Changes Coming Soon to TFP

Discussion in 'TFP Site News & Announcements' started by Jim McClain, May 6, 2017.

  1. Jim McClain

    Jim McClain Owner/Founder Administrator

    BIG changes. I wanted to let you know ahead of time so you will not be taken by surprise.

    First Change: New server. A server is similar to a desktop computer in that it contains a CPU, memory and one or more hard drives, but it doesn't have its own monitor, keyboard or mouse, the technician connects a special laptop to it to do maintenance, etc. Here's a photo of a room full of servers - the same company and the same room TFP is moving into.

    [​IMG]

    For several years, we have been using what is referred to as a VPS - Virtual Private Server. It's not really a private server, we share it with a small group of other people using the same hardware. It's a lot better than a "shared server," which is what TFP started out on 11 years ago. But just as we did back then, we have outgrown our VPS.

    This time, we are moving into a true Private Server. One of the boxes you see on the shelf there is our box... rather, my box. I say mine because I am also putting my personal websites on it, so it's not just TFP using resources on the server, but visitors to my personal blog, my photo website, a site I built for the communities in my geographic location (Feather River Country), and at least for now, the JonnyCorners.com website I am working on for our fellow member, JonH. Of course, TFP uses 99% of the resources. My personal sites get very little traffic.

    I won't get too deep into the technical aspects of the server, but it will be much more secure than the server we are currently on and it should be noticeably faster. If you have specific questions about the server, I'd be happy to answer.

    Second Change: New forum software. We have been using vBulletin forum software for all of the 11 years we've been online. I have added a number of plugins - added features to make the site more secure and more interesting. A while back I installed WordPress software to handle our articles and various static pages. It's the best way to do that by far. But the forum software is really old technology. It doesn't work very well for those who like surfing the Internet on a mobile device, so you have to install an app called Tapatalk for that. Not many webmasters who run forums like Tapatalk for a variety of reasons, but it is a necessary evil for those of us running this older forum software.

    The same company makes a newer version of the forum software, but it's a shitty product and for several years now, the company who now owns vBulletin is a shitty company. All of their best developers moved to a new company that was started by 2 of Vbulletin's earliest and best developers. That company is called XenForo (pronounced Zen Foro). Their software is in use on most of the webmaster forums I belong to and a lot of the other forums I participate on (Jeeping, photography, computer support, etc.) are converting to XenForo. So will we.

    I'll talk about the scheduling of these changes in my next post.
     
  2. Jim McClain

    Jim McClain Owner/Founder Administrator

    Scheduling The Server Move

    The server move is tentatively scheduled to take place next weekend, probably Friday night. Traffic is slowest on TFP on weekends, so I think that's the best time to do a server move.

    I have to save every folder and file on our website. The largest "weight" comes from all the pictures I keep begging you to upload to our site. It's a huge amount of data that has to be compressed into a single package and downloaded, then uploaded again to the new server. I have already practiced by moving some of my other websites to the new server (I signed the contract on our 11th anniversary, 5/4/17).

    The transfer of folders & files and the 2 databases that make everything work will take a couple of hours. Then the database has to be edited to make some code changes - if I don't, the website will break.

    Then there are various settings and configurations to complete both on the new server and on the registrar that the website was registered by so the Internet is pointed to the new place. You see, the domain name, TheFloorPro.com, is not really the address of TFP. The actual address is 209.188.84.204 - that's called an IP address (Internet Protocol). The numbers are assigned by server hosting companies. The new server we are moving to is a new hosting company (new to us) with their own numbers, so I have to make sure the whole Internet knows that thefloorpro.com is actually the new IP address.

    Changing the IP address is both the best part of the move and the hardest part of the move. Best because for the first time, TFP will have its very own IP address - it won't even be shared with my personal websites. The new server comes with 8 IP addresses, so I can assign each website their own dedicated IP address. I know it's all technobabble to most of you, but to a webmaster, a dedicated IP address is a very good thing.

