Phorum turns 10

April 17, 2008

So, I am at the MySQL Conference this week with my Phorum co-developers. We got to talking last night about how old Phorum is. We knew it was about 10 years. We pulled up some old archived zip file of version 1.5 and found in the this in the comment block.


* Created 04/16/1998

Whoa! That means that yesterday was the 10th birthday of the Phorum project. I would guess that is the date I originally put the code up on my personal web site for people to download. I remember sending that email to the PHP General mailing list. I told people they could have the code if they would help debug it. Later I officially made a GPL license and then a BSD style license as I became more knowledgeable about the open source and free software world.

So, for kicks we decided to install version 1.6 on the phorum.org site. Keep in mind the release date for that was March 30, 1999. The only hurdles were a default value on an auto increment column in the .sql file, needing register_globals and adding .php3 to be parsed as PHP. That got it up and running. I had hoped to post the URL for fun, but sadly, 5 lines in were sql injection vulnerabilties. Ah, the good ol’ days.

Sadly, I don’t have my emails from 1998. I lost everything in 2001 due to either a hard drive crash or some shady deal I had with someone hosting the Phorum site at the time. I can’t remember. If anyone happens to have UseNet archives or mailing list archives of the PHP General list from April 1998, please let me know. I would love to have that old stuff.


What to do in the Bay Area?

April 8, 2008

So, as I said before, I will be at the MySQL Conference next week.  I am renting a car this year so I don’t have to wait on cabs or deal with them at all.  So, I am mobile and being from a modern Southern US city, used to driving 30 minutes just to go to dinner.  So, where should we go?  Anything good in San Jose?  Should I go all the way to San Francisco?  I am willing to go where ever.  Help me locals, you are my only hope!


2008 MySQL Conference

April 1, 2008

In just two weeks I will be heading to the 2008 MySQL Conference.  I will be speaking this year.  My two talks are:

MySQL Hacks and Tricks to Make Phorum Fast
04/16/2008  4:25pm PDT Room: Ballroom A

From One Server to a Cluster
04/16/2008  5:15pm PDT Room: Ballroom C

I have to pull back to back talks.  *PHEW* I hope I can hold up.  To make it worse, they did not put me in the same room. If I remember right though, those are really close to each other.

Of course, the Phorum team will be in the Expo Hall in the DotOrg pavilion.  Just look for the big dog.

Big Dog


Forums are the red headed step child of a web site

February 21, 2008

I have seen it time and time again. And yet, every time, it irritates me to no end. You are on a professional web site. You are navigating around and at some point you hit the link for their forums. And just like that you feel transported to another place. The whole site design just changes. Colors, layout, navigation… everything. Here are some examples, including the new C7Y site from php|Architect which inspired this post. (I really do love you guys on the podcast I promise =)

  • php|architect’s C7Y – main siteforums
  • Zend’s Developer Zone – main siteforums
    Zend’s forums do at least use the Zend.com header, but you can’t get to the forums from the main Zend.com site. You have to go to the Developer Zone.
  • TextPad (great windows editor) – main siteforums
    The header is kind of the same. Fonts and link colors change slightly though which is worse in some ways than a wholesale change. It looks like they just wedged in their HTML into the phpBB template.

I could continue to list some here, but you get the idea. So, what is the problem? Does most message board software make it too hard to edit their templates? Are forums an after thought and some underling is given the task to make them work and not allowed access to the main site’s templates?

Some people do better at it. MySQL for example. Theirs is still not perfect. An ad awkwardly appears in the forums in a way that makes it look like an error. However, thanks to Phorum (cha-ching), MySQL was able to make their own log in system work with their forums. Heck, even at dealnews I have not done that. Mostly because our forum logins predate our site accounts for email alerts and newsletters. I am not asking for perfection though. I would just like to feel like the company/entitiy gave some love to making their forums part of their site and not an afterthought.

So, I call for all web sites to start treating their forums like real pages. Give them the same love and attention you give that front page or any other page. And, if your message board software makes that hard, give Phorum a try.


Speaking at MySQL Conference 2008

February 20, 2008

I had mentioned a while back that I submitted three proposals for the 2008 MySQL Conference.  Well, two were accepted.

From one server to a cluster

In the last 10 years, dealnews.com has grown from a single shared hosting account to an entire rack of equipment. Luckily, we started using PHP and MySQL very early in the company’s history.

From the early days of growing a forum to surviving Slashdotting, Digging and even a Yahoo! front page mention, we have had to adapt both our hardware and software many times to keep up with the growth.

I will discuss the traps, bottlenecks, and even some big wins we have encountered along the way using PHP and MySQL. From the small scale to using replication and even some MySQL Cluster.  We have done many interesting things to give our readers (and our content team) a good experience when using our web site.

MySQL hacks and tricks to make Phorum fast

Phorum is the message board software used by MySQL. One reason they chose Phorum was because of its speed. We have to use some tricks and fancy SQL to make this happen. Things we will talk about in this session include:

  • Using temporary tables for good uses.
  • Why PHP and MySQL can be a bad mix with large data sets.
  • What mysqlnd will bring to the table with the future of PHP and MYSQL.
  • How Phorum uses full text indexing and some fancy SQL to make our search engine fast.
  • Forcing MySQL to use indexes to ensure proper query performance.

You can find my conference page here.  (as Terry would say, me, me, me!)


GoDaddy support is awful

February 7, 2008

Luckily, I don’t have personal experience with them. But, based on the 2 to 3 users per week that come to the Phorum support forums and IRC, they have the worst support of any host on the internet.

Example 1

A user comes to the forums having trouble with his Phorum install. In the user’s words, GoDaddy tells him “they couldnt help me costumize my scripts because it wasnt their job”. In this case “customize” meant filling in the MySQL permissions into the Phorum config files. In the end, GoDaddy had to move him to a Linux hosting account. They claimed that the Windows hosting accounts do not support PHP. However, they are clearly wrong about their own hosting as this all started because the user received a PHP error about not connecting to MySQL.

Example 2

This user found that GoDaddy is using MySQL 4 on their servers. Their web site does not mention a version anywhere. So, users are locked in to a hosting plan before knowing this.

Example 3

This happened today in IRC. It was much like the first example. In this case, GoDaddy support told him “permissions are set via ftp”. Um, MySQL permissions are set via FTP? The user had a MySQL server name. For some reason it did not exist. So, either he typed it wrong or they gave him the wrong server name. Either way, their support should recognize this and be able to help their clients.

Example 4

This is less a support issue and just plain crappy of them IMO. GoDaddy does not allow the creation of temporary tables. The Phorum search engine makes use of them to save lots of CPU and memory on the PHP side. Luckily for their users, Thomas felt sorry enough for them to make a module that used good old fashioned slow LIKE queries. So, that will work until their account is shut off because they have search queries clogging up the database servers.

So, if you are on GoDaddy, I feel for you. From where we sit, it really seems like they do not provide very good support. We end up having to support their users for things that GoDaddy should be able to answer.


How NOT to get support and how to turn the other cheek.

February 4, 2008

So, I checked my email this morning and found this jewel:

I might use Phorum if you brain deads knew how to upload or download your files via FTP. Your documentation has no order to it, its all a mess. I even dropped a release level to see if it was just that release. Ill give you a clue, DONT TRANSFER YOUR FILES VIA AUTO, EXPECIALY YOUR TXT FILES. TRANSFER THEM IN ASCII MODE ONLY, THIS INCLUDES YOUR PHP FILES. Then you just f—ing* MIGHT get readable files. Now you might say hey wait a min, we have full documentation on our web site, but you forget, someone has to open the sample.config.php file and read the crap that resides there.

* edited for content

Should I respond?  If so, how?  I decided to respond in as nice a way as I could.

 I normally don’t answer direct support emails.  Neither do I normally answer very angry emails.  However, I view this as an educational experience.

Judging by your email, I would say you are using Notepad on Windows to edit and read files.  That is mistake number one.  Notepad only reads one file format: Windows text files.  Windows natively uses a CRLF for it’s line endings.  It is the only operating system that does so. Notepad is the only application on the Windows platform that only reads that format.  If you would use Wordpad instead, this would not have been a problem for you.  For some reading on the subject, you may want to read:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newline
http://www.cs.toronto.edu/~krueger/csc209h/tut/line-endings.html

Because PHP scripts are most commonly deployed on a Linux platform, the Unix line feed (LF or \n) is best for PHP applications.  Here are some suggestions for some great text editors for Windows.

TextPad – http://www.textpad.com/
Metapad – http://www.liquidninja.com/metapad/
PSPad   – http://www.pspad.com/en/

I hope this has helped educate you on the world of new lines and how real programming works.  In the future, a kind word in the forums would be much more appreciated than an email like this.  Not all people would be as kind as I am being and want to help you grow.

What do you think?  Should have just let this guy go?  Should have been as ugly to him as he was to me?


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