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Announcing Software Change, New Server

Discussion in 'Announcements & Community Discussions' started by Dark Star, Mar 5, 2017.

  1. Dark Star

    Dark Star Senior Admin Staff Member

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    As of Sunday, March 5, Political Forum has switched from vBulletin forum software to the Xenforo platform. While the change was very sudden in its implementation, it had been planned for some time. We deeply apologize for having given no warning, and regret any inconvenience or confusion to the members.

    We want the members of our community to have a full understanding of why we made this change, why it was made in the manner in which it was, and why it’s important for the community going forward. To that end, I’m going to explain why it was done abruptly, as well as why the change was made in the first place. And, I will attempt to explain why we think members will appreciate this change in the long run. This will be a long post, but there should be enough information here to answer every basic question.


    Why did the forum switch software?


    Over the past several years, there have been periodic unsuccessful attempts to hack the Political Forum database. During the 2016 election, numerous attacks were detected and defeated, but hackers are getting much more sophisticated, and keeping the forum safe is becoming much more difficult and time-consuming. We have been successful at preventing any hacks of the database so far, but we’ve had to disable some popular features to do it, and that has made the site less enjoyable for the users.

    The biggest problem is the software that we’ve been using. The vBulletin forum software is, for all practical purposes, obsolete. The short version is that it has far too many vulnerabilities written into its basic architecture, and many of the plug-ins and add-ons that make the site more robust and user-friendly have become exploitable. VBulletin releases security patches and updates for the basic software on a regular basis, but by the time they let us know, the vulnerabilities are already common knowledge among hackers. In addition, the add-ons and plug-ins are almost all written by 3rd party developers, and they are not always as reliable about updating their security features.

    Most people who use message boards are familiar with Xenforo by now, so the interface should be familiar to everyone. What some of you may not realize is that Xenforo is a much more secure platform than vBulletin. I won’t go into all the lengthy technical details, but the important thing to keep in mind is that Xenforo is specifically written to provide a fundamentally secure interface to a greater degree than any other forum software.

    In addition to the greatly improved security, Xenforo offers a much more user-friendly experience. You’ll find that the site should load faster and be more stable. Searches will be quicker and more comprehensive.

    Xenforo is designed to adapt more smoothly to every kind of device, which means the pages will display cleanly and completely no matter what device you are using. Improved search engine optimization features will draw more viewers to the site, thus increasing the pool of members to add to community discussions.

    People who like to blog or add photos, albums, and videos should find that Xenforo is much more user-friendly. In almost every respect, Xenforo should be an improvement on the old vBulletin software.

    Keep in mind that for some time now, members have been unhappy with some of the features of the site – even the most basic features – not working properly. This should fix just about all of that. Many of the problems were because the add-ons and plug-ins were outdated and no longer compatible (either with the basic vBulletin architecture, or even with one another), and in some cases could not be replaced - because better, more current versions of the same feature were not compatible with the old vBulletin software. That’s not going to be a problem with Xenforo.


    Why weren’t we informed ahead of time?

    Again, we are very sorry. It was not an easy decision to make, because we knew we would be inconveniencing and annoying a lot of members. A lot of people aren’t comfortable with change to begin with, but when the change is sudden – and unannounced – it can be frustrating. We recognize that, and sincerely apologize.

    But in the end, we felt that we had no good alternative. Remember when I said that the primary reason for the change was enhanced security? Switching platforms wasn’t the only thing we did. We also installed enhanced security features that are separate from the Xenforo package, migrated the database to a new, faster, and more secure server, and some other things that I’d prefer not to go into. Suffice it to say that the Xenforo switch was just one part of a comprehensive site security/performance overhaul.

    Now… the problem with that was that in order to be completely effective, all of the security measures had to be instituted at the same time. Enhancing some of the security features while leaving potential vulnerabilities in other areas was not an optimum solution. We wanted to lock the whole thing down at once, and in order to make that work, we felt it was necessary to not announce it.

    I know that many of you will consider that to be overkill, and to be honest, you’re probably right. But given the known skill level of some of the parties we suspect of having attacked the site over the last several months, we felt the most important thing was to make absolutely sure we were taking no avoidable risks. We deeply regret any frustrations and inconveniences, but we hope that our members will understand the importance of making database security our absolute, top priority. Personally, I believe in maximum transparency, and do not like keeping members in the dark about what is happening in their community. But in this case, we felt that we had no alternative.


    OK, well… I guess that makes sense. But where’s my _____ ? How come my ______ isn’t working?


    Good points. I’m sure you’ve noticed by now that some of the features you’re used to seeing and using are no longer there. The first thing to say is, some of the very things that have been making the site frustrating and increasingly difficult to use are the very add-ons and plug-ins that simply do not work anymore. An analogy would be that it’s like using Netscape Navigator with Windows 10. They simply were not written to work together. Granted, it is a simplistic analogy, but I think it serves to illustrate the point.

    At some point, it becomes no longer practical to keep patching the software. Instead of fixing plug-ins that are outdated, we are replacing everything with the most current software. In some cases, it’s almost the same software, but… in other cases, there is a huge difference, both in terms of functionality and in terms of security. We plan to take however much time we need to take to be absolutely sure we get every single thing right. We are not talking days, we are probably talking weeks – but one piece at a time, we want to add back as many features and bells and whistles as we can, without compromising security and functionality.

    Most of the features you see missing, we will probably be restoring in a matter of days or weeks. Some of them, we may not be able to bring back at all, and we do regret that. But no matter how much we want to make this an enjoyable and user-friendly experience for all of the members, from this point on database security will always come first. There may be some features that we feel we can not add back, because those particular add-ons prove to represent a possible security risk. Whenever it may come down to that question, we intend to err on the side of discretion, and we hope that you will understand if it is sometimes inconvenient.

    So. What happens next?

    Dunno. On the one hand, not much. We will strive to make the site as functional and stable as possible, and once the members get used to the interface, most people probably won’t notice much difference. I know the “skin” doesn’t look like what we are used to, but what you see today is just a starting point. Everything is tweakable, one piece at a time. Functionally, the only differences you should see should be that everything works better than you’re used to.

    On the other hand, there will be hiccups. Some of the albums, photos, and other things that you have uploaded to your profiles may not transfer over immediately. The truth is, even though we have tested this importation extensively over the last few weeks, we don’t know until we pull the trigger whether everything will work as well as it is supposed to work. There will be glitches, and we do not know what they will be. We will just have to take it as it comes, and work them out as they pop up.

    These are not uncommon problems with database migrations, and we’re not the first forum to have to work them out. Bear with us, let us know if there are any problems, and we will take them one at a time. We are confident that we will be able to work through the known issues, given a week or two to sort through them.

    And, that should cover the software changes. I know this post has been long, but I was trying to cover as many questions as possible to save people the trouble of asking.

    Now. I know there are a lot of things that I did not answer, so at this point, let’s split this thread up. I suggest we leave this thread open for comments about the changes in general and how we hope to use this transition as a starting point for further improvements in the community going forward. For the sake of clarity, let’s not use this thread for questions that are specifically about Xenforo and the new software. For those questions, let’s use this thread - http://www.politicalforum.com/index...oftware-troubleshooting-and-questions.498929/
     
  2. Robert

    Robert Well-Known Member

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    Well, time will tell. I can't judge any of this right this moment. But at least there is a solid effort to improve things.
     
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  3. Jim Nash

    Jim Nash Well-Known Member

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    "forum.php" has become "index.php". That's going to cause confusion.
     
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  4. Dark Star

    Dark Star Senior Admin Staff Member

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    Thanks, Jim Nash... that was just reported in the other thread a few minutes ago. definitely on our list now!
     
  5. Just_a_Citizen

    Just_a_Citizen Well-Known Member

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    Has there ever been a thought about either an AV or Text chat area?

    Would make for lively live debate-discussions.
     
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  6. Dark Star

    Dark Star Senior Admin Staff Member

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    Actually, that sort of thing is one of the reasons I've been hot for Xenforo for a long time. There are a lot of possibilities there, I think.
     
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  7. Just_a_Citizen

    Just_a_Citizen Well-Known Member

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    This platform will suit expansion much better than VbulletinPHP for sure.

    Look forward to, well.... Moving forward.
     
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  8. Dark Star

    Dark Star Senior Admin Staff Member

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    And that's really critical, because we have some things planned that are very exciting - and could never have been done in vB.
     
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  9. Canell

    Canell Active Member

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    Great, it loads much quicker and doesn't "hang" like the old forum.
    I like the looks of it too. :) We'll see how it looks on the tablet later (hopefully good :rolleyes: )
     
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  10. Dark Star

    Dark Star Senior Admin Staff Member

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    Supposed to be one of the strengths of Xenforo, but I don't use tablets, so I can't tell. Hopefully someone will let us know soon...
     
  11. Just_a_Citizen

    Just_a_Citizen Well-Known Member

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    Looks great on my first gen. iPad..... Pretty much all I've been using here.
     
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  12. Durandal

    Durandal Well-Known Member

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    Dark Star likes this.
  13. Just_a_Citizen

    Just_a_Citizen Well-Known Member

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    Video embeds look to be working ok.
     
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  14. TeaAddict

    TeaAddict Member

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    Looks good on my Android phone as well. So much better than the old mobile skin!
     
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  15. AmericanNationalist

    AmericanNationalist Well-Known Member

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    Can't really report any problems having just logged on, in fact I'm pleasantly surprised that my password translated over to the new Forum. I've been a member of the forums for three years and I wanna thank PF for all its done. I've had mostly if not entirely positive interactions with the Moderators and many PF colleagues here. I can't see why any low lives would want to attack such an important base of open information, but I'm glad and thankful the team's been up to the task of keeping us all safe.

    I'll be sure to report if anything's new, or different or missing. But for now, I just wanna thank the entire PF Community.
     
  16. Bluesguy

    Bluesguy Well-Known Member

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    Would like a way to change the font and text size in preferences. To small for my eyes!!
     
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  17. Bluesguy

    Bluesguy Well-Known Member

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    Heck I thought I was just having a great day!
     
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  18. Publius_Bob

    Publius_Bob Active Member

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    Nice surprise...
     
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  19. wgabrie

    wgabrie Well-Known Member

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    Yes, it was too small for me too. Try your browser's zoom feature. I have mine set to 150%. (Though I tested it to 250%) The site optimizes itself to the available space, so you can zoom in and still use it without having to horizontal scroll the screen.
     
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  20. Publius_Bob

    Publius_Bob Active Member

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    I'm reading a book entitled "How To Squint: For Dummies"
     
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