Introducing: the Hive

The world may not feel the need for yet another class library, but after two years with PEAR, I sure do. My attempt to unify PEAR packages with a wrapper package (which I attempted with Yawp) is essentially a dead-end. While I like the mode of operation I have developed with Yawp and DB_Table and Savant, I do not think the PEAR project is open to incorporating such a mode.

With that in mind, I am introducing a new class library for PHP5: the Hive. You can download a PEAR package of it. While this is a 0.0.1 development release, I think you will find the work well fleshed out, with a current PhpDocumentor-generated API reference. End-user documentation will be forthcoming in the next few weeks.

A Bit About My Pear Background

What is it that developers love about PEAR? Look no further than this page, which was the result of a call-for-replies on the PEAR-DEV mailing list last year. Let me add to that list my own reasons why I started using PEAR classes.

In the beginning, there was only one thing that mattered to me: unified error handling. That was it, really. If a foreign object reported an error, I knew exactly how to check for it and what format it would be in; if I needed to report an error, I knew exactly how to format it. Thus, for all its flaws, PEAR_Error was the main reason I started using PEAR classes. Add to that the PEAR DB abstraction package, which was a great labor-saver. Finally, and I have come to love this more than anything else, the PEAR installer has turned into a work of genius under the stewardship of Greg Beaver.

But I have come to believe that PEAR is too much a mishmash; even with coding style standards, the class packages operate according to widely varying styles. In addition, it is far too difficult to add a new package that I find useful but is similar in purpose to an existing package (even if the principles of their operation are widely different). For example, see the acceptance of DB_Table in the face of serious opposition and only after patient months of lobbying, as well the rejection of Savant after a knock-down drag-out (to which rejection I contributed my own fair share).

In short, I find it much too hard to do anything new or different within PEAR that is not already part of PEAR doctrine; while this brings stability, it also brings a certain morbidity. (This is not to say I'm leaving PEAR; I'm not. I am just going to concentrate my new development efforts outside PEAR, not inside it.)

Foundational Principles Of The Hive

There is one essential principle behind the Hive: comprehensibility. Developers exploring the Hive should be able to comprehend the code quickly and easily, so they can see exactly what's going on and why. In short, I am tired of slogging through uncommented, undocumented, complex, obtuse code and packages, whether mine or someone else's.

The principle of comprehensibility gives rise to two corollaries:

  • Simplicity of code
  • Obsessive dedication to comments and documentation

These in turn mean that it should be easy to extend and customize code in the Hive, but that has yet to be borne out.

Some Technical Notes

The Hive adheres to PEAR coding style standards and its directory structure is similar to PEAR's.

Hive can exist with any other library set, including standalone libraries, PEAR, Horde, and so on; using the Hive does not mean you are limited to the Hive.

Hive comes with a shared-object aggregator and convenience method central class and some basic functional classes:

  • Hive_Cache for caching; both file and memcached are currently supported
  • Hive_Error for unified error handling
  • Hive_Sql for identical-operation database abstraction (will migrate to a PDO backend as PDO comes on-line)
  • Hive_Sql_Entity for representing data-type abstracted tables with automated validation and form-hints generation
  • Hive_User for user authentication and roles/groups (preferences and permissions will arrive later)
  • Hive_Valid for data validation

One major goal of the Hive is to provide shared application component backends that are not tied to any particular display mechanism. This is accomplished through Hive_Sql_Entity (the successor to DB_Table) and the Hive.conf.php configuration mechanism, along with the shared object instantiator Hive::shared (which is a successor to the Yawp::getObject technique). The initial set of application component objects will include a comment/trackback tool, a wiki page storage interface, and a blog entry storage interface.

Cliffhanger

(Not a conclusion. ;-) I'll be writing more about the Hive in weeks to come; with any luck, this will be in the form of documentation, as well as blogging about feedback, issues, ideas, and to-do items.

As always, I'm happy to hear feedback and see trackbacks.

Update (2005-03-08)

Somebody else is using the name "Hive" for a PHP5 project. I have adopted a new name for the project: Solar. You can search this blog for other Solar entries to learn more, or visit the Solar home page.

Are you stuck with a legacy PHP application? You should buy my book because it gives you a step-by-step guide to improving your codebase, all while keeping it running the whole time.