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Updating a PHP, MySQL, and Javascript Site to Support Foreign Languages with UTF-8

Saturday, May 17th, 2014

Recently on SourceAudio we decided to make supporting foreign languages a priority. We’d always supported html encoded foreign language characters but clients found that extremely clumsy and had no desire to learn that arcane syntax, for which I couldn’t blame them. The solution was to start supporting them properly, which meant switching out character encoding across all layers of the site. After some deliberation, we decided to go with UTF-8, since that would get us all the characters we needed and seemed to have the widest support.

If you’re not familiar with character encoding, Joel Spolsky gives a good overview here. Basically, we needed to support characters like õôóõêç and 测试 in addition to the traditional English characters.

With that decided, it was time to start working on the layers. First up, we needed our backend data to be stored in UTF-8 and that meant updating MySQL.

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Asynchronous PHP with wget

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

I have a site where there’s a cache of a bunch of tracks (music site) and there are instances when a user does something and I need to rebuild that cache. The rebuilding takes a good five or ten seconds and will only become slower as we get more tracks so having the user wait while I do that is no longer feasible. I have a script that does a periodic rebuild (every fifteen min) but I’ve found that users don’t understand that their changes were accepted when they don’t show up for several minutes. It has to rebuild on demand but asynchronously. That way you get their changes applied pretty quickly but don’t have to wait on it.

I tried googling for asynchronous php solutions but couldn’t get anything to actually work. Brent accepted this answer but I had no luck with that. It would make the call but it wouldn’t do it asynchronously. I always had to wait for the thing to finish.

Some people suggested using the command line to run php and make the call that way but I couldn’t do that because of some architectural crap. I came up with this beauty though:
exec('wget -O /dev/null -o /dev/null -qb --no-cache --post-data=foo=bar http://theurl.com/whatever.php');
and it works perfectly. You can call a script on any server (not just your own like with php) and it runs in the background and discards the output quietly. Just one line and forget it.

Naturally, this only works on Linux servers with wget installed. Sorry windows folks