Patrick Ward words, code, and music

Setting Up a Laravel Application on Webfaction

I was working on a simple Laravel 4 application for a client recently and decided to put it on the Webfaction hosting platform. The platform itself is quite nice, but in order to make the Laravel application work properly, I had to go through a series of steps:

Setting Up Composer

Installing composer took a few extra steps to avoid errors and fit within the directory structure of the Webfaction user account:

  cd ~
  ln -s `which php55` ~/bin/php
  export PATH=$HOME/bin:$PATH
  curl -sS | php53

Once composer was installed, I was able to cd into my webapp directory and run the composer update:

  cd ~/webapps/MyLaravelApp/
  php55 ~/composer.phar update

Setting Up the Web Application

Once composer was installed and the Laravel dependencies were added, I was able to continue deploying the application.

Webfaction uses web applications to drive individual webapps. At first, I thought I could just add the Laravel application. However, Laravel apps require the document root to be set to the public directory. So, using the regular Webfaction application for that won't work. The recommended solution is to add a Symbolic Link application and add the absolute path of the public directory to the Extra Info section of the application setup.

  1. Within the control panel, go to "Domains/Websites --> Applications"
  2. Choose "Add a New Applciation"
  3. Enter the name of your application (e.g. MyLaravelApp_Public) - This is just a symbolic link to the public directory of the Laravel application I setup earlier.
  4. Choose "Symbolic link" for the "App Category"
  5. Choose the appropriate PHP version for the "App Type"
  6. Ener the absolute path of the Laravel public directory to the "Extra Info" text field. For example:


Next, add this symbolic link application as the root application:

  1. Within the control panel, go to "Domains/Websites --> Websites"
  2. Choose the website you're working with
  3. Under "Contents" choose "Add an application --> Reuse and existing application"
  4. Choose the symbolic link application you created earlier.
  5. Finally, don't for get to save the website

At this point, you should have a working Laravel application on the Webfaction hostng platform.

Installing R from Homebrew on Mac OS X

I'm taking the Computing for Data Analysis on Coursera and needed to install the R language files. I prefer to install programs like R via homebrew. But, I ran into a few errors along the way. After a few tries and reading through issue 587 on Github, I was able to successfully install R via the following steps:

  1. First, I installed XQuartz to use as the X11 window system.
  2. Up next, the homebrew command line instructions:
brew update
brew tap homebrew/science
brew install r --env=std

It was the --env=std option that enabled me to fully install the R framework.

Setting Up Magento From Within the Shell

Setting up Magento can be a pain sometimes, so when I'm starting a new extension or working on a new client site, I like to minimize that pain.

Because I'm a sucker for the command line shell, I also try to do as much as possible from within that environment. Thankfully, Magento provides the ability to install from the command line. I find installing from the shell to be less error prone and, in most cases, quicker.

So, these are the basic steps I take each time I need to install a Magento system. I'm assuming you've already created a new database in MySQL.

Sample Data

I keep a copy of the latest Magento sample data on hand. But, if you don't have a copy, you'll find it on their website in the community downloads section. Sample data is great for building new extensions as it provides you with a working store complete with products, categories, etc. However, it may not be appropriate if you're working on a new client store.

If you are going to use sample data, it's important that you install this into a new database before you run the Magento installation itself.

So, from the command line, I do a simple MySQL import:

mysql -uusername -p magento_dev \
< magento_sample_data_for_1.6.1.0.sql

Installing Magento

Next, I'll tackle the installing of Magento. For that, Magento has several command line options that can be passed to the install.php file. Because I sometimes make mistakes and have to redo the installation, I'll often just write the commands into a single file. This let's me double-check the parameters and have a handly install script that can be used multiple times.

I tend to use all of the installation command line parameters with the exception of the database table prefix command. So, my file usually looks like this:


php -f install.php -- \
--license_agreement_accepted yes \
--locale en_US \
--timezone "America/New_York" \
--default_currency USD \
--db_host localhost \
--db_name magento_dev \
--db_user root --db_pass root \
--url "" \
--use_rewrites yes \
--use_secure yes \
--secure_base_url "" \
--use_secure_admin yes \
--admin_lastname Admin \
--admin_firstname Magento \
--admin_email "magento@localhost" \
--admin_username admin \
--admin_password password101

I place this above the actual document root for the webserver, which makes installing Magento as simple as:



Magento also has an indexer tool you can use from the command line. So, after I run the installation, I'll immediately index the tables before I open the web interface. From within the Magento root directory, the following command will cd into the shell folder, index the tables, and return you to the root directory.

cd shell && php -f indexer.php reindexall && cd ..

That's it!

I find this simple process to be the best way to install Magento, whether I'm in development or production. It's simple, reproducible, and quick.

Operation Penguinate

For my second One Game a Month entry I made a fun little 2D platformer.

The premise is simple: Aliens have invaded Antarctica and imprisoned the penguins. Your mission: defeat the aliens and free the penguins!

The game play and idea was inspired by, and in some ways is a clone of, Dominic Szablewski's game Biolab Diaster. However, it's different enough that I think it has its own merit. I mean, it's got penguins, aliens, and balloons. What more can you ask for?

This game took much longer to make than the previous game and provides a lot more in the way of the basics you would expect a video game to have:

  • a simple help screen
  • level selection (it also remembers the levels you've completed)
  • a simple scoring system
  • limited lives
  • first aid powerups (gain more lives)
  • simple enemy AI
  • multiple enemy types

The game starts off relatively easy, but quickly becomes more difficult as you progress through the levels, culminating in a rather difficult Level 5.

As with Stijl, this one was made with HTML5 and Javascript. If there is enough interest, I may port this to some mobile platforms (iOS, Android, Win8) as I think this would make a fun little mobile game.

I had a blast making (and playing) this one. So, I hope it brings you joy as well. Thanks for checking it out.