Tag Archive for 'php functional programming'

Simple Functional Sniffer & Switch Alternative

mix Because PHP is a server-side language, you will have times that you need to rely on client-side languages like CSS, JavaScript and even HTML5 to accomplish certain tasks. In developing the CMS, I realized that while incorporating JavaScript, CSS and HTML5 in heredoc strings, I’d established a barrier between PHP and everything else by only allowing these other languages to interact with PHP through objects. Of course, this is because PHP has emerged into an OOP language and the others have not.

What I failed to take into account is the fact that it’s perfectly possible for OOP structures to interact with non-OOP structures. To some extend that has been done with HTML/CSS UIs and PHP design patterns in several examples. That seems to work out fine, but where you want to use dynamic variables for more responsive HTML pages, we’re back to encapsulating HTML (along with Javascript and CSS) into heredoc strings in PHP. There’s nothing wrong with that, and there’s much to be said for having a fully integrated OOP design pattern with a pure PHP engine.

A Simple Functional JavaScript Sniffer

The problem I discovered in a pure PHP design is that other design possibilities are overlooked. The primary style tool for HTML documents is CSS, and the media queries in CSS3 are designed to be responsive to different devices—namely, those brought about by mobile computing. Sometimes (and I do mean sometimes) that solution seems to work fine. Other, times, however, the media queries fail to capture that chunk of CSS3 code that formats for the desired device. On top of that, it can be difficult calling up certain jQuery mobile files—or any other files—from CSS alone. In many ways, libraries in jQuery have proven to be far more robust than CSS3 alone and far easier to deal with. In several respects, probably in most, neither CSS nor jQuery mobile are programming so much as they are styling tools. As such, they’re the tail of the programming dog. This is not to say they’re less important; they’re just not programming.

So, to sort out the devices looking at our pages, (moving away from CSS media queries) is a programming task. In several other entries on this blog, I’ve looked at ways to sniff through the possible devices, and I think we need to conclude once and for all that user-agents are next to useless. So, by exclusion, we’re left with screen width. So,begin by looking at this simple JavaScript sniffer using two lambda functions:

//Save as file name "jsniff.js"
var wide = screen.width;
var beta=function() {wide >=900 ? window.location.href="Desktop.html" :  window.location.href="Tablet.html";};
var lambda=function() {wide <= 480 ? window.location.href="Phone.html" : beta();};

In past posts I’ve used the Chain Of Responsibility (CoR) design pattern to do the same thing using either user agents (forget about it!) or width determined by a JavaScript object. The little JavaScript lambda functions do the same thing, and while at some point of granularity your may wish you had your CoR pattern, generally, I think that there’s enough with the three general categories at this point in time to deal with multiple device. Use the buttons to test the functions. (Try it with your phone and tablet too.) Click PlayA for the sniffer and PlayB for the PHP functional alternative to the switch statement. The download button downloads the source code for both.


The process is pretty simple both from a programming and a lambda calculus perspective. From lambda calculus we get following definitions of true and false:

true := λx.λy.x
false := λx.λy.y

As algorithms, we might consider the following:

function(x, y) {return x;};
function(x, y) {return y;};

So, that means:

function (10,20) = 10; ← true : Is 10
function (10,20) = 20; ← false : Not 10

That’s not exactly lambda calculus, but it’s along those lines that we can eke out an idea. (If you’re thinking, “What about function(10,10) that would appear to be both true and false,” you see what I mean.)

So now we’ll add the values a and b and reduce it:

((λx.λy.x) a b) -> ((λy.a) b) -> a

That replaces λx with (λy.a) b and then a. So a is a. Well, it sounds true!

Then for false we have:

((λx.λy.y) a b) -> ((λy.y) b) -> b

In looking at this, we see that if a is a its true; otherwise it’s b which is not true. That’s pretty much like if-then-else. If true a, otherwise it’s b.

So the line in JavaScript would be a ternary:

lambda = function(a) { return a ? a : b ;};

as well as in PHP,

$lambda = function($a) { return $a ? a : $b ;};

For now, that’s enough linking up lambda calculus with Internet languages. With our JS “sniffer” using a simple HTML call, we can get the page configuration we want for our device based on the window size:

		<title>Functional Sniff</title>
			<script src="jsniff.js"></script>
	<body onload=lambda()>

Try it out. It’s easy to write and it’s practical. What’s more, you can see how close everything is to a Boolean type decision. (The different device HTML5 files are in the materials in the download package; one of which uses the jQuery Mobile formatting.)

I Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Switch Statement

One of the nice things about functional programming is that it made me re-think how I was programming. One of the areas where I thought I’d be able to boil down an algorithm to something more compact came when I decided to break down a calendar output into four weekly segment. Using a jQuery calendar, I could pick a day and pass the information to a PHP class for processing. Initially, the switch statement came to mind as a solution in something like the following:

switch ($d)
         case ($d >=1 && $d<=7):
            return "jquery";
        case ($d> 7 && $d<= 14):
            return "haskell";
        case ($d> 14 && $d<= 21):
            return "php";
        default: return "racket";

In looking for a range, each case acts like a little function. So why not use lambda functions in PHP to do the same thing. Each query (case/function) either returns a value or goes on to the next case. Here’s what it looks like:

$gamma=function($d) {return $d > 14 && $d <= 21 ? "php" : "racket";};
$beta = function($d) use ($gamma) {return $d > 7 && $d <= 14 ? "haskell" : $gamma($d);};
$lambda = function($d) use ($beta) {return $d >=1 && $d <=7 ? "jquery": $beta($d);};
return $lambda($this->numDay);

The last used lambda function is the first in the list ($gamma). That’s because in order for the subsequent function to call them with the use statement, the function used must be defined before the one using it. In functional programming, the use of one function by another is referred to as a closure.

The Language Mix-Master

With the key parts in place, take a look at the different parts and languages used. First of all, the program begins with an HTML5 UI. It links to the jQuery UI JavaScript files and the CSS files. A further stylesheet links to the local CSS.

<!doctype html>
<html lang="en">
  <meta charset="utf-8" />
  <title>jQuery UI Datepicker - Default functionality</title>
  <link rel="stylesheet" href="http://code.jquery.com/ui/1.10.3/themes/smoothness/jquery-ui.css" />
  <script src="http://code.jquery.com/jquery-1.9.1.js"></script>
  <script src="http://code.jquery.com/ui/1.10.3/jquery-ui.js"></script>
   <link rel="stylesheet" href="lang.css">
  $(function() {
    $( "#datepicker" ).datepicker();
  <h2>Language of the Week</h2>
  <h4>Click in the text box to select from pop-up calendar: </h4>
 <form action="LangWeek.php" method="post" name="useUI" target="showpix">
<p>Date: <input type="text" id="datepicker" name="pick" /></p>
<input type = "submit" value="Get Language" />
 <iframe name="showpix" width="300" height="300"></iframe>

A form links to a PHP file where it passes the selected datepicker() value. The iframe tag provides a visual feedback embedded in the HTML page. (Note: Remember, with HTML5, iframes are no longer evil.)

Finally, using a single PHP class, the selected date is reconfigured to an integer and evaluated by the lambda functions described above in lieu of a switch statement:

error_reporting(E_ALL | E_STRICT);
ini_set("display_errors", 1);
class LangWeek
    private $dateNow,$dayMonth, $numDay;
    public function __construct()
        $this->dateNow = $_POST['pick'];
        $this->dayMonth=substr($this->dateNow, 3,2);    // Start 03  : 2Length
        $this->numDay = intval($this->dayMonth);
        echo "<img src='images/{$this->chooseLanguage()}' . '.jpg'>";
    private function chooseLanguage()
        $gamma=function($d) {return $d > 14 && $d <= 21 ? "php" : "racket";};
        $beta = function($d) use ($gamma) {return $d > 7 && $d <= 14 ? "haskell" : $gamma($d);};
        $lambda = function($d) use ($beta) {return $d >=1 && $d <=7 ? "jquery": $beta($d);};
        return $lambda($this->numDay);
$worker = new LangWeek();

Fortunately the jQuery date picker passes the date as a consistent string mm/dd/yyyy, and so the only requirement is to use a substring to find the day of the month and convert it to an integer. This is passed to the chooseLanguage() method that employs the lambda functions.

Mixing it Up

While this blog is dedicated to PHP Design Patterns and their application, I believe that PHP programmers should explore beyond OOP and try out different kinds of programming within an OOP framework, which happily exists within a Design Pattern. The willingness to explore and experiment keeps programming fresh and interesting in any language.


