vbulletin 4.x New Licensing System and Presale Event for vBulletin 4.0 Suite

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Vbulletin was only a  forum application till 4.x versions and it had a relatively simple license system:

You purchased an owned license which allowed you to run vbulletin FOREVER in your site and allowed you to receive new versions and support for 1 year. After 1 year is up, you could pay a small fee to continue to receive new versions and support or if you don’t want to get new versions, you could stick with your current version forever without paying nothing.

Radical version releases didn’t change this system until now. For instance when you have vb 2.x, you could get new 3.x version when it is up when you paid that small “upgrade & support” price. You didn’t need to pay a larger amount just because 3.x is a different product.

Well, they changed this system now as of 14.October.2009. Now their license system is like Microsoft Windows license system: You don’t purchase the “application usage license” anymore, you purchase “version usage license”. For instance when you purchase “Windows XP” edition this allows you to use this product forever but when “Windows Vista” is released, you can’t upgrade it free, you have to get a new Windows Vista license.  Now same applies to Vbulletin: Your licenses applies to the lifespan of a version you bought and when a new major version is relased, you’ll need a new license to upgrade to this new major release. For instance when you purchase vbulletin 4.x, you’ll repay to upgrade vbulletin 5.x.

Due to this radical change, obviously there is a dismay among vbulletin customers and I’m afraid they’ll lose a lot of angry customers to competition these days. Well, it is their company, their marketting strategy and their loss (or gain) so I don’t want to comment on if new license system is “appropriate ” or not.

Instead, I want to focus their presale license sell announcement, they sent to all customers in 13 and 14th october via email, because many people are asking me if they should buy the pre-sale license from the discounted price.

The short answer to this question is: If you plan to upgrade your vbulletin to 4.x in 1 or 2 years, then yes I’d suggest you to go with the presale. Because when this sale is over, you have to buy 4.x license from full price (just like a brand new customer) and if you plan to upgrade to 4.x soon, then there is no need to pay more later when you can pay less now.

However if your board is hacked dramatically and you don’t know when to upgrade your board and you can even stick with your current version for a few years, then it is pointless to buy 4.x license at this point because while you were waiting, they can announce vbulletin 5.x and your 4.x license will be useless with 5.x. So if you are sticking with your current version for a while, then my suggestion is to pass this offer. When your upgrade time is due, you can then decide if you’ll go with the current version of the time or wait a little more and get the new version.

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Skinning vbulletin for Iphone and other cell phones (Cell Phone Compatibility of vbulletin forums)

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This is frequently asked nowadays: “How can I make my vbulletin site more browser friendly with Iphone (or other cell phones)?

As you know regular internet sites (including vbulletin powered forums) are designed to be displayed in larger screen solutions so when you browse them in your iphone or other cell phones, they may look a little weird and awkard to navigate. Considering cell phones with internet capabilities are getting so common, it just natural that more site owners are trying to get their vbