Upgrading to PHP 7.3 on Ubuntu Bionic 18.04 LTS

Ubuntu 18.04 ships with PHP 7.2 by default but there are various reasons why you may wish to upgrade to newer versions. For example, active support for it ends later this year – far sooner than the 2023 support window for the OS.

In addition, applications will be released that will require newer versions in that 2018 – 2023 window. For IXP Manager, we are releasing v5 this month and mandating PHP 7.3 support. We do this to stay current and to prevent developer apathy – insisting on legacy frameworks and packages that have been EOL’d provides a major stumbling block for bringing on new developers and contributors. There’s also a real opportunity cost – I have a couple free hours, will I work on project A or project B? If project A uses an old stale toolchain where everything is that much more awkward that project B then which would you choose?

So, from a typical LAMP stack install of Ubuntu 18.04, you’ll find something like the following packages for PHP:

root@ubuntu:/var/www/html# dpkg -l | grep php | cut - -b 1-65
 ii  libapache2-mod-php                    1:7.2+60ubuntu1
 ii  libapache2-mod-php7.2                 7.2.17-0ubuntu0.18.04.1
 ii  php-common                            1:60ubuntu1
 ii  php-mysql                             1:7.2+60ubuntu1
 ii  php7.2-cli                            7.2.17-0ubuntu0.18.04.1
 ii  php7.2-common                         7.2.17-0ubuntu0.18.04.1
 ii  php7.2-json                           7.2.17-0ubuntu0.18.04.1
 ii  php7.2-mysql                          7.2.17-0ubuntu0.18.04.1
 ii  php7.2-opcache                        7.2.17-0ubuntu0.18.04.1
 ii  php7.2-readline                       7.2.17-0ubuntu0.18.04.1

Obviously your exact list will vary depending on what you installed. I find the easiest way to upgrade is to start by removing all installed PHP packages. Based on the above:

dpkg -r libapache2-mod-php libapache2-mod-php7.2 php-common   \
  php-mysql php7.2-cli php7.2-common php7.2-json php7.2-mysql \
  php7.2-opcache php7.2-readline

The goto place for current versions of PHP on Ubuntu is Ondřej Surý’s PPA (Personal Package Archive). Ondřej maintains this in his own time so don’t be afraid to tip him here.

It’s easy to add this to 18.04 as follows:

add-apt-repository ppa:ondrej/php
apt-get update

Then install the PHP 7.3 packages you want / need. For example we can just take the package removal line above and install the 7.3 equivalents with:

apt install libapache2-mod-php libapache2-mod-php7.3 php-common \
    php-mysql php7.3-cli php7.3-common php7.3-json php7.3-mysql \
    php7.3-opcache php7.3-readline

And voilà:

php -v
 PHP 7.3.5-1+ubuntu18.04.1+deb.sury.org+1 (cli) (built: May  3 2019 10:00:24) ( NTS )

One post-installation check is to replicate and custom php.ini changes you may have made (max upload size, max post size, max memory usage, etc.).

Migrating Legacy Web Applications to Laravel

I gave a talk on migrating legacy web applications to Laravel at last year’s Laravel Live UK conference in London. Those that rated it gave it high marks which is always brilliant feedback to receive.

2018 was Laravel Live UK’s inaugural conference and it was a packed house. They’ve just announced the dates for 2019 and I would strongly recommend attending for anyone using or interested in use Laravel.

Following the conference, I wrote up the talk as an article and it has just been published in the March 2019 edition of php[architect]. This is an excellent magazine which I’ve subscribed to for a few years now – the digital edition is very reasonable and comes as a DRM-free PDF onto an app on your phone/pad or downloaded to your computer.

As it happens, they chose this article as the teaser for this issue and so it is freely available online here and downloadable as a PDF here. But seriously, if you are a PHP developer, you need to subscribe to this magazine.

Lastly, if you are interested in the slide deck from the conference, you can download them here – but the article is a much better way to understand this material.

UI Tests with Laravel Dusk for IXP Manager

We use standard PHPUnit tests for IXP Manager for some mission critical aspects. These take data from a test database filled with known sample data (representing a range of different member configurations). The tests then use this information to generate configurations and compare these against known-good configurations.

This way, we know that for a given set of data, we will get a predictable output so long as we haven’t accidentally broken anything in development.

But, as an end user, how do you know that what you stick in a web-based form gets put into the database correctly? And conversely, how do you know that form represents the database data correctly when editing?

This is an issue we ran into recently around some checkbox logic and a dropdown showing the wrong selected element. These issues are every bit as dangerous to mission critical elements as the output tests we do with PHPUnit.

To test the frontend, we turn to Laravel Duskan expressive, easy-to-use browser automation and testing API. What this actually means is that we can right code like this:

We have now added Dusk tests for UI elements that involve adding, editing and deleting all aspects of a member interface and all aspects of adding, editing and delete a router object. Here’s an example of the latter:

Laravel Dusk - Animated Gif Example

So I’ve Made the Switch from SVN to Git…

…and I’m bloody delighted. 

The straw finally came when Nick forced my hand for a project we wanted to release through our work in INEX. I was pushing for Google Code but he had his heart set on GitHub. Now, in fairness, GitHub has some SVN bindings but after some research, I decided to dive right in.

Now, there’s both a steep learning curve but also a complete change of mindset required from centralised source code management (SCM) with SVN to the distributed model of Git. In the end, most projects will decide on a canonical Git repository anyway which pushes you slightly back towards centralised but there’s still a world of a difference.

So, what’s so good about Git? Well, lots. But first and foremost is it’s exceptionally powerful yet simple branching and merging that just works. And works fast – remember, with Git everything is local.

One work flow that used to kill me in SVN was that you’d be implementing feature X but someone needed bug Y fixed immediately involving some of the same code. Getting just the fix for Y in was tough and complicated. And branching in SVN isn’t quick or simple. In Git, I branch from the main development branch for every new feature, bug fix, etc and then merge what I need between them and back into develop when they’re ready to be pushed back to the agreed canonical repository.

I’ve been so impressed with Git that I’ve moved an open source project we created in Open Solutions over to Github: ViMbAdmin. I’ve also forced the rest of my team in Open Solutions over to Git and migrated a number of customer projects already. And we’re reaping productivity rewards!

How we work Git for projects was taken from this excellent post which I would fully recommend: A successful Git branching model.

Useful Git Links: