Letting the database to the heavy lifting: Capitalization via SQL

Years ago I had the pleasure of meeting Ben Forta and listen to his thoughts on web development. One thing that stuck with me was his statement that:

“Dynamic programming languages like PHP and Coldfusion are great, but developers need to leverage the database more. Allow the database to do it’s job, the heavy lifting”

With that being said, I was recently working with a database that contained users first names. The data was not snantized at entry, and contained a mix of lower cased (ex. josh) and upper cased (ex. Josh) first characters in the firstname column. I needed to always present the users first name in a capitalized format.

The first solution that most developers would reach for is dynamically parsing the users first name, then upper-casing the first character. This works, but in my opinion isn’t the most elegant solution.

With a simple SQL statement, like the one below, we can return the users first name already in a capitalized state.

SELECT (UPPER(LEFT(firstname,1))+SUBSTRING(firstname,2,LEN(firstname))) AS firstname 
FROM users
It’s quick to implement, its easy to work with, and it’s also very fast on the performance scale.
Yes, I understand that there are cool convenience functions in like ucfirst() in PHP, but I’m a lazy programmer and I don’t want to have to remember to use ucfirst() every time I’m dealing with the users name. I’d rather get the information in the correct format the first time, then remembering to groom it every time before I use it. Set it and forget it.

Detecting Character Encoding In Coldfusion

Most of the time I only work with UTF-8 or UTF-16 character encodings. With that said, recently I was working on an old coldfusion project. Do to database restrictions, required all inputs from the user into the application to be Latin-1 (ISO-8859-1) character encoded.

Coldfusion does not have a good way of checking the character encoding of a string, so I had to pull out some of my Java skillz.

Dropping into Java from ColdFusion is a lot easier then it sounds. Check it out

<cfscript>   
   //use this to test character encoding. We only want Latin-1
    encoder = createObject("java", "java.nio.charset.Charset").forName("ISO-8859-1").newEncoder();
 
    if(encoder.canEncode(testVar))
    {
        //its Latin-1
    }
    else
    {
        /NOT Latin-1
    }
</cfscript>

The Java layer of Coldfusion is very powerful and under utilized by many developers.

If you want to see some true ColdFusion magic, check out the ColdBox Framework, http://ColdBoxFramework.com

CFUnited 2010 here I come!

I will be speaking at this years CFUnited conference in Lansdowne Virgina, at the Lansdowne Resort

CFUnited is an annual conference based around the Coldfusion, Flex, and AIR languages and platforms.

This year I will be co-presenting with Luis Majano on “ColdFusion Powered iPhone Applications

The session will cover how to develop and power iPhone applications via ColdFusion REST Services. I will cover all the development basics, intricacies, best practices, etc of iPhone development. The focus will be on how to make an iPhone application connect and consume ColdBox REST services.

The ColdFusion portion of the session will be led by Luis Majano, Creator of the Coldbox Framework.

I’m really looking forward to this great experience. I will be posting the slides and sample code here, after the presentation.