Richard Thomas

I’ve received some sad news.  Three weeks ago, A colleague of mine, Richard Thomas, passed away of a heart attack.  Those in the PHP community may have known him by his cyberlot handle or by his phpjack web site.

I worked with Richard for a year and a half.  Richard liked solving problems and was always quick to offer solutions when help was needed.  He was an enthusiastic programmer with good attitude. He was well liked.

Richard enjoyed attending PHP conferences.  Richard was active on the Solar framework, writing articles and contributing code.  We had several conversations about a chat project of his, about writing games and various ideas he had.  

Richard is survived by his wife Lisa and four year old daughter Nicollette.  Donations are being accepted to assist them. Even if you haven’t had contact with Richard, consider making a donation if you’ve done freelance work, as Richard was doing at the time of his death. Donations can be sent to:

Niki Fund, 4818 Davis Place #G, Renton WA, 98055

Richard passed away at his computer, doing the work he loved to do. He was 37 years old.

Looking Towards the Cloud

Some people love their automobiles. They can tell you all all about their technical specifications. They buy upgrades and after market parts. Its a lifestyle and a hobby. I am not one of those people. For me an automobile is purely a means to an end. I am here, I want to be there. Having lived the last year without a car (my truck is in storage and will be for sale soon), I can say I don’t much care whether I get there in my car, or a taxi, or a zip car. This is the benefit of modern urban living, I suppose.

So, just as I look at an automobile as a means to an end, I look at servers as a means to an end. I guess that makes me a Software Guy. I know there are Hardware Guys out there. They’re doing great things and I’m thankful for them. But, for the most part, I am interested in what computers can do for us, not how they do it.

I don’t think I’m alone in my attitude. That’s why I think that computing as a commodity a strong future. We can leave things like data center efficiency to someone else and focus on the things that are really important to us. Oh, if you’re at facebook scale, you’re probably going to have to do serious cross stack optimization. And if you are at the hobby end, current cloud offerings may be pricy.

But, consider this. What can you buy with $100,000 per year? One programmer or 120 ec2 instances. (more with reserved instance pricing.)

Cloud Computing Versus Programming Talent

At a certain scale, cloud computing makes alot of sense. $100,000 is just a number. Oh, I know, you have this guy in Belarus and he works for less. But, the fundamental equation is the same. Programming is expensive and computing power is a commodity. Did I mention I’m a software guy?

Are you interested in how to use PHP in the cloud? Clay Loveless recognized the advantages of cloud computing early, jumping on ec2 as one of the early adaptors. He’s recently written a great Introduction to AWS for PHP Programmers. I’d encourage you to check it out.

ZendCon: Writing Maintainable PHP Code

I’ve finally made it to my first Zendcon. Its nice to see some familiar faces and also nice to put new faces to familiar names.

I gave my maintainable PHP talk this morning. I love doing this talk. Thanks to everyone who attended. I’ve put the slides (pdf) up on my talks page.

Much of the material is based on Test Pattern columns that I’ve written for php|architect. Here are some of the specific columns.

Organizing For Change
This is where I developed the outline for the talk
Dependency Injection
This is a more in depth discussion of code reuse and dependency injection
Modeling Dependencies
This is where I talk about coupling, layered design and abstraction
A Closer Look at Cohesion
This is where I developed my explanations of cohesion and the single responsibility principle
Searching the Code
Good designs are searchable

One thing I like about both writing on and presenting on the same material is that I get feedback from the presentations that I can put back into the writing and vise versa. I’m looking forward to finding some better ways to explain layering and the depend on abstractions principle. If you saw the talk, was there anything you particularly liked or needed work? Leave a comment here or on the page.

Here are some of the books I mentioned in the talk.

PHP in Action: Objects, Design, Agility
This is a really good next step if you’re interested in maintainable code, testing, and object oriented design.
Refactoring: Improving the Design of Existing Code
This is the classic treatment of Refactoring. Probably everyone considering themselves a professional programmer should read this. The examples are in Java, though.
Working Effectively with Legacy Code
This is a good book if you want to start testing and refactoring in a large system that doesn’t currently have tests. Again, the examples are in Java.

I sat in on the PHP Code Review talk this afternoon. I thought it was a great complement to my talk. I tend to be a bit theoretical and this talk was very practical, but we covered a lot of the same principles. Nice talk. Nice scheduling, Zend.

I’m really looking forward to tomorrow. Unfortunately, I have to go back to work on Wednesday.

php | tek 2008

PHP ElephantWell, I’ve made it to PHP|tek in Chicago. I flew in last night, had a beer with Jason and then used the WiFi in the lobby to spin up an extra large EC2 instance (via RightScale) to do some benchmarks for one of my talks. I’m using the the XL instance because it it is not shared with other users.

I’m still putting the final touches on my slides.

I’m blogging this from Rob Richards’ Working With Web Services presentation. Oh yeah, I work with Rob. Oh yeah, since, I haven’t posted anything in six months … In January, I moved to San Francisco and started work at Mashery. I realized from talking with Jason last night that I really haven’t mentioned that here. They’ve been keeping me pretty busy, hence the lack of blogging.

php|tek is on twitter. So, I’ve finally signed up there. I don’t get it. :)

One last thing, Mashery is Hiring good PHP and Javascript programmers.

php | tek Wrapup

I really enjoyed myself at this year’s php | tek. The conference seemed even better than last year. Here are the slides from my talks…

Here are some of the books I mentioned…

I’m already looking forward to next year.