Sandlight CMS II : Mobile First!

mobileFirstI’m not a graphic designer, and so I depend on others for the graphic elements and arrangement of my Web pages. However, I strive to make a site that is clear, easy to understand and useful. My focus is on good user experience (UX) and information design—clear communication with the user. In order to have good UX, you need to know something about Responsive Web Design (RWD), and if you don’t, check out the RWD link. Further, if you are unfamiliar with the approaches to RWD, I’m sold on the Mobile First approach, but possibly for different reasons than designers. Let me explain.

In designing my own site, my focus is on content categories, ease of maintenance, which includes updates and changes, and device flexibility. So I have to keep all of those in mind. I want PHP to handle regular updates by using content from a MySql database (the Content Management of CMS), and I need it to work on different devices. By tackling mobile first, I have to create a diamond-tipped focus on exactly what I want the user to view because even with the new “Phablets,” I’m not dealing with a lot of screen real estate. Currently, my old working mobile phone has a CSS resolution of 320 x 480, and my Phablet is 414 x 736. That’s less that 100 units different. (By CSS resolution, I’m referring to what CSS reads as far as screen width is concerned. See this table.)

Choosing the Devices

In an another sniffer program using a Chain of Responsibility (CoR) design pattern and a PHP user agent ($_SERVER['HTTP_USER_AGENT']) posted on this blog, the sniffer detected the user agent and then found the handler responsible for that agent. Now that user agents have been replaced by CSS screen width (as determined by a JavaScript function) for determining the device, we can use the same CoR pattern making the necessary changes. However, instead of getting real pages, we can use stand-ins that only have the roughest page content. All of the content will be encapsulated into PHP classes using heredoc strings. Near-future posts cover the mechanics of working out the MySql to provide dynamic content for the pages, along with other details necessary for the CMS. For now, though, the dummy pages will only contain enough material to demonstrate that each is appropriate for the selected device. Use the buttons below to see the current state of the CMS and download the files for this portion:

Note that all devices can now access the Flag Counter. Where is your country on the Flag Counter? (See the note about the Flag Counter at the end of this post.)

Back to the Chain of Responsibility Pattern (CoR)

The CoR pattern is handy because it’s easy to update and change. For example, suppose that having three device categories (e.g., phone, tablets and desktops) proves to be inadequate and you want to add two more; one for laptops and another for phablets. It’s a simple matter to add to the chain and add device classes to handle the new devices. Figure 1 shows the first design pattern to be used in the CMS:

Figure 1: Chain of Responsibility Implementation

Figure 1: Chain of Responsibility Implementation

In Part I of this series, you can see how the device width and height is determined using a JavaScript closure (object) to pass the information to HTML and on to PHP. Since we only need to find the width, the JavaScript code has been slightly altered and placed in a separate file (deviceCatcher.js) in case it needs to be reused.

function getWide()
	var wide = screen.width;
	return function()
		return wide;
var w = getWide();
//Send data to PHP class, CoRClient.php	
var lambdaPass= function() {window.location.href = "CoRClient.php?hor=" + w();};

The HTML file simply calls the closure function which passes the values to PHP:

		<title>Device Catcher</title>
		<script src="deviceCatcher.js" type="text/javascript"></script>
	<body onload=lambdaPass()>

The HTML file is a trigger to get the ball rolling with the client class (CoRClient).

Starting the Chain

The client pulls the viewing device’s width from the superglobal, and passes it to a PHP variable. Given the variability in the width of device screens, I made the decision to work with three sizes to get started: 1) phone, 2) tablet, and 3) desktop. So, depending on the width, the request would be handled by one of those three device groups. I used the following cutoff sizes:

  1. Phone: >= 480
  2. Tablet: >=481 and < 900
  3. Desktop: >= 900

I used this table as a guide, but cutoff points can be anything you want.

Getting the width from the superglobal is easy enough using a static variable:


The, using the cutoffs, the program needs to generate three strings, phone, tablet, and desktop to send to the Request class that stores the appropriate string. The most obvious way is to use conditional statements (if or switch) to generate the correct string for Request. For example an imperative algorithm such as the following would do the trick:

if(self::$wide < = 480)
	return "phone";
elseif (self::$wide >= 900)
	return "desktop";
	return "tablet";

However, a functional program would be more compact, and like the JavaScript closure used in Part I, it would be an “object.” Transformed into a functional closure, the operation would look like the following:

$beta = self::$wide >= 900 ? 'desktop' : 'tablet';
$lambda = function($x) use ($beta) {
	$alpha =  $x < = 480 ? 'phone' : $beta;
	return $alpha;};

Using ternary operations ?: , $alpha and $beta both have function-like qualities. for example, $beta could have been written as a function beta() as shown in Figure 2:

Figure 2: "Functional" variables

Figure 2: “Functional” variables

As you can see in Figure 2, $beta provides the same functionality as beta(), and $beta can be used as a reference in the $lambda function along with $alpha in a PHP closure. (For some reason, when $beta is assigned an anonymous function, I was unable to get it to be added as a closure in the $lambda anonymous function.)
Continue reading ‘Sandlight CMS II : Mobile First!’


