January 2016 work summary

In January, most of my work was concentrated with two established clients. Curiously few new clients came in through the email box.

For client #1,as part of a small team I am helping her to not only get her forum rehosted but also to solve a number of technical problems with her various websites, for which she lost permissions due to a tech that abandoned her. Basically she needed a lot of coaching and hand holding because she is not a technical person, but is happy to pay for services. It involved a lot of back and forth Skype sessions, and working with other techs to untangle her domains to do what she wanted done. Among the things I did for her:

  • I provided guidance on integrating Windows with a Mac (her primary computer) and suggested she purchase and install Parallels Desktop for the Mac so she could run a few Windows programs that she depends on without the expense of buying a new machine. I suggested she upgrade her Mac to 16GB of memory first (she had only 4GB).
  • She wants to use GMail to manage a number of email accounts on different domains. So I researched the GMail Pro service and the issues involved in pointing her MX records to Google so she could do this.
  • Discussed moving her static web site to a content management system, which will likely be WordPress. Found some WordPress plugins that might meet her need need for a directory solution.
  • Moved her forum from one host to another. Challenged due to some massively long posts that timed out when trying to load them into the database. Had to also fix some folder permissions.

Client #2 had a number of issues going on. He lost his support person and had to manage the forum by himself, and his group and group forum permissions were inconsistent and a mess. Some of the things I did for him:

  • Tutoring on how to put users into groups and answering general questions, like how to determine which permissions were used for a particular user
  • Answered questions on how to set up anonymous posting, and some of the potential downsides (including potential spam and the ability of the public to view his forums)
  • Created some offline reports in PHP to allow him to see the extent of her permission problems. Used some phpBB permission objects to delineate which groups could read forums. This was necessary because he had hundreds of forums and dozens of groups, making getting this information from the user interface difficult. Also created a report showing which users had forum permissions outside of group permissions. Eventually we figured out a procedure to “wipe” forum permissions for all groups, which I blogged about.
  • Patched phpBB so he could delete a forum. This was needed because his database is SQLServer and it is necessary to use the CAST function for numbers of a certain size, and phpBB doesn’t do this (it’s a bug). Put together an estimate to move their forum’s database from SQLServer to MySQL where these issues are unlikely to happen. Hope to migrate the data using MySQL Workbench.

Work for other clients:

  • Converted a forum from phpBB 3.0.7-PL1 to 3.1.6. Tried a number of styles, user settled on Platinum Red. Integrated their logo. Changed the PHP version to one supported by 3.1 (must be PHP 5.3.3+) and did the conversion on my own machine to get around PHP timeouts, which added considerable time and expense and made me rethink my pricing. I now have a $50 surcharge for these types of conversions for shared hosts, since the work must be done offsite. Restoring the search index also had to be done on my machine because of HTTP 504 timeouts on his shared host.
  • Assisted in a registration issue. Users got a false message saying that Javascript was not enabled. I had previously had the user install Cleantalk to address his spam problem. The problem turned out to be a Cleantalk issue that the vendor eventually fixed.


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