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Mike

Forum Downtime - Updating of Forum Software

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Our forum software is going to be updated soon to the newest version 4, which has been developed from the ground-up to be faster, more scalable and also much more modern in form and function. What's wrong with the existing forum? Nothing much as a stand-alone entity, but it was getting to the stage where legacy (old) code was holding back the developers, and they took the decision to re-write it to bring it up-to-date and to add the capability for more integration with other apps, better search functions and other such things that I don't fully understand.

Why can't we stay with our old comfortable forum?
We could, but fairly soon we would lose support from Invision (who write the software) who will eventually drop support for version 3.x.x, and if we ever had any problems down the line, we'd be without any help at all. You can imagine that's not a thing we ever want to countenance, and if we lost all our data (read: ramblings), it would be a crushing blow. We would also become stagnant and unappealing to new (and existing) members as the world moved on and more functionality was added to other forums out there, as well as changing look and feel to the software to gel with contemporaries.

Most of the changes are under the hood, but there are some changes that will affect all of us, so we're warning you in advance so that you can get your heads around the fact. Change is something that some folks don't like, and we still remember how a few folks had a bit of a fit and stomped off in a huff because we changed from version 2. Change is, however, inevitable, and if we kid ourselves it isn't, we're burying our heads in the sand.

Is it definitely going to happen?
We're going to have to change. Plain and simple. It's not all bad news by any stretch of the imagination, and having used the new software for a while now, you members have got it easy. They've totally changed the Admin Control Panel (ACP), so us poor Mods have got a lot more learning than you chaps (cue violins). I've been sharing the test server with some of the folks that do reviews and such for the forum, and the feedback has been positive so far with "not really much different apart from a few graphics & moved buttons), so we're hopeful it won't make you all freak out when it arrives. :frantic:

We're also not rushing at it, as you might have gathered. We've been keeping a watchful eye on the various Beta versions, and more lately the aptly titled Release Candidate version has been running on the server. Now we have the latest update, which has already seen a number of changes for the better, as well as addressing some small bugs and stability issues. The new software is capable of updating small portions of the code as bugs inevitably come to the surface, which makes the changes much less energy intensive for us too. Can't be bad :)

When is it happening?
Not just yet. We want to keep running the test server a little while longer, but we're going to be changing the database to run on a new character set shortly, in order to ease the transition when we go ahead. We'll keep you informed of what's happening as we approach D-Day, as we'll have to take the forum offline for some of the operations, to prevent errors and loss of data.

What do we members need to do?
Watch for announcements, and if you are interested in keeping up with what's happening, subscribe to our service blog here and keep an eye on our Facebook Group and Page that you can find a link to in my signature below. Meanwhile, tell yourself it'll all be ok, and that change is something that has to happen for the long-term well-being of our community. :)

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We're also not rushing at it, as you might have gathered. We've been keeping a watchful eye on the various Beta versions, and more lately the aptly titled Release Candidate version has been running on the server. Now we have the latest update, which has already seen a number of changes for the better, as well as addressing some small bugs and stability issues. The new software is capable of updating small portions of the code as bugs inevitably come to the surface, which makes the changes much less energy intensive for us too. Can't be bad :)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sIuo0KIqD_E

Apologies for the advert at the start of this one,failed to find a way around it.

Edited by Alex Gordon

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I'm bumping this for visibility. The initial downtime for the first of the backroom changes will happen soon after the end of the month, so steel yourself for it ;)

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I've been quiet on this for a wee while, but I've not been inactive. I've been watching the new forum software developing, and they're about to release a major minor version update. What? It started at 4.0, and quickly worked up to 4.0.11. 4.1 is the next update, and it includes some really important improvements over the previous ones, such as speed improvements, new features in the post editor to make it as WYSIWYG as possible, some of which are incredibly cool and powerful. They appear to be listening to what the users are saying too, which is good news. For example - in the current version, when you press the enter key, you start a new line. With 4.0 that same action would result in a new paragraph, which is how Word works out of the box. I absolutely abhor that feature and always turn it off, as I like to control the formatting myself. Sure enough, they've added a feature in this latest version that will allow you to switch it on or off as you see fit. Previously, you'd have to dig into the CSS code and make changes yourself, which I've not looked forward to at all.

We haven't forgotten, so if you're a bit of a luddite, you'll need to prepare yourself for some minor changes to the look, and some fairly interesting changes to the functionality. Things have been re-engineered to follow the current paradigm of Operating Systems from Android, Apple, Linux and Microsoft, using buttons and functionality that you'll recognise instantly if you've used any new software of late on either your phone, tablet, laptop or desktop. You'll also be getting a common interface style across all those devices that adapts according to what device you are using, but still giving you complete functionality no matter what you're using. Gone will be the days of cut-down facilities on your phone or tablet. it'll all be there, and it'll be familiar from your desktop or laptop.

You can probably tell I'm pretty excited about the changes, but I'm also nervous about the change-over, as I'll be having to learn a LOT more new stuff than you, and learning isn't my strong point these days. :wacko: I'm trying to ease everyone as painlessly as I can into the new version, to avoid any of the horrible whining from a few former members that we shouldn't have changed, and if it wasn't broken, why fix it? To anyone of that mindset, I'll repeat. We HAVE to upgrade if we want to keep our support contract in case of a problem in the future, so it's put up with some minor gripes while we all get used to the upgrade, or have a sword of Damocles hanging over us, where in the event of a server crash or hack, we might well lose everything that is Britmodeller for good. Not many forums survive that sort of upset.

So - happy hats on, and gird up your loins. Times they are a-changin', and we're hoping to drag you all along with us in as pleasant a manner as we can :)

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...and just because you have my phone number Dave, don't think I'm on call 24/7 for your personal helpline! :tease:

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Best of luck Mike!

If anyone complains recommend they reinstall forum version 0.1 which involves writing a letter (ideally with a dipping pen), making copies for all their mates, paying for the postage then waiting days for the replies!

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The IPS version 4.X.X is a very clever rewrite/rebuild of the older system which has done well since....early 2000 ish?

I think this new version will only add to what can be done here and does offer the Admin team a lot of opportunity in its usage, and the user's here too.

5....4....3....2....1..... UPGRADES ARE GO!

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That's not too far from the truth, Grayson. Before V4, they had just upgraded and patched the original code to within an inch of its life. In order to move forward, make it scalable and utilise today's latest web technology, it made more sense to completely re-write the core code, which should both optimise it for today's version, and create a firm foundation to build on for future upgrades with whatever comes along in the next few years.

Another cool new feature I saw t'other day. If you now type a user's name such as @grayson, you'll get a pick list to choose a member to mention, and they will get a notification that you have mentioned them in a thread. I seem to remember that being on one member's wishlist not too long ago, which other people thought was a good idea. :)

One that will save a LOT of Mod work is the ability to highlight any text in someone else's post, and choose "Quote this", and the quote box will give you just that text. No huge lines of pictures that are repeats of the post just above, which from feedback annoys the hell out of a lot of people :boom:

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Yeah, I still have an active license and am receiving updates from IPS. I'm impressed with some of the subtle nuances that they've introduced which will enable greater community interactions, whilst offering a greater over-arching capacity to manage the core systems and integrating outwards into a wholly more dynamic environment should you choose to do so. Possibly a pig to get rolling...but, there is potential built in. And I think that's the beauty of it, it's built for future development now and not requiring hacks, chops, mods, patches and plugins to get there.

Ahead vorp faktor von Kiptain...

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Make it snow Number One! :captain:

Shock-horror!!!!! The View New Content button hand so as been removed in this latest update that's pending, but fear not. It has been replaced by something called Activity Streams that will provide you with the same functionality and a LOT more power. For instance, you can follow the activity of a forum area, a member and so forth, even following people's status updates, avatar updates and all that 'an everythin'! You get a number of standard templates that will be pre-loaded by yours truly, and you can make your own that you can share around, or update, all of which will be personal to you.

I've not yet had a go with it, and we're currently waiting for the update so that we can apply it to our test site, but once I have had time to play with it, I'll report back. I'm really looking forward to it! :frantic:

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Something that I forgot to mention in the post above, and it's something that some folks might be very interested in.

We appreciate that not everyone enjoys looking at all the genres of this here hobby, so with the new Activity Streams, you'll be able to create custom streams that will cater JUST to you. You'll get all the forum areas that you're interested in, and nothing more! You'll no-longer have to plough through the aircraft section if you can't work up enthusiasm about them, or the marine section either. Anywhere! You can do some of that today with this version, but it's not quite soe flexible or user friendly, and difficult to switch between views.

You can even switch to a stream where you can only see content from certain people. If you're an airliner modeller for example, you can add all the airliner modellers you know from the forum to an Activity Stream, and see purely airliner related japery. I know a few of you have been wanting that for a while, and this is about as close as you're going to get, but you'll have to remember to swap to a more general Activity Stream occasionally to see if any other members have joined with airliners in their repertoire :)

Power, flexibility and configurability. ^_^

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I just really hope they've fixed the "insert picture from URL" bug...

Could you explain this one please? I've been inserting images from URLs for years now, and it's the usual way we put the pics in the reviews... The "media" insertion (including pics, videos etc.) has been changed for the new version, and is in the bottom right. Took me by surprise the first time I saw it, but now I'm used to it, I don't mind :)

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Hi, Mike...

The Model Cars Magazine Forum did the update about a month ago. As you say, there's no "quick reply" and "more reply options" any more, just the one window. In the bottom right, where you have "Insert other media", you click and get a pop up menu with "Insert existing attachment" and "insert image from URL". When you click the latter, you get a HUGE pop up window with a bar to paste in the URL. In the MCM implementation, if you paste in a URL and hit "insert into post" you get a spinning line and nothing happens. Ever. This has been noticed by most posters. The workarounds are to hand type your own IMG tags, but that's unreliable because the reply window often translates the URL into a clickable link and one tag (why, who knows?), and different brwoser seem to react to different copy/pasted URLs differently. So that one's a lottery. The one everyone seems to use is to either "cut" images from the web and just paste them into the post; or use the "attachment" function. Either way, the image ends up being hosted by the MCM server, not the place where it is on the web, or, more importantly, the posters own hosting service (like most of us use). It's apparently something that Invision have acknowledged, but the MCM Forum guys don't seem too concerned about, because there are workarounds. I don't think they've actually noticed that the cut and paste that they are recommending means that they've become a picture hosting service...

As of today, the problem's still there on the MCM Forum. It may have been fixed in a newer release that they haven't upgraded to yet. If it works OK for you on your test site, I'd get a few other people with different browsers and systems to check it. If it doesn't work, I'd want an assurance from Invision that it was being resolved, and personally, I wouldn't upgrade until it was.

bestest,

M.

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Hopefully this 'Activity Stream' function can be set up to replicate the View New Content feature, as the latter is manly how I browse the forum. By and large I'm interested in everything! Thanks for your efforts.

J.

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Hopefully this 'Activity Stream' function can be set up to replicate the View New Content feature, as the latter is manly how I browse the forum. By and large I'm interested in everything! Thanks for your efforts.

J.

Yes, and I'm going to make sure that there is even an Activity Stream by that very name to add a bit of familiarity to the mix :)

Hi, Mike...

The Model Cars Magazine Forum did the update about a month ago. As you say, there's no "quick reply" and "more reply options" any more, just the one window. In the bottom right, where you have "Insert other media", you click and get a pop up menu with "Insert existing attachment" and "insert image from URL". When you click the latter, you get a HUGE pop up window with a bar to paste in the URL. In the MCM implementation, if you paste in a URL and hit "insert into post" you get a spinning line and nothing happens. Ever. This has been noticed by most posters. The workarounds are to hand type your own IMG tags, but that's unreliable because the reply window often translates the URL into a clickable link and one tag (why, who knows?), and different brwoser seem to react to different copy/pasted URLs differently. So that one's a lottery. The one everyone seems to use is to either "cut" images from the web and just paste them into the post; or use the "attachment" function. Either way, the image ends up being hosted by the MCM server, not the place where it is on the web, or, more importantly, the posters own hosting service (like most of us use). It's apparently something that Invision have acknowledged, but the MCM Forum guys don't seem too concerned about, because there are workarounds. I don't think they've actually noticed that the cut and paste that they are recommending means that they've become a picture hosting service...

As of today, the problem's still there on the MCM Forum. It may have been fixed in a newer release that they haven't upgraded to yet. If it works OK for you on your test site, I'd get a few other people with different browsers and systems to check it. If it doesn't work, I'd want an assurance from Invision that it was being resolved, and personally, I wouldn't upgrade until it was.

bestest,

M.

Thanks for the extra info. Do you know which version they're running by any chance? There have been many updates since the original 4.0, with 4.1 on the horizon as I mentioned. I remember we had a couple of niggles with photos when we first started playing with it, but can't recall anything of late. I'll have another play with it tomorrow and see how I get on. I can see me downloading Chrome and a few other browsers for the nth time again! :lol:

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Version 4.1 is out, and I'm really warming to it. On the face of it it doesn't look massively different, but there's a more "modern" look and feel to the tools, buttons and so forth, with a massively improved interaction engine that turns it into a very social platform. It keeps you up-to-date with what's going on in the forum live, both when you have the tab at the front of your focus, with inline pop-up notifications that aren't as intrusive as the old ones, and disappear away to leave a little exclamation mark or number in your notification area. It also throws up a little number in brackets onto the tab header, so even if you're surfing eBay for the newest kits, you can quickly see whether there's a message, mention, topic reply or any other item you've elected to be notified of, just by moving your eyes to the tab briefly. No clicking anything, just a quick look. Nice ^_^

We're experimenting with different settings, and building a knowledge base from which to help people to manage the transition with the least interference possible, and soon we'll be inviting a few folks to join us on the test server as a trial, to both familiarise them with the new software so they can help others, as well as finding out how quickly people will take to the new look and feel.

Keep your wits about you... change is coming! :wicked: No, seriously it is, but it isn't bad. It's rather cool ^_^

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Out of idle curiosity I decided to test whether the ability to add a table works within the forum software by copying & pasting something out of Excel. It didn't, but once it's been through Word, it works just fine, even displaying the borders and everything. So - if you've ever wished you could post a table of info for people, as long as you create it in Word and copy & paste it in, you'll be able to once we upgrade.

I think I'm a bit more excited about that than I probably should be, but it's a good feature that I've wished we had for a long while now. :)

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Will it be good to use for us old fashioned Windows XP users or will it be a tad heavy and resource consuming for us with older machines?

Edited by Alex Gordon

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......a?

Not sure old sport, but if you have a browser that is still maintained to work with XP, then I think you should be good. I'll fire up my XP virtual machine in a minute and check for you though, although it might involve downloading a new browser. Back soon :)

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Ok on my XP VM, which is XP Pro, using the latest version of Firefox it loaded the site and logged in just fine. I brought up the View New Content Stream, and went to the most recent thread.... which was all rubbish. Not because of the browser, but because of the folks jabbering on in there. It's a test forum, so we just have to talk garbage and do silly things to test it for robustness. :)

Happy? :)

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