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On Mon, 2011-11-28 at 15:39 +0100, Alexander Werner wrote:

as it was decided to also provide forums, I installed a test instance of
phpbb on saturday during my spare time at Linuxday in Dornbirn. It is
currently available at (this URL is
probably going to change to if
other forums are also evaluated).
Everyone feel free to register and test, if you want additional rights
please ping me.

During installation I encountered some quite troubling issues, most of
them of purely technical nature.
Let me first describe the setup:
- I used postgresql instead of mysql as database backend because of
speed, transaction safety, scalability, and various other reasons. (I
see postgresql as a must-have for any forum software we might use)

ah - if you think so but mysql seems to work just fine, actually the
first install of pbpBB, for OO.o it wasn't actually THE first time, I
did was against Postgres but after a year it was dumped in favor of
MySQL. However, that last part (various other reasons),depending on what
those are, might not be something that can be overcome. [no need to
elaborate on those BTW]

- During setup, I set the table prefix from "phpbb_" to "". (Bad mistake)

*chuckle*...learned that one myself.

After the initial setup, which worked quite well, I tried to install
some plugins ("MODs" in phpbb-language). 

*smile* - there is a reason they are called MODS (modifications) and not
plugins - but I see you figured that out.

But I was confronted with the
fact that there is no default way of installing these. The first thing I
found out was that there is a special xml-based format used to
distribute mods. After more searching, I figured out that I needed to
install the Automod-Mod to install Mods. As there seems to be no
official documentation for AutoMod, I read some tutorials in the forums
and got to install AutoMod. As the installation procedure includes an
install directory and phpbb refuses to run if such a directory exists,
the forums are offline during the installation. This is not su much of a
problem if you are installing from scratch. But when doing updates in a
live forum this is very annoying for the users. 

Well, yes if you update live installations directly.

Also there is no update
notification or automatic update process for AutoMod as it seems, so
admins have to watch the AutoMod website closely for security patches.

Now I wanted to install the phpBB OpenID MOD. This mod is not included
in the official mod-database but hosted on a third party site.
Installation directly by URL is not possible, the MOD must be downloaded
and uploaded via the AutoMOD webinterface. After uploading the MOD and
starting the installation procedure, an xsl-translated xml file was
presented to me. This file showed everything that the AutoMOD installer
had done to the phpbb installation. And what I saw was quite shocking
(this is not only true for the above mentioned MOD, but also for many
others in the official database):
The MOD patches phpbb vanilla files. Not only php files, but also the
included templates. This is NOT GOOD. Why you may ask?
- Updating the phpbb-core may break MODs
- MODs can break each other (the installation order of independent MODs
may even be important!)


- You can't simply copy and adopt the theme, as the vanilla themes are
patched to include additional features
- Updating MODs means removing the patches and reapplying the new patch.
This can go terribly wrong in so many ways!


*Every* other serious web application handles
plugins/mods/modules/whatever by separating them into their own directory.


Okay, after successfully installing and configuring the OpenID MOD, I
saw that the theme the MOD was made for was a bit broken (nothing you
couldn't fix with some css). But the MOD didn't work at all. Reasons for
this seemed to be me chossing to have no table prefix (The table prefix
is hardcoded in many MODs) and choosing postgresql (MODs mostly only
support mysql).

That is very true - MySQL is the backend of choice by almost all of the
phpBB community. Mostly though, IMO, because the target audience is
people running on shared hosts and in those cases they usually don't
have postgres as a choice.

The next thing I tried was getting postgresql native fulltext search
working, as most application implementations of fulltext indexing result
in huge (and later d*** slow) indexes. MySQL indexing never was a choice
because the tradeoff would have been losing transactions.

Gladly, I found a quite simple "extension" (I wouldn't call it MOD as no
patching and other horrible stuff involved ;) ) in a forum thread[1]
that promised to allow postgresql full text search. Unfortunately, I had
to use the original extension, replace one file with the one appended to
forum thread page three and merge changes made in a github repo and
those on page 4. (Sounds fun, doesn't it?)
Now I reindexed everything and... Search worked, except for the fact
that every search term was ignored because it was to common.
Btw: Drew, was it you posting in this thread? Did it finally work for you?

Postgres full text search - yes, I did get it working with help from the
guys that run the postgres forum (phpBB->postgres naturally), but that
was right around the time everyone got tired of postgres gremlins and
decided it was easier and better just to switch to MySQL.

Though most of the work in the phpBB camp now is on supporting SPHINX.

Now I tried to change the theme to make it look a bit more LibO-ish.
Unfortunately, theme editing seems to only work reliably using editor of
the ACP (AdminControlPanel). Editing the files on filesystem level was
ignored, even after emptying all caches and restarting the webserver.

This are my experiences with phpBB for the moment, some more thoughts:
- There are always SIDs in the URL. This is potentially dangerous
(session fixation attacks, session leaking)
- SEO friendly URLs need a PreMOD on a vanilla phpBB installation[2],
seems to be awful lot of work

Yeah this is always an interesting question - however bottom line for me
anyway - I know I don't know it all.

- Updates are lot of work (core->seo->automod->all other mods)
- No update notifications

That is the biggest knock on phpBB and well deserved. The 4.0 update
promises a plugin architecture and not just MODS - but as always,
believe it when you see it :)

So it seems to me as phpbb is _very_ time consuming to administer, but
please correct me if I'm wrong.

Well, that hasn't been my experience and I know Terry who took over
feels the same but, and this is a big but, the more you mod the more
work it will be. The postgres choice will make things a bit harder IMO,

Also, you will find most, if not all, of the same issues with
SimpleMachines and pretty much all of the php based forums I've looked
at, with regards to mods vs plugins, most do not use any type of
framework that support plugins.

If the mod vs plugin issue is a big deal for you then I would suggest a
look at vanilla ( which boasts a true plugin
architecture - it also has support for postgres - though as with most of
these packages MySQL is the strongly preferred back-end.

Speaking of other packages, FUDForum would IMO be worth some serious
consideration - for the mailing list integration, and it does have
postgres support.

So by now you should of figured out - I'm not married to phpBB or any
other particular package, feature wise they are all very similar these
days - fitting in to the infrastructure you want to support is a
reasonable consideration.

Best wishes,


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