Second Class Citizen

Occasionally someone will pipe up and make you realise the sad truth amongst web developers, or for that matter, programmers. We are second class citizens in the eyes of many.

Gone are the days where making a computer do something different is cool, No, Now its a job, anyone can do it, you’ve just got to learn to code..  heck, some people are purely programmers for a day job, with no outside interest in it.

There Are No Famous Programmers – Zed A. Shaw (http://sheddingbikes.com/posts/1275989245.html)
Let me tell you about this cool new web server. I figured out how to merge the ZeroMQ event polling system with the libtask coroutine library so that you can use libtask to handle tons of TCP/UDP and ZeroMQ sockets in a single thread. I then took this very cool hack, and started building a web server using my Mongrel HTTP parser, but I modified the parser so that the same server on the same port can handle HTTP or Flash XMLSockets transparently. The next step is to get this server to route HTTP and XMLSocket JSON messages to arbitrary ZeroMQ backends. I was inspired by this so much that I registered utu.im and may try to bring it back. Not sure how or when though.

Sounds cool right? Totally doesn’t matter one bit. I could hack on projects like this and nobody would care at all because I’m a famous programmer, and there is no such thing as famous programmers. I don’t exist. I’m an enigma.

And he’s right, Name a “sucessful” startup who you can think of the name of the current CEO, I’m sure you can think of one, Did they write the product you’re associated with them however? In most cases, No. They’re just the ones with the vision, The one with money, The one with the guts to say “This could work!”. Being a programmer isnt enough anymore, you need a masters degree in marketing, A bucket load of cash, and a face to put forward – and face it, you’re not it.

Gone are the days when a single person can be a superstar, without the help from others, you’ll never reach gold; and if you do, be sure your programming days are long gone..

You’re doing it wrong #2

 

Welcome to part #2, If you missed #1, go check it out.

As i mentioned in the last posting, This time wp125 is featured again, No, Please dont get me wrong, i’m not just targeting certain plugins here, It’s merely the plugins which I use, which i have to modify  and/or cleanup for whatever reason, I’ve chosen WP125 to be used for this project, so here i am cleaning up some code. Also featured in the 2nd part of this posting, is TDO Mini Forms.

Who has ever seen an error message like this one?

Notice: Undefined index: wp125action in G:\www\nrtt\wp\wp-content\plugins\wp125\adminmenus.php on line 9
Notice: Undefined index: wp125action in G:\www\nrtt\wp\wp-content\plugins\wp125\adminmenus.php on line 13
Notice: Undefined index: wp125action in G:\www\nrtt\wp\wp-content\plugins\wp125\adminmenus.php on line 22
Notice: Undefined index: wp125action in G:\www\nrtt\wp\wp-content\plugins\wp125\adminmenus.php on line 26

I’m willing to bet  a lot of people would’ve seen this one time or another, It comes down to a very very VERY lazy developer in my opinion, Simply because its best programming practice to never actually hit this case..

The code which is causing this:

function wp125_write_managemenu() {
…<snip>…
//Handle deactivations
if ($_GET[‘wp125action’] == “deactivate”) {

Doesnt look too harmful really, now does it? Thats because, By itself, Its not harmful at all other than an annoying message, The harmful part, is where similar code is used, and its merely assumed that certain array items exist, The issue arises that it can make bugs slip by unnoticed..

So, Whats the correct way? Simply check that the Array item exists before comparing it against something else.

The simplest method would be:

if ( isset($_GET['wp125action']) && ($_GET['wp125action'] == "deactivate") {

Or alternatively, If you never want to fire when the array item is empty:

 if ( !empty($_GET['wp125action']) && ($_GET['wp125action'] == "deactivate") {

Now, that wasnt too hard was it? Much cleaner, reduces warnings, and potentially reduces the risk of bugs.

Once again, All changes made are available as a Diff, This diff also includes the changes made in par #1, This has been written as of version 1.3.6.

