For a while now I've mentioned in various topics that I will be upgrading the forum soon to a significantly newer version. The current version of the software is now about four years old, which is roughly when Invision released a completely rewritten version of their Invision Power Board software (4.0). I held off upgrading initially for many reasons, for instance, at first they dropped support for third-party search engines, which is something we use here in order to greatly speed up searching. This was finally addressed last year, and over the course of four years version 4.x of the forum software has matured quite nicely, with lots of great features and improvements having been made during that time. The current version is now 4.4.1, and we are running 3.4.8.
I've also had to rewrite nearly all the software on the main site (hosting the games database) as it was originally written in 2000-2001 by Alex and myself and hasn't seen many changes since then. That has been great...fun, but I've made significant progress and have completed most of the difficult files. Everything remaining I'll be able to churn through relatively quickly. This was a requirement before I could begin on the forum upgrade.
This weekend I have leased a new, more powerful server to host the AtariAge web server (the database server lives on another server). My plan is to get the main site, forums, and store running on this new server and then "flip the switch" over to this new server once everything is working properly on it. However, the forums will still be down for a significant period of time when this happens, as I will need to take the forums down, copy the database and any new/changed files to the new server, then begin the time consuming upgrade tasks to convert the database to the latest version of the forum. I'll have a better idea of how long this will take after I've done a few test conversions.
I am paying a professional skin developer to convert the existing AtariAge theme over to the new forum. I'll also be purchasing new versions of most of the skins we have available on the current forum, at least where upgrades are available (forum themes had to be rewritten from scratch for IP.Board 4.x). Some do not have upgrades available, so I'll probably purchase a few new skins as well.
I also have some custom modifications to the current forum that I will need to rewrite for IP.Board 4.x. This includes things like being able to give people the ability to indefinitely edit certain posts. And there are various third-party apps/hooks/plugins I'm currently using that I need to ensure I have equivalents for with the new software. And I will be enabling new modules for the updated forum, such as "Downloads", which homebrew authors will be able to use to post their game binaries, and versioning is supported (among many other features).
In short, I really have my work cut out for me. I'll post updates here as I progress..
Right now I'm working on doing the first test conversion on the new server..
This particular step is simply changing the character encoding of the entire database, which is necessary before the actual conversion can take place.. This step alone is going to take hours, but it may be something I can do to the live forum before I do the final conversion (which would save time when the site needs to be converted over). I have to be careful, though, as I don't want to cause any problems on the live forum.
I'll get into some of the new/changed features of the upgraded forum as I have time..