Something to celebrate

This is the 50th post in this blog, a number to celebrate because it is a nice round number. It is also the first blog-entry that contains some real-world results, another thing to celebrate. It also comes at the time that I am reading the book The best software writing, thank you Michiel, which might help me to improve my blog-entries. Something that is definitely worth celebrating.

So let's look at some results. I found out that there 91 detections of pattern O000 in the PhpDocumentor-project. Since this suggests that you should always pre-calculate the size of an array I decided to do a little test. I first used the original sources of PhpDocumentor to extract the documentation of 'phorum', 'phpBB2' and 'phpMyAdmin'. After this I modified all the for-loops of PhpDocumentor that where flagged by PHP-Sat and extracted the documentation again.
The results where rather disappointing, maybe a single second somewhere, but nothing really substantial. When I showed this my girlfriend I realized that none of the projects have phpdoc-comments. So I found out that this optimization does not matter for projects that you would not process. Anyone else want to state the obvious?
So I repeated the experiment with the sources of PhpDocumenter itself, which are well-documented. The results for these sources are less disappointing. It turns out that pre-computing the size of the array saves 6 seconds in the frames/default configuration, and up to 9 seconds in the DOM/default configuration. These number are not very large, but it seems that this simple optimization really saves some time. If you want to know more about optimizations that are more useful, please click here

Optimization is nice, but has been discussed a lot and not very original anymore. So let's look at some results that indicate logical errors. A pattern that is not PHP-specific is C006, which is an ignored return statement. I have implemented this pattern because OWASP has an article about it. When I inspected the results I learned that Pear actually has functions that will always return 'true'. This situation is probably worth a pattern, but it also generates extra detections because the result of these functions are ignored.
But there also was an ignore that was not legit and this resulted in the first bug-report coming from PHP-Sat. Let's hope that it will get accepted and is fixed in the near future.

When I looked at the results from the C006 pattern I also read the comments in some of the files in Pear. The following piece of comment caught my eye:

.. constructor
@param ....
@param ....
@return mixed True on success else PEAR error class.

How can a constructor return either True or an other object? A constructor is supposed to return the newly created object, so a return statement in a constructor is useless. (PHP4 allows you to return something else from a constructor by assigning a value to the '$this'-variable, but this is not compatible with PHP5 or good practice.) I have also found a thread that shows that these patterns should be checked.
So I added the patterns C007 and C008 to PHP-Sat. I could not find any assignments to '$this' in the stable packages of Pear, but I found 13(!) occurrences of a return value within a constructor. Good luck for me, bad luck for the package maintainers?


Michiel said...

It also comes at the time that I am reading the book The best software writing, thank you Michiel, which might help me to improve my blog-entries.

More people in the academic computer science world should use weblogs. And if they do, they should keep them up to date (Martin ;-) )...

By the way, I found a new one recently (this one is from Stefan Holdermans, a PhD student in Utrecht):

Martin said...

Blog? hmmm, right, I remember vaguely that I have one as well ;)