November 2015 work summary

Consulting slowed a bit this month, which was good in a way. It allowed me to work on a beta version of my Smartfeed extension and toward the end of the month I started work on the Digests extension. As always, client information is anonymized. Here’s some of the phpBB work I did in November:

  • I continued ad hoc work for an existing client during the month. I enabled the Windows media extension group so various Windows media would play. First I had to fix another SQLServer CAST bug in phpBB that manifested when enabling the new extension group. The basic issue here is that the client uploads inhouse videos and attaches them to posts, but each video is very large (megabytes). phpBB keeps a configuration variable containing the size of all the items in the files directory. When this value is stored, SQLServer (the client’s database) can’t handle it unless the value is CAST as an integer using the SQL CAST function, which required a code patch that I added. I reported the additional code that is needed as an issue in the phpBB bug tracker. I also participated in an email discussion on the most efficient way to embed videos on the forum and recommended a HTML 5 approach (upload .mp4 files), which phpBB does not currently support. phpBB is behind on integrating HTML 5 videos smartly. I added this issue in the phpBB bug tracker. The template attachment.html needs to be updated to allow the browser to natively play .mp4 videos inside the new HTML 5 <video> tag so no plug in is required. Right now the Quicktime player is loaded, which means it has to be added as a browser plug in, and this is slow and doesn’t usually work on mobile devices. Also provided guidance on Google Analytics: getting an ID for tracking and setting it up. I answered a question about why a user was not able to download an attachment. I also monitored and replied to posts on their forum.
  • I converted a forum from 3.0.12 to 3.1.6 using the prosilver style. I installed the Tapatalk extension and installed and configured the Advertising Management extension, which required renaming a table to port ads from the 3.0 mod to a place where the extension could find them.
  • For one client I installed a new logo with an orange theme. Later in the month I placed a new ad for him and put it above posts in the view topic page. Later in the month I replaced the content of an ad. I investigated issue of a missing user. Apparently his account was deleted. I coached customer on how to find a good web host. The web host saw bad data in private message table in the message_text column. I repaired the table but when it recurred I then changed the storage engine for all tables except the sessions table set to memory to INNODB. So far this is working.
  • I upgraded a forum from 3.0.11 to 3.1.6. I installed the subsilver2 style and made it the default. I integrated the old logo. I provided guidance on using phpBB’s built in ATOM feed and suggested that the user use it to dynamically serve forum topics on his main web site. I provided a link to a phpBB knowledge base article on using phpBB’s feed and showed him some WordPress plug ins that had a feed widget that could consume the feed.
  • I upgraded forum from 3.0.9 to 3.1.6, using prosilver as the default style. Customer agreed to handle the styling issues. When I ran database_update.php, I encountered lots of errors that I had to address, the origins of which are unclear, which meant fixing data and trying again. To get a clean conversion I eventually emptied the migrations table. I still had to do some things manually. This included commenting out code to move the prune users module and emptying then recreating the data in the modules table because module names were not correct. Later in the month the user reported some more issues. After investigation I determined that an acl_option permission that the converter should have added must have missed. Without it a user could not change their profile. I added it and assigned it to 5 roles per my reference database and that solved that problem. A couple of days later another permission issue was discovered when the extensions tab would not appear in the Administration Control Panel. This was also due to a missing permission that I had to add manually. Then the tab reappeared. I double checked all the entries in the configuration table and all the permissions to make sure they were all there compared to a reference. They appear to be so I think there won’t be future problems like this.
  • I placed an additional ad for a client in the Advertising Management extension.
  • To address a serious spam problem, I installed the Cleantalk mod on phpBB 3.0.12. Client must pay $8 for 1 year of service.
  • A HTTP 500 error occurred only on registration. This was due to a bad configuration value for the CAPTCHA (wasn’t changed in the migration from 3.0 to 3.1 and needed the namespace). Post counts were also zeroed on the index page. I manually fixed index to show correct # of posts, last post time and last poster using various SQL queries. I added missing columns in forums table and missing rows in config table that phpBB 3.1 needs. I checked all the tables with a reference to make sure all columns were present for 3.1.
  • After rehosting mysterious HTTP 500 errors were generated on the new host and there was nothing in the error log to provide any clues about what went wrong. I eventually figured out that PHP was not compiled with an integration with the MySQL database. To connect PHP and MySQL, I used Unix yum command with the right integration package and the forum started working. Had to use SSH to do this work as the client had his own server and acted as its tech.
  • A user who upgraded his board for some reason was unable to create a new forum inside it. After investigating, I determined that a column in the forums table did not have a default value. I gave it a null value as a default. Once things were stable I upgraded the forum from 3.1.5 to 3.1.6.
  • I upgraded forum from 3.0.12 to 3.1.6. The old forum had lots of mods but none were critical. Changed style with upgrade from subsilver2 to prosilver.

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