Maarten Balliauw {blog}

ASP.NET MVC, Microsoft Azure, PHP, web development ...

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Book review: Microsoft Windows Azure Development Cookbook

Microsoft Windows Azure Development CookbookOver the past few months, I’ve been doing technical reviewing for a great Windows Azure book: the Windows Azure Development Cookbook published by Packt. During this review I had no idea who the author of the book was but after publishing it seems the author is no one less than my fellow Windows Azure MVP Neil Mackenzie! If you read his blog you should know you should immediately buy this book.

Why? Well, Neil usually goes both broad and deep: all required context for understanding a recipe is given and the recipe itself goes deep enough to know most of the ins and outs of a specific feature of Windows Azure. Well written, to the point and clear to every reader both novice and expert.

The book is one of a series of cookbooks published by Packt. They are intended to provide “recipes” showing how to implement specific techniques in a particular technology. They don’t cover getting started scenarios, but do cover some basic techniques, some more advanced techniques and usually one or two expert techniques. From the cookbooks I’ve read, this approach works and should get you up to speed real quick. And that’s no different with this one.

Here’s a chapter overview:

  1. Controlling Access in the Windows Azure Platform
  2. Handling Blobs in Windows Azure
  3. Going NoSQL with Windows Azure Tables
  4. Disconnecting with Windows Azure Queues
  5. Developing Hosted Services for Windows Azure
  6. Digging into Windows Azure Diagnostics
  7. Managing Hosted Services with the Service Management API
  8. Using SQL Azure
  9. Looking at the Windows Azure AppFabric

An interesting sample chapter on the Service Management API can be found here.

Oh and before I forget: Neil, congratulations on your book!  It was a pleasure doing the reviewing!

A client side Glimpse to your PHP application

Glimpse for PHPA few months ago, the .NET world was surprised with a magnificent tool called “Glimpse”. Today I’m pleased to release a first draft of a PHP version for Glimpse! Now what is this Glimpse thing… Well: "what Firebug is for the client, Glimpse does for the server... in other words, a client side Glimpse into whats going on in your server."

For a quick demonstration of what this means, check the video at http://getglimpse.com/. Yes, it’s a .NET based video but the idea behind Glimpse for PHP is the same. And if you do need a PHP-based one, check http://screenr.com/27ds (warning: unedited :-))

Fundamentally Glimpse is made up of 3 different parts, all of which are extensible and customizable for any platform:

  • Glimpse Server Module
  • Glimpse Client Side Viewer
  • Glimpse Protocol

This means an server technology that provides support for the Glimpse protocol can provide the Glimpse Client Side Viewer with information. And that’s what I’ve done.

What can I do with Glimpse?

A lot of things. The most basic usage of Glimpse would be enabling it and inspecting your requests by hand. Here’s a small view on the information provided:

Glimpse phpinfo()

By default, Glimpse offers you a glimpse into the current Ajax requests being made, your PHP Configuration, environment info, request variables, server variables, session variables and a trace viewer. And then there’s the remote tab, Glimpse’s killer feature.

When configuring Glimpse through www.yoursite.com/?glimpseFile=Config, you can specify a Glimpse session name. If you do that on a separate device, for example a customer’s browser or a mobile device you are working with, you can distinguish remote sessions in the remote tab. This allows debugging requests that are being made live on other devices! A full description is over at http://getglimpse.com/Help/Plugin/Remote.

PHP debug mobile browser

Adding Glimpse to your PHP project

Installing Glimpse in a PHP application is very straightforward. Glimpse is supported starting with PHP 5.2 or higher.

  • For PHP 5.2, copy the source folder of the repository to your server and add <?php include '/path/to/glimpse/index.php'; ?> as early as possible in your PHP script.
  • For PHP 5.3, copy the glimpse.phar file from the build folder of the repository to your server and add <?php include 'phar://path/to/glimpse.phar'; ?> as early as possible in your PHP script.

Here’s an example of the Hello World page shown above:

1 <?php 2 require_once 'phar://../build/Glimpse.phar'; 3 ?> 4 <html> 5 <head> 6 <title>Hello world!</title> 7 </head> 8 9 <?php Glimpse_Trace::info('Rendering body...'); ?> 10 <body> 11 <h1>Hello world!</h1> 12 <p>This is just a test.</p> 13 </body> 14 <?php Glimpse_Trace::info('Rendered body.'); ?> 15 </html>

Enabling Glimpse

From the moment Glimpse is installed into your web application, navigate to your web application and append the ?glimpseFile=Config query string to enable/disable Glimpse. Optionally, a client name can also be specified to distinguish remote requests.

Configuring Glimpse for PHP

After enabling Glimpse, a small “eye” icon will appear in the bottom-right corner of your browser. Click it and behold the magic!

Now of course: anyone can potentially enable Glimpse. If you don’t want that, ensure you have some conditional mechanism around the <?php require_once 'phar://../build/Glimpse.phar'; ?> statement.

Creating a first Glimpse plugin

Not enough information on your screen? Working with Zend Framework and want to have a look at route values? Want to work with Wordpress and view some hidden details about a post through Glimpse? The sky is the limit. All there’s to it is creating a Glimpse plugin and registering it. Implementing Glimpse_Plugin_Interface is enough:

1 <?php 2 class MyGlimpsePlugin 3 implements Glimpse_Plugin_Interface 4 { 5 public function getData(Glimpse $glimpse) { 6 $data = array( 7 array('Included file path') 8 ); 9 10 foreach (get_included_files() as $includedFile) { 11 $data[] = array($includedFile); 12 } 13 14 return array( 15 "MyGlimpsePlugin" => count($data) > 0 ? $data : null 16 ); 17 } 18 19 public function getHelpUrl() { 20 return null; // or the URL to a help page 21 } 22 } 23 ?>

To register the plugin, add a call to $glimpse->registerPlugin():

1 <?php 2 $glimpse->registerPlugin(new MyGlimpsePlugin()); 3 ?>

And Bob’s your uncle:

Creating a Glimpse plugin in PHP

Now what?

Well, it’s up to you. First of all: all feedback would be welcomed. Second of all: this is on Github (https://github.com/Glimpse/Glimpse.PHP). Feel free to fork and extend! Feel free to contribute plugins, core features, whatever you like! Have a lot of CakePHP projects? Why not contribute a plugin that provides a Glimpse at CakePHP diagnostics?

‘Till next time!