June 2, 2007

FVWM Forum upgrade to phpBB 3.0 RC1

Posted in FVWM, Web at 17:03 by theBlackDragon

After years of good service phpBB2 finally succumbed under the pressure of spambots, the amount of work required to keep a phpBB2 board spamfree was getting out of hand very quickly, phpBB3 was going to make keeping spam out of your board easier as well as getting rid of any spam that got through after all easier to track down and remove.

But phpBB3 remained something at the distant horizon for way too long, for a while it appeared to be obtaining some sort of Duke Nuke ’em For(n)ever like cult status: highly anticipated but always just out of reach. Competing packages came and went and all the time it became more apparent that phpBB2 no longer lived up to the today’s bulletain board standards. Lots of boards switched to competing forum software, others kept on waiting, because phpBB3 was right behind the door, nearly there. But now, the first Release Candidate of phpBB3 is among us with a huge load of improvements over phpBB2 and we (being the FVWM Forum admins) decided very quickly we wanted to switch to RC1 right away and not wait for the Final to come about.

So? Was it worth switching? In my opinion it was. Conversion from phpBB2 went smooth, to say the least and the new anti-spam and anti-bot measures like usage of blacklists look very promising, though only time will tell how effective they will be in the end when phpBB3 becomes more mainstream.

The Administration Control Panel (ACP) is pretty overwhelming at first and it’ll probably take some time before you know where to look for the options you need. But after a bit of searching it became apparent that all settings from the phpBB2 board were nicely imported into phpBB3, the only thing that annoyed me a bit is that a lot of the new features (like attachments) are turned on by default, I would have preferred them to have been turned off by default.

The new default style takes some getting used to and I haven’t decided whether I like it or not yet. But for the people that really can’t stand the new look an updated version of phpBB2’s SubSilver style is also available in the default install albeit disabled by default.

It’s now also easier to modify the styles in phpBB3, replacing most graphics can be done from the ACP using ImageSets. It’s similarly possible to edit the Styles’ CSS and Templates from the web interface, this makes small modifications possible without having to get out an FTP client and digg through the sourcecode of phpBB or the Style you wanted to change.

Another interesting feature is the Jabber integration, not only can you now add a Jabber address to your profile, you can also use this address to send messages to users (if the Administrator has enabled this, of course). There’s only one problem with this: Google Talk accounts won’t be able to receive messages sent via the forum (see this thread on the phpBB forums for more information) at least not in RC1. It looked to me as if Google blocked messages sent from people not on your roster by default, but I would be happy to be proven wrong on this.

Other interesting features are the ability to search for a user using different search criteria or request a list of inactive users on which you can batch perform an action like activating or deleting them.

New options have been added for moderators too. Moderators can now ‘officially’ warn a user for misbehaviour which has the advantage that other moderators can see these warnings and act accordingly to repeated misbehaviour.

Other actions like merging and splitting topics have been made easier to perform as have a number of other actions that deal with multiple posts or topics. Moderators now have access to a list of (unexpired) warnings issued to users as well as to lists of posts that are in the moderation queue, posts/users that have been reported for violations by other users and a log of the actions other moderators have performed which makes it easier for moderators to prevent stepping on eachother’s toes . They can now also ban users by username, ip or e-mail address something that previously had to be done by an administrator.

For forum users not a lot has changed on first sight, things that worked before still work in mostly the same way in phpBB3 although some actions have been streamlined more.

One of the first changes you’ll probably notice is the total redesign of the User Control Panel (UCP). The UCP has been broken up into that make keeping an overview a lot easier, something which is important as the amount of settings has been expanded quite a bit in comparison to phpBB2.

It’s now possible to only show topics or posts from the past x days by default, this can be done on a per forum basis but can also be set to a default board wide value in the UCP.

All in all I’m liking phpBB3 so far, many of the new features make life a lot easier for administrators and/or moderators (these were my main reasons for upgrading and my main gripe with phpBB2), but the new features for users are pretty nice as well and the ones that don’t seem useful (like the “Friends & Foes” list in my case) are easy to turn off.