One of the nice things about Linux is the smooth way that the package management system operates. It just happens. The problem with Windows is that it doesn’t really happen – which is a painful experience.
So Microsoft has released a beta of their WebMatrix tool with integration into the Web Platform Installer. Funky! Being the geek that I am I was kind of curious to play with it – even though I’m not particularly a Microsoft person having a Mac laptop as my primary machine, multiple Linux servers at home, personal dedicated Linux servers hosted in data centres and at work deploying on HP-UX, Solaris and RHEL5 machines.
So I tried at home on my favourite Windows XP VM and it installed fine. Fine is of course subjective because it required three restarts to actually install itself (one for .Net 4.0, one for Windows Installer 4.5 and the final for Visual Studio Web Developer Express) – I’m not quite sure why these couldn’t have been bundled together into one restart (which is reasonable) or even what VS Web Dev Express was doing to require a restart. But I’ll live. I fired it up and did a Joomla! install and everything worked nicely. I tried the VS Web Dev integration and found it loaded everything up except that Web Dev doesn’t do PHP – back to the drawing board. As an aside why Microsoft doesn’t support PHP in VS Web Dev directly is a wonder – PHP as a language appears to be more popular than either of Microsoft’s according to langpop.com’s view of the world. To be fair, langpop.com is a mildly biased view towards open source areas (Google Code, Slashdot, IRC, Ohloh, Freshmeat) which would explain the dominance of languages such as PHP or Python. In any case, it worked and it had a funky editor with highlighting and not a lot else as well as a database editor that handled MySQL – and all in one package.
So I try to install it at work. First hurdle: I need Windows XP SP3. Ok, bummer. File a job, wait for ICT Service Delivery (yes that is their real department name) to get back and install SP3. They call me back in a week and say “when do you want this? is now a good time?” and I say sure. A few hours later and 64+ updates my computer has SP3 on it. Let’s try Web PI 3 beta again and see how we go. Much better, we’re off installing WebMatrix and all sorts of shiny. I ticked the Joomla! box as well and that is also installing. Everyone is happy. It then goes to try and configure IIS on my XP box. It pops up a component install view window and eventually gets to the point of asking me for an XP install CD. Except this is a corporate box and I don’t have one. I don’t have an i386 directory handy to just copy files from. I have local admin so installing stuff isn’t an issue but I don’t have those files. Bummer. I go hunting for them and I can’t readily find them locally and I don’t even know where to find them on the network. Sheepishly I hit cancel and WebPI keeps installing without configuring IIS 5 on my local machine. I thought I’d selected to use the WebMatrix server so I’m not entirely sure what is going on anyway. .Net 4.0 installs uneventfully (no restart this time) and Windows Installer 4.5 requires a restart. This time I’m not installing Web Dev so I don’t need to restart for that, yay! The rest went relatively smoothly which is good however at the end it complained IIS5.1 failed thus items dependent upon it (e.g. FastCGI for IIS5.1, PHP5.2.13, WinCache 1.1 for PHP 5.2) failed to install. MySQL Windows Essential 5.1 didn’t work because a service entry couldn’t be created, possibly because a MySQL service entry already exists. Joomla! didn’t work either but since both IIS 5.1 and MySQL failed to work I’ve got a selection of options.
Curiously I had an XAMPP install of MySQL set up and WebPI didn’t detect this properly opting to install its own version, perhaps a check on port 3306 to see if something speaks MySQL would be more appropriate to check. Improvements for next time.
So I fire up WebMatrix Beta and use its installer to install Joomla!. This one works better. It presents me with the same dialogue and insists I can’t have a blank password (my insecure XAMPP MySQL install insists otherwise but I secure it and both my security office and WebMatrix are happy). Joomla! appears to install perfectly fine now. Go figure. It also appears to have used the XAMPP MySQL install which is nice.
So some quirks in no particular order:
- Requests has an images filter which is nice but if you enable it, go from requests into something else and back again the filter button is depressed but the list isn’t filtered. Clicking on it filters the requests but messes up the state.
- Requests has an images filter which is a good start but no JS filter or CSS filter.
- The built in DB tool connects to MySQL fine however if you try to create a table with a column as both an “identity” (Microsoft SQL Server version of “auto_increment”) and a “primary key” it complains about multiple keys. Setting the field to just be identity appears to resolve the issue
- Perhaps most annoyingly the font choice is harsh, at least for me. Compared to Monaco on my Mac, it just looks disgusting. Unfortunately there doesn’t appear to be a way to change it either. After coding for half the morning in Smultron whilst my desktop was updating, WebMatrix was just garish and jutting in comparison.
- Whilst there is no autocomplete for the PHP as far as I could see, it would be nice to include a reasonable formatter. At least something that fixed indentation by default. Mind you, Smultron doesn’t have this but I do miss it at times.
I also at one point managed to get WebMatrix to terminate however you need to remember that WebMatrix is still in beta as a product so it is understandable that there might be some issues that will hopefully get fixed. All in all it looks like a good tool. As a cut down editor it seems to fit the bill quite nicely as well as being one of the easier ways to get up and running on Windows with a web development environment and PHP.No comments
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