Now, Onto the second plugin, TDO Mini Forms, This isnt actually a half bad plugin overall,  However, The code can be a bit messy for lack of a better word thanks to the many many many options and defines it uses.

Most of the issues i’ve got with this plugin, boils down to mis-use of constants, for example:

Notice Use of undefined constant TDOMF_OPTION_WIDGET_MAX_HEIGHT - assumed 'TDOMF_OPTION_WIDGET_MAX_HEIGHT' in G:\www\nrtt\wp\wp-content\plugins\tdo-mini-forms\admin\tdomf-options.php on line 604

Upon actually looking through he code, The Define was used in many places, but never actually defined. However, TDOMF_OPTION_WIDGET_MAX_WIDTH, and TDOMF_OPTION_WIDGET_MAX_LENGTH were, But guess what, The latter was never actually used, other than during option creation.. It’s a simple typo really.. But a quick fix never the less.

The main thing that has been bugging me with this plugin however, are these splattered around:

Notice: Use of undefined constant REQUEST_URI - assumed 'REQUEST_URI' in G:\www\nrtt\wp\wp-content\plugins\tdo-mini-forms\admin\tdomf-form-options.php on line 15

It looks like the plugin is expecting some form of register_globals for  the $_SERVER items to be enabled, Well, Do i have news for you… Its not! To many programmers that  may have sounded like the actual problem, But the problem is actually a coding flaw.. (as expected)

if(preg_match('/tdomf_show_form_menu/',$_SERVER[REQUEST_URI])) {

May not see something wrong with that, But, You should. $_SERVER contains an array element called ‘REQUEST_URI’, which is what the author intended to access, But instead, what they have asked for, Is the $_SERVER array element whose name is within the REQUEST_URI definition.. PHP is smart enough to convert that REQUEST_URI into a string, and so the code works as expected, for now.. But it’s still sloppy, Adding 2 apostrophe’s into the mix fixes everything.. Quick and simple really..

if(preg_match(‘/tdomf_show_form_menu/’,$_SERVER[‘REQUEST_URI’])) {

And the final piece of the puzzle for this posting:

Notice: Trying to get property of non-object in G:\www\nrtt\wp\wp-content\plugins\tdo-mini-forms\admin\tdomf-edit-post-panel.php on line 36

Another common type of warning produced by PHP, Very similar to the first Array item above:

function tdomf_edit_post_panel_admin_head() {
   global $post;
   // don't show on new post/page
   if($post->ID > 0) {

Now, This wouldnt be all that bad really.. If it wasnt for this code:

add_action( 'admin_head', 'tdomf_edit_post_panel_admin_head' );

The end result, much like I explained in Post #1, Is that running code designed for a SINGLE page on EVERY page load, is not a good thing to do, eventually you’ll hit a road bump like this one..

While the most appropriate fix for this, would be to simply only hook the function to run on the post edit page, Due to this plugins insisting to be backwards compatible at one stage or another utilising the latest hook names is not always possible, So merely adding an is_object() call in there can silence and fix everything quickly:

function tdomf_edit_post_panel_admin_head() {
 global $post;
 // don't show on new post/page
 if(is_object($post) && $post->ID > 0) {

I should however note, That this plugin includes compat code for WordPress < 2.5, Whilst, It utilises WordPress 2.8 functionalities now. Plugin Authors: Keep an eye on your obsolete code, it increases complexity, and will eventually end up causing a bug. My methodology is to only support the latest WordPress release.. It’s not worth your time developing for users not upgrading their version of WordPress. Yes, You’re going to have people complain the plugin isnt compatible, but in reality, you’re doing them a favour, If they dont upgrade WordPress, they’ll have other bugs.. Your plugin not working is the least of their worries (Or should be) .

Thats it for now, TDO Mini Forms also contains many MANY uses of undefined variables, eg:

Notice: Undefined variable: edit in G:\www\nrtt\wp\wp-content\plugins\tdo-mini-forms\include\tdomf-form.php on line 387

But the plugin is too large for me to want to go in and fix everything,  what has impacted me the most has been fixed, i’ll leave it as that.

