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Magento Beginner's Guide

samzenpus posted more than 4 years ago | from the read-all-about-it dept.

Books 124

Michael J. Ross writes "The shopping cart systems that power online stores have evolved from simple homebrew solutions in the CGI era to far more powerful open source packages, such as osCommerce. But even the later systems are frequently criticized as suffering from poorly-written code and inadequate documentation — as well as for being difficult to install and administer, and nearly impossible to enhance with new functionality and improved site styling, at least without hiring outside help. These problems alone would explain the rapidly growing interest in the latest generation of shopping cart systems, such as Magento, purported to be outpacing all others in adoption. In turn, technical publishers are making available books to help developers and site owners get started with this e-commerce alternative, such as Magento: Beginner's Guide, written by William Rice." Read on for the rest of Michael's review.This title was published on 15 April 2009 by Packt Publishing, under the ISBN 978-1847195944. The firm makes available a Web page dedicated to the book, where visitors can find information on how to purchase the print or PDF versions of the book (or both as a bundle, at substantial savings). The site also has a link labeled "Code download" (even though there isn't any downloadable code), another link for viewing any errata (of which there is one reported, as of this writing), and a link for downloading a sample chapter (the third one, "Categories and Attributes").

The bulk of the book's 300 pages are organized into eleven chapters, which are intended to take the reader through the basic topics, in the same order they might be encountered by anyone developing a Magento-based store for the first time: an introduction; Magento system requirements and installation; product categories and attributes; tax rules; adding product information; site styling; advanced product functionality; CRM; payment processing; shipping configuration; and order fulfillment. These chapters are followed by an appendix that delineates, as numbered lists, all of the steps covered in greater detail in the chapters. The book concludes with an index whose value is immediately brought into question by the "products" entry, which presumably would be one of the most lengthy sections for an e-commerce book such as this one, yet contains only two entries, and neither one has a page number.

The book's first chapter begins by stating what Magento and the book offer, which were already covered in the preface. The author then introduces the demo store (an online vendor of coffee beans) to be used throughout the book, with screenshots. Readers can skip over this chapter, without missing anything of importance. This chapter, like all that follow, concludes with a summary, which adds no value to the book.

In Chapter 2, the author patiently steps the non-technical user through each phase of installing Magento on a Web server, with an emphasis upon Linux systems, which apparently are far less problematic for Magento than using a Windows-based hosting account (imagine that). PHP novices will likely appreciate the author's tip on how to use phpinfo() to see their server settings, but should be warned to delete that file so hackers cannot also stumble upon that information. Also, there are some technical inaccuracies in the author's discussion of search engine friendly URLs. In step 1 of the installation, he should have explained why he chose the Full Release and not the Downloader. On page 31, he instructs the reader to set some Magento files to permissions of 777, even though the previous page stated that his Web hosts' control panel does not allow that setting. Some readers may be confused by this, and should be advised to use their FTP programs for accomplishing this task, if their control panel has the same limitation. In step 3, the author could have provided some guidance as to what the reader can do if Magento refuses to proceed with the installation and provides no error messages, even though the database information is valid and confirmable by logging in at the command line. Of course, it is difficult to anticipate all the possible problems that a user may encounter. Even the official Magento documentation does not appear to address this particular issue. Lastly, the checklist at the end of the chapter, which specifies four items to confirm prior to installation, obviously should have been presented at the beginning of the chapter.

In the third chapter, the author explores some key concepts needed in working with Magento: products, categories, and attributes. Throughout the book, these three common terms — and later, "shopping cart," "payment gateways," etc. — are presented in title case, as if they were proper names, which they are not. Within the text, this formatting gives them the appearance of menu or page names, which quickly becomes annoying. A glaring example of this is section 16 on page 59. On the same page, the reader will encounter a rather cryptic heading, "Have a go hero." Nonetheless, readers should find the topic coverage to be quite useful, including tips on enabling a product navigation menu, optimizing categories, entering products, creating product images, and setting attributes. The next two chapters explain how to apply taxes to customer purchases, and how to add "simple products" (those without customer-changeable attributes), respectively. At first glance, one might conclude that Chapter 5 should immediately follow Chapter 3 — or be combined into one chapter — since both deal primarily with products. But within Magento, tax rules are a prerequisite for properly creating new products in one's store, so the chosen order makes sense.

The author shifts gears with the sixth chapter, which explores basic styling, i.e., customizing the appearance of a Magento-based storefront. The majority of the changes can be accomplished easily by the reader, because most of them are made within the Magento administrative area, and not through any involved editing of the CSS files of the default theme. Chapter 7 covers the topics of related products, grouped products, and configurable products — and thus clearly should have followed Chapter 5. Regardless, the author's use of illustrative examples, in creating the demo site, is quite helpful for the reader to see how to use each dialog box in the process of creating the various types of products.

The last four chapters of Magento: Beginner's Guide address four essential aspects of building and running an online store, beyond the products themselves: Chapter 8 is fairly brief, but explains how to configure a store's e-mail addresses and contact form (but not how to customize the e-mail templates), as well as the functionality made available by Magento for administering customers once they have become registered users on the store site. The subsequent chapter shows how to set up a Magento site to accept customer payments using PayPal, Authorize.Net, and other electronic payment options. Chapter 10 explains how to configure the various shipping options within Magento, and, like the previous chapter, focuses on trade-offs among the various options rather than the details of how to complete each dialog box. Confusingly, on page 219, the author states that you can charge a handling fee with the flat rate method, but four pages earlier states the exact opposite. The last chapter in the book covers the various phases of order fulfillment, as well as order management.