    The hard part about it is, it sometimes takes up to 48 hours for the website to be found by the Internet. Most people don't know when a move like this happens, so they don't know if they need to be a little patient, or if they should empty their browsers temporary cache of files, cookies and images. And it's frustrating because when you do that, you have to log into all of the sites you visit every day without logging into.

    Be A Boyscout

    That's why I'm telling you all this now. Be prepared. You might not notice much down-time at all. A couple of the sites I already moved were only down for me for less than an hour. One was down for almost all of the 48 hours I was warned about though. It wasn't actually down the whole time - it was down, then back up, then it went off-line for a couple hours, then back on for a while, then off again. Good GOD it was frustrating as hell.

    I will tell you before the change happens and remind you. You should make sure you will be prepared if, in order to have your browser "discover" TFP again, you may have to flush your browser cache. That means make sure you have all your login information handy so it will only take a few seconds to get back online with your other websites and this one when it's back up.

    One of the ways I will notify you is by sending out a mass email message. I will send one out just before I shut the site down to pack it up and move it. Then, as soon as I have access, I will send out another email to let you know we're back online again. I won't be able to turn the site on until I have access, so there's a chance you may see the site before me and you will see a page that tells you the site is closed for the server move. You won't get an email from me though, if your contact options don't allow email from Administrator. You can change those settings any time, so you might want to allow it now, then switch it back after the move.

    xenforo-forum-software.gif I apologize in advance for any interruption in your TFP access. When it's finally back online, then it will probably be only another week before the site goes offline again for the forum software conversion. I don't know how long that part takes. I don't feel confident trying to accomplish that conversion myself. I will hire someone to do the job that has done many more just like it. I have to wait for him to do an inspection so he can tell me what it's going to take to do the work and how much he's going to charge me.

    Yeah, this all ain't cheap by a long stretch. I know most of you don't like it when I ask for money - seems like begging and it feels like it to me too. I hate begging. But I need help with this stuff. If you can help out, doesn't matter how little, please do. This page is for donations. Thank you.
     
  3. Mike Antonetti

    Mike Antonetti I Support TFP Senior Member

    Will there be an App, or is that additional?

    How does this affect us as members? Or viewers, I see an average of about 500 visitors in peak time, are we Big Time yet?
     
  4. Jim McClain

    Jim McClain Owner/Founder Administrator

    Is there an app for that?

    No more Tapatalk, once the forum software has been converted to the new platform. It won't be necessary. The new software has coding that makes the layout more responsive to mobile devices - it's called "responsive design." On my end, there are apps I can install - these are referred to as plug-ins and add-ons - that will add features to the software. One of those plugins will add something called Push Notifications, which is very similar to what many mobile apps provide to update the user of new replies and other notifications.

    Members and visitors will have, by default, a very similar notification system that exists with this software. If you now get immediate email notifications when someone replies to a topic you are subscribed to, you will still get an email telling you someone replied.

    But this will be different software, so there will be a learning curve. Your current options will be honored after the conversion, but there will be a different layout, some new options. Some things will be hard to find or figure out. But I hope you all know me well enough to know I will be here to help and guide. All of the guides and how-tos I have written over the last 11 years will have to be re-written. You all will be asking a lot more questions.

    You might even experience some new frustrations. Most people, including me and probably including you (whoever is reading this before the switch), don't like change and this one will be no different. But my hope is that I can ease you through it to the point that you begin to realize this is much better than it has been in the last 11 years.

    The look of the site will be similar - same color scheme, same basic layout when viewed on a desktop computer. But those who have viewed the current site without using Tapatalk will be amazed. I think you will see that it is far more attractive and so much easier to read and view the pictures that members upload.

    We're Big Time for a niche group. We deal almost strictly with flooring, but we encompass all types of flooring. You can find other forums that deal with a specific type of flooring that get more traffic for that particular segment, but most flooring professionals deal with several, if not many different types of flooring and we have pros that are involved in different aspects of the business - sales, manufacturing, installations, inspectors, distributors. I hope our long-time members have seen the great value that all of these people bring their unique perspectives to our community and give us an edge over the competition.

