Wednesday, January 11, 2017

PHP and MySQL Basics II - Case Sense

Last time we set up a connection from a PHP program to a MySQL server. This time we will progress a little further in that direction.


Data is asked for from the MySQL server by using a query written in a language named Structured Query Language (SQL). Now that we have a connection open to the server, we can pass out request to the server.

Manual Labor

The PHP Manual is wonderful 99% of time. If you take a peek at the page for mysqli::query there is a great example of a simple query. Many of learned to program by copying/pasting from books/manuals and this is a great us of the examples in the PHP manual. Except it may not work for you.

MySQL is usually case SeNsATiVe, so 'A' may not be the same thing as 'a'. But this is dependent to some extent on your operating system where 'A' = 'a'. I was using the example from the manual and ... it did not work.

What Happened

Here is an excerpt of the code, somewhat cut down:
$mysqli = new mysqli("localhost", "user", "secret", "world_x");

/* check connection */
if ($mysqli->connect_errno) {
    printf("Connect failed: %s\n", $mysqli->connect_error);


Run the program and ... nothing.

So What Happened?

What happened is a subtle problem that novices will smack into very hard. Take a look at this section of the example.
/* Select queries return a resultset */
if ($result = $mysqli->query("SELECT Name FROM City LIMIT 10")) {
    printf("Select returned %d rows.\n", $result->num_rows);

    /* free result set */

If you try the query SELECT Name FROM City LIMIT 10; with the MySQL command line client program you will get the answer. And the answer is:

mysql> SELECT Name FROM City LIMIT 10;
ERROR 1146 (42S02): Table 'world_x.City' doesn't exist

I am using the new world_x example database where the city is NOT capitalized instead of the old world database where it is! This lesson can be summed as check you schema/table/column names for case sensitivity. Except that there is another problem here.

In the real world occasional the database/table/column that you carefully double checked was spelled correctly and with the proper case sensitivity will go away. It may have been renamed, deleted, munged, or what have you. What is needed is a way to check to see if there was an error if the query can not run.

Lets change the code slightly:

/* Select queries return a resultset */
if ($result = $mysqli->query("SELECT Name FROM City LIMIT 10")) {
    printf("Select returned %d rows.\n", $result->num_rows);

    /* free result set */
} else {
    printf("Query failed: %s\n", $mysqli->error);

Always Check for Return Codes

By simply adding about 40 characters, the reliability of the program shoots up immensely AND we get an exact answer if what went wrong.
Query failed: Table 'world_x.City' doesn't exist
Same error as when we tried by query by hand. But now our code can handle this issue. We could even try to catch the error, send a note via a message queue to the operations staff about the nature of the problem, and possible limp along until things are resolved. Or we could just call exit()

When you are offered a return code be sure to check it. Yes, it may be over kill in simple examples. But the payoff comes when things go bad and you are scrambling to find out eleven months from now why your program is suddenly not working.

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