Despite the value of the book's contents, the material would have benefited from some proper editing, evidenced alone by the many errata: "freelance[r]" (on the "About the reviewer" page), "[and] so" (page 2), "distinguishes" (page 3), "top[-]two" (page 10), "Paypal" (page 11), "Card(saved)" (page 11), "php" (page 13), "reading and article" (page 17), "you web host" (page 27), "/single-origin-coffees" is missing (page 55), "Attribute[']s Model" (page 73), "Add New [Attribute] Set" (page 75), "answer[s]" (page 78), "zip codes" (pages 85-86, and others), "characters;" (should be a comma; page 104), "later [in the] book" (page 131), "discuss about" (page 131), "direct[ion] replacement" (page 133), "graphics;" (should be a comma; page 138), "tab. to" (page 141), "2@ brew..." (page 182), "can sit[e]" (page 190), "such [as] Visa" (page 195), and "Shopping Card" (page 197). Some of these errata are likely not attributable to the author, but instead introduced during the production phase of publication. There are other indicators that quality control was lacking, such as an errant period tacked on to every "Chapter 5" in the page title, on all the pages of that chapter. On a more subjective note, I found Packt Publishing's use of four different font sizes within the table of contents — no doubt intended to make higher level section names stand out — to actually reduce speed of scanning and comprehension, just as it does on Web pages that have half a dozen or more font sizes on a single page. The practice is not limited to this particular title, but appears to be standard in their lineup of books. In addition, the longer subheads are shown in such a thick and compressed font face as to be quite difficult to read, e.g., on page 239.

Throughout his book, the author's writing style is generally clear and approachable, though occasionally choppy. His background in technical instruction is exemplified by his logical, step-by-step explanations. Some readers may find this style too repetitive, such as the many mini-summaries — labeled "What just happened?" — scattered throughout the book. These are unnecessary, waste space, and could be excised. One instance of pedantry (on page 105) deserves special recognition/ribbing: "Yes and No are self-explanatory."

But all of these aforementioned flaws are relatively minor — particularly to the reader anxious to put up a new online storefront with minimum delay. Magento: Beginner's Guide is a detailed and lucid introduction to an e-commerce system quickly growing in favor.

Michael J. Ross is a freelance Web developer and writer.

You can purchase Magento: Beginner's Guide from amazon.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.

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Magneto (2, Interesting)

Lunoria (1496339) | more than 4 years ago | (#30229204)

I read the title as Magneto Beginner's Guide. I must read too many comic books.

Re:Magneto (2, Interesting)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 4 years ago | (#30229294)

I don't read any comic books and thought the same thing.

Re:Magneto (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30229340)

Yeah, I was really hoping to learn how to master magnetism. I am severely disappointed.

Re:Magneto (2, Insightful)

sajuuk (1371145) | more than 4 years ago | (#30229498)

And here I thought this book was going to tell me how to get awesome powers of electromagnetic manipulation.

Re:Magneto (4, Funny)

Lulfas (1140109) | more than 4 years ago | (#30229778)

You know, I'd pay for that. That's what they need to stop e-book piracy. Books that give us mutant powers.

Re:Magneto (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30229806)

When you think about it, shouldn't he be called Metal-o, not Magneto? Have you ever seen him say 'Oh crap, that metal isn't magnetic, nothing I can do here.' No, he just swings it all around without regard for what it is, as long as it's a metal. He's more of a ferrokinetic with flight than anything.

Re:Magneto (2, Interesting)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#30229970)

Sorry? There were people who didn’t read it as “Magneto”??

As if anybody ever heard about this Magento-whatever-it-is, before this Slashvertisement. ^^

Hell, I comment here, and I still haven’t heard about it. And I most likely never will! :P

Re:Magneto (1)

dalleboy (539331) | more than 4 years ago | (#30230012)

Magneto Beginner's Guide

1. Be born with the X-Gene
2. Kill all humans
3. ???
4. Profit!

Re:Magneto (1)

chord.wav (599850) | more than 4 years ago | (#30230076)

Chapter 1 - Holocaust surviving, bending concentration camp's steel bars
Chapter 2 - Learn how to hate humans, advanced steel bending
Chapter 3 - Mercury
Chapter 4 - Know your enemy, get a dorky helmet
Chapter 5 - Aluminum and Adamantium explained
Chapter 6 - Electromagnetic forces, negative uses
Chapter 7 - Improving your leadership skills
Chapter 8 - Chess, strategy and tactics
Apendix A - All about blue hot chicks

Re:Magneto (1)

AK Dave (1459433) | more than 4 years ago | (#30230908)

Woah! Here is it! The "Beginners Guide to Magneto"! Totally awesome!

Thats my favorite hero/villain/mutant/goodguy/badguy - dang, he fills so many niches and his old 80s-era costume was totally awesome.

Wait, no. "Magento".

Imagine my disappointment.

Re:Magneto (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30231550)

> I read the title as Magneto Beginner's Guide. I must read too many comic books.

That's the only reason I even came to this article. Where's my Magneto, dammit!?

I wanted to learn how to develop awesome mutant powers, not something about some lame e-commerce application (or whatever it is... I didn't care enough to read much of the summary).

Re:Magneto (1)

Rising Ape (1620461) | more than 4 years ago | (#30231600)

Huh, the first thing I thought of was this [wikipedia.org] .

Is a character in some comic really a more obvious reference for "magneto" than the actual device? That's slightly disheartening.

Re:Magneto (1)

LordKronos (470910) | more than 4 years ago | (#30232304)

If you think it's bad that you read it as "Magneto", just think how I feel. I read it properly as "Magento" and thought "good job, editors***...you misspelled Magneto".

***no, I'm not new here.

Re:Magneto Christmas gift.shoes,handbags,ugg ect.. (0, Troll)

coolforsale126 (1686418) | more than 4 years ago | (#30232364)

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osCommerce (2, Interesting)

rossz (67331) | more than 4 years ago | (#30229222)

What I noticed when I evaluated osCommerce and few other ecommerce packages is the people who developed the package didn't have even a small understanding of how to use style sheets. This was a few years ago, so maybe things have improved since then.

Re:osCommerce (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30229288)

http://seclists.org/fulldisclosure/2009/Nov/169

Re:osCommerce (1)

uuddlrlrab (1617237) | more than 4 years ago | (#30229482)

At least there is a fix posted [oscommerce.com] . Protip to Anon Cow: No one likes trolls that post blind links.

Re:osCommerce (2, Insightful)

Fallingcow (213461) | more than 4 years ago | (#30229544)

osCommerce is a piece of shit.

