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Should forums.gentoo.org move to a commercial forums package?
Yes -- keeping older posts searchable is more important than sticking with GPL-only products
53%
 53%  [ 84 ]
No -- lose some of the older posts and stay on the GPL'd phpBB
46%
 46%  [ 73 ]
Total Votes : 157

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Sivar
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 07, 2003 6:15 pm    Post subject: Re: Migrating to a commercial PHP-based forums package Reply with quote

klieber wrote:
Luke-Jr wrote:
1. Can phpBB2 databases be converted to the new database format?
2. Can the new database format be converted back should phpBB2 improve their performance?

  1. Yes, vBulletin and Invision both offer scripts to convert from phpBB2.
  2. Yes, phpBB2 offers scripts to convert from vBulletin. There is currently no supported Invision --> phpBB2 migration, but since all the data is stored in mysql, it's simply a matter of parsing/rearranging it to suit the different BB systems.

--kurt


I would like to offer the benefit of some experience converting from PHPBB to Invision Power Board(IPB hereafter) on a production server.

I am a moderator (not an administrator) at www.StorageReview.com. (A good place to ask questions about anything storage related, BTW). Several months ago, we were running into performance problems as well, and after some testing, decided to go with IPB. I was not directly involved in the actual process of transitioning other than testing, so I cannot give much info about that.

You can see SR's forums and the IPB software in production here.

You can read the user responses to the new forum software here
Note that while the initial reaction was mixed, there are few complaints about the board now.



I'll be brief and to the point:
  • Yes, IPB is much faster under load.

  • Yes, IPB does technically allow you to import from PHPBB. Importing the user database works flawlessly. Importing the messages does not. In fact, there are no boards out there that can flawlessly import the messages as far as I have seen, but if there is such a beast, IPB is not it.

    Some issues that crop up are:
  • Quoted text does not work right off the bat. You will actually see the [ quote ], [/ quote] code. The reason for this appears to be that IPB wants all "code" (quoting codes, etc.) in all capitol letters. PHPBB doesn't care. Now, when you type in your quotes in lower-case and post a message, IPB converts it for you. When you import existing messages, however, this is not done. This may have been fixed later--we were early adopters.
  • Links to specific posts from PHPBB simply will not work. IPB uses a *completely* different system for linking to specific posts.
  • When you do want to link to a specific post, it is a bit more involved. Please see our FAQ regarding this issue.
  • IPB is less forgiving when parsing messages. When PHPBB parses a message and sees that there are mismatched quote or other codes, it will render what it can figure out and show the codes in the message for parts that it cannot figure out. IPB is generally all or nothing. If you screw up when using IPB's equivalent of PBPBB code, all codes will often be ignored and put in the message as if they were normal text.
  • Certain other codes and doo-dads are done differently, and will not carry over.
  • Users will need to get used to some weird differences. Quoting another for example, is done very oddly. When you quote, the quoted message appears in a completely different text box than your message. This is fine if you want to reply to the whole thing, or if you want to reply to just a part (you can edit the text in the quote box), but when you want to reply line-by-line, like when someone asks a 5-part numbered question, you have to CUT (not copy) the text from the quote box and paste it into your message, then reply as you would do in PHPBB. Not a big deal, but inconvenient.
  • To put it bluntly, the search function sucks. I don't know if there's some sort of trick, but it frequently cannot find something that IS there, and seems to not bother trying when you use a complex query.


    IPB does have plenty of advantages though, and overall I think we are happy with the conversion.
  • Faster. Searches in particular (see above)
  • Cleaner code
  • Administrator and moderator functions are very well laid out, very organized, very easy to use. We have not been able to get the "Report this message" function to work though. It is reportedly supposed to IM or email moderators when a message is reported. As far as I can tell, it is completely broken. It may be a misconfiguration.
  • After using IPB, I like the controls much better. When I click on the URL button, I get a dialog box asking for the description and then another asking for the link. This is faster and more convenient than typing in the code manually. It is irritating, however, when you want to quote multiple lines of text, as the dialog box can only handle one line. Thus, when you want to do multiple lines, you can type in the code yourself, or you can put some temp characters like "foo" in for the text, and then paste the quoted material that you want over "foo".
  • Easy to customize.


