We will be having a Singapore PHP User Group meetup at the NUS Extension at Park Mall, at the 12th floor later at 8:00pm. If you are in the area and would like to join us, do feel free to pop by because there will be food and prizes! The venue is kindly sponsored by E27 and Garag3, while refreshments are sponsored by Willy Foo of Live!Studios. You can stand to win some prizes which had been kindly put forth by Zend Technologies Ltd.

Here’s the details of the event:

Date: 12 December 2007

Time: 8:00pm sharp (registration starts at 7:30pm)

Venue: NUS Extension (9 Penang Road, #12-01, Park Mall Shopping Centre ;opposite Dhoby Ghaut MRT)

Fees: Free of Charge! (Just BYOL – Bring Your Own Laptop)

Promotional Flyer: Download here

Here’s the agenda for today:

7:30pm – 8:00pm Registration & Networking Session
8:00pm – 8:10pm Opening Address – Michael Cheng
  Professional Track PHP101 Track
8:10pm – 8:50pm Session 1 – PHP & Microsoft Technologies Session 1 – PHP102: Language Fundamentals (Advanced)
8:50pm – 10:30pm Session 2 – WordPress Plugin Development with PHP Session 2 – PHP and Zend Technologies in the Enterprise
10:30pm – 10:40pm Closing Remarks & Networking Session
10:40pm – ?? Go home or Supper

Before the proper event begins, we have an interview with Michael Cheng, commonly known as miccheng, who is the organizer of the event.

So, Mike, what prompted you to organize this event?

I see a shortage of PHP developers in Singapore and a growing need by Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to use PHP. So I started the group to help develop and grow the number of developers and also to help match-make the developers with businesses.

But with the shortage of PHP developers in Singapore, how will this help in match making them with businesses?

There are developers, just that they are entry-level. I hope that through this group, we can help to expose these developers to new things and to help them develop new skills – to be on par with the top tiered developers.

It’s not just developers we are targeting, [but] its also companies that deploy PHP solutions. We hope that this community can be an avenue where they can market their services and recruit developers.

That’s a good idea. I understand that this is the second meet up that you have. What’s so different about today’s meet up from the first?

[We have a] different venue for one, [and] this month, we are touching on how PHP can work with other technologies, and we have a speaker from Microsoft, Chris Ismael, to talk to us about how MS tools and server technologies and co-exisit and interoperate in the business environment. We also have Rama Yurinda from Zend Technologies talking abt how Zend Platform can benefit enterprises who use PHP.

[The] crowd [is] pretty much the same… [and] we’ve got food now! Oh, [and the] main difference [is that] we are splitting into 2 tracks now – 1 track for newbies & intermediate level developers (PHP101 Track) and the Professional Track (for seasoned pros and industry folks).

[Also] because in the last session, we had 3 speakers back to back and the meetup ended quite late. Also, splitting the topics will also facilitate better learning experience for everyone – newbies and oldies alike.

In preparation for today’s meetup, we also had a Business Brunch last weekend where we engaged the PHP Business community to hear their needs and to help them find developers that they need. It was an encouraging session where business folks get to network with our team and many developers. Moreover, I’ve formed a core team to help me organise this.

That’s really a lot of work involved. So, do you hope to gain anything from this?

I think everyone joins in with an agenda in mind. My agenda is to help people make the connections – business, professional or personal connections. If we get some monetary benefit along the way, I’m fine with it – cos it is really not cheap to do this, but we run a pretty tight ship here.

Will you eventually charge for organizing an event like this?

We would like to keep this free for as long as we can. As long as sponsors come forward, and people still offer us venues, we will keep organising it. I suspect we will eventually go on a tiered model, because this meet up isn’t the only thing we are organising – we have various special interest groups in the work. We just formed a Facebook SIG (special interest group) [and] they will be working with Garag3 next year to develop and run a FB Developer Garage, and we have other initiatives in the pipeline now… such as a "PHP Bootcamp" for extreme coding. We’ll keep things free for as long as we can [and] if the cost overruns, we will have to charge. Who knows, we may have a PHP Conference at Suntec next year.