Until next time, The changes made to TDO Mini Forms is available as a Diff, as of version 0.13.5. Apologies for the Diff here,I’m having issues with Line endings, Tortoise SVN isn’t respecting its own setting – You’ll have to patch a local copy and set it to ignore line ending changes..

 

EDIT: Fixed typo’s and lack of English. Sorry, I need a new computer, this T key hardly ever works when i want it to..

You’re doing it wrong #1

Welcome to a new series of mine, You’re doing it wrong. Now, You may’ve guessed what this series is going to be about.. WordPress “Programmers” doing things wrong.

Right now, I’m writing a new theme for a website, utilising a few plugins,  one of them is WP125.

 Notice: Trying to get property of non-object in G:\www\nrtt\wp\wp-includes\general-template.php on line 366

Yep, You’re doing it wrong. First glance it looks like its caused by WordPress, but after a lot of debugging, Here’s a stacktrace:

#0 G:\www\nrtt\wp\wp-includes\general-template.php(367) stackTrace(Array ( ) )
#1 G:\www\nrtt\wp\wp-includes\script-loader.php(410) get_bloginfo(Array ( [0] => text_direction ) )
#2 unknown(unknown) wp_default_styles(Array ( [0] => CONVERTED OBJECT OF CLASS WP_Styles ) )
#3 G:\www\nrtt\wp\wp-includes\plugin.php(414) call_user_func_array(Array ( [0] => wp_default_styles [1] => Array ( [0] => CONVERTED OBJECT OF CLASS WP_Styles ) ) )
#4 G:\www\nrtt\wp\wp-includes\class.wp-styles.php(31) do_action_ref_array(Array ( [0] => wp_default_styles [1] => Array ( [0] => CONVERTED OBJECT OF CLASS WP_Styles ) ) )
#5 G:\www\nrtt\wp\wp-includes\functions.wp-styles.php(72) CONVERTED OBJECT OF CLASS WP_Styles->__construct(Array ( ) )
#6 G:\www\nrtt\wp\wp-content\plugins\wp125\adminmenus.php(8) wp_enqueue_style(Array ( [0] => thickbox ) )
#7 G:\www\nrtt\wp\wp-content\plugins\wp125\wp125.php(75) require_once(Array ( [0] => G:\www\nrtt\wp\wp-content\plugins\wp125\adminmenus.php ) )
#8 G:\www\nrtt\wp\wp-settings.php(566) include_once(Array ( [0] => G:\www\nrtt\wp\wp-content\plugins\wp125\wp125.php ) )
#9 G:\www\nrtt\wp\wp-config.php(109) require_once(Array ( [0] => G:\www\nrtt\wp\wp-settings.php ) )
#10 G:\www\nrtt\wp\wp-load.php(30) require_once(Array ( [0] => G:\www\nrtt\wp\wp-config.php ) )
#11 G:\www\nrtt\wp\wp-admin\admin.php(20) require_once(Array ( [0] => G:\www\nrtt\wp\wp-load.php ) )
#12 G:\www\nrtt\wp\wp-admin\edit.php(10) require_once(Array ( [0] => G:\www\nrtt\wp\wp-admin\admin.php ) )

Do you notice whats happening here?  A seasoned WordPress developer should.. But many will not, As it’s a huge problem amongst some plugins..

The issue at hand here, Is that the WP125 plugin, is running code as soon as its included, In this case, its registering styles and scripts as soon as the plugin is included. NOT a good thing to do.

A plugin should NEVER run any code as soon as its included*, All code should be placed inside actions.

Eg, Instead of this:

if(is_admin()){
 wp_enqueue_script('jquery');
 wp_enqueue_script('thickbox');
 wp_enqueue_style('thickbox'); 
}

It should be:

add_action('admin_head', 'wp125_enqueue_styles');
function wp125_enqueue_styles() {
 wp_enqueue_script('jquery');
 wp_enqueue_script('thickbox');
 wp_enqueue_style('thickbox'); 
}

*1: Obviously, there are some cases where running code is considered ok, but it should be avoided. I’m ignoring calls to add_action/add_filter as running code here, as thats the way things should happen.

