Pirum, the Simple PEAR Channel Server Manager

Fabien Potencier

November 28, 2009

Some weeks ago during the Zend Conference, I quietly released Pirum, a simple PEAR channel server manager. As some people talk about it on "social networks", I thought I should write an official announcement on my blog to explain where I come from.

A PEAR channel server allows you to install PEAR packages with the PEAR command line. You are probably already familiar with it as it comes bundled with most PHP installations:

$ pear install ...

Pirum comes from my frustration with the current state of PEAR channel servers. Beside big Open-Source projects like symfony, I'm also responsible for smaller projects (like Twig, or Swift Mailer). But for all my software, I like to provide different way of installing them: directly from SVN via svn:externals, from my Git mirrors, from an archive to download, or with the PEAR command line.

Except for the PEAR package installation, the other ones are quite easy to setup and automate. But providing a PEAR channel proves to be more involving. The only serious PEAR channel server I'm aware of is Chiara_PEAR_Channel from Greg Beaver. This is the software I used for symfony for four years. It works really well, but is a bit cumbersome to setup for smaller projects (it needs a database, and you need to configure some categories, the contributors for the project, and more). That's fine for PEAR itself, but frankly, for the rest of us, that's just too much.

As a matter of fact, hosting a PEAR channel server is super simple. It's all about static files. That's right, even if you need some sort of PHP scripts to maintain a PEAR channel server, the frontend used by the PEAR command line tool can only be static files (mainly XML ones). And Chiara_PEAR_Server works exactly like this. The backend, done in PHP, is where you maintain your packages, and it generates the frontend, a bunch of static files for the frontend. That's a really great architecture as it allows to scale very easily. For instance, you should probably be able to host a PEAR channel server on a CDN line Amazon S3 in a matter of minutes.

Thanks to this decoupled and simple architecture, I wrote some PHP scripts to manage a PEAR channel server for the symfony plugins two years ago.

The idea for Pirum came when I started the Twig project. Obviously, I wanted a PEAR channel server for Twig, but I really did not want to use Chiara_PEAR_Server. So I started to hack my own and Pirum was born.

Pirum lets you setup PEAR channel servers in a matter of minutes. Pirum is best suited when you want to create small PEAR channels for a few packages written by a few developers.

Pirum consists of just one file, a command line tool, written in PHP. There is no external dependencies, no not need for a database, no need to setup credentials, and nothing need to be installed or configured.

Installing Pirum is as simple as downloading the pirum file and saving it where you see fit.

Of course, Pirum itself uses Pirum to provide a PEAR channel server for itself!

Even if Pirum only consists of just one file, it comes with a lot of great features:

Besides its size and simplicity, Pirum is packed with a lot of features:

  • It creates a full-featured PEAR channel server useable by any PEAR CLI;

  • Each channel has an HTML page describing the server and the packages it hosts;

  • New releases can be tracked by subscribing to an Atom feed.

Of course, it also comes with some limitations:

  • No support for fallback PEAR channel servers;

  • No category management (all packages are under a "default" category);

  • No web interface for managing the packages.

You can find more information about using Pirum on its official website.

Pirum is already used by the following Open-Source projects:

I hope that with Pirum, more Open-Source projects will start providing a PEAR channel as a mean to install their software. If you start using Pirum for your project, please send me an email so that I can update the list on the Pirum website.