Archive for March, 2008

Zend Certified

Well, as of today I am officially certified by Zend as an expert in PHP 5. Around the beginning of the month I purchased the Zend examination bundle. It included both the physical and electronic versions of the study guide by php|architect, 10 practice exams, and the official certification exam, which I finally took today.

At the time, I assumed I would want plenty of time to study, since the test was rather expensive and I would’ve hated to waste my money. As it turned out, based on the results of the first practice test, I was probably ready to pass without any help from the study pack. That feeling was reaffirmed today when I finished the 90-minute timed test in about 45 minutes.

Still, I enjoyed learning a few additional features of the language that I hadn’t encountered before, such as tidy, the SPL, and some of the PHP 5 database interaction tools. I feel I’m probably a better PHP developer now for having gone through the certification study than I was before.

[Update: 4-11-08] Today I received my official certificate in the mail from Zend. Looks like it was actually signed by Zeev and Andi, though with the high quality of today’s printers, I have no way to know for sure. Still, it looks nice. And as pieces of paper for hanging on my office wall go, this one’s a lot cheaper than that one I got from college. There was also a letter with instructions for doing this:
PHP 5 ZCE logo

Cool, huh? It’ll be interesting to see whether having it actually makes my job search any easier. I hope so. Right now I’m doing the solo gig with multiple different clients who each send me a few hours’ work each week. Not bad work all things considered, but not the full-time position I’m still seeking.

March 31 2008 | worth mentioning | No Comments »

Military Signatures

I loved this latest project. It all started when I helped a fellow named Jay on experts-exchange with an issue that had been challenging him for quite some time. After he had his solution, he actually contacted me through a post on this blog asking me to give him a call. I did so, and thus began our partnership.

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Jay had gotten this idea of putting together customized signature logos for military men and women, where they could display their name, rank, badges, ribbons, and other stats about themselves inside a cool stylized image. But while he’s an impressive graphic artist and has an excellent sense of proportion and design within his signatures, he needed more help with the behind-the-scenes coding than simply posting on experts-exchange could afford him.
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Anyway, Jay agreed to match my normal hourly rate of pay, and I in turn did my best to not only give him code that did what he asked for, but code which could be easily understood by him, extended, and reused without his having to know too much about the underlying algorithms I employed.

Among the things I did for him, I:

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  • gave him a way to define blocks of space within a signature for badges and for ribbons
  • constructed a CMS for adding his images and a simple API for calling them back out
  • turned his forms into database-driven affairs that would write large portions of themselves based on the art residing in the database
  • built a system for saving a member’s selections on the signature-building form and then auto-populating the fields each time the member returned
  • developed a way of adding attachments to ribbons (these can be like a set of stars that denote a particular award has been won multiple times) that even allows users to see an instant preview of their ribbon before building the signature
  • built a queue implementation that prevents server memory overload by making sure only one signature gets built at a time (GD operations are fairly memory intense, and too many at once can cause the server to grind to a halt)
  • created a javascript that sends the form selections back to the server and initiates the image creation without forcing a page reload

sigsample3.pngI’m very pleased to see that Jay’s idea has really started to explode in popularity. And he’s the sort of dedicated individual who will take the tools I’ve given him and constantly be turning out new innovations for his site. His thousands of members love all the work he puts into it, and scores of new signups join every day. His site membership has doubled in just the past 2 weeks. And he still hasn’t spent his first dime on advertising. His traffic is increasing entirely through the viral dissemination of these signatures.

I think they look awesome, and I’m really digging the chance to be part of something that looks like it could be huge.

Check out the site – militarysignatures.com

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March 14 2008 | php projects and worth mentioning | No Comments »