Author Archives: Carles Mateo

What is PrototypeC and how you can DIY

The C with the external keyboard+touchpad and PHPStormIt all started with my best friend, and the best Engineer I know, E. H. We often meet for doing hackatons and we explore node, go, patterns, technologies… Some times we just meet and improvise a hackaton.

I’ve been carrying with me a laptop, almost every single day of my life, since many years ago (that’s why I created some jokes about gym and IT and have fun with my friends, like: we IT guys go to the gym to be so strong so we can carry a laptop everywhere, all the time, without effort).

But some of my friends suffer from the back, and they can’t carry weight, so they don’t bring with them the laptop unless necessary.

There are some other friends, Sysadmins in the Operations field, that sometimes have alerts, so they have to carry a laptop with them when they’re on guard, but sometimes they have an alert out of guard, and nobody else can fix it and they don’t have a computer with them.

I also I’m concerned about privacy and sadly most smartphone builders install crappy Software that spy the users, and send keystrokes to third party companies, etc… So having a portable device, small as a credit card, where you can type your business ideas or your thoughts with some privacy, or you can use to fix remote servers when they broke, etc… looked appealing. This also fits with my private messenger c-client.

So, when I configured my raspberry 2 with OSMC and started to install Software, program crons, etc… I realized that is a tiny computer, capable enough. And then an idea came to me.

What if I can make this lightweight motherboard a wearable computer?.

And I started to play with this.


I first needed an interesting enough OS, that I or my DevOps friends would like to use.

I choose Debian Jessie for Arm (armhf). Raspberry Pi 2 uses ARM v7 that is a very important improvement respect previous Raspberry models, not only in performance, but also in the floating point. That simplifies many things and much more Software packages are available (like Snappy Ubuntu Core or Windows 10).

Using Debian Jessie provided me with a very basic system that really uses few RAM memory. It uses only 65 MB RAM, with all the Wifi supported firmwares.

Then I installed X-Windows, with LXDE as Desktop Manager. Everything uses only 120 MB RAM.

I installed several packages, to highlight the epiphany web browser, Open Java Runtime Environment, and PHPStorm IDE.

I also use Ubuntu 15.04 Desktop for ARM.


Unless Raspberry pi first generation, Raspberry Pi 2 uses micro-USB standard 5V input, like most of the Android phones. So I decided to do some tests about sustained energy input with batteries.

First I calculated the energy consumption of the Pi 2, plus Ethernet and plus some USB devices I would like to attach.

I found that common power banks, those you use to charge your smartphone when battery is depleted and you’re on the run, bring a continuous energy signal that works perfectly well. I tested it by running the Raspberry Pi 2 for hours while reproducing video, doing live updates, flawlessly.

Then the first version of the Prototype C was born.


  • $40 Raspbery Pi 2
  • $10 Powerbank 2000 mAh
  • $15 USB Wifi-N card

It weights 160 grams/0.3527 pounds/5.64 ounces.

Some of the powerbanks are so cool that they allow you to charge them while at the same time they are providing energy to the output. So you can have the Prototype C continuously running, and if the battery is going to deplete you can just plug it to the energy plug of a bar, and the C will continue running non-stop, and the battery will charge, so in a while you can continue your walk without stopping the C.

Prototype C-2 Spartan: 5000 mAh solar powered Levin battery, Raspberry Pi 2, blue micro-USB connector, Ziron blue Z-cableLater I bought a Levin solar powered battery, that is lightweight, protected to impacts and that has two outputs (1, 2 A) and charges while exposed to sun, so I can have the battery in the outside of my bag, and while I walk in the city it is being charged at a max rate of 200 mA. This is ideal for people hiking in the mountain or traveling in the world, so it can save lives if a problem comes and phone’s battery is depleted.

I think also in boys in Africa or poor countries where they children have to walk a long to the school. This walking could help charging the battery so they can study at the school and continue studying at home.

With the C a solar powered battery also allow to blog from everywhere. :)

You don't even need a cable, just an small USB-micro-USB connector

You don’t even need a cable, just an small USB-micro-USB connector

Note: This Levin solar battery doesn’t accept to be charged and to bring energy to the device at the same time.

Note: you can also aliment it from the car lighter connector with and adapter.


That part is not easy.

The monitors I was interested in were not sold to Catalonia. Finally I was able to find some of my interest in

Most of those monitors work for the Raspberry Pi, first gen, or for Arduino, Banana Pi, etc… but not for Raspberry Pi 2. So this is the first thing to be careful.

Other of those monitors get the signal from the Raspberry Pi GPIO, the General Purpose Input Output, from Raspberry. So they need some kernel patching, binaries, not Open Source code usually, and that also prevents from certain kind direct access to drawing in X not being displayed in the monitor attached via GPIO.


Other monitors require external power source, often 12 V, and so are very voluminous. So they are not a fit for our means.

Normally those monitors are touch screens, some take the power from the GPIO and also control the touching from there, but others require two USB: one for the energy and other for the touch controlling part.

You have also to consider if they have external button to power on, power off.

Also those monitors have extremely low resolution, 320×480 and like this. Only found a model supporting 800×600 and is a 5″.

And finally you have to take in consideration the power consumption.

I solved this by buying power banks that have a 2 or 2.5 A output.

Simple power banks provide a 1 A output, better ones provide two outputs: 1 A output for smartphones, and 2 A output, normally for tablets.

Part of the cool thing is the possibility to have the monitor in a place, and the Pi and the battery in another place, like for creating wearables and other cool stuff.

As I wanted to provide DIY for people, and an elegant cheap lightweight solution, the difficulty to find those monitors was a gap, so I explored several ways to use cheaper screens until I realized what is what every engineer (and common people) carries with him every day?. The smartphone.

USB Wifi

As I wanted to have Wifi I needed USB Wifi that can work with Raspberry Pi 2 and Debian Jessie.

I had some problems at the beginning (caused by a bug in wcid), but I managed to make everything work. I have made it work with two different Wifi card models flawlessly: TP-Link Nano, Asus Nano USB-N10.

Nothing stops you from adding two Wifi USB to the device. In fact is my preferred option, as I use one for being connected/controlled/display to the phone, and another for connecting to the Wifi of the place I am. That way I don’t use my mobile Data plan that much when I’m outside. In this case I recommend to use different cards (different supported chipsets) to save you headaches configuring and setting what does what (unless you like to fight with configurations until you master everything :).

Some USB Wifi devices also equip Bluetooth transmission, that is very interesting for future prototypes for controlling other devices (car radio, headsets, commands..).

Controlling the C from the smartphone

I started to test certain things to overcome the display difficulties and finally I had cool an idea and I found a very nice option.

Here configuring the Vnc client to access to :1

Here configuring the Vnc client to access to :1

Sharing the Internet from my iPhone creates an internal network of the type 172.20.10.x.

Sharing the Internet connection from the phone, and connecting the C automatically it  creates a private network, with full network visibility between the devices.

So with a ssh app for iPhone like Server Auditor I was able to connect through ssh to the C, and with a VNC Client, like Real Vnc Client, I was able to connect to the Desktop of the Prototype C, control it, send keystrokes, zoom in, zoom out. Both apps are free to download and to use.

For Android it works the same, for sharing the Internet connection it creates an internal network with another range and there are also free apps for the purpose.

The ip assigned is normally the same, in my case.

The only required thing was to setup the C to auto-connect via Wifi to my phone’s Wifi shared connection, and then connect to the C device’s ip.

This is very easily done with Wcid from LXDE.

Mark Automatically connect to this Network

Mark Automatically connect to this Network

I configured vnc server so I can access to the same display than the HDMI, so I can switch from working with the smartphone to HDMI easily, and I also configured vnc server through other display at a 1024×768 resolutions. That was more comfortable to work only with the small screen of my iPhone 4. Although setting a lower resolution, like 800×600, makes it easier to work with tiny screens.

With the Vnc client you can zoom in, zoom out, with the classical gestures and use keyboard.

Not only this, I allowed several of my friends to have their own independent sessions to the same C. So with only one C several Engineers can Develop or do DevOps stuff.

Must say that with the Nexus and other smartphones with bigger screens, or tablets, the experience is amazing, much much better than with my tiny iPhone’s 4 screen.

And of course you can control the C also from a laptop.

Nailing it

I added to the set an external bluetooth keyboard+touchpad.

Prototype C with the bluetooth keyboard. The motherboard is hidden under the battery

Prototype C with the bluetooth keyboard. The motherboard is hidden under the battery

If you use VNC on display :0 it’s perfect, obviously external keyboard won’t work if you use different displays (as key strokes are sent only to the device and not to the different X VNC sessions, of course).

With an external keyboard, the worries about spyware in the iPhone were mitigated, as all the keystrokes are on the physical external bluetooth keyboard and not on the iPhone’s screen.

The C with a smaller battery

The C with a smaller battery

I used a Rii mini i8, and a Logitech.

Some photos of real use examples

Sometimes I just connect the raw motherboard to the solar charger in the bag and only use the smartphone over the table.

Sometimes I just connect the raw motherboard to the solar charger in the bag, and just use the smartphone over the table.

We were dinning and to the cinema with some IT friends when suddenly one of the SysAdmins got an alert and needed a Linux box

We were dinning and to the cinema with some IT Engineer friends when suddenly one of the SysAdmins got an alert and needed a Linux box

No space? Do you need a sand box and have no memory for a virtual one?

Opening PHPStorm at the bar. Under LXDE


The C at the bar displaying epiphany web browser with the address

C over a jacket in a restaurant

C over a jacket in a restaurant

Waiting time? Get C!

Waiting time? Get C!

Mounting a USB mini webcam in a glass, while at a bar. The battery is charging the iPhone and powering the Prototype C

Mounting a USB mini webcam in a glass, while at a bar. The battery is charging the iPhone and powering the Prototype C

Honestly, I love to carry with me the raw Raspberry Pi 2 motherboard (in a cartoon box) and to connect it as is, but you can use a plastic box. It is also very useful to hang to walls, furniture, or the car.

Honestly, I love to carry with me the raw Raspberry Pi 2 motherboard (in a cartoon box) and to connect it as is, but you can use a plastic box. It is also very useful to hang to walls, furniture, or the car.

Raspberry Pi and osmc

RaspberryPiB+There is something that fascinates me from the new Raspberry Pi, and using it as a media center.
It is the fact that is a really small board.
That is powered by a micro USB 1000 mhA.
That is powered with Linux.

I had other media centers before but they were magnetic hard disk, closed in a proprietary system.
The media center I installed, with RaspBerry Pi+, is osmc, that is Open Source Media Center.

blog-carlesmateo-com-raspberry-pi-2-osmc-ssh-topSo I have full access via ssh to the RaspBerry, and as it used so few energy I have it all the day up.
Then, as it is a Linux box, and I have full access, and I’ve around 546 MB RAM free, I can run as many background process as I want.
Do I want to be a jump point for my VPN? Let’s go.
Do I want to have some monitoring processes over few websites? Let’s do it!.

I’m really happy about having a so tiny, so few energy consuming, full Linux, being my media center and whatever I want to it to do.

I must say that is wonderful having SSH and a network interface. Ok, it’s 10/100 Mbps, not Gigabit, but it is enough to allow me to copy new files in background to the USB stick via SFTP while reproducing at FullHD Blueray MKV, files right. Also allows to mount network folders via NFS or SMB amd play from them. Copying via SFTP to the USB device is generally very slow -don’t be surprised to upload at 30 KB/s- so I recommend to set a NFS folder in the computer, with read access to the ip of the Raspberry. It’s very cool and plays totally smooth using the 100 Mbit ethernet connection. You can also configure a FTP in the Pi, that will be much faster than the SFTP.

The RaspBerry micro SD card has a performance of ~22 MB, that is enough to boot very quickly and to load programs quite fast. I have other microSD cards with Debian Jessie, and I load PHPStorm (Java based PHP IDE) quite fast.

It boots really fast, in case you stop and start it frequently.

It accepts my wired Mouse and Keyboard, and also wireless bluetooth.

I’m really in love with this small motherboard. :)

This tiny RaspBerry 2, has 4 cores at 900 Mhz.

The CPU announces (cat /proc/cpuinfo):

processor    : 3
model name    : ARMv7 Processor rev 5 (v7l)
BogoMIPS    : 38.40
Features    : half thumb fastmult vfp edsp neon vfpv3 tls vfpv4 idiva idivt vfpd32 lpae evtstrm
CPU implementer    : 0x41
CPU architecture: 7
CPU variant    : 0x0
CPU part    : 0xc07
CPU revision    : 5

As you see, it scores only 38.40 bogomips, compared to my tower desktop 6384.59, and my old laptop 2593.45, but it’s still beautiful.

Note: you cannot trust bogomips as a performance measurement, and in addition my computers are Intel based -so CISC architecture- while RasbBerry uses ARM processors that are RISC, that is a completely different architecture. I notice a very fluid speed, only I sense a bit slowliness in the process when I install new packages. When unpacking it feels slow, although it can perfectly be caused by the SSD card IO as well, so I installed iotop and monitorized the I/O while I was installing PHP5 :) . I got small writings up to 1,000 KB/sec, so 1 MB/s, with average of ~30-50KB writing operations, no iowait, while I was seeing with htop that the core unpacking was at 100 % of CPU, the other 3 were free, so my initial conclusion is that the bottleneck was on the CPU. Still happy about my little gadget. :)

The osmc image I installed comes with python 2.7.9 and Linux kernel 3.18.9 as uname -a shows:

Linux osmc 3.18.9-5-osmc #1 SMP PREEMPT Wed Mar 11 18:59:35 UTC 2015 armv7l GNU/Linux

It also comes with wget 1.16 and curl 7.38.0.

In fact the OSMC is based on the Debian Jessie distro.

The OSMC software also have upgrades, and Debian upgrades, that keep the Linux box up to date.

So that brings a lot of possibilities.

After a sudo apt-get update I was able to install htop, mc and apache2.

sudo apt-get install htop
sudo apt-get install iotop
sudo apt-get install iftop
sudo apt-get install mc
sudo apt-get install apache2
sudo apt-get install php5
sudo apt-get instlal ncdu

So it’s a lot of fun. :)

Note: Although a 1000mhA is enough (Raspberry Pi 2 needs around 700mhA) if you plan to plug a cheap case 2.5 hard disk without external power -just USB- it will not be enough. In this case I recommend buying a 2000mhA transformer for the Pi, or a external USB hub energy powered (2000mhA otherwise you risk energy from Raspbery + USB hub being to sufficient). If the disk has external power, then you’ll have no probem. Personaly I use USB sticks.

When I had my incubator of Start ups some years ago, one of my Start up project was embedding motherboards within screens, and offering the ability to play videos, images, even flash games and animations, and manage and update everything and update contents for a groups of players from the Internet, or based on time triggers. I was finalist for selling my product to a enormous multinational, it was close, but finally a Korean company with a cheaper (and less powerful solution) won. At that time, it was 2004, motherboards were huge comparing to this tiny piece of hardware and I had to deal with different voltage, power consumption, heat dissipation, safety, etc…. so I’m really in love with this tiny piece hardware that doesn’t need even a ventilator or a big dissipation mechanism.

A quick note about symmetric encryption and entropy

I had the discussion with some friends about symmetric encryption, and about the problem of security that it supposes that the encryption resulting of a block of data, for the same password, will be always the same. I write it here the explanations I tell them and what I do, so I can just send this link instead of explaining the same every time. :)

I am using different kinds of encryption for my new 2014’s Messenger C-Client.

The main advantage of symmetric encryption for me, is that is cheap in terms of CPU usage.

When I send files thought my messenger all the data blocks have to be encrypted, and so, if I send the Ubuntu 14.10 ISO image, this is a lot of data to encrypt, and in order to get a good throughput and performance I needed to find an outstanding optimal way to do it, that is at the same time secure.

Many encryption techniques and algorithms can be used, and all at the same time over the same packets to make them more secure. In this article I will describe only an improvement to the symmetric encryption to make it no predictable and very fast, so cheap to use.

So I introduce the concept here of noise, or entropy, in symmetric data packets.

Imagine that you want to send a chunk of data that is:


For clarity, only base64 are used in this sample, no binary data.

The problem is that every time that you send this chunk of data, you’ll get the same encrypted string. This is predictable and can lead to someone to reverse engineer your password.

So taking in consideration this sample Java 1.7 source code (note that variables use MT notation) that just encrypts for a given key:

import javax.xml.bind.DatatypeConverter;
import java.util.UUID;
import javax.crypto.Cipher;
import javax.crypto.IllegalBlockSizeException;
import javax.crypto.KeyGenerator;
import javax.crypto.NoSuchPaddingException;
import javax.crypto.SecretKey;

 * @author Carles Mateo
public abstract class Security {

    public static String encrypt(String s_key, String s_str) {
        try {
            /** encryption cypher */
            Cipher o_ecipher; 
            SecureRandom seed = SecureRandom.getInstance("SHA1PRNG");


            KeyGenerator keygen = KeyGenerator.getInstance("DES");


            SecretKey key = keygen.generateKey();

            o_ecipher = Cipher.getInstance("DES");
            o_ecipher.init(Cipher.ENCRYPT_MODE, key);
            // Encode the string into bytes using utf-8
            byte[] utf8 = s_str.getBytes("UTF8");

            // Encrypt
            byte[] enc = o_ecipher.doFinal(utf8);
            // Encode bytes to base64 to get a string
            String s_encrypted_encoded = encodeBase64(enc);
            return s_encrypted_encoded;
        } catch (javax.crypto.BadPaddingException e) {
        } catch (NoSuchAlgorithmException e) { 
        } catch (NoSuchPaddingException e) { 
        } catch (IllegalBlockSizeException e) {
        } catch ( e) {
        } catch (Exception e) {

        return null;

Then here is the cheap way that consist in making the original data always be different, that I came with.

Instead of sending just the data, add a bit of entropy or noise, like an UUID, so our packet would be:


If you’re reading this article you already know, but just in case, the f47ac10b-58cc-4372-a567-0e02b2c3d479 is an UUID.

The pipe | is for clarity, as the UUID has a length fix it is not really needed to manipulate the string.

Having this UUID in here is also cool, as it will allow us to do things like using this UUID as the password for the next packet. So if our messenger starts with the user’s password, from there the next packets could use this UUID as password (and the next one, the previously random generated UUID and so on…) so every packet has a new password, that must be known from the previous history in order to get all the packets description.

So if a man-in-the-middle is capturing all the data sent, hoping to being able to break the encryption in a near future, it will have to be sure to record all the packets to decode the sequence easily, otherwise will have to fight to break every single packet.

So UUID is random, but is not noise at all. It is useful entropy.

Another thing that we can do to is set a timestamp on the packet, that way, even if a man in the middle is able to clone and later send the initial packet to the Server, it will be discarded.

For example:


The second field is the unix timestamp, so our Server that has tracked the time or the Client’s computer and knows its rid, knows that if he gets a timestamp in the packet that has more than 2 seconds of difference, it will discard the packet and end the connection. So no one in-the-middle will be able to success cloning a login packet, and injecting it to the Server.

So having a basic encapsulation, that is cheap, for transport, the data inside can be also in addition be encrypted with asymmetric and other mechanisms that guarantee that only Client1 and Client2 can decrypt it, and not the Server, while the Server ensures packets are compliant and no noise/attacks are sent though the Server to Clients.

Stopping definitively the massive Distributed DoS attack

I explain some final information and tricks and definitive guidance so you can totally stop the DDoS attacks affecting so many sites.

After effectively mitigating the previous DDoS Torrent attack to a point that was no longer harmful, even with thousands of requests, I had another surprise.

It was the morning when I had a brutal increase of the attacks and a savage spike of traffic and requests of different nature, so in addition to the BitTorent attack that never stopped but was harmful. I was on route to the work when the alarms raised into my smartphone. I stopped in a gas station, and started to fix it from the car, in the parking area.

Service was irresponsible, so first thing I did was to close the Firewall (from the Cloud provider panel) to HTTP and HTTPS to the Front Web Servers.

Immediately after that I was able to log in via SSH to the Servers. I tried to open HTTPS for our customers and I was surprised that most of the traffic was going through HTTPS. So I closed both, I called the CEO of the company to give status, and added a rule to the Firewall so the staff on the company would be able to work against the Backoffice Servers and browse the web while I was fixing all the mess. I also instructed my crew and gave instructions to support team to help the business users and to deal with customers issues while I was stopping the attack.

I saw a lot of new attacks in the access logs.

For example, requests like coming from Android SDK. Weird.

I blocked those by modifying the index.php (code in the previous article)

// Patch urgency Carles to stop an attack based on Torrent and exploiting sdk's
if (isset($_GET['info_hash']) || (isset($_GET['format']) && isset($_GET['sdk'])) || (isset($_GET['format']) && isset($_GET['id']))) {

(Note: If your setup allows it and the HOST requested is another (attacks to ip), you can just check requestes HOST and block what’s different, or if not also implement an Apache rule to divert all the traffic to that route (like /announce for Bittorrent attack) to another file.)

Then, with the cron blocking the ip addresses all improved.

Problem was that I was receiving thousands of requests per second, and so, adding those thousands of Ip’s to IPTABLES was not efficient, in fact was so slow, that the process was taking more than an hour. The server continued overwhelmed with thousands of new ip’s per second while it was able to manage to block few per second (and with a performance adding ip’s degraded since the ip number 5,000). It was not the right strategy to fight back this attack.

Some examples of weird traffic over the http logs: - - [01/Feb/2015:06:54:12 +0100] "GET /video/iiiOqybRvsM/images/av
atar/0097.jpg HTTP/1.1" 404 499 "-" "Baiduspider-image+(+
agedetail" - - [01/Feb/2015:07:15:48 +0100] "GET /video/Ig3ebdqswQI/images/avatar/0114.jpg HTTP/1.1" 404 499 "-" "Baiduspider-image+(+\\nReferer:" - - [30/Jan/2015:06:34:34 +0100] "GET /contents/all/tokusyu/skin_detail.html HTTP/1.1" 404 492 "-" "Mozilla/4.0" - - [30/Jan/2015:06:34:35 +0100] "GET /contents/gift/ban_gift/skin_gift.js HTTP/1.1" 404 490 "" "Mozilla/4.0" - - [30/Jan/2015:06:34:36 +0100] "GET /contents/all/content/skin.js HTTP/1.1" 404 483 "" "Mozilla/4.0 - - [30/Jan/2015:06:35:22 +0100] "GET /image/DbLiteGraphic/201405/thumb_14773360.jpg?1414567871 HTTP/1.1" 404 505 "" "Baiduspider-image+(+" - - [30/Jan/2015:06:39:26 +0100] "GET /widgets.js HTTP/1.1" 404 0 "" "Mozilla/5.0 (MSIE 9.0; qdesk 2.4.1266.203; Windows NT 6.1; WOW64; Trident/7.0; rv:11.0; QQBrowser/8.0.3197.400) like Gecko" - - [30/Jan/2015:06:57:20 +0100] "GET /ads/2015/20minutes/publishing/stval/3001.html?pos=6 HTTP/1.1" 404 542 "-" "20minv3/6 CFNetwork/609.1.4 Darwin/13.0.0" - - [30/Jan/2015:07:00:04 +0100] "GET /?LR_PUBLISHER_ID=29877&LR_SCHEMA=vast2-vpaid&LR_PARTNERS=758858&LR_CONTENT=1&LR_AUTOPLAY=1&LR_URL= HTTP/1.1" 200 11783 "" "Mozilla/4.0" - - [30/Jan/2015:07:03:10 +0100] "GET /?metric=csync&p=3030&s=6109924323866574861 HTTP/1.1" 200 11783 "" "Mozilla/4.0" - - [30/Jan/2015:07:05:18 +0100] "GET /?LR_PUBLISHER_ID=78817&LR_SCHEMA=vast2-vpaid&LR_PARTNERS=763110&LR_CONTENT=1&LR_AUTOPLAY=1&LR_URL= HTTP/1.1" 200 11783 "" "Mozilla/4.0" - - [30/Jan/2015:07:08:20 +0100] "GET /scrape.php?info_hash=8%e3Q%9a%9c%85%bc%e3%1d%14%213wNi3%28%e9%f0. HTTP/1.1" 404 459 "-" "Transmission/2.77" - - [30/Jan/2015:07:11:10 +0100] "GET /c/lf-centennial-services-hong-kong-limited/hk041664/ HTTP/1.1" 404 545 "" "Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; MSIE 9.0; Windows NT 6.1; Trident/5.0); 360Spider(compatible; HaosouSpider;" - - [30/Jan/2015:07:18:28 +0100] "GET /op/icon? HTTP/1.1" 404 0 "-" "Apache-HttpClient/UNAVAILABLE (java 1.4)" - - [30/Jan/2015:07:19:12 +0100] "GET /?metric=csync&p=3030&s=6109985239380459533 HTTP/1.1" 200 11783 "" "Mozilla/4.0" - - [30/Jan/2015:07:39:56 +0100] "GET /?metric=csync HTTP/1.1" 20
0 11783 ";src=3294027;type=krde;cat=
krde_060;ord=94170148950.07014?" "Mozilla/4.0" - - [30/Jan/2015:07:47:08 +0100] "GET /asset/assetId/5994450/size/large/ts/1408882797/type/library/client/WD-KJLAK/5994450_large.jpg?token=4e703a62ec08791e2b91ec1731be0d13&category=pres&action=thumb HTTP/1.1" 404 550 "" "Baiduspider-image+(+"

And over HTTPS: - - [29/Jan/2015:00:04:25 +0100] "GET /c/5356/cc.js?ns=_cc5356 HTTP/1.1" 404 11676 "" "HUAWEI Y325-T00_TD/V1 Linux/3.4.5 Android/2.3.6 Release/03.26.2013 Browser/AppleWebKit533.1 Mobile Safari/533.1;" - - [29/Jan/2015:00:05:32 +0100] "GET /c/5356/cc.js?ns=_cc5356 HTTP/1.1" 404 11674 "" "HUAWEI Y325-T00_TD/V1 Linux/3.4.5 Android/2.3.6 Release/03.26.2013 Browser/AppleWebKit533.1 Mobile Safari/533.1;" - - [29/Jan/2015:06:35:05 +0100] "GET /v2.2/237613769760602?format=json&sdk=android&fields=supports_attribution%2Csupports_implicit_sdk_logging%2Cgdpv4_nux_content%2Cgdpv4_nux_enabled%2Candroid_dialog_configs HTTP/1.1" 404 6304 "-" "FBAndroidSDK.3.20.0" - - [29/Jan/2015:06:35:11 +0100] "GET /v2.2/237613769760602?format=json&sdk=android&fields=supports_attribution%2Csupports_implicit_sdk_logging%2Cgdpv4_nux_content%2Cgdpv4_nux_enabled%2Candroid_dialog_configs HTTP/1.1" 404 6308 "-" "FBAndroidSDK.3.20.0" - - [29/Jan/2015:06:35:36 +0100] "GET /v2.2/1493038024241481?fields=name,supports_implicit_sdk_logging,gdpv4_nux_enabled,gdpv4_nux_content,ios_dialog_configs,app_events_feature_bitmask&format=json&sdk=ios HTTP/1.1" 404 6731 "-" "FBiOSSDK.3.22.0" - public [29/Jan/2015:07:40:23 +0100] "GET /public/checksum?a=8&t=p&v=2.5.0&c=d62c8d04f74057d51872d5dc5cdab098 HTTP/1.0" 404 39668 "" "Mozilla/5.0 (iPhone; U; CPU like Mac OS X; en) AppleWebKit/420+ (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/3.0 Mobile/1C28 Safari/419.3"

So, I was seeing requests that typically do applications like Facebook, smartphones with Android going to google store, and a lot of other applications and sites traffics, that was going diverted to my Ip.

So I saw that this attack was an attack associated to the ip address. I could change the ip in an extreme case and gain some hours to react.

So if those requests were coming from legitimate applications I saw two possibilities:

1. A zombie network controlled by pirates through malware/virus, that changes the /etc/hosts so those devices go to my ip address. Unlikely scenario, as there was a lot of mobile traffic and is not the easiest target of those attacks

2. A Dns Spoofing attack targeting our ip’s

That is an attack that cheats to Dns servers to make them believe that a name resolves to a different ip. (that’s why ssl certificates are so important, and the warnings that the browser raises if the server doesn’t send the right certificate, it allows you to detect that you’re connecting to a fake/evil server and avoid logging etc… if you have been directed a bad ip by a dns poisoned)

I added some traces to get more information, basically I dump the $_SERVER to a file:

$s_server_dump = var_export($_SERVER, true);

file_put_contents($s_debug_log_file, $s_server_dump.”\n”, FILE_APPEND | LOCK_EX);

array (
  'REDIRECT_SCRIPT_URL' => '/announce',
  'REDIRECT_STATUS' => '200',
  'SCRIPT_URL' => '/announce',
  'SCRIPT_URI' => '',
  'HTTP_HOST' => '',
  'HTTP_USER_AGENT' => 'Bittorrent',
  'HTTP_ACCEPT' => '*/*',
  'HTTP_CONNECTION' => 'closed',
  'PATH' => '/usr/local/sbin:/usr/local/bin:/usr/sbin:/usr/bin:/sbin:/bin',
  'SERVER_SIGNATURE' => '<address>Apache/2.4.7 (Ubuntu) Server at Port 80</address>',
  'SERVER_SOFTWARE' => 'Apache/2.4.7 (Ubuntu)',
  'SERVER_NAME' => '',
  'SERVER_ADDR' => 'deleted',
  'SERVER_PORT' => '80',
  'REMOTE_ADDR' => '',
  'DOCUMENT_ROOT' => 'deleted',
  'REQUEST_SCHEME' => 'http',
  'CONTEXT_DOCUMENT_ROOT' => 'deleted',
  'SERVER_ADMIN' => 'deleted',
  'SCRIPT_FILENAME' => 'deleted',
  'REMOTE_PORT' => '27361',
  'REDIRECT_QUERY_STRING' => 'info_hash=%26%27%0F%C2%EB%03J%E2%1F%B0%28%2B%29d%7C%8C%FE%C8l%E9&peer_id=%2DSD0100%2Dj%7E%C3%1C%14%FFsj%DA9%0B%27&ip=',
  'REDIRECT_URL' => '/announce',
  'QUERY_STRING' => 'info_hash=%26%27%0F%C2%EB%03J%E2%1F%B0%28%2B%29d%7C%8C%FE%C8l%E9&peer_id=%2DSD0100%2Dj%7E%C3%1C%14%FFsj%DA9%0B%27&ip=',
  'REQUEST_URI' => '/announce?info_hash=%26%27%0F%C2%EB%03J%E2%1F%B0%28%2B%29d%7C%8C%FE%C8l%E9&peer_id=%2DSD0100%2Dj%7E%C3%1C%14%FFsj%DA9%0B%27&ip=',
  'SCRIPT_NAME' => '/index.php',
  'PHP_SELF' => '/index.php',
  'REQUEST_TIME_FLOAT' => 1422528394.036,
  'REQUEST_TIME' => 1422528394,

Some fields were replaced with ‘deleted’ for security.

Ok, so the client was sending a HOST header

This address resolves as:

PING ( 56(84) bytes of data.
64 bytes from ( icmp_seq=1 ttl=52 time=1.53 ms

So to google appspot.

Next one:

array (
  'REDIRECT_SCRIPT_URL' => '/v2.2/1493038024241481',
  'REDIRECT_HTTPS' => 'on',
  'REDIRECT_STATUS' => '200',
  'SCRIPT_URL' => '/v2.2/1493038024241481',
  'SCRIPT_URI' => '',
  'HTTPS' => 'on',
  'SSL_TLS_SNI' => '',
  'HTTP_HOST' => '',
  'HTTP_ACCEPT_ENCODING' => 'gzip, deflate',
  'CONTENT_TYPE' => 'multipart/form-data; boundary=3i2ndDfv2rTHiSisAbouNdArYfORhtTPEefj3q2f',
  'HTTP_ACCEPT_LANGUAGE' => 'zh-cn',
  'HTTP_CONNECTION' => 'keep-alive',
  'HTTP_ACCEPT' => '*/*',
  'HTTP_USER_AGENT' => 'FBiOSSDK.3.22.0',
  'PATH' => '/usr/local/sbin:/usr/local/bin:/usr/sbin:/usr/bin:/sbin:/bin',
  'SERVER_SIGNATURE' => '<address>Apache/2.4.7 (Ubuntu) Server at Port 443</address>',
  'SERVER_SOFTWARE' => 'Apache/2.4.7 (Ubuntu)',
  'SERVER_NAME' => '',
  'SERVER_ADDR' => 'deleted',
  'SERVER_PORT' => '443',
  'REMOTE_ADDR' => '',
  'DOCUMENT_ROOT' => 'deletd',
  'REQUEST_SCHEME' => 'https',
  'CONTEXT_DOCUMENT_ROOT' => 'deleted',
  'SERVER_ADMIN' => 'deleted',
  'SCRIPT_FILENAME' => 'deleted',
  'REMOTE_PORT' => '24797',
  'REDIRECT_QUERY_STRING' => 'fields=name,supports_implicit_sdk_logging,gdpv4_nux_enabled,gdpv4_nux_content,ios_dialog_configs,app_events_feature_bitmask&format=json&sdk=ios',
  'REDIRECT_URL' => '/v2.2/1493038024241481',
  'QUERY_STRING' => 'fields=name,supports_implicit_sdk_logging,gdpv4_nux_enabled,gdpv4_nux_content,ios_dialog_configs,app_events_feature_bitmask&format=json&sdk=ios',
  'REQUEST_URI' => '/v2.2/1493038024241481?fields=name,supports_implicit_sdk_logging,gdpv4_nux_enabled,gdpv4_nux_content,ios_dialog_configs,app_events_feature_bitmask&format=json&sdk=ios',
  'SCRIPT_NAME' => '/index.php',
  'PHP_SELF' => '/index.php',
  'REQUEST_TIME_FLOAT' => 1422528399.4159999,
  'REQUEST_TIME' => 1422528399,

So that was it, connections were arriving to the Server/Load Balancer requesting addresses from Google, Facebook, thepiratebay main tracker, etc… tens of thousands of users simultaneously.

Clearly there was a kind of DNS spoofing attack. And looking at the ACCEPT_LANGUAGE I saw that clients were using Chineses language (zh-cn).

Changing the ip address will take some time, as some dns have 1 hour or several hours of TTL to improve page speed of customers, and both ip’s have to coexist for a while until all the client’s dns have refreshed, browsers have refreshed their cache of dns names, and dns of partners consuming our APIs have refreshed.

You can have a virtual host just blank, but for some projects your virtual hosts needs to listen for all the request, for example, imagine that you serve contents like and for and like carlesmateo.yourdomaincom,,, that your code process to get the information and render the pages, so it is not always possible to have a default one.

First thing I had to do was, as the attack came from the ip, was to do not allow any host requests that did not belong to the hosts served. That way my framework will not process any request that was not for the exact domains that I expect, and I will save the 404 process time.

Also, if the servers return a white page with few bytes (header), this will harm less the bandwidth if under a DDoS. The bandwidth available is one of the weak points when suffering a DDoS.

To block hosts that are not expected there are several things that can be done, for example:

  • Nginx can easily block those requests not matching the hosts.
  • Modify my script to look at

    if (isset($_SERVER['HTTP_HOST']) && ($_SERVER['HTTP_HOST'] != '' && $_SERVER['HTTP_HOST'] != '') {

    That way any request that is not for the exact domain will be halted quickly.
    You can also check instead strpost($_SERVER['HTTP_HOST'], ‘’) for variable HTTP_HOST

  • Create an Apache default virtual host and default ssl. With a white page the load was so small that even tens of thousands ip’s cannot affect enough the server. (Max load was around 2.5%)

Optimization: If you want to save IOPS and network bandwidth to the storage you can create a ramdisk, and have the index.html of the default virtual host in there. This will increase server speed and reduce overhead.

If you’re in a hurry to stop the attack you can also:

  • Change the Ip, get a new ip address, and change the dns to the new ip, and hope this one is not attacked
  • An emergency solution, drastic but effective, would be to block entire China’s ip ranges.

Some of the webs I helped reported having attacks from outside China, but nothing related, the gross attacks, 99%, come from China.

Sadly Amazon’s Cloud Firewall does not allow to deny certain ip addresses, only allow services through a default deny policy.

I reopened the firewall in 80 and 443, so traffic to everyone, checked that the Service was Ok and continued my way to the office.

When later I spoke with some friends, one of them told me about the Chinese government firewall causing this sort of problems worldwide!. Look at this interesting article.

It is not clear if those DDoS attacks are caused by the Chinese Firewall, by a bug, or by pirates exploiting it to attack sites for money. But is clear that all those attacks and traffic comes from China ip addresses. Obviously this DNS issues are causing the guys browsing on China to not being able of browsing Facebook, WordPres, twitter, etc…

Here you can see live the origin of the world DDoS attacks:

And China being the source of most of the DDoS attacks.


Stopping a BitTorrent DDoS attack

After all the success about the article stopping an XMLRPC to WordPress site attack and thanks messages (I actually helped a company that was being thrown down every day and asked me for help) it’s the moment to explain how to stop an attack much more heavily in evilness.

The first sign I saw was that the server was more and more slower, what is nearly impossible as I setup a very good server, and it has a lot of good development techniques to not having bottlenecks.

I looked at the server and I saw like 3,000 SYN_SENT packets. Apparently we were under a SYN Flood attack.

blog-carlesmateo-com-atack-to-the-web-2015-high-load-blacknetstat revealed more than 6k different ip addresses connecting to the Server.

Server had only 30 GB of RAM so, and started to be full, with more and more connections, and so more Apache processes to respond to the real users fast it was clear that it was going to struggle.

I improved the configuration of the Apache so the Server would be able to handle much more connections with less memory consumption and overhead, added some enhancements for blocking SYN Flood attacks, and restarted the Apache Server.

I reduced greatly the scope of the attacks but I knew that it would only be being worst. I was buying time while not disrupting the functioning of the website.

The next hours the attacks increased to having around 7,500 concurrent connections simultaneously. The memory was reaching its limits, so I decided it was time to upgrade the instance. I doubled the memory and added much more cores, to 36, by using one of the newest Amazon c4.8xlarge.


