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Martijn Meerts

Server and forum software update

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Martijn Meerts

Just a quick heads up, around the Christmas holidays I will be updating the server hardware and software, as well as the forum software. I'm not entirely sure when this will happen exactly, but it'll be sometime during my holidays. I have 3 weeks off from work, from December 16 to January 3. I will of course post a date once I've set one, at which point the forum will be down for several hours.

 

With regards to the server hardware, we're currently running our servers at Amazon Web Services, and we will continue to do so. However, our server is running on the first version of Amazon Linux, which by now is deprecated and we can't (easily) upgrade to a newer version of for example PHP, or easily install SSL certificates. I'll be setting up a new server running on Amazon Linux 2 and the latest versions of PHP, Nginx, etc.

 

The forum software is also a fairly major version behind. While the new version doesn't have any major new features, it does have some optimisations, especially for the loading of images. Currently, when you open a post, all images are loaded by default, even those that aren't immediately visible. With the new version, images only get loaded when they appear on-screen (or are about to appear on-screen). The reason we haven't updated yet, is because the new version requires a newer version of PHP, which, as mentioned earlier, we can't easily install on our current server setup.

 

Since we're setting up a brand new server, this is also a good time to see if we might need to use a slightly more powerful server. Currently, we're running on a fairly limited server / VM, which means that every now and then we're seeing some post loading slow. So, I was wondering, are these occasional slowdowns becoming annoying to people or is it fine as it is? If it happens a bit more regularly than I think it happens, it might be worth upgrading the server to have a little more CPU and RAM available. Price wise we'd probably go from somewhere around 8-9 USD per month for the webserver, to around 15 USD per month, so it's a fairly minor increase in cost.

 

Speaking of cost, we currently still have around 140 USD in our donations PayPal account, although in recent months I've only used it to pay for the forum software license. The server costs have been charged to my personal credit card 😄

 

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Sheffie

Personally, I have not experienced any slowdown. Please don’t spend more money on my account. Thanks for providing us with this place. 

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bill937ca

Nothing like the slowness we have experienced in the past.

 

 

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cteno4

Thanks a million for doing this Martijn! 
 

no major slow ups here, the few minor ones I see I think may be my isp as other things bog down at times some.

 

the photo load will be nice as many threads now have a lot of image imbeds served from services that can be slow on serving them as well as serving very large images stored there.

 

i would upgrade the server if it will make your life easier and thing to down the road. Newer software almost always wants more performance so best to stay ahead of the curve and just get it done with this major rebuild here. It’s not that much money and I’m happy to pop for the increase.

 

cheers

 

jeff

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bill937ca
1 hour ago, cteno4 said:

 

the photo load will be nice as many threads now have a lot of image imbeds served from services that can be slow on serving them as well as serving very large images stored there.

 

 

Why don't these people downsize their photos before posting? Just seems good forum etiquette.

 

 

Edited by bill937ca

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Martijn Meerts

Thanks for the replies so far. The slow downs I'm seeing aren't common either, and when it does happen, it's usually just for a couple of seconds.

 

 

1 hour ago, bill937ca said:

Why don't these people downsize their photos before posting/ Just seems good forum etiquette. 

 

 

 

The forum actually downsizes images uploaded to the gallery, and as attachment. However, something to keep in mind is that more and more devices (mobile phones, tablets, notebooks, desktop monitors, etc) are getting high DPI screens. Displaying a 'normal' size image on for example a 4k monitor will make the image look very fuzzy. A lot of service already account for this by allowing for 4k images, but most don't downscale them for devices that don't have a high DPI screen.

 

I'm not sure how the forum software handles this actually. I don't think the current version does it at all, but I'll definitely look at it in the new version, or possibly see if there's an add-on that takes care of serving the correct images based on a user's device.

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cteno4

Biggest issues is images folks have stored on other services (imgur, Flickr, etc) and a large file from there is embedded. The files can be large and take a while to load, especially when doing a bunch from one service and some are just slow a lot of the time (imgur).

 

main problem with this on some devices like an iPad is it messes with the page scroll while loading in odd ways at times.

 

cheers

 

jeff

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Martijn Meerts

Yeah, can't do much about the external images, since there's no way of telling beforehand what the resolution will be, so the forum software can't add any size info on the image tags. However, the on-demand loading of images in the new version should at least partially solve the issue.

 

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Martijn Meerts

Hi!

