Howdy! Welcome to my humble web presence. I'm Mark Hamstra, the CEA at my latest venture modmore, where I spend most of my time developing and providing support for awesome tools and extras for MODX Revolution.

This website is where I share my thoughts, cool projects and other oddities related to MODX, xPDO and ExtJS. Sometimes I post three blogs in a day, sometimes there's no update in a year. Read a random article.

Start Unit Testing your Code already!

After deciding that "learn about unit testing" was going to be my new years resolution, I just went on with business as usual and pretended nothing happened. Now, a year and a bit later, I finally did what I promised myself I'd do at the start of 2012.

It may have been the recent migraines messing with my common sense, or Chris Hartjes' relentless battle for unit tested code on Twitter, or having randomly picked up his building testable code ebook during sale a few weeks ago, or the voice whispering in my head that I would be in big problems if at some point in the undetermined future a very crucial "calculateTotal" method would end up borked.

I'm not sure what, but something triggered it.

Learning Unit Testing with PHPUnit

So last weekend, I set out to finally learn how to unit test my code. I was going to start with baby steps. Just this one calculateTotal method that I was worrying about. So I grabbed my ebook, read it, and opened up Terminal to follow the instructions.

By the end of the day I had ran out of unique cursewords, nearly wiped my entire MAMP-powered localhost and had given up on unit tests completely (about three times).

Oh, and I also added unit tests covering pretty much all methods in this (admittedly still small) project.

You know, unit testing has always been one thing that I never considered vital to a project. I am careful when I release stuff, and every fix gets tested properly. In the browser, clicking around. Reading code extra carefully. PHPStorm's excellent code sniffing. Nothing major could possibly slip past that.

PHPUnit forced me to reconsider.

Discovering Bugs that couldn't possibly exist

I initially thought I broke PhpUnit (again) when it was telling me that a certain sanitize function wasn't living up to the tests. I had previously tested it, and while stepping through the code, it all looked fine. It must have been PhpUnit. But no. It turned out the entire method was busted in a very subtle way, and it basically left my entire app wide open to XSS and CSRF attacks and possibly even worse. My first, and quite crucial, line of defence was broken from the start without me even knowing.

If I hadn't unit tested that method, I would have quite possibly never figured out it was this badly broken, until someone else did (accidentally or on purpose).

I also wouldn't have found two other major (and similarly hard to spot) bugs in other code that I considered solid. This code also passed my "clicking and reading" test before.

So, if you write code but don't unit test it yet because you are already testing your code, it's time to fix that.

Steps to Take

  1. Get Chris Hartjes' book: The Grumpy Programmer's Guide To Building Testable PHP Applications. It's a great and easy to read ebook that covers basic and more advanced object oriented programming methodologies that make it so much easier to test code. It's loaded with examples too. If you don't know how to apply dependency injection yet, you have no excuse not to get this ebook. He's also working on a new ebook specifically about testing with PHP Unit.
  2. Take/plan some time to read about and get phpunit running on your machine. This was by far the most troublesome thing I had to do and what caused the swearing and almost nuking my entire localhost to start from scratch.
  3. Set some goals on what you want to test and just do it already. Start easy - take one vital method and test if every line works as expected. I wouldn't suggest going for 100% code coverage right away; give your new testing addiction time to grow and to get better at writing tests.
  4. Do it. And tell others who don't test code yet, to start doing it too.

I've been in the camp of "I already test my code" for a long time, but I've finally experienced first hand the power of automated unit testing.

It's good to test and think your code is working, but it's awesome to know it actually is, too.


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MODX from the commandline with modCli

Do you know those features some people have been requesting for a long time, and when you finally sit down to build them, it takes no more than 30 minutes to code the first version? This latest one definitely falls in that category.

Getting Groovy with the CLI

See, not everyone wants to use a nice GUI to manage their site. Some people are hardcore, and would rather use the commandline. Rawr. Truth be told, I'm not one of them, but here's a goodie for the people that do.

modCli is a command line php script enabling you to run any of the MODX processors from a (ssh) terminal, in just shy of 180 lines of code (including comments). After you dump the file in your MODX_BASE_URL, you can start running processors from the command line. It's kind of like Drush for Drupal, but then for MODX.

Examples

While you can find exact usage instructions and some other examples in the code, here's two quick examples as to what you can do with modCli.

php modcli.php resource/create pagetitle=Awesome! parent=6 content=Awesomer!
php modcli.php workspace/packages/getlist limit=1 start=2

Security Concerns

As to my knowledge you can't have sessions in a Terminal, this script basically bypasses the login process for MODX. Yes, you read that right, it just loads MODX in API mode, in the mgr context, which in my tests gives it full access to everything.

While it's a nifty tool which in some cases can be very convenient (I still prefer shiny buttons), do NOT EVER EVER EVER leave this available in the root of your site. Even better, don't put it there in the first place, but adjust line 44 of the script to point to your MODX install from, say, a non-web accessible SSH-only directory.

Disclaimer: use at your own risk and don't come whining if the script worked as intended for someone else, too.

Get the Code

I want to make sure you read the security concerns above before I even tell you where to get the code from, or how it exactly works. Only tick the box below if you did!

Happy New Year!

As the last post of 2012, it's my statutory duty to wish you a happy new year today. My hope for you is to make the next year at least twice as ambitious, successful and awesome as 2012!

Of course there's no way to say goodbye to 2012 as with an old fashioned list of what went on in 2012. So without further ado, here's the top 5 most visited blog posts in 2012:


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Introducing Documentation Friday

I challenged the community a while ago. If we would hit 200 documentation bugs in the tracker, I would spend two full days working on closing as many as I could. Even though it received some good response and the amount of bug reports went up quite a bit, we still didn't hit 200 yet. But that's okay, cause now we have even better initiative: Documentation Friday.

Meet Scott Borys.

Scott Borys, Gobi Desert Photo © 2010 Mike Buchinski

Scott Borys is many things. He's a web developer, hitchhiker, blogger and (even though I never met him in person) I'm pretty sure he's a genuine nice guy, too. 

He just happens to build sites in MODX, and has recently single-handedly created a new recurring initiative causing all sorts of uproar in the MODX Community. The good kind of uproar, that is. The kind of uproar that impacts people's experience with the MODX system, most likely without them realizing it!

Introducing Documentation Friday

Take one avid tweeter, who goes in and fixes documentation issues, while live tweeting the progress and involving members of the community in doing so. That about summarizes what Documentation Friday is. It's a continuous effort to improve the documentation based on bug reports and new tutorials about specific subjects.

Like last week, it usually starts with something like this:

And ends up with some very important updates to the MODX RTFM.

One very interesting side effect that Scott mentioned to me on Skype some time ago (and which I can attest to myself as well), is how writing documentation is a great way to learn and to be sure the information you need is available for reference. Win-win-win!

It's been phenomenal for increasing my working knowledge of MODX. It also makes me happy whenever I need to check something that I *know* is in the documentation because I wrote it.

— Scott Borys, September 28th, 2012

Join the movement!

I've seen various people in the community hitchhiking along with Scott on this amazing initiative (see what I did there?), and I'm hoping that we can kick this into gear and make this a real weekly thing that we as a community help out with. It would be awesome if everyone would hop on board and start fixing things, but even if you just report issues with the documentation so the editors know what to do, that would be fantastic!

So yes, I am going to sunset my Community Challenge in favor of #documentationfriday, in trying to get at least an hour of documentation work in every Friday. Or at least a #catchupsunday. 

Scott; thank you so much for doing this and being such an amazing part of the MODX community. I hope this initiative stays around a long time! Oh, and if you ever end up hitchhiking and couchsurfing in The Netherlands, just give me a call: you're very welcome to stay here for a while. (I know you wouldn't mind me staying at your place either!)


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