The good thing about Cloud is that you pay for the time you use the resources. So when the waters calm down again, I’m able to reduce the size of the instance and save some hundreds to the company.

I knew it was a matter of time. The server was stabilized at using 40 GB out of the 60 GB but I knew the pirates will keep trying to shutdown the service.

Once the SYN Flood was stopped and I was sure that the service was safe for a while, I was checking the logs to see if I can detect a pattern among the attacks. I did.


Most request that we were receiving where to a file called announce.php that obviously does not exist in the server, and so it was returning 404 error.

The user agent reported in many cases BitTorrent, or Torrent compatible product, and the url sending a hash, uploaded, downloaded, left… so I realized that somehow my Server was targeted by a Torrent attack, where they indicated that the Server was a Torrent tracker.

As the .htacess in frameworks like Laravel, Catalonia Framework… and CMS like WordPress, Joomla, ezpublish… try to read the file from filesystem and if it doesn’t exist index.php is served, then as first action I created a file /announce.php that simple did an exit();

Sample .htaccess from Laravel:

<IfModule mod_rewrite.c>
    <IfModule mod_negotiation.c>
        Options -MultiViews

    RewriteEngine On

    # Redirect Trailing Slashes...
    RewriteRule ^(.*)/$ /$1 [L,R=301]

    # Handle Front Controller...
    RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-d
    RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-f
    RewriteRule ^ index.php [L]

Sample code for announce.php would be like:

 * Creator: Carles Mateo
 * Date: 2015-01-21 Time: 09:39

// A cheap way to stop an attack based on requesting this file

The response_code 406 was an attemp to see if the BitTorrent clients were sensible to headers and stop. But they didn’t.

With with simple addition of announce.php , with exit(), I achieved reducing the load on the Server from 90% to 40% in just one second.

The reason why a not found page was causing so many damage was that as the 404 error page from the Server is personalized, and offers alternative results (assuming the product you was looking for is no longer available), and before displaying all the Framework is loaded and the routes are checked to see if the url fits and so has some process to be done in the PHP side (it takes 100 ms to reply, is not much, but it was not necessary to waste so much CPU), even being very optimized, every single not found url was causing certain process and CPU waste. Since the attack had more than 7,000 different ip’s simultaneously coming to the Server it would be somewhat a problem at certain point and start returning 500 errors to the customers.

The logs were also showing other patterns, for example:


So without the PHP extension. Those kind of requests would not go through my wall file announce.php but though index.php (as .htaccess tells what is not found is directed there).

I could change the .htaccess to send those requests to hell, but I wanted a more definitive solution, something that would prevent the Server from wasting CPU and the Servers to being able to resist an attack x1000 times harder.

At the end the common pattern was that the BitTorrent clients were requesting via GET a parameter called info_hash, so I blocked through there all the request.

I wrote this small program, and added it to index.php

// Patch urgency Carles to stop an attack based on Torrent
if (isset($_GET['info_hash'])) {

    // In case you use CDN, proxy, or load balancer
    $s_ip_proxy = '';

    $s_ip_address = $_SERVER['REMOTE_ADDR'];

    // Warning if you use a CDN, a proxy server or a load balancer do not add the ip to the blacklisted
    if ($s_ip_proxy == '' || ($s_ip_proxy != '' && $s_ip_address != $s_ip_proxy)) {
        $s_date = date('Y-m-d');

        $s_ip_log_file = '/tmp/ip-to-blacklist-'.$s_date.'.log';
        file_put_contents($s_ip_log_file, $s_ip_address."\n", FILE_APPEND | LOCK_EX);

    // 406 means 'Not Acceptable'


Please note, this code can be added to any Software like Zend Framework, Symfony, Catalonia Framework, Joomla, WordPress, Drupal, ezpublish, Magento… just add those lines at the beginning of the public/index.php just before the action of the Framework starts. Only be careful that after a core update, you’ll have to reapply it.

After that I deleted the no-longer-needed announced.php

What the program does is, if you don’t have defined a proxy/CDN ip, to write the ip connecting with the Torrent request pattern to a log file called for example:


And also exit(), so stopping the execution and saving many CPU cycles.

The idea of the final date is to blacklist the ip’s only for 24 hours as we later will see.

With this I achieved reducing the CPU consumption to around 5-15% of CPU.

Then, there is the other part of stopping the attack, that is a bash program, that can be run from command line or added to cron to be launched, depending on the volume of the attacks, every 5 minutes, or every hour.


# Ip blacklister by Carles Mateo
s_DATE=$(date +%Y-%m-%d)
cat $s_FILE | sort | uniq > $s_FILE_UNIQUE

echo "Counting the ip addresses to block in $s_FILE_UNIQUE"
cat $s_FILE_UNIQUE | wc -l

sleep 3
# We clear the iptables rules
iptables -F
iptables -X
iptables -t nat -F
iptables -t nat -X
iptables -t mangle -F
iptables -t mangle -X
iptables -P INPUT ACCEPT

# To list the rules sudo iptables -L
# /sbin/iptables -L INPUT -v -n
# Enable ssh for all (you can add a Firewall at Cloud provider level or enstrict the rule to your ip)
sudo iptables -A INPUT -p tcp --dport ssh -j ACCEPT

for s_ip_address in `cat $s_FILE_UNIQUE`
    echo "Blocking traffic from $s_ip_address"
    sudo iptables -A INPUT -s $s_ip_address -p tcp --destination-port 80 -j DROP
    sudo iptables -A INPUT -s $s_ip_address -p tcp --destination-port 443 -j DROP

# Ensure Accept traffic on Port 80 (HTTP) and 443 (HTTPS)
sudo iptables -A INPUT -p tcp --dport 80 -j ACCEPT
sudo iptables -A INPUT -p tcp --dport 443 -j ACCEPT

# To block the rest
# sudo iptables -A INPUT -j DROP

# User iptables -save and iptables -restore to make this changes permanent
# sudo sh -c "iptables-save > /etc/iptables.rules"
# sudo pre-up iptables-restore < /etc/iptables.rules

This scripts gets the list of ip’s addresses, gets the list of unique ip’s into another file, and then makes a loop and adds all of them to the iptables, the Firewall from Linux, and blocks them for accessing the web at port 80 (http) or 443 (https, ssl). You can block all the ports also if you want for those ip’s.

With this CPU use went to 0%.

Note: One of my colleagues, a wonderful SysAdmin at Ackstorm ISP, points that some of you may prefer using REJECT instead of DROP. An interesting conversation on serverfault about this.

After fixing the problem I looked over the Internet to locate any people reporting attacks like what I suffered. The most interesting I found was this article: BotTorrent: Misusing BitTorrent to Launch DDoS Attacks, from University of California, Irvine. (local copy on this website BotTorrent)

Basically any site on the Internet can be attacked at a large scale, as every user downloading Torrent will try to connect to the innocent Server to inform of the progress of the down/upload. If this attack is performed with hundreds of files, the attack means hundreds of thousands of ip’s connecting to the Server… the server will run out of connections, or memory, or bandwidth will be full from the bad traffic.

I saw that the attackers were using porno files that were highly downloaded and apparently telling the Torrent network that our Server was a Torrent tracker, so corroborating my hypothesis all the people downloading Torrents were sending updates to our Server, believing that our Server was a tracker. A trick from the sad pirates.

Some people, business users, asked me who could be interested in injuring other’s servers or disrupting other’s businesses without any immediate gain (like controlling your Servers to send Spam).

I told:

  • Competitors that hate you because you’re successful and want to disrupt your business (they pay to the pirates for doing attacks. I’ve helped companies that were let down by those pirates)
  • Investors that may want to buy you at a cheaper price (after badly trolling you for a week or two)
  • False “security” companies that will offer their services “casually” when you most need them and charge a high bill
  • Pirates that want to extort you

So bad people that instead that using their talent to create, just destroy and act bad being evil to others.

In other cases could be bad luck to have been assigned an Ip that previously had a Torrent tracker, it has not much sense for the Cloud as it is expensive, but it has that a Server with that ip was hacked and used as tracked for a while.

Also governments could be so wanting to disrupt services (like torrent) by clumsy redirecting dns to random ip’s, or entertainment companies trying to shutdown Torrent trackers could try to poison dns to stop users from using Bittorrent.


See the definitive solution in the next article.

Performance of several languages

Notes on 2017-03-26 18:57 CEST – Unix time: 1490547518 :

  1. As several of you have noted, it would be much better to use a random value, for example, read by disk. This will be an improvement done in the next benchmark. Good suggestion thanks.
  2. Due to my lack of time it took more than expected updating the article. I was in a long process with google, and now I’m looking for a new job.
  3. I note that most of people doesn’t read the article and comment about things that are well indicated on it. Please before posting, read, otherwise don’t be surprise if the comment is not published. I’ve to keep the blog clean of trash.
  4. I’ve left out few comments cause there were disrespectful. Mediocrity is present in the society, so simply avoid publishing comments that lack the basis of respect and good education. If a comment brings a point, under the point of view of Engineering, it is always published.


(This article was last updated on 2015-08-26 15:45 CEST – Unix time: 1440596711. See changelog at bottom)

One may think that Assembler is always the fastest, but is that true?.

If I write a code in Assembler in 32 bit instead of 64 bit, so it can run in 32 and 64 bit, will it be faster than the code that a dynamic compiler is optimizing in execution time to benefit from the architecture of my computer?.

What if a future JIT compiler is able to use all the cores to execute a single thread developed program?.

Are PHP, Python, or Ruby fast comparing to C++?. Does Facebook Hip Hop Virtual machine really speeds PHP execution?.

This article shows some results and shares my conclusions. It is as a base to discuss with my colleagues. Is not an end, we are always doing tests, looking for the edge, and looking at the root of the things in detail. And often things change from one version to the other. This article shows not an absolute truth, but brings some light into interesting aspects.

It could show the performance for the certain case used in the test, although generic core instructions have been selected. Many more tests are necessary, and some functions differ in the performance. But this article is a necessary starting for the discussion with my IT-extreme-lover friends and a necessary step for the next upcoming tests.

It brings very important data for Managers and Decision Makers, as choosing the adequate performance language can save millions in hardware (specially when you use the Cloud and pay per hour of use) or thousand hours in Map Reduce processes.

Acknowledgements and thanks

Credit for the great Eduard Heredia, for porting my C source code to:

  • Go
  • Ruby
  • Node.js

And for the nice discussions of the results, an on the optimizations and dynamic vs static compilers.

Thanks to Juan Carlos Moreno, CTO of ECManaged Cloud Software for suggesting adding Python and Ruby to the languages tested when we discussed my initial results.

Thanks to Joel Molins for the interesting discussions on Java performance and garbage collection.

Thanks to Cliff Click for his wonderful article on Java vs C performance that I found when I wanted to confirm some of my results and findings.

I was inspired to do my own comparisons by the benchmarks comparing different framework by techempower. It is amazing to see the results of the tests, like how C++ can serialize JSon 1,057,793 times per second and raw PHP only 180,147 (17%).

For the impatients

I present the results of the tests, and the conclusions, for those that doesn’t want to read about the details. For those that want to examine the code, and the versions of every compiler, and more in deep conclusions, this information is provided below.


This image shows the results of the tests with every language and compiler.

All the tests are invoked from command line. All the tests use only one core. No tests for the web or frameworks have been made, are another scenarios worth an own article.

More seconds means a worst result. The worst is Bash, that I deleted from the graphics, as the bar was crazily high comparing to others.

* As later is discussed my initial Assembler code was outperformed by C binary because the final Assembler code that the compiler generated was better than mine.

After knowing why (later in this article is explained in detail) I could have reduced it to the same time than the C version as I understood the improvements made by the compiler.


Table of times:

Seconds executing Language Compiler used Version
6 s. Java Oracle Java Java JDK 8
6 s. Java Oracle Java Java JDK 7
6 s. Java Open JDK OpenJDK 7
6 s. Java Open JDK OpenJDK 6
7 s. Go Go Go v.1.3.1 linux/amd64
7 s. Go Go Go v.1.3.3 linux/amd64
8 s. Lua LuaJit Luajit 2.0.2
10 s. C++ g++ g++ (Ubuntu 4.8.2-19ubuntu1) 4.8.2
10 s. C gcc gcc (Ubuntu 4.8.2-19ubuntu1) 4.8.2
10 s.
(* first version was 13 s. and then was optimized)
Assembler nasm NASM version 2.10.09 compiled on Dec 29 2013
10 s. Nodejs nodejs Nodejs v0.12.4
14 s. Nodejs nodejs Nodejs v0.10.25
18 s. Go Go go version xgcc (Ubuntu 4.9-20140406-0ubuntu1) 4.9.0 20140405 (experimental) [trunk revision 209157] linux/amd64
20 s. Phantomjs Phantomjs phantomjs 1.9.0
21 s. Phantomjs Phantomjs phantomjs 2.0.1-development
38 s. PHP Facebook HHVM HipHop VM 3.4.0-dev (rel)
44 s. Python Pypy Pypy 2.2.1 (Python 2.7.3 (2.2.1+dfsg-1, Nov 28 2013, 05:13:10))
52 s. PHP Facebook HHVM HipHop VM 3.9.0-dev (rel)
52 s. PHP Facebook HHVM HipHop VM 3.7.3 (rel)
128 s. PHP PHP PHP 7.0.0alpha2 (cli) (built: Jul 3 2015 15:30:23)
278 s. Lua Lua Lua 2.5.3
294 s. Gambas3 Gambas3 3.7.0
316 s. PHP PHP PHP 5.5.9-1ubuntu4.3 (cli) (built: Jul 7 2014 16:36:58)
317 s. PHP PHP PHP 5.6.10 (cli) (built: Jul 3 2015 16:13:11)
323 s. PHP PHP PHP 5.4.42 (cli) (built: Jul 3 2015 16:24:16)
436 s. Perl Perl Perl 5.18.2
523 s. Ruby Ruby ruby 1.9.3p484 (2013-11-22 revision 43786) [x86_64-linux]
694 s. Python Python Python 2.7.6
807 s. Python Python Python 3.4.0
47630 s. Bash GNU bash, version 4.3.11(1)-release (x86_64-pc-linux-gnu)


Conclusions and Lessons Learnt

  1. There are languages that will execute faster than a native Assembler program, thanks to the JIT Compiler and to the ability to optimize the program at runtime for the architecture of the computer running the program (even if there is a small initial penalty of around two seconds from JIT when running the program, as it is being analysed, is it more than worth in our example)
  2. Modern Java can be really fast in certain operations, it is the fastest in this test, thanks to the use of JIT Compiler technology and a very good implementation in it
  3. Oracle’s Java and OpenJDK shows no difference in performance in this test
  4. Script languages really sucks in performance. Python, Perl and Ruby are terribly slow. That costs a lot of money if you Scale as you need more Server in the Cloud
  5. JIT compilers for Python: Pypy, and for Lua: LuaJit, make them really fly. The difference is truly amazing
  6. The same language can offer a very different performance using one version or another, for example the go that comes from Ubuntu packets and the last version from official page that is faster, or Python 3.4 is much slower than Python 2.7 in this test
  7. Bash is the worst language for doing the loop and inc operations in the test, lasting for more than 13 hours for the test
  8. From command line PHP is much faster than Python, Perl and Ruby
  9. Facebook Hip Hop Virtual Machine (HHVM) improves a lot PHP’s speed
  10. It looks like the future of compilers is JIT.
  11. Assembler is not always the fastest when executed. If you write a generic Assembler program with the purpose of being able to run in many platforms you’ll not use the most powerful instructions specific of an architecture, and so a JIT compiler can outperform your code. An static compiler can also outperform your code with very clever optimizations. People that write the compilers are really good. Unless you’re really brilliant with Assembler probably a C/C++ code beats the performance of your code. Even if you’re fantastic with Assembler it could happen that a JIT compiler notices that some executions can be avoided (like code not really used) and bring magnificent runtime optimizations. (for example a near JMP is much more less costly than a far JMP Assembler instruction. Avoiding dead code could result in a far JMP being executed as near JMP, saving many cycles per loop)
  12. Optimizations really needs people dedicated to just optimizations and checking the speed of the newly added code for the running platforms
  13. Node.js was a big surprise. It really performed well. It is promising. New version performs even faster
  14. go is promising. Similar to C, but performance is much better thanks to deciding at runtime if the architecture of the computer is 32 or 64 bit, a very quick compilation at launch time, and it compiling to very good assembler (that uses the 64 bit instructions efficiently, for example)
  15. Gambas 3 performed surprisingly fast. Better than PHP
  16. You should be careful when using C/C++ optimization -O3 (and -O2) as sometimes it doesn’t work well (bugs) or as you may expect, for example by completely removing blocks of code if the compiler believes that has no utility (like loops)
  17. Perl performance really change from using a for style or another. (See Perl section below)
  18. Modern CPUs change the frequency to save energy. To run the tests is strictly recommended to use a dedicated machine, disabling the CPU governor and setting a frequency for all the cores, booting with a text only live system, without background services, not mounting disks, no swap, no network

(Please, before commenting read completely the article )

Explanations in details

Obviously an statically compiled language binary should be faster than an interpreted language.

C or C++ are much faster than PHP. And good code machine is much faster of course.

But there are also other languages that are not compiled as binary and have really fast execution.

For example, good Web Java Application Servers generate compiled code after the first request. Then it really flies.

For web C# or .NET in general, does the same, the IIS Application Server creates a native DLL after the first call to the script. And after this, as is compiled, the page is really fast.

With C statically linked you could generate binary code for a particular processor, but then it won’t work in other processors, so normally we write code that will work in all the processors at the cost of not using all the performance of the different CPUs or use another approach and we provide a set of different binaries for the different architectures. A set of directives doing one thing or other depending on the platform detected can also be done, but is hard, long and tedious job with a lot of special cases treatment. There is another approach that is dynamic linking, where certain things will be decided at run time and optimized for the computer that is running the program by the JIT (Just-in-time) Compiler.

Java, with JIT is able to offer optimizations for the CPU that is running the code with awesome results. And it is able to optimize loops and mathematics operations and outperform C/C++ and Assembler code in some cases (like in our tests) or to be really near in others. It sounds crazy but nowadays the JIT is able to know the result of several times executed blocks of code and to optimize that with several strategies, speeding the things incredible and to outperform a code written in Assembler. Demonstrations with code is provided later.

A new generation has grown knowing only how to program for the Web. Many of them never saw Assembler, neither or barely programmed in C++.

None of my Senior friends would assert that a technology is better than another without doing many investigations before. We are serious. There is so much to take in count, so much to learn always, that one has to be sure that is not missing things before affirming such things categorically. If you want to be taken seriously, you have to take many things in count.

Environment for the tests

Hardware and OS

Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-4770S CPU @ 3.10GHz with 32 GB RAM and SSD Disk.