It's the code equivalent of Finnegan's Wake, but without any hint of genius at work in its production.

Broken architecture, ugly-ass code, no templating system to speak of (a side effect of the broken architecture) etc. STAY AWAY.

Re:osCommerce (1)

Trecares (416205) | more than 4 years ago | (#30230498)

So is there any other option that works well for e-commerce websites? I don't know what else is good?

Re:osCommerce (1)

loconet (415875) | more than 4 years ago | (#30229632)

The problems with osCommerce go further (much much further) than just style sheet issues.

Re:osCommerce (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30230270)

I set up and used an osCommerce system 5-6 years ago (yeah, there have been a lot of changes since then, but I still wouldn't touch it). It's wildly popular with small stores you've never heard of and are probably scared to order from, but it's also a massive piece of shit. I ended up *completely* rewriting the admin management side. Their admin shit sucks ass when you have a large number of products.

Example: If you want to delete an item, first, list every item in your store (slowly). You choose the item and wait for the page to redraw with the selected item now highlited. Click the delete button and wait for the page to redraw, confirming your delete. Click yes (or no) and wait for the list to redraw again.

Re:osCommerce (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30230610)

What I noticed when I evaluated osCommerce and few other ecommerce packages is the people who developed the package didn't have even a small understanding of how to use style sheets. This was a few years ago, so maybe things have improved since then.

osCommerce has always been one of the shining examples of stupid people getting ahold of PHP and pretending to know how to program (phpnuke is probably the most famous).

Re:osCommerce (1)

Dragonslicer (991472) | more than 4 years ago | (#30230624)

Hm, no idea why Slashdot thought I wanted to post that anonymously.

Re:osCommerce (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30231310)

Magento uses style sheets well and is very skinable with templates and stylesheets. So no need to change core code to customize your storefront. Took my first stab at using it and after only 30 hours of work have a functioning storefront up on http://www.worldantiquenetwork.com. Still needs some slight tweaking of the UI but I am very impressed so far with ease of use as a developer who has worked with many eCommerce systems.

Magento is nice, but... (1)

Yetihehe (971185) | more than 4 years ago | (#30229272)

Magento is a nice system, but it's BIG. It's not bloated. Just it's architecture makes it really slow. With one item in db, default configuration and served locally it shouldn't really take almost two seconds to refresh a page.

Re:Magento is nice, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30229846)

This makes it useless for any sizable sites. With an empty DB it should be refreshing near instantly.

Re:Magento is nice, but... (1)

mweather (1089505) | more than 4 years ago | (#30233760)

The Gap uses it. That's pretty sizable. They actually have a pretty nice implementation.

Re:Magento is nice, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30231602)

You think it's slow locally, you should try it on shared hosting. The architecture is not ideal for performance and seems pitched to businesses that would have tuned dedicated servers in their budget. I keep seeing it compared to oscommerce since they are both open source, but Magento will not perform properly for the business owner with a small store running on a shared hosting setup. A lot of features out of the box and good for theming, but slow as molasses and gonna be very pricey to extend features. Nice of Varien to share how not to architect an enterprise solution, but I suspect that Magento will mostly be used by their client base and online businesses that have a small budget and don't mind / don't track cart abandonment because product pages take too long to load.

Re:Magento is nice, but... (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 4 years ago | (#30231852)

This is the problem I had with all the open-source ecommerce systems I tried a while ago when I just wanted to add a nice shopping cart to my little site, where I sell a small handful of products. All of the options (oscommerce, magento, etc.) were bloated, and used the database for everything. Every single page view required database lookups to create the page. Maybe this makes sense on some site selling dozens or hundreds of products, each with very little description, but my site only has a few products, with very large pages dedicated to each one, along with instruction pages, troubleshooting pages, etc. None of the options seemed to fit that at all. I looked into trying to modify both oscommerce and magento to fit my needs (I know Perl, but not really PHP), but they were so huge and complicated that it wasn't an easy task to try to trim them down.

What I want is a simple shopping cart that's open-source, and lets me use my existing website (without turning it into some database-driven monstrosity) with its simple, fast-loading pages, which only use PHP for the headers and footers. There doesn't really seem to be any such thing.

You'll still need a database for... (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#30233616)

What I want is a simple shopping cart that's open-source, and lets me use my existing website (without turning it into some database-driven monstrosity) with its simple, fast-loading pages, which only use PHP for the headers and footers.

Even if you don't put product descriptions in a database, you'll still need some sort of database to store unfinished and finished orders. If you don't want to use a database on your web site, use the PayPal cart.

Re:Magento is nice, but... (1)

specific_pacific (904746) | more than 4 years ago | (#30233374)

Zend, behind the framework to which it uses and a great PHP advocate, also wishes to advocate it's optimised LAMP servers. They have a cache demo to speed up pages on the server side so the "instant" loading is possible.

Optimisation has always been an issue but on shared hosting it's alright as long as you setup some subdomains make-do CDN so you can load your images.

Good luck with that! (5, Informative)

DogDude (805747) | more than 4 years ago | (#30229286)

As an e-commerce business owner, and a former web developer, I just tried Magento based on a suggestion from my designer. It's not for regular people. There's no formal documentation (literally... none), and like with many OSS projects, "community" support is non-existent. Magento might be a neat project for a large team of professional developers working on e-commerce for a company with very deep pockets, but I don't think that a beginner of any kind should touch it. I'd rather have less functionality, but more function.

Re:Good luck with that! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30229322)

I'd rather have less functionality, but more function.

Ahhhhh! My head aspload!!!!!

Re:Good luck with that! (1)

SteveFoerster (136027) | more than 4 years ago | (#30230184)

As an e-commerce business owner, and a former web developer, I just tried Magento based on a suggestion from my designer. It's not for regular people.

Magento is for irregular people? I thought that was Milk of Magnesia? Learn something new every day....

Re:Good luck with that! (1)

stuckinphp (1598797) | more than 4 years ago | (#30230276)

I just looked at the differences between community edition and enterprise edition. What a joke. More functionality / customization ability in the drupal ecom module.

