Excel, CSV and SYLK

Anyone who often works with CSV exports programmatically may have had this issue before, and I am sure that you may have been confused about what is causing it. You may have gotten one of the below, or both.

Error message one:

Excel has detected that ‘exported_file.csv’ is an SYLK file, but cannot load it. Either the file has error or it is not a SYLK file format. Click OK to try to open the file in a different format.

Error message two:

SYLK: File format is not valid

The good news is that it has a very simple solution:

If the first letters of the file is “ID”, you will get this problem. In my case, I had to rename the column header from “ID” to “Record ID” to solve the problem.

View the solution directly on Microsoft’s website. They suggest that you can also change “ID” to “id”. For me, that was not an option; I am pedantic about writing style in my reports. There is also a suggestion to add an apostrophe. Also viable, but my solution works easier for me. Do whatever works best for you!

[REVIEW] Laravel Design Patterns and Best Practices

I saw a post on LinkedIN inviting people to review a new book, and I thought – what the heck. I have reviewed books before, so this could be fun. So – I signed up, and was asked to blog about the book when I am done.

The book I had to review was “Laravel Design Patterns and Best Practices”. Written by Arda Kılıçdağı and H. İbrahim YILMAZ. The book is available at Packt Publishing.

As I am reading the first few chapters, I was generally impressed. As a beginner in Laravel, I found it easy, informative, and the usage of analogies were quite clever. This resonated well with me, as I learn well by understanding difficult concepts by analogy.

Talking of analogies, I am going to describe my overall experience with the book using an analogy. Imagine a comic book with nice big letters. It reads nice. The text forms pictures in your mind as you read them. Awesome. As you turn each page in the comic book, you get more immersed in the book, and you really start to enjoy it.

But suddenly, when you turn the page somewhere near the middle of the comic book, things get a little hairy. Suddenly, you are reading a printed book. No more pictures and very small print that is highly condensed with very little line spacing.

What happened here is one of two things:

  • The book was aimed at absolute beginners, and then switched to advanced level without a gradual build-up. It became far too difficult for me to understand.
  • The book was aimed at intermediate Laravel developers, but the inclusion of the first few chapters were to fill the pages: It is far too elementary for intermediate Laravel developers.

Now – on the Packt website, the following paragraph is found:

This book is intended for web application developers working with Laravel who want to increase the efficiency of their web applications. It assumes that you have some experience with the Laravel PHP framework and are familiar with coding OOP methods.

That brings me to the second possibility I have mentioned: that the book is aimed at intermediate Laravel developers, but that the first few chapters were only fillers, being too elementary to teach intermediate Laravel developers anything.

So, while it was a good read for me up to the point where the book lost my attention, I would recommend that:

  • If you are an intermediate or advanced Laravel developer, PLEASE skip the first few chapters.
  • If you are a beginner Laravel developer, PLEASE read only the first few chapters, and tackle the last bunch of chapters only once you have gotten some more experience under the belt.

I have read several Packt books before, and I generally like them, but I have to say I am slightly disappointed by this one. That being said, it is purely my own opinion, and you might find the experience with this book a lot better than I did.

Happy reading!

Reveal.js – a marvelous toy

Edit – 2021-06-30: The site Renault Société is no longer available online. For examples of usage, rather look at Reveal.js website for demos.

Recently, I have done a project called Renault Société. The technologies used here were:

  • iCMS, my own custom written CMS, based on CodeIgniter (a PHP-based framework).
  • jQuery, HTML5 and CSS3
  • Reveal.js (Github)

The result is exceeding my expectations by a million miles. Reveal.js is at the center of this magazine. While iCMS is managing the content management of the magazine, Reveal.js is in control of the presentation layer.

I have investigated the source code of Reveal.js, and found it clean, easy to understand, and it caters for extreme customization. How often do you see (or hear) that “all sites based on a certain framework” are all looking the same? I have heard several complaints of that ranging from Drupal to Joomla!, as well as WordPress and other popular open source systems. My opinion is that when this is the truth, the people designing the presentation layer thereof is simply too lazy to dig in and customize it properly.

The showcase for Reveal.js is largely a case in point. Many of the showcases have plainly followed the base template developed by Hakim El Hattab, the author of Reveal.js. Very few of the submissions are deviating from this base template, and I am proud to announce that our site is vastly different from most of those out there, and also better looking.

I would just like to use this opportunity to thank Hakim for his brilliant project. Thanks for all the hard work. It is an amazing project!

Feel free to browse around Hakim’s website. You will find lots and lots of interesting things…

Until next time!

PHP 5.4 released

After nearly three years since the release of PHP 5.3, PHP 5.4 is finally released. Although PHP 6.0 was meant to be the next PHP release, several issues, in particular issues with unicode, postponed the release. Instead, work on PHP 5.4 begun, and in this week, we have seen the culmination of that effort.

Some features available in PHP 5.4

  • Shortened array syntax, a’la JavaScript
  • Traits
  • Built-in web-server
  • Session uploads
  • Addition of binary number format
  • Function array dereferencing
  • Some reports exist in the wild of users getting over 25% speed increases
  • A new version of the Zend framwork
  • Default character set is now UTF-8

Built in web-server

Honestly, I am quite happy with Apache, but I still have to evaluate whether I will use the built in web-server. Although it is VERY early days, I am currently not finding any innovators or early adopters of this in commercial hosting setting, hence I am a bit skeptical to jump on the bandwagon regarding this feature, although I may explore this feature shortly. If so, I will post an article about it.

Shortened array syntax

For me, this means nothing, really. I wonder if this holds a performance penalty for using this syntax. Stay tuned for a little benchmark test on this in the near future.

Some pitfalls

As far as my initial investigation of PHP 5.4 indicates, most current PHP code should still work, but there are some possible pitfalls, such as:

  • New keywords that were added that may cause undesirable effects if used on older code
  • No more safemode, register_globals and magic quotes
  • PHP 5.4 is also the last PHP version that will support Windows XP and Windows  server 2003

Default character set UTF-8

I am particularly excited about this. Having a home language that often has problems with the ISO8859 character set (although mostly due to missing or wrong configuration implementations as well as different character set choices over various platforms and tools), this will help me a lot by knowing at least one of my components used for development will be correctly set and won’t need any additional checking.