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Week 2 – The Birth of a new Controller and Unit Testing

Demonstrated Skills:
– Testing With PHPUnit
– Controller Generation with Cake Bake (Cake PHP)
– Controllers the Old fashioned way
– Data Validation
– Caffeine Stimulation

So it’s Friday of week two and it is time for another blog post. Okay, it’s not actually Friday, its Monday morning. I spent Friday writing PHPUnit tests. For the sake of consistency, I will explain Friday after I’ve explained the other four days.

So on Monday I began by drinking some coffee. Then returned to the Kanban board for more tasks. Unfortunately for me, only difficult tasks remained. I completed most of the easy ones. After a second early morning coffee I was ready to commit to a task. In week 1 when working on the failed user feedback, I discovered the lookup system. The idea is that when you type in usernames in the list, you can get auto complete to speed things up. The previous implementation did work; but it was not an adequate solution. The issue is that the lookup functionality was not in a controller of its own.

Lookup was implemented in three separate source files with each bolted on where necessary. It was sloppy. I actually had to make a new controller which communicated with the alpha table. The alpha table is a nightly update of all the users in the university. It’s faster to communicate with this table as it is non-volatile. This makes it ideal for autocomplete. The three files: ‘lookup.php’, which looked up users from an identifier; ‘lookup2.php’, which looked up users from a course code and ‘lookup3.php’, which looked up courses from an identifier formed the functions of the new controller.

After a lot of headache, and help, the lookup controller worked. The new controller needed testing, this is where PHPUnit comes in. PHPUnit does what it says on the tin, makes unit tests for PHP. This was where the real fun began. Getting PHPUnit to behave on my workstation was a real son of a glitch (see what I did there?). Bit of advice, make sure your version of the testing software is compatible with the pre-existing tests already on the system.

Tuesday and Wednesday occurred along the same sort of vein. Coffee -> Confusion -> Coffee -> Lunch -> Testing -> Coffee -> Coffee -> More Testing -> Coffee -> Home. This brings me onto Thursday. I started my first high priority task. By using a combination of browser history and luck, users could pass the selection page with an invalid number of choices. As users added to their choices, the table containing their choices updated on the fly. This meant an invalid number of choices could exist in the database. My initial thoughts were to just make a temporary table to store choices as a user makes them, then validate the whole basket at once. On consultation with Pat he recommended I change how stage validation worked instead. We pair programmed a solution together so that when a user goes onto a new stage, the server validates all previous stages and redirects the user to any invalid stage. The state of the existing stages implementation shocked us so we decided to add “fixing the mess” to the Kanban board. We implemented a temporary working solution using a refactored version of the existing code. Then we made a joint decision to conclude our evening at the pub.

I spent Friday working on testing the event actions. They can send email notifications to users upon completing their choices for example. It started off easy enough but then choices threw a screwball my way when I was only expecting a curveball. The version of PHPUnit choices uses, cannot use the new function to mock static methods. I spent a lot of time trying to make a full unit test for email notifications. It turned out that a semi-integrated test was actually the way to go for now. My tests found a few logical errors in the email code. The errors would otherwise have gone unnoticed. There was a lot of functionality hidden in separate source files. The code was not written by me which made it more challenging to test.

All in all, last week was quite a hectic week, hence me writing the blog on Monday morning. There’s not much work I can do at the minute as half of our team are not here currently. This week may be less frantic, this may just wishful thinking though.

Posted in Apache, Database, HTTP, Javascript, PHP, Programming, testing.

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