September 2016 work summary

I was busy in September helping clients. I had little downtime. Here is some of the work I did in September. All client information has been anonymized:

  • I was asked to remove an ad that appeared after a user’s posts. It turned out the ad that was actually in his post signature.
  • I did an analysis of a client’s forum. Like many I see, someone wrote an integration between phpBB 3.0 and a client’s in house content management system. The CMS handled the registration and by being logged into it was also logged into the forum. The forum is using phpBB 3.0, so some hacks were added to the base code to permit the integration. I compared his files with a reference to see what was different and summarized the custom changes that were made by a previous programmer. I provided guidance on upgrading to 3.0.14 if desired along with a work estimate, and guidance on implications of moving to phpBB 3.1 (a better long term solution). Later in the month, the client decided to upgrade phpBB to 3.1 and created a test area for client review. He added the integration code. I moved the forum files over into 3.1 instance client created. Client also moved the 3.0 database to the test area. I edited config.php to point to the 3.0 database. 6300 files took a while to move. The upgrade to phpBB 3.1 was successful. I changed server and cookie settings to point to test domain. User to take care of style changes and to add integration with custom CMS. Customer feedback will determine if this will be done for production. Later, worked on retrofitting we_clearblue style to customer’s CMS. It was not entirely successful. There were some integration issues. but the client’s designers will handle them.
  • I upgraded forum from phpBB 3.0.11 to 3.1.9 using the default prosilver style. I integrated the old logo. There were no issues during upgrade itself, but I had to remove a lot of dead modules. I added a home link and changed the server settings to https.
  • I investigated mysterious HTTP 406 errors that occurs when editing a post with lots of text and images. Assumed it was due to an Apache mod_security issue. I added some instructions in the forum’s .htaccess file to disable mod_security but it had no effect. I tried an online chat with web host’s tech support, who could not resolve it. They wanted a ticket filed with image of problem and IP used. I asked the client to submit the support ticket since this was a hosting issue I could not fix. They did fix it, but it took a few days.
  • A forum had my digests extension version 3.0.3 installed. Client complained of cron email errors, and a user getting 30 copies of digest and a messages in the admin log indicating there was nothing to send in a digest. The latter is not a problem and is by design. I could find no evidence of 30 copies being sent. The cron error may be due to “Administrator1” who was subscribed not having a valid email address on the domain. Days later I had a short screen sharing conference call. The remaining issue was that some users could not see digests tab in UCP. This was a permissions issue I fixed in version 3.0.5 but the migrator program did not explicitly overwrite these settings. Toward the end of the month, I got a note that some users were still getting multiple digests. I added debug code to see SQL being issued. No cartesian product was resulting from the SQL query, but the messenger object was not reset after each mailing. I added that line of code. I am still troubleshooting this issue and I am not sure of the cause, but want to fix it for the next version of the digests extension.
  • A poor web host a client was using would not allow a forum upgrade from version 3.0 to 3.1 because PHP could not be upgraded to one supported by phpBB 3.1. I recommended using Client purchased hosting on I created new phpBB 3.1 instance on new hosting since there were only test posts. I installed the Metro Purple style and FAQ manager extension. I moved the domain when he provided registrar information. At his request, I hid links for FAQ and member list links. I tweaked viewtopic_body.html to move the poster’s profile to left side of screen. I then helped sort a logo placement issue with the style and answered search engine questions. I did a lot of work trying to make the logo fit the size proportionately when screen width shrank. I found no easy way so created 3 versions of the logo at different breakpoints.
  • Digests were not going out in a phpBB 3.0 forum. After investigating it looks like they started going out again that morning. Hosting had changed from Window to Linux, so the issue of digests not going out was due to SMTP being enabled. Client turned this off and it seems digests started going out again. I did upgrade digests from 2.2.25 to 2.2.27. Client upgrade from 3.0.12 to 3.0.14 did not seem to overwrite any digest file changes.
  • Client wanted an ability for his users to enter and report on events on his website and asked if I could write PHP scripts to do this dynamically. He provided an Excel spreadsheet as a mockup. I loaded the data in the spreadsheet into a MySQL table. I created a preliminary report for review. After feedback, I created the data entry module that users could use to post events. Later I made tweaks to these dynamic pages to meet other requirements.
  • Client wanted to reach forum users that hadn’t posted or visited in awhile. I created a CSV export of selected fields from the users table containing username, user_email, last visited date and registration date.
  • Former client contact information had changed. The new contact couldn’t get into iPage hosting. I provided the information I had after getting prior contact’s approval to do so.
  • I had two Skype discussions with an existing client on why email notifications weren’t going out. There were SMTP email errors. In addition, the client had his email notifications turned off in the user control panel. Worked with in house tech person to get new SMTP server information and configured it for the phpBB form. I showed client how to use the mass email feature to send out test emails.
  • I installed version 3.0.5 of my digests extension on test forum running phpBB 3.1.9. Sending digests manually and via a phpBB cron worked but sending it via system cron did not. After analysis, it turned out that GoDaddy’s jail shell could not handle multiple statements in a cron. I tried a number of approaches but eventually used curl to call cron.php hourly and turned off the system cron configuration.
  • Client needed an emergency installation of phpBB. Installation failed in the web host’s scripting manager. It looked like it was mostly installed. A populated database existed, and software was in /phpBB3 folder. I had to turn on PHP which for some reason was turned off and create the config.php (it was empty) for the forum to come up. I reset the password for admin and gave it to him. Client provided logo. I resized it and placed it.
  • I updated the Tapatalk extension for a client from version 1.3.7 to 1.3.8
  • I updated the Tapatalk extension for another client from version 1.3.7 to 1.3.8. I checked potential connection problem with Tapatalk for SEO and Push, but if it existed the update fixed it.
  • A forum used by Croatians was running slow. Forum was running phpBB 3.0.7-PL1. I checked indexes of the most frequently used tables. I found one duplicative index that I deleted. Most tables were using MyISAM storage engine. I optimized the tables but slowness persisted. So I changed the storage engine for these tables to InnoDB and performance suddenly became quick. Converting search_wordmatch table however seem to hang cPanel but eventually finished. Client is very pleased.
  • I upgraded a forum from phpBB 3.0.12 to 3.1.9. My digest mod was only mod installed. Crons used by digest had stopped working with rehosting causing no digests to go out. I installed digests extension version 3.0.5 and created an hourly cron to call cron.php. Tested and it worked. I warned client about possible duplicative digests due to possible bug.

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