IBM System i computer, formerly called AS/400, iSeries, i5

IBM i was never affected by (quickly patched) PHP floating point vulnerability

Yesterday an IBM i customer of ours emailed me an announcement he’d received from Zend concerning a vulnerability in PHP concerning floating point numbers. Zend also included instructions for installing their “hotfix.”

Fortunately, IBM i was never affected by this vulnerability, which stemmed from a “design flaw in the x87 floating point unit that is part of an old Intel X86 chipset,” affecting only Intel-based 32-bit PHP builds, according to this NetworkWorld article about the issue.

Here is a table supplied by Zend that shows which platforms were affected (emphasis on non-vulnerability of IBM i added by me):

Platform Vulnerability
Windows YES
Linux (using 32-bit PHP build) YES
Linux (using 64-bit PHP build) NO
Mac OS NO
IBM i NO

ZendCon 2010

The 2010 “Zend/PHP Conference” welcomed the full range of the PHP community: open source contributors, small businesses, practitioners of diverse technologies and platforms, including Microsoft Windows, Linux, and IBM i, and the largest names in technology and business: Adobe, GE, the New York Stock Exchange. All these contributed energy and momentum to ZendCon.

I presented two talks (slides: http://alanseiden.com/presentations) and attended many more (slides: http://joind.in/event/ZendCon2010), given by some of the top names in IBM i and PHP. Beyond the great value of scheduled sessions, though, ZendCon offered even more.

As noted by Zend’s co-founder Andi Gutmans in his opening address, ZendCon’s value comes not only from scheduled sessions but from those unscheduled conversations in the hallway, at meals, and at evening networking events. ZendCon is about sharing knowledge, solving problems, and building relationships.

Personal highlights:

  • Alison Butterill’s presentation about IBM’s strong commitment to PHP
  • Susan Gantner’s sessions about interweaving RPG, PHP, and MySQL’s DB2 Storage Engine
  • Meeting Sam Pinkhasov from Zend’s R&D lab. He has such great knowledge that one time I followed him all around the conference center and into the elevator, peppering him with questions, before I finally let him go on the 5th floor.
  • The speaker’s reception, IBM i reception, and Disney-sponsored reception
  • Helping two people with their Apache configurations on IBM i. I continued to work on one of their configurations for 15 minutes after the lights were turned out, finding the command keys by feel alone. (Does that make me a geek?)
  • The Zend Framework roundtable where I got to ask the developers my burning questions.

I want to thank my employer, Strategic Business Systems, Inc., for allowing me to come and speak at ZendCon.

Below are my photos from the conference. I hope to return to ZendCon next year and to see many of you there!

P.S. For those of you in the New York area, come see me co-lead a roundtable recap of the conference at NY-PHP on November 23, 2010.

Andi Gutmans giving his opening keynote at ZendCon 2010

Andi Gutmans giving his opening keynote

Ray Taylor and I chatting before my web services talk at Zendcon 2010

Ray Taylor and I chatting before my web services talk

elePHPant with a fan at ZendCon 2010

elePHPant with a fan

IBM i networking event at ZendCon 2010

IBM i networking event

Ryan Watkins and Alison Butterill at the IBM booth, Zendcon 2010

Ryan Watkins and Alison Butterill at the IBM booth

Leverage the Power of IBM i Zend PHP button

"Leverage the power of IBM i" Zend PHP button

Susan Gantner speaking about RPG + PHP at ZendCon 2010

Susan Gantner speaking about RPG, PHP, and MySQL

VTMUG friends

I had a great time yesterday at the annual conference of VTMUG (Vermont Midrange Users Group).  I gave two talks about PHP on IBM i. I got to watch Skip Marchesani give a talk about the IBM i’s SQL Script Center, and John Valance speaking about Web 2.0.

I wanted to see Jon Paris and Susan Gantner’s presentations but conflicting time slots prevented that. I’ll try to catch Susan’s talk at the Zend/PHP Conference, where I’ll also be speaking.

This photo shows us relaxing after a satisfying day of teaching and learning at VTMUG.