Ubuntu Desktop 14.04 LTS 64 bit

Software base and compilers

PHP versions

Shipped with my Ubuntu distribution:

php -v
PHP 5.5.9-1ubuntu4.3 (cli) (built: Jul  7 2014 16:36:58)
Copyright (c) 1997-2014 The PHP Group
Zend Engine v2.5.0, Copyright (c) 1998-2014 Zend Technologies
with Zend OPcache v7.0.3, Copyright (c) 1999-2014, by Zend Technologies

Compiled from sources:

PHP 5.6.10 (cli) (built: Jul  3 2015 16:13:11)
Copyright (c) 1997-2015 The PHP Group
Zend Engine v2.6.0, Copyright (c) 1998-2015 Zend Technologies
PHP 5.4.42 (cli) (built: Jul  3 2015 16:24:16)
Copyright (c) 1997-2014 The PHP Group
Zend Engine v2.4.0, Copyright (c) 1998-2014 Zend Technologies


Java 8 version

java -showversion
java version "1.8.0_05"
Java(TM) SE Runtime Environment (build 1.8.0_05-b13)
Java HotSpot(TM) 64-Bit Server VM (build 25.5-b02, mixed mode)

C++ version

g++ -v
Using built-in specs.
Target: x86_64-linux-gnu
Configured with: ../src/configure -v --with-pkgversion='Ubuntu 4.8.2-19ubuntu1' --with-bugurl=file:///usr/share/doc/gcc-4.8/README.Bugs --enable-languages=c,c++,java,go,d,fortran,objc,obj-c++ --prefix=/usr --program-suffix=-4.8 --enable-shared --enable-linker-build-id --libexecdir=/usr/lib --without-included-gettext --enable-threads=posix --with-gxx-include-dir=/usr/include/c++/4.8 --libdir=/usr/lib --enable-nls --with-sysroot=/ --enable-clocale=gnu --enable-libstdcxx-debug --enable-libstdcxx-time=yes --enable-gnu-unique-object --disable-libmudflap --enable-plugin --with-system-zlib --disable-browser-plugin --enable-java-awt=gtk --enable-gtk-cairo --with-java-home=/usr/lib/jvm/java-1.5.0-gcj-4.8-amd64/jre --enable-java-home --with-jvm-root-dir=/usr/lib/jvm/java-1.5.0-gcj-4.8-amd64 --with-jvm-jar-dir=/usr/lib/jvm-exports/java-1.5.0-gcj-4.8-amd64 --with-arch-directory=amd64 --with-ecj-jar=/usr/share/java/eclipse-ecj.jar --enable-objc-gc --enable-multiarch --disable-werror --with-arch-32=i686 --with-abi=m64 --with-multilib-list=m32,m64,mx32 --with-tune=generic --enable-checking=release --build=x86_64-linux-gnu --host=x86_64-linux-gnu --target=x86_64-linux-gnu
Thread model: posix
gcc version 4.8.2 (Ubuntu 4.8.2-19ubuntu1)

Gambas 3

gbr3 --version

Go (downloaded from google)

go version
go version go1.3.1 linux/amd64

Go (Ubuntu packages)

go version
go version xgcc (Ubuntu 4.9-20140406-0ubuntu1) 4.9.0 20140405 (experimental) [trunk revision 209157] linux/amd64


nasm -v
NASM version 2.10.09 compiled on Dec 29 2013


lua -v
Lua 5.2.3  Copyright (C) 1994-2013, PUC-Rio


luajit -v
LuaJIT 2.0.2 -- Copyright (C) 2005-2013 Mike Pall.


Installed with apt-get install nodejs:

nodejs --version

Installed by compiling the sources:

node --version


Installed with apt-get install phantomjs:

phantomjs --version

Compiled from sources:

/path/phantomjs --version

Python 2.7

python --version
Python 2.7.6

Python 3

python3 --version
Python 3.4.0


perl -version
This is perl 5, version 18, subversion 2 (v5.18.2) built for x86_64-linux-gnu-thread-multi
(with 41 registered patches, see perl -V for more detail)


bash --version
GNU bash, version 4.3.11(1)-release (x86_64-pc-linux-gnu)
Copyright (C) 2013 Free Software Foundation, Inc.
License GPLv3+: GNU GPL version 3 or later <>

This is free software; you are free to change and redistribute it.
There is NO WARRANTY, to the extent permitted by law.

Test: Time required for nested loops

This is the first sample. It is an easy-one.

The main idea is to generate a set of nested loops, with a simple counter inside.

When the counter reaches 51 it is set to 0.

This is done for:

  1. Preventing overflow of the integer if growing without control
  2. Preventing the compiler from optimizing the code (clever compilers like Java or gcc with -O3 flag for optimization, if it sees that the var is never used, it will see that the whole block is unnecessary and simply never execute it)

Doing only loops, the increment of a variable and an if, provides us with basic structures of the language that are easily transformed to Assembler. We want to avoid System calls also.

This is the base for the metrics on my Cloud Analysis of Performance project.

Here I present the times for each language, later I analyze the details and the code.

Take in count that this code only executes in one thread / core.


C++ result, it takes 10 seconds.

Code for the C++:

* File:   main.cpp
* Author: Carles Mateo
* Created on August 27, 2014, 1:53 PM

#include <cstdlib>
#include <iostream>
#include <stdio.h>
#include <stdlib.h>
#include <sys/time.h>
#include <ctime>

using namespace std;

typedef unsigned long long timestamp_t;

static timestamp_t get_timestamp()
    struct timeval now;
    gettimeofday (&now, NULL);
    return  now.tv_usec + (timestamp_t)now.tv_sec * 1000000;

int main(int argc, char** argv) {

    timestamp_t t0 = get_timestamp();

    // current date/time based on current system
    time_t now = time(0);

    // convert now to string form
    char* dt_now = ctime(&now);

    printf("Starting at %s\n", dt_now);

    int i_loop1 = 0;
    int i_loop2 = 0;
    int i_loop3 = 0;


    for (i_loop1 = 0; i_loop1 < 10; i_loop1++) {
        for (i_loop2 = 0; i_loop2 < 32000; i_loop2++) {
            for (i_loop3 = 0; i_loop3 < 32000; i_loop3++) {

                if (i_counter > 50) {
                    i_counter = 0;
            // If you want to test how the compiler optimizes that, remove the comment
            //i_counter = 0;

    // This is another trick to avoid compiler's optimization. To use the var somewhere
    printf("Counter: %i\n", i_counter);

    timestamp_t t1 = get_timestamp();
    double secs = (t1 - t0) / 1000000.0L;
    time_t now_end = time(0);

    // convert now to string form
    char* dt_now_end = ctime(&now_end);

    printf("End time: %s\n", dt_now_end);

    return 0;


You can try to remove the part of code that makes the checks:

                /* if (i_counter > 50) {
                    i_counter = 0;

And the use of the var, later:

    //printf("Counter: %i\n", i_counter);

Note: And adding a i_counter = 0; at the beginning of the loop to make sure that the counter doesn’t overflows. Then the C or C++ compiler will notice that this result is never used and so it will eliminate the code from the program, having as result and execution time of 0.0 seconds.


The code in Java:

package cpu;

 * @author carles.mateo
public class Cpu {

     * @param args the command line arguments
    public static void main(String[] args) {
        int i_loop1 = 0;
        //int i_loop_main = 0;
        int i_loop2 = 0;
        int i_loop3 = 0;
        int i_counter = 0;
        String s_version = System.getProperty("java.version");
        System.out.println("Java Version: " + s_version);

        for (i_loop1 = 0; i_loop1 < 10; i_loop1++) {            
                for (i_loop2 = 0; i_loop2 < 32000; i_loop2++) {
                    for (i_loop3 = 0; i_loop3 < 32000; i_loop3++) {
                        if (i_counter > 50) { 
                            i_counter = 0;

It is really interesting how Java, with JIT outperforms C++ and Assembler.

It takes only 6 seconds.

Netbeans with Java IDE executing with OpenJDK 1.6 in 6 seconds


The case of Go is interesting because I saw a big difference from the go shipped with Ubuntu, and the the go I downloaded from I downloaded 1.3.1 and 1.3.3 offering the same performance. 7 seconds.

blog-carlesmateo-com-go1-3-3-linux-amd64-performance-37Source code for nested_loops.go

package main

import ("fmt"

func main() {
   fmt.Printf("Starting: %s", time.Now().Local())
   var i_counter = 0;
   for i_loop1 := 0; i_loop1 < 10; i_loop1++ {
       for i_loop2 := 0; i_loop2 < 32000; i_loop2++ {
           for i_loop3 := 0; i_loop3 < 32000; i_loop3++ {
               if i_counter > 50 {
                   i_counter = 0;

   fmt.Printf("\nCounter: %#v", i_counter)
   fmt.Printf("\nEnd: %s\n", time.Now().Local())


Here is the Assembler for Linux code, with SASM, that I created initially (bellow is optimized).

%include ""

section .text
global CMAIN
    ;mov rbp, rsp; for correct debugging
    ; Set to 0, the faster way
    xor     esi, esi

    mov ecx, 10
    mov ebx, ecx
    jmp DO_LOOP2
    mov ecx, ebx
    loop LOOP1
    jmp QUIT

    mov ecx, 32000
    mov eax, ecx
    ;call DO_LOOP3
    jmp DO_LOOP3
    mov ecx, eax
    loop LOOP2

    ; Set to 32000 loops    
    MOV ecx, 32000 
    inc     esi
    cmp     esi, 50
    jg      COUNTER_TO_0

    loop LOOP3
    ; Set to 0
    xor     esi, esi
;    jmp QUIT

    xor eax, eax

It took 13 seconds to complete.

One interesting explanation on why binary C or C++ code is faster than Assembler, is because the C compiler generates better Assembler/binary code at the end. For example, the use of JMP is expensive in terms of CPU cycles and the compiler can apply other optimizations and tricks that I’m not aware of, like using faster registers, while in my code I use ebx, ecx, esi, etc… (for example, imagine that using cx is cheaper than using ecx or rcx and I’m not aware but the guys that created the Gnu C compiler are)

blog-carlesmateo-com-sasm-assembler-linux-64-bits-code-12-13-secondsTo be sure of what’s going on I switched in the LOOP3 the JE and the JMP of the code, for groups of 50 instructions, INC ESI, one after the other and the time was reduced to 1 second.

(In C also was reduced even a bit more when doing the same)

To know what’s the translation of the C code into Assembler when compiled, you can do:

objdump --disassemble nested_loops

Look for the section main and you’ll get something like:

0000000000400470 <main>:
400470:    bf 0a 00 00 00           mov    $0xa,%edi
400475:    31 c9                    xor    %ecx,%ecx
400477:    be 00 7d 00 00           mov    $0x7d00,%esi
40047c:    0f 1f 40 00              nopl   0x0(%rax)
400480:    b8 00 7d 00 00           mov    $0x7d00,%eax
400485:    0f 1f 00                 nopl   (%rax)
400488:    83 c2 01                 add    $0x1,%edx
40048b:    83 fa 33                 cmp    $0x33,%edx
40048e:    0f 4d d1                 cmovge %ecx,%edx
400491:    83 e8 01                 sub    $0x1,%eax
400494:    75 f2                    jne    400488 <main+0x18>
400496:    83 ee 01                 sub    $0x1,%esi
400499:    75 e5                    jne    400480 <main+0x10>
40049b:    83 ef 01                 sub    $0x1,%edi
40049e:    75 d7                    jne    400477 <main+0x7>
4004a0:    48 83 ec 08              sub    $0x8,%rsp
4004a4:    be 34 06 40 00           mov    $0x400634,%esi
4004a9:    bf 01 00 00 00           mov    $0x1,%edi
4004ae:    31 c0                    xor    %eax,%eax
4004b0:    e8 ab ff ff ff           callq  400460 <__printf_chk@plt>
4004b5:    31 c0                    xor    %eax,%eax
4004b7:    48 83 c4 08              add    $0x8,%rsp
4004bb:    c3                       retq

Note: this is in the AT&T syntax and not in the Intel. That means that add $0x1,%edx is adding 1 to EDX registerg (origin, destination).

As you can see the C compiler has created a very differed Assembler version respect what I created.
For example at 400470 it uses EDI register to store 10, so to control the number of the outer loop.
It uses ESI to store 32000 (Hexadecimal 0x7D00), so the second loop.
And EAX for the inner loop, at 400480.
It uses EDX for the counter, and compares to 50 (Hexa 0x33) at 40048B.
In 40048E it uses the CMOVGE (Mov if Greater or Equal), that is an instruction that was introduced with the P6 family processors, to move the contents of ECX to EDX if it was (in the CMP) greater or equal to 50. As in 400475 a XOR ECX, ECX was performed, EXC contained 0.
And it cleverly used SUB and JNE (JNE means Jump if not equal and it jumps if ZF = 0, it is equivalent to JNZ Jump if not Zero).
It uses between 4 and 16 clocks, and the jump must be -128 to +127 bytes of the next instruction. As you see Jump is very costly.

Looks like the biggest improvement comes from the use of CMOVGE, so it saves two jumps that my original Assembler code was performing.
Those two jumps multiplied per 32000 x 32000 x 10 times, are a lot of Cpu clocks.

So, with this in mind, as this Assembler code takes 10 seconds, I updated the graph from 13 seconds to 10 seconds.


This is the initial code:

local i_counter = 0

local i_time_start = os.clock()

for i_loop1=0,9 do
    for i_loop2=0,31999 do
        for i_loop3=0,31999 do
            i_counter = i_counter + 1
            if i_counter > 50 then
                i_counter = 0

local i_time_end = os.clock()
print(string.format("Counter: %i\n", i_counter))
print(string.format("Total seconds: %.2f\n", i_time_end - i_time_start))

In the case of Lua theoretically one could take great advantage of the use of local inside a loop, so I tried the benchmark with modifications to the loop:

for i_loop1=0,9 do
    for i_loop2=0,31999 do
        local l_i_counter = i_counter
        for i_loop3=0,31999 do
             l_i_counter = l_i_counter + 1
             if l_i_counter > 50 then
                 l_i_counter = 0
        i_counter = l_i_counter

I ran it with LuaJit and saw no improvements on the performance.


var s_date_time = new Date();
console.log('Starting: ' + s_date_time);

var i_counter = 0;

for (var $i_loop1 = 0; $i_loop1 < 10; $i_loop1++) {
   for (var $i_loop2 = 0; $i_loop2 < 32000; $i_loop2++) {
       for (var $i_loop3 = 0; $i_loop3 < 32000; $i_loop3++) {
           if (i_counter > 50) {
               i_counter = 0;

var s_date_time_end = new Date();

console.log('Counter: ' + i_counter + '\n');

console.log('End: ' + s_date_time_end + '\n');

Execute with:

nodejs nested_loops.js


The same code as nodejs adding to the end:


In the case of Phantom it performs the same in both versions 1.9.0 and 2.0.1-development compiled from sources.


The interesting thing on PHP is that you can write your own extensions in C, so you can have the easy of use of PHP and create functions that really brings fast performance in C, and invoke them from PHP.


$s_date_time = date('Y-m-d H:i:s');

echo 'Starting: '.$s_date_time."\n";

$i_counter = 0;

for ($i_loop1 = 0; $i_loop1 < 10; $i_loop1++) {
   for ($i_loop2 = 0; $i_loop2 < 32000; $i_loop2++) {
       for ($i_loop3 = 0; $i_loop3 < 32000; $i_loop3++) {
           if ($i_counter > 50) {
               $i_counter = 0;

$s_date_time_end = date('Y-m-d H:i:s');

echo 'End: '.$s_date_time_end."\n";

Facebook’s Hip Hop Virtual Machine is a very powerful alternative, that is JIT powered.

Downloading the code and compiling it is just easy, just:

git clone
cd hhvm
rm -r third-party
git submodule update --init --recursive

Or just grab precompiled packages from


from datetime import datetime
import time

print ("Starting at: " + str(
s_unixtime_start = str(time.time())

i_counter = 0

# From 0 to 31999
for i_loop1 in range(0, 10):
    for i_loop2 in range(0,32000):
         for i_loop3 in range(0,32000):
             i_counter += 1
             if ( i_counter > 50 ) :
                 i_counter = 0

print ("Ending at: " + str(
s_unixtime_end = str(time.time())

i_seconds = long(s_unixtime_end) - long(s_unixtime_start)
s_seconds = str(i_seconds)

print ("Total seconds:" + s_seconds)


#!/usr/bin/ruby -w

time1 =

puts "Starting : " + time1.inspect

i_counter = 0;

for i_loop1 in 0..9
    for i_loop2 in 0..31999
        for i_loop3 in 0..31999
            i_counter = i_counter + 1
            if i_counter > 50
                i_counter = 0

time1 =

puts "End : " + time1.inspect


The case of Perl was very interesting one.

This is the current code:

#!/usr/bin/env perl

print "$s_datetime Starting calculations...\n";


for my $i_loop1 (0 .. 9) {
    for my $i_loop2 (0 .. 31999) {
        for my $i_loop3 (0 .. 31999) {
            if ($i_counter > 50) {
                $i_counter = 0;



print "Counter: $i_counter\n";
print "Total seconds: $i_seconds";

But before I created one, slightly different, with the for loops like in the C style:

#!/usr/bin/env perl



for (my $i_loop1=0; $i_loop1 < 10; $i_loop1++) {
    for (my $i_loop2=0; $i_loop2 < 32000; $i_loop2++) {
        for (my $i_loop3=0; $i_loop3 < 32000; $i_loop3++) {
            if ($i_counter > 50) {
                $i_counter = 0;



print "Total seconds: $i_seconds";

I repeated this test, with the same version of Perl, due to the comment of a reader (thanks mpapec) that told:

In this particular case perl style loops are about 45% faster than original code (v5.20)

And effectively and surprisingly the time passed from 796 seconds to 436 seconds.

So graphics are updated to reflect the result of 436 seconds.


echo "Bash version ${BASH_VERSION}..."

let "s_time_start=$(date +%s)"
let "i_counter=0"

for i_loop1 in {0..9}
     echo "."
     for i_loop2 in {0..31999}
         for i_loop3 in {0..31999}
             if [[ $i_counter > 50 ]]
                 let "i_counter=0"
#let "var=var+1"
#let "var+=1"
#let "var++"

let "s_time_end=$(date +%2)"

let "s_seconds = s_time_end - s_time_start"
echo "Total seconds: $s_seconds"

# Just in case it overflows

Gambas 3

Gambas is a language and an IDE to create GUI applications for Linux.
It is very similar to Visual Basic, but better, and it is not a clone.

I created a command line application and it performed better than PHP. There has been done an excellent job with the compiler.

blog-carlesmateo-com-gbr3-gambas-performanceNote: in the screenshot the first test ran for few seconds more than in the second. This was because I deliberately put the machine under some load and I/O during the tests. The valid value for the test, confirmed with more iterations is the second one, done under the same conditions (no load) than the previous tests.

