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Installing the Agent, Probe & Chrome Extension

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So... let's get these pieces installed! Back on the install page, the setup details will vary based on your operating system. Fortunately, Blackfire has details for pretty much all situations. I'm on a Mac and will use Homebrew to get everything working.

I'll copy the brew tap command, move to my terminal, open a new tab and paste:

brew tap blackfireio/homebrew-blackfire

Installing the Agent

That gives me access to the Blackfire packages. Now, install the agent - that's the "daemon" that runs in the background - with:

brew install blackfire-agent

Perfect! It says I need to "register" my agent. And... the browser instructions confirm that! I'll copy that command, clear the screen and paste:

sudo blackfire-agent --register

This is going to ask us for our "Server Id" and "Server Token". These are... basically an internal "username and password" that the agent will use to tell the Blackfire servers which account the profiles should be attached to. Copy the Server Id, paste, copy the Server Token, paste and... we're good!

Finally, remember how the "agent" is a service that runs in the background? We just installed the agent, but it's not running yet. Back in the docs, the next two commands set up the agent as a "service" in Brew, so that it will always be running. Copy the first, paste.

ln -sfv /usr/local/opt/blackfire-agent/*.plist ~/Library/LaunchAgents/

Then spin back over again, copy the launchctl load command... and paste that.

launchctl load -w ~/Library/LaunchAgents/homebrew.mxcl.blackfire-agent.plist

Cool! If everything worked, the Blackfire agent is now running in the background. You wont really ever see it or care that it's there... but it is... waiting for data.

Installing the Probe

Back on the install docs, the next piece we need is the PHP extension - the probe. Skip this CLI tool for now - we won't need it until later.

To install the PHP extension, we'll once again use brew. But... hopefully you're not still using PHP 5.6. Let me head over to my terminal and see what version I'm running:

php --version

7.3.6. Brilliant! So I'll run:

brew install blackfire-php73

Notice that the extension doesn't need any authentication info - like a server Id or token. It's beautifully dumb: its job is to profile data, send it to the agent, and let it worry about authentication with the Blackfire servers.

We do, however, as it says, need to restart our web server. For us, that means going to the other terminal tab, hitting Control + C, and then running

symfony serve

Is the Blackfire extension working? I don't know! Because we're using Symfony, an easy way to check is to hover over the web debug toolbar and click the "View phpinfo()" link. Let's see... yep! The Blackfire PHP extension is here.


If you have XDebug installed, disable it for the best results.

Installing the Browser Extension

At this point, our server is set up and ready to profile! Victory! The only thing we need now is a way to tell the probe when to activate. That's the job of the browser extension.

Go almost all the way back to the top of the install page where they talk about the different pieces. I'm using Chrome, so I'll click the Google Chrome extension link. I don't have it installed yet, so let's fix that: Add to Chrome.

There it is! If you refresh the docs... yep! It sees the extension.

Profiling our First Page

Hey! We're ready to profile! Ahhhh! Where should we start? Let's... just click to view details about any Big Foot sighting. All of this data comes from some data fixtures that we used to pre-populate the database while setting up the project. It uses a bunch of random data up here... and each sighting has a bunch of random comments.

When we loaded this page a second ago, the PHP extension - the probe - did nothing. To activate it, click the browser extension.

Moment of truth! When we click profile, the plugin will send a request to this page with a special header that tells the probe to activate and start profiling. Click "Profile"!

There it goes! It goes from 0 to 100% as it actually makes 10 requests and averages their data. We can also give this "profile" a name to keep our account organized: I'll say [Recording] Show page initial and hit enter.

Troubleshooting Failure

If you got to 100%, congrats! If you got an error... wah wah. This is the most common place for something to go wrong... and the error will almost always be the same: Probe not found. This might mean that you forgot to install the PHP extension, or that the PHP extension was installed on a different PHP binary... or that the agent isn't running... or that the agent is running but you misconfigured the server id and token. They have great docs to help with this.

But we had success! Click the "View Call Graph" button to go to a URL on their site. Hello beautiful Blackfire profile. Wow.

Next, let's start diving into this mountain of information and see how we can use it to find hidden sasquatch... I mean, hidden performance bugs.