally, you might have heard about efforts by organizations such as Invisible Children and World Vision - their hard work in the region to tend to the plight of these young children, most of whom have known life only as orphans, refugees, or child soldiers. Please support them much as you can - they are doing a great job in the region, helping restore a sense of nomalcy. In all my travels, the Acholi land of northern Uganda has been one my most desolate destinations - quite depressing and hopeless. I have no idea how life flourishes in such a place - with rumors of war and abduction plaguing villages. It's a desperate situation. It would be a shame for the world to ignore the situation any longer.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Into Linux: Installation

As I explore migrating all my systems to Linux, I've decided to use 3 choices for my evaluation: Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5, Ubuntu 8.04 Server, and OpenSUSE 10.3. I'll be scoring them as I go along, and will ultimately stick with one that scores highest in my experience. My setup will be a system with 3 hard drives. The intent is to install all 3 OSes on this system, multi-booted.

Download experience: If you hope to just download RedHat's Linux from their site, you'll be frustrated to learn you need a subscription to get a basic ISO image. You'll also be tossed back and forth from the Fedora site to their JBoss stack site. This nudging is annoying - for an OS I believe is basically free. It's much more straightforward with Ubuntu and OpenSUSE - download links give you what you need. [RH=0, S=1, U=1].

Install media: RHEL5 comes on 6 CDs, although you may need only 2 or 3 for a basic install, depending on options selected. Ubuntu is 1 CD as is SUSE. The less the media needed for a reasonable install, the better. [RH=0, S=1, U=1].

Install experience: I felt a bit skeptical working with Ubuntu - it reminded me of text mode installs on Windows NT 3.11. It does a good job detecting hardware though and installs faster than the other 2. RedHat takes the longest - up to 40 minutes. I felt most confident about SUSE and had an install in 25 minutes. Another dimmer for Ubuntu - it failed to detect an existing RHEL5 install and configure GRUB appropriately. When I pulled the drive with RHEL5, Ubuntu failed to boot. It's rescue mode saved the day nevertheless, but it scores low for this small issue. I even managed to get the famous "Error 22" after installing Ubuntu. Smoothest and most intelligent install is SUSE, although I also liked how easy and straight-forward the RedHat install went. [RH=1, S=1, U=0].

At this point, OpenSUSE is looking very likeable. Ubuntu follows a close second, after which RHEL5 is just painful. I'm scratching the setup and reinstalling all 3 in this order: Ubuntu -> Redhat -> Suse. I thought of using the recently released Fedora 9, but that's 6 *.iso I have to download and burn to CD, and as long as it's some Redhat clone, I can live with RHEL5 for this experiement.
Final score: OpenSUSE=3, Ubuntu=2, RedHat Enterprise Linux=1.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Plunge Into Linux ...

I've finally decided to switch most of my server operations to Linux. I happen to have a couple of old Pentium-II machines lying around, and although they won't run Windows (properly), I know they can run Linux without a problem. To prepare for this plunge, I have a collection of general Linux ebooks - including certification materials for the Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE) certification. I probably won't be taking the certification itself ($800 a pop?), but at the end of this exercise, I will have the same knowledge as those guys.
It was surprisingly hard to find a free version of RHEL 5. I know Linux itself is free, but all I kept finding on their site were subscription-based downloads. Forums everywhere suggest it should be free, but for hours I couldn't find a free download of the OS. I really just need a basic server build to do this "certification" on - my way of getting fully into the world of Linux.
The other motivation for interest in Linux at this time is the impending dumping of Windows XP support in 2009. If you didn't know, Microsoft will stop supporting and selling Windows XP next year - a setup that forces people to move to Vista. I don't want Vista (much heard about its headaches), so I am hoping that by that time I'll have proficient Linux experience to migrate all my crap to Linux when the need arises. I've heard much about Ubuntu being poised to penetrate the desktop market, so when I buy my next laptop (which will come with Vista - obviously), I want to be able to move quickly to Linux.
So much has changed in the world of Linux since I last worked on it. I probably should purge it from my resume until I am done with this exercise. I'm doing this in tandem with other projects I already had going - in fact, some might benefit from a migration to Linux servers.