Google Maps Distance (DistanceMatrix) API for UK in JSON

The postcode code has been updated to use Google’s distancematrix api, which provides a very different set of data from the old “as the bird flies” calculation (it calculates road distance, and provides transport options etc).

The following code is merely a demonstration, which can be seen here.

// Specify Postcodes to Geocode
$postcode1 = 'BH151DA';
$postcode2 = 'BH213AP';

// Set and retrieve the query URL
$request = "" . $postcode1 . "&destinations=" . $postcode2 . "&mode=driving&language=en-GB&sensor=false&units=imperial";
$distdata = file_get_contents($request);

// Put the data into an array for easy access
$distances = json_decode($distdata, true);

// Do some error checking, first for if the response is ok
$status = $distances["status"];
$row_status = $distances["rows"][0]["elements"][0]["status"];

if ($status == "OK" && $row_status == "OK") {

// Calculate the distance in miles
$distance = $distances["rows"][0]["elements"][0]["distance"]["value"];
$distance_miles = round($distance * 0.621371192/1000, 2);

echo 'The distance between '.$postcode1.' and '.$postcode2.' is '.($distance/1000).'Km ('.$distance_miles.' miles).';

} else {
    echo "Calculating the distance between your locations caused an error.";


Having better error checking would also be a good idea if you plan to use the above code. Using &unit=imperial is optional, as Google always returns metres – so the code runs a basic calculation on these to convert to miles.

phpBB 3 Script Integration – New Threads and Replies from an External Script

This is the third article I’ve written for pulling functions in phpBB3 for external use. This one allows you to either create new posts in a forum or reply to a thread. This was created for use with a text system, where users could text in comments which would be added to a thread.

Article on phpBB3 Integration
Article on sending PM’s

I’ve put everything needed into one file as I don’t want to go through and break it up. The previous two posts (linked above) used a seperate phpbb.php file with part of the code in but this just includes everything.

// All queries -->
// This is not setup for new thread posting, and has been config'd to not increment post count as this is for a bot.
// Further changes will be needed to clean up code as this is using external functions instead of clear documentation. --dc
define('IN_PHPBB', true);
$phpbb_root_path = (defined('PHPBB_ROOT_PATH')) ? PHPBB_ROOT_PATH : './phpBB3/';
$phpEx = substr(strrchr(__FILE__, '.'), 1);
include($phpbb_root_path . 'common.' . $phpEx);

// Start session management

// post send controller
function sendphpbbpost($pmmessage,$userid,$pmsubject) {

$my_subject = utf8_normalize_nfc(request_var('$pmsubject', '', true));
$message = utf8_normalize_nfc($pmmessage, '', true);
$uid = $bitfield = $options = '';
$allow_bbcode = $allow_smilies = true;
$allow_urls = true;
generate_text_for_storage($message, $uid, $bitfield, $options, $allow_bbcode, $allow_urls, $allow_smilies);
$data = array(
// General Posting Settings
'forum_id'          => 7,    // The forum ID in which the post will be placed. (int)
'topic_id'          => 5,    // Post a new topic or in an existing one? Set to 0 to create a new one, if not, specify your topic ID here instead.
'icon_id'           => false,    // The Icon ID in which the post will be displayed with on the viewforum, set to false for icon_id. (int)

// Defining Post Options
'enable_bbcode' => false, // Enable BBcode in this post. (bool)
'enable_smilies'    => true, // Enabe smilies in this post. (bool)
'enable_urls'       => false, // Enable self-parsing URL links in this post. (bool)
'enable_sig'        => true, // Enable the signature of the poster to be displayed in the post. (bool)

// Message Body
'message'           => $message,     // Your text you wish to have submitted. It should pass through generate_text_for_storage() before this. (string)
'message_md5'   => md5($message),    // The md5 hash of your message

// Values from generate_text_for_storage()
'bbcode_bitfield'   => $bitfield,    // Value created from the generate_text_for_storage() function.
'bbcode_uid'        => $uid,     // Value created from the generate_text_for_storage() function.

// Other Options
'post_edit_locked'  => 0,
'topic_title'       => $subject, // Subject/Title of the topic. (string). This is needed for new posts but for our purposes isn't.

// Email Notification Settings
'notify_set'        => false,        // (bool)
'notify'            => false,        // (bool)
'post_time'         => 0,        // Set a specific time, use 0 to let submit_post() take care of getting the proper time (int)
'forum_name'        => '',       // For identifying the name of the forum in a notification email. (string)

// Indexing
'enable_indexing'   => true,
'force_approved_state' => true, // Only runs on 6 onwards...check SUCC

//Now send that post...
submit_post('reply', '', '', POST_NORMAL, &$poll, &$data, $update_message = true);


$user->data['user_id'] = 2;    // User id of poster.
$auth->acl($user->data); // Re-initiate user after recall
$userid = $user->data['user_id'];
$pmmessage = 'This is a new reply, change this to whatever you want.';


Looking through the code above you will see several points that need changing. It’s currently set to ‘reply’ (change this to ‘post’ for a new post). Change all details to suit really – it’s easy to customise.

phpBB 3 Script Integration – Sending Private Messages (PM’s) From an External Script

A while back I posted an article about integrating your site to use the phpBB3 user and login system (here). When I wrote that I also used phpBB as a message system for a site; so when a user did something they were sent a private message automatically.

This bit of code (use it in conjunction with phpbb.php mentioned in the post linked to above) allows you to call a function to send a PM to any user as long as you have their ID.

// PM send controller

function sendphpbbpm($pmmessage,$userid,$pmsubject) {

$message = utf8_normalize_nfc($pmmessage);
$uid = $bitfield = $options = ''; // will be modified by generate_text_for_storage
$allow_bbcode = $allow_smilies = true;
$allow_urls = true;
generate_text_for_storage($message, $uid, $bitfield, $options, $allow_bbcode, $allow_urls, $allow_smilies);
$pm_data = array(
'from_user_id'        => 2,
'from_user_ip'        => "",
'from_username'        => "admin",
'enable_sig'            => false,
'enable_bbcode'        => true,
'enable_smilies'        => true,
'enable_urls'        => false,
'icon_id'            => 0,
'bbcode_bitfield'    => $bitfield,
'bbcode_uid'         => $uid,
'message'            => $message,
'address_list'        => array('u' => array($userid => 'to')),

//Now We Have All Data Lets Send The PM!!
submit_pm('post', $pmsubject, $pm_data, false, false);


You’ll need to modify the code above slightly to fit your needs, for example changing the admin username and user id, and then calling the function but it’s all pretty simple stuff one you’ve got all this.

To call the function (send the PM) to a fictional user 11:


$pmsubject = 'Please read this PM.';
$pmmessage = 'Thank you for reading this PM!';

$userid = '11';



Posting threads and replying to threads uses a similar system so I’ll put up some script for that shortly.

Benchmarking and testing your PHP script with microtime

When you’re building a new website you often code it ‘on-the-fly’. That’s to say, strapping in new features here and there until it does exactly what you want – but leaving a mess that needs to be optimised.

One of the best ways of testing your site for scalability (other than getting huge traffic straight away) is to test how long your PHP scripts take to parse. We can do this by comparing the time at the start and end of a script to give us the processing time. The PHP manual shows the following example:

$time_start = microtime(true);
// Script you want to test here
$time_end = microtime(true);
$time = $time_end - $time_start;
echo "Did nothing in $time seconds\n";

But I prefer this for readability (I put this in a common include so I can test the whole site by simply calling some functions…see below):

function starttime() {
$r = explode( ' ', microtime() );
$r = $r[1] + $r[0];
return $r;

function endtime($starttime) {
$r = explode( ' ', microtime() );
$r = $r[1] + $r[0];
$r = round($r - $starttime,4);
return '<strong>Execution Time</strong>: '.$r.' seconds<br />';

To use this in a script all we’d need to do is place this at the start and end, and do a simple calculation. For example (using sudo code):

$start = starttime();
// Script you want to test here
echo endtime($start);

This will help you discover bottlenecks in your script – there are a load of things you can do to optimise your script; and I find that using functions as above don’t add extra complication to your script.

For a much more comprehensive article and info on optimisation I would highly reccommend heading here:

He has revealed many of the things people thought sped up PHP execution are simply myths dating back to previous PHP versions, making them pointless. This includes things like echo being faster than print and single quoted vars being faster than double quoted ones.

Using Google Maps, Geocoding and PHP to find the distance between UK Postcodes

UPDATE: A new version which calculates distance based on roads is available.

If you’re looking to make any kind of radius checker, delivery calculator etc, you will need to have some method of calculating this distance. Unfortunately for us in the UK, Royal Mail keep a tight grip on postcode data.

As a result, the best low-budget way of finding postcodes is by using the Google Maps api – which in itself isn’t 100% accurate (but good enough).

So we can use the following code:

// Specify Postcodes to Geocode
$postcode1 = 'BH151DA';
$postcode2 = 'BH213AP';

// Geocode Postcodes & Get Co-ordinates 1st Postcode
$pc1 = ''.$postcode1.',+UK&output=csv&sensor=false';
$data1 = @file_get_contents($pc1);
$result1 = explode(",", $data1);
$custlat1 = $result1[2];
$custlong1 = $result1[3];

// Geocode Postcodes & Get Co-ordinates 2nd Postcode
$pc2 = ''.$postcode2.',+UK&output=csv&sensor=false';
$data2 = @file_get_contents($pc2);
$result2 = explode(",", $data2);
$custlat2 = $result2[2];
$custlong2 = $result2[3];

// Work out the distance!
$pi80 = M_PI / 180;
$custlat1 *= $pi80;
$custlong1 *= $pi80;
$custlat2 *= $pi80;
$custlong2 *= $pi80;

$r = 6372.797; // mean radius of Earth in km
$dlat = $custlat2 - $custlat1;
$dlng = $custlong2 - $custlong1;
$a = sin($dlat / 2) * sin($dlat / 2) + cos($custlat1) * cos($custlat2) * sin($dlng / 2) * sin($dlng / 2);
$c = 2 * atan2(sqrt($a), sqrt(1 - $a));

// Distance in KM
$km = round($r * $c, 2);

// Distance in Miles
$miles = round($km * 0.621371192, 2);

echo 'The distance between '.$postcode1.' and '.$postcode2.' is '.$km.'Km ('.$miles.' miles).';


You could use $result1[0] and $result2[0] to check codes. If the value is anything other than 200 the postcode is invalid. Also note UK is also searched for to guarantee correct results!

The result is also rounded to make sure we only have 2 decimal places. Make sure your postcodes do not have any spaces in when they go to Google, if you’re collecting them from a form maybe use:

function nowhitespace($data) {
return preg_replace('/\s/', '', $data);
$postcode1 = nowhitespace($postcode1);

to remove all spaces before processing, and the following to check it’s ok after processing:

if (($result1[0] != 200) || ($result2[0] != 200)) {
echo "<p>Invalid Postcode(s) Entered. Please try again.</p>";
} else {

Good luck!