Re:Good luck with that! (1)

mweather (1089505) | more than 4 years ago | (#30233800)

The big selling point for the enterprise edition is per-website/storeview administration. With that functionality you can sell hosted stores, or limit employees to only the websites they are responsible for. The rest of the features are just there to pad the list. Most of the missing features are available as modules from Magento Connect.

Re:Good luck with that! (1)

Anarchduke (1551707) | more than 4 years ago | (#30230322)

I noticed that. I looked on their website and found that Yay, its open source. But the "Community" version apparently doesn't support encryption or a number of other security measure present in the Enterprise version. The community version is free, but their enterprise version, according to Magneto, "Start at $8,900 USD/yr"

They boast of 1 million downloads, but I am wondering how many of those downloads actually became Enterprise customers. I don't know what it is about their website, but it makes me suspicious and very unwilling to leave any contact information with them.

Re:Good luck with that! (1)

k0lee (317678) | more than 4 years ago | (#30232732)

I help manage a website based on Magento and whenever I want to hear the sound of crickets, I post a technical question to its user forum. If it hasn't already been asked and answered, you're pretty much screwed.

Are there still problems? (2, Informative)

elbiatcho1 (1554817) | more than 4 years ago | (#30229300)

I've tried this and it had some potential. Very clean looks and easy to use backend, but it felt horrible performance-wise overall. Also there are Paypal problems that seem to have been lingering for long time (retrieving response from PP and analysis, notifications).

Magento isn't exactly perfect either (2, Interesting)

yelirekim (1371387) | more than 4 years ago | (#30229380)

I have a few large scale magento projects under my belt, and I just want to pipe in here.

even the later systems are frequently criticized as suffering from poorly-written code and inadequate documentation

Magento does do a better job in these areas than say, osCommerce, but there are still massively underdocumented portions of the code base. The code is clean and extensible, but horribly inefficient, to the point where a lot of people speculate that the Magento team wants it to be like that, so when your store takes off you are more likely to hire them to speed things up.

Re:Magento isn't exactly perfect either (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30229586)

I complete agree with that sentiment as well. There have been a few releases that broke core functionality and the only official response was to hire Varien to fix the problems.

I understand they are trying to push their commercial aspect to earn money but to intentionally break a functioning a system to earn that revenue is very underhanded.

Re:Magento isn't exactly perfect either (1)

Maudib (223520) | more than 4 years ago | (#30229878)

"to the point where a lot of people speculate that the Magento team wants it to be like that, so when your store takes off you are more likely to hire them to speed things up."

Which is hilarious when you look at the "Enterprise" sites that Varien has done to date. They are slow, ugly and often broken. Varien does not do great work. Thats probably why they are partnering with Optaros, but it remains to be seen if those carrion eaters can do any better.

$10,000 a server license. It might be worth it if you need SAP integration, but I don't believe for a second that the "Enterprise" version is written any better then the community. Some people doubt that it even exists, that in reality its probably just community edition + over-priced consulting services.

Re:Magento isn't exactly perfect either (1)

loxosceles (580563) | more than 4 years ago | (#30232780)

Agreed.

I set up a test magento site just a couple weeks ago to see if it had gotten better, and not only was it slow as fsck, but the installer had some hiccups. The URL checking steps broke, and I had to skip them. I had a weird fastcgi + aliasing setup that may have contributed, but an installer should just work with defaults if you keep clicking next. That magento didn't is a big red flag IMO. I'm also not impressed with the admin interface.

The database setup step alone took a number of minutes, long enough that I had to look at the database files to make sure they were changing. They were. Magento is just exceedingly slow, both in initialization and in everyday operation.

Good code doesn't buy you anything if you have to rewrite most of it to get it to run reasonably fast.

beginner's guide (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30229396)

In a nutshell:

1) It's told backwards. What you see at the beginning is actually the end.
2) Teddy spends most of his time intentionally screwing with Leonard.
3) Sammy Jankis is really the same person as Leonard.

biznat3h (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30229410)

confi8min&g the

Not the book the Communtity needs... (3, Informative)

Maudib (223520) | more than 4 years ago | (#30229420)

The problem with Magento is not that it is too complex for a non-technical user. The problem with Magento is that is not properly documented or commented for technical users. Non-technical users that stay within the Magento default store box will have no problems, developers that try to move outside this box will be frustrated, constantly.

Take a look at the code. There are precisely zero comments. Take a look at the documentation, there is almost no official documentation. This makes developing with Magento extremely hard as they employ some convoluted structures for very simple tasks. Eventually one finds that the code is generally of a high standard and that most things can be done without too much effort, but the learning curve is excessive.

I believe that the lack of comments and documentation is part of an intentional strategy by Varien to drive potential users to their closed-source Enterprise solution. The power of the community edition is enticing, but finding knowledgeable developers is nearly impossible and training inhouse staff takes far too long due to the conspicuous absence of documentation and comments.

Finally, I think it is pretty clear that PHP was a very poor choice for such a large framework. The lengths they need to go to implement something that appears to be convention bases and sort of but not quite dependency injected are extreme. PHP's inability to execute code asynchronously is a huge headache and the EAV model is cumbersome to say the least. Performance is seriously wanting.

So yeah, Magento is enticing as hell to non-technical beginners. However ultimately the combination of Varien's refusal to document/comment and their poor technology choices make this a platform that just won't scale. Whats needed to at least partially change that is Magento for Developers*

*There is a Magento for architects, but its already out of date and very short on real details.

PHP has driven me out of web work (1)

QuoteMstr (55051) | more than 4 years ago | (#30229872)

Finally, I think it is pretty clear that PHP was a very poor choice for such a large framework.

I don't want to talk about PHP's technical merits. We could have an endless flamewar about those. I just want to say that PHP become a lingua franca of web development. Pretty much everyone (especially in the Bay Area echo chamber) give you the my-god-you've-just-killed-that-kitten look if you propose writing a package in PHP. PHP isn't used because it's good, but because it's popular, and has a huge developer base. You can make a career out of knowing nothing but PHP, and people do.

