Lyte's Blog

Bad code, bad humour and bad hair.

What the Hell PHP?

Sometimes I feel like I should have an entire section on my blog dedicated solely to PHP’s maniacle insanity just so I’d have a place to record whatever crazy new thing I learn about PHP on any day I work with it. Any day I work with it. Ever.

That said, this one particulary annoyed me.

PHP caches stat information. Why? I dunno really, VFS caches stat information too, you’d think it’d do a better job being that people other than PHP core developers designed it (so maybe some of them weren’t drunk at the time), plus it’s actually the right layer, it can see not only file system modifications made by the PHP you’re currently writing, but also all that other PHP you’ve written and the stuff Mr Jones wrote, also that strange bit of code that’s not PHP. So it would actually be able to cache the right things at VFS, instead PHP core devs actually thought it made sense to cache it in a PHP process, but what the hell lets leave OS problems to application developers and just move on.

So back on topic, PHP caches stat information or to put it another way, PHP has a stat cache (do you see what I did there?). Stat information are all those boring statistics you get about files when you write stat <file>, but really it’s so much more. It’s most of the data about a file that isn’t actually the file itself.

Great, so PHP caches stat information. That must make things faster or something? Possibly, but it also just makes it a massive hot squishy steaming pile of lies. Because any interaction with a file’s stat info is cached, if a file is modified in some way outside of PHP that you care about you now have to constantly call clearstatcache() so that when you check anything about the file you can be confident that PHP isn’t lying to you.

Did I mention PHP has a stat cache? A-packed-full-of-lies-but-at-least-it’s-faster-than-telling-you-the-truth-except-now-you-have-to-slow-things-down-by-constantly-clearing-it-stat-cache.

Somewhere about here you learn to deal with it, you think to yourself “it’s ok, I’ll just call clearstatcache() everywhere, it’s fine, it’s just a stupid cache that I can’t turn off, so I may as well deal with it, maybe I’ll write a Vim macro to insert clearstatcache() calls in front of any file system operations, that’ll fix it, it’ll be almost like PHP is a real language”.

Then, because you haven’t written that Vim macro (it’s a stupid idea any way) and you haven’t managed to turn off the broken stat cache (because you can’t) you run in to what must surely be a bug – even PHP core devs couldn’t consider this a feature, surely? You change ownership of a file using the built in chown() function, it’s a glorious thing, at first it’s owned by one user, then it’s owned by another user, cheers go up, standing ovations, it’s possible something built in to PHP actually works as designed. Cool. You go to check this using a PHP function (because like all PHP devs you totally do TDD and as such need to check such things) and because you updated the ownership information using a PHP function obviously the cache that PHP manages should be marked dirty and you’ll get back an accurate result right?

No.

What?

No, you don’t.

I’m going to say it again… What?

Ok it must be a bug.

Oh, no, you see, actually, it’s the first fscking example on the manual page.

Hmmmm….

Did I mention, PHP has a stat cache?

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