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Improving Disk I/O in PHP Apps

For the release of Smarty 3.1.0 I refactored most of Smarty's disk access. As this optimization from September 2011 kept popping up questions on the Smarty forums, I finally felt the need to explain what I did. Although Smarty is the reason I discovered this, this post applies to PHP in general, not Smarty in particular. This post is all about laying the groundwork for you to realize two things:

  1. Your operations are not atomic
  2. Avoid accessing the hard disk unnecessarly
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Prevent Smarty from writing compiled templates

Many tools come with an installation / setup / configuration procedure. At this stage directories needed by the tool or its components usually don't yet exist. For Smarty based systems this poses a problem, as Smarty writes compiled templates to a designated directory. So if the installer is built upon Smarty, the developer is presented a hen/egg problem.

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