Which has better packages, Python or PHP?

Answered in Quora

Q: Which has better packages, Python or PHP?

It depends on the target utility. In the Python world, the most common package installer is pip; the PHP world didn’t settle on a dominant format/installation for packages until composer, and that was relatively recently (last 4 years).

The reason for this is because PHP is a language almost exclusively designed for websites, and the economy of the open-source world has found that a dedicated application, instead of a framework or library could serve the bulk of most commercial needs. For instance, a single application, WordPress, four years ago (2014) accounted for nearly 20% of all websites and 50% of all blogs. There is little need package management when a single download and install (or a single click during ISP/hosting account creation or visit to site like Bitnami) can set up everything a typical website might need, fully under your control, with its own package infrastructure (plugin and theme ecosystem) where the underlying language (PHP) is pretty much irrelevant to the user.

Other languages like Ruby (with gems) or Go (import) or Javascript (with npm) which matured later and are more general purpose had a more robust package management and installation system. PHP Composer, in fact, is most modeled on npm.

Python, like Perl, predates these languages, but its general purpose demanded package management early in its development. However, because of this, pip takes less advantage of web conventions that npm does. Python has the added headache of version compatibility with its core runtime. Still pip is perfectly workable and relatively seamless and easy to use.

So which has better packages? The answer is it depends on the domain. In nearly any language you can find an adequate package for any of your needs, but overall you will find the packages are higher quality, more up-to-date, and sometimes just better overall in the domain the language seems to target well.

In my opinion, packages for data science/AI/ML applications, Python packages are second to none. As a PHP expert, I wouldn’t even bother looking in Composer for them and would instead find a PHP extension that binded to a dedicated engine optimized for the problem area or write a dedicated solution/web service in Python/flask and call it from PHP. If, for some crazy reason, I needed to do this entirely within PHP, I would search for the best solution in Python and see if someone has a port for that in PHP.

I would expect the same in DevOps for Python, but right now that space, like blogging (WordPress), seems to have dedicated solutions where a domain-specific language has abstracted one from the language-specific package management solution. For instance, in the configuration management space the top four applications are: Puppet, Chef, Ansible, and SaltStack. Of those four, I believe only one (Chef) exposes the underlying language (Ruby), and it does this to the DevOps engineer no more than WordPress exposes PHP to a blogger.

For server-side web-based packages, I feel PHP and Composer are going to have a solution for any problem PHP itself is capable of solving. That is a restricted set, however, as more and more work for web applications is being done on the client-side in Javascript and there is already an adequate toolchain for that (as well as a package management system in npm). Other web-based languages will probably have adequate solutions in this space with decreasing order/quality: Ruby (on Rails), Javascript (NodeJS), Python, Go, Perl, Java… The web problem is now pretty discovered at this point so there is less a need to adopt the bleeding edge in the web problem.

On being a beginner (again)

Compiled from three separate discussions on IRC, twitter, and in person:

“Whatcha do with your time these days? Learning Rails? 😈”

I did pick up Objective-C again after an aborted attempt at learning Swift. Mostly I’m trying to catch up on the javascript frameworks that have come out since I stopped coding. Right now it’s AngularJS—I figure I can jury-rig React into it if performance becomes an issue.

On the non-programming side, I’ve been messing with Ansible because I just got tired of doing things by hand—and I never needed to learn this because I’ve always had operations engineers working with me.

The ripping on Rails thing is over with me because there’s no point in arguing over how to solve a solved problem—today, the web problem is the easy part. What I find strange is people still feel the need to defend Ruby on Rails. I mean who the fuck cares what your middle layer code is written in when everything is an API to something written in Javascript?

“I don’t like that everything is an API to something in Javascript. As a user, the Web feels slower and flakier than it used to.”

I don’t like that everything on the front-end is pushed toward a single-page application. The reason for this is that the DOM-based model of front-end javascript (e.g. jQuery) gets so taxing when the application gets big because you’re bolting feature-on-feature, library-on-library to get it to work as smoothly as you envision. At a certain point, a true MV(VM) javascript framework (e.g. AngularJS) gives you much more because it abstracts all that in a consistent manner.

