Currency exchange in your application

db, development, ideas, php, zend 1 Comment »

That’s easy, you need 2 things:

  1. Fresh currencies exchange rates
  2. Some way to excange amount from one currency to another.

This how I did it: get values from European Central Bank (ECB) for step #1 and wrote MySQL user defined function for step #2.

Here is how to export currencies rates from ECB (EUR is a base currency, and I add self rate as 1:1). First I create such database table:

  `code` char(3) NOT NULL DEFAULT '',
  `rate` decimal(10,5) NOT NULL COMMENT 'Rate to EUR got from',
  PRIMARY KEY (`code`)
) ENGINE=InnoDB DEFAULT CHARSET=utf8 COMMENT='Currency rates (regularly updated)';

Now let’s fill it with rates:


class CurrencyController extends Controller_Ajax_Action {

  public function importAction() {
    $db = Zend_Registry::get('db');
    $url = '';
    try {
      $contents = file_get_contents($url);
      $contents = archive::unzip($contents);
      $contents = explode("\n", $contents);
      $names = explode(',', $contents[0]);
      $rates = explode(',', $contents[1]);
      $names[] = 'EUR';
      $rates[] = 1;
      for ($i = 1; $i < sizeof($names); $i++) {
        if (!(float) $rates[$i]) continue;
        $db->query( sprintf('INSERT INTO `currency`(`code`, `rate`)
              VALUES ("%s", %10.5f)
              ON DUPLICATE KEY UPDATE `rate`=VALUES(`rate`)', 
             trim( $names[$i] ), 
             trim( $rates[$i] )
        ) );
    } catch ( Exception $O_o ) {
      error_log( $O_o->getMessage() );

Now let’s create a SQL function for handy converts. Create a udf.sql file and add this in it:


    COMMENT 'converts money amount from one currency to another'
    SELECT `rate` INTO rateFrom FROM `currency` WHERE `code` = cFrom;
    SELECT `rate` INTO rateTo   FROM `currency` WHERE `code` = cTo;
    IF ISNULL( rateFrom ) OR ISNULL( rateTo ) THEN
        RETURN NULL;
    END IF;
    RETURN amount * rateTo / rateFrom;
END; //


and run this command in your shell:

mysql --user=USER --password=PASS DATABASE < udf.sql

This is how you can use this function — how to convert 10 US dollars to Canadian dollars:


which results in $10 = 10.93 Canadian dollars.

P.S. Consider adding the currency export action call to your cron scripts.

P.P.S. A function to unzip the data file can be got at

Ajax controller in Zend project

ideas, php, zend 1 Comment »

I want to share a couple of features I use to handle AJAX requests in projects based on Zend Framework.

1. AJAX request handling

What: some parts of your application can be not loaded if currect request is AJAX.

Why: you don’t need views, templates, some routes — so you can add an AJAX check in your Initializer or bootstrap file and avoid loading not necessary things.

How: Zend Request object has a isXmlHttpRequest method to find out whether it’s AJAX request or not. It’s based on ‘X-Requested-With‘ header, which is sent by jQuery, Prototype, Scriptaculous, YUI and MochiKit frameworks.

2. AJAX Controller

Most AJAX controller’s methods I saw had an exit() inside to not to output Zend’s template — it is a work-around. The proper way to do so is to tell to Zend not to load anything. One step forward is to create an abstract Controller class and inherit all you AJAX classes from it:



require_once 'Zend/Controller/Action.php';

abstract class Koodix_Controller_Ajax_Action 
  extends Zend_Controller_Action 
    public function init() {
        //disable the standard layout output

    public function postDispatch() {
        //envelope and output json field
            if( !empty( $this->json ) ) {
                echo json_encode( $this->json );



class AjaxController extends Koodix_Controller_Ajax_Action 
 // bla-bla-bla

Take a look at postDispatch method — idea behind it is to convert to JSON and output anything that is set to json field of your controller. If you want to send JSON data in special header (and not in body, like it’s done in my example), you can do it in this method.

Flash uploader and HTTP password protection

development, ideas, zend Comments Off on Flash uploader and HTTP password protection

You are working on a project and you want to protect the beta version with password so that only allowed people (beta testers) could access it.

You decide not to invent the wheel and to use the standard HTTP authentication.

First idea is to use your Apache web server to do this, so you write something like that in .htaccess file:

AuthName "Private zone"
AuthType Basic
AuthUserFile /path/to/.htpasswd
require valid-use

This solution is simple and that’s why good.

A problem comes on stage when a Flash file uploader is added to your project – usually it cannot “login” to your site, i.e. users are not able to use the Flash file uploader behind beta login.

That’s how I solved it.

It’s not the web server who must solve this (Apache), it’s the application server (PHP). So remove the lines above from .htaccess and use Zend_Auth_Adapter_Http for this purpose — it’s Zend’s HTTP Authentication Adapter.

What concerns the Flash uploader: it sends ‘Shockwave Flash’ as value of ‘User-Agent’ request header. So in your Initializer or Bootstrap file (where you load Zend_Auth_Adapter_Http) check this header value, and if it’s not Flash’s, go for HTTP authentication.

P.S. Hackers can assume this and fake the header to access your site. To cope with that, use an additional secret request variable (Flash uploaders allow this) and check it at server side.

Reverse Geocoding

development, geo 2 Comments »

Reverse Geocoding is process opposite to Geocoding (when you get map coordinates by city/country given). So the idea is to get city name by coordinates on the map.

Why you may need it? For example, user is supposed to add a marker on the map, and you want to check that the marker is within a particular country or region.


  1. Google GeoCoder (JavaScript) can work with coordinates to retrieve location name. Advantage is that return information is translated to the preferred language of your browser. Here is an example you can play with.
  2. offers several services, among which you can find Reverse Geocoding web service (REST or JSON) which can work with coordinates and postal codes. Advantage — you can download city/region/country names and POI with coordinates.

GeoNamesBy the way, here are results of benchmarking Google vs. GeoNames.

XML to CSV conversion

db, development, ideas Comments Off on XML to CSV conversion

MySQLData feeds often come in XML format, so your application must be able to deal with that format.

As I already wrote, data in CSV format (comma separated values) can be loaded to database extremely fast. So my idea was to convert XML data files to CSV and then use bulk load to database. My tests shown that this is faster in 10-100 times than one by one inserts.

Yesterday I decided to write a generalized solution for this, and it turned out that there is no need: it’s just coming — MySQL 6 will have such feature!

How it works: you create a table, name its columns exactly as XML nodes/attributes names or — and MySQL server will load it correspondently.

Example — you downloaded a POI list file (Points of Interest) called poi.xml that looks like this:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
    <wpt lat="58.691931900" lon="11.253125962">
    <wpt lat="58.315525000" lon="12.305828000">
          <name>Fast Food Restaurant:Max i trollhattan</name>
    <wpt lat="57.717958100" lon="11.880860600">
          <name>Picnic spot</name>

You create a MySQL table:

  `lat` varchar(255) NOT NULL,
  `lon` varchar(255) NOT NULL,
  `name` varchar(255) NOT NULL

OK, now you load the XML data to your table:

LOAD XML INFILE '\\path\\to\\poi.txt'


The good thing is that MySQL 6 is already available in alpha version — good enough for development purposes; I gave it a try — it takes 5 seconds to load 4.8 Mb of data in 19 files.

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