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Albert

Forum Upgrade coming soon! Some details here...

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Many of you probably do not have much interest in what goes on behind the scenes to keep AtariAge, and in particular, the forums up and running. It's a fair bit of work, time and money. Every now and again I need to perform a significant update to the forum software itself, as opposed to the minor updates that come along every now and again. Time has come again for me to do a major upgrade of the forum software.

 

Several months ago Invision released IP.Board 3.1.0, along with updates to the other forum modules (IP.Blog, Gallery, Downloads, etc). Two days ago I started working in earnest on the upgrade. There are over 1,000 source files to the forum, and because I have made various modifications to the source code, I have to manually merge these files. It's a very time consuming and somewhat tedious task, and I was able to finish that yesterday.

 

A more difficult task is updating the various forum skins (which control the visual appearance of the forum) to work with the new software. The default, "AtariAge" skin is the one that requires the most work since it is heavily customized. The latest software has a "Template Merge" tool that supposedly makes upgrading existing skins easier, but I have to say it was a catastrophic failure when I tried to use it yesterday:

 

disaster.jpg

 

There is a new, default Mobile skin created by Invision that looks quite slick on mobile phones. The current mobile skin we're using, which is a commercial skin, has a significant update coming along that is greatly improved on cell phones and has been enhanced for the iPad as well. At least three of the other skins installed (CleanCut, Splat!, and Deflection) have also been updated for 3.1.x. The remaining three skins (Classic Blue, IP.Board Pro and IPSBeyond) are still being worked on and will be removed until they are ready (I believe Classic Blue is nearly complete).

 

The new software has many improvements over what we're running now. The user Profile page has been completely redone and has much stronger support for integration with Facebook. You can even set a background image for the entire page. You can easily see all of a user's posts, blog entries, etc. with the "Find My Content" link under a user's profile photo. There is a new "Recent Status Updates" tab in the profile that shows you all your status updates, as well as replies to them. Here's an example of such a profile on Invision's site ("Matt" is their chief software architect):

 

http://community.invisionpower.com/user/62-matt/

 

Regarding status updates, you can now directly reply to status updates on the front page. There's also a new page that allows you to view all status updates, as well as updates from your friends:

 

http://community.invisionpower.com/statuses/all/

 

You can also view all the status updates for just a single user:

 

http://community.invisionpower.com/statuses/all/page__member_id__62

 

Moving on, the search system has been completely rewritten from scratch in IP.Board 3.1.x. Search results should be more accurate, returning results as "Posts" is MUCH better than before (and the search terms are properly highlighted), searching within forums and topics works properly, and searching other modules (members, blog, gallery, downloads, etc.) has been greatly improved. This has always been a weak area in the software in my opinion and I have been pretty vocal about it over the years. I was thrilled when they announced a complete revamp of the search system earlier in the year. :)

 

Invision has also added native support for the Sphinx search engine, which is what we are using on AtariAge to make searches fast and not a huge resource hog on the server. There are over 2,000,000 posts on AtariAge now, yet searches still return very quickly. As Sphinx support is now built into the forum, its use has been greatly expanded, making other searches more efficient and further reducing load on the server.

 

The software now has the "My Posts" functionality built in. This page shows you all the threads you've posted or started, so you can easily keep tabs on those threads. I had to add this feature to the forum myself, and maintain it over the years as IP.Board has evolved. Now that it's (finally!) built-in, that makes my life easier and is one less modification I have to maintain. Here's a screenshot showing how this works on Invision's forum:

 

Screen shot 2010-09-02 at 9.45.06 AM.png

 

The Advanced Search page has been revamped, and each forum "module" has its own unique search parameters to help you further narrow down results:

 

Screen shot 2010-09-02 at 9.47.00 AM.png

 

The Chat room has seen some improvements, most notably the addition of private chats between two individual members. I'm expecting Invision to make some more significant enhancements to the chat soon, as this is still a relatively young product.

 

Once I get the new software live on the forum, I will be adding the "Downloads" module. The primary focus of this will be to server as a repository for homebrew and hack binaries and related files, from development all the way through release. It supports file revisions, so authors can upload their latest binaries to the same "entry", and a history will be maintained of previous releases. It's fully integrated into the forum, so you can (for instance) use the search system to see the latest games posted, easily find obscure titles, and so forth. Here's an example of an entry on Invision's site for a forum application by a third party:

 

Bouncy Radio Center 9.3.0 - Invision Power Services_1283439568375.png

 

There's an entirely new "Notifications" system that allows you to customize the notices you receive from the forum. Right now the there are only a few notification options, such as when someone sends you a PM. With Invision 3.1, there are many more events that trigger notifications, and you have four options for being notified: Email, Personal Conversation, Inline Notification (these are new), and Mobile. Here's the page in the user control panel where you can adjust your notification settings:

 

Invision Power Services User CP_1283439705168.png

 

I'll touch on more later, but these are some of the major improvements that have been made. There have been many, many minor improvements and a great deal of bug fixes as well. And there have been enhancements to moderator-related functions that aren't really appropriate to discuss here. :)

 

If you have any questions, please fire away!

 

..Al

Screen shot 2010-09-02 at 9.45.06 AM.png

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the search system has been completely rewritten from scratch in IP.Board 3.1.x. Search results should be more accurate, returning results as "Posts" is MUCH better than before (and the search terms are properly highlighted), searching within forums and topics works properly, and searching other modules (members, blog, gallery, downloads, etc.) has been greatly improved. This has always been a weak area in the software in my opinion and I have been pretty vocal about it over the years. I was thrilled when they announced a complete revamp of the search system earlier in the year. :)

Does it support searching for literal strings, as in "literal strings"?

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Does it support searching for literal strings, as in "literal strings"?

Yes--if you look at the third screenshot I posted, you'll see this text underneath the box you type your search query in:

 

"Tip: Search for a specific phrase by "enclosing it in quotes"

 

:)

 

..Al

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Does it support searching for literal strings, as in "literal strings"?

Yes--if you look at the third screenshot I posted, you'll see this text underneath the box you type your search query in:

 

"Tip: Search for a specific phrase by "enclosing it in quotes"

 

:)

 

..Al

Hmm... indeed.

 

Well, good. It's been frustrating not to have this basic functionality in the current search engine.

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I was about to comment something like "didn't you just upgrade to this current version recently?" then I looked further down the forum... I can't believe it's been a year already!

 

Anyway, good luck.. I know how big a PITA upgrading any type of system is!

Edited by thanatos

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That's good to hear...I've been using offsite searching for years because AA always lacked the quotes to search for an exact phrase in the forums. Pluses (+) just don't cut it if you want to narrow the results down to under a few million or so hits :P

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Also, do you expect there to be a period of forum downtime, and when might that be?

I'll do this overnight once I'm ready. It'll likely take me a few days to get the skins all square, so perhaps late Sunday. I'm doing all the work locally, so downtime will be minimal. If everything goes smoothly, the forum should only be down for an hour or two. Here's a rough list of what the tasks involved in doing the upgrade on the live server:

 


     
  1. Take forum down.
  2. Do immediate backup of database (in case things go horribly awry, I can at least restore everything).
  3. Update backup of forum file system (again, so I can restore in case things go wrong and I need to revert the upgrade).
  4. Upload new source files and images.
  5. Run several upgrade scripts.
  6. Delete old forum skins.
  7. Install new forum skins.
  8. Do some simple testing to make sure things are working.
  9. Put forum back online.

Realistically that shouldn't take more than an hour. Could take longer if I run into some snags. Any big snags that would require a significant amount of downtime to correct would likely result in my reverting everything and trying again at a later time.

 

..Al

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Here are some screenshots I took earlier today on my phone of one of the two new mobile skins for the forum:

 

The first is the main forum index. Ignore the "0 Active Reports", that's a moderation feature. If you click on your username, you get a popup menu with some choices. Clicking on the "1" brings you into the Messenger. You can easily search and "View New Content", which is much nicer in this new version of the software. These are iPhone 4 screenshots, so they are pretty high resolution (for a phone):

 

IMG_0346.png

 

"View New Content" -- ignore the "Aqua-Soft.org", that's before I changed that image out for "AtariAge":

 

IMG_0345.png

 

Here's a view of the 2600 forum, scrolled down a bit:

 

IMG_0347.png

 

View of a specific thread. Clicking the gear icon pops up a menu that lets you "Reply", "Edit", etc.

 

IMG_0348.png

 

Scrolling down a bit in a thread:

 

IMG_0349.png

 

You can even view videos posted to YouTube:

 

IMG_0342.png

 

This skin is still a work-in-progress. I'm sure all the icons for the iPhone 4 will be high-resolution when it's done.

 

Will post some iPad shots tomorrow.

 

..Al

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Over 2 million posts? If you delete all of my posts, except those in the batari Basic forum, that should cut it down to 1 million.

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Over 2 million posts? If you delete all of my posts, except those in the batari Basic forum, that should cut it down to 1 million.

I've considered deleting all your posts.. :ponder: :D

 

..Al

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i'm making good progress on getting the main AtariAge skin updated for the new forum upgrade:

 

Screen shot 2010-09-04 at 9.54.38 PM.png

 

Screen shot 2010-09-04 at 9.58.56 PM.png

 

There are still various changes that have to be made, so please no critiques yet. :) I have a solid day or two's worth of work on the skin before I can do the upgrade.

 

..Al

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Here's a shot of the new notifications settings:

 

notifications.jpg

 

IF you use the Invision iPhone app, you can actually receive these notifications on your phone. :)

 

..Al

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Only 17 pages in a year's time? You're not trying ;)

Yeah, it's interesting how they've limited it in that fashion, which I imagine was done for performance reasons. I'll probably remove that, after I do some testing when the forum goes live. Should be okay with the Sphinx search engine.

 

..Al

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Any chance of putting the view embedded picture system back to how it was? Or at least giving the option of doing so.

 

The current one is utterly annoying, you're stuck at one at a time, it can't open in a new tab, and when you scroll big pics around it affects the stuff underneath once you exit out of it.

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Any chance of putting the view embedded picture system back to how it was? Or at least giving the option of doing so.

 

The current one is utterly annoying, you're stuck at one at a time, it can't open in a new tab, and when you scroll big pics around it affects the stuff underneath once you exit out of it.

I will consider this.

 

..Al

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Here are some iPad shots using the default mobile skin, but you can always go back to the normal skin anytime you'd like. It's the same skin used for the iPhone (and other mobile devices), but the skin takes advantage of the extra space afforded on the iPad. This skin is very fast compared to the standard skin since it's much "lighter".

 

Forum index:

 

IMG_0008.PNG

 

Atari 2600 forum:

 

IMG_0009.PNG

 

Individual thread in the 2600 forum:

 

IMG_0010.PNG

 

User profile page:

 

IMG_0011.PNG

 

User control panel:

 

IMG_0012.PNG

 

Search results:

 

IMG_0013.PNG

 

Adding a reply to a topic:

 

IMG_0014.PNG

 

..Al

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Any chance of putting the view embedded picture system back to how it was? Or at least giving the option of doing so.

 

The current one is utterly annoying, you're stuck at one at a time, it can't open in a new tab, and when you scroll big pics around it affects the stuff underneath once you exit out of it.

I will consider this.

 

..Al

I second this request. I didn't realize there was an option to return to the old way, or I would have requested it a long time ago.

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Looks good. Like the sound of the new search features.

I've gotten stalled on this the last several days, but need to get back on it soon.

 

..Al

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