' Gambas module file MMain.module

Public Sub Main()

    ' @author Carles Mateo
    Dim i_loop1 As Integer
    Dim i_loop2 As Integer
    Dim i_loop3 As Integer
    Dim i_counter As Integer
    Dim s_version As String
    i_loop1 = 0
    i_loop2 = 0
    i_loop3 = 0
    i_counter = 0
    s_version = System.Version
    Print "Performance Test by Carles Mateo"    
    Print "Gambas Version: " & s_version

    Print "Starting..." & Now()
    For i_loop1 = 0 To 9
        For i_loop2 = 0 To 31999
            For i_loop3 = 0 To 31999
                i_counter = i_counter + 1
                If (i_counter > 50) Then
                    i_counter = 0
    Print i_counter
    Print "End " & Now()



2015-08-26 15:45

Thanks to the comment of a reader, thanks Daniel, pointing a mistake. The phrase I mentioned was on conclusions, point 14, and was inaccurate. The original phrase told “go is promising. Similar to C, but performance is much better thanks to the use of JIT“. The allusion to JIT is incorrect and has been replaced by this: “thanks to deciding at runtime if the architecture of the computer is 32 or 64 bit, a very quick compilation at launch time, and it compiling to very good assembler (that uses the 64 bit instructions efficiently, for example)”

2015-07-17 17:46

Benchmarked Facebook HHVM 3.9 (dev., the release date is August 3 2015) and HHVM 3.7.3, they take 52 seconds.

Re-benchmarked Facebook HHVM 3.4, before it was 72 seconds, it takes now 38 seconds. I checked the screen captures from 2014 to discard an human error. Looks like a turbo frequency issue on the tests computer, with the CPU governor making it work bellow the optimal speed or a CPU-hungry/IO process that triggered during the tests and I didn’t detect it. Thinking about forcing a fixed CPU speed for all the cores for the tests, like 2.4 Ghz and booting a live only text system without disk access and network to prevent Ubuntu launching processes in the background.

2015-07-05 13:16

Added performance of Phantomjs 1.9.0 installed via apt-get install phantomjs in Ubuntu, and Phantomjs 2.0.1-development.

Added performance of nodejs 0.12.04 (compiled).

Added bash to the graphic. It has so bad performance that I had to edit the graphic to fit in (color pink) in order prevent breaking the scale.

2015-07-03 18:32

Added benchmarks for PHP 7 alpha 2, PHP 5.6.10 and PHP 5.4.42.

2015-07-03 15:13
Thanks to the contribution of a reader (thanks mpapec!) I tried with Perl for style, resulting in passing from 796 seconds to 436 seconds.
(I used the same Perl version: Perl 5.18.2)
Updated test value for Perl.
Added new graphics showing the updated value.

Thanks to the contribution of a reader (thanks junk0xc0de!) added some additional warnings and explanations about the dangers of using -O3 (and -O2) if C/C++.

Updated the Lua code, to print i_counter and do the if i_counter > 50
This makes it take a bit longer, few cents, but passing from 7.8 to 8.2 seconds.
Updated graphics.

Stopping and investigating a WordPress xmlrpc.php attack

One of my Servers got heavily attacked for several days. I describe here the steps I took to stop this.

The attack consisted in several connections per second to the Server, to path /xmlrpc.php.

This is a WordPress file to control the pingback, when someone links to you.

My Server it is a small Amazon instance, a m1.small with only one core and 1,6 GB RAM, magnetic disks and that scores a discrete 203 CMIPS (my slow laptop scores 460 CMIPS).

Those massive connections caused the server to use more and more RAM, and while the xmlrpc requests were taking many seconds to reply, so more and more processes of Apache were spawned. That lead to more memory consumption, and to use all the available RAM and start using swap, with a heavy performance impact until all the memory was exhausted and the mysql processes stopped.

I saw that I was suffering an attack after the shutdown of MySql. I checked the CloudWatch Statistics from Amazon AWS and it was clear that I was receiving many -out of normal- requests. The I/O was really high too.

This statistics are from today to three days ago, look at the spikes when the attack was hitting hard and how relaxed the Server is now (plain line).


First I decided to simply rename the xmlrpc.php file as a quick solution to stop the attack but the number of http connections kept growing and then I saw very suspicious queries to the database.

blog-carlesmateo-suspicious-queries-2014-08-30-00-11-59Those queries, in addition to what I’ve seen in the Apache’s error log suggested me that may be the Server was hacked by a WordPress/plugin bug and that now they were trying to hide from the database’s logs. (Specially the DELETE FROM wp_useronline WHERE user_ip = the Ip of the attacker)

[Tue Aug 26 11:47:08 2014] [error] [client] Error in WordPress Database Lost connection to MySQL server during query a la consulta SELECT option_value FROM wp_options WHERE option_name = 'uninstall_plugins' LIMIT 1 feta per include('wp-load.php'), require_once('wp-config.php'), require_once('wp-settings.php'), include_once('/plugins/captcha/captcha.php'), register_uninstall_hook, get_option
[Tue Aug 26 11:47:09 2014] [error] [client] Error in WordPress Database Lost connection to MySQL server during query a la consulta SELECT option_value FROM wp_options WHERE option_name = 'uninstall_plugins' LIMIT 1 feta per include('wp-load.php'), require_once('wp-config.php'), require_once('wp-settings.php'), include_once('/plugins/captcha/captcha.php'), register_uninstall_hook, get_option
[Tue Aug 26 11:47:10 2014] [error] [client] Error in WordPress Database Lost connection to MySQL server during query a la consulta SELECT option_value FROM wp_options WHERE option_name = 'widget_wppp' LIMIT 1 feta per include('wp-load.php'), require_once('wp-config.php'), require_once('wp-settings.php'), do_action('plugins_loaded'), call_user_func_array, wppp_check_upgrade, get_option

The error log was very ugly.

The access log was not reassuring, as it shown many attacks like that: - - [26/Aug/2014:10:34:58 +0000] "POST /xmlrpc.php HTTP/1.0" 200 598 "-" "Mozilla/4.0 (compatible: MSIE 7.0; Windows NT 6.0)" - - [26/Aug/2014:10:34:59 +0000] "POST /xmlrpc.php HTTP/1.0" 200 598 "-" "Mozilla/4.0 (compatible: MSIE 7.0; Windows NT 6.0)" - - [26/Aug/2014:10:35:09 +0000] "OPTIONS * HTTP/1.0" 200 126 "-" "Apache/2.2.22 (Ubuntu) (internal dummy connection)" - - [26/Aug/2014:10:34:59 +0000] "POST /xmlrpc.php HTTP/1.0" 200 598 "-" "Mozilla/4.0 (compatible: MSIE 7.0; Windows NT 6.0)" - - [26/Aug/2014:10:34:59 +0000] "POST /xmlrpc.php HTTP/1.0" 200 598 "-" "Mozilla/4.0 (compatible: MSIE 7.0; Windows NT 6.0)" - - [26/Aug/2014:10:35:00 +0000] "POST /xmlrpc.php HTTP/1.0" 200 598 "-" "Mozilla/4.0 (compatible: MSIE 7.0; Windows NT 6.0)" - - [26/Aug/2014:10:34:59 +0000] "POST /xmlrpc.php HTTP/1.0" 200 598 "-" "Mozilla/4.0 (compatible: MSIE 7.0; Windows NT 6.0)"

Was difficult to determine if the Server was receiving SQL injections so I wanted to be sure.

Note: The connection from with OPTIONS is created by Apache when spawns another Apache.

As I had super fresh backups in another Server I was not afraid of the attack dropping the database.

I was a bit suspicious also because the /readme.html file mentioned that the version of WordPress is 3.6. In other installations it tells correctly that the version is the 3.9.2 and this file is updated with the auto-update. I was thinking about a possible very sophisticated trojan attack able to modify wp-includes/version.php and set fake $wp_version = ‘3.9.2’;
Later I realized that this blog had WordPress in Catalan, my native language, and discovered that the guys that do the translations forgot to update this file (in new installations it comes not updated, and so showing 3.6). I have alerted them.

In fact later I did a diff of all the files of my WordPress installation against the official WordPress 3.9.2-ca and later a did a diff between the WordPress 3.9.2-ca and the WordPress 3.9.2 (English – default), and found no differences. My Server was Ok. But at this point, at the beginning of the investigation I didn’t know that yet.

With the info I had (queries, times, attack, readme telling v. 3.6…) I balanced the possibility to be in front of something and I decided that I had an unique opportunity to discover how they do to inject those Sql, or discover if my Server was compromised and how. The bad point is that it was the same Amazon’s Server where this blog resides, and I wanted the attack to continue so I could get more information, so during two days I was recording logs and doing some investigations, so sorry if you visited my blog and database was down, or the Server was going extremely slow. I needed that info. It was worth it.

First I changed the Apache config so the massive connections impacted a bit less the Server and so I could work on it while the attack was going on.

I informed my group of Senior friends on what’s going on and two SysAdmins gave me some good suggestions on other logs to watch and on how to stop the attack, and later a Developer joined me to look at the logs and pointed possible solutions to stop the attack. But basically all of them suggested on how to block the incoming connections with iptables and to do things like reinstalling WordPress, disabling xmlrpc.php in .htaccess, changing passwords or moving wp-admin/ to another place, but the point is that I wanted to understand exactly what was going on and how.

I checked the logs, certificates, etc… and no one other than me was accessing the Server. I also double-checked the Amazon’s Firewall to be sure that no unnecessary ports were left open. Everything was Ok.

I took a look at the Apache logs for the site and all the attacks were coming from the same Ip:

It is an Ip from a dedicated Servers company called I reported them the abuse to the abuse address indicated in the database for the range.

I found that many people have complains about this provider and reports of them ignoring the requests to stop the spam use from their servers, so I decided that after my tests I will block their entire network from being able to access my sites.

All the requests shown in the access.log pointed to requests to /xmlrpc.php. It was the only path requested by the attacker so that Ip did nothing more apparently.

I added some logging to WordPress xmlrpc.php file:

if ($_SERVER['REMOTE_ADDR'] == '') {
    error_log('XML POST: '.serialize($_POST));
    error_log('XML GET: '.serialize($_GET));
    error_log('XML REQUEST: '.serialize($_REQUEST));
    error_log('XML SERVER: '.serialize($_SERVER));
    error_log('XML FILES: '.serialize($_FILES));
    error_log('XML ENV: '.serialize($_ENV));
    error_log('XML RAW: '.$HTTP_RAW_POST_DATA);
    error_log('XML ALL_HEADERS: '.serialize(getallheaders()));

This was the result, it is always the same:

[Fri Aug 29 19:02:54 2014] [error] [client] XML POST: a:0:{}
[Fri Aug 29 19:02:54 2014] [error] [client] XML GET: a:0:{}
[Fri Aug 29 19:02:54 2014] [error] [client] XML REQUEST: a:0:{}
[Fri Aug 29 19:02:54 2014] [error] [client] XML SERVER: a:24:{s:9:"HTTP_HOST";s:24:"";s:12:"CONTENT_TYPE";s:8:"text/xml";s:14:"CONTENT_LENGTH";s:3:"287";s:15:"HTTP_USER_AGENT";s:50:"Mozilla/4.0 (compatible: MSIE 7.0; Windows NT 6.0)";s:15:"HTTP_CONNECTION";s:5:"close";s:4:"PATH";s:28:"/usr/local/bin:/usr/bin:/bin";s:16:"SERVER_SIGNATURE";s:85:"<address>Apache/2.2.22 (Ubuntu) Server at Port 80</address>\n";s:15:"SERVER_SOFTWARE";s:22:"Apache/2.2.22 (Ubuntu)";s:11:"SERVER_NAME";s:24:"";s:11:"SERVER_ADDR";s:14:"[this-is-removed]";s:11:"SERVER_PORT";s:2:"80";s:11:"REMOTE_ADDR";s:13:"";s:13:"DOCUMENT_ROOT";s:29:"/var/www/";s:12:"SERVER_ADMIN";s:19:"webmaster@localhost";s:15:"SCRIPT_FILENAME";s:40:"/var/www/";s:11:"REMOTE_PORT";s:5:"40225";s:17:"GATEWAY_INTERFACE";s:7:"CGI/1.1";s:15:"SERVER_PROTOCOL";s:8:"HTTP/1.0";s:14:"REQUEST_METHOD";s:4:"POST";s:12:"QUERY_STRING";s:0:"";s:11:"REQUEST_URI";s:11:"/xmlrpc.php";s:11:"SCRIPT_NAME";s:11:"/xmlrpc.php";s:8:"PHP_SELF";s:11:"/xmlrpc.php";s:12:"REQUEST_TIME";i:1409338974;}
[Fri Aug 29 19:02:54 2014] [error] [client] XML FILES: a:0:{}
[Fri Aug 29 19:02:54 2014] [error] [client] XML ENV: a:0:{}
[Fri Aug 29 19:02:54 2014] [error] [client] XML RAW: <?xmlversion="1.0"?><methodCall><methodName></methodName><params><param><value><string></string></value></param><param><value><string></string></value></param></params></methodCall>
[Fri Aug 29 19:02:54 2014] [error] [client] XML ALL_HEADERS: a:5:{s:4:"Host";s:24:"";s:12:"Content-type";s:8:"text/xml";s:14:"Content-length";s:3:"287";s:10:"User-agent";s:50:"Mozilla/4.0 (compatible: MSIE 7.0; Windows NT 6.0)";s:10:"Connection";s:5:"close";}

So nothing in $_POST, nothing in $_GET, nothing in $_REQUEST, nothing in $_SERVER, no files submitted, but a text/xml Posted (that was logged by storing: $HTTP_RAW_POST_DATA):


I show you in a nicer formatted aspect:blog-carlesmateo-com-xml-xmlrpc-requestSo basically they were trying to register a link to seretil dot me.

I tried and this page, hosted in CloudFare, is not working.


The problem is that responding to this spam xmlrpc request took around 16 seconds to the Server. And I was receiving several each second.

I granted access to my Ip only on the port 80 in the Firewall, restarted Apache, restarted MySql and submitted the same malicious request to the Server, and it even took 16 seconds in all my tests:

cat http_post.txt | nc 80

blog-carlesmateo-com-response-from-the-server-to-xmlrpc-attackI checked and confirmed that the logs from the attacker were showing the same Content-Length and http code.

Other guys tried xml request as well but did one time or two and leaved.

The problem was that this robot was, and still sending many requests per second for days.

May be the idea was to knock down my Server, but I doubted it as the address selected is the blog of one Social Event for Senior Internet Talents that I organize: It has not special interest, I do not see a political, hateful or other motivation to attack the blog from this project.

Ok, at this point it was clear that the Ip address was a robot, probably running from an infected or hacked Server, and was trying to publish a Spam link to a site (that was down). I had to clarify those strange queries in the logs.

I reviewed the WPUsersOnline plugin and I saw that the strange queries (and inefficient) that I saw belonged to WPUsersOnline plugin.


The thing was that when I renamed the xmlrpc.php the spamrobot was still posting to that file. According to WordPress .htaccess file any file that is not found on the filesystem is redirected to index.php.

So what was happening is that all the massive requests sent to xmlrpc.php were being attended by index.php, then showing an error message that page not found, but the WPUsersOnline plugin was deleting those connections. And was doing it many times, overloading also the Database.

Also I was able to reproduce the behaviour by myself, isolating by firewalling the WebServer from other Ips other than mine and doing the same post by myself many times per second.

I checked against a friend’s blog but in his Server xmlrpc.php responds in 1,5 seconds. My friend’s Server is a Digital Ocean Virtual Server with 2 cores and SSD Disks. My magnetic disks on Amazon only bring around 40 MB/second. I’ve to check in detail why my friend’s Server responds so much faster.

Checked the integrity of my databases, just in case, and were perfect. Nothing estrange with collations and the only errors in the /var/log/mysql/error.log was due to MySql crashing when the Server ran out of memory.

Rechecked in my Server, now it takes 12 seconds.

I disabled 80% of the plugins but the times were the same. The Statistics show how the things changed -see the spikes before I definitively patched the Server to block request from that Spam-robot ip, to the left-.

I checked against another WordPress that I have in the same Server and it only takes 1,5 seconds to reply. So I decided to continue investigating why this WordPress took so long to reply.


As I said before I checked that the files from my WordPress installation were the same as the original distribution, and they were. Having discarded different files the thing had to be in the database.

Even when I checked the MySql it told me that all the tables were OK, having seen that the WPUserOnline deletes all the registers older than 5 minutes, I guessed that this could lead to fragmentation, so I decided to do OPTIMIZE TABLE on all the tables of the database for the WordPress failing, with InnoDb it is basically recreating the Tables and the Indexes.

I tried then the call via RPC and my Server replied in three seconds. Much better.

Looking with htop, when I call the xmlrpc.php the CPU uses between 50% and 100%.

I checked the logs and the robot was gone. He leaved or the provider finally blocked the Server. I don’t know.

Everything became clear, it was nothing more than a sort of coincidences together. Deactivating the plugin the DELETE queries disappeared, even under heavy load of the Server.

It only was remain to clarify why when I send a call to xmlrpc to this blog, it replies in 1,5 seconds, and when I request to the it takes 3 seconds.

I activated the log of queries in mysql. To do that edit /etc/mysql/my.cnf and uncomment:

general_log_file        = /var/log/mysql/mysql.log
general_log             = 1

Then I checked the queries, and in the case of my blog it performs many less queries, as I was requesting to pingback to an url that was not existing, and WordPress does this query:

SELECT   wp_posts.* FROM wp_posts  WHERE 1=1  AND ( ( YEAR( post_date ) = 2013 AND MONTH( post_date ) = 9 AND DAYOFMONTH( post_date ) = 27 ) ) AND wp_posts.post_name = 'afterstart-barcelona-2013-09-26-meet' AND wp_posts.post_type = 'post'  ORDER BY wp_posts.post_date DESC

As the url afterstart-barcelona-2013-09-26-meet with the dates indicated does not exist in my other blog, the execution ends there and does not perform the rest of the queries, that in the case of Afterstart blog were:

40 Query     SELECT post_id, meta_key, meta_value FROM wp_postmeta WHERE post_id IN (81) ORDER BY meta_id ASC
40 Query     SELECT ID, post_name, post_parent, post_type
FROM wp_posts
WHERE post_name IN ('http%3a','','seretil-me')
AND post_type IN ('page','attachment')
40 Query     SELECT   wp_posts.* FROM wp_posts  WHERE 1=1  AND (wp_posts.ID = '0') AND wp_posts.post_type = 'page'  ORDER BY wp_posts.post_date DESC
40 Query     SELECT * FROM wp_comments WHERE comment_post_ID = 81 AND comment_author_url = ''

To confirm my theory I tried the request to my blog, with a valid url, and it lasted for 3-4 seconds, the same than Afterstart’s blog. Finally I double-checked with the blog of my friend and was slower than before. I got between 1,5 and 6 seconds, with a lot of 2 seconds response. (he has PHP 5.5 and OpCache that improves a bit, but the problem is in the queries to the database)

Honestly, the guys creating WordPress should cache this queries instead of performing 20 live queries, that are always the same, before returning the error message. Using Cache Lite or Stash, or creating an InMemory table for using as Cache, or of course allowing the use of Memcached would eradicate the DoS component of this kind of attacks. As the xmlrpc pingback feature hits the database with a lot of queries to end not allowing the publishing.

While I was finishing those tests (remember that the attacker ip has gone) another attacker from the same network tried, but I had patched the Server to ignore it: - - [31/Aug/2014:02:06:16 +0000] "POST /xmlrpc.php HTTP/1.0" 200 189 "-" "Mozilla/4.0 (compatible: MSIE 7.0; Windows NT 6.0)"

This was trying to get a link published to a domain called socksland dot net that is a domain registered in Russia and which page is not working.

As I had all the information I wanted I finally blocked the network from the provider to access my Server ever again.

Unfortunatelly Amazon’s Firewall does not allow to block a certain Ip or range.
So you can block at Iptables level or in .htaccess file or in the code.
I do not recommend blocking at code level because sadly WordPress has many files accessible from outside so you would have to add your code at the beginning of all the files and because when there is a WordPress version update you’ll loss all your customizations.
But I recommend proceeding to patch your code to avoid certain Ip’s if you use a CDN. As the POST will be sent directly to your Server, and the Ip’s are Ip’s from the CDN -and you can’t block them-. You have to look at the Header: X-Forwarded-For that indicates the Ip’s the proxies have passed by, and also the Client’s Ip.

I designed a program that is able to patch any PHP project to check for blacklisted Ip’s (even though a proxy) with minimal performance impact. It works with WordPress, drupal, joomla, ezpublish and Framework like Zend, Symfony, Catalonia… and I patched my code to block those unwanted robot’s requests.

A solution that will work for you probably is to disable the pingback functionality, there are several plugins that do that. Disabling completely xmlrpc is not recommended as WordPress uses it for several things (JetPack, mobile, validation…)

The same effect as adding the plugin that disables the xmlrpc pingback can be achieved by editing the functions.php from your Theme and adding:

add_filter( 'xmlrpc_methods', 'remove_xmlrpc_pingback_ping' );
function remove_xmlrpc_pingback_ping( $methods ) {
    unset( $methods[''] );
    return $methods;

Update: 2016-02-24 14:40 CEST
I got also a heavy dictionary attack against wp-login.php .Despite having a Captcha plugin, that makes it hard to hack, it was generating some load on the system.
What I did was to rename the wp-login.php to another name, like wp-login-carles.php and in wp-login.php having a simply exit();


Improving performance in PHP

This year I was invited to speak at the PHP Conference at Berlin 2014.

It was really nice, but I had to decline as I was working hard in a Start up, and I hadn’t the required time in order to prepare the nice conference I wanted and that people deserves.

However, having time, I decided to write an article about what I would had speak at the conference.

I will cover improving performance in a single server, and Scaling out multi-Server architecture, focusing on the needs of growing and Start up projects. Many of those techniques can be used to improve performance with other languages, not just with PHP.

Many of my friends are very good Developing, but know nothing about Architecture and Scaling. Hope this approach the two worlds, Development ad Operatings, into a DevOps bridge.

Improving performance on a single server


Choose a good hosting. And if you can afford it choose a dedicated server.

Shared hostings are really bad. Some of them kill your http and mysql instances if you reach certain CPU use (really few), while others share the same hardware between 100+ users serving your pages sloooooow. Others cap the amount of queries that your MySql will handle per hour at so ridiculous few amount that even Drupal or WordPress are unable to complete a request in development.

Other ISP (Internet Service Providers) have poor Internet bandwidth, and so you web will load slow to users.

Some companies invest hundreds of thousands in developing a web, and then spend 20 € a year in the hosting. Less than the cost of a dinner.

You can use a decent dedicated server from 50 to 99 €/month and you will celebrate this decision every day.

Take in count that virtualization wastes between 20% and 30% of the CPU power. And if there are several virtual machines the loss will be more because you loss the benefits of the CPU caching for optimizing parallel instructions execution and prediction. Also if the hypervisor host allows to allocate more RAM than physically available and at some point it swaps, the performance of all the VM’s will be much worst.

If you have a VM and it swaps, in most providers the swap goes over the network so there is an additional bottleneck and performance penalty.

To compare the performance of dedicated servers and instances from different Cloud Providers you can take a look at my project

Improve your Server

If your Sever has few RAM, add more. And if your project is running slow and you can afford a better Server, do it.

Using SSD disk will incredibly improve the performance on I/O operations and on swap operations. (but please, do backups and keep them in another place)

If you use a CMS like ezpublish with http_cache enabled probably you will prefer to have a Server with faster cores, rather tan a Server with one or more CPU’s plenty of cores, but slower cores, and that last for a longer time to render the page to the http cache.

That may seem obvious but often companies invest 320 hours in optimizing the code 2%, at a cost of let’s say 50 €/h * 320 hours = 16.000 €, while hiring a better Server would had bring between a 20% to 1000% improvement at a cost of additional 50€/month only or at the cost of 100 € of increasing the RAM memory.

The point here is that the hardware is cheap, while the time of the Engineers is expensive. And good Engineers are really hard to find.

And you probably, as a CEO or PO, prefer to use the talent to warranty a nice time to market for your project, or adding more features, rather than wasting this time in refactorizing.

Even with the most optimal code in the universe, if your project is successful at certain point you’ll have to scale. So adding more Servers. To save a Server now at the cost of slowing the business has not any sense.

Upgrade you PHP version

Many projects still use PHP 5.3, and 5.4.

Latest versions of PHP bring more and more performance. If you use old versions of PHP you can have a Quick Win by just upgrading to the last PHP version.

Use OpCache (or other cache accelerator)

OpCache is shipped with PHP 5.5 by default now, so it is the recommended option. It is though to substitute APC.

To activate OpCache edit php.ini and add:





opcache-screenshotsIt will greatly improve your PHP performance.

Ensure that OpCache in Production has the optimal config for Production, that will be different from Development Environment.

Note: If you plan to use it with XDebug in Development environments, load OpCache before XDebug.

Disable Profiling and xdebug in Production

In Production disable the profiling, xdebug, and if you use a Framework ensure the Development/Debug features are disabled in Production.

Ensure your logs are not full of warnings

Check that Production logs are not full of warnings.

I’ve seen systems were every seconds 200 warnings were written to logs, the same all the time, and that obviously was slowing down the system.

Typical warnings like this can be easily fixed:

Message: date() []: It is not safe to rely on the system’s timezone settings. You are required to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected ‘UTC’ for ‘8.0/no DST’ instead

Profile in Development

To detect where your slow code is, profile it in Development to see where it is spent the most CPU/time.

Check the slow-queries if you use MySql.

Cache html to disk

Imagine you have a sort of craigslist and you are displaying all the categories, and the number of new messages in this landing page. To do that you are performing many queries to the database, SELECT COUNTs, etc… every time a user visits your page. That certainly will overload your database with actually few concurrent visitors.

Instead of querying the Database all the time, do cache the generated page for a while.

This can be achieved by checking if the cache html file exists, and checking the TTL, and generating a new page if needed.

A simple sample would be:

    // Cache pages for 5 minutes
    $i_cache_TTL = 300;

    $b_generate_cache = false;

    $s_cache_file = '/tmp/index.cache.html';

    if (file_exists($s_cache_file)) {
        // Get creation date
        $i_file_timestamp = filemtime($s_cache_file);
        $i_time_now = microtime(true);
        if ($i_time_now > ($i_file_timestamp + $i_cache_TTL)) {
            $b_generate_cache = true;
        } else {
            // Up to date, get from the disk
            $o_fh = fopen($s_cache_file, "rb");
            $s_html = stream_get_contents($o_fh);
            // If the file was empty something went wrong (disk full?), so don't use it
            if (strlen($s_html) == 0) {
                $b_generate_cache = true;
            } else {
                // Print the page and exit
                echo $s_html;
    } else {
        $b_generate_cache = true;


    // Render your page normally here
    // ....

    $s_html = ob_get_clean();

    if ($b_generate_cache == true) {
        // Create the file with fresh contents
        $o_fp = fopen($s_cache_file, 'w');
        if (fwrite($o_fp, $s_html) === false) {
            // Error. Impossible to write to disk
            // throw new Exception('CacheCantWrite');

    // Send the page to the browser
    echo $s_html;

This sample is simple, and works for many cases, but presents problems.

Imagine for example that the page takes 5 seconds to be generated with a single request, and you have high traffic in that page, let’s say 500 requests per second.

What will happen when the cache expires is that the first user will trigger the cache generation, and the second, and the third…. so all of the 500 requests * 5 seconds will be hitting the database to generate the cache, but… if creating the page per one requests takes 5 seconds, doing this 2,500 times will not last 5 seconds… so your process will enter in a vicious state where the first queries have not ended after minutes, and more and more queries are being added to the queue until:

a) Apache runs out of childs/processes, per configuration

b) Mysql runs out of connections, per configuration

c) Linux runs out of memory, and processes crashes/are killed

Not to mention the users or the API client, waiting infinitely for the http request to complete, and other processes reading a partial file (size bigger than 0 but incomplete).

Different strategies can be used to prevent that, like:

a) using semaphores to lock access to the cache generation (only one process at time)

b) using a .lock file to indicate that the file is being generated, and so next requests serving from the cache until the cache generation process ends the task, also writing to a buffer like acachefile.buffer (to prevent incomplete content being read) and finally when is complete renaming to the final name and removing the .lock

c) using memcached, or similar, to keep an index in memory of what pages are being generated now, and why not, keeping the cached files there instead of a filesystem

d) using crons to generate the cache files, so they run hourly and you ensure only one process generates the cache files

If you use crons, a cheap way to generate the .html content is that the crons curls/wget your webpage. I don’t recommend this as has some problems, like if that web request fails for any reason, you’ll have cached an error instead of content.

I prefer preparing my projects to being able of rendering the content being invoked from HTTP/S or from command line. But if you use curl because is cheap and easy and time to market is important for your project, then be sure that you check that your backend code writes an Status OK in the HTML that the cron can check to ensure that the content has been properly generated. (some crons only check for http status, like 200, but if your database or a xml gateway you use fails you will likely get a 200 and won’t detect that you’re caching pages with “error I can’t connect to the database” instead)

Many Frameworks have their own cache implementation that prevent corruption that could come by several processes writing to the same file at the same time, or from PHP dying in the middle of the render.

You can see a more complex MVC implementation, with Views, from my Framework Catalonia here:

blog-carlesmateo-com-capture-code-cataloniaframeworkBy serving .html files instead of executing PHP with logic and performing queries to the database you will be able to serve hundreds of thousands requests per day with a single machine and really fast -that’s important for SEO also-.

I’ve done this in several Start ups with wonderful results, and my Framework Catalonia also incorporates this functionality very easily to use.

Note: This is only one of the techniques to save the load of the Database Servers. Many more come later.

Cache languages to disk

If you have an application that is multi-language, or if your point for the Strings (sections, pages, campaigns..) to be edited by Marketing is the Database, there is no need to query it all the time.

Simply provide a tool to “generate language files”.

Your languages files can be Javascript files loaded by the page, or can be PHP files generated.

For example, the file common_footer_en.php could be generated reading from Database and be like that:

/* Autogenerated English translations file common_footer_en.php
   on 2014-08-10 02:22 from the database */
$st_translations['seconds']                = 'seconds';
$st_translations['Time']                   = 'Time';
$st_translations['Vars used']              = 'Vars used in these templates';
$st_translations['Total Var replacements'] = 'Total replaced';
$st_translations['Exec time']              = 'Execution time';
$st_translations['Cached controller']      = 'Cached controller';

So the PHP file is going to be generated when someone at your organization updates the languages, and your code is including it normally like with any other PHP file.

Use the Crons

You can set cron jobs to do many operations, like map reduce, counting in the database or effectively deleting the data that the user selected to delete.

Imagine that you have classified portal, and you want to display the number of announces for that category. You can have a table NUM_ANNOUNCES to store the number of announces, and update it hourly. Then your database will only do the counting once per hour, and your application will be reading the number from the table NUM_ANNOUNCES.

The Cron can also be used to make expire old announces. That way you can avoid a user having to wait for that clean up taking process when you have a http request to PHP.

A cron file can be invoked by:

php -f cron.php



If you give permissions of execution with chmod +x and set the first line in cron.php as:

#!/usr/bin/env php

Or you can do a trick, that is emulate a http request from bash, by invoking a url with curl or with wget. Set the .htaccess so the folder for the cron tasks can only be executed from localhost for adding security.

This last trick has the inconvenient that the calling has the same problems as any http requests: restarting Apache will kill the process, the connection can be closed by timed out (e.g. if process is taking more seconds than the max. execution time, etc…)

Use Ramdisk for PHP files

With Linux is very easy to setup a RamDisk.

You can setup a RamDisk and rsync all your web .PHP files at system boot time, and when deploying changes, and config Apache to use the Ramdisk folder for the website.

That way for every request to the web, PHP files will be served from RAM directly, saving the slow disk access. Even with OpCache active, is a great improvement.

At these times were one Gigabyte of memory is really cheap there is a huge difference from reading files from disk, and getting them from memory. (Reading and writing to RAM memory is many many many times faster than magnetic disks, and many times faster than SSD disks)

Also .js, .css, images… can be served from a Ram disk folder, depending on how big your web is.

Ramdisk for /tmp

If your project does operations on disk, like resizing images, compressing files, reading/writing large CSV files, etcetera you can greatly improve the performance by setting the /tmp folder to a Ramdisk.

If your PHP project receives file uploads they will also benefit (a bit) from storing the temporal files to RAM instead to the disk.

Use Cache Lite

Cache Lite is a Pear extension that allows you to keep data in a local cache of the Web Server.

You can cache .html pages, or you can cache Queries and their result.

Example from

require_once "Cache/Lite.php";

$options = array(
    'cacheDir' => '/tmp/',
    'lifeTime' => 7200,
    'pearErrorMode' => CACHE_LITE_ERROR_DIE
$cache = new Cache_Lite($options);

if ($data = $cache->get('id_of_the_page')) {

    // Cache hit !
    // Content is in $data
    echo $data;

} else { 
    // No valid cache found (you have to make and save the page)
    $data = '<html><head><title>test</title></head><body><p>this is a test</p></body></html>';
    echo $data;

It is nice that Cache Lite handles the TTL and keeps the info stored in different sub-directories in order to keep a decent performance. (As you may know many files in the same directory slows the access much).

Use HHVM (HipHop Virtual Machine) from Facebook

Facebook Engineers are always trying to optimize what is run on the Servers.

Faster code means, less machines. Even 1% of CPU use improvement means a lot of Servers less. Less Servers to maintain, less money wasted, less space on the Data Centers…

So they created the HHVM HipHop Virtual Machine that is able to run PHP code, much much faster than PHP. And is compatible with most of the Frameworks and Open Source projects.

They also created the Hack language that is an improved PHP, with type hinting.

So you can use HHVM to make your code run faster with the same Server and without investing a single penny.

Use C extensions

You can create and use your own C extensions.

C extensions will bring really fast execution. Just to get the idea:
I built a PHP extension to compare the performance from calculating the Bernoulli number with PHP and with the .so extension created in C.
In my Core i7 times were:
Computed in 13.872583150864 s
PHP calling the C compiled extension:
Computed in 0.038495063781738 s

That’s 360.37 times faster using the C extension. Not bad.

Use Zephir

Zephir is a an Open Source language, very similar to PHP,  that allows to create and maintain easily extensions for PHP.

Use Phalcon

Phalcon is a Web MVC Framework implemented as C extension, so it offers a high performance.


The views syntax are very very similar to Twig.

Tutorial – Creating a Poll application in 15 minutes with Phalcon from Phalcon Framework on Vimeo.


Check if you’re using the correct Engine for MySql

Many Developers create the tables and never worry about that. And many are using MyIsam by default. It was the by default Engine prior to MySql 5.5.

While MyIsam can bring good performance in some certain cases, my recommendation is to use InnoDb.

Normally you’ll have a gain in performance with MyIsam if you’ve a table were you only write or only read, but in all the other cases InnoDb is expected to be much more performant and safe.

MyIsam tables also get corruption from time to time and need manually fixing and writing to disks are not so reliable than InnoDb.

As MyIsam uses table-locking for updates and deletes to any existing row, it is easy to see that if you’re in a web environment with multiple users, blocking the table -so the other operations have to wait- will make things be slow.

If you have to use Joins clearly you will benefit from using InnoDb also.

Use InMemory Engine from MySql

MySql has a very powerful Engine called InMemory.

The InMemory Engine will store things in RAM and loss the data when MySql is restarted.

However is very fast and very easy to use.

Imagine that you have a travel application that constantly looks at which country belongs the city specified by user. A Quickwin would be to INSERT all this data in the InMemory Engine of MySql when it is started, and do just one change in your code: to use that Table.

Really easy. Quick improvement.

Use curl asynchronously

If your PHP has to communicate with other systems using curl, you can do the http/s call, and instead of waiting for a response let your PHP do more things in the meantime, and then check the results.

You can also call to multiple curl calls in parallel, and so avoid doing one by one in serial.

Here you have a sample.


Guess that you have a query that returns 1000 results. Then you add one by one to an array.

Probably you’re going to have substantial gain if you keep in the database a single row, with the array serialized.

So an array like:

$st_places = Array(‘Barcelona’, ‘Dublin’, ‘Edinburgh’, ‘San Francisco’, ‘London’, ‘Berlin’, ‘Andorra la Vella’, ‘Prats de Lluçanès’);

Would be serialized to an string like:

a:8:{i:0;s:9:”Barcelona”;i:1;s:6:”Dublin”;i:2;s:9:”Edinburgh”;i:3;s:13:”San Francisco”;i:4;s:6:”London”;i:5;s:6:”Berlin”;i:6;s:16:”Andorra la Vella”;i:7;s:19:”Prats de Lluçanès”;}

This can be easily stored as String and unserialized later back to an array.

blog-carlesmateo-com-array_serializeNote: In Internet we have a lot of encodings, Hebrew, Japanese… languages. Be careful with encodings when serializing, using JSon, XML, storing in databases without UTF support, etc…

Use Memcached to store common things

Memcached is a NoSql database in memory that can run in cluster.

The idea is to keep things there, in order to offload the load of the database. And as everything is in RAM it really runs fast.

You can use Memcached to cache Queries and their results also.

For example:

You have query SELECT * FROM translations WHERE section=’MAIN’.

Then you look if that String exists as key in the Memcached, and if it exists you fetch the results (that are serialized) and you avoid the query. If it doesn’t exist, you do normally the query to the database, serialize the array and store it in the Memcached with a TTL (Time to Live) using the Query (String) as primary key. For security you may prefer to hash the query with MD5 or SHA-1 and use the hash as key instead of using it plain.

When the TTL is reached the validity of the data would have expired and so it’s time to reinsert the contents in the next query.

Be careful, I’ve seen projects that were caching private data from users without isolating the key properly, so other users were getting the info from other users.

For example, if the key used was ‘Name’ and the value ‘Carles Mateo’ obviously the next user that fetch the key ‘Name’ would get my name and not theirs.

If you store private data of users in Memcache, it is a nice idea to append the owner of that info to the hash. E.g. using key: 10701577-FFADCEDBCCDFFFA10C

Where ‘10701577’ would be the user_id of the owner of the info, and ‘FFADCEDBCCDFFFA10C’ a hash of the query.

Before I suggested that you can keep a table of counting for the announces in a classified portal. This number can be stored in the Memcached instead.

You can store also common things, like translations, or cities like in the example before, rate of change for a currency exchanging website…

The most common way to store things there is serialized or Json encoded.

Be aware of the memory limits of Memcached and contrl the cache hitting ratio to avoid inserting data, and losing it constantly because is used few and Memcached has few memory.

You can also use Redis.

Use jQuery for Production (small file) and minimized files for js

Use the Production jQuery library in Production, I mean do not use the bigger file Development jQuery library for Production.

