Extending PHP

Extending PHP does not mean just adding classes and functions. It also means adding functionality not previously supported by PHP. This can be done by writing functions in C that can be called from PHP. These functions should be able to receive parameters passed from PHP. The difference between a variable in a C source and a variable in PHP is that in PHP the variable in PHP is loosely typed. That is, in PHP a variable can be used as an integer, but later as a string or a floating point number, so its equivalent in C is zVal. “zval” is a structure containing the variable’s type and a union made up of members of different types sharing the same memory address.

The PHP extension is a dynamically linked library (‘dll’ in Windows, ‘so’ in Linux) containing functions that can be called from PHP.

The process of creating an extension is described in the chapter “PHP at the Core: A Hacker’s Guide to the Zend Engine” in the famous PHP manual.

Building the extension starts with tunning the ‘ext_skel’ script, which creates a directory for your extension including a skeleton of the extension’s C code and a header file.

The next step is to add functions and global variables using macros.

The macro used for defining a  function is PHP_FUNCTION(function_name). Returning a value is done using the macros RETURN_TRUE, RETURN_FALSE, RETVAL_* . These macros are in /path/to/php_include_dir/Zend/zend_API.h

Arguments are passed to local C variables using the function ‘zend_parse_parameters’.

The next step is to edit config.w4(Linux) or config.w32(windows), then run ‘phpize’ and ‘configure’ to create a Makefile.

Finally, run make.

The dynamically loaded library will be created in the ‘modules’ directory. Use ‘make install’ with root permissions to copy your extension to the PHP extension directory.

Unfortunately, the guide is far from being complete, so to look for examples, browse ‘pecl.php.net‘ for source codes.

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