Archive for March 2011

Access Control vs Authorization

When first learning about the difference between authentication and access control, it may be easy to confuse the two. However, they are two very different concepts. Also, they should understood well by any developer that is writing applications where access to the application needs to be controlled.

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How to Move a Magento Installation

It is common as a Magento developer to have to move a Magento installation from one location to another. The normal way to move a site is to compress the web directory, dump the database, move the data to the new location, and finally adjust the configuration as needed. Moving a Magento commerce site requires the same general procedure. However, the devil is in the details.

“It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.” –John Wooden

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Why We Are Stuck with Internet Explorer 6

UPDATE: We are no longer stuck with IE6. Yay! 🙂

Among web developers, Internet Explorer 6 is considered a horrible browser. However, amongst many corporations, it is the standard browser that is used throughout the organization. One reason for this is due to the great amount of difficulty for a large organization to change. Every page on the company intranet has to be tested and fixed. Additionally, moving away from Internet Explorer 6 typically involves a change in operating system.

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N-Tier Model-View-Controller


The classic MVC (Model-View-Controller) architecture (see Fig. 1) has the View communicating with the Controller and the Model. However, this leads to coupling between the Model and View, View and Controller, and Controller and Model. A case could be made that is a significant amount of coupling. Unfortunately, coupling is the bane of software development. Additionally, coupling makes software hard to change. Instead, an N-Tiered approach to the MVC pattern was created to alleviate the coupling and create a more flexible design.
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Easy PHP Debugging with PopUp PHP Debugger

If you have doing PHP development for any length of time, then you have ran across the need to perform PHP debugging without the use of a full-blown debugger. In many cases, print_r works fine. However, echoing debugging text to the page will often break the layout. A method was needed that would output text while also not breaking the layout.

To satisfy this constraint PhpPopupDebug was written. Actually, parts of this code was found elsewhere a very long time ago. The original source is no longer known. As it was used, changes to the code were made to make it easier to use and more robust. When a variable is dumped to the output, a JavaScript window is opened in the background with the dumped data. Therefore, no text is visible on the page.

Quick and Dirty PHP Test Driven Development

A long time ago, a unit testing framework for PHP was needed. At the time, there were many preexisting and comprehensive unit testing frameworks. However, a framework was needed that had the ability to run the tests from a browser. Additionally, a framework was required that would easy to integrate into a project while not increasing the footprint too much.

To satisfy these constraints, a PHP unit testing framework called QnDPhpUnitTest was written (UPDATE: This has been superseded by KissTest). Interestingly, the framework and the project that the framework was originally written for were created simultaneously. When an assert was needed, the assert method was written and then the assert was performed. One of the key benefits of this framework is the ability to include a single class and then start writing tests. Also, the framework is so simple that learning how to use it should take no more than a 5-10 minutes.