Thu, Dec
5 New Articles

TechTip: PHP 7.0 Is Coming, Part 2

  • Smaller Small Medium Big Bigger
  • Default Helvetica Segoe Georgia Times

PHP 7 is coming, but should you run toward it or run for your life? In Part 1 last month, we looked at the history of this release. Now let's get down to the nitty gritty and see what it's got for us.



If you have been eagerly awaiting the next big release of PHP, your wait is about over. Scheduled for delivery before the end of the year (tentatively, October 2015), the new release is just about here. Last month, we talked about the biggest enhancement that it bringsnamely, honking big improvements in speedbut there are a ton of other things in there as well, so let's buckle down and take a look at some of them.

Before doing that, however, I want to remind you how you get the new version of PHP. Unless you are a super tech and have rolled your own PHP stack, you can't just download PHP 7 to your laptop and be off to the races. Remember, PHP is a server -side language. It doesn't run on your laptop; it runs on a server that your laptop accesses. As a result, you have to wait for whoever is controlling the server to incorporate PHP 7. (Note: if you're a super tech, you can get a download of PHP 7 for Ubuntu 14.04 and CentOS 7 right now.)

If you're using Zend, then you need a release of the Zend Server that has PHP 7 in it. Zend hasn't announced when that will happen (PHP 7 being incorporated into a release of Zend Server), but the word on the street is maybe Q4 of 2015. You didn't hear that from me, of course.

Spaceship Operator

Who says techies are Star Wars geeks? It's probably just a coincidence that the new operator that is being offered, the <=>, happens to look like the Empire's TIE Fighter. And it's also probably coincidence that the new operator is being referred to as the Spaceship Operator. How does it work?

Very simple. It compares two values but does it in terms of a three-way comparison. That is, starting with a <=> b.

  • If a == b, then the operator returns a 0 (remember, in PHP a single = means assignment and a double == means equivalency on a comparison). 
  • If a > b or a >= b, then the operator returns a 1.
  • If a < b or a <= b, then the operator returns a -1.

The main use of this operator is for ordering (sorting) rows. In the past, certain types of ordering were very difficult to do in a straightforward manner (particularly if multiple columns were involved). Use of this operator will now make the problem much simpler. Consider this example that is taken from the RFC proposal for this operator.

It makes writing ordering callbacks for use with usort() easier. Commonly, users write poor or incorrect ordering functions like this one:

function order_func($a, $b) {

   return $a >= $b;


When users do write correct ordering functions, they have to be quite verbose:

function order_func($a, $b) {

   return ($a < $b) ? -1 : (($a > $b) ? 1 : 0);


This becomes particularly bad when sorting by multiple columns.

With this operator, you can easily write proper ordering functions, like this one:

function order_func($a, $b) {

   return $a <=> $b;


Sorting by multiple columns is simpler now, too:

function order_func($a, $b) {

   return [$a->x, $a->y, $a->foo] <=> [$b->x, $b->y, $b->foo];


Null Coalesce Operator

Many times in PHP we ask the question: does this thing exist? And based on the answer, we may do one thing or another.

Generally, this is handled via the ISSET, for example:

isset($_GET['variable']) ? $_GET['variable'] : ""

The problem with this is that it's a bit lengthy. You can use the ternary or "Elvis" operator (?:) to shorten that up:

$_GET['variable'] ?: ""

This evaluates correctly, but then you get an E_NOTICE, a PHP runtime error, if the variable does not exist, which it might very well not.

But the new Null Coalesce operator (??) lets you do this very easily without worrying about any messages popping up. In the case below, it checks for the existence of a variable, and if it does not exist, then the second parameter (in this case, 'Alaska') will be used for the variable value.

$username = $_GET['variable'] ?? 'Alaska';

Anonymous Classes

Generally, when a class is defined in a PHP script, it's given a name by the programmer, but Anonymous Classes don't have a programmer-defined name. The program will create a name for the class based on some sort of structure, but none is mentioned in the class definition. Anonymous classes are a part of both Java and C# but have not been available in PHP up to this point.

