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Long Term Goals
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drathbun
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 13, 2009 7:16 pm 
Post subject: Long Term Goals

Something SamG posted in another topic made me decide to go ahead and open this topic for discussion. What would you like to see for the longer term for phpBB2?

First, some reasons why phpBB2 is being retired.

1. It was written for php3. If you look through the code, there are many places where there are documented workarounds just to support php3. Needless to say we don't need to worry about that anymore, and that code could be cleaned up.

2. There are security risks, primarily around CSRF right now. The developers have talked about fixes for this (and for some other issues) but the code changes required to bring phpBB2 up to date would break so many MODs that the decision was made to simply drop the code. That's a very real concern for anyone that is considering a fork / ongoing development effort for phpBB2: how much compatibility do you try to maintain with the existing library of MODs and styles?

3. It doesn't use OOP. I will admit, I don't really care about that. icon_smile.gif You can do OOP-like code without doing full-blown OOP, and that would be a step in a more modern direction without completely blowing MOD compatibility. I've mentioned things in other posts like centralizing avatar handling and rank handling and things that are currently replicated in multiple places. But even that has a potential impact on MOD authors and their code.

4. Database support: This could be one of the easiest places to update given the use of the DBAL. There are a few places where the code mentions specific databases (see index.php for one, if my memory is correct) so if we wanted to add more databases it would seem to be a more minimal impact.

5 ... what else can you think of?

Ultimately these discussions are for the very long term, not next week or even next month. But maybe it makes sense to start talking about the goals and impacts of this idea now.

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Ptirhiik
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 13, 2009 7:32 pm 
Post subject: Re: Long Term Goals

1- not really a concern at this time: workarounds are more present btw to support early php 4 functions,

2- that's a real concern, but all review quite easy to deal with. The point is: the modifications have to be systematic and easy to reproduce on not native code (eg mods). Let's face it: the weak points are mainly the inputs, and the outputs, and there are two easy points to deal with this way,

3- I made my decision a long time ago on this very point icon_smile.gif. The key is indeed the unicity of the code for the same or similar task. The design choice - OOP or not - is a matter of toast. What is sure is it breaks the mod, but makes the whole thing safier and easier to make it evolve. The pro against the con is definitivaly in the pro side,

4- not a concern at all: quite everybody is using mySQL, a few SQL server, and a more few db2. There are still 1 or 2 people on 10k that are using postgresql, but I think this is a long shot. By my side, I have never encountered along these year people using Oracle for phpBB. I won't even quote ms-access...

5- utf8 support is the real missing on the list, and once more, this can be quite easely handled as long as the inputs are.
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SamG
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Location: Beautiful Northwest Lower Michigan


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 13, 2009 8:18 pm 
Post subject: Re: Long Term Goals

I think that while there are genuine (versus artificial) problems or potential problems in the the phpBB 2 code base, we can easily (and gladly) stipulate that phpBB 2 isn't beyond hope. The question really comes down to whether or not the chief interest in phpBB 2 is, for all meaningful purposes, short or long term.

It seems to me that very few people run vanilla phpBB 2 installations, and that's part of the reason why there remains a market for as-is support for phpBB 2, phpBB 2 styles, and phpBB2 MODs as a package. It's the accumulated package, not the core product, that retains the interest of most, it seems. And I get that. Offer support for phpBB 2 only, or even phpBB 2 and phpBB 2 styles only, and interest will be significantly more limited, I suspect.

But this tells against long term viability, I think, since it leaves the core product untouched, unmaintained -- and less attractive to new users. To "continue the legacy" for the most part then means to help existing phpBB 2 end users defer the inevitable. If there is no heart to continue the legacy in the sense of keeping any phpBB 2-as-phpBB 2 distinctive alive and well, then "phpBB 2 forever" simply can't happen.

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it" won't cut it long term, it seems to me, especially if I'm right that very few people who want to see phpBB 2 continue even use it in a vanilla state. It's already broke, or at least considerably weakened as a bulletin board solution, if its chief value is in the pattern represented by existing, heavily MODded installations. In that case, the de facto phpBB 2 standard is phpBB 2 "plus." Of which there is no definitive distribution.

In any case, this seems to me a crucial evaluation to make, since I think people will be watching. Is the phpBB 2 user base a status quo thing only, or is there reason to suppose that a new user wouldn't be wasting her time long term by installing phpBB 2 now? I appreciate Dave introducing this discussion now, especially since he seems to have done so earlier than he had anticipated.

Just my plugged nickel's worth, as always...
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Dog Cow
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Joined: 18 Nov 2008

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 13, 2009 8:40 pm 
Post subject: Re: Long Term Goals

drathbun wrote:

1. It was written for php3.

Which was dropped sometime around the 'teens'. phpBB 2.0.23 is not supported on PHP 3, and I don't think it is even expected to run on it.
Quote:

2. There are security risks, primarily around CSRF right now. The developers have talked about fixes for this (and for some other issues)

You should see what's hiding out in the trunk (if you haven't already). There's a new request object which takes the super globals, sanitizes them as properties, then over writes them, forcing the end-developer to use the sanitized phpBB vars instead.

I like this approach, and other systems I've dealt with, such as CodeIgnitor, do the same.

Quote:

3. It doesn't use OOP. I will admit, I don't really care about that. icon_smile.gif You can do OOP-like code without doing full-blown OOP, and that would be a step in a more modern direction without completely blowing MOD compatibility. I've mentioned things in other posts like centralizing avatar handling and rank handling and things that are currently replicated in multiple places.

It uses OOP where it's convienent: the template, emailer, and database are all done using PHP 4-style OOP. phpBB 3.0.x is using more OOP, but still more PHP 4-style. If you look in the trunk, which is for 3.1.x, I think, you'll finally see some PHP 5-style methods/designs.

The thing I like about OOP is how everything suddenly becomes a module, a resource. Instead of tying down the code to display a topic in viewtopic.php, we generalize it, and now we can display a topic wherever we choose.

I personally have stopped writing procedural code for any new projects. I've made the switch, and I like it. (oh, and having variables out of the global scope is nice, too. Would you say it's fair to estimate that 99% of phpBB 2 exploits (especially in MODs) are due to registering global variables? I think so.)

Quote:

4. Database support: This could be one of the easiest places to update given the use of the DBAL. There are a few places where the code mentions specific databases (see index.php for one, if my memory is correct) so if we wanted to add more databases it would seem to be a more minimal impact.

The other place being searching, such as adding/removing words. I personally am not interested in supporting a database other than MySQL. I still have a DBAL, (which I am going to enhance sometime later this year to add query building, binding, and active record support) but it's for escaping data and passing queries to MySQL, not trying to make compatibility with many DBMSystems.

Quote:

5 ... what else can you think of?

One of the things I've done over the past year is to port the nice things about phpBB 3 over to phpBB 2. Some of these include: pagination code, cron system, request_var(), a few methods from the db class such as build_array, in_set, and escape, the caching class, the memberlist. Just a few examples of probably more.
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roadhog
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Joined: 19 Nov 2008

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 13, 2009 9:59 pm 
Post subject: Re: Long Term Goals

Regarding the remarks about making a basic phpbb2 board appealing to new users: Please don't stone me here, but to be honest, when I picture myself in the shoes of a new user, starting out with a plain-vanilla board, I can't see any good reasons for me to select phpbb2, when phpbb3 is available. No matter how much we might enhance phpbb2, we would always be playing a "catch up" game.

The primary reason why I am here, is because I don't want to give up all the MODs that I currently have, and I certainly don't want to have to start over, building a board that has the features that I want. Since I suspect that applies to most of us here, that implies a limited target market, (limited to current phpbb2 users), which, while it may not be unlimited in scope, is still quite substantial.

Therefore, I'm not particularly concerned about the long-term, (who knows where we will all be then, anyway). If I can get another 15 or 20 years out of phpbb2, I'll be happy. icon_lol.gif icon_lol.gif

Of course, that's not to say that someone may not come up with some sneaky tricks that might turn phpbb2 into the hottest thing on the block. That can only happen, though, if we keep phpbb2 alive, and feed it a healthy diet.
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SamG
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 13, 2009 10:20 pm 
Post subject: Re: Long Term Goals

A key idea behind continuing official, long term phpBB 2 support at all was to think of it as "phpBB Lite." Not everybody wanted or needed a scalable board with a significantly enlarged feature set. phpBB 2, a solid and mature product, gave existing and potential phpBB users a genuine option.

While I personally agree with the decision to discontinue phpBB 2 support at phpBB.com, I see no reason why phpBB 2 as an approach to a bulletin board solution must have outlived its usefulness.

And that's what I want to know. If the primary purpose here is to support existing phpBB 2 users, I have no problem with that and wish the site well. For the long term, there are a couple more or less phpBB 2-equivalent solutions in active development; new users can be encouraged to take advantage of them while phpBB 2 itself makes a slow and graceful exit.
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Sylver Cheetah 53
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 13, 2009 10:40 pm 
Post subject: Re: Long Term Goals

There's no need of a "slow and graceful exit" for phpBB2. icon_wink.gif I don't want to upsaid drathbun, I know he does not like phpBB2 vs phpBB3 discussions, but it's not all about phpBB3... vBulletin or SMF or IPB still are very hard to use, just like phpBB3. I do not know what is so hard for some of you guys to understand that some people just want something easy to use, user-friendly. A lot of people cosider Linux a lot better than Windows, but they use it? No, because Windows is user-friendly. icon_wink.gif I was saying some while ago that I installed six month ago a phpBB for a friend, and I 2.0.23 because I knew that he wouldn't be able to use something that hard as phpBB3. And I say it to you all that if tomorow I will have to start over, I will put still phpBB2. icon_wink.gif There were people that were asking me "what should I put in for ICQ?" (before I use Simple Registration) or "how can I write on your board?" (before I put Super Quick Reply) or even "why my user & password from XYZ Other Forum do not work on yours?" Well , you have to create a new one. icon_biggrin.gif Not all people are born with phpBB over their head. I do not want to put something hard to use for them. icon_wink.gif

In the long terms I gues that if you people say that it has been written for PHP3, then okay, you guys are smart, do a some re-coding, but we need to keep our MODs, and if not all, at least the primary ones. Or, at least support the main MODs for updating to the future 2.1.0. icon_wink.gif So what I'm, saying is that you guys need to think about our MODs and if indeed will be some re-coding done, then please, also re-code primary MODs. icon_smile.gif Also, there are a lot of easy fix things like the BB codes in the post reply page wich is not working alright. Maybe this should be in 2.0.24. icon_lol.gif

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SamG
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 13, 2009 11:22 pm 
Post subject: Re: Long Term Goals

Sylver Cheetah 53 wrote:
There's no need of a "slow and graceful exit" for phpBB2. icon_wink.gif I don't want to upsaid drathbun, I know he does not like phpBB2 vs phpBB3 discussions, but it's not all about phpBB3... vBulletin or SMF or IPB still are very hard to use, just like phpBB3. I do not know what is so hard for some of you guys to understand that some people just want something easy to use, user-friendly....

I didn't mention phpBB 3 or vB or SMF or IPB, of course. I was actually thinking of something like Phorum. If development on phpBB 2 core has stopped for good, then Phorum is a possible option for new users who don't want or need to use one of the heftier bulletin board solutions.

Make no mistake: If no one forks the phpBB 2 code base (and to my knowledge no one has showed any intention of stepping forward to do so, so far), a slow and graceful exit is almost certainly all that's left for phpBB 2. There's no other likely option, long term, even if phpBB 2 is, right now, the very best possible choice for those who just want something easy to use.
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roadhog
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 14, 2009 12:13 am 
Post subject: Re: Long Term Goals

Hey! Hey! This is a G-rated board. We shouldn't be talkin' about forkin' the code base here. icon_lol.gif icon_lol.gif icon_lol.gif ROFL
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SamG
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 14, 2009 12:19 am 
Post subject: Re: Long Term Goals

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~Cowboy~
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 14, 2009 5:04 pm 
Post subject: Re: Long Term Goals

I agree with Sylver Cheetah 53.

But I would add fork the versions, update the code, include Subforums Plus and Code Crush IP log and release it as phpbb 2.0.24 Then start updating the mods as they are requested.

The skills to do this are here on this board. and I don't think it would be an overwhelming task to handle the mod updates because there are a few like the attachments mod that are very popular. But many are not used very much. Do do the popular ones first then by order of request for the rest.

They may come in heavy at first but in a few weeks they will be sorted out, and many won't even need changing anyway.
Although it looks like an overwhelming task I think over the course of 6 months or so it mod update requests would fall off significantly.

And it is likely that some mod authors would update their mods themselves taking even more of the load off the project.

And furthermore if we can get one mod author to fix his own perhaps he will be installing some other mods on the new version of phpbb 2.0.24 and will in an effort to get his board like he likes it solve some of the other mod compatibility issues. icon_wink.gif

This could snowball into a lot of people coming in to help.

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drathbun
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 14, 2009 6:24 pm 
Post subject: Re: Long Term Goals

~Cowboy~ wrote:
But I would add fork the versions, update the code, include Subforums Plus and Code Crush IP log and release it as phpbb 2.0.24

If the code is forked it won't be 2.0.24. It will be phpBB "Something" 1.0 instead. Keeping the same versioning could imply that it's somehow a release by the phpBB Group, which it would not be.

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dogs and things
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 14, 2009 11:17 pm 
Post subject: Re: Long Term Goals

Quote:
What would you like to see for the longer term for phpBB2?

- That it will be maintained secure, in one word, security updates.
- An active support community that will help phpBB2 users out whenever needed.
- The incredible amount of info at phpbb dot com most be safed from disappearance.
- Existing MODs and styles must remain available.

This is in resumen what I find important, as a simple end-user.

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Daz
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 15, 2009 12:58 pm 
Post subject: Re: Long Term Goals

Hi,

Maybe it's good that I am so out of touch with the forum development side of things as I can look at the situation from a site owner/administrator POV.

After having had a good play with it there are things that I really like about phpBB3, but it's a bit of a "sledge-hammer to crack a nut" as phpBB2 provides everything that's required for my members to communicate with each other. The added complexity of phpBB3 would most probably lead to a poorer user experience and therefore more to do in the way of administration.

I do believe that it should be forked and don't believe that backward compatibility with MODs should be considered as my primary goal would be a secure, fast and simple message board. Using my templates as a base means many MODs would be broken anyway -- especially the set I developed (and use presently) as they aren't compatible with the last ones I released for 2.0.8. I don't think these are long-term considerations -- the commitment and proof that something is being done needs making now;
  • Web hosts like adding free features that use as little system resources as possible, but only if the support/development is being provided. This needs consideration now -- they need to know that support is available here as the likelihood of phpBB assisting with any project keeping phpBB2 alive is remote IMO.
  • To encourage such as me. Why should I spend significant amounts of time working on something that may get updated?
  • I aren't sure about the current status with CMS, but it's a big (and growing?) market -- they need a solid reason to retain or adopt phpBB2.

Forking is going to make you a competitor and along with other implications the use of the phpBB name and house might be a no-no.

Beyond my personal requirements, I don't see that adding more features would be good -- the facilities for easily adding them does (EasyMOD?).

Put simply, I would like to see;
  1. Security updates/fixes.
  2. Dropping of code that may make phpBB incompatible with future php releases.
  3. Coding efficiency - it can never run too fast.
  4. XHTML validation - Transitional, but Strict would be better.
  5. Dropping of support for arcane browsers.
  6. Fix (and make more flexible) the (posting) JS for Firefox, et al. I have already done some work toward this, but more for my other playthings.
  7. Backporting of the phpBB3 templating system.

Daz
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Dog Cow
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 15, 2009 6:39 pm 
Post subject: Re: Long Term Goals

Daz wrote:

Security updates/fixes.

For MODs? I think I can get the accord of everyone here that it's the unapproved MODs which need the updates/fixes more than the approved ones. And unfortunately, it seems like a lot of the popular unapproved phpBB MODs (everyone ought to know of some) are the ones with the security errors/bugs.

I don't think there's anything insecure with a regular old phpBB 2.0.23 forum, though. I've read some people whispering about security fixes needed, but these people give no proof or definitive answers. I tend not to believe anything without verifying for myself.

Quote:

Dropping of code that may make phpBB incompatible with future php releases.

I did that two nights ago. There's no "dropping" of anything - one line gets commented out, 6 or so get reversed. Even phpBB 1.4.4 will run on PHP 6 with one change to one line in one file. Read Here >

What will need more work are everyone's unapproved MODs that seem to be so popular.

Quote:

Backporting of the phpBB3 templating system.

No, that's too heavy. The speedy templates by Brainy is better, and is the one I'm using for my site.
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