June 2016 work summary

The first half of June was slow, so I concentrated on developing my extensions. The second half got busy, busier and frantic at times. Among the work I did in June (all client information has been anonymized):

  • PHP Notices on logging in prevented successful logins from occurring for all users for a forum. The problem was due to a PHP upgrade on the web host. It changed the behavior of the phpBB 3.0.7-PL1 forum, rendering notices on the screen. I temporarily overrode error_reporting in common.php to suppress the notices so the forums could be used. The same issue was occurring on another forum with the same host, so I applied the same fix there too. Later, I had conversations by phone and using Skype with the client. The user’s forums are highly customized to work with their in-house authentication system. Previous developers had added code to the base programs to make the integration work. So upgrading to phpBB 3.1 to fix these problems would not work without first addressing this integration in the solution. 
  • A client needed to recover a forum that broke during a phpBB upgrade. He had an old backup of the database. I created a new database and imported the backup into the new database. I then installed phpBB 3.0.12 and the German language packs for phpBB 3.0.12 and the forum came up. The user then wanted it upgraded to phpBB 3.1.9 which went without incident. However, there was a minor issue after the upgrade. Umlauts were not displaying in the forum description. I was not sure where the problem was, possibly in the MySQL database, table or column collation but it was a minor annoyance to the user so I was not asked to fix it.
  • New hosting discussion with a client. Client forgot to pay their Digital Ocean bill, so their droplet was deleted. Suggested MediaTemple.net Grid service, consolidating all her websites there. Downloaded files for the domain where the forum is hosted so it can be moved to a new host when it is selected.
  • Skype call with an existing client and his new assistant on setting up their group forum permissions properly.
  • Upgraded a forum from phpBB 3.0.12 to 3.0.14. I installed the Cleantalk mod to address annoying spam.
  • Upgraded a subsilver2 phpBB 2 forum with no obvious mods from 2.0.22 to 3.1.9. However, it took a long time due to an accidental erasure of the web root and its recovery. The upgrade was further delayed because the web host control panel did not allow PHP to be upgraded from 5.2.17. It took a couple of days for web host to upgrade PHP. I was then able to upgrade the forum.
  • Upgraded a forum from 3.0-RC2 to 3.1.9. I installed two styles. I integrated and trimmed the new logo to fit a prosilver SE style. There was a missing user_form_salt column during the upgraded which stopped the upgrade. I added the column, which allowed the upgrade to complete. I then installed the Tapatalk extension. I integrated and tested 3 BBCode additions: phpBB Media, YouTube and Font Face Changer. I installed the Danish language pack. I had to increase the size of all *bbcode_uid columns from varchar(5) to varchar(8). The user wanted titles to use the sk Porsche truetype fonts, which I integrated into the style. I updated the logo twice. Similar to the second client of the month, there were issues with umlauts. Certain users could not login due to some Danish characters in their usernames. I sought support on phpbb.com. I eventually figured out the problem myself. The username_clean column needed to be updated because the algorithm for populating this column had apparently changed and it wasn’t handled by the phpBB upgrade program. I wrote a throwaway program to fix these rows. I fixed a form submittal issue on posting by changing the board cookie. I investigated an issue why not all active topics were showing. User eventually figured it out with some guidance. I am helping him create a “custom app” on Tapatalk as part of the fee. This part is still ongoing.
  • I was sought out to help when users were unable to login to a forum. The forum was running phpBB 3.0.11 forum with lots of mods and customizations. I determined that /includes/functions_module.php had an invalid line in it, causing a statement to be invalid and a white screen on login. I compared the program to a 3.0.11 reference, patched the line and users were able to login again. The cause of the problem appears to be security software on the user’s web server. It flagged a PHP eval() command as dangerous and pulled the code from the program!
  • I upgraded Tapatalk from 1.3.6 to 1.3.7 for a client.
  • Disk drives went bad for a client with a very popular forum on a dedicated server, which ran CentOS and Plesk. As requested, I backed up files (17GB!) and the database (500MB) to my machine. In a RAID recovery attempt, the good disk volume was deleted but technical support said both drives were failing. I authorized a complete reimage. After reimaging I uploaded my backup of the files. Upon uploading, eventually I ran out of space on the var volume and extended it to 25GB. All files eventually transferred and were then moved into the correct directory for public access. I reloaded the database, which was blazingly fast on this dedicated server. I fixed directory permissions. I edited config.php to use new database password. I then reenabled board, fully recovered on a machine with two new disk drives! I recommended a cloud backup solution and hiring an ad hoc system administrator for future incidents like this. (I have some system administrator skills but don’t consider myself a professional system administrator.) 8 hours of work altogether over 3 days.

If you administer a phpBB board, you should find my book Mastering phpBB Administration invaluable. Learn lots of tips, tricks and secrets I learned from serving over 400 clients. Paper and Kindle versions available.

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