Unless the license has changed, IPB does not *require* that you pay money. You can use it for free. If you want to remove all references to the company and the name of the BBS software though, you do need to pay.

What I recommend is that you install IPB and import everything, then do a public beta test of the new software. Be sure to specify that posts made in IPB may be lost (if that is the case) and that since PHPBB is still running, the performance will probably still be poor because of the overloaded server. The test would be mainly for getting input from users.

I remember a few days after we decided to switch, but before it was done, PHPBB was causing DB errors because MySQL was choking on the SQL queries that were over 2MB of text. TWO MEGABYTES OF TEXT for a single SQL query. The query itself. That is insane. Though one can adjust that max value in MySQL's config file, it doesn't change the fact that 2MB is an absurd query size for a BBS. To add insult to injury, it would spew out the entire query in an error message to the user, so gobs of bandwidth was used because of the failure. Ugh.

Good luck in the conversion,

Charles Burns
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rsk
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 07, 2003 6:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Charles, LOVE SR, one of the great sites on the net.

Anyway thanks so much for the detail... especially the comment on the 2MB queries... were these mistakes? (uncaught exceptions or loops running out of control?) how do you even GENERATE a 2MB query... I wonder what one looks like...


Search: "kernel and xfree config"
SELECT * FROM message WHERE charAt(0)='k' AND charAt(1)='e' AND .... AND timeOfDay='3:00pm' AND moonPhase='16degrees 43ascent' AND .... AND averageEasyCoastTemperature='13 C' AND numberOfUsersWithBrownHair >= 12 AND ...

you get the idea :)
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Techie-Micheal
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 07, 2003 6:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sivar's first post wrote:
Tue Oct 07, 2003 12:59 pm

Sivar's second post wrote:
Tue Oct 07, 2003 1:04 pm

Sivar's third post wrote:
Tue Oct 07, 2003 1:15 pm


Posts like that don't happen accidentally ...[/rant]

Quote:
PHPBB was causing DB errors because MySQL was choking on the SQL queries that were over 2MB of text. TWO MEGABYTES OF TEXT for a single SQL query. The query itself. That is insane.
I'd like to see proof of that ...

Quote:
To add insult to injury, it would spew out the entire query in an error message to the user, so gobs of bandwidth was used because of the failure
Turn off debug mode. ;)
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Sivar
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 07, 2003 7:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Techie-Micheal wrote:
Sivar's first post wrote:
Tue Oct 07, 2003 12:59 pm

Sivar's second post wrote:
Tue Oct 07, 2003 1:04 pm

Sivar's third post wrote:
Tue Oct 07, 2003 1:15 pm


Posts like that don't happen accidentally ...[/rant]

They do when the board waits ten minutes and then stops completely with no error and no thread refresh to show the new post. Or did you think I would triple post for my health?

Quote:
Quote:
PHPBB was causing DB errors because MySQL was choking on the SQL queries that were over 2MB of text. TWO MEGABYTES OF TEXT for a single SQL query. The query itself. That is insane.
I'd like to see proof of that ...
As much as I pride myself on my SQL query collection, that one is unfortunately missing from my archives. :|
Based on the tone of your reply, I don't particularly feel like going to a great deal of effort to find if anyone saved it for amusement value, but you are welcome to do the same.

Quote:
Quote:
To add insult to injury, it would spew out the entire query in an error message to the user, so gobs of bandwidth was used because of the failure
Turn off debug mode. ;)
Probably should have done that, but the forum software was already almost certainly going to be replaced soon, so it wasn't a big priority. It didn't happen on all searches either. It seemed to occur most frequently when looking up all posts by such-and-such a user, which probably wasn't used very frequently.
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 07, 2003 7:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

charlieg wrote:
Why not use something that isn't PHP?