Why would you want to use an Anonymous class? Basically, it's a shortcut. You would use an anonymous class the same way you would a local variable, something that's limited in scope and is probably going to be used only once. It also give you the ability to both define and create an object in the class (instantiate) in one statement.

Additional Reserved Words

The following words can no longer be used in class, interface, or trait names: int, float, bool, string, true, false, and null.

I guess the main thing here is that this demonstrates one negative thing that can come out of a new version of PHPnamely, that it can break scripts that you already have. That is, if you currently have those words in classes, etc. for existing scripts, then they will fail when running in PHP 7.

And That's Not All

No, that's not all by a long shot. There are probably about three dozen different enhancements to PHP in 7, but I'll leave it to you to take a look at what they all are. In addition, Zend is offering a PHP 7 Jump Start Class. It's an online class with a number of sessions this summer and is probably the best way for most people to get a good feel for what 7 has to offer. Enjoy.


David Shirey

David Shirey is president of Shirey Consulting Services, providing technical and business consulting services for the IBM i world. Among the services provided are IBM i technical support, including application design and programming services, ERP installation and support, and EDI setup and maintenance. With experience in a wide range of industries (food and beverage to electronics to hard manufacturing to drugs--the legal kind--to medical devices to fulfillment houses) and a wide range of business sizes served (from very large, like Fresh Express, to much smaller, like Labconco), SCS has the knowledge and experience to assist with your technical or business issues. You may contact Dave by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by phone at (616) 304-2466.

MC Press books written by David Shirey available now on the MC Press Bookstore.

21st Century RPG: /Free, ILE, and MVC 21st Century RPG: /Free, ILE, and MVC
Boost your productivity, modernize your applications, and upgrade your skills with these powerful coding methods.
List Price $69.95

Now On Sale



Support MC Press Online

$0.00 Raised:

Book Reviews

Resource Center

  • SB Profound WC 5536 Have you been wondering about Node.js? Our free Node.js Webinar Series takes you from total beginner to creating a fully-functional IBM i Node.js business application. You can find Part 1 here. In Part 2 of our free Node.js Webinar Series, Brian May teaches you the different tooling options available for writing code, debugging, and using Git for version control. Brian will briefly discuss the different tools available, and demonstrate his preferred setup for Node development on IBM i or any platform. Attend this webinar to learn:

  • SB Profound WP 5539More than ever, there is a demand for IT to deliver innovation. Your IBM i has been an essential part of your business operations for years. However, your organization may struggle to maintain the current system and implement new projects. The thousands of customers we've worked with and surveyed state that expectations regarding the digital footprint and vision of the company are not aligned with the current IT environment.

  • SB HelpSystems ROBOT Generic IBM announced the E1080 servers using the latest Power10 processor in September 2021. The most powerful processor from IBM to date, Power10 is designed to handle the demands of doing business in today’s high-tech atmosphere, including running cloud applications, supporting big data, and managing AI workloads. But what does Power10 mean for your data center? In this recorded webinar, IBMers Dan Sundt and Dylan Boday join IBM Power Champion Tom Huntington for a discussion on why Power10 technology is the right strategic investment if you run IBM i, AIX, or Linux. In this action-packed hour, Tom will share trends from the IBM i and AIX user communities while Dan and Dylan dive into the tech specs for key hardware, including:

  • Magic MarkTRY the one package that solves all your document design and printing challenges on all your platforms. Produce bar code labels, electronic forms, ad hoc reports, and RFID tags – without programming! MarkMagic is the only document design and print solution that combines report writing, WYSIWYG label and forms design, and conditional printing in one integrated product. Make sure your data survives when catastrophe hits. Request your trial now!  Request Now.

  • SB HelpSystems ROBOT GenericForms of ransomware has been around for over 30 years, and with more and more organizations suffering attacks each year, it continues to endure. What has made ransomware such a durable threat and what is the best way to combat it? In order to prevent ransomware, organizations must first understand how it works.

