Building a simple template engine in PHP.

Yes that’s another template engine in PHP. I’ve been using Smarty for years. It’s easy to install and easy to use. But there is something I don’t like in Smarty. I need to learn another language (smarty markup) to create my templates. Normally my templates are not very complex. I only use them to move HTML code outside PHP. Basically my templates are: HTML and some variables that pass from PHP to tpl. Sometimes I need to do a loop. I know Smarty has a lot of helpers but I never use them.

Now I’m in a project and I must to choose a template engine. This project don’t have any dependencies to any other libraries, so I don’t want to include full Smarty library to my simple templates. A quick search in Google gives us a list of template engines in PHP. Mostly all engines use PHP as template language. That’s a good decision. In fact PHP is a template language so, why we need to use another one?. I think the main problem of using PHP as template language is the temptation of put logic in the template and have a nice spaghetti code.

So I am going to build a simple template engine. Let’s start:
As always I like to start from the interface. When I start a library I like to think the library is finished (before start coding. cool isn’t it?) and write the code to use it. Finally when the I like the interface I start coding the library.

I want this template:

<h1>Example of tpl</h1>
var1 = _('var1') ?>
var2 = _('var2') ?>
foreach ($this->_('var3') as $item) {
    echo $this->clean($item);

And I want to call it with something like this:

echo Tpl::singleton()->init('demo1.phtml')->render(array(
    'var1' => 1,
    'var2' => 2,
    'var3' => array(1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7)

Basically Tpl class will be a container to collect the configuration and init function will be a factory of another class (Tpl_Instance) that will do the templating itself.

render function is the main function. Basically call to php’s include function with the selected tpl.

if (!is_file($_tplFile)) {
    throw new Exception('Template file not found');

include ($_tplFile);

$out = ob_get_contents();

return $out;

As we see the tpl file is a simple PHP file included in our script with Tpl_Instance::render. So $this in our tpl’s PHP code is the instance of Tpl_Instance. That means whe can use protected and even private functions of Tpl_Instance.

Now I going to show different usages of the library:

// Sets the path of templates. If nuls asumes file is absolute
Tpl::singleton()->setConf(Tpl::TPL_DIR, realpath(dirname(__FILE__)));
echo Tpl::singleton()->init('demo1.phtml')->render(array(
    'var1' => 1,
    'var2' => 2,
    'var3' => array(1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7)
// The same instance a different template and params added in a different way
$tpl = Tpl::singleton()->init('demo2.phtml');
$tpl->addParam('header', 'header');
$tpl->addParam('footer', 'footer');
echo $tpl->render();
// Disable exceptions if we don't assign a variable
Tpl::singleton()->setConf(Tpl::THROW_EXCEPTION_WITH_PARAMS, false);
$tpl = Tpl::singleton()->init('demo1.phtml');
$tpl->addParam('var1', 'aaaa');
$tpl->addParam('var3', array(1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7));
echo $tpl->render();
// Using factory
$objTpl = Tpl::factory();
$objTpl->setConf(Tpl::THROW_EXCEPTION_WITH_PARAMS, true);
try {
    $tpl = $objTpl->init('demo1.phtml');
    $tpl->addParam('var1', 'aaaa');
    $tpl->addParam('var3', array(1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7));
    echo $tpl->render();
} catch (Exception $e) {
    echo "" . $e->getMessage() . "


And like always full source code is available on google code.

Easy trick to move cache files to RAM without coding a PHP line.

Some year ago I faced to a problem to increase the performance of a web application. This application used Smarty as template engine. Smarty ‘compiles’ the templates (the tpl files) into tpl.php files.

As I saw in the server logs almost all I/O reads were to the tpl.php files. Those files where with other cache files in a cache dir on the file system. Nowadays template engine allows to use some RAM backends like memcache or similar. But I don’t wanted neither touch any line of code nor change the behaviour of the template engine. So I decided to do an easy trick.

Server was a linux box. Linux systems has /dev/shm. shm is a temp file system on shared memory. Normally it’s mounted with a percent of our RAM memory and we can use it if we want to increase the performance or our application. I/O operation over RAM are faster than hard disks.

We only must take care about one thing. When we power down the host all data of our tempfs will be lost. So it’s perfect to save cache files. I only need to delete cache dir and create a symbolic link to /dev/shm

rm -Rf cache/
ln -s /dev/shm cache/

And that’s it. All cache reads will be done now in RAM memory instead of  disk.

As I said before we must take care /dev/shm flushes when we power down the server. So if our cache system uses subfolder, we must take care the application will not assume the folders are already created. If we have a tree in our cache directory and we don’t want to change a line in our application we can create the tree in a script and put the script in the start-up of the server.

Easy, fast and clean. I like it.

Building a REST client with asynchronous calls using PHP and curl

One month ago I posted an article called Building a simple HTTP client with PHP. A REST client. In this post I tried to create a simple fluid interface to call REST webservices in PHP. Some days ago I read an article and one light switch on on my mind. I can use curl’s “multi” functions to improve my library and perform simultaneous calls very easily.

I’ve got a project that needs to call to different webservices. Those webservices sometimes are slow (2-3 seconds). If I need to call to, for example, three webservices my script will use the add of every single call’s time. With this improve to the library I will use only the time of the slowest webservice. 2 seconds instead of 2+2+2 seconds. Great.

For the example I’ve created a really complex php script that sleeps x seconds depend on an input param:

sleep((integer) $_REQUEST['sleep']);
echo $_REQUEST['sleep'];

With synchronous calls:

echo Http::connect('localhost', 8082)
    ->doGet('/tests/gam_http/sleep.php', array('sleep' => 3));
echo Http::connect('localhost', 8082)
    ->doPost('/tests/gam_http/sleep.php', array('sleep' => 2));
echo Http::connect('localhost', 8082)
    ->doGet('/tests/gam_http/sleep.php', array('sleep' => 1));

This script takes more or less 6 seconds (3+2+1)

But If I switch it to:

$out = Http::connect('localhost', 8082)
    ->get('/tests/gam_http/sleep.php', array('sleep' => 3))
    ->post('/tests/gam_http/sleep.php', array('sleep' => 2))
    ->get('/tests/gam_http/sleep.php', array('sleep' => 1))

The script only uses 3 seconds (the slowest process)

I’ve got a project that uses it. But I have a problem. I have webservices in different hosts so I’ve done a bit change to the library:

$out = Http::multiConnect()
    ->add(Http::connect('localhost', 8082)->get('/tests/gam_http/sleep.php', array('sleep' => 3)))
    ->add(Http::connect('localhost', 8082)->post('/tests/gam_http/sleep.php', array('sleep' => 2)))
    ->add(Http::connect('localhost', 8082)->get('/tests/gam_http/sleep.php', array('sleep' => 1)))

With a single connection, the exceptions are easy to implement. If curl_getinfo() returns an error message I throw an exception, but now with a multiple interface how I can do it? I throw an exception if one call fail, or not? I have decided not to use exceptions in multiple interface. I always return an array with all the output of every webservice’s call and if something wrong happens instead of the output I will return an instance of Http_Multiple_Error class. Why I use a class instead of a error message? The answer is easy. If I want to check all the answers I can check if any of them is an instanceof Http_Multiple_Error. Also I don’t want to check anything I put a silentMode() function to switch off all error messages.

$out = Http::multiConnect()
    ->add(Http::connect('localhost', 8082)->get('/tests/gam_http/sleep.php', array('sleep' => 3)))
    ->add(Http::connect('localhost', 8082)->post('/tests/gam_http/sleep.php', array('sleep' => 2)))
    ->add(Http::connect('localhost', 8082)->get('/tests/gam_http/sleep.php', array('sleep' => 1)))

The full code is available on google code but the main function is the following one:

    private function _run()
        $headers = $this->_headers;
        $curly = $result = array();

        $mh = curl_multi_init();
        foreach ($this->_requests as $id => $reg) {
            $curly[$id] = curl_init();

            $type     = $reg[0];
            $url       = $reg[1];
            $params = $reg[2];

               curl_setopt($curly[$id], CURLOPT_USERPWD, $this->_user.':'.$this->_pass);

            switch ($type) {
                case self::DELETE:
                    curl_setopt($curly[$id], CURLOPT_URL, $url . '?' . http_build_query($params));
                    curl_setopt($curly[$id], CURLOPT_CUSTOMREQUEST, self::DELETE);
                case self::POST:
                    curl_setopt($curly[$id], CURLOPT_URL, $url);
                    curl_setopt($curly[$id], CURLOPT_POST, true);
                    curl_setopt($curly[$id], CURLOPT_POSTFIELDS, $params);
                case self::GET:
                    curl_setopt($curly[$id], CURLOPT_URL, $url . '?' . http_build_query($params));
            curl_setopt($curly[$id], CURLOPT_RETURNTRANSFER, true);
            curl_setopt($curly[$id], CURLOPT_HTTPHEADER, $headers);

            curl_multi_add_handle($mh, $curly[$id]);

        $running = null;
        do {
            curl_multi_exec($mh, $running);
        } while($running > 0);

        foreach($curly as $id => $c) {
            $status = curl_getinfo($c, CURLINFO_HTTP_CODE);
            switch ($status) {
                case self::HTTP_OK:
                case self::HTTP_CREATED:
                case self::HTTP_ACEPTED:
                    $result[$id] = curl_multi_getcontent($c);
                    if (!$this->_silentMode) {
                        $result[$id] = new Http_Multiple_Error($status, $type, $url, $params);
            curl_multi_remove_handle($mh, $c);

        return $result;