What You Should Know About PHP 7.2

What You Should Know About PHP 7.2

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We must thank again one of our loyal readers for helping us realize the importance of this follow-up. The truth is, key changes in such a critical technology deserve continuous coverage. Furthermore, the “update of the update” —i.e., PHP 7.2— sets new challenges and opportunities, in and beyond Moodle.

Previously in MoodleNews: What You Should Know About PHP 7

PHP 7.2 is not the significant departure from PHP 7.1 that PHP 7 was from PHP 5. But there are incompatibilities from 7.1 to 7.2, as well as deprecated features.

But if there is one point to get across, is that PHP 5 and 7.0 are a thing of the past. The only actively supported version of the last branch is PHP 5.6, which is no longer actively developed and will stop receiving any kind of update, including security, by New Year’s Eve. PHP 7.0 will receive security support until December 3rd, and PHP 7.1 will stop active support until December 1st.

In the case of Moodle, the situation is not as dire as in other PHP-based systems, but there is some cause for concern. PHP 7.2 is compatible with Moodle 3.4 and 3.5 only, which according to the official stats cover some three fifths of registered active Moodle sites.

Hinkelman’s list

Please list the major changes in PHP 7.2 that might affect Moodle.
The bottom line is that not doing the migration will make the sites more vulnerable. But the mandatory switch should have some visible benefits including speed, smoothness in 64-bit machines (the increasing majority of them), and a decrease in the fatality of running into code errors. PHP 7.2 is designed to make the code more flexible and errors more manageable and less consequential.

Regarding the new features coming in PHP 7.2 compared from PHP 5, the list is long and highly technical. But final uses should count on a more secure and reliable system, and depending on the developer and functionality, better plugin performance.

What changes are likely to affect custom plugins, such as activity modules, themes, question types and blocks?
Other than ensuring compatibility, plugins and core features do not need to make radical changes to their code. But developers are welcome to study some of the key new features and decide whether it enhances the quality and performance of their programs:

Another, even more delicate issue developers (and hardly anyone else) involves the compatibility of frameworks they use to streamline PHP programming. Zend, one of the most popular, became compatible with PHP 7.2 only a few months. Developers who use Zend must upgrade both PHP and Zend to ensure compatibility.

What problems did HQ have to solve to get MoodleCloud working on PHP 7? Maybe you should interview an HQ developer about this, and get their advice for institutional upgraders.
We do not have an announcement on interviews at this time. Stay tuned!

Should schools wait to upgrade to Moodle 3.5 for a year or so, because PHP 7 is such a major change?
In short, no. PHP 7 has been around for almost 2 years. In tech time, it is plenty for both plugin and Moodle HQ developers to get acquainted and make the switch. However, the ideal and actual scenario might vary. It is estimated that 57% of the internet still uses PHP 5.6 and 7.0. You can thank WordPress most of all for this.

PHP 7 might come with new things to learn, but it is designed to make PHP programming more manageable.

Moonami LogoThis Moodle Technology related post is made possible by: Moonami a company that provides a full range of Moodle services that combine the flexibility, scalability, and power of Amazon’s world-leading cloud platform (AWS) with fanatical Moodle support. Click here to learn more.

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