More Packages

Wednesday 18 January 2017

After having written a few packages I believe I now have it down cold. I started another one just a few hours ago and am already finished with it and had no problems at all this time. The latest package is escuccim/recordcollection which is a package with the code I use for my searchable database of vinyl records. Yesterday I did a package with the code for my online CV in it, so at this point this site is basically just the static pages and four Laravel packages. While it's a bit more complicated to make changes now because I need to go to the package code, alter it, then push it up to git and then composer update, I think the extra couple steps is well worth it in terms of maintainability and portability. My packages are largely self-contained, with their own views, controllers, models, etc. so I can just add them to a project and everything will (almost) magically work.

I don't really see much demand for a package like this for other people so I haven't thoroughly tested this one in projects other than my own, so it may not work properly out of the box. If you have a large record collection that you want to store online I would recommend Discogs.com. It has a lot more features and functions than my package does, but I don't have the time to go through each of my 2,000 or so records and add them to my Discogs collection and I've had most of mine in a database for about 15 years, so I'm sticking with my own for now. If I was starting over from scratch I'd probably put it in Discogs and then pull the data from their API to display it here.

My other packages are all tested and working on fresh installs of Laravel, so feel free to use them if you want. 

Update - I ended up testing the recordcollection package on an almost fresh install of Laravel and I fixed the issues I found, so it should be in mostly usable shape.

Labels: coding, laravel
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Using Laravel Packages

Sunday 15 January 2017

Since I have multiple sites that use almost the same code I have been trying to consolidate shared code into Laravel packages for ease of maintenance. This weekend I did my second package which is escuccim/sitemap which contains my code for generating XML sitemaps for Google. Since I have this site available in more than one language and I use subdomains to set the default language it made for very messy and confusing hardcoded sitemaps. I was able to shrink the code for each sitemap down from hundreds of lines to about 50 by putting the subdomains and the corresponding language in a DB table and then looping through them to output the URLs and hreflang tags in the sitemap. This time the process of writing the package was quick and easy using the same method that I struggled with last time.

Once I had that working I went back to my LaraBlog package which I added translation functionality to. I had one big problem which took me a while to figure out which was that it wasn't loading the translations at all, it was just displaying the key: 'escuccim::blog.key'. I researched this and found no answers, but was able to solve it by changing the namespace or hint to larablog. I am not sure why this worked, but I suspect it may be because I was using the namespace escuccim for the views and maybe they conflicted? Anyway if anyone else is having this issue try to change the namespace/hint.

When I had the blog package translating properly I deleted the code I was using for this site for the blog and the sitemap and replaced it with the new packages. So far everything seems fine, but I will give it a day or two before to turn up any issues before I start using the packages in other places. 

I have a few other things I want to put into packages, and I just have to say that Composer makes my life so much easier! Instead of having to go through my code line by line to copy changes from one place to another while avoiding any functionality that differs from one project to the next I just update the package and then composer does the rest!

Labels: coding, laravel
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Apparently Google doesn't like it if all of your pages have the same title and meta description tags. So yesterday I decided to write unique titles and description tags for all of my pages. At first I did this by setting two variables - $title and $description - in my controllers and then passing them to the views, where I displayed them in my layout/app.blade.php. Since I have multiple languages in this site I ended up setting them like this:

$title = trans('whatever.pagetitle');
$description = trans('whatever.pagedescription');

This seemed a bit inelegant and I thought I could come up with a better way, which I did this morning. What I did was set up a file in my lang directory I called metadata.php. A sample of this is here. This file contains for each page a key for title and description as follows:

'/home-title' => 'Title';
'/home-description' => 'Description';

By using the URI appended with the value I want I was able to consolidate all of the values into one file for ease of use, and I was also able to make a helper function to get those values from the translation files and display it, so that the same exact code could be run on every single page and return the data I need. 

The helper function I used is on my GitHub here, and if it doesn't find data for the page it is looking for it has a default title and description it uses. For pages like blog articles and individual records I use the same title and description, but I still specify $title in the Controller, and if the value exists it is appended to the title in the layout file.

I like this solution because it allowed me to delete the redundant and ugly code in the controllers where I specified a title and description for each page with a function that pulls the data from one location, and if the data doesn't exist it substitutes a default in, instead of either failing or not doing anything. The code I used is on my GitHub Gist.

Labels: coding, laravel
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Laravel Blog Package

Sunday 08 January 2017

I finished working on my Laravel package, which is the blog I use here (and also on my other site). I had this on my GitHub as a Laravel skeleton application, but after a few days of research and coding I now have it as a Laravel package, which can be installed via Composer. I did find a more comprehensive tutorial on writing Laravel packages, but I only just found this today after I had finished my package, so haven't really read through it.

The reason I started working on this package is because I have multiple sites that use the same code and I wanted to consolidate them so I wouldn't have to maintain two separate code bases, but the package is only in English and some of my sites are in French, so I guess my next step is adding translation to the package.

The package is on Packagist and can be installed with composer. 

composer require escuccim/larablog

A few things that I struggled with and eventually figured out since my last post on this topic:

  • How to publish files from the package to the containing application. I did this for both my views and the config.php file.

    $this->publishes([

    __DIR__.'/config/config.php' => config_path('blog.php'),

    __DIR__ . '/resources/views' => base_path('resources/views/vendor/escuccim')

             ]);

  • To default to the package config if it has not been published use:

    $this->mergeConfigFrom(__DIR__.'/config/config.php', 'blog'); where 'blog' is the key for the config array.

  • How to load database migrations:

     $this->loadMigrationsFrom(__DIR__.'/database/migrations');

  • I also updated the code so that things like caching could be turned on and off from the config. 

There is still work to be done, but I just marked my GitHub repo with a stable release version, so that's something.

Labels: coding, laravel
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Laravel Packages

Thursday 05 January 2017

I've been trying to figure out how to make packages for Laravel, and there isn't as much documentation as one would hope there is. The Laravel docs aren't as helpful as they could be for someone who has never done this before, and most of the info I found on Google was either incomplete or for older versions of Laravel.

I did find a few pages with helpful information on how to do this, this one is the one I followed. It uses this CLI tool, itself a Laravel package, which will allow you to make other Laravel packages. The CLI tool creates the directory structure along with composer.json and boilerplate code that provides a good starting point.

Other tutorials I found helpful include:

 I ran into a few problems which took some research to solve, which I thought I'd put here in case anyone else is having the same issues:

  • If you are getting an error that the service provider you created can't be found check the capitalization of the autoload in your composer.json file and make sure it matches the entry in the providers array in config/app.php. I had this problem when I first started working on my package, and then I decided to rename the package and ran into the same problem again.
  • Views - if your package has it's own views you can load them from the controller as "[vendorname]::[dir]/[view]", where [vendorname] is the vendor name of your package, which you should be creating in the register function in the service provider file.
  • Creating URLs in views - my views used action() to create the URLs and when I moved my controllers out my App directory all my links broke. I've tried using the full path to the controllers in my package couldn't get it to work so ended up replacing them all with url().
  • Using Models in your package - I created a directory under my package src/ called Models and I put all my Models in there. Make sure you change the namespace and update any use statements that reference the old location.

Of course I had other issues but those are the ones that took a while to figure out. I hope to finish the package up in the next few days, I'll post updates as they come.

Update - to use action() to create URLs you in fact do use the full path to the controller and it works this time. Not sure what I did wrong last time, but it is working fine now.

Labels: coding, laravel
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