  • SB HelpSystems ROBOT GenericIT security is a top priority for businesses around the world, but most IBM i pros don’t know where to begin—and most cybersecurity experts don’t know IBM i. In this session, Robin Tatam explores the business impact of lax IBM i security, the top vulnerabilities putting IBM i at risk, and the steps you can take to protect your organization. If you’re looking to avoid unexpected downtime or corrupted data, you don’t want to miss this session.

  • SB HelpSystems ROBOT GenericCan you trust all of your users all of the time? A typical end user receives 16 malicious emails each month, but only 17 percent of these phishing campaigns are reported to IT. Once an attack is underway, most organizations won’t discover the breach until six months later. A staggering amount of damage can occur in that time. Despite these risks, 93 percent of organizations are leaving their IBM i systems vulnerable to cybercrime. In this on-demand webinar, IBM i security experts Robin Tatam and Sandi Moore will reveal:

  • FORTRA Disaster protection is vital to every business. Yet, it often consists of patched together procedures that are prone to error. From automatic backups to data encryption to media management, Robot automates the routine (yet often complex) tasks of iSeries backup and recovery, saving you time and money and making the process safer and more reliable. Automate your backups with the Robot Backup and Recovery Solution. Key features include:

  • FORTRAManaging messages on your IBM i can be more than a full-time job if you have to do it manually. Messages need a response and resources must be monitored—often over multiple systems and across platforms. How can you be sure you won’t miss important system events? Automate your message center with the Robot Message Management Solution. Key features include:

  • FORTRAThe thought of printing, distributing, and storing iSeries reports manually may reduce you to tears. Paper and labor costs associated with report generation can spiral out of control. Mountains of paper threaten to swamp your files. Robot automates report bursting, distribution, bundling, and archiving, and offers secure, selective online report viewing. Manage your reports with the Robot Report Management Solution. Key features include:

  • FORTRAFor over 30 years, Robot has been a leader in systems management for IBM i. With batch job creation and scheduling at its core, the Robot Job Scheduling Solution reduces the opportunity for human error and helps you maintain service levels, automating even the biggest, most complex runbooks. Manage your job schedule with the Robot Job Scheduling Solution. Key features include:

  • LANSA Business users want new applications now. Market and regulatory pressures require faster application updates and delivery into production. Your IBM i developers may be approaching retirement, and you see no sure way to fill their positions with experienced developers. In addition, you may be caught between maintaining your existing applications and the uncertainty of moving to something new.

  • LANSAWhen it comes to creating your business applications, there are hundreds of coding platforms and programming languages to choose from. These options range from very complex traditional programming languages to Low-Code platforms where sometimes no traditional coding experience is needed. Download our whitepaper, The Power of Writing Code in a Low-Code Solution, and:

  • LANSASupply Chain is becoming increasingly complex and unpredictable. From raw materials for manufacturing to food supply chains, the journey from source to production to delivery to consumers is marred with inefficiencies, manual processes, shortages, recalls, counterfeits, and scandals. In this webinar, we discuss how:

  • The MC Resource Centers bring you the widest selection of white papers, trial software, and on-demand webcasts for you to choose from. >> Review the list of White Papers, Trial Software or On-Demand Webcast at the MC Press Resource Center. >> Add the items to yru Cart and complet he checkout process and submit

  • Profound Logic Have you been wondering about Node.js? Our free Node.js Webinar Series takes you from total beginner to creating a fully-functional IBM i Node.js business application.

  • SB Profound WC 5536Join us for this hour-long webcast that will explore:

  • Fortra IT managers hoping to find new IBM i talent are discovering that the pool of experienced RPG programmers and operators or administrators with intimate knowledge of the operating system and the applications that run on it is small. This begs the question: How will you manage the platform that supports such a big part of your business? This guide offers strategies and software suggestions to help you plan IT staffing and resources and smooth the transition after your AS/400 talent retires. Read on to learn: