PSR-0 PSR-1 PSR-2, Drupal, and You!

For the past couple years, discussions about 'PSR-0', PHP standards, and some sort of framework standardizations have been popping up here and there. It wasn't until a bunch of 'PSR-0 Interoperability' patches started popping up in the Drupal core issue queues that I decided to take a closer look at PSR. (The latest? PSR-1 (Basic Coding Standard) and PSR-2 (Coding Style Guide) have been accepted).

Getting Ping statistics with PHP

[Note: Since writing this post, I've created the Ping class for PHP, which incorporates three different ping/latency/uptime methods for PHP, and is a lot more robust than the script I have posted below.]

I recently needed to display some ping/server statistics on a website using PHP. The simplest way to do something like this is to use the built-in linux utility ping, and then parse the results. Instead of doing complex regex with the entirety of ping's output, though, I also used a couple other built-in linux utilities to get just what I needed.

Here's how I got just the response time of a given IP address:

<br /
$ip_address = '123.456.789.0'; // IP address you'd like to ping.
exec("ping -c 1 " . $ip_address . " | head -n 2 | tail -n 1 | awk '{print $7}'", $ping_time);
print $ping_time[0]; // First item in array, since exec returns an array.

The above script will ping the given IP address, and simply pull out the response time in milliseconds. You can further parse the response time to just be the numeric value by running it through substr($ping_time[0], 5).

Creating an Image Effect to put a play button on Video thumbnails

I had a rather interesting feature to implement on flocknote lately (after doing a pretty vast redesign of the UX/UI on the site over the past month... it was refreshing to dig into PHP again!):

We want to allow insertion of YouTube and Vimeo (and potentially other) videos into 'Notes' on the site, and there are a few moving parts in this equation:

  • I had to create a text format filter similar to the 'Embedded media inline' module in Drupal 6 so people could simply put a 'merge tag' in their Note (like [video=URL]) where they want the video to appear.
  • When a user views the embedded video on the site, the video should show at a uniform width/height, and be able to play the video (basically, a merge tag the user enters should be converted to the proper embed code for the provider (in this case, an
    <br />
    with the proper formatting).
  • When a user sees the video in the note email, the video can't actually play since very few email clients support any kind of video embedded in an email. So, instead, the video shows as a frame with a play button on top (this is the trickiest part), and links to the video on YouTube, Vimeo, etc.

Creating my own Image Effect for a Video Play Button

What I wanted to end up with was an image that had a custom-made iOS-style play button (play icon in a circle with a translucent grey background) right in the middle (I like the simple look of videos on my iPad...):

Video Play Button Example

So, I decided to work with Drupal's Image Effect API and expose a new image effect, aptly named 'Video Play Button', to Drupal's simple set of 'Resize, Scale, etc.' image effects. This is a pretty simple process:

Moving Comments into a Block - Drupal 7

[Note: It looks like there's a new module, as of January 2013, Node Comment Block, which uses the technique outlined below to move comments into a block.]

Most of the time, Drupal's convention of printing comments and the comment form inside the node template (node.tpl.php) is desirable, and doesn't cause any headaches.

However, I've had a few cases where I wanted to either put comments and the comment form in another place on the page, and in the most recent case, I asked around to see what people recommended for moving comments out of the normal rendering method. I found a few mentions of using Panels, and also noticed the Commentsblock module that does something like this using Views.

However, I just wanted to grab the normal comment information, and stick it directly into a block, and put that block somewhere else. I didn't want Views' overhead, or to have to re-theme and tweak things in Views, since I already have a firm grasp of comment rendering and form theming with the core comment display.

So, I set out to do something similar to this comment on (which was also suggested by Jimajamma on Drupal Answers).

Sending emails to multiple receipients with Amazon SES

After reading through a ton of documentation posts and forum topics for Amazon SES about this issue, I finally found this post about the string list format that helped me be able to send an email with Amazon SES's sendmail API to multiple recipients.

Every way I tried getting this working, I was receiving errors like InvalidParameter for the sender, Unexpected list element termination for the error code, etc.

Normally, when sending email, you can either pass a single address or multiple addresses as a string, and you'll be fine:

Using apachebench (ab) with Drupal 7 to load test site with authenticated users

apachebench is an excellent performance and load-testing tool for any website, and Drupal-based sites are no exception. A lot of Drupal sites, though, need to be measured not only under heavy anonymous traffic load (users who aren't logged in), but also under heavy authenticated-user load. has some good tips for ab testing, but the details for using ab's '-C' option (notice the capital C... C is for Cookie) are lacking. Basically, if you pass the -C option with a valid session ID/cookie, Drupal will send ab the page as if ab were authenticated.

Instead of constantly going into the database and looking up session IDs and such nonsense, I have a simple script, which is quite revised from the 2008-era script originally from 2bits that worked with Drupal 5, which will give you the proper ab commands for stress-testing your Drupal site under authenticated user load. Simply copy the attached script (source pasted below) to your site's docroot, and run the command from the command line as follows:

Prefill the Subject of a Privatemsg Message

I've had a nice go at making private messaging capabilities for flockNote work a lot nicer than the out-of-the-box Privatemsg module experience, by simplifying everything to the point that it's closer to the Facebook Direct Message system than the normal Privatemsg UX. (Privatemsg is the premiere way of handling private messaging in Drupal. It's already awesome out of the box... just needed a bit more help for our particular site ;-).

One thing I had wanted to do for a while is prefill the subject field of certain messages. I already have the new private message page appear inside an overlay popup after a user clicks on a link to send a private message to another user on the site.

Privatemsg prefill subject

New Tool for Telling Time:

After staring at a todo in my inbox for a few weeks, I finally got around to doing it on the flight back from Boston yesterday. I simply wanted an easy, quick, at-a-glance way of telling what time it was in different timezones/cities around the US (and eventually around the world).

So, I created on the iPad
(as displayed on the iPad)

I've been wanting something like this for quite some time, and I finally got a few hours to play around with dates and times in PHP and JavaScript. The times may not be quite right when viewed in certain timezones, so I'd appreciate if any friends from outside US Central time could tell me if their own times are correct.

Dreaming in Drupal

How do you know you've been thinking about work too much? When your wife relates a conversation she had with you in the morning, and you don't remember a word, but can definitely see how what you said relates to what you're working on:

Saith my wife: "Jeff, how do you set your alarm?"

My (groggy) reply: "Hit field, the arrow, then default."

Now, this could possibly have something to do with alarm clocks. There are often arrows on them, and you hit buttons... but I know better. I was referring to:

$this-&gt;addFieldMapping('field', 'source')-&gt;defaultValue(0);

...which I have probably typed about 100 times in the past week, and maybe 20 or so last night during a late-night debugging session with the Migration process of flockNote v2 to v3 (from a proprietary WAMP-based system to a new Drupal 7 LAMP-based system).

PHP: Calculating Monthly/Yearly Billing Dates - Same day next month

On a recent project, I needed to generate the timestamp for the 'same day, next month' for billing purposes. This can be tough in some circumstances, like when a user signs up on the 31st of August. What happens in September, when there are 30 days? If I were to simply try something like strtotime('+1 month'), I would get back the first day of October rather than September 30th. Same problem happens when someone hits February (oh my! only 28 days there... sometimes 29).

After looking through a bunch of different forums, Stack Overflow, etc., and finding that most people simply pro-rated the current month and billed people on the 1st (which is a valid option), I decided to write my own function that calculates the same day, next month, and simply gives the last day of the next month if the next month doesn't have as many days as this month.

It's pretty much self-documenting. It could probably be reworked to be a little faster, but I had to do this pretty quickly, and it's pretty robust imo: