Testing new forum package.

Those of you who make use of the SEB Forums know that I’ve been meaning to replace the current package in use (IPB 2.0) with something else due to the changes in the licensing for what we were using. I’ve got a test install of the SMF offering in place to see how it stands up and I’ve managed to convert all of the current messages/forums/users from IPB to SMF so you won’t have to re-register to try it out. You can try out the new forums by clicking here and signing in with the same username and password you used on our previous forums. The old forums are still in place until we decide on what we want to switch to so feel free to play with the new ones quite a bit to see how you like it.

So, is it still too early?

For me to bust out the holiday layout? I’ve been itching to make something a little more festive and this wouldn’t require the living room to be cleaned up first.

Halloween skin in place.

Well, it’s not close to what I had wanted to do nor is it all that different layout-wise like I’d hoped, but I wanted something a little more Halloweeny… Halloween-ish… something that felt more like Halloween in place even if it’s only for a day or so. I’ll have to save all the big changes for the Christmas skin. For being only a couple hours worth of work, most of it spent editing my picture, it’s not too bad.

What to do with the SEB Forums?

Over in the forums we’ve been discussing what to do with them after recently finding out that the script I use to run them will no longer be freely available. The forums have always been a secondary feature of SEB and a good number of folks who visit daily aren’t even aware that we have forums, but that hasn’t stopped a handful of regulars from putting them to good use. I’ve never managed to integrate them into SEB in the manner I had hoped and that’s probably part of why they’re not frequented as much as they might have been. Either way, the Invision Power Board script has gone commercial and the simple fact is that the forums aren’t popular enough to justify purchasing a license for the script yet I don’t want to stick with a package I can’t upgrade any further if major security bugs are discovered.

Which brings us to the question of: Should we even bother having forums at all?

Personally, I like the idea of having forums available—even though I was lousy about actually visiting them—if for no other reason than it provides someplace to redirect folks to when I close one of the bigger threads such as the Kent Hovind discussion that topped nearly 400 comments. It’s also nice to have a spot for folks to start their own threads if there’s something they’d like to talk about. While I still consider Stupid Evil Bastard to be my personal blog, I’m also very proud of the fact that it has evolved somewhat toward more of a community oriented site that encourages discussions on a wide range of issues and I think a forum being available would help contribute to that feeling a bit if I manage to work it into the site a little better.

The ideal solution would be the forthcoming forum module for ExpressionEngine, but that’s still in the early stages of development and won’t be available for some time to come so I’d rather not wait for it before making a decision. If we keep the forums then I’ll need to decide what to use as a replacement for IPB. Of course the first suggestion most folks think of is phpBB as it’s easily one of the most popular open source forum packages out there. It’s also probably overkill for our needs, though, so I’d like to hear about other possibilities from folks who might have come across something that would better fit the bill.

One such possibility I mentioned in the forum posting I made was making use of miniBB which can be called from within another template allowing it to be easily integrated into the rest of the site. It’s also small, fast, and expandable. I wish I were a better PHP programmer because looking at the code for miniBB it appears that it wouldn’t be too difficult to modify it to use the existing ExpressionEngine user database rather than it’s own which would eliminate one of the things that always annoyed me about running a separate forum in terms of having to ask folks to register twice.

Anyway, I wanted to hear from the rest of the folks who frequent SEB on this issue as well so speak up. Do we need forums? Do we want forums? Do you know of a package that you think would make a good fit with SEB? Let me know.

Progress continues on conversion of Neil’s Icy Blue template.

Not only is the main index rendering properly, but I’ve got the comments page (a.k.a. individual entry page) up and running now. You can check out the progress so far by clicking here. Won’t be too much longer and it’ll be ready for prime time.

Testing a port of the Kubrick 1.2.5 template.

There was a request in the ExpressionEngine forums for someone to convert a template called Kubrick 1.2.5 from WordPress over to ExpressionEngine so I figured I’d take a whack at it. You can see what the original Word Press version looks like here and you can see my attempt at converting it to EE here. I’ve only done the main index so far, but I hope to have the whole thing completed by the end of this weekend, possibly sooner if my copy of The Sims 2 doesn’t arrive. SEB won’t be switching to that template anytime soon, but once it’s done I’ll make it available for download to anyone who wants it. I may leave it available as an alternate SEB template for those folks who like it. If there are any other templates out there that are free to modify for use in other systems you guys would like to see me convert then just drop me a line and let me know. Meanwhile, put this one through it’s paces and let me know what you think.

Mozilla homepage gets a new design.

This just in: The official homepage for Mozilla.org has been redesigned with a spiffy new look. It’s so damned spiffy that I felt compelled to write a blog entry about it. It’s the sort of simple, clean, and pretty design that I wish I was smart enough to do. Dammit. Now I’m jealous. Go check it out.

Dave talks about using .htaccess to block referrer spam.

Dave over at Dave’s Chalkboard has a whole category on referrer spamming and how to put an end to it using .htaccess. Dave uses ExpressionEngine, much as we do here, and EE has a built-in referrer spam blacklist so I was curious why he’d go through the trouble of using .htaccess instead. Turns out there’s a good reason: Bandwidth.

EE’s blacklist works pretty well at blocking sites from showing up in the referrer list that EE maintains itself, but it doesn’t stop it from showing up in any other tracking services you might use nor does it stop the bandwidth from being used when you’re hit constantly by these assholes. Dave estimates that the referrer spam attempts were eating up about around 3.6GB to 7GB of bandwidth a month, which isn’t a big deal when you have 50GB of bandwidth to play with, but for a site like SEB which has a mere 19GB a month that bandwidth lost to referrer spamming can quickly add up. So I’m thinking of following Dave’s lead and see if I can’t figure out how to massage my .htaccess file a bit and cut back on some of the wasted bandwidth. It’ll probably be a little trickier for me considering that I have two domains to protect, but I’ll let you know how it goes.

Update: After studying Dave’s .htaccess file and reading up on regular expressions I’ve gone ahead and implemented my own attempt at referrer spam blocking. Dave had a pretty good sized file full of URLs, but I wanted to make it as simple as possible. So rather than using full URLs I’ve put together one that makes use of pattern matching to filter out most of the crap that comes along. There’s a few sites that managed to keep their domain names free of the popular keywords so I had to add in lines just for them, but overall I think this is going to catch a lot of it with a minimal amount of work.

Testing things out with the helpful wannaBrowser appears to confirm that I’m in good shape. Still, there’s a chance my patterns are overly broad so if you find you’re getting a Forbidden error when trying to follow a link from someplace to SEB, please be sure to let me know about it.

Coming soon: Stupid Evil Bastard Reviews.

Progress on the reviews sub-blog is coming along slowly but surely. It’s what I spent most of my weekend on when I wasn’t playing Medal of Honor. Here’s a sneak peak:

SEB Reviews Image

SEB Forums have been upgraded.

Just a quick note to mention that I’ve upgraded the SEB Forums to Invision Power Board 2.0. That is all.