Thank you so much for your time. do you have any words for people who are coming to the event today?

My advice would be – don’t wait to be served. Help yourself and take initiative. Your learning and ability to grow is in your own hands. The User Group can only do so much, the rest is up to you. Let the market thrive.

And there you have it, our exclusive interview with Michael Cheng, who is the convener of the Singapore PHP User Group. We’d adjourn for a short while and when we are back, we’ll bring you the highlights of the event. Stay tuned.

— Intermission —

Notice: There will be 2 tracks running concurrently for today’s Singapore PHP User Group meet up. This live blogging will be covering the Professional Track. Nicole will be covering the PHP101 track.


7:18pm A warm welcome to the 2nd Singapore PHP User Group meet up (which miccheng thinks is the eighth). Everyone’s getting prep’d up for today’s meeting and everyone is pretty much excited. I’m not sure about you, but I am feeling pretty good already!

7:20pm There are some technicalities, but everything’s all up and well again. The atmosphere is good as everyone is mingling. Well everyone except me because I am here live blogging for this event.

I spoke to Alex Quek who attended the previous meet up as well. He had just started developing in PHP and had developed one application for Facebook called Singapore Delights. He’s starting PHP with database programming and is looking forward to more insights in PHP. For someone who just started, I think he’s really on the right path with Facebook because that’s where he can get maximum exposure and feedback.

Here’s a quick mugshot of some of the attendees who are here. =)

DSC00489 DSC00490 DSC00491 DSC00492 DSC00493 DSC00494 DSC00495 DSC00496 DSC00506 DSC00510

And since everyone is here, what better else to do than to interact and mix around?

DSC00504 DSC00505

So, sit down and relax while the event starts.

7:56pm miccheng is giving a short introduction of today’s meet up. The professional track will be held in the current room at room 9 while the PHP 101 will be held at room 19. For those who are interested in attending both the tracks, fret not because there will be recordings in both tracks, so everyone will be able to review the other track that they did not attend.

Meanwhile do chill out for a while. There are some survey forms that can be filled up to understand you better and at the same time, there’s also a program sheet so that you’d know what to expect.

8:04pm The event has now officially started! The PHP User Group started in mid 2006 and it is not the first PHP user group in Singapore, although it is the only active one. It’s mission is to develop a bigger and more effective pool of PHP developers in Singapore and to promote the use and adoption of the language. The programs and activities include monthly meet ups, Wiki, curriculum for educators, directory of PHP developers and possibly a conference in the near future.

The survey that everyone has now will work towards creating a directory for the PHP group.

This group is actually still quite new and a lot are volunteers which forms the core team. The PHP user group is also looking for business leaders and educators and everyone else who is interested in helping out.

For this meet up, there is some colour coding that can help differentiate who the developers and entrepreneurs are.

For those who are interested in the PHP 101 track, you may now proceed to room 19, where Nicole will be doing her live blogging there. There will also be a tea break later on where people can get to mingle and interact. There will also be a lucky draw for all who are present today, so don’t leave without finding out if you have won anything! 😉

8:10pm Chris Ismael, a developer evangelist from Microsoft is now starting the Professional track. He met Michael from a tech talk event earlier on and hence found out that miccheng is from the PHP user group.

For Microsoft, 3 to 4 years ago, there had also been an issue with interoperability where Microsoft products will only work with the likes and not with any others. However, that’s all set to change recent and they are looking into collaborating with Fast CGI and some other open source applications.

Today, Chris will talk about demos – mostly demos, including SQL Server PHP driver, Open XML and PHP, Cardspace and PHP, Live Services and PHP, Silverlight and PHP and Server Core + IIS 7 + PHP + MySQL (which will be touched on by Matt from Microsoft).

If you think about microsoft, you think about drag and drop. But hey, they are giving away 50 copies of VS 2008 and Windows Server 2008. Chris is finding out on who is using VS 2005 and MS 2007 and had highlighted that Office 2007 now makes use of Open XML.

Chris will also talk about Virtual Earth and some other stuffs that embeds on the webpage in a jiffy. All these courtesy of Live Services from Microsoft.

8:17pm Chris is showing a preview of the SQL Server 2005 Driver for PHP community technology preview, and is currently asking for comments and feedback from all users or potential users of the driver.

You’d have to be here to see what’s happening! Haha… alternatively you can take a look at the video which will be uploaded during the break.

Someone from the audience asked about the difference and advantages comparing MySQL and MSSQL. However, because Chris is not familiar with MySQL, he is unable to make a fair comparison, although he’s highlighting on the advantages of MSSQL.

The application that he’s showing is the AdventureWorks, which is probably available on the net as a sample program.

8:24pm Chris is now touching on Open XML, which is a bunch of XML files zipped up together. It is supposed similar to OEF (does anyone know what OEF is?). So, if you have an Office 2007 document that ends with .xlsx, .docs, or .pptx, you can actually rename it to .zip and you’d be able to see a whole bunch of XML files inside.

Chris did a demo of it and it works! He continued to mention that there is a risk that whatever files that are being created now may run the risk of not being able to open 20 years down the road.

He continued to show CodePlex (www.codeplex.com) which apparently gives you a library that allows you to generate an excel file without using a Microsoft product.

An example was shown and apparently it is a set of PHP code that when ran, creates a .xlsx that is exactly the same as that when created using a Microsoft Excel program. There are also instructions in CodePlex to ensure that everything is correctly parsed and zipped up.

Through this, Microsoft aims to show that they are committed to making their products compatible and open source to the developers and public – allowing interoperability across different applications.

8:32pm Next, Chris is showing CardSpace, which is an application which allows you to send private indentity information across the Internet in an encrypted manner.

Chris tried opening a file in Microsoft Word, but for some reasons decided to just use notepad. Perhaps Word is an overkill for just a simple text file.

In the midst of the demo, there are some technical glitches that seems to be hampering the demo from happening.

After a few tries, the demo finally worked and we are able to see information that is being sent in XML via CardSpace. Through the use of CardSpace, users would be able to make use of a private identifier where different applications will be able to use to authenticate – it’s something like a secret between the user and a website.

It is seemingly like PGP key if you ask me.

8:41pm Chris is now talking about Live Services and Virtual Earth. Apparently, people do not need to know how to code in order to make use of Virtual Earth. By going to http://dev.live.com, we will be able to retrieve ifnormation on how to develop Virtual Earth. And it doesn’t stop there! There’s an interactive SDK that developers will be able to use – which is presented as a menu on the left side of the website.

Apparently, whatever that we do to the interactive site, it is able to provide a set of code that developers can conveniently copy and paste. For users who are using Windows Live Writer for blogging, they would be familiar with how they can easily integrate a map into their blog.

Chris is now dissecting one such HTML code that is being generated by the interactive SDK site to show how we can even make use of the code again in PHP by just substituting values with PHP variables.

Ed: Chris commented that the Internet connection at NEX is apparently quite good – and the last time that they had to do a demo, they had to settle for Africa! =P

While Chris was trying to figure out the longitude and latitude of Singapore, Bernard shouted 1, 103.54 for the figures. Wow! Talk about Ph.D researchers! Their brain’s the size of the universe.

The next Live Service that Chris is showing is on integrating Live Messenger into a webpage. I think this is way cool – especially when people who are using the webpage to chat are able to remain anonymous. I’m not sure how this will prevent stalkers and weird visitors though.

There are no reports on browser interoperability yet but users and developers are encouraged to find out and feedback.

8:53pm While Chris is about to show Silverlight, but someone asked how the previous Live Messenger had to do with PHP. He’s looking into grabbing chat history and storing it into a database – but that Live service being just a month old, is still new in development.

The introduction on Silverlight is rather brief because he now has 5 minutes left.

8:54pm Chris now hands over the stage to Matt, who is showing the installing on Server Core. Apparently, it takes 10 minutes to install the entire MySQL + PHP + IIS7 + Server Core.

Matt also admits that running PHP on Windows Sever is not an entirely good idea. So Server Core hopes to address this issue by making it good to run on it. While PHP on Linux had always been the choice of developers, Matt is going to show how Server Core is going to change the perception on this.

Ed: I thought I spot Chris running the installation in the background – is he trying to show that by the time Matt finishes, he’s done?

Matt also showed that in Server Core, all the non-essential things are ripped – no more start button, no more clock, no more non-essential icons! All Server Core has is all the essential stuffs that’s required on a server machine. People may ask why Microsoft is working with MySQL, which Matt concede that they are good partners and thus are good to work with (Matt works with the CSI – commercial software initiative, which looks into interoperability with other applications [which has a good market share]).

Currently, Chris is still setting up the MySQL in the background, while Matt is running out of things to say. Some goodies for today’s attendees is that they are going to give out Server Core (effectively Windows Server 2008 Enterprise), although it is really only RC0 – which according to Matt, is almost as close to the final product. I wonder if they key is life long. 😉

Chris is now setting up the WordPress database in the backend while Matt entertains questions from the audience.

9:07pm Chris is done with the installation, which essentially took the whole of 15 minutes. The call to action now is to go check it out at http://www.microsoft.com/opensource or email Chris or Matt at t-chism@microsoft.com and matthard@microsoft.com. They are looking forward to working together on further developments.

9:10pm There is refreshment and we will be taking a break until 9:20pm. Do stay tune!

9:28pm I’m back! Took some photos of some food, but for some apparent reasons, WLW keeps adding shadows to photos with shadows already. Oh well…

9:32pm Next up, we have Lester, who is a second year student in school of computing in NUS and had been developing plugins since 2003. There’s a whole list of plugins which includes WP-Polls, WP-PostViews, WP-Stats and WP-UserOnline, amongst many popular ones.

A little bit more on WP. WP hooks allows the plugin to integrate itself into WP. There are actions in WP Hooks of which one thing to note is that the lower the number for priority, the higher the priority.

There’s also filter, and a lot of other things, which when neglected, causes other plugins to fail. This is something to take note of for future developers.

Lester is doing a quick demo on the different plugins that he has done and I didn’t know that he has a plugins used widget!

Ed: Lester uses EditPlus because it colours the syntax, just FYI.

Lester had been giving a very quick run through demo of his coding, of which the functions are available via WordPress. He primarily run through some coding which he done for his plugins and widgets to show certain key functions that he had used and to take note off.

Some of his plugins apparently has an uninstall option which allows the blogger to effectively DROP all tables that the plugin has created. I didn’t know that he had a post-rating plugin, which allows interested readers to vote up or down a post.

For writing plugins, he gets some donations from users, although 99.9% of them do not come from Singapore! From 2003 to 2007, Lester had collected about US$4000. The market rate for customized plugins creation is about US$100 to US$200, which is approximately the market rate. =)

Some of the problems that Lester faced is that users usually do not bother to read the readme, nor do they bother to search the forums for answers. The users would usually repost similar questions and expect to have answers – and not bothering to read any form of documentation as well.

Worse of all, a lot of users add him on MSN and now Lester has more than 200 contacts on MSN that he does not recognise!

With regards for support, there is no WordPress MU support, although he feels that his plugins can be easily hacked to support MU – by just changing some database variables.

10:03pm An attendee from the audience asked about how Lester ensures that his plugins are compatible with versions, for this, he checks for functions that are available to determine versioning.

The floor is now opened for all to ask any questions to any speakers – with most interested in Lester’s plugins and Chris’ Live Messenger on blogs.

10:08pm It’s lucky draw time! miccheng is checking with the audience if the talks had been good… but with no response from the audience =S

The first number is 29, which belongs to Hazrul, and his prize? A T-shirt from Zend! The next number is 17, which belongs to Adrian Quek, also conferred unto him a T-shirt from Zend. Finally the last number is 13, which belongs to Ruiping, who according to Tian Hong, always win things in such draws.

The last prize for today is a Zend product, which went to #8 DK! He’s really lucky!

Alright. That brings us to the end of the meet up for December. For any further queries, do feel free to email miccheng at miccheng@php.com.sg. He is still looking for speakers for the January session and they are still looking for volunteers to talk about any topics.

There’s still some food at the back, so if you are still reading this and near this area, do drop by for some more food.

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