PHP, Laravel, And Blockchain

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Published July 4, 2017 by Bill Keck.

PHP, Laravel, And Blockchain

Anyone following my blog knows from my previous post that I recently published Bitcoin For Beginners. That’s not a programming book, but it does go deep into the cryptocurrency ecosystem, which beginners will find helpful.

After years of scoffing at Bitcoin, I finally did some deep research on it and found that I actually liked the concept and the architecture. And let’s face it, the crazy returns that people were seeing in their investments drew me to it as well.

I watched some videos on Bitcoin and blockchain and saw some examples of code in Python. So I jumped into my codeschool account and did the courses on Python, which I enjoyed.

But then, as I started Django, the web framework for Python, I started to really appreciate Laravel again, it’s such a wonderful framework to work with.

So I started looking around for PHP code that can interact with the Bitcoin blockchain, and found a couple of resources, including a blockchain api that integrates with Blockchain.info.

I didn’t find much for use with Laravel, but I did find one package, Maurocasas/blockchain.

Anyway, my research into blockchain has convinced me that there is a huge wave of adoption coming and that it’s an area ripe for development. Ladies and gentlemen, a lot of money is going to be made with blockchain…

As a PHP developer, I’m always worried that the language can fall out of fashion and into disuse. Those fears have mostly been put aside with the Laravel framework, since it makes working with PHP such a pleasure.

But I think we are falling behind in the blockchain space and I would like to see more tools developed. I’m still doing research on this, so perhaps the work has been done, and I just don’t know it yet. I’ll keep looking.

So far, I’ve only found fragments. For example, here is a stack exchange question on a merkle tree.

If you are unfamiliar with a merkle tree, it’s a cool structure of recursive hashes that are incorporated into blockchains like the ones Bitcoin uses. Also here’s a link to the Bitcoin whitepaper, which will give you some background on the overall architecture of bitcoin. It’s 9 pages that changed the world.

If you want more gentle explanations on the tech behind Bitcoin and blockchain, hit up youtube, there are a lot of great videos that explain it better than I can.

Hopefully, we’ll soon see new blockchain tools developed in PHP, and especially in Laravel.  Who knows, maybe we’ll see an official package like Socialite or Echo, but for creating a blockchain instead.  Wouldn’t that be cool?

Thanks again to everyone who has supported my work, especially with the positive reviews on Laravel 5.4 For Beginners.

Is Laravel Right For Enterprise Development

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Published May 12, 2017 by Bill Keck.

Is Laravel Right For Enterprise Development

In the most recent episode of the Laravel Podcast, they spend some time talking about whether or not Laravel is right for enterprise development.

The question, as I see it, breaks out across handling two main points:

  • Scale
  • Complexity

We’ll start with the scale issue.  In the podcast, Jeffery Way makes the argument that most applications will never scale to the point of running into scalability issues with Laravel.

Let me just say upfront, I’m a huge fan of Jeffery Way and watch Laracasts religiously.  At the same time, I disagree with his thinking on scale for the same reason I wouldn’t recommend ignoring n+1 problem simply because there aren’t enough users on the application to create a problem.

In most cases, everyone involved in an enterprise will do everything they can to drive as much traffic to the app as possible, so it’s much better to be ready for it than not.

As I see it, this question is really not about Laravel, but about PHP in general and how you handle state. Personally, I love handling state through sessions, it’s just so easy to work with.  By using AWS and Redis, you should be able to handle quite a lot of scale, without having to go to stateless auth.  I should also note that Laravel does support stateless auth, though I have never personally used it.

Exactly how much scale you can get to using sessions is beyond my level of experience, but it’s worth noting that Facebook was built with PHP, and they have certainly achieved an amazing level scale.  But like I said, I’m not an expert on their architecture, so I’ll just point to a reddit post, and you can check out some opinions about PHP there.

Since PHP 7 was released, it alleviate a lot of the anxiety around using PHP because of the improved speed and performance.

In terms of handling complexity, I know from personal experience that Laravel is a pleasure to work with.  Imagine you have an application with over 500 tables, numerous apis, cron jobs, and extremely dynamic frontend requirements that lean heavily on javascript.

Laravel is perfect for that.  Laravel has a super-solid architecture that is easy to comprehend and work with.  It is so well thought out as a framework that it touches nearly every requirement you are going to come across.  And the thing is it doesn’t just provide all of your foundational code, it does it extremely well.

In the Podcast, Taylor Otwell, the author and founder of Laravel, talked about some reasons why someone might not like the framework, including:

  • objecting to the marketing of an open source project
  • personal dislike of Taylor himself

Let’s deal with the personal dislike of Taylor.  I’ve been following Laravel for 4+ years.  In that time, I’ve never heard Taylor Otwell make anything resembling an unprofessional statement of any kind.  So personal dislike of the founder, which is probably rooted in jealousy,  seems like a petty reason not to use a framework.

Business that make decisions based on pettiness tend to not do well in the market.

I also don’t understand why someone would object to a highly successful open source project having a commercial ecosystem around it.

Would you rather not have Laracasts or Envoyer to work with?  Honestly, I wouldn’t enjoy programming as much as I do if it weren’t for Jeffery Way and Laracasts.  Just think about how much he brings to the space.  Is it really that objectionable that he makes a living from it?

My company uses both Laracasts and Envoyer extensively.  Laracasts also turned us onto Vue.js, which is a great Javascript framework that is used extensively by the Laravel community, and for good reason.

Envoyer provides seamless deployments of your projects, and we have found it invaluable for our releases.  We’re more than happy that Taylor Otwell is compensated in some way for providing both the service and the phenomenal Laravel framework to start with.

Laravel provides first-class documentation, as if it were a commercial product, and yet it’s free.  As the leader of a company that relies on Laravel, I’m very excited and grateful for everything they do.

Another point I’ve heard from people is that Laravel updates too often, with big releases twice a year.  That means you have to migrate if you want to keep up to date, and that can be a pain.  But would you rather update less often and incur technical debt?  Who in their right mind would want that?  Eventually you will have to address technical debt and nothing is more ugly than that…

Laravel, and it’s supporting ecosystem, is capable of powering enterprise applications.   Recently, I mentioned a cliche in one of my books, 100 Patterns For Success, where I talk about the joke from the show Silicon Valley, where an engineer says:

“I want to change the world with a beautiful architecture that maximizes code reuse and extensibility.”

Everyone says that.  Taylor Otwell actually did it with Laravel.

Thanks again to everyone who is following my work, and thanks again for all the great reviews on Laravel 5.4 For Beginners, I really appreciate it.

Programmers Are The Future

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Published April 27, 2017 by Bill Keck.

The future is rushing at us at incredible speed.  Industries are being disrupted.  The world is transforming itself at a pace never experienced before in history.

Entrepreneur Patrick Betdavid has said that entrepreneurs can solve 100% of the world’s problems.   If that’s true, and I think it may well be, then the vast majority of those entrepreneurs are going to be programmers.

The reason why I say this is pretty simple, which will hopefully be clear in a minute.

I watched Betdavid step through a simple list on how to become an entrepreneur:

  1. Build a team with complementary talents.
  2. Identify the industry you are interested in.
  3. Identify problems within that industry that need solving.
  4. Determine which companies are already trying to solve those problems.
  5. Determine whether or not the companies trying to solve the problems are weak or strong.
  6. If you determine that the company that is trying to solve the problem is weak, then you may have identified an opportunity.

The way to solve problems and beat the competition is through innovation.  Who better to lead that innovation than programmers?

So that’s really good news for programmers.  We have almost unlimited opportunities in front of us.

However, as I state in my book, 100 Patterns For Success, I don’t think finding opportunity is as simple as just running through Betdavid’s list.

I can easily identify opportunities.  I think Bitcoin, for example, is ripe for disruption.

For one thing, their technology is not being updated and it won’t be able to keep pace with the evolution of devices.  This is a weakness.

While there are more and more centralized cryptocurrencies coming on the market, which address part of that concern, none of them are particularly strong.

So does that mean I’m the right guy to come up with the solution?  No.  I don’t have a passion for it.  The idea of working with cryptocurrency doesn’t excite me as a programmer.

People who are not passionate about what they are doing, but are simply chasing an opportunity, are almost 100% guaranteed to fail.  Inevitably there will be difficulties that will chase most of them out of the industry, and sooner, rather than later.

On the other hand, if you are kept up at night by thinking about all the possibilities of a cryptocurrency and how cool it would be to code it, you would at least have a chance of making it.

As an entrepreneur, the odds are always stacked against you.  The failure rate is insane and deciding to be an entrepreneur is not a rational act because almost any objective analysis of whether or not you will be successful almost always points to the negative.

Those who go on in the face of hopelessness are born to be entrepreneurs.  But this is easy for them because they don’t think of it that way.

Entrepreneurism is an act of self-expression.  We do it not because we want to, but because we have to.  Often, we have no other employment options because we simply don’t fit in anywhere.

Most entrepreneurs fail due to lack of capital.  The interesting thing about programmers is that we trade in a different kind of currency, code.  And that code can be incredibly valuable, even though it doesn’t take a lot of capital to write it.

I got involved with writing educational books about 4 years ago, introducing programmers to PHP frameworks.  My most recent programming book is Laravel 5.4 For Beginners, which is rated 5 stars on GoodReads.com, so thanks to everyone who rated it.

I wrote the 100 Patterns For Success to help programmers understand how they can use the incredible talent that they have to drive towards greater success in life.

So to get back to Betdavid’s assertion that entrepreneurs will solve 100% of the world’s problems, and if you accept my proposition that those entrepreneurs will be programmers, then that’s both an awesome responsibility and a great privilege.   Part of my mission is to help you make the most of it.

Thanks again to everyone for supporting my work.  Ratings, reviews, shares, likes, and comments are greatly appreciated.

100 Patterns For Success Officially Released

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Published April 20, 2017 by Bill Keck.

100 Patterns For Success Officially Released

I’m proud to announce the release of my latest book, 100 Patterns For Success.

One day I was listening to the Laravel podcast, and they were talking about books on success, like “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” by Robert Kiyosaki, and how it didn’t leave the best impression with them.

I thought about the disconnect that many books on success have with the tech community, which is in large part because these books are not written by programmers.

The story of someone else’s success and their opinions is not really all that useful.  Why would we care about how someone built Block Buster Video out of a trash business, which is what Wayne Huizenga did?  Do we really care what Robert Kiyosai’s opinion on the psychology of success is?  Is it important that we know that Richard Branson’s dad threw him in a river when he was a boy to teach him how to swim?  Yes, that made him tough at an early age, it’s an interesting tidbit, but how does that help you?

Well, truth be told, there are valuable lessons in all those books.  I’ve read many of them and I don’t want to leave the impression that I don’t like them because I do.

But on the other hand, I can see why programmers might not like them.  For one thing, the average programmer is not an average person.  They are a little brighter to begin with, and in many cases are smarter than those older generations of people who made it big.

Programmers are more inspired by how things work, not how much money you stuffed in the bank.  We’re more interested in adopting useful workflow patterns and inventing things, than we are in psychological coaching.

So I stepped up to the plate to see if I could combine the two concepts.  I defined 110 patterns that you can adopt into your behavior that will point you toward success.  I know the title has 100 in it, but I added 10 more as a bonus.

I developed the patterns in a very open way, so that you can build your own system of thinking from it.  You can keep or discard the patterns as you like.  You can be inspired or disagree, but at any rate, you will be stimulated and exposed to new ideas and new ways of looking at things.

I recruited a lot of tech billionaires, rock star CEOs (and one actual rock star), and many others to lend their voice to the concepts.  The book contains many quotes from Peter Thiel, Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and many others.

We also look at brief case studies of Google, Yahoo, Youtube, Uber, Slack and many others.  We provide valuable insights into how some of these startups stack the odds of success in their favor before they even get started.

This book would be a benefit to any programmer who is even remotely considering starting their own venture.   As I point out the numerous times in the book, I believe that programmers are the ones who should be running companies.

Thank you for continuing to support my work.  If you do purchase the book, I have one small request, and that is that you rate and/or review the book at GoodReads.com.

Recommending this book to friends is a nice way to say thanks, I would really appreciate that as well.  Thanks again.

 

Admin-Dash uses Admin LTE for Laravel 5.4

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Published February 26, 2017 by Bill Keck.

Admin-Dash uses Admin LTE for Laravel 5.4

I built an admin panel implementation for Laravel 5.4 using Abdullah Almsaeed’s amazing  Admin LTE template.  I’ve made this starter application available for free on github:

Admin-Dash

On the admin panel itself, I’ve pulled in all the examples, including:

  • Layout Options
  • Widgets
  • Charts
  • UI Elements
  • Forms
  • Tables
  • Calendar
  • Page Examples
  • Documentation

You can reference everything from within the application.  This includes cool plugins like flot charts and map integrations.  Just go to the github page for a screen shot of the panel itself. You can learn a lot by playing with this template and looking at how things are implemented.

In addition to all the amazing plugins you get out of the box with Admin LTE, I’ve also incorporated one-click social sign in for Facebook and Github.  I also created some examples, using Vue.js for datagrids with paginated, sortable, and searchable data columns.

If you are familiar with my book, Laravel 5.4 For Beginners, you will recognize many of the implementations from there.  On the other hand, things are a little more complicated.  For example, we use 3 master pages:

  • guest
  • auth
  • admin

And there are lot of partials to go along with them.  Doing it this way gives us a lot of flexibility over managing assets and cuts down on a lot of if statements in the views that would otherwise check to see if the user was a guest, logged in, or logged in as admin.

I’ve become a big fan of view partials.  For example, even if a form is simple, I extract it out to a partial.  This really helps with code separation, since I can dedicate the main view files to layout instead of logic.  It also has the effect of making the code so much more readable, helping with maintainability.

Also in this implementation, I extracted out some child components for the datagrids in Vue.js, which cuts down on code repetition.   I got rid of the big ugly handler for all the queries and put in a utilities file.

Those are all extras, however, and you are free to use or not use them as you wish.  The main focus was in pulling in the main Admin LTE template in a Laravel starter application that is a great starting point for building something.

The github page includes github instructions for forking Admin-Dash, so you can pull the repo into your github account and play with it from there.  I also included installation instructions for the app key, .env file, and a few other settings that you will need.

Thanks again to everyone who is supporting my work by purchasing my book.  Also, I’m happy to report we got our first ratings, which all came in at 5 stars.

Please leave a rating or review at GoodReads.com, it will help get the word out for the book, I really appreciate it.

 

 

 

 

 

Laravel 5.4 For Beginners Bonus Chapters Released

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Published February 6, 2017 by Bill Keck.

Laravel 5.4 For Beginners Bonus Chapters Released

Chapters 13 and 14 have been added to the Laravel 5.4 for Beginners book.  The book is now 745 pages in length.

Anyone who has purchased the book can download the updated version for free, by logging into their Leanpub.com account.  All updates are free for the life of the book.

In chapter 13, we cover sending mail and events.  We work up an email that we send to registered users, when they complete registration.  We also explore the different composition tools for creating mail, including the new markdown features, which really help us make a pretty email, with almost no effort.