 

I'm going to try and get this done over the upcoming weekend (28 - 29 December), but if something else comes up unexpectedly, I'll do it sometime during the week after the weekend. I don't really expect any issues, but then again, it'll be new hardware, new server software, and a new forum software version, so there might always be something that goes wrong.

 

Since I need to transfer files to a different server, there will be a period of downtime, I can't really say how long it's going to take. It should be relatively quick, but still expect several hours of downtime at least.

 

You'll notice when it's going on, since the maintenance page will be up while I take some backups and while I copy over the files. The forum might show some errors once I start re-assigning the IP to the new server and when I'm working on setting up the SSL certificate etc.

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cteno4

Martijn,

 

thanks so much for taking the time to do all this! It’s much appreciated by all!

 

jeff

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Melandir

Thank you for your effort Martijn

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Martijn Meerts

Hi! Quick update on the server.

 

I've installed a new VM which is slightly more capable than our current VM. This should give us a little more headroom with regards to available memory and CPU power. The previous VM had access to a single virtual CPU and 1GB of RAM, the new one has doubled on both those, and has less network traffic limitations. The new one also uses new hardware at Amazon which makes things more efficient on their end, meaning the price increase was quite reasonable.

 

I've also installed the necessary software on the server to run the forum and setting up HTTPS, meaning a web server, a more recent version of PHP, SSL and CertBot. Unfortunately, to continue I'll need to copy the forum's files, and then start the process of applying for an SSL certificate on the actual new server. Obviously, for this the server will need downtime, and maintenance mode won't be available during the time I'm setting up the certificates.

 

I didn't want to start that process without any prior notice. With that said, I will continue the update / install tomorrow evening my time. This will likely be around 22:00 CET. I will turn on maintenance mode half an hour to an hour before that time so people will at least have a bit of an indication of when I'm starting. I expect everything to be done fairly quickly.

 

In the meantime, earlier this month I paid for the forum software license for another 6 months. This means that our current funds are getting quite low. Now, as mentioned before, I'm really not comfortable asking people for donations, but the donations in the past have helped keeping the forum going, and more importantly, they give us admins the feeling that what we're doing is appreciated. Of course, all the thank you posts have the same effect, but if you have the means to donate a little bit, it would be much appreciated.  Please have a look at the following thread for more info: 

 

 

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cteno4

Thanks martijn, sounds like we will take a big step up in all the server stuff!

 

jeff

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Kiha66

Thanks martijn, we appreciate all your work keeping the lights on here!

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Martijn Meerts

Hi all!

 

The forum is back up again (obviously you already knew that otherwise you wouldn't be able to read this post ..) running on the new server, and the forum is upgraded to the latest version. This new version should help with loading times of threads with many pictures in them, since pictures will now only be loaded when they become visible. This lazy loading will be available on new posts from now on, and will also be applied to all existing content. 

 

I have also enable HTTPS, and HTTPS will be forced by the server. Any URL starting with just HTTP will be redirected to the HTTPS version. To check our SSL certificate, have a look at https://www.ssllabs.com/ssltest/analyze.html?d=jnsforum.com .

 

If you're interested, a list of changes since our last version (4.3.5) can be found here: https://invisioncommunity.com/release-notes/

 

Finally, I have not been able to test everything. For example, running the update altered a file in the Railstars theme, but I'm not sure what exactly changed. So, if anyone comes across any issues, please let me know so I can look into it.

 

 

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cteno4

thanks Martijn! looking good so far as i poke around!

 

thanks for taking the time for this im sure it will serveus well for a while (use a pun go to jail)

 

jeff

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cteno4

the lazy pict loading doesnt seem to be happening yet, but maybe that requires a new indexing that may take some procesing time here to get done.

 

good thread to test

 

 

jeff

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Kiha66

Seems to be working for me, good test thread find Jeff!

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Martijn Meerts

Yeah, all existing posts need to have lazy loading enabled for them. There's a background task going on at the moment, going to take another couple of hours to finish. There's various other background tasks going on, mainly reindexing things.

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cteno4

cool figured there would be a lot of that. things are much zippier!

 

thanks again for working on all this. 

 

jeff

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gavino200

How are we doing with funding? Donation time? 

 

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Martijn Meerts

Funds are a little bit low, but definitely not critical. We had several donations come in after the update, but any donations made are of course more than welcome.

 

We're currently sitting at around 90 USD in our PayPal account.

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Kiha66

I've noticed after the update the condensed view of recent posts seems to not work, is anyone else having this issue?

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EdF

For me it seems expanded doesn't work.  I normally use condensed, so i just dont see a change when i toggle the button, i am using my phone.

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