There  is one more thing which should be noted as well.. another thing a plugin should NEVER do, Is enqueue Scripts and Styles for EVERY administration page, Only load them on the pages which require the script. So lets take that last semi-better-than-original  sniplet and convert it to something which is how ALL plugins should be registering their scripts and styles:

So, Now I’m going to introduce you to one more function which many developers seem to miss, the action admin_print_scripts-<slug>

This action is actually pretty simple, On every pageload of WordPress Administration, many dynamic hooks are fired, in particular interest today, is the admin_print_scripts-<slug> hook. This fires when WordPress decides its time to start printing the <script> and <link rel=”stylesheet” /> items into the head of the document. This is where plugins should be hooking their addition of styles and scripts, As well as printing any extra <head> content to fit into the WordPress admin pages for their plugin.

Without going into it in depth, I’m just going to give a chunk of code, The only thing worth noting, is if you’re not sure of the slug of your page, Quite handy is, that the add_menu_*() functions will return it.. So, Finally, Here we go:

//Add the Admin Menus
add_action('admin_menu', 'wp125_add_admin_menu');
function wp125_add_admin_menu() {
 load_plugin_textdomain('wp125', PLUGINDIR.'/'.dirname(plugin_basename(__FILE__)).'/translations', dirname(plugin_basename(__FILE__)).'/translations');
 $pages = array();
 $pages[] = add_menu_page(__("125x125 Ads", 'wp125'), __("Ads", 'wp125'), MANAGEMENT_PERMISSION, __FILE__, "wp125_write_managemenu");
 $pages[] = add_submenu_page(__FILE__, __("Manage 125x125 Ads", 'wp125'), __("Manage", 'wp125'), MANAGEMENT_PERMISSION, __FILE__, "wp125_write_managemenu");
 $pages[] = add_submenu_page(__FILE__, __("Add/Edit 125x125 Ads", 'wp125'), __("Add/Edit", 'wp125'), MANAGEMENT_PERMISSION, 'wp125_addedit', "wp125_write_addeditmenu");
 $pages[] = add_submenu_page(__FILE__, __("125x125 Ad Settings", 'wp125'), __("Settings", 'wp125'), MANAGEMENT_PERMISSION, 'wp125_settings', "wp125_write_settingsmenu");

 foreach ( $pages as $my_page )
   add_action('admin_print_scripts-' . $my_page, 'wp125_register_scripts_styles', 9); //Add it a little earlier.

 //Include menus
 require_once(dirname(__FILE__).'/adminmenus.php');
}

function wp125_register_scripts_styles() {
 wp_enqueue_script('jquery');
 wp_enqueue_script('thickbox');
 wp_enqueue_style('thickbox');
}

The main benefit of behaving yourself? Much less chance of screwing up another admin page’s styling or JavaScript :)

Stay tuned for the next edition of this, Where once again, WP125 will feature, along side TDO Mini Forms

See Attachment for a .diff of the changes made to the plugin. NOTE: This is as of version 1.3.6

WordPress QI – “WordPress Quick Install”

Ok, So its now got a name, And logo :)

WordPress Quick Install (wpquickinstall.com / WordPressQI.com).

wordpressqi

Head over to the new site (Which isn’t fully updated yet either) for a beta download. The nightlies are not up to date yet, as i’ve not quite regained SVN access after the domain move.

My WordPress Plugins..

This is just a note to all the users of my various plugins.

As of today, All my plugins are going to be moved to a maintenance only release cycle.

The reasoning for this?

