Blackfire Player

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Pretend for a few minutes that the Blackfire profiler that we've been learning so much about... doesn't exist... at all. Why? Because we're now going to talk about something that has the word "Blackfire" in it... but has absolutely nothing to do with the Blackfire profiler. At least, not yet.

Hello Blackfire Player

Google for "Blackfire player". The Blackfire Player is an open source library that makes it really easy to write a few lines of code that will then be executed to crawl a site: clicking on links, filling out forms, and doing things with the result. It's basically a simple language for surfing the web and a tool that's able to read that language and... actually do it!

To install it, copy the curl command, find your terminal, and paste:

curl -OLsS

If you're on Windows, you can just download the blackfire-player.phar file from that URL and put it into your project.

Now go back and copy the other two commands.

chmod +x blackfire-player.phar
mv blackfire-player.phar /usr/local/bin/blackfire-player

Paste and... that's it! For Windows users, skip this step. Let's see if it works. Run:




For Windows, run php blackfire-player.php from inside your project.

So here's the idea: we create a file that contains one or more scenarios. Inside each scenario, we write code that says: go visit this URL, expect a 200 status code, then click on this link, and so on. It can get fancier, but that's the gist of it.

Creating our First Scenario & .bkf File

Let's create a our first Blackfire player file at the root of the project, though it could live anywhere. Call it, how about, scenario.bkf. That's pure creativity.

At the top, I'll put a name - though it's not very important - then endpoint set to our server's URL. So https://localhost:8000:

5 lines scenario.bkf
name "Various scenarios for the site"
# override with --endpoint option
endpoint "https://localhost:8000"

You can override this when you execute this file by passing a --endpoint option.

Notice that this kind of looks like YAML, but it's not: there is no : between the key and value. This is a custom Blackfire player language, which is friendly, but takes some getting used to.

At the bottom, add our first scenario - call it "Basic Visit". Inside, let's do two things: first, visit url("/"). We can also give this page a name - it helps debugging:

14 lines scenario.bkf
name "Various scenarios for the site"
# override with --endpoint option
endpoint "https://localhost:8000"
name "Basic Visit"
visit url("/")
name "Homepage"
... lines 11 - 14

And second... once we're on the homepage, let's "click" this "Log In" link. Do that with click link() and then use that exact text: Log In. Give this page a name too:

14 lines scenario.bkf
name "Various scenarios for the site"
# override with --endpoint option
endpoint "https://localhost:8000"
name "Basic Visit"
visit url("/")
name "Homepage"
click link("Log In")
name "Login page"

Executing blackfire-player

That's enough to start. We should be able to use the blackfire-player tool to... actually do this stuff!. Let's try it:

blackfire-player run scenario.bkf

And... it fails:

Curl error 60...

If you Google'd this, you find out that this is an SSL problem - it's caused because or Symfony dev server uses a, sort of, self-signed certificate that blackfire-player doesn't like. The simplest solution, which is ok since we're just testing locally - is to pass --ssl-no-verify

blackfire-player run scenario.bkf --ssl-no-verify

And... hey! It worked! Scenarios 1, steps 2. It truly made a request to the homepage then clicked on that link! By the way, the requests aren't using a real browser. And so, any JavaScript code on your page won't run. That might change in the future - but I'm not sure.

Anyways, to see more fun output, use the -v flag:

blackfire-player run scenario.bkf --ssl-no-verify -v

Very cool! Blackfire player is now making two real HTTP requests to our site... but it's not doing anything with that data. Next, let's add some tests to our scenario - like expecting that the status code is 200 and checking for elements in the DOM.

Leave a comment!

This tutorial can be used to learn how to profile any app - including Symfony 5.

What PHP libraries does this tutorial use?

// composer.json
    "require": {
        "php": "^7.1.3",
        "ext-ctype": "*",
        "ext-iconv": "*",
        "blackfire/php-sdk": "^1.20", // v1.20.0
        "sensio/framework-extra-bundle": "^5.4", // v5.5.1
        "symfony/console": "4.3.*", // v4.3.10
        "symfony/dotenv": "4.3.*", // v4.3.10
        "symfony/flex": "^1.3.1", // v1.6.0
        "symfony/form": "4.3.*", // v4.3.10
        "symfony/framework-bundle": "4.3.*", // v4.3.9
        "symfony/http-client": "4.3.*", // v4.3.10
        "symfony/orm-pack": "^1.0", // v1.0.7
        "symfony/security-bundle": "4.3.*", // v4.3.10
        "symfony/serializer-pack": "^1.0", // v1.0.2
        "symfony/twig-bundle": "4.3.*", // v4.3.10
        "symfony/validator": "4.3.*", // v4.3.10
        "symfony/webpack-encore-bundle": "^1.6", // v1.7.2
        "symfony/yaml": "4.3.*", // v4.3.10
        "twig/extensions": "^1.5" // v1.5.4
    "require-dev": {
        "doctrine/doctrine-fixtures-bundle": "^3.2", // 3.2.2
        "fzaninotto/faker": "^1.8", // v1.8.0
        "symfony/debug-pack": "^1.0", // v1.0.7
        "symfony/maker-bundle": "^1.13", // v1.14.3
        "symfony/test-pack": "^1.0" // v1.0.6