    By the same token, or consumer and DIY members also deal with different flooring types and processes in their projects. Some of us that have been around a while have seen where a member has come back after a carpet or wood project and asks us about a ceramic or vinyl project.

    The numbers of visitors TFP gets every day or every hour is not recorded accurately by the forum software. In fact, most of the new forum softwares available don't even have that feature. Our new software will not. I'm not sure yet if there is a plugin available for it, but it won't be accurate because we have a website that uses 2 major website platforms, the forum software (currently vBulletin, soon, xenForo) and WordPress. One can't measure the traffic of the other.

    I do, on the other hand, use Google Analytics code in the headers of every document page of the website. I can go to my account on Google and find out how much traffic we have in any particular day, week, month or year AND from what countries, what devices are used (desktop, smartphone, etc.) and what browsers are used. It's pretty accurate.

    But there is nothing available to the webmaster that can tell him or her any personally identifying information about the visitors. An IP address, which everyone has through their ISP, can tell me approximately what city the person is in. My IP, 104.232.90.235, tells me that I am in Portola, CA. I'm actually 30+ miles west from there. I also have another ISP I use when this one goes down (I live in the frikin' woods) that tells me I am from Chico, CA, which is about 80 miles south of me.

    We get an average of about 3,000 visitors a day to TFP. True Big Time would be 3-million, but we do okay for what we do. The new software should actually increase our numbers because there's an awful lot of people using mobile devices to surf the Web and do not want to install yet another app (Tapatalk) to be able to read our content easier. The WordPress part of the site is great for mobile device users, but the vBulletin forum software is teh shit (meaning bad, not good). But it has been our software for years now and there will be some who balk at the change. I hope the resistance will be short-lived though and those people will find TFP easier to use and enjoy.
     
  5. Jon Scanlan

    Jon Scanlan That Kiwi Charter Member I Support TFP Senior Member

    If I wasn't busy Jim I would help you :)
    A big thank you for everything you do for us :)
     
  6. Jim McClain

    Jim McClain Owner/Founder Administrator

    Well, I just contracted a guy to do the server move, sent him a deposit for £20.00 GBP. The move is scheduled to begin May 13, at 1:00 AM PDT & MST (2 MDT, 3 CDT and 4 EDT). The down-time is going to be 3 or 4 hours, possibly more, as I described in a previous post.

    I'll keep you posted as we get closer.
     
  7. Jim McClain

    Jim McClain Owner/Founder Administrator

    The server move happens tonight - 1:00 AM my time (Pacific). I will be sending out an email to anyone who has visited the site in the last several months (only to those who allow emails from Admin) to let them know we will be down for at least 3 hours and access may be spotty for up to 48 hours.

    If you want to reach me, you can email jim.mcclain95971@gmail.com, since if the site isn't working, neither will my TFP email address. If it's important to you, it's important to me.

    Jim
     
  8. kwfloors

    kwfloors Fuzz on the brain Charter Member I Support TFP Senior Member

    Good luck with the move. I know how computers are.
     
  9. UncleCliffie

    UncleCliffie Charter Member

    Thanks for the heads up! It works out just fine for me, as in 1/2 hour I will be heading out for a weekend of base ball to watch my grandsons prepare for the majors. 5 ballgames today and Sunday, then back up north for dance recitals put on by my granddaughters Sunday night.
    That's my job, that's what I do! Good luck Jim on the upgrade!
    Dick
     
  10. Roland Thompson

    Roland Thompson Charter Member Senior Member

    Jim can't get on so we can do what we want.
     
  11. Mike Antonetti

    Mike Antonetti I Support TFP Senior Member

    Let's get this Party started! Jims buying
     
  12. Jim McClain

    Jim McClain Owner/Founder Administrator

    I'm BAAAAACK! I don't know why I never thought of it before, but I have a standby/backup ISP that I use when my connection with my regular ISP fails. It's a really slow connection (not much better than dialup), but it works. But since my regular ISP wasn't down, I didn't think to try this connection. It works.

    The tech guy helping me (actually doing all the real work - I just get in the way) mentioned the ISP issue, so I switched connections and... WALLA!