As soon as you buy into one of these, you’re invested into a huge initial javascript payload which causes you to not want the user to leave the page to unload anything, which then forces you into an API-based model with HTML partials and a client-side route/sitemap and more crap in the payload until you have a single-page application.

And then pretty soon your website is like Flickr where I swear every tenth click I’ve got to reload the page because the UI became non-responsive and I’m deciding to open the app in my iPhone just to do something without that frustration. How fucked up is that?

But then I look at Bootstrap and I figure, I’d rather have a SPA than everything looking like it was designed by some Apple-loving hipster (and this coming from a person who has used and loved Apple products longer than they’ve been alive).

“I’ve always enjoyed your talks and lamented that you didn’t remain on the PHP speaking circuit.”

Maybe I’ll start speaking when I have something to say. Like I’ve said before, PHP solves the “web problem” very well, but the web-problem is not a hard problem anymore.

Remember, it’s been four years since I’ve done any UI programming so everything is new to me. Basically, I’m a newbie, and I don’t think anyone wants to hear from someone who doesn’t know what they’re talking about.

But I did notice this from managing engineers: the worst problem a coder can get into is fear of having to start over. You get good at what you’re good at and when things pass you by, you feel the need to protect what you have because its what you know.

That’s how I feel about Ruby on Rails and that’s how I feel about me and PHP.

So, I’m a beginner again.

Super Tuesday

When I first moved to San Francisco, the PHP meetup group hadn’t had a meeting in a year. That was before [Touge][touge] took it up, and, along with [Mariano][mariano], does the hard work of actually scheduling people to come shoot the shit.

Apparently, it’s time for my shit to be shot.

[Tomorrow, I’m giving a talk][talk] at [SFPHP][sfphp] on [DevOps][devops] for PHP developers. I’ve giving this talk before as the [closing keynote][lineman phpcomcon] at [PHP Community Conference][phpcomcon] and [to sysadmins][lineman oscon] at OSCON.

> **Living without Your Linemen: The Programmer Becomes System Operator in the Cloud**
>
> If a website architect is the quarterback, then site operations is the offensive line—overworked, under-appreciated, and only noticed when it fails. They make you look good. However, four years ago cloud computing networks like Amazon Web Services and Slicehost have appeared. While deficiencies in frameworks in other languages have forced those worlds to adopt Infrastructure-as-a-Service, the PHP world—with it’s ultra-cheap shared-hosting (on one end) and tradition of dominance on some of the most trafficked websites (on the other)—has been slow to move. But as the technology continues to disrupt, modern web engineers will be expected to use their programming skills to not only build, but also provision and maintain fast, scalable websites.
>
> The efficiencies of a web-based language and experience in scalable website architecture offer a unique opportunity for programmers to transfer their skills when wearing a sysop hat. Not to mention some of the best libraries for programming them are written in PHP! When going from a small pet project to a go-live site, maybe we can learn to live without our linemen.

Trust me, you’ll like it.

[Please come][talk]!

Also, If you are an American citizen, go vote! 🙂

[talk]: http://www.sfphp.org/events/33726032/ “Living without Your Linemen: The Programmer Becomes System Operator in the Cloud—SFPHP”
[sfphp]: http://www.sfphp.org/ “The SF PHP Meetup Group—SFPHP”
[mariano]: http://twitter.com/marianopeterson
[touge]: http://www.grepmymind.com/ “Grep My Mind”
[devops]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DevOps “DevOps—Wikipedia”
[lineman oscon]: http://www.slideshare.net/tychay/2011-07-lineman-opsoscon “2011 07 Living without your Linemen—OSCON”
[lineman phpcomcon]: http://www.slideshare.net/tychay/living-without-linemen “Living Without Linemen—PHP Community Conference 2011”
[phpcomcon]: http://phpcon.org/ “PHP Community Cpnference”