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A Blog by - myff admin

PostPosted: Mon Jul 13, 2009 7:32 pm

Catalog portal progress

I have I hope fixed another set of issues on downsizer.net where this is being tested.

So hopefully this is coming real sooooon.

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 13, 2009 11:17 am

New gallery system

I'm now working on moving the gallery system to a new server that does not deal with forums, for that matter it does not deal with anything else either

This should have the following benefits.

1) A reduction in load on the Ford server, it will have to deal with less parallel requests which is always a good thing.
2) A possible increase in allowed image size, as we have cheaper bandwidth on this server.
3) We should be able to add a progress meter to uploads as I have installed php5.2 which makes that a lot easier.
4) Uploads should be faster as I'm tweaking the code to work differently.

There will probably have to be a short outage on the attachment system as the final transfer is made.

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 18, 2009 10:36 am

Solution looking for problem

Just got a badly dated copy of O'Reilly Apache Modules with Perl/C, which is all the gubbins on how to get web code running a lot lower down the server food chain that the forums do.

Many server tasks are run at a pretty criminally inefficient level, forums are not too bad as with cached php pcode, the overhead of the php interpreter is not much compared to the database accesses.

But you get examples that are really appalling, for instance the flags you see on this forum are done from an "ip to country" database and I have seen example php code that loads this database each time a request is made   and in all fairness in straight php there is little choice but to do that We avoid this issue by running a little server written in 'c' that has the database efficiently preloaded and a simple sockets call from php is all it takes to grab a Country code. For this issue we are probably doing things the best way.

However in another thing we do, the gallery system, the accesses to files in the gallery go through to some quite simple php code, but the mere fact it is php code is inefficient. If we could embed a module directly into the server we could drastically reduce the load involved in gallery calls. Not too important on our system where the gallery is only a small % of the load, but very important if we were simply running a gallery system, and anyhow every little helps.

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PostPosted: Tue Jun 09, 2009 11:10 am

Back to work

Work proper that is, as in trying to add new stuff to the system rather than crisis manage.

In the last few weeks we have had a phpbb3 upgrade, upgraded the forums management system, had the worst spamming attack ever and a minor server crash on Zaphod, that capped off with being forced by the spam attack to release new phpbb2 code that was not quite ready and which had some consequences

Things clearly need to calm down before changing more code on the servers, and to be honest a little break from work is also needed. Today therefore has been about making a few bites out of the new Xen virtual server system, or rather the "mock" set up that will be used to test things.

To that end two virtual machines have been set up as the first step. One is K9 that is successfully running a DHCP server as it pretends to be and ISP and Jack the pretend office machine that has now got its IP address from K9.

I think I am going to spend the rest of the day with my head in some networking books as a refresher before going further.

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PostPosted: Sat May 23, 2009 4:01 pm

New management system

Well not really that new, but there is no question that the management system has got itself a little bit strained lately.

It lacks an ability to fully manage the transition between phpbb2 and phpbb3, and to deal with a few other circumstances that it should know about and alert a forum to.

It comes down to "only" storing 32 flags bits that are passed between a forum and "management". 32 sounds quite a lot, but they have all been grabbed for one thing or another and anyhow don't deal with the fact that a phpbb2 and phpbb3 forum will coexist in different states.

Another job on the TODO list.

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PostPosted: Mon May 18, 2009 4:14 pm

citrix xen server

I still need to play with network cards and switches to get the setup "real", but I have now got Ctirix Xen Server running on a new Dell box and being managed by XenCenter which itself is running on a virtual windows XP machine under Ubuntu  

On the Server machine I have a copy of Debian Sarge running.

The challenge is to get the system looking as it would look as if this was the planned new forums server and to set up forums on it.

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PostPosted: Fri May 15, 2009 3:17 pm

cautionary tale


In essence they relied on backups between servers. This is not unusual practice and has at times been part of our own backup strategy. But you can never place all bets on servers that are the same configuration and the same target of hackers. Backups always have to be sent somewhere independent, maybe not everyday (ours are BTW) but certainly at intervals.

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PostPosted: Thu May 14, 2009 8:47 am

Bits and bobs

A few musings today.

The CATALOG portal continues to develop, it is now in live testing on downsizer where I have tweaked some issues with the permissions system for cataloging, this actually meant rejigging the database storage for entries which rather validate testing this first on one site only. Will it make the 4th anniversary mark? downsizer is likely to move at a glacial pace on this, so maybe not But good things can wait.

I have been on a mission lately to clear down the number of emails spam and otherwise received. This has involved ramping up SpamAssassin settings to kill more spam, I'm going to up this further depending on what dribs and drabs make it though the net today. The level of spam had got to the stage where mobile use of email was being crippled   Last night I also hit on the idea of sending a lot of system notifications to a mailing list system that will send on just a digest a few times a day. Not so good for spotting issues as quickly, but there were too many notifications for constant checking anyway, so this should be better.

The issue of checking for errors moves me on to new server plans, when we do get the new system up and running I plan to write a whole lot more by way of system monitoring software. Obviously we do have ways of monitoring the system in place and check 24 hours a day at one level or another. But I think things could be better.

Lastly for the day I'm hoping to get the new PC arriving, along with some gigabyte networking gear in a few days time. The new gear will basically end up configured to act like the panned new server architecture, with that cost looking like more than £9000, £500 spent on hardware to investigate options is money well spent.

ps) Some of the emails we get from users, in fact a serious proportion of them come with no subject given, and little coherent content. It is possible the new spam regime will have trouble with some of these!

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PostPosted: Sun May 10, 2009 9:54 am

Fix those html errors!

I upgraded the downsizer forum yesterday, to bring it a lot more into like with myff.

People with ie could not long see the contents of threads  

This took long hours to resolve as there was too much invalid html   All I could do was to use a html validator to fix the template until it was clean and the error causing the visible problem was resolved.

There are a lot of issues in making sure a template is valid all the time in all circumstances, but if you do not keep on top of this at all when making template edits then sooner of later you will get burnt!

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PostPosted: Wed May 06, 2009 1:29 pm

We're heading for a big phpbb2 update session

With the new catalog portal it transpired that some data read off disk that had previously been handled in a quite blasť fashion really does need to be cached with respect Than means a lot has had to be updated with all the associated regression risk.

Things will end up a tad faster as a result though.

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PostPosted: Wed May 06, 2009 10:27 am

More on the catalog portal

Edging forward here, there is a close to working implementation on the office version of downsizer.net.

I have also on the myff version in the office got actions for edit/delete posts done. My teeth are grinding a little on that one.Phpbb2 was of its time and I would not expect for there to be "event" code, where the programmer can add new modules and have various events:


call into the new code, but the phpbb3 programmers new damn well from the success of phpbb2 that people would want to add tons of their own code, and hence such a system should have been core to the design.

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PostPosted: Sat May 02, 2009 10:27 am

New server progress

Just ordered a new machine from Dell, £400 so obviously not the new server  

Plan is to transfer the office work to the new machine, and make Xen virtual server out of the current main PC.

This should be a good way to test out the proposed way of running the new server when it is purchased. We do have a spec for the new server lined up and it comes to over £9000, somewhat more than hoped for, but that's life.

The aim will be to get the new server installed in Chicago, and then one by one empty the existing servers and also move them to the windy city. In this new configuration the servers will be linked on their own private LAN as well as to the outside world. They will also be converted into virtual servers.

The new server will be more powerful than the existing servers, somewhere between 2-3 times I would say. Virtualization should also improve performance as the mysql database does not scale well to the levels we run it at. Running less forums per instance of the mysql database should be a great improvement.

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 30, 2009 12:30 pm

Catalog portal done, well sort of :

Have just added the admin interface:

The next step is a big one as it needs a good work out, and this will be done on the downsizer forums.

Downsizer was created prior to myff and runs a bastardized version of the myff forums where bits have been cherry picked from myff as and when needed.

The problem is the catalog system is kind of full fledged myff code and hence I need to upgrade the downsizer forums a lot to cope.

It makes sense to do it this way though, downsizer has a massive recipe catalog that we want transferred to something better, and this is my attempt to write something better. What will come out the other side will be improved on where the catalog system is now.

Then we will put it on phpbb2 and then phpbb3.

The coding is another step forward in aiming at more compatibility between phpbb2 and phpbb3 portals, but there are still essential issues like the catalog portal needing to access post information and that information being different in 2 and 3.

At which point I will rant a bit more about phpbb3, if ever phpbb4 comes out, we will have the same level of difficulty, like phpbb2, phpbb3 has failed to abstract the functions of the forum from the database  

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PostPosted: Wed Apr 29, 2009 5:59 pm

worse than phpbb3

The catalog portal permissions.

Actually I don't really mean that, whilst they are heavy handed in the way they there are separate permissions for:

admin - ability to black/white list users.
catalog - write entries.
moderated - whose entries need approval.
approval rights - who can approve entires.
delete - who can delete entries.

I think it ends up clearer and more powerful than being vaguer about it.

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PostPosted: Wed Apr 29, 2009 4:10 pm

More on the catalog portal

I have just realised that the permission system could be clearer:

Does not convey who can approve items at all well

We also need an admin screen for those with admin rights. Again this is muddy water, people assigned admin rights get to see the top bit here:

and there is a need for two layers of privilege on a catalog. But a catalog admin is not and does not need to be a forum admin which leads to the sort of ambiguous terminology I detest, or the spurious invention of new terms which is just as bad really.

Anyhow the main thing remaining here is an actual "catalog mod/admin" screen where mods/admins can see all unapproved entries, as well as blacklists and whitelists.

blacklists and whitelists are great here for allowing ease of use. If a user is trusted to catalog stuff, whitelist them and all their entires will become approved and be automatically approved in the future, blacklist them and they cannot even create entries.

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