Health Tips Web Development

7 Advantages to using a standing up desk when working as a developer

Are you spending all your work day sitting writing code?

Is your back feeling stiff or causing you some pain?

Maybe it’s time to consider getting one of those new hip standing desks?

Here’s 7 reasons that might help convince you a standing desk is worth it.

You can always try one out with just cardboard boxes…

Also check out the link at the bottom to download a print ready PDF of the advantages

Download as a PDF – 7 Advantages for stand up desks

Health Productivity Tips Web Development

How do you sit and code for so damn long all day, every day?

How do you sit and code for so damn long?

I feel like my wrists are going to snap off and my back/neck is deforming.

Your day goes something like this, as it does for a lot of people…

  • Wake up…
  • SIT in your car and drive to work
  • Or SIT maybe stand on public transport work
  • Get to the office and SIT down
  • Go for a coffee break and SIT down
  • SIT back down at your desk
  • Eat lunch SITTING down
  • SIT back down at your desk
  • Head home probably SITTING down
  • Get home and SIT down to watch some TV / Do more work / Eat
  • Repeat 5 day a week.

Sitting all day is harmful to your health, and you can’t fix it by exercising.

So what’s the answer if it’s not exercising?

Sounds obvious, but it’s trying to sit less…

That’s easy to say except when your paid to SIT for your day job…

What you need is a variable height stand up desk!

After years of development sitting down and enduring back pain I decided to get one.

I didn’t want to spend the money on a piece of office furniture it and it wasn’t covered by medical insurance.

My company wasn’t going to pay for it.

You might be lucky enough to work for a company that will do.

At the end of the day I decided a few hundred dollars for a standning desk versus back pain was a no brainer!

I wanted to live without the pain.

We have standing desks, the first couple of weeks were hell though.

And yes after years of sitting, to be standing at your desk, does hurt, it’s not easy.

But you do get used to it.

You stand sometimes and you sit sometimes as opposed to sitting all day.

I start the day off standing up and as the day goes by end up sitting more.

Sitting every so often, good shoes and a padded mat also make a big difference.

I find flat heeled shoes help for standing and working at the desk.

You’r standing in place, sure, but you aren’t usually as immobile as you would be if you were sitting. You shift your weight around, you’re also more inclined to walk away from your desk.

I switched to a standing desk a few months ago. Over the first month, the back pain decreased until it vanished completely.

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Health PHP Productivity Tips Web Development

List of free pomodoro apps to improve your productivity as a web developer

Looking for a pomodoro app, to help keep you on task and productive?

Below is a list of different options for different OS’s




Web based / online


Chrome apps:

  • Pomodo’more is a lightweight app you can add to your Chrome Browser.

You can read more about Pomodoro here: Why breaking time and tasks in to small blocks will increase your productivity as a web developer

PHP Tips Web Development

Do you have enough time for a custom e-commerce website to be developed?

Time, money and patience is required for custom software development.

Custom software development can really hurt, so do your research before committing to it.

Developing a customer e-commerce website can be very time consuming. Do you really need to try and “re-invent the wheel”?

The development process can also be annoying and irritating. More so if you don’t understand the technical aspect. Even seemingly small visual changes can seem to take way more time than you think they should.

You might start thinking…

“Am I being ripped off by my website developer?”

If you haven’t yet embarked down this process, pause and consider your options:

  1. Pay to develop custom software to exactly meet your needs. Which could be a long frustrating expensive journey or
  2. Use an existing e-commerce service like Shopify. Where in a few hours you could have a professional looking site live and ready to take orders.

I’m a software developer. Through years of experience of being paid to develop custom software. I recommend you avoid all the potential pains associated with option 1. Take option 2, start accepting orders today!

Save yourself the pain, take the easy way of using software. That you can then customize (within certain boundaries) for yourself!

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MySQL Tips

When do you need to use back ticks with MySQL?

Back ticks are often misunderstood.

I am trying to learn the best way to write queries.

You might not be sure how to use those funny little `ticks

`back ticks`, `backticks`

I have used single quotes, double quotes and back ticks without any real thought.

What is the standard for this?

Back ticks should be used for table and column identifiers, but are only needed when the identifier is MySQL reserved keyword.
Also if the identifier contains white space or other special characters.

When possible it’s recommended not to use keywords and special characters as table and column identifiers to avoid having to use back ticks.

If you use PHPMyAdmin to generate some queries you will see that all the column and table identifiers are escaped with back ticks by default.

For example a SELECT query would look like this:

SELECT `id`, `created_by_user_id`, `modified_by_user_id` FROM `products` WHERE 1

As none of these column and table identifiers contain any special characters and don’t match any of the MySQL reserved keywords, the same query will run just fine without the back ticks:

SELECT id, created_by_user_id, modified_by_user_id FROM products WHERE 1

Replace the back ticks with single quotes (or double quotes) and you will get an error as now each identifier wrapped in single quotes is treated as a string:

SELECT 'id', 'created_by_user_id', 'modified_by_user_id' FROM 'products' WHERE 1
--#1064 - You have an error in your SQL syntax; check the manual that corresponds to your MySQL server version for the right syntax to use near ''products'

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How to PHP Tips Web Development

How to integrate a blog RSS feed into a PHP page

What comes first your wordpress blog or your website?

You might have started with a free wordpress blog. Then later created a separate website or vice versa. Well whichever way round it is. You might have ended up with two disconnected websites. Now you want to reuse your blog content in your website.

One easy way to do this and integrate your blog content in your website is using its RSS feed. Which is available on your wordpress blog. Just add this query string “?feed=rss” to your blog’s url and you will get an RSS feed from your blog.

Try it now in your web browser, by clicking on this link:

Now that you can access the RSS feed, you can parse the RSS data into your page

Last RSS is a PHP RSS parser. Available to download as a single file here:

So you can now parse the RSS feed. With a few lines of PHP code as demonstrated below. This is based on one of Last RSS’s examples.

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Productivity Tips

Why breaking time and tasks in to small blocks will increase your productivity as a web developer

I’m a chronic procrastinator – how do I break it? I could be changing the world, but instead I’m putting in the bare minimum and no matter what trick or method I try I can’t seem to beat it.

Sound familiar?  You know what needs to be done, but put it off…

I always have a fear of finishing something and it’s a bit of a problem for me.  I can’t ever finish anything, because then what??

And if it’s not work to do, there’s always something else you could check… check your email, check the news, check the weather, check your social media updates. Or you could make a tea / coffee, grab a snack or see what’s going on outside….

Endless distractions and procrastination to avoid actually doing the work.  Before you know it half the day has gone and then the whole day and it’s time to stop working.

How do you bring your focus back?

A timer by your desk is a great way to approach this at work, personally I find 15-20 mins of work and 5 mins of procrastinating is a good balance.

If you haven’t heard of it before this is called the Pomodoro Technique!

  1. Pick a task to do
  2. Set a timer to work on the task (25 mins)
  3. When the time is up, stop and take a break doing something else for a set period of time (3-5 mins)
  4. Repeat the above until your task(s) are complete!
  5. After four iterations of the above, take a longer break, you’ve actually earned it!

Much like breaking a complex programming problem up into smaller chunks to fix, breaking time up into defined short periods (Pomodoros) helps you concentrate and stop procrastinating for at least 25 minutes to actually get some work done.

Depending on your work place an actual physical timer on your desk may be a good solution.  Otherwise there are a choice of websites, apps and chrome extensions to time your Pomodoros for you.

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How to MySQL Tips Web Development

When to use USING in a JOIN rather than JOINing ON?

What is the difference between ON and USING() when JOINing two or more tables together in a SQL query?

For example you have the following two tables, Users and Products, when a Product is created, the Users id that created it is stored.

Products table:
id Primary Key
created_by_user_id Foreign Key to Users table
Users table:
id Primary Key

If you want to find out who created the product, you can do that easily with a simple SQL query like this:

SELECT p.*, u.*
FROM products p
INNER JOIN users u ON p.created_by_user_id =

If however the user id field was named the same in both tables like this:

Products table:
id Primary Key
user_id Foreign Key to Users table
Users table:
user_id Primary Key

You can then use USING to JOIN the tables together and return the same data with this SQL:

SELECT p.*, u.*
FROM products p
INNER JOIN users u USING(user_id)

Each time you JOIN a table you will need to use an additional USING clause even if the second and third tables contain the exactly same column name.

Make sure that when you are JOINing tables together using the ON or the USING clause that the data type of the matching columns is the same data type.

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How to PHP Tips Web Development

Help for avoiding undefined index notices

If you are just starting out with PHP, you may come across this message:

Notice: Undefined index: username in C:\wamp\www\mysite\index.php on line 99

Even if you’ve been coding for years you can still get this message!

You may be confused as to what an “Undefined index” is? Often seen when trying to access global server variables such as $_POST and $_GET when passing data from another page or posting it back to the same page.

So what is it? It really is an index of an array that hasn’t been defined yet.  You are trying to access data in a variable that doesn’t exist!

Depending on the PHP error reporting level you configure, you can even hide these notices, but that’s not recommended, better to deal with them and write good code.

You can normally fix your “Undefined index” errors with the isset function to check whether a variable is set, like this:

// Check if the username is set or not...
If (isset($_POST['username']))
$username = $_POST['username'];
$username = "";

However a very useful function which can save you many lines of code like the above and undefined index notices, can be found in the comments (all credit to the author) on the same page of the PHP manual.

function isset_or(&$check, $alternate = NULL)
return (isset($check)) ? $check : $alternate;

//Example usage which will give the same result as the if / else statement above
$username = isset_or($_POST['username'], "");

It’s a very useful function if you are using plain PHP and need to determine the value of variables. It will also make your code cleaner and easier to read than repeated if / else statements like the above.

PHP Productivity Tips

How do you deal with stress as a web developer?

Life can be stressful enough, work as a web developer has it’s own unique stresses from dealing with users who don’t know what they are doing, managers who don’t know what they are managing and technology that never stands still.

At times and some days at multiple times in the day the stress can feel too much.  Sometimes you feel like you need to release the built up angst, anger and frustrations.  Venting and releasing the stress in a controlled manner is important for you and everyone around you.

There are times when you can spend hours trying to fix a bug, that can turn out to be a single character (often invisible) that’s out of place causing a bug and stress.

There are lots of options for dealing with stress, but one that is free and should be available to almost anyone, is just getting up and going for a walk.  Preferably in natural surroundings, if you are in a city, try and walk around a nearby park.

Take a break, when you are stuck go for a walk.  Disconnect from your problem, when you come back after your 10-20 minute walk, you will have a fresh perspective.  I do this all the time and it is crucial to my productivity.

It’s amazing how bugs can be solved, by just leaving the code alone, getting outside for a walk for 10-20 minutes and then when you come back, you have the fix and the stress is gone!  Often I find the fix will come to me halfway on the walk, or when I’m on my way back to the office.  When you are desperately trying to fix an urgent problem, it’s amazing how time can fly by, so stop, get up and take a break with a walk and let the solution come to you, while the stress dissipates…