PHP does not have performance as one of it's better attributes. Hell, even a Python/Psyco combo would be infinitely better in that area than PHP. However, I'm sure there is a C-based BB out there. There must be. I mean, BBs are a concept that is much older than the recent scripting languages, right?

http://www.ccs.neu.edu/home/occamrzr/codevault/theforum/theforum.html
found that ... its written in C
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 07, 2003 7:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

nianderson wrote:
http://www.ccs.neu.edu/home/occamrzr/codevault/theforum/theforum.html
found that ... its written in C

Uh.....
That page wrote:
Currently The Forum can only be run on Windows 9x systems, with the possibility of NT (though this has not been tested).


yeah....I'm gonna have to say 'no' to that. Call me inflexible or power-crazed if you will. :)

--kurt
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Sivar
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 07, 2003 7:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

nianderson wrote:
charlieg wrote:
Why not use something that isn't PHP?

PHP does not have performance as one of it's better attributes. Hell, even a Python/Psyco combo would be infinitely better in that area than PHP. However, I'm sure there is a C-based BB out there. There must be. I mean, BBs are a concept that is much older than the recent scripting languages, right?

http://www.ccs.neu.edu/home/occamrzr/codevault/theforum/theforum.html
found that ... its written in C
Execution speed is not the only factor in web applications, else C would be one of the most popular choices for dynamic content generation.
One problem with using C is that the code itself is executeable, so rather than running one program that can handle multiple requests, the C program must be run for every request. The overhead in creating an entire new process and then tearing it down usually involves much more overhead than the execution time of the application itself.
To make an example, the difference is between like running and killing 10,000 copies of "ps" vs ps itself running too slowly.
Not to sound like a Unix zealot, but process creation/destruction is MUCH faster in Linux than it is in Windows, but then, few Windows servers use CGI, and there are still better ways to do things.
This is grossly oversimplified, and I am told by someone who knows exactly what he is doing that the "Windows is slow at process creation" rule of thumb is not necessarily true if the programmer knows what (s)he is doing, but I I do hope this gets an important point across.

Regardless, the code execution of PHP does not appear to be the problem from what I have read of this topic as much as a problem of the algorithms used. As is often the case for dynamic websites, the SQL server is the bottleneck. In fact, the SQL server is the bottleneck in the majority of large dynamic websites, and MySQL is AFAIK written in C. (It would be an absolutely terrible idea to write an SQL server in an interpreted language).
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 07, 2003 7:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

klieber wrote:
yeah....I'm gonna have to say 'no' to that. Call me inflexible or power-crazed if you will. :)
Even after viewing their extremely polished website and impressive forum demo?!
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 07, 2003 7:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think that phpbb2 should rather be fixed than gentoo migrate their forums to a commercial product. Think about it - gentoo is completely free. Using a commercial product would be contradicting to the whole spirit of gentoo. Not to mention ironic and bad for publicity :)

Maybe take the money that vBulletin would cost and spend it on fixing phpbb2. Many sites use phpbb, and then all of them would also benefit from the speed increase.

Otherwise - what if the old posts are simply moved away for the time being? Then they can be moved back after phpbb2 was patched?

I know some php - I feel like looking into this. Maybe other developers should also give it a try. Look at the slow areas and try and make it faster.

My latest favorite phrase is: Rather fix/optimise the wheel than reinvent it. :)
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 07, 2003 8:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sivar wrote:
klieber wrote:
yeah....I'm gonna have to say 'no' to that. Call me inflexible or power-crazed if you will. :)
Even after viewing their extremely polished website and impressive forum demo?!