PHP Functional Programming Part II: OOP & Immutable Objects


In his book on Functional Programming in PHP Simon Holywell laments the lack of immutable structures in PHP, and while he suggests some hacks to insure immutability, we can make-do with some different hacks I’ll suggest. (Most of the hacks are mind-hacks–a way of thinking about data.) The idea of having a programming language where all objects are immutable (unchanging) sounds pretty awful. Not only that, it sounds impractical. Take, for example, a Boolean. It has two states; true and false. In functional programming, that means the Boolean variable is mutable, and so it’s out. However, you can have two objects that we can call, Alpha and `Alpha. Alpha is true and `Alpha is false. (The tick mark [`] is the key below the ‘esc’ key on your keyboard.) So instead of changing the state of Alpha from true to false, you change the object from Alpha to `Alpha.

Why would anyone want to do that? It has to do with the concept of referential transparency. In a concrete sense it means that if an object (reference) were replaced by its value, it would not affect the program. Consider the following:

   $alpha= function() use ($val) {return $val * $val;};

can be replaced by;


Nothing in the program will change if either $alpha variable is used. For a simple example of referential transparency, that’s no great shakes. Besides we lose the value of changing states. However, functional programming eschews the concept of changing states. To quote one functional programmer,

Do not try to change the state; that’s impossible. Instead only try to realize the truth: There is no state.

Again, this looks nuts both conceptually and in the real world. Take, for instance, a thermometer that changes from freezing (32F / 0C) to not freezing (say 50F / 10C). The temperature has changed states! How can anyone say it has not? Or a child changes states into an adult, or a caterpillar changes states to a butterfly?

According to the functional programming model, a freezing temperature is a different object than a non-freezing one; an adult is a different object than a child, and (clearly) a butterfly is a different object than a caterpillar. So, if I say that the thermometer has changed from 32° to 33°, it is not state that has changed, it is a different object. Objects can be as granular as you like, and if you think of atoms arranged to display a ruler, you can move from one atom (object) to the next atom (object) with no state involved at all.

The State Design Pattern: Wasn’t it Immutable All Along?

The State design pattern would seem to be the polar opposite of functional programming. However, if we examine it closely, we can re-conceptualize it as object swapping. Take a simple two-state example: a light going on and off. There’s a light-on object and a light-off object. The design is the same, but we think about it in different ways. Also, the individual state methods can include nothing but lambda functions or closures. Consider Figure 1. An “on” light JPG and an “off” light JPG can be considered two separate states or two immutable objects.

Figure 1: Two States or Two Immutable Objects

Figure 1: Two States or Two Immutable Objects

To make the State pattern more “immutable-like” the interface has two constants with the URLs for the two different images. To get started, Play the light switch State application and Download the files:

The application uses a simple State design pattern. All requests go through the Context, which keeps track of the current state. However, this implementation fudged a bit because each time the UI calls the Client, it creates a new Context object; so no state is saved, and I had to add a statement to use the called method to set the correct state for switching the light on and off. (Note to self: Get busy on the RESTful API!) Also, I added two constants to the interface (IState) to impose an immutable property in the state implementations. Figure 2 shows the class diagram of the implementation:

Figure 2: State design pattern implementation

Figure 2: State design pattern implementation

The pattern diagram in Figure 2 provides an overview of the classes and key methods in those classes. The LightSwitch class is just an HTML document wrapped in a PHP class, an it is where a request originates in this model. The other roles you can see in the following outline:

  • Client: Get the request from the UI (LightSwitch) and using a Context instance and method, the request is sent to the Context.
  • Context: Always the most important participant in a State design pattern, it determines the current state and passes the request to it via the appropriate method based on the request.
  • IState: The State interface specifies the required methods and may include constants.
  • Concrete States: The On / Off states (IState implementations) return the requested state-as-an-object.

With that overview in mind, you can better understand all of the singular roles of the participants. (Continue to see listings and explanations.)
Continue reading ‘PHP Functional Programming Part II: OOP & Immutable Objects’


PHP Functional Programming Part I: An Introduction

functionThe Functional Alternative

For some time now, I’ve been interested in functional programming. I had heard that it was an alternative to imperative programming (OOP languages, including PHP, are considered imperative languages) and if you sniff around you can find snarky comments by functional programmers about OOP. For the most part, though, the concern and need for functional programming has centered around multi-threaded and multi-core programming. If you can imagine two different threads using two different cores in your computer working in parallel to process a single giant list or array, you can understand how useful it is to divide the array in half and have different threads process each half. Since about 2005, all computers (except Raspberry-Pi types) are multi-core. Even my old iPhone 4S has a dual core A5 processor. With multi-threaded and parallel programming, though, you have to rejoin the multiple threads once each is finished to get a final result. Here’s where you have to be careful because you want to be sure that the values you’re handling have not changed in one thread and not the other or differently in both threads. You want to use immutable values to avoid surprises when the threads’ results are re-joined.

Where to Start?

A good starting point is Functional Programming in PHP by Simon Holywell. It’s about as simple as a book on functional programming can be, and you’ll find lots of examples. If you’re looking for material on lambda (λ) calculus and functional programming in PHP, you’ll only get a chapter that is ¾ of a single page, but Holywell goes on to say in the ever-so-brief chapter (chapter-ette?) on PHP lambdas,

…but just about every piece of functional code ever written makes use of lambda functions, and they are an important building block to add to your tool kit and should be mastered ….

Not to overstate a point, but Holywell is absolutely right, and so the reader is left wondering, why so brief a discussion of lambdas–a chapter that’s only three-quarters of a page? Well, the rest of the book has lots of lambda functions in use, and I imagine that the author figured the reader would be able to work it out on his/her own. (Maybe this point might be re-thought in the next edition of the book and the chapter be expanded.) In the meantime a useful online source can be found at Lambdas in PHP on the phpbuilder site.

If you really want to go nuts on functional programming, you can learn Haskell. On October 14, 2014 (in a couple weeks!) edX (the Harvard/MIT initiated free online course program) is offering Introduction to Functional Programming through The Netherland’s premiere technical university, Delft University of Technology. In the past I’ve learned that whenever I learn another programming language, I can always bring something back to PHP. Besides, the course introduction notes that PHP is one of the languages that has incorporated functional programming structures into its lexicon. You can take the course for free or get a certification for about $50. It’s 6 weeks long and will take between 6-8 hours a week of study.

For a quick and dirty differentiation between imperative programming and declarative (functional) programming, Microsoft has a nice little anonymous table that summarizes the difference. Being Microsoft, they put in a plug for their products and point out that C# can handle both functional and imperative programming. Since PHP 5.3, PHP too handles both types of programming; so we’re not dealing with an either or situation when it comes to OOP and functional programming in languages like PHP and C#.

So What Are Lambdas?

Lambda functions are anonymous functions, introduced in PHP 5.3.0. Essentially, a lambda function is one that stores an immutable value in a variable. For example,the following class has incorporated a lambda function to calculate the square of a value as part of the method doLambda().

< ?php
class Lambda1
   function doLambda()
        $lambda_func = function($stuff) { return $stuff * $stuff; };
        echo "The square value is: " . $lambda_func(8) . "<p />";
$worker=new Lambda1();
//Results - The square value is: 64

To call a lambda function an anonymous function is true, but to assume that all anonymous functions are lambda expressions criminally oversimplifies the lambda calculus behind lambda expressions. To help move on in understanding of PHP lambda expressions stated as anonymous functions, take a look at Figure 1.

Figure 1: Elements of a lambda expression

Figure 1: Elements of a lambda expression

The parts of a lambda function are pretty straightforward, and you have to remember to add the semi-colon (;) after the lambda body in addition to the one at the end of expressions within the lambda body. Otherwise, it looks pretty much like a named function without the name.

Essential is the requirement to include the return statement in the lambda expression. In fact, it’s probably a better programming practice to use a return statement with all methods; a practice I’ve often overlooked myself. (See No Side Effects below.)
Continue reading ‘PHP Functional Programming Part I: An Introduction’