Sunday, December 31, 2006

P-dd 0.1 finally released

So, with just 6 1/2 hours to go before the year ends I've finally managed to get P-dd - The PHP Database Documentor up to version 0.1 standard.

The blog's up and running, a slab of source code sits on Google code and at last I feel like I can stand beside the library and say "yeah, well it's good enough for now".

You can find the code here:

And the blog here:

So what does it do?

Put simply, it's a library of PHP classes that allow for the easy generation of documentation from a set of database sources.

The idea is that, over time, database sources will be added that will allow for the collection of meta-data from all the major database players (Oracle / MySql / Postgres / etc) and produce documentation in most of the popular forms (HTML / XML / RTF / PDF / etc) including ER diagrams.

The aim is to make the library simple to use to produce either applications that output documentation for static publication or applications that allow for navigation through the database structure. Note that it is not the aim of the project to produce either of these applications, merely to allow for their creation.

It is also recognised that in the future it is desirable to take the library into a more analysis role. For example - inferring foreign keys that are not explicitly stated, either by examining the table structures or the data within those tables.

The library is very much in its early stages though, and for now we've got the following:

  • A database model that consists of:

    • Tables

    • Columns

    • Primary Keys

    • Foreign Keys

  • The database model can be created from the following sources:

    • Oracle

    • XML File

  • The model can be rendered into the following formats:

    • HTML

    • XML

    • Graphviz Neato Diagram (producing an ER diagram)

There are also lots of other little goodies in there such as datasource in dependant filters, a datasource caching system that limits the round trips to the database and a plethora of examples showing how components can be used as well as a simple Oracle database viewer application to show off what can be possible with just a small amount of work.

I hope the code is of use, and I'm fully committed to getting more and more functionality into the code as soon as possible in the new year.

Note: The eagle eyed of you may notice that I've added a new sidebar to this blog which will list the blog posts from the P-dd blog...

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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Repeating a point

The other day I mentioned the principle "Don't repeat yourself". I think it may have inspired Andy Clarke to write this up, and he's quite right. It comes from the Pragmatic Programmers.

APC's spot on in his description as it relates to writing code, but he doesn't go far enough.

DRY relates to every part of software development, not just the bit where you're knocking out code.

If, in any part of the process, you find you have a duplication of knowledge then you have a potential problem.

Anyone ever read that comment at the top of a procedure and found its description doesn't match the code that follows?

Watched that demonstration video and found that it's showing you an utterly different version of the system to that which you've just installed?

Looked at that definitive ER diagram and found it's missing half the tables?

Well, don't put a comment at the top of the procedure, instead document the behaviour by writing an easy to read unit test for it. Whilst the knowledge might be duplicated (the test duplicates the knowledge inside the procedure), at least those pieces of knowledge are validated against each other (if you have to repeat, put in some validation)

Don't have a team writing automated functional tests and another producing videos, write your video scripts as automated tests and have them generated with every build.

Instead of manually creating a set of ER diagrams and documentation on what the system will be like, write some documentation generation software and have it generated from the current state of the database instead.

You might notice that there's a running theme here... generation. Well yup. One of the best ways of reducing the chances of discrepancies between sources of knowledge is by ensuring there is only one representation of that knowledge and generating the others.

It's one of the reasons why I've been working on the new Open Source library 'P-dd' (Php Database Documentor). It's intended be a simple library for the production of database documentation from a number of different sources - the ultimate aim is to be able to read from any of the major RDBMS systems, Wikis, XML files and suchlike and be able to simply output many different forms, HTML, GIF, PDF, XML, Open Office Doc. Over the next week I intend on letting people know where they can find it, in its early form...