Which is why I've decided to never do web work again. Give me embedded programming, systems work, scientific work, game development -- anything but web work. It's socially impossible to avoid using PHP for it, and PHP is one of a very few languages that viscerally infuriates me. I'll program using it and start cursing the developers. I can't stand it.

Yes, yes, you have Java, Ruby, *.NET, and lots of other choices. And they're used by some. But they don't have anything close to PHP's ungodly-huge marketshare, at least in the small-to-medium website world.

Re:PHP has driven me out of web work (-1, Troll)

Maudib (223520) | more than 4 years ago | (#30229968)

"I don't want to talk about PHP's technical merits."

People should talk about this more, because excluding the size of the developer base or pre-existing code, there is almost NEVER a good reason to choose to start a project with PHP. These days anything that PHP was once appropriate for, Python or Groovy or some other lambda based language is a better choice. My preference is Groovy. You get a great functional programming language plus the whole world of Java.

Re:PHP has driven me out of web work (3, Insightful)

QuoteMstr (55051) | more than 4 years ago | (#30230192)

You know this. I know this.

But Joe the Web 2.0 Startup Person (who never actually got a CS degree) doesn't, and when he wants to begin creating his MugshotTome site, thinks "well, my friend mentioned this PHP thing. Maybe he can help me with it." Joe creates MugshotTome, which takes off and becomes one of the larger sites on the Internet. Now they've hired real programmers, but they're still stuck with PHP for all eternity: rewriting the system from scratch would take too long.

Bob the Web 2.0 Startup Personn wants to create his own site, say, MyCylinder. Like Joe, he's more a businessman who fancies himself a hacker than a trained developer, so he looks around and sees what's popular. "Ah, MugshotTome uses PHP. It must be good. Let me go look for a few tutorials on that." And so MyCylinder and and MugshotTome end up using PHP. Jill, Jane, and Jim all start their Web 2.0 Startup Sites using PHP for the same reason. Bob realizes that PHP is popular enough that he can get "mad hits yo" by writing a PHP tutorial article "how to make mad monies by using PHP for your Web 2.0 Startup Website". This article encourages more people to start using PHP. Then Sergio, who's worked on a few Web 2.0 Startup Sites, has a well-intentioned desire to avoid code duplication, and wants to put some common functionality in a library. So because Sergio has used PHP for his website development, it seems natural for him to write his library in PHP.

In the final stage of this disease, even Jennifer, an actual trained programmer who knows better, gets told to use PHP when she's hired for yet another Web 2.0 Startup because PHP is now the de-facto standard.

This is how PHP becomes popular. It's also how Java became popular in enterprisy applications (just imagine a bunch of CTOs all talking to each other). It's how Python became popular in bioinformatics. It's how Lisp became popular in the AI community back in the day. It's how C became popular in systems programming. It's why people are making the mind-bogglingly stupid decision to start using Flash for desktop applications.

This disease afflicts every field. Differences in hype, hosting, adoption in college classes, and random chance have a far greater impact on which language ends up being dominant than differences in the quality of the languages themselves. In this way, if the best language happens to become dominant, it's really just an accident.

Re:PHP has driven me out of web work (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30231570)

What exactly do you hate PHP for? Only technical problems please, not some personal preference I-hate-dollar-signs stuff.

From what I've seen and experienced - PHP just works. You have enough frameworks and enough libraries for most things. It seems to scale well, too.

Other languages may be more elegant and concise, when someone says PHP "infuriates" them - I genuinely want to know the reasons.

Re:PHP has driven me out of web work (0, Troll)

Maudib (223520) | more than 4 years ago | (#30233434)

Lots of reasons, but start with these:

No namespacing.
No Asynchronous execution.
Non-standard date formats
Dangerous stuff like "Global"
Without Zend-acceleration its incredibly slow.

Re:Not the book the Communtity needs... (1)

RAMMS+EIN (578166) | more than 4 years ago | (#30229958)

``The problem with Magento is not that it is too complex for a non-technical user. The problem with Magento is that is not properly documented or commented for technical users.''

So, some smart guy decided to step into the void and improve the situation, but, rather than writing documentation that is distributed with the software, he wrote a book that people have to pay for.

Slashdot, you should follow the FTC guidelines.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30229512)

... governing endorsements and testimonials: http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/10/endortest.shtm [ftc.gov]

Why the fuck is this binspam on /.? (1, Insightful)

uuddlrlrab (1617237) | more than 4 years ago | (#30229516)

This isn't news. This is fucking marketing. As good as this software may or may not be, this is not newsworthy, and is nothing more than shameless promotion of a product.

Re:Why the fuck is this binspam on /.? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30229602)

I second that. #spam gtfo my /.

Re:Why the fuck is this binspam on /.? (1)

trash eighty (457611) | more than 4 years ago | (#30229668)

well its a Book Review so they are like talking about a book

I wouldn't recommend Magento (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30229524)

It has a great backend and tons of features. But.. it's difficult (damn near impossible) to skin. And the other huge problem is the AJAX multipage checkout. It just doesn't work for some users, and there's no alternative.

Does it handle (0, Offtopic)

SnarfQuest (469614) | more than 4 years ago | (#30229526)

Does it handle getting your share of Obama's stash? He's giving away all that money from his own stash, so you should have an easy way of handling that.

"at least without hiring outside help" - (1)

MC68040 (462186) | more than 4 years ago | (#30229562)

.. This statement is interesting.
A lot of the e-commerce software you can get for free is written in common web development languages, e.g. Perl/PHP/Ruby/ASP.
So is this a question of lacking in-house competence from a SMB perspective? Most OSS e-commerce packages I've used have been a breeze to install, never mind to customize.

The truth to the statement is that some things are, at best, poorly documented. But if worst comes to worst, track down the bit of script you need to know (how it works) and read the code?