There are product that eliminate all the necessary spaces in .js and .css files, and so are served much faster. These process is called minify.

It is important to know that in many emerging markets in the world, like Brazil, they have slow DSL lines. Many 512 Kbit/secons, and even modem connections!.

Activate compression in the Server

If you send large text files, or Jsons, you’ll benefit from activating the compression at the Server.

It consumes some CPU, but many times it brings an important improvement in speed serving the pages to the users.

Use a CDN

You can use a Content Delivery Network to offload your Servers from sending plain texts, html, images, videos, js, css…

You can delegate this to the CDN, they have very speedy Internet lines and Servers, so your Servers can concentrate into doing only BackEnd operations.

The most well known are Akamai and Amazon Cloud Front.

Please take attention to the documentation, a common mistake is to send Cache Headers to the CDN servers, while they’ll use this headers to set the cache TTL and ignore their web configuration parameters. (For example s-maxage, like: Cache-Control: public, s-maxage=600)

This sample header:

HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Server: nginx
Date: Wed, 20 Aug 2014 10:50:21 GMT
Content-Type: text/html; charset=UTF-8
Connection: close
Vary: Accept-Encoding
Cache-Control: max-age=0, public, s-maxage=10800
Vary: X-User-Hash,Accept-Encoding
X-Location-Id: 2
X-Content-Digest: ezlocation/2/end5139244ced4b25606ef0a39235982b1662d01cc
Content-Length: 68250
Age: 3

You can take a look at any website by telneting to the port 80 and doing the request manually or easily by using lynx:

lynx -mime_header | less

Do you need a Framework?

If you’re processing only BackEnd petitions, like in the video games industry, serving API’s, RESTful, etc… you probably don’t need a Framework.

The Frameworks are generic and use much more resources than you’re really need for a fast reply.

Many times using a heavy Framework has a cost of factor times, compared to use simply PHP.

Save database connections until really needed

Many Frameworks create a connection to the Database Server by default. But certain parts of your code application do not require to connect to the database.

For example, validating the data from a form. If there are missing fields, the PHP will not operate with the Database, just return an error via JSon or refreshing the page, informing that the required field is missing.

If a not logged user is requesting the dashboard page, there is no need to open a connection to the database (unless you want to write the access try to an error log in the database).

In fact opening connections by default makes easier for attackers to do DoS attacks.

With a Singleton pattern you can easily implement a Db class that handles this transparently for you.

Scaling out / Multi Server Environment

Memcached session

When you have several Web Servers you’ll need something more flexible than the default PHP handler (that stores to a file in the Web Server).

The most common is to store the Session, serialized, in a Memcached Cluster.

Use Cassandra

Apache Cassandra is a NoSql database that allows to Scale out very easily.

The main advantage is that scales linearly. If you have 4 nodes and add 4 more, your performance will be doubled. It has no single point of failure, is also resilient to node failures, it replicates the data among the nodes, splits the load over the nodes automatically and support distributed datacenter architectures.

To know more abiut NoSql and Cassandra, read my article: Upgrade your scalability with NoSql. And to start developing with Cassandra in PHP, python or Java read my contributed article: Begin developing with Cassandra.

Use MySql primary and secondaries

A easy way to split the load is to have a MySql primary Server, that handles the writes, and MySql secondary (or Slave) Servers handling the reads.

Every write sent to the Master is replicated into the Slaves. Then your application reads from the slaves.

You have to tell your code to do the writes to database to the primary Server, and the reads to the secondaries. You can have a Load Balancer so your code always ask the Load Balancer for the reads and it makes the connection to the less used server.

Do Database sharding

To shard the data consist into splitting the data according to a criteria.

For example, imagine we have 8 MySql Servers, named mysql0 to mysql7. If we want to insert or read data for user 1714, then the Server will be chosen from dividing the user_id, so 1714, between the number of Servers, and getting the MOD.


So 1714 % 8 gives 2. This means that the MySql Server to use is the mysql2.

For the user_id 16: 16 & 8 gives 0, so we would use mysql0. And so.

You can shard according to the email, or other fields as well. And you can have the same master and secondaries for the shards also.

When doing sharding in MySql you cannot do joins to data in other Servers. (but you can replicate all the data from the several shards in one big server in house, in your offices, and so query it and join if you need that for marketing purposes).

I always use my own sharding, but there is a very nice product from CodeFutures called dbshards. It handles the traffics transparently. I used it when in a video games Start up with very satisfying result.

Use Cassandra assync queries

Cassandra support asynchronous queries. That means you can send the query to the Server, and instead of waiting, do other jobs. And check for the result later, when is finished.

Consider using Hadoop + HBASE

A Cluster alternative to Cassandra.

Use a Load Balancer

You can put a Load Balancer or a Reverse Proxy in front of your Web Servers. The Load Balancer knows the state of the Web Servers, so it will remove a Web Server from the Array if it stops responding and everything will continue being served to the users transparently.

There are many ways to do Load Balancing: Round Robin, based on the load on the Web Servers, on the number of connections to each Web Server, by cookie…

To use a Cookie based Load Balancer is a very easy way to split the load for WordPress and Drupal Servers.

Imagine you have 10 Web Servers. In the .htaccess they set a rule to set a Cookie like:


That was in the case of the first Web Server.

Second Server would have in the .htaccess to set a Cookie like:



When for first time an user connects to the Load Balancer it sends the user to one of the 10 Web Servers. Then the Web Server sends its cookie to the browser of the Client. E.g. WEB07

After that, in the next requests from the client it will be redirected to the server by the Load Balancer to the Server that set the Cookie, so in this example WEB07.

The nice thing of this way of splitting the traffic is that you don’t have to change your code, nor handling the Sessions different.

If you use two Load Balancers you can have a heartbeat process in them and a Virtual Ip, and so in case your main Load Balancer become irresponsible the Virtual Ip will be mapping to the second Load Balancer in milliseconds. That provides HA.

Use http accelerators

Nginx, varnish, squid… to serve static content and offload the PHP Web Servers.

Auto-Scale in the Cloud

If you use the Cloud you can easily set Auto-Scaling for different parts of your core.

A quick win is to Scale the Web Servers.

As in the Cloud you pay per hour using a computer, you will benefit from cost reduction in you stop using the servers when you don’t need them, and you add more Servers when more users are coming to your sites.

Video game companies are a good example of hours of plenty use and valleys with few users, although as users come from all the planet it is most and most diluted.

Some cool tools to Auto-Scaling are: ECManaged, RightScale, Amazon CloudWatch.

Use Google Cloud

Actually the Performance of the Google Cloud to Scale without any precedent is great.

Opposite to other Clouds that are based on instances, Google Cloud offers the platform, that will spawn your code across so many servers as needed, transparently to you. It’s a black box.

Schedule operations with RabbitMQ

Or other Queue Manager.

The idea is to send the jobs to the Queue Manager, the PHP will continue working, and the jobs will be performed asynchronously and notify the end.

RabbitMQ is cool also because it can work in cluster and HA.

Use GlusterFs for NAS

GlusterFs (and other products) allow you to have a Distributed File System, that splits the load and the data across the Servers, and resist node failures.

If you have to have a shared folder for the user’s uploads, for example for the profile pictures, to have the PHP and general files locally in the Servers and the Shared folder in a GlusterFs is a nice option.

Avoid NFS for PHP files and config files

As told before try to have the PHP files in a RAM disk, or in the local disk (Linux caches well and also OpCache), and try to not write code that reads files from disk for determining config setup.

I remember a Start up incubator that had a very nice Server, but the PHP files were read from a mounted NFS folder.

That meant that on every request, the Server had to go over the network to fetch the files.

Sadly for the project’s performance the PHP was reading a file called ENVIRONMENT that contained “PROD” or “DEVEL”. And this was done in every single request.

Even worst, I discovered that the switch connecting the Web Server and the NFS Server was a cheap 10 Mbit one. So all the traffic was going at 10 Mbit/s. Nice bottleneck.

Improve your network architecture

You can use 10 GbE (10 Gigabit Ethernet) to connect the Servers. The Web Servers to the Databases, Memcached Cluster, Load Balancers, Storage, etc…

You will need 10 GbE cards and 10 GbE switchs supporting bonding.

Use bonding to aggregate 10 + 10 so having 20 Gigabit.

You can also use Fibre Channel, for example 10 Gb and aggregate them, like  10 + 10 so 20 Gbit for the connection between the Servers and the Storage.

The performance improvements that your infrastructure will experiment are amazing.

Begin developing with Cassandra

This article is contributed to Luna Cloud blog by Carles Mateo.

We architects, developers and start ups are facing new challenges.

We have now to create applications that have to scale and scale at world-wide level.

That puts over the table big and exciting challenges.

To allow that increasing level of scaling, we designed and architect tools and techniques and tricks, but fortunately now there are great products born to scale out and to deal with this problems: like NoSql databases like Cassandra, MongoDb, Riak, Hadoop’s Hbase, Couchbase or CouchDb, NoSql in-Memory like Memcached or Redis, big data solutions like Hadoop, distributed files systems like Hadoop’s HDFS, GlusterFs, Lustre, etc…

In this article I will cover the first steps to develop with Cassandra, under the Developer point of view.

As a first view you may be interested in Cassandra because:

  • Is a Database with no single point of failure
  • Where all the Database Servers work in Peer to Peer over Tcp/Ip
  • Fault-tolerance. You can set replication factor, and the data will be sharded and replicated over different servers and so being resilient to node failures
  • Because the Cassandra Cluster splits and balances the work across the Cluster automatically
  • Because you can scale by just adding more nodes to the Cluster, that’s scaling horizontally, and it’s linear. If you double the number of servers, you double the performance
  • Because you can have cool configurations like multi-datacenter and multi-rack and have the replication done automatically
  • You can have several small, cheap, commodity servers, with big SATA disks with better result than one very big, very expensive, and unable-to-scale-more server with SSD or SAS expensive disks.
  • It has the CQL language -Cassandra Query Language-, that is close to SQL
  • Ability to send querys in async mode (the CPU can do other things while waiting for the query to return the results)

Cassandra is based in key/value philosophy but with columns. It supports multiple columns. That’s cool, as theoretically it supports 2 GB per column (at practical level is not recommended to go with data so big, specially in multi-user environments).

I will not lie to you: It is another paradigm, and comes with a lot of knowledge to acquire, but it is necessary and a price worth to pay for being able of scaling at nowadays required levels.

Cassandra only offers native drivers for: Java, .NET, C++ and Python 2.7. The rest of solutions are contributed, sadly most of them are outdated and unmantained.

You can find all the drivers here:

To develop with PHP

Cassandra has no PHP driver officially, but has some contributed solutions.

By myself I created several solutions: CQLSÍ uses cqlsh to perform queries and interfaces without needing Thrift, and Cassandra Universal Driver is a Web Gateway that I wrote in Python that allows you to query Cassandra from any language, and recently I contributed to a PHP driver that speaks the Cassandra binary protocol (v1) directly using Tcp/Ip sockets.

That’s the best solution for me by now, as it is the fastest and it doesn’t need any third party library nor Thrift neither.

You can git clone it from:

Here we go with some samples:

Create a keyspace

KeySpace is the equivalent to a database in MySQL.


require_once 'Cassandra/Cassandra.php';

$o_cassandra = new Cassandra();

$s_server_host     = '';    // Localhost
$i_server_port     = 9042; 
$s_server_username = '';  // We don't use username
$s_server_password = '';  // We don't use password
$s_server_keyspace = '';  // We don't have created it yet

$o_cassandra->connect($s_server_host, $s_server_username, $s_server_password, $s_server_keyspace, $i_server_port);

// Create a Keyspace with Replication factor 1, that's for a single server
$s_cql = "CREATE KEYSPACE cassandra_tests WITH REPLICATION = { 'class': 'SimpleStrategy', 'replication_factor': 1 };";

$st_results = $o_cassandra->query($s_cql);

We can run it from web or from command line by using:

php -f cassandra_create.php

Create a table


require_once 'Cassandra/Cassandra.php';

$o_cassandra = new Cassandra();

$s_server_host     = '';    // Localhost
$i_server_port     = 9042; 
$s_server_username = '';  // We don't use username
$s_server_password = '';  // We don't use password
$s_server_keyspace = 'cassandra_tests';

$o_cassandra->connect($s_server_host, $s_server_username, $s_server_password, $s_server_keyspace, $i_server_port);

$s_cql = "CREATE TABLE carles_test_table (s_thekey text, s_column1 text, s_column2 text,PRIMARY KEY (s_thekey));";

$st_results = $o_cassandra->query($s_cql);

If we don’t plan to insert UTF-8 strings, we can use VARCHAR instead of TEXT type.

Do an insert

In this sample we create an Array of 100 elements, we serialize it, and then we store it.


require_once 'Cassandra/Cassandra.php';

// Note this code uses the MT notation
$i_start_time = microtime(true);

$o_cassandra = new Cassandra();

$s_server_host     = '';    // Localhost
$i_server_port     = 9042; 
$s_server_username = '';  // We don't have username
$s_server_password = '';  // We don't have password
$s_server_keyspace = 'cassandra_tests';  

$o_cassandra->connect($s_server_host, $s_server_username, $s_server_password, $s_server_keyspace, $i_server_port);

$s_time = strval(time()).strval(rand(0,9999));
$s_date_time = date('Y-m-d H:i:s');

// An array to hold a emails
$st_data_emails = Array();

for ($i_bucle=0; $i_bucle<100; $i_bucle++) {
    // Add a new email
    $st_data_emails[] = Array('datetime'  => $s_date_time,
                              'id_email'  => $s_time);


// Serialize the Array
$s_data_emails = serialize($st_data_emails);

$s_cql = "INSERT INTO carles_test_table (s_thekey, s_column1, s_column2)
VALUES ('first_sample', '$s_data_emails', 'Some other data');";

$st_results = $o_cassandra->query($s_cql);



$i_finish_time = microtime(true);
$i_execution_time = $i_finish_time-$i_start_time;

echo 'Execution time: '.$i_execution_time."\n";
echo "\n";

This insert took Execution time: 0.0091850757598877 seconds executed from CLI (Command line).

If the INSERT works well you’ll have a [result] => ‘success’ in the resulting array.


Do some inserts

Here we do 9000 inserts.


require_once 'Cassandra/Cassandra.php';

// Note this code uses the MT notation
$i_start_time = microtime(true);

$o_cassandra = new Cassandra();

$s_server_host     = '';    // Localhost
$i_server_port     = 9042; 
$s_server_username = '';  // We don't have username
$s_server_password = '';  // We don't have password
$s_server_keyspace = 'cassandra_tests';  

$o_cassandra->connect($s_server_host, $s_server_username, $s_server_password, $s_server_keyspace, $i_server_port);

$s_date_time = date('Y-m-d H:i:s');

for ($i_bucle=0; $i_bucle<9000; $i_bucle++) {
    // Add a sample text, let's use time for example
    $s_time = strval(time());

    $s_cql = "INSERT INTO carles_test_table (s_thekey, s_column1, s_column2)
VALUES ('$i_bucle', '$s_time', '');";

    // Launch the query
    $st_results = $o_cassandra->query($s_cql);



$i_finish_time = microtime(true);
$i_execution_time = $i_finish_time-$i_start_time;

echo 'Execution time: '.$i_execution_time."\n";
echo "\n";

Those 9,000 INSERTs takes 6.49 seconds in my test virtual machine, executed from CLI (Command line).


Do a Select


require_once 'Cassandra/Cassandra.php';

// Note this code uses the MT notation
$i_start_time = microtime(true);

$o_cassandra = new Cassandra();

$s_server_host     = '';    // Localhost
$i_server_port     = 9042; 
$s_server_username = '';  // We don't have username
$s_server_password = '';  // We don't have password
$s_server_keyspace = 'cassandra_tests';  

$o_cassandra->connect($s_server_host, $s_server_username, $s_server_password, $s_server_keyspace, $i_server_port);

$s_cql = "SELECT * FROM carles_test_table LIMIT 10;";

// Launch the query
$st_results = $o_cassandra->query($s_cql);
echo 'Printing 10 rows:'."\n";



$i_finish_time = microtime(true);
$i_execution_time = $i_finish_time-$i_start_time;

echo 'Execution time: '.$i_execution_time."\n";
echo "\n";

Printing 10 rows passing the query with LIMIT:

$s_cql = "SELECT * FROM carles_test_table LIMIT 10;";

echoing as array with print_r takes Execution time: 0.01090407371521 seconds (the cost of printing is high).


If you don’t print the rows, it takes only Execution time: 0.00714111328125 seconds.
Selecting 9,000 rows, if you don’t print them, takes Execution time: 0.18086194992065.


The official driver for Java works very well.

The only initial difficulties may be to create the libraries required with Maven and to deal with the different Cassandra native data types.

To make that travel easy, I describe what you have to do to generate the libraries and provide you with a Db Class made by me that will abstract you from dealing with Data types and provide a simple ArrayList with the field names and all the data as String.

Datastax provides the pom.xml for maven so you’ll create you jar files. Then you can copy those jar file to Libraries folder of any project you want to use Cassandra with.

cmateo-cassandra-java-dependenciesMy Db class:

 * By Carles Mateo
 * You can use this code freely, or modify it.

package server;

import java.util.ArrayList;
import java.util.List;
import com.datastax.driver.core.*;

 * @author carles_mateo
public class Db {

    public String[] s_cassandra_hosts = null;
    public String s_database = "cchat";
    public Cluster o_cluster = null;
    public Session o_session = null;
    Db() {
        // The Constructor
        this.s_cassandra_hosts = new String[10];
        String s_cassandra_server = "";
        this.s_cassandra_hosts[0] = s_cassandra_server;
        this.o_cluster = Cluster.builder()
                                        .addContactPoints(s_cassandra_hosts[0]) // More than 1 separated by comas
        this.o_session = this.o_cluster.connect(s_database);  // This is the KeySpace

    public static String escapeApostrophes(String s_cql) {
        String s_cql_replaced = s_cql.replaceAll("'", "''");
        return s_cql_replaced;
    public void close() {
        // Destructor calles by the garbagge collector
    public ArrayList query(String s_cql) {
        ResultSet rows = null;
        rows = this.o_session.execute(s_cql);
        ArrayList st_results = new ArrayList();
        List<String> st_column_names = new ArrayList<String>();
        List<String> st_column_types = new ArrayList<String>();

        ColumnDefinitions o_cdef = rows.getColumnDefinitions();

        int i_num_columns = o_cdef.size();
        for (int i_columns = 0; i_columns < i_num_columns; i_columns++) {
        for (Row o_row : rows) {
            List<String> st_data = new ArrayList<String>();
            for (int i_column=0; i_column<i_num_columns; i_column++) {
                if (st_column_types.get(i_column).equals("varchar") || st_column_types.get(i_column).equals("text")) {
                } else if (st_column_types.get(i_column).equals("timeuuid")) {
                } else if (st_column_types.get(i_column).equals("integer")) {
                // TODO: Implement other data types
        return st_results;
    public static String getFieldFromRow(ArrayList st_results, int i_row, String s_fieldname) {
        List<String> st_column_names = (List)st_results.get(0);
        boolean b_column_found = false;
        int i_column_pos = 0;
        for (String s_column_name : st_column_names) {
            if (s_column_name.equals(s_fieldname)) {
                b_column_found = true;
        if (b_column_found == false) {
            return null;
        int i_num_columns = st_results.size();
        List<String> st_data = (List)st_results.get(i_row);
        String s_data = st_data.get(i_column_pos);
        return s_data;


Python 2.7

There is no currently driver for Python 3. I requested Datastax and they told me that they are working in a new driver for Python 3.

