ZendCon 2008 – Day 4

Today was the fourth and final day of the Zend Conference in Santa Clara and I am almost sad (actually I am sad) that the conference is over. This has been one of the best experiences of my life and certainly of professional career as I was able to meet several of my peers that I have looked up to for quite a while.

But before we get into all that there were a few things that I was able to take away from today that I thought were interesting. Much of this came from the panel discussion on what is to be expected in PHP 5.3 and some of the things PHP has planned for Windows development. The discussion was pretty high level but it entailed some things that a lot of developers are going to love like namespaces, late static binding, variable class name allowance in static method calls and the __DIR constant that will expose itself as the current directory from which your code is being called.

After the morning, as I was walking upstairs I ran into Davey Shafik. We talked for a bit and were soon joined by a collection of people that, to me, represent a sort of pantheon of PHP names:

I was fortunate enough to actually meet Paul and Laura for the first time. The other folks I had met throughout the conference and thoroughly enjoyed their company this morning. After what seemed an entirely too short an hour or so I decided it was time to call it a conference and proceeded home, somewhat sad that this great experience was over and somewhat relieved at that same thought.

I am so looking forward to next year’s Zend Conference. Perhaps I might make it to a few other conferences before then (like Tek or Works). If not, I will still be happy in knowing that I was finally able to mix it up a bit with my peers and I was able to get my ZCE certification. I am so stoked now.

ZendCon 2008 – Day 3

Sometimes you can pick them well and sometimes you can’t. That was the story of my day.

After missing the morning session that I wanted to go to (Elizabeth Smith’s talk on Architecting for PHP5 happened to be in the smallest room and was full 10 minutes before the start) Jason and I made our way to the big room where we learned about several lesser known security vulnerabilities in PHP. Stefan Essar has a knack for finding security issues in PHP and moving the fixes into production rapidly (his technique is a little, well, cutting edge but gets the job done with a minimum of carnage).

After Stefan’s talk we attended the “State of Ajax” keynote given by Ben Galbraith of Ajaxian. All I can say about this talk is WOW. I did not know that the web was headed in the direction it is headed and I am so excited to be a web developer right now because what is going to be produced over the next few years is going to be butt-kicking goodness. I am just plain excited and looking forward to tapping into this technology. Plus Ben was using his iPhone as a remote to control his presentation on his Mac, and he showed how to use a Wii with Javascript to make a dart game for your computer.

From there things went a little downhill. Instead of hitting up Terry Chay’s talk about “Making your frameworks suck less” in his uncon session I decided to listen to Chris Shiflett talk about security centered design. I think this was not the wisest choice I could have made. Terry Chay was running the gauntlet on foul language and involving his attendees while Shiflett, as much as I love this dude, just talked about, well, to be honest, I’m not really sure. It lulled me a tad and it was actually more entertaining to watch Terry Chay’s talk on the #zendcon Twitter stream than it was listening to Chris (sorry Chris, I give you mad props for security but the talk was a little boring).

Thinking that I wanted to hit up Andrei Zmievsky’s “VIM for PHP Programmers” talk next we headed up there to find that there were no tables in his class room. This made following in VIM very difficult so instead I changed gears and hit up Sebastian Bergmann’s “Quickstart to Continuous Integration” talk. That, I think, was my first mistake. I totally misunderstood continuous integration I believe since I was not really able to follow along in that talk at all.

It got better though when I went to Eli White’s talk on “High Performance PHP & MySQL Scaling Techniques”. His talk, while covering some high level ideas and principles, was easy to follow and offered a lot of good information to the listeners. If I ever get to the point where I get to deploy several servers I will be sure to dig up the slides from this talk because it was awesome for those that are interested in scaling applications to a large degree.

After Eli’s talk we headed to dinner where we hung out a bit more with Brad Vernon over beers and snacks. And though I really, really wanted to go to the Yahoo! party, Jason, who was acting as my chauffeur for the evening had to hit the road so we took off and headed home. But the day was not a total loss. I was able to meet Andi Gutmans (the “nd” part of Zend) and Keith Casey. So overall it was an awesome day of learning, networking and meeting people I have really wanted to meet. I cannot almost not wait until tomorrow.

ZendCon 2008 – Day 2

Wow, today was an absolutely awesome day. It started with me passing the ZCE exam (which in and of itself was enough for my day to be pretty darn cool). But immediately afterward, as I was walking in the hall, I was able to meet a ton of people that I have wanted to meet for a while. Some of the folks I was able to meet and shake hands with today were:

  • Davey Shafik
  • Derick Rethans
  • Sebastian Bergmann
  • Cal Evans
  • Chris Cornutt
  • Matthew Weier O’Phinney
  • Zeev Suraski

I was also able to learn quite a bit of stuff in Wez Furlong‘s talk on PDO and Brandon Savage‘s talk on user permissions.

After those talks was dinner, which made for a great time meeting people, eating, drinking and walking around aimlessly as though I was trying to find something. The food was awesome, available in large quantity and warm and the drinks were flowing freely to anyone that asked. And it was at dinner that I was able to meet Zeev Suraski, the “Ze” part of Zend.

After a very long day, a lot of fighting with the stupid ZendCon network, lots of good food and meeting good people and lots of learning, Jason and I hit the road at about 7:15, tired, but looking forward to tomorrow.

And I am. There are still people I need to meet.

Hi, I’m Robert Gonzalez, Zend Certified Engineer

I am a ZCE! And I am stoked.

I have been wanting to take the exam for a while now and I finally got the opportunity to do it today. I have had a voucher to take the exam for a while as well, but got another one when I signed up for the Zend Conference so I decided I would study and take the exam while I was at ZendCon. I really wanted to take it on Monday but I wasn’t able to get into the session so I scheduled my exam (and my coworker Jason’s exam) for 10:00 AM this morning.

Jason picked me up early and we got to the Santa Clara Convention Center at about 8:45. We decided to study up until the time we had to be in the exam room so we opened up the PHP manual and started memorizing. That is probably not the best way to prepare for an exam but it was all we could do other than pee and drink more coffee so that is what we did.

We hit the room a little before 10:00, got signed in, got set up then got busy. About 45 minutes later I was able to throw my hands in the air after an exasperated sigh when I found out I passed. I was, and still am, stoked.

It might not mean a lot right away, but to me it is something accomplished that I have wanted to accomplish for a while now. And I am glad it is done.

ZendCon 2008 – Day 1

Today marked a new experience for me as a PHP developer: I got to go my first PHP developer’s conference, ZendCon 2008. I have wanted to come to one of these conferences for a long time now so this is a real boon for me as a tech head and professional developer.

I gotta tell you I am really freaking stoked at my experience today. Although I didn’t attend any tutorials today I did spend the day in Christian Wenz’s ZCE Crash Course breakout session in preparation for the PHP 5 ZCE exam I am planning on taking tomorrow. This session was worth the price of admission all by itself.

Christian just knows how to teach. I had taken a ZCE training course before over the course of four weeks and 24 hours and managed to learn a pretty decent amount. I took a few ZCE practice exams after that and managed to score a PASS and a PASS. But they were not really string passes as I failed in a few of the 12 sections, got a pass in most of them and an excellent in a few others.

After taking Christian’s course today I came home and took another practice exam and managed to get a pass in which 10 of the 12 sections were scored as excellent and two of the sections were pass. So I am feeling a little better about taking the ZCE exam tomorrow as I think I might actually be able to pass this thing knowing a little more about streams and XML.

But getting back to the conference, I was pretty excited today to be able to meet some folks that I have always wanted to meet (or at least as long as I have been a developer and have known some of these names).  I was able to meet Christian Wenz, Wez Furlong, Elizabeth Smith, Ben Ramsey, Matthew Turland, Lorna Mitchell and Christian Flickinger. I was like a kid in a candy store meeting names of people that I look up to in the PHP development community.

Overall today I had a great time. Jason, my coworker, and I took in a lot of good info from the day and from the breakout session. I am really looking forward to meeting some other folks and mixing it up  bit tomorrow. And I am also looking forward to passing my ZCE first thing in the morning. Wish me luck. Tomorrow I plan on being a ZCE.

Meeting up with some local MySQL users

This past Monday I had the fortune of attending my very first meetup. I had set a goal for myself a few weeks ago that I would attend one before the end of the year. It happened way sooner that I thought it would and resulted in me being able to mix it up with a few fine folks at the Silicon Valley MySQL Meetup.

There was a business need for me hitting this thing up. Firstly, I am a web developer. I am not a DBA and I am certainly not a MySQL guru. I can write queries but the extent of my MySQL knowledge ends right about there. Secondly, I am responsible for management and maintenance of all of our MySQL servers at work. There is one chief DBA who is a Sybase queen, another two or three folks that know their way around a Sybase server (and to a lesser extent a general database server) and then there is me and my colleague who write web apps and MySQL queries. Thirdly, I am an administrator for a very popular PHP developers forum and knowing how to get myself out of the stupid ass scraped I have gotten us into when it comes to MySQL would be darn handy.

So I set out to hit this meetup. It was held at the Sun Microsystems complex in Palo Alto (or Redwood City or wherever you are when you come off the Dumbarton Bridge on the Peninsula side). I was looking forward to finally meeting a man that I have been communicating with for some time now (yes, you Don) and to networking with other MySQL/PHP/Web developers in my local geographic region. And I was not disappointed.

The talk itself was a little boring to be honest. But that is because I am not at all interested in database shards and the whatnot. However I was very interested in meeting Don Ravey, a fellow moderator on our forums, Mr. Tish Wood, a very prominent member of the PHP Meetup community and one of the coordinators of the meetup Eric Bergen from Proven Scaling. Not only that, but there were a host of other people there that provided excellent commentary, questions and challenges for the speaker of the evening.

I love being in the mixed company of brilliant people like that. It is humbling, exciting and gives me something to look forward to. I so enjoyed being there, connecting, talking with people, meeting a few folks and hopefully being able to glean something from someone somewhere. I just hope that I can, at some point, make it to another meetup. Perhaps a LAMP meetup or a PHP meetup. After this last meetup Tish asked me if I would at all be interested in speaking to a group at the Greater SF Bay Area LAMP meetup. I think I would love to do that.

If I can find an evening to get away for a while longer than this last evening. And if we can find a way to not have a meetup in San Francisco. Because as much as I like socializing and hanging with other technology professionals, I cannot fathom the thought of heading to The City for a 7:00 PM meeting on a weekday evening. Until then though, I can start thinking about what I would talk about if I were to ever talk.

And hopefully I will be a little more relevant to a n00B than that fella at the MySQL meetup was to me. He was good and he knew his stuff for the most part. But it was not my cup of tea so I sort of lost interest a little in the subject matter. That was ok though, because I met people, got numbers and had a free coke. In the end, what could be better than that?