  • I have -dev branches of all my plugins with new great features, better written, and better UI..
  • Unfortunately however, I do not actually use the plugins myself anymore
  • Which means:  That the plugins are written in my spare time only, and i have no pressing reason for me to spend time i do not have spare working on them
  • And I initially wasnt going to mention this, But part of the reason are grumpy end users Yes, I mean you, Those of you who just complain and bitch when something doesn’t work 100% of the way you expect, completely ignoring any technical considerations, or knowledge of anything related.

So to continue on the line of that last one.. Sorry to those of you who love my plugins, and the very small minority of those of you  who have ever shown the appreciation, Hopefully the plugins will continue to fulfill your current needs, and hopefully the next versions of these plugins will be worth while the wait.

Perhaps those of you who use open source/free applications/plugins/themes/tutorials should take a moment to thank those who make it happen, to make it worth while their time and effort, There are many more like me, who instead of working on new things or new versions, simply toss it aside, and leave users hung out to dry.. I’m not interested in doing that, But at the same time, For the benefit of few, I’m not going to put great effort in anymore for things which either i dont use, or i dont feel like solving.

To that last point, Things i like solving..  I like to Automate things, Thats what most of my plugins will generally aim to do,  automate a process which you could do manually, but would prefer not to. The WordPress Plugin upgrader, Plugin Installer, Theme Upgrades and Installs, Pars of the WordPress Core upgrader, etc. The main reason behind them has been to automate a rather manual process and  make it simpler for end users.. End  users you’ll probably never hear from.

Ironically, Seems someone else may’ve taken this thought from a similar aspect the other day:
http://www.daemonology.net/blog/2009-07-14-a-call-for-schwag.html

Two things happened this morning which started me thinking. First, I read Zed Shaw’s rant[Dion: See next link] about how he thinks he deserves more recognition and money from his Open Source work; and second, I looked at my pile of t-shirts, and realized that while I have 4 Google t-shirts (one from August 2006, when I interviewed there; and three from Google Summer of Code), I don’t have a single t-shirt from any company which is using code I’ve written.

and another (Which talks about why he uses the GPL, you’re better off reading the entire articles rather than just my sniplets..)

http://zedshaw.com/blog/2009-07-13.html

My final reason for using the GPL is I think my projects have value, and I want people who use them to perceive that value in them. I think they are so valuable that I’m willing to put a complex untested legal document down as my bet to their utility. If I wanted it easy I would simple BSD license it and everyone would use it.

I want people to appreciate the work I’ve done and the value of what I’ve made.

Not pass on by waving “sucker” as they drive their fancy cars.

I can relate to both of these people.. If you use one of my plugins daily.. Or love a feature of WordPress i’ve helped with.. Then show your appreciation, A simple thanks would go a long way, I’m not begging for money, or goods, or for you to shout my name to the neighbourhood, Just reconise that you know i’m there perhaps.. Or that you use my Software, and love it :)

(I’m actually in a similar situation to Colin, What Schwag have i recieved? Well, GSOC which started my main Open Source-ness, 2x GSOC T-Shirts(2007, 2008) & the accompanying ~$5k which comes with that( For time put in, IIRC the return in AUD is about $7/hr, GSOC is about the experience and the learning rather than the money however), 1x WordPress Hoodie (Thanks!  Too small for me now though), Oh and how could i forget, A postcard from Automattic. W0uld’ve I done what i’ve done without those? Definately, Do I want more? Well.. More is always nice :) But in reality, No. The money doesnt mean much to me at all, As long as i can live day-to-day, I’ll be right. Some appreciation once in awhile from certain people would probably weigh over the negitive feedback from the minority I’m sure.

EDIT: How could i forget… Thanks to you-know-who-you-are, another WordPress developer who also recently donated $20 via paypal, to say thanks for the code i’ve contributed which he in turn has been able to take advantage of. Not publishing your name.. unless you read this and A-OK it :) Sure, $20 isnt much in the scheme of things, but its the “thanks” part of it that matters (And hey, an extra hour i can relax on the weekend!)

So.. Go hug a developer today, Or show appreciation to those who’s plugins or WordPress features you use, I’m sure they’ll be glad to hear it.