Re:"at least without hiring outside help" - (1)

megrims (839585) | more than 4 years ago | (#30229852)

Magento is an OO MVF application, on an EAV database, with an artificial (and ridiculous) namespacing system, managed by strictly case sensitive (sometimes you need to capitalise the first letter, sometimes not) XML config files and file placement within module directories. There is literally no documentation and the debugging information is pretty limited.

Figuring it out takes a while.

Re:"at least without hiring outside help" - (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30231086)

It must take a while. I couldn't even figure out your acronyms.

Re:"at least without hiring outside help" - (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30229908)

But if worst comes to worst, track down the bit of script you need to know (how it works) and read the code?

Easier said than done. Magento is over 5,000 files big and doing relatively simple things can involve editing about 10 different files. Doing more complex things can quickly become a nightmare.

sadly magento is still a better choice than it's competitors.

Re:"at least without hiring outside help" - (2, Informative)

crypie (111943) | more than 4 years ago | (#30232990)

It might be a shameless plug, but Satchmo - http://www.satchmoproject.com is a completely open source option. It's not perfect (what software is) but I believe it is a much better alternative than most of the PHP based alternatives.

I am one of the core devs so I am biased but do feel compelled to chime in with an alternative to the PHP based solutions out there like Magento.

Don't know too much about Magento, but do know (4, Insightful)

al0ha (1262684) | more than 4 years ago | (#30229604)

that based on experience, retailers that propose setting up an ecommerce site should forgo all "canned" shopping carts and fork over the minimal money it will cost to have one custom written to fit your business.

If you are attempting to launch a business without the initial funds to spend around $1000 on a custom shopping cart, with the expectation of spending more money down the road adding custom features tailored to your business if proved successful, then you are not ready to start your business.

Re:Don't know too much about Magento, but do know (1)

jaymz2k4 (790806) | more than 4 years ago | (#30229808)

Where & when can I hire you to speak to my clients? Its like talking to a brick wall sometimes!

Re:Don't know too much about Magento, but do know (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30229816)

If you are attempting to launch a business without the initial funds to spend around $1000 on a custom shopping cart.

Please point me toward some $1000 custom shopping cart apps. that are currently running. I have no money and lots of christmas presents to acquire.

Re:Don't know too much about Magento, but do know (1)

Big_Mamma (663104) | more than 4 years ago | (#30229864)

Err, $1000 doesn't buy a lot of developer time here. Even with a cheap, small software developer it won't last more than 3 days x 8 hours. I doubt that anyone can write a decent custom coded solution on that budget, you're better off with a default installation of a shopping cart, paid or free.

Re:Don't know too much about Magento, but do know (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30229996)

$1000 buys you 3 devs for a month in India. I'm not trolling.

Re:Don't know too much about Magento, but do know (1)

Anarchduke (1551707) | more than 4 years ago | (#30230358)

Holy Moly,

I can give Indian programmers away as Christmas gifts!!!

Re:Don't know too much about Magento, but do know (1)

Fallingcow (213461) | more than 4 years ago | (#30230470)

While you do that, I'm going to get three of them on indefinite retainer and start accepting a shitload of jobs on Craigslist, passing them off to those guys, and keeping the difference.

Jesus, that's cheap.

Re:Don't know too much about Magento, but do know (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30233900)

Congratulations, you've just become every US IT manager in existence.

Where? (1)

DogDude (805747) | more than 4 years ago | (#30229980)

Where can I find somebody to build a functional custom shopping solution for around $1000? I don't think that $1000 will go very far towards something that's functional and reliable.

Re:Where? (1)

Fallingcow (213461) | more than 4 years ago | (#30230344)

Most places I've seen would charge you $500-$1,000 just to set up and skin an open-source e-commerce package.

$1,000 won't buy you shit. Just getting some non-hideous custom graphics will cost you most of that money--and maybe more. I've seen shops charge north of $10,000 for sites that weren't a quarter as complex as an e-commerce site.

Re:Don't know too much about Magento, but do know (1)

TheModelEskimo (968202) | more than 4 years ago | (#30230040)

There are a *lot* of businesses out there that exist most comfortably with a web development budget that won't allow them to use a customized shopping cart.

When I come across one of them that does have a customized shopping cart and is looking for a new web developer because the old one got hit by a bus, or just started ignoring their calls, I do feel really bad for them. Suddenly they're 1) really vulnerable to back-end developers with a God-complex and 2) lacking a cost-effective way to port their previous developer's crappy CSS non-templating system over to new software.

Re:Don't know too much about Magento, but do know (1)

Fallingcow (213461) | more than 4 years ago | (#30230404)

or just started ignoring their calls

Why is this sort of thing so common on the low end of web development? It's amazing how happy you can make people in that market by just returning their calls and emails and taking less than a month to perform a task that requires maybe 30 minutes of your time, because they've usually dealt with assholes who can't be bothered to do any of that.

WTF is up with free lance web developers?

Re:Don't know too much about Magento, but do know (1)

TheModelEskimo (968202) | more than 4 years ago | (#30230620)

They're in high demand. Especially those who find themselves being treated by a few loosely-connected web teams as their team lead for web services. Suddenly you're busy, making money, and things don't seem like they're gonna slow down.

It's incredibly flattering to be referred to in corporate documents as "our web guy," - being so relied upon - and yet also realize that you are still your own boss.

So a webdev ends up making a comfortable amount while he ignores his less-profitable clients (who would be more profitable if he paid attention to them, but he doesn't need the money). I see this all the time. Joe Web Dev would still go broke if he tried it, but if you've got a decent wardrobe, some people skills, no debt, and a place to live while you sort out your income, it can be accomplished in as little as 5 years. (Ignoring clients is optional)

I call Bullshit. (3, Insightful)

billybob_jcv (967047) | more than 4 years ago | (#30231280)

Anyone who has needed to deal with credit card security concerns and being audited by Visa or one of the big processors for PCI compliance will run to a commercially supported ecommerce product or ASP payment service. The days of custom coded carts for a serious online business is over. It doesn't matter whether the custom coded cart is more or less secure, and it also doesn't matter if 90% of online credit card security concerns are total bullshit propagated by the security consultants - this is about risk mitigation and about business owners having someone they can point to if the PCI audit is required. So, yeah, you can continue to make a few bucks selling custom carts or low-cost carts to micro-businesses, but you won't be making a living off any well-known brands.
     