Relaxing at the end of VTMUG's annual conference in South Burlington, Vermont

Relaxing after VTMUG's annual conference in South Burlington, Vermont

My upcoming PHP talks this fall (2010)

Please join me for my IBM i-focused PHP talks this fall. I’ll present these topics:

  • web services with PHP and Zend Framework
  • batch and command-line tasks with PHP
  • RPG-based 5250 applications as the basis for new web applications

…all focused on PHP on IBM i!

Here are the dates, locations and web sites with more information:

Sept 28: Vermont Midrange Users Group (VTMUG) education day, South Burlington, Vermont

Oct. 3-6: COMMON Fall Conference, San Antonio, Texas

Oct. 26: OMNI Users Group education day, Chicago suburbs

Nov. 1-4: Zend/PHP Conference (ZendCon 2010), Santa Clara, California

I look forward to meeting many of you at these great conferences and education days.

Maximize Zend Server PHP performance with Apache compression

Does your site run as quickly as it could? It’s worth your time to find out. Faster web sites sell more products, improve user satisfaction, and even rank higher in Google searches.

Note: This tip was written for IBM i but could be adapted for other platforms as well.

Benefits of Zend Server

If you have upgraded from Zend Core to Zend Server for IBM i, you have already received several performance improvements: bytecode acceleration (Zend Optimizer+), the elimination of Zend Core’s proxy web server, and configurable Data Caching. If you upgraded from Community Edition (CE) to full Zend Server, you also get monitoring, Page Caching, and Job Queue functionality.

Compression adds even more speed

IBM’s Apache web server provides an additional way to speed up your Zend Server for IBM i pages. You can compress PHP output, javascript, style sheets, and other text-based content. The compressed output will automatically be decompressed and interpreted properly by all modern web browsers. My tests show a speed improvement of 10-50% from this easy technique.

How to enable compression in 3 steps

1. Edit ZENDSVR’s Apache configuration file, located at /www/zendsvr/conf/httpd.conf. This is a simple text file, so you may choose from several editors: IBM’s HTTP Server Admin GUI at port 2001 (if *ADMIN is started), the WRKLNK/EDTF command, or your favorite text editor (I use EditPad Pro).

2. Add the following two directives to the httpd.conf’s main section:

# Load IBM i's module that performs compression
LoadModule deflate_module /QSYS.LIB/QHTTPSVR.LIB/QZSRCORE.SRVPGM

# Specify what to compress (example: php, json, css, javascript, static html)
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/x-httpd-php application/json text/css
application/x-javascript application/javascript text/html

3. Restart Zend Server using the handy Restart PHP button button or STRTCPSVR SERVER(*HTTP) RESTART(*HTTP) HTTPSVR(ZENDSVR)

Measure the improvement

I ran before-and-after tests using a sample script included with Zend Server for IBM i: http://your-server:10088/Samples/SQL_access/DB2_SQL_example.php.

Before compression: 31kb, loaded in 250ms (milliseconds). See the Firebug report below (Firebug is an optional add-on for Firefox and is not required.)

Zend Server output without compression

Without compression, this page was 31kb and loaded in 250ms

After compression: 4.4kb; loaded in 109ms. That’s only 14% of the size and 50% of the time! See the screen shot below.

after compression: only 4.4kb and loaded in 109ms

after compression: only 4.4kb and loaded in 109ms

I highly recommend that you give output compression a try. Your Zend Server for IBM i pages will fly!

For more information on browser output compression, see: http://httpd.apache.org/docs/2.0/mod/mod_deflate.html

Zend Studio 7.2.1 faster, more reliable

I just upgraded my copy of Zend Studio for IBM i from 7.0.2 to 7.2.1. Big improvement!

My use case: I typically use Zend Studio’s “Remote Server” facility to connect to the IBM i over FTP. With 7.2.1, FTP-based files now open and save much faster than before. In addition, the FTP connection no longer randomly disconnects the way it used to.

I recommend upgrading to 7.2.1, especially for anyone using FTP. It provides a smooth, hassle-free user experience.

Get Zend Studio here: http://www.zend.com/en/products/studio/downloads. Scroll down to the edition you need.

Note: this product is still free to users of IBM i, a nice benefit of Zend’s relationship with IBM.

See me speak about web services and Zend Framework

Join me at at Long Island PHP on June 7, 2010, where I’ll present a case study showing how I integrated Windows-based data into an IBM i-based application using SOAP with Zend Framework.

The principles are the same no matter what type of servers you use.

Event details: http://www.listnet.org/eventDetails.cfm?eventID=1263

There will be plenty of time for questions and discussion.

Hope to see you there!

P.S. To see the slides from my past presentations, go to  https://www.seidengroup.com/presentations/.

Differences Between Zend Core and Zend Server on IBM i

Zend Server for IBM i improves upon Zend Core’s older implementation of PHP in numerous ways. To make the migration easier, I’ve created a table that shows some of the settings and default file locations that have changed between Zend Core and Zend Server.

Zend Core
Zend Server
Installation folder
/usr/local/zend/core
/usr/local/zendsvr
PHP.INI
/usr/local/zend/core/etc
/usr/local/zendsvr/etc
Web server root(s)
/www/zendcore,
/usr/local/zend/apache2
/www/zendsvr
Document root
/www/zendcore/htdocs
/www/zendsvr/htdocs
Zend Framework
/usr/local/Zend/ZendFramework
/usr/local/zendsvr/share/ZendFramework
PHP binaries folder *
* where php and php-cli reside
/usr/local/zend/core/bin
/usr/local/zendsvr/bin
PHP Log files
/usr/local/zend/core/logs
/usr/local/zendsvr/
var/log
Web user profile (assign authority to it)
NOBODY
QTMHHTTP
Default HTTP Port
:89
:10088
Admin Interface URL
http://yourIBMi:89/ZendCore/
http://yourIBMi:10088/ZendServer/
Menu (5250)
GO ZENDCORE/ZCMENU
GO ZENDSVR/ZSMENU

If the new HTTP port of 10088 seems hard to remember, you can change it to something that’s easier to work with, such as the standard HTTP port of 80. To do that, edit /www/zendsvr/conf/httpd.conf and change Listen *:10088 to Listen *:80 or whatever you want. (Of course, first ensure that no other service is running on that IP/Port combination.)

Zend Server for IBM i Is Here

Zend and IBM have announced an updated, streamlined version of their PHP package for IBM i, called Zend Server. I’ve been using the beta for a while but last week read an announcement showing it’s ready for general use. It combines the best of Zend Core and Zend Platform in one package.

To get Zend Server, go to the Zend Server for IBM i page and click the green “Free Download” button. This will give you the “Community Edition (CE)” version, the free version that handles all the basics for running PHP on IBM i. It even comes with a year of free online support.

If you want to  upgrade to the non-CE version (it doesn’t have its own name), which gives you more debugging and tracing tools, as well as Job Queue functionality and more support, you can buy a license. Write to me if you need help or want to buy a license for the non-CE version.

Zend Server beta for PHP on IBM i: I like it

I’m recommending that people try Zend Server beta for IBM i if they’re using PHP on the IBM i. Even though it’s in beta, Zend Server brings improvements over its predecessors, Zend Core and Zend Platform. Improvements include:

  • Easy new user interface combining the best of Core and Platform
  • Better interface makes it easier for people to discover and use features such as code tracing and debugging
  • Elimination of mandatory proxy server (always a thorn in my side!)
  • Use of IBM’s supported, full-featured, flexible Apache server rather than the limited PASE server
  • Better performance

One caveat: the current beta version (as of February, 2010) is missing some functionality that will be available in the generally available (GA) release. Temporarily missing functionality includes:

  • no support for the mail() function (use Zend_Mail or Phpmailer instead in the meantime)
  • inclusion of an older version of the ibm_db2 driver. This version doesn’t have support for the “i5_libl” option. Ask Zend to send you the updated db2 driver if you need it.

I’m looking forward to trying the next beta version and eventually the GA release.

I believe Zend Server will shorten the learning curve for new users and simplify advanced configurations for us “veterans.”

Download it here: Zend Server beta for IBM i