We also cover events and listeners, and to demonstrate, we convert our simple mail message to an event, using artisan’s event:generate command.  Eventing is a powerful design pattern and we cover it a way that is easy to grasp for beginners.

Finally in Chapter 13, we talk a little about Laravel’s amazing architecture.  As I was going through some of the material, I found the following comment from Taylor Otwell, the creator of Laravel, in public/index.php:

We need to illuminate PHP development, so let us turn on the lights. — Taylor Otwell

I liked that quote so much, I made it the dedication to the book.

We learn just how well thought out the architecture is when we start looking at the service container, service providers, and automatic injection.

In chapter 14, we build a working chatroom, using Laravel Echo, Vue.js, and Pusher.  It’s not super fancy, but it does have realtime updates, changing the room count when people enter and leave, and of course updating all messages for all users in realtime.

This chapter introduces us to Laravel Echo and Pusher, which we have not used previously, but also gives us the opportunity to work with nested Vue components.

We also start to work with ES6, also known as EchmaScript 2015, which is the latest version of javascript.  If you are not familiar with ES6, don’t let that put you off.  I take it line by line to explain that syntax when we use it.  Turns out it’s pretty intuitive.

In chapter 14, we also build a console command that deletes database records, so our chat application doesn’t overwhelm our DB with too many records.  We need to maintain it, so we learn how to schedule the command twice a day, so a cron can run them.

For those who follow my work, these are additions that were not covered in previous versions of the book.  Every time there is a new release of Laravel, I have to rewrite the book because of the many small changes that happen.  It’s a lot of work.  And sometimes there is a big change, like the move to Laravel Mix and dropping Elixir.

I strive to make the new versions of the book appealing to both readers who are just starting with Laravel and for those who have read the previous versions.

Thanks again to everyone who has supported my work, I really appreciate it.  I look forward to continuing the learning journey with you.

Laravel 5.4 For Beginners Officially Released

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Published January 30, 2017 by Bill Keck.

Laravel 5.4 For Beginners Officially Released

Ok, the new year is off to a great start, and I’m proud to announce the latest version of my Laravel For Beginners books.

This book covers in detail, at 626 pages, everything you need to know to build a web application using Laravel 5.4.  We cover all the basics of routing, controllers, models, with clear explanations on how it all integrates with Eloquent and MySql.

It’s part of my mission as a PHP writer to make this work as accessible as it can be to everyone.  Laravel makes that easy.  And this book goes step by step, with a full understanding of the concepts covered.  You don’t have to be a ninja to get it.

In the book, we also cover the following:

  • Access Control using middleware and traits
  • Socialite Facebook one-click registration and login
  • Image management
  • Vue.js basics using Vue 2
  • Searchable, Sortable Datagrids, using Vue components
  • Asset Compilation, using Laravel Mix
  • Mail and Events
  • Service Providers

Laravel Mix is new to Laravel and it replaces Elixir as the default asset build tool.

Laravel 5.4 For Beginners is available now on Leanpub.com.

I really appreciate all the support and great reviews I’ve gotten on the past books.  We’re already set up for new reviews at GoodReads, but obviously there are no reviews for this book yet.

For those that have purchased the previous version of the book, the move to Laravel Mix is a big difference between the books.   Also new, we cover mail, events, and application structure, including understanding the service container and service providers.

Because we analyze and explain in great detail things like the RegistersUsers trait, and many other parts of the framework code, each new version of the book has a lot of small differences from past versions.  This is also the reason why I don’t simply update the old version or provide a migration guide.

As with all of my books, I do expect to be adding bonus material, which will be free for anyone who has purchased the book for the life of the book.

As of this writing, I’m hard at work on a bonus chapter that will build a basic chat, using Laravel Echo, Vue.js, and Pusher.  I expect that to be done by February 15, 2017.  All updates are free for the life of the book.

This is my fourth book on programming and I feel it is by far the best one.  I hope you will agree.  Thanks again for all the great feedback.