Re:Don't know too much about Magento, but do know (1)

Falc0n (618777) | more than 4 years ago | (#30231506)

Thats just false.

If you're a small company selling some products, ubercart and drupal is for you. You can see a good list of sites using it now. [ubercart.org]

the ONLY time I'd recommend someone spending money to develop their own ecommerce system is if they have something extremely customized--$million+ sites... NewEgg for example... and even then, the amount of money and time to make a 'custom' cart system could be cut by spending that time on extending the drupal and ubercart frameworks.

FAiLzORS (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30229608)

Whether you Slashdot's wh3n IDC recently Crrek, abysmal ASSOCIATION OF

Import system (1)

palmerj3 (900866) | more than 4 years ago | (#30229862)

I wonder if this book can show everyone how to import products reliably? The current import system is total crap and often needs to be completely bypassed.

So now that I know about the book... (1)

lbalbalba (526209) | more than 4 years ago | (#30230094)

... is 'Magento' itself actually any good or not ?

Depends on what you're doing with it. (1)

TheFaithfulStone (1528753) | more than 4 years ago | (#30231286)

If all you want to do is theme it and go, then it's pretty awesome. It's out of the box functionality exceeds software costing $100,000. If you need to customize anything, then be prepared to enter a dimension where pain and chaos reign, complicated doesn't even cover it, and there's almost zero good documentation.

Impenetrable (1)

PDHoss (141657) | more than 4 years ago | (#30230388)

I agree that Magento is a properly designed enterprise commerce package and that most other OS commerce packages are spaghetti. But Magento is just... Impenetrable. You wander around forever just trying to figure out how to change some simple thing. Knock the PHP hack carts all you want, but I bet I can figure out how to graft on a quick feature about a billion times faster in that than in Magento. And when you're talking OS solutions, a great many users will be of the hacker type just wanting to git 'r done.

Magento is just waaaaaay to "pure" for my tastes.

Reminds me of ATG (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30230488)

This reminds me of ATG's eCommerce platform, or rather their entire product stack for that matter. Bad architecture == bad foundation == maintenance headache == bloated servers == non performant

Magento is better than OSCommerce, but... (1)

clintcan (854313) | more than 4 years ago | (#30230572)

Having made an ecommerce site from magento itself, I'd say that although it's way better than OSCommerce, it's slow, and very poorly documented. It is as if Varien wanted the poor documentation to happen so that you can hire them for helping set up your site. It is slow because it practically uses EAV for most of it's data. To fetch manually for example, an order, you'd have to parse through different tables to find out what that order exactly is. And the whole system is one big object extension of the Zend framework! Adding APC and memcache makes it work better and faster, but it is still slow. Also, the templating system is daunting, to say the least, for beginners. Also, one big peeve of mine is that it has limited order statuses - shipped, processing, complete, among others, and so far, I haven't found a way to add this reliably (although you can add it to a drop down box in the admin panel, what happens is that you cannot call it through a class) But once you get the hang on it (mostly, since looking at the huge amount of code without comments is very very overwhelming), it can be very flexible. So far, we've made a system to let it contact a fulfillment company for deliveries at the start of every day, and let the fulfillment company update us when those orders were delivered and shipped out. It mostly works too, and it's fairly automated, that we've just left it alone.

Stay away from it if you look forward. (2, Interesting)

unity100 (970058) | more than 4 years ago | (#30230668)

i work in the field. im a programmer.

magento is shiny, looks good and whatnot, but the code seems to be done in a way to discourage external development and modification. it takes 2-3 times longer to do some modification to magento that it takes to do on other shopping cart software.

im suspecting this to be a new trend though. i noticed similar other software (non shopping cart) out there, which were open source, but coded in such a way that (as if to show your left ear with your right hand), it would become complicated and manually time consuming to modify, therefore discouraging 3rd party development.

we had some former clients jumping on magento bandwagon. things went well for them at the start. but as their needs for modification increased with passing time, they had to migrate their store to another cart because it became too expensive for them to fund modifications to their store software.

Re:Stay away from it if you look forward. (1)

rainer_d (115765) | more than 4 years ago | (#30231278)

What other shopping card do you recommend then?

Re:Stay away from it if you look forward. (1)

Skal Tura (595728) | more than 4 years ago | (#30231446)

Amen to that!

Underneath lies tho larger problems than just that. Sure it's been obfuscated to make harder for 3rd party modifications, but they actually fail to implement proper MVC pattern, just to name one problem. (Nevermind that 12k files in a fresh install...)

Very slow (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30230904)

I've tried Magento in the past, as an alternative to osCommerce and Zencart. The templating system on the later two is horrendous, Zencart being slightly better. The backend store management leaves a lot to be desired as well, but they are usable products. The default template for Magento looks slick enough that you don't have to mess with it for small time operations. The backend is also quite nice, at least compared to the other two (this is a matter of preference and opinion), however there are also some bonehead things.

The one problem I had with Magento was its performance. It's probably not an issue if you have fast and expensive web hosting. I was trying to host a webstore on phpwebhosting.net, which is decently cheap and I had no problems with it up until that point. Whereas there were no performance issues with osCommerce or Zencart, Magento would take 30seconds to 1 minute to load the first time you viewed it. After that it was ok, but the first load was killer. It's not that it loaded one piece at a time slowly. There was just nothing, for a long time, then everything would appear at once. As it turns out, there is one killer of an sql query sent out right off the bat. This is quite unacceptable as no customer would wait that long.

I tried it on and off for a year but there was never any improvement. Basically, it's not a webstore for small time guys on small servers. You're better off sticking with Zencart.

Re:Very slow (1)

djMouton (267156) | more than 4 years ago | (#30233860)

I actually left a company last year over a custom Magento project. At one point, they were throwing $1500/mo worth of dedicated server at a vanilla install (v1.1.something), and it was taking upwards of 20 seconds to load a product page. Load times have gotten significantly better since then, but it can still be showstoppingly slow even on tier 1 hardware.