To work with Datastax’s Python 2.7 driver:

1) Download the driver from or git clone from

2) Install the dependencies for the Datastax’s driver

Install python-pip (Installer)

sudo apt-get install python-pip

Install python development tools

sudo apt-get install python-dev

This is required for some of the libraries used by original Cassandra driver.

Install Cassandra driver required libraries

sudo pip install futures
sudo pip install blist
sudo pip install metrics
sudo pip install scales

Query Cassandra from Python

The problem is the same as with Java, the different data types are hard to deal with.
So I created a function convert_to_string that converts known data types to String, and so later we will only deal with Strings.

In this sample, the results of the query are rendered in xml or in html.

#!/usr/bin/env python
# -*- coding: UTF-8 -*-
# Use with Python 2.7+

__author__ = 'Carles Mateo'
__blog__ = ''

import sys

from cassandra import ConsistencyLevel
from cassandra.cluster import Cluster
from cassandra.query import SimpleStatement

s_row_separator = u"||*||"
s_end_of_row = u"//*//"
s_data = u""

b_error = 0
i_error_code = 0
s_html_output = u""
b_use_keyspace = 1 # By default use keyspace
b_use_user_and_password = 1 # Not implemented yet

def return_success(i_counter, s_data, s_format = 'html'):
    i_error_code = 0
    s_error_description = 'Data returned Ok'

    return_response(i_error_code, s_error_description, i_counter, s_data, s_format)

def return_error(i_error_code, s_error_description, s_format = 'html'):
    i_counter = 0
    s_data = ''

    return_response(i_error_code, s_error_description, i_counter, s_data, s_format)

def return_response(i_error_code, s_error_description, i_counter, s_data, s_format = 'html'):

    if s_format == 'xml':
        print ("Content-Type: text/xml")
        print ("")
        s_html_output = u"<?xml version='1.0' encoding='utf-8' standalone='yes'?>"
        s_html_output = s_html_output + '<response>' \
                                        '<status>' \
                                        '<error_code>' + str(i_error_code) + '</error_code>' \
                                        '<error_description>' + '<![CDATA[' + s_error_description + ']]>' + '</error_description>' \
                                        '<rows_returned>' + str(i_counter) + '</rows_returned>' \
                                        '</status>' \
                                        '<data>' + s_data + '</data>' \
        print("Content-Type: text/html; charset=utf-8")
        s_html_output = str(i_error_code)
        s_html_output = s_html_output + '\n' + s_error_description + '\n'
        s_html_output = s_html_output + str(i_counter) + '\n'
        s_html_output = s_html_output + s_data + '\n'


def convert_to_string(s_input):
    # Convert other data types to string

    s_output = s_input

        if value is not None:

            if isinstance(s_input, unicode):
                # string unicode, do nothing
                return s_output

            if isinstance(s_input, (int, float, bool, set, list, tuple, dict)):
                # Convert to string
                s_output = str(s_input)
                return s_output

            # This is another type, try to convert
            s_output = str(input)
            return s_output

            # is none
            s_output = ""
            return s_output

    except Exception as e:
        # Were unable to convert to str, will return as empty string
        s_output = ""

    return s_output

def convert_to_utf8(s_input):
    return s_input.encode('utf-8')

# ********************
# Start of the program
# ********************

s_format = 'xml'  # how you want this sample program to output

s_cql = 'SELECT * FROM test_table;'
s_cluster = ''
s_port = "9042" # default port
i_port = int(s_port)

b_use_keyspace = 1
s_keyspace = 'cassandra_tests'
if s_keyspace == '':
    b_use_keyspace = 0

s_user = ''
s_password = ''
if s_user == '' or s_password == '':
    b_use_user_and_password = 0

    cluster = Cluster([s_cluster], i_port)
    session = cluster.connect()
except Exception as e:
    return_error(200, 'Cannot connect to cluster ' + s_cluster + ' on port ' + s_port + '.' + e.message, s_format)

if (b_use_keyspace == 1):
        return_error(210, 'Keyspace ' + s_keyspace + ' does not exist', s_format)

    o_results = session.execute_async(s_cql)
except Exception as e:
    return_error(300, 'Error executing query. ' + e.message, s_format)

    rows = o_results.result()
except Exception as e:
    return_error(310, 'Query returned result error. ' + e.message, s_format)

# Query returned values
i_counter = 0
    if rows is not None:
        for row in rows:
            i_counter = i_counter + 1

            if i_counter == 1 and s_format == 'html':
                # first row is row titles
                for key, value in vars(row).iteritems():
                    s_data = s_data + key + s_row_separator

                s_data = s_data + s_end_of_row

            if s_format == 'xml':
                s_data = s_data + ''

            for key, value in vars(row).iteritems():
                # Convert to string numbers or other types
                s_value = convert_to_string(value)
                if s_format == 'xml':
                    s_data = s_data + '<' + key + '>' + '<![CDATA[' + s_value + ']]>' + ''
                    s_data = s_data + s_value
                    s_data = s_data + s_row_separator

            if s_format == 'xml':
                s_data = s_data + ''
                s_data = s_data + s_end_of_row

except Exception as e:
    # No iterable data
    return_success(i_counter, s_data, s_format)

# Just print the data
return_success(i_counter, s_data, s_format)


If you did not create the namespace like in the samples before, change those lines to:

s_cql = 'CREATE KEYSPACE cassandra_tests WITH REPLICATION = { \'class\': \'SimpleStrategy\', \'replication_factor\': 1 };'
s_cluster = ''
s_port = "9042" # default port
i_port = int(s_port)

b_use_keyspace = 1
s_keyspace = ''

Run the program to create the Keyspace and you’ll get:

carles@ninja8:~/Desktop/codi/python/test$ ./ 
Content-Type: text/xml


Then you can create the table simply by setting:

s_cql = 'CREATE TABLE test_table (s_thekey text, s_column1 text, s_column2 text,PRIMARY KEY (s_thekey));'
s_cluster = ''
s_port = "9042" # default port
i_port = int(s_port)

b_use_keyspace = 1
s_keyspace = 'cassandra_tests'

IDE PyCharm Community Edition

Cassandra Universal Driver

As mentioned above if you use a language Tcp/Ip enabled very new, or very old like ASP or ColdFusion, or from Unix command line and you want to use it with Cassandra, you can use my solution


It is basically a Web Gateway able to speak XML, JSon or CSV alike. It relies on the official Datastax’s python driver.

It is not so fast as a native driver, but it works pretty well and allows you to split your architecture in interesting ways, like intermediate layers to restrict even more security (For example WebServers may query the gateway, that will enstrict tome permissions instead of having direct access to the Cassandra Cluster. That can also be used to perform real-time map-reduce operations on the amount of data returned by the Cassandras, so freeing the webservers from that task and saving CPU).

Tip: If you use Cassandra for Development only, you can limit the amount of memory used by editing the file /etc/cassandra/ and hardcoding:

    # limit the memory for development environment
    # --------------------------------------------
    # --------------------------------------------

Just before the line:

# set max heap size based on the following

That way Cassandra will believe your system memory is 512 MB and reserve only 256 MB for its use.

Things I hate from PHP

I love PHP, is fast to develop, it has many useful built-in features, can be extended with C modules, Arrays are wonderful and saves a lot of time from data-type conversion, but there are certain problems that you should know and that you should be aware of.

There are wonderful posts that mention a lot of issues with PHP, in this article I mention only the stuff I’ve not seen around.

I recommend you reading this wonderful post about the bad design on PHP:

PHP a fractal of bad design


‘string’ == 0 is (often) true

This is something everyone has fell some times. And still see a lot of code on GitHub and in my new Teams when I go to a project that fall to that problem.

PHP is “clever” transforming the type of data to compare it. This allow to produce code much faster (try to parse floats in Java or C++ in web projects) but also leads to problems some times.

So if your developers write a code like this, that gets the income sent from a web form:

$s_income = $_POST['income'];
if ($s_income == 0) {
    // The guy is poor, save to the evil CRM database as no interesting person...
    // ...

That will fail detecting as 0 if someone enters in the texbox ‘milions’ or ‘$100000’.

The solution would be to check if $s_income is empty, and if is not empty but intval($s_income) is 0, request the user to reinput only with numeric values.

Another example. Imagine that you have a program that reads a CSV file, that has addresses. For example seven lines:

Facebook,Hacker Way,1,Menlo Park,94025,CA
Amazon,2nd Avenue,,1516,WA
Microsoft Corporation,One Microsoft Way,0,,WA
Apple,Infinite Loop, 1,Cupertino,95014,CA
Twitter,Market Street,  1355,,,CA
Netflix,Winchester Circle,one hundred,Los Gatos,95032,CA
Cmips,,0-1,Palo Alto,,CA
Fake Address,Nowhere,Building 5,Silicon Valley,,CA

CSV may contain errors, as most of times the data comes from data input manually at some moment or entered by users via web.

So your code reads it, puts each field in an array field as string, and you can use it.

Let’s assume that our buggy code looks for a 0 in the number, and then performs some action like setting a boolean to FALSE in the database or whatever.

Something like:

$i_row = 0;
if (($o_handle = fopen("addresses.csv", "r")) !== FALSE) {
    while (($st_data = fgetcsv($o_handle, 1000, ",")) !== false) {
        $i_num_fields = count($st_data);

        $s_company_name = $st_data[0];
        $s_street = $st_data[1];
        $s_number = $st_data[2];

        if ($s_number == 0) {
            // The address has no number
            // Do something real...
            echo 'Row: '.$i_row.' '.$s_company_name.' The address has no number! read ('.$s_number.')'."\n";
        } else {
            echo 'Row: '.$i_row.' '.$s_company_name.' number '.$s_number.' found!'."\n";

And this is the result:

Look at the results:

Expression Result by PHP
 ‘1’ == 0  FALSE
 ” == 0  TRUE
 ‘ ‘ == 0  (space)  TRUE
 ‘ 1’ == 0  (space and 1)  FALSE
 ‘  1355’ == 0  (space space and 1355)  FALSE
 ‘one hundred’ == 0  TRUE
 ‘0-1’ == 0  TRUE
 ‘Building 5’ == 0  TRUE

If you do ‘one string’ == 0 it returns TRUE, but, the mechanichs of why that happens are curious, capricious and quasi-random.

Normally the mechanichs are: PHP sees that has to evaluate a string to a number and converts the string to a number via intval, so ‘  1355’ == 0 is true because intval(‘  1355’) returns 1355. Please note that ‘  1355’ has two spaces.

Ok. That explains everything, but still is dangerous because ‘Building 5’ == 1 returns FALSE but ‘Building 5’ == 0 returns TRUE, so most Junior developers (and many self-called Seniors) will use that instead of ‘Building 5’ === ” empty string.

This is funny, but is more funny when we introduce another line to the CSV:

Fake Address outside US,Somewhere,.1,Andorra,AD100,Andorra

Here we introduced dot one ‘.1’ and when  run the program it detects as a number, so is not doing intval(‘.1’) but floatval(‘.1’) that returns 0.1

blog-carlesmateo-com-equal-dot-oneI introduced a postal code from Andorra because they start with ‘AD’, so ‘AD100’ in the example.

This is to demonstrate that our program would have detected the Postal Codes from US as numbers, but when used to deal with data from other countries would had failed as ‘AD100’ == 0 TRUE.

So always use === to check the type also and do the intval.

In this sample:

if ( !empty($s_postal_code) && intval($s_postal_code) === 0) {

// Wops! The postal code is there but is not a number


Also to check the input data to be sure that match the requirements, would have discovered future weird cases like postal codes with letters. Sample:

if (intval($s_postal_code) != $s_postal_code) {

// Wops! The code is not only numeric


Many professional people has explained the crazyness about that magic conversion and ‘string’ == 0, so I will not use more time.

Other crazy results

 ‘1’ == ‘ 1’ (space and 1)  TRUE
 ‘1’ == ‘          1) (several spaces and 1)  TRUE
 ‘1’ == ‘+1’  (plus sign and 1)  TRUE
 ‘-1’ == ‘   -1’  (spaces and -1)  TRUE
 ‘-1’ == ‘                                        -1.00’  (spaces -1 dot 00)  TRUE
 ‘-1’ == ‘                                        -1.000000000000001’  FALSE
 ‘-1’ == ‘                                        -1.000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000001’  TRUE
 ‘1.0’ == ‘1.000000000000000’  TRUE
 ‘1e10’ == “1000000000”  TRUE
 ‘1e1’ == “0x0A”  TRUE
 -1 == ‘                                            -1’ (integer -1 equal to string with spaces and -1)  TRUE

So if you register in a PHP system with username 12345 you will be able to login later by entering [space][space][space][space][space]+12345.00000000 or if you pick an username like 1000000000 you’ll be able to login just by entering 1e10 (what could be very bad if there is another user in the system with username 1e10).
So always use the === to check values.

The “amazing” world of ++

Try to add ++ to an string, and to a string that contains decimal symbols…


The ‘horrible’, the floats

As the PHP documentation page says:


Never cast an unknown fraction to integer, as this can sometimes lead to unexpected results.


So yes…



It is shocking that var_export and var_dump show different values, but more shocking is to get this:

php > $i_valor_float = 81.60;
php > echo intval($i_valor_float * 100).”\n”;

And getting 8159


If you are and e-commerce or a bank losing cents you’ll not be happy.

In fact, the TPV Visa payment for Sermepa is as buggy as:

//desc: Asignamos el importe de la compra
//param: importe: total de la compra a pagar
//return: Retornamos el importe ya modificado
public function importe( $importe = 0 )
    $importe = $this->parseFloat( $importe );
    // sermepa nos dice Para Euros las dos últimas posiciones se consideran decimales.
    $importe = intval( $importe*100 );

You will have to do some workaround, use strval instead of intval:

php > $i_value_float = 81.60;
php > echo intval($i_value_float * 100).”\n”;
php > echo (9000 – intval($i_value_float * 100)).”\n”;
php > echo strval($i_value_float * 100).”\n”;
php > echo (9000 – strval($i_value_float * 100)).”\n”;

So in the Sermepa’s code you can do:

    $importe = strval($importe*100);


    $importe = intval(strval($importe*100));


Float offers so bizarre scenarios like (code copied from contribution in help):
$x = 8 – 6.4; // which is equal to 1.6
$y = 1.6;
var_dump($x == $y);

More funny is to do:
echo $x-$y;

You get:

More information on PHP float here:

Arrays keys being overwritten – part 1

As you know the arrays in PHP can be numeric or string.

As described in PHP documentation about arrays:

The key can either be an integer or a string. The value can be of any type.

Additionally the following key casts will occur:

  • Strings containing valid integers will be cast to the integer type. E.g. the key “8” will actually be stored under 8. On the other hand “08” will not be cast, as it isn’t a valid decimal integer.
  • Floats are also cast to integers, which means that the fractional part will be truncated. E.g. the key 8.7 will actually be stored under 8.
  • Bools are cast to integers, too, i.e. the key true will actually be stored under 1 and the key false under 0.
  • Null will be cast to the empty string, i.e. the key null will actually be stored under “”.
  • Arrays and objects can not be used as keys. Doing so will result in a warning: Illegal offset type.

If multiple elements in the array declaration use the same key, only the last one will be used as all others are overwritten.

But take a look to the following code:


$st_array = Array('+1' => 'This is key +1',
                  '*1' => 'This is key *1',
                  '-1' => 'This is key -1');


Look at the dump:

blog-carlesmateo-com-why-i-hate-php-array-keysSo key of the type string ‘-1’ has been converted to integer key -1.

Fut funny, ‘+1’ has been kept as string ‘+1’. If you do:

echo intval(‘+1’);

You get integer 1. So what is the exact function used to check the key to know if it can be casted to integer remains a mistery.

Arrays keys being overwritten – part 2

Taking the CSV sample file from before, and using the Postal Codes one may notice another problem.

When we load the postal code ‘94025’ it is added to the array as integer key, not string key.

This is a problem if we do an array_merge, because:

Values in the input array with numeric keys will be renumbered with incrementing keys starting from zero in the result array.

Creating an array with key string postal code and merging with another array of postal codes will cause the loss of the index. That is very bad.

There are much more problems.

In Barcelona we have many postal codes starting with 0 like ‘08014’, so those will remain as string key. As said in Andorra there are like ‘AD100’.

So if we have a program like that:


$st_array = Array( '08014' => 'Postal code from Barcelona, Catalonia',
                   '94025' => 'Postal code from Menlo Park, California',
                   'AD100' => 'Postal code from Andorra');



We will get:

blog-carlesmateo-com--things-i-hate-from-php-array-sortSo we got the string sorted, and later the numeric keys sorted. So bad, as ‘08014’ would be expected to be before ‘94025’, but as the last was casted o integer and the first kept as string key, that caused a bizarre result in our postal code sorting program.

That can be very annoying in many cases, imagine you read a fixed length CSV file or you read from a Webservice, XML or databases the age of people stored with 2 digit so ’10’ means ten years old, ’99’ ninety-nine, etc… you will have the guys from 0 to 9 years old (00 to 09) kept as string, while the others as number. Now do an array_merge with another array and the mess is served.

I recommend adding a character infront of your keys to ensure that cast will not be produced, so use ‘C94024’ and ‘C08014’ and ‘CAD100’… Sort algorithms will work, and you will avoid the problems derivated from merging and sorting keys casted to numeric.

Bizarre behaviour on Boolean execution

Some Sysadmins are used to constructions like this in their bash scripts and Python:

true && do_something(); // This evaluates the first part always and then executes do_something();

file_exists(‘/tmp/whatever’) || touch(‘/tmp/whatever’); // If file_exist returns false so then the second part is executed and the file is created

Although I never found documented this way of executing in PHP, it works, and for sure you have seen samples like that:

$result = mysql_query('SELECT foo FROM bar', $o_db) or die('Query failed: ' . mysql_error($o_db));


When working Contractor I found a project using it. It was an habit from the CEO, that came from Systems branch. He had more bad habits like no documenting, programming with vim and refactoring the code of my Team during the weekends with bash replace commands (that caused conflicting variable names, methods, etc…). (* I know is weird that a CEO changes the code but believe me, companies do a lot of crazy things)

He told me that he thought that less lines of code meant more clever developer, and so he was always refactoring clear code to this Boolean a-like execution.

Using that style is bad. It doesn’t allow proper error handling, nor a flux of execution clear nor raising exceptions.

I shown him that this works not like he thought and found samples that crashes the thing:

Trying to throw an exception breaks:

true && throw new Exception('Hello');

If using echo, it breaks:

php-error-unexpectedSo it’s really a bad PHP design.

This behaviour is also funny:


So passing by reference an undefined index, causes it to be created with null without any warning.

I found that in the passing variables documentation, in a contributed comment from 10 years ago!. Still happens with PHP 5.5.

More samples: