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Potential web-revampers
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0xFFFF



Joined: 17 Sep 2015
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Location: SE Victoria


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Potential web-revampers

Not sure if many of you have noticed but there are a few areas where robowars.org needs a bit of a tidy-up. Smile

IMO the only work that needs to be done is a tidy-up.

  • Removal of Flash!
  • Change the dark blue on black image map in the forums
  • Replace / remove dead links


If anyone is considering upgrading phpBB to something, I'd suggest holding off for now. I've been following Flarum for a while now. It looks very promising.
http://flarum.org/features/
...not that I think there is anything wrong with phpBB.[/list]

Post Thu Sep 24, 2015 2:18 pm 
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marto
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I looked at migrating from PhPBBv2 when I was setting up Robowars.com.au it doesn't appear to be a simple process as its pretty outdated now.

I think the steps are good and would help redirect people to more relevant information which is somewhat buried particularly on the start pages.

Brett is helpful with facilitating updates if you can make the changes.

Steve
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Post Thu Sep 24, 2015 8:45 pm 
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Cyber



Joined: 26 Aug 2015
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Location: Melbourne


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I sent a message to Brett about doing this Smile The forum is OK, it could use a new or updated skin perhaps. The portal page (the main page you see at robowars.org) could use an update and the structure of the links could be integrated into the forum instead of .html files so they are easier to modify/update.

I agree in that migrating to a new version of PHPBB is a bunch of hard work and not overly neccessary but I'm confident it can at least be attempted without risk of disrupting the live site or causing any loss of data simply by cloning the database to a test environment.

But first thing's first, fix up the front page Smile I'll leave it up to Brett if he wants me to do this

Post Fri Sep 25, 2015 11:00 am 
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Spockie-Tech
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I can probably make a copy of the SQL databases easily enough.

What will probably take some time is digging through the code to locate details of some of the customisations I did many years back. Its all reasonably well documented in the code files itself. Sadly, what I didnt do (and would these days) is keep a seperate log file of what modules were altered, why and were, so Ill have to look through the various modules to find what was done in detail.

IIRC, There were quite a lot on the sign-up/user creation form to stop spam-bots from creating hundreds of new-user registrations, and to patch out some tricks they did to bypass the activation form requirements.

There were quite a few different solutions to that problem at the time, and I think I combined a couple of them and modified them. long time ago now. This might not affect too much if these tweaks were lost in the move to a new phpBB, since presumably current phphBB has updated captcha's (which I hate).

I prefer ones that ask from a range of forum-subject related word questions (eg. Which of these items is usually *not a combat-robot component - Wheels, Batteries, Radio, GPS ? ). That sort of captcha tests that the person trying to sign up knows a little bit about what the forum is about and isnt just a brazillian kid trying to sign in to spam I-Phone sales

There were also some streaming apache-rewrite mods to remove sql-injection attempts to get around poor SQL sanitation on submissions. I dont remember if that was a phpBB or a php problem, but just stripping them out of the webserver stream was an easy hack that worked well.

I recall doing some mods to link in a photo-album module by Smartor (The reason the "Photos" section in the blue image map up the top is in different writing, it was kludged in later ). There are over a thousand photos in there that I wouldnt want to lose, since this forum is a nice historical archive of the last 10+ years in Australian Robowars,

I suspect that figuring out how to wedge an 11yo SQL database-powered phpBBv2 module into phpBBv3 isnt going to be fun (or possibly even desireable security wise), so somehow those photos will have to be extracted to whatever new integrated photo album would be used, and the links in the old messages that call those photos would have to be scanned and updated.

On that note, I dont want to store gigabytes of 10megapixel photos for people forever, so any new onsite-photo storage would have to be res limited to say 1024x768 or something like that, and make it easy to link images inline to offsite storage services for people who like huge photo archives. Ive seen some modules that store a locally cached (low res) copy of offsite-photos so that offsite-hosted images dont disappear in the future if the offsite storage goes down.

The comment "the structure of the links could be integrated into the forum instead of .html files so they are easier to modify/update. " sounds intriguing, are you proposing to recreate the robowars.org static html pages as forum threads and link to them ? Sounds like an interesting idea, but a fair bit of work.


And no doubt there will be new problems to address, since the last year or so's versions of active-sites are always where the majority of attack vectors are focussed. This site is pretty tight now, since its old, and customised, there hasnt been a successful penetration in 5+ years, I doubt that a current version of phpBB will achieve that without someone staying on top of the updates until the crackers focus moves elsewhere again.

As I have always said to proposed re-vampers over the years, Im not interested in someone who just knows how to use a phpBBv3 auto-install script, and run a couple of pre-written migration tools and hope for the best to do a "spiff up". Any 15yo could do that.

If you want to update the front page, make some non-flash buttons, maybe a new image map etc, thats fine. Ill work with you on that.

Not sure why the forum needs a new skin.. Whats wrong with this one ? The default Dark I think looks nice, the standard light one is available for those who dont like dark skins. What is a new skin going to do except make more color choice available ?

But for me to agree to deeper, more structural mods, or major software updates, you will have to convince me that

1. You know php, apache and SQL well enough to be able to read and mod the code where required (and *understand what you are doing, not just follow the typical "edit these lines" mod instructions).
2. you agree to take responsibility for your work and maintaining it for a reasonable period of time (say 2 years from date of work done)
3. You will document any changes/work done to my satisfaction. I dont expect that you will guarantee to still be around in 10 years, so I need sufficient information to be able to support anything you do in 10 years

I realise thats a big ask for what is basically unpaid volunteer work, but I consider it my responsibility to the Robowars guys to keep this place working for them, and Im not going to jeopardise my ability to do that for the sake of a spiff up (with uncertain benefits other than decor) by allowing someone I met a week ago to rebuild the core software without me understanding exactly whats being done, and possibly having to clean up someone elses half-done mess when they get bored with it, or "dont have time" in 6 months.

Harsh, but this site has run with almost zero-downtime for 10+ years and I want to keep it that way.

If you can live with those conditions, we can talk about phpBBv3 upgrades and structural changes. Smile
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Post Fri Sep 25, 2015 2:00 pm 
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0xFFFF



Joined: 17 Sep 2015
Posts: 18
Location: SE Victoria


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I administrator of a number of sites and forums. What you're asking for is not harsh at all.

There is nothing functionally wrong with the forum (as far as I'm aware). Sure there are plenty of other attractive options (personally I like the look of Flarum). But, if it ain't broke, there's no need to fix it.

The changes I proposed are minor and cosmetic. I'm happy to contribute but I'm not known by any of you.
If no one else is keen to do it, I can provide the required code changes and artwork.

Post Fri Sep 25, 2015 3:11 pm 
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Cyber



Joined: 26 Aug 2015
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I fully understand your reservations. I still agree that the forum itself doesn't neccessarily need an upgrade, just (for example) some new button skins and a higher-res logo image with maching yellows. I wasn't thinking of anything drastic. My main desire is to see the portal (the landing/index page) updated with the aim of attracting some newcomers by making it easier to navigate.

Just to address some specific points you made:

You mentioned digging through the code. I shouldn't have to do any/much of that as I'll be replacing the existing html's rather than updating them. There are a number of tools I can use to locate the relevant sections of code should I need to dig into them - but I shouldn't. On that note - some of said information is due for an update (eg the "About" page which is a copypasta from a news article 10+ years old... great for historical purposes but probably not the best thing for explaining the group to newcomers)

as for touching apache... that shouldn't be neccessary at any point and is only a hack for getting around not having the skills to fix the forum software in the first place.

the "Photo's" section I imagine would sit on top of a couple of tables pointing to the meta info and a file path or data object... very very easy to migrate into something more intuitive and safe to attempt, especially if not dealing with a live copy of the site. Added benefits of such an upgrade are support for higher res images, more formats, video, external content etc etc.

Most forums I've seen fall victim to spam bots etc aren't set up correctly and I'm confident this won't be an issue if you did switch to phpbb3

Would you be happy to zip up the site's root directory and send me a copy of that along with an SQL export? If you do that I can show you all of the changes before they're implemented and you can do as much testing on it as you need. Otherwise I can build a template without any functionality and if you like then we can move forward from there. I am fluent in PHP, SQL/mySQL (as well as other languages) and have managed high-availability mission-critical web services for the last 4 years in my previous employment and for a long time prior as part of personal projects. I'm happy to document my work for you. Feels like I'm applying for a job... but I'm happy to do it free of charge as the benefit to seeing renewed interest in RoboWars far outweighs the time invested, in my opinion.

and most importantly... I will be around for as long as I'm wanted to look after the site Smile

Post Fri Sep 25, 2015 3:28 pm 
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Cyber



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for example: http://tanglesgaming.com/robowars_dev

Post Fri Sep 25, 2015 3:41 pm 
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marto
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So is there a plan?
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Post Thu Oct 15, 2015 10:08 am 
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marto
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Ok well I am just going to update the current HTML front page and robowars.com.au.

Let me know if I shouldn't bother.

Steve
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Post Fri Oct 23, 2015 11:28 am 
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hey marto

I'm happy to help out as I said! did you check out my template? I could flesh that out with some info but it'd be good to have some feedback as to what you guys wanna see on it. I reckon moving the info like rules + design specs to a locked forum post would be better and reduces the dependency on extra static HTML pages. you could still link to them from the main menu buttons

Cheers
Tim

Post Mon Oct 26, 2015 8:58 am 
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Spockie-Tech
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Not yet. Smile

Now that the nationals dust has settled, and Ive got a few things settled here too, I have some time to work with people on changes.

Changing the front page to get rid of the flash buttons and make a nicer menu, improved image map up the top, thats all straightforward.

I had a look at the frontpage you put at the tanglesgaming site. looks clean enough. Id like to keep the Font Logo though if theres an easy way of scaling it to be mobile-friendly. and perhaps a static-image link and latest-news box that can be changed by an admin easily.

Im not keen on updating the forum software unless everyone *really wants something that phpBB3 does.

I still have to organise the move to the new host, who Im pretty pleased with so far based on other clients experiences. That should fix the unreliable mail/notifications service.

So, what do we do next ?
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Post Fri Oct 30, 2015 7:47 pm 
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Cyber



Joined: 26 Aug 2015
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Location: Melbourne


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G'day Brett

I'll go ahead and add in some content to my template and come back with an update. Do you know the name of the font used in the logo or have a high-res or vector based copy of it I can modernise a little?

tim

Post Fri Oct 30, 2015 7:59 pm 
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marto
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I would like the email recovery to work as no one can recover their passwords. That hasnt worked for many many years.
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Post Fri Oct 30, 2015 9:07 pm 
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Hiya

I've added some content to http://tanglesgaming.com/robowars_dev/. I'm happy to type up some "about" text and whatnot to fill in the gaps but thought you guys might like to give some input on this. The current site's "about" text is some good history but only really applies to when Brett was starting up robowars back in the day. The buttons I have linked to the forum I think will serve as a good way to format and centralize the information and also provide an easy and familiar way for moderators to update it. At the moment they are just pointing to roughly the right thread or forum but it would be good to sticky some good information to point the links to (getting started guide for example). I've also interpreted the Rules/Technical Guidelines as best I can but they were edited for a specific event whereas a general write-up might be the better way to go then specific rule changes can be outlined on each event page

It's also worth mentioning the current site has a few links to external information (the diagrams for CO2 / HPA pneumatics, links to rules etc) which point to dead sites (botleague). We should look at recovering these and hosting them ourselves.

The photo gallery needs some attention. The thumbnails are downsampled to 16 colours (why...) and there is really tight restrictions on size and resolution (800x800, 120kb). We should look at - at the very least - removing or raising the upload restrictions and, if possible, have the gallery automatically resize the images for the user. These days camera phones are taking ~4K photos.

What do we do next? If you could give me the go ahead to do so and grant me mod access to the forum I'll create some stickys and guides for the buttons to link to and check out what the current gallery is capable of. I'd appreciate some feedback on the site and what else you'd like to see, and if you're happy with the format

I'll work on a logo as well... if you have the name of the font that'd be handy, I wasn't able to find one.

Cheers
Tim

Post Fri Nov 06, 2015 12:21 pm 
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marto
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Logo is definitely a priority.

With the current state of the gallery I would be tempted to just remove it until it can either be upgraded or replaced I think we all gave up on using it many years ago. Though it might be nice to preserve some of the photos.

Steve
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Post Tue Nov 24, 2015 11:53 am 
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