    So, where'd you say that party was? ;)
     
  13. Mike Antonetti

    Mike Antonetti I Support TFP Senior Member

    I'm not noticing anything different. Anything new on format? I think click on pictures on phone still comes up partial off screen, off centered.
     
  14. Jim McClain

    Jim McClain Owner/Founder Administrator

    There were a few glitches, but everything seems to be running almost as before the server move. The problem with using forum software as old as this and server technology as new as this is there's going to be a conflict or three. I found some. The tech guy fixed a couple of them and I ignored one or 2 at the risk of performance.

    Next weekend, if things go as planned, we will be using the latest and greatest in forum software (in my opinion, of course - there's several modern forum software scripts that are excellent, but I happen to like the one we will be using). Now that will present all kinds of issues to work through. Not just for me and the tech guy either. You regulars will be faced with learning new features and things not working exactly like they did before. I hope, though, you will quickly see that it's easy enough to learn and is actually better.

    There will be some problems and you people may even have some gripes. I hope you'll share them so I can do what I have always tried to do: make this a place you like visiting on a regular basis.

    Some of the features we have come to enjoy and rely on here may not be available when you log into the new forum script. But I'll do my best to bring the best features back. But for those of you who are using Tapatalk on a mobile device to visit TFP, you won't have that on the new forum script.

    The new forum software is made specifically to adjust its layout and user interface to suit the size of the screen you are using. It's called "responsive design." It doesn't have push notification built in though. There are a couple of plugins that do that though, so that will be added. It may be trial and error though, so I hope those of you who use mobile devices will give me plenty of feedback.

    Your feedback, whether it's about the new server, new software or anything else at TFP, is very important. I don't read minds and I don't use the site the same way you do. So, let me know what you don't like and what you do like. Be detailed so I don't have to struggle trying to understand what you are telling me. Screenshots help a lot, if you can do that.
     
  15. Mike Antonetti

    Mike Antonetti I Support TFP Senior Member

    Some of my pictures upload, others fail from iPhone. This one will upload.

    Same picture on two topics, both failed.
     

    Attached Files:

  16. Jim McClain

    Jim McClain Owner/Founder Administrator

    Either something is wrong with the photo, or the file size is too large. Could be something else too. During the server move, we did find some image upload, rendering and thumbnail creation issues, but we did our best to fix them. The technology is different on this server though and it can't be fixed like was possible on the old server. That's because this server uses a much more modern "operating system" that isn't backward compatible for everything this forum software needs.

    It's a temporary problem. Sorry.
     
  17. Don Monfils

    Don Monfils PRO CARPET Charter Member

    Multiple picture test from iPhone. IMG_5253.PNG
     
  18. Don Monfils

    Don Monfils PRO CARPET Charter Member

    Still can't upload more than 1 pic at a time
     

    Attached Files:

  19. Jim McClain

    Jim McClain Owner/Founder Administrator

    I don't understand how that can be, but I'm not using a mobile device. I'm using my computer.

    Anyway, whatever image problems we are having right now will probably not be fixed until the new forum software is installed. The guy charges me £20.00 GBP ($26.82) every time I ask him to come in after the move to add or modify something and I can't afford that. It's gonna cost me £80.00+ for the software conversion next weekend, which will make all the modifications made now go away.

    I can't afford crossbars for my ride. I had to make them myself out of galvanized fence materials. All these photos were uploaded at once. :hu:
     

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  20. UncleCliffie

    UncleCliffie Charter Member

    I thought I would file a report on my weekend project. The first ball game featured my 15 year old grandson. They got their butts whipped. However in their case, one would be wrong to call them a team. This was their first as a group. The younger 13 year old's team went 4 for 4 to win the championship. The semifinal and the final game were both won by a grand slam home runs with come from behind wins.
    The 12 year old and 7 year old Granddaughters Were both the leaders of the dance numbers much to the pride of their Grandparents.
    It don't get no better than that, if I must say so my self.
    Dick, one proud Grandpa!
     
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