Zencart (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30230996)

Zencart works for us. Decent guides are available, and search engines seem to like the way it presents products.

Many hosting providers will install it as part of your hosting package. Hosting a fully functional Zencart setup can cost 20/ month with scads of drive space.

Integrating it with your pos is easy - export out of your pos, and follow the instructions using the Easypopulate add-on.

You can add Live Help via sideboxes, or add other content pretty much as you see fit. You just find the relevant code section, and modify or add to it.

The forums that help support Zencart are chock full of people who've asked what you're going to ask, and many times get a decent answer from a developer or at least a lead in the right direction.

I don't resell, or sell Zencart, just noticed its absence from the discussion.

I run a Magento shop... This is my experience (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30231012)

Magento was a headache in the beginning. The code is abstracted beyond imagination. Imagine every database table (there are more than 200 in my install) has at least 3 classes associated with it. Every new section of a page needs at least 1 class and 1 template file associated with it. There are literally hundreds of xml files that hold configuration options. Most top-level classes extend other classes 3-4 layers deep. Wrapping your head around this takes a lot of time and effort. Don't even get me started on the EAV architect. Look it up on wikipedia if you don't know what it is.

However, once you learn Magento's MVC architect and understand the EAV architect and once you get a feel for all the base classes, then it is beautiful. It is amazingly extensible. True, it takes twice as long to do anything if you follow the Magento way. However, you easily save as much time in terms of extending functionality later on and maintaining what you did.

True, back in the day Magento was slow. It was not just slow, it was dog slow. This is not the case anymore. I run a shop with about 400,000 products and over 6,000 categories. Every page loads in one second or less according to YSlow. I run it off of two servers. And this is the community edition.

So, if you haven't looked at Magento I would recommend giving it a real shot. Its true, you will need to understand programming if you don't want to do anything basic. Even theming will require understanding of file structure and xml files. But, if you can handle this, then you will learn to love Magento.

Re:I run a Magento shop... This is my experience (1)

Skal Tura (595728) | more than 4 years ago | (#30231416)

Any idiot can make things bigger and more complex, it takes a true genius to make things smaller, simpler.

Magento might have the base ideas correct, unfortunately however, the implementation is worse than kissing a frog while swimming in poo, dragging a concrete block on your ankle.

Re:I run a Magento shop... This is my experience (1)

mweather (1089505) | more than 4 years ago | (#30233916)

Small and simple is generally really hard to extend. Magento is designed to be flexible and maintainable, not small and fast.

Having worked with Magento... (1)

Skal Tura (595728) | more than 4 years ago | (#30231376)

Foreword: I work as a web developer, and work in highly complex dynamic systems, specializing in UIs and system integration.

I've worked with both osCommerce and Magento. Magento has very good marketing engine, really efficient throwing around of buzzwords. Sure it says on the cover to use Zend Framework and MVC pattern. What's not to like? EVERYTHING. The implementation is crappy even at best. It's not true MVC as view components actually FETCH DATA oO;

I spent about 3 weeks to get an new store launched, and launch was even delayed. The same work, the same system could have been done using osCommerce in a week...

I would recommend Magento only to my worst enemy, even that might be slightly too cruel. The list of problems with Magento is too immense to even start listing ... But i do say: Put it to SVN, checkout to empty directory and try if it work ;)

(Oh, and the development documentation for Magento is complete hokus pokus marketing bullshit)

Re:Having worked with Magento... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30233880)

Having also worked with Magento...
I would agree that there is some code "all over the place", but then again I really don't care if it is a pure MVC implementation or not. Calling Magento's code crap (and some of it is) and then talking about oscommerce as a solution says more about lack of programming knowledge than about Magento's code quality.
It has been a couple of years since I've last used oscommerce, and the last time I had to rewrite almost 40% of the code to correct bugs, ugly code, crappy sql and implement some extra funcionality. I would not recommend Magento as the end-all solution for ecommerce (as they advertise it), but if you want working multilanguage support, need configurable products or custom filtering by attributes, Magento is the way to go. Shure, the template and layout system is a bit overhead. Shure it is kinda slow. Shure the EAV database is quite complex for the funcionality - and mysql seems a very poor choice - but in the end Magento is a recent product with an active development team and with some sort of commercial upgrade - that's more than I can say for oscommerce.
I don't work with complex dynamic systems, and I don't find Magento's code that hard to follow.

Drupal + Ubercart (1)

Falc0n (618777) | more than 4 years ago | (#30231462)

A big piece missing from Magento is the content management portion. There has been talk about integrating Magento as a third party add-on to drupal, but its so different in how it handles content, that it doesn't really work.

A decent alternative is Ubercart and Drupal. Ubercart, while not the best example of -good- drupal code, it is getting better, and d7uc is planning on bringing much of the code to drupal standards. One big plus about ubercart is its extensibility. Despite it being a bloated shopping system (built for a mom-and-pop shop, similar to magento), it is easy to override functions and get it to do what you want. Ubercart is also used extensively on major websites, almost everything that uses drupal 6 and ecommerce.

In the dark days of ubercart, or when I'm banging my head on a problem that cannot be easily solved with it, I've looked to magento, but then came running back.

it's what makers of magento should have done (1)

dialbat (900703) | more than 4 years ago | (#30231696)

I've read it, and this book is exactly what the makers of Magento should have done.
I don't think it's worth the money, maybe 5$.

WAY TO MUCH (1)

FlyingGuy (989135) | more than 4 years ago | (#30232588)

A project with no documentation and the comments stripped out, Qel Surpise!

A shopping cart should be simple and small. It should be unobtrusive.

What it should do is give you the calls to display, review, modify, fill your shopping cart, check out and take a payment.

Nothing more, nothing less.

At that point you can integrate it into whatever web site your building using your styling and markup.

This ain't brain surgery, it is a database. and the most complex thing should be a bit of javascript to update the totals.

mopd 3own (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30232812)

today. It's about Cl3ar she 3ouldn't
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