Getting Pearified

I had the privilege of email interviewing Clay Loveless of Killersoft about an exciting new development in the PHP community. Hot on the heels of the Pear 1.4 release, Clay has launched–a Pear-compatible code repository. The site already has a Pear-installable Smarty distribution, and next in the crosshairs are big names like PHPMyAdmin and ADOdb.

The very existence of a supplemental repository raises some interesting issues.
My first question was: why? A partial answer comes from the packages intends to host. These are big name packages that, for a variety of reasons, have not been accepted into the main Pear repository. As a result, maintaining packages that depend on Pear-installable (“pearified”) packages and other packages involves multiple mechanisms for updating code. By expanding the scope of what’s pearified, this site aims to make updates to dependencies that much easier.

Furthermore, up until this point the Pear web site has made it clear that Pear channels have not been capable of hosting fully fledged applications. Indeed, the Pear site is basically known as a repository of library code. Clay believes all this can change with the release of Pear 1.4. Imagine running a simple command-line script to update a complex application like PHPMyAdmin, resting assured your config file won’t get clobbered in the process. Clearly, the PHP community is voicing a need for this kind of functionality, which systems like Debian dpkg and Red Hat up2date have provided for Linux binaries for years–the capability to keep entire applications current with minimal fuss. Even if Pear is now up to the task, it is unlikely the main site will ever admit certain packages due to stringent coding standards, group politics, and a host of other hurdles. aims to fill that conspicuous void, hoping to find what Clay describes as, “a happy
middle ground between the free-for-all that is or HotScripts,
and the formality of PEAR.” He goes on to say, “I respect what PEAR has accomplished immensely–I aim to supplement their efforts, not try to become something ‘better.’ PEAR has done a tremendous job.”

Clay has big plans, including automating the Pear packaging process for the uninitiated to be able to easily pearify their code, and leveraging the Pear installer to perform just-in-time encryption with IonCube or the Zend encoder.

It seems the biggest upcoming decisions facing this site are about coding standards and some form of process for accepting new packages. Certainly, hosting Pear-capable channels is not a new concept in itself, but seems to be on the right track with its efforts to satisfy the PHP community with an expanded base of pearified packages. With Pear 1.4 under its belt, this goal seems ever more attainable. Best of luck to this exciting new venture.