Sunday, June 26, 2016

open source software I use, part 2

[update 26-jun-2016
Thanks to Audrina W., I have now corrected the link to Smarty

Note that a lot of what is shown here was relevant in 2010 or so but is now out of date.]

Continuing on from part 1 of this series, here are some more open-source apps I use:

- jQuery. I have found this javascript library to be indispensable! It is a simple, non-imposing, yet deceptively powerful library. I will not write why or how it is so good here; there are lots and lots of articles on the web doing just that. I'd strongly suggest you have a look at it, if you do any kind of javascript work. It is not the only library out there nor the most all-encompassing but, to me, it is one of the most useful and fun to work with!

Web development:
I will bundle all the tools I use in one and see how it goes! Most of them do not need any explanation (but feel free to tell me otherwise!)

PHP: Server-side scripting language.
popular. I believe there are a couple of apps written in it.
(cough cough! A couple of million apps maybe! I read somewhere that there are approx 50 million web-sites running on PHP!!!)

btw, if you are a strongly-typed language developer (say, C, C++, C#, C+1, D-1 whatever, Pascal etc), do remember that this is a scripting language!
It allows you to write apps, large and small, very quickly, with nothing more needed than a text editor.
However, it also allows you to create apps that suck and are full of bugs.
Since it has no type-checking nor any compile-time smarts, you are always running the risk of bugs in your source.
A small mis-type of a variable name could bring down a large app, long after you've moved onto greener pastures.

That said, see my point above about 50 million web sites. (Not that more is better!)

Smarty: Template engine for PHP. Allows separation of presentation logic from PHP code
(makes using MVC just that much easier)

XDebug: Debugger for PHP. Works well with Eclipse. Must-have

EclipsePDT: The mother of all IDEs. Initially written by IBM, later offer to the OSS community. Thank you Big Blue!
(The PDT version is tailored to PHP development)

SAJAX: This library will help you write ajax-enabled apps; it provides all that is needed to make calls from javascript to PHP and back, passing arguments to and fro.
I have found it very useful, however I am now using the jQuery ajax support for most of this work. It is not the same but achieves the same result.
(NOTE: Jul 2010: jQuery provides all that is needed to do AJAX easily, so there is no need for this)

Mantis: Bug-tracker, written in PHP.

XAMPP: If you need a LAMPP stack (Linux Apache MySQL PHP Perl) or a WAMPP (Windoze....) then your best shot at a simple, no-hassles installation is via the XAMPP installer.
Download and run it and, presto, your machine has all the essentials for web development.
[update 2015]I now prefer WAMP. One of the great things about it is that it allows you to easily switch between different versions of PHP, Mysql and Apache, all via a menu entry.

PHPMyAdmin: MySQL database administration tool. Simply extract into a web dir onto your LAMPP server, point your browser at it and there you are! You now have a web-based, browser-driven MySql administrator!

JasperReports: OSS's answer to Crystal Reports.
This is just the reporting engine and runs off XML report-definition files. Do not panic, there is a GUI designer Eclipse plugin for it that makes report design a breeze (screenshot). There is also a stand-alone GUI for it, called iReport.

Note: Eclipse also has a reporting tool, called BIRT. I haven't used it a lot, however you should have a look at it too.

And now, for some non-development-related OSS tools:
- KeePass: Password vault. There is also a PocketPC version of it. It has a smart 'find out what form I am in and paste out the correct credentials' way of doing things.

I use it to store all my passwords. Before I leave work, I export the password to KeePass's native format, upload it to gmail, go home and download from gmail. I then get KeePass to import it and update existing keys and add new ones. I then export the merged results, upload to gmail, go to work, download from gmail and repeat all over again.

Webmin: A web-based, browser-driven Linux management tool. Allows you to manage almost everything on your Linux box from just a browser. You can start/stop jobs, administer users, administer server apps (such as Apache, MySql, ProFTPD, Samba etc etc).
It pretty much does everything. All you need to do is extract the webmin source (PHP) files onto your web server, point your browser to https://myserver:10000 and you are in control!

If you do end up using any of the above, let their authors know; they'd appreciate acknowledgement.
more later...

ps: Comments and/or links to this article are most welcome!

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