Well, um... it certainly loads quickly ;)
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 07, 2003 8:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

OK, for a long term solution that will make the boards faster and more useable, how about this:

1. Add archive column to topic table.
1. Moderators will select topics to be archived.
2. Trust the moderators to do this responsibly.
2. Unreplied topics will be deleted in 1 week (aggressive!)
3. Posters cannot reply to their own topic if it hasn't been replied to. (no self-bumping, but you can always repost)
4. Non-archived, inactive topics deleted within x number of months.
5. Recommend archived topics of great importance should be turned into Tips and Tricks topics, FAQs, HOWTOs, or even Gentoo documentation.

There is no need to set per-forum deletion or searching policies. In other words, let the moderaters be the judges of how best to keep their forums clean and helpful. Moderators, does this sound okay? You'll get a much higher S/N ratio if the uninformative topics are dropped into oblivion and you'll definitely increase the speed of the forums.

The way I see it (and please tell me if I'm wrong), the forums are most useful in discussing recent problems and solutions as well as news, ideas, and opinions. Documentation, on the other hand, is most useful in discussing general methods, explanations, and solutions regardless of topic age. In this way, you can refer forum posters to documents (which they should be reading anyways) instead of searching the forums (which they are probably not doing anyways). This will greatly increase the value of the forums to everyone.

"But what about all of the great discussions I've had over window managers and media players? What about all of the desktops screenshots that are posted every month? What about the ebuilds posted in the topics?" you ask. Well, as long as a topic is popular (posted to) or archive worthy (in the moderator's opinion), it will be there for all to see and search. On the other hand, discussions, polls, ebuilds, screenshots, and yes even opinions will change and new topics will cover all of those in time. Just as outdated packages are dropped from portage, the forums IMHO should reflect the constant change of Gentoo Linux.
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 07, 2003 10:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have been spending some time on reading the phpBB code and the queries used against the database and the schema creation SQL scripts.

First of all, the forum database is a tiny-puny little database and performance should not be an issue :) But it is.

Klieber, I have a few questions for you:

1. Do you or anyone else gather any statistics on the DB performance?

2. How are the data physically stored? With this I mean, are all the datafiles in the database on the same physical disk? Controller?

3. How is the database configured? The amount of memory set aside for various tasks and the number of processes used for read/writes can probably be tuned.

4. Are connections between phpBB and the database done using tcp/ip or IPC?

Based on the information in this thread and my research of phpBB, I would say the problem is a database problem and not a problem with the forum software.

Erik
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 08, 2003 2:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Quote:
Quote:
PHPBB was causing DB errors because MySQL was choking on the SQL queries that were over 2MB of text. TWO MEGABYTES OF TEXT for a single SQL query. The query itself. That is insane.
I'd like to see proof of that ...
As much as I pride myself on my SQL query collection, that one is unfortunately missing from my archives. :|
Based on the tone of your reply, I don't particularly feel like going to a great deal of effort to find if anyone saved it for amusement value, but you are welcome to do the same.
Actually, I am quite curious as to how you go that. :) Many of the team members, as well as myself cannot seem to figure that out. Maybe something we missed, I don't know.
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 08, 2003 3:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Techie-Micheal wrote:
Actually, I am quite curious as to how you go that. :) Many of the team members, as well as myself cannot seem to figure that out. Maybe something we missed, I don't know.
I may have misinterpreted your reply as sarcasm (of the un-humorous variety).
I will see if anyone for some reason made a copy of the query. Here is what I remember:
As I said, it happened most often when someone did a search for all posts by user Foo. The bulk of the query seemed to be "And not this and not that and not foo and not bar" etc. The "not" items weren't user names (which would not have filled two megabytes), but I can't remember exactly what they were. Er, I'll get back to you if I gather anything useful.
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 08, 2003 12:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sivar wrote:
Techie-Micheal wrote:
Actually, I am quite curious as to how you go that. :) Many of the team members, as well as myself cannot seem to figure that out. Maybe something we missed, I don't know.
I may have misinterpreted your reply as sarcasm (of the un-humorous variety).
No worries. :)
Sivar wrote:
I will see if anyone for some reason made a copy of the query. Here is what I remember:
As I said, it happened most often when someone did a search for all posts by user Foo. The bulk of the query seemed to be "And not this and not that and not foo and not bar"
Ahhhhh. That is from people not searching correctly. When searching for phrases, people need to use "Search for all terms" and that "should" cut some of that down. Though I would still like to see the query, because I don't think it would be that large, even then.
Quote:
but I can't remember exactly what they were. Er, I'll get back to you if I gather anything useful.
Please do. :)
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 08, 2003 4:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

So what of the Free Software alternatives to phpBB?

The two that I mention, Phorum and tForum, look like decent alternatives.

Does anybody know if they have problems under weight and load?
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 08, 2003 5:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:

So what of the Free Software alternatives to phpBB?

The two that I mention, Phorum and tForum, look like decent alternatives.

Does anybody know if they have problems under weight and load?


I looked at Phorum demo site and the SR.com IVB example given earlier and just to chime in that the lightweight graphics workled well in my thin-client environment.

WHen I go to the StorageReview forum, the blue graphic in each post paints 3-4 times as the thread loads.

BTW, even our own forum does that. I hate citrix, lol. Lunchtime at work is when I do most of my forum-reading.... :)

Edited to update on theme.
I checked my profile and selected Gentoo-lite, no change. Just one more gripe.
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 08, 2003 9:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

One more point on phpBB - it's designed to be database-independent. This is good for general compatability, but it probably doesn't make maximum use of the power of a good RDBMS. Instead, it just uses the database as a glorified data repository.

A version of phpBB tailored to using a strong DB (PostgreSQL perhaps), with some of the heavy lifting handled by stored procedures instead of PHP foreach loops, would probably go a long way towards scalability.

I've done this sort of thing in Microsoft SQL Server, and I'm hopeful it can be achieved in PostgreSQL too. Not so hopeful about MySQL though. ;-)
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 09, 2003 2:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm not sure if something like this has been suggested or not (I only read through the 3rd page of posts)

Could the pruning code be modified so that instead of deleting the code that it generates a static page of the thread? Static page == no mysql lookup for those posts. Then maybe the phpBB search should be replaced with a static-page search engine (or a hybrid of both).
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 09, 2003 4:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

An Apache+Fastcgi setup and a MySQL connection via IPC would help performance.
:)
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 09, 2003 10:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I suppose there is already some kind of PHP accelerator installed on the Gentoo Servers?
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 09, 2003 10:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

OK, for everyone who posted asking how they could help, here's your chance. The person who originally agreed to help port our current modified code base from 2.0.4 to 2.0.6 has since backed out. Thus, we're looking for someone who's willing to help make the migration. At the risk of being rude, I will be brutally honest. This is not a job for someone who is an average PHP coder. We need someone who is extremely comfortable in PHP and can dive into this mess and hopefully clean it up to make the end result much better, cleaner and easier to maintain going forward.

The primary changes in our code revolve around the Gentoo theme most of you see now. There are some other changes in the SQL code that handles the search word match table as well. In fact, it might be easier to start with a clean implementation of 2.0.6 and develop a theme that applies cleanly against that. Matters not to me.

Anyway, if you are interested, please contact me via PM. Please help me out by self-screening yourself and only applying if you're truly willing and able to complete the job.

--kurt
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 10, 2003 1:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here, you guys might be interested (or something :p)

http://area51.phpbb.com/phpBB22/viewtopic.php?sid=&f=4&p=80441&view=show#80441
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 10, 2003 9:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

insanecanuck wrote:
Here, you guys might be interested (or something :p)

Actually, I'm not. The phpBB folks have made their comments and said their piece. I'm more interested in fixing the problem for the Gentoo community than I am having a passive-agressive, indirect argument with anyone.

--kurt
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 10, 2003 6:18 pm    Post subject: Can anyone summarize why phpBB has poor performance? Reply with quote

For those of us learning development skills, can any summarize why phpBB has a performance problem, I would like to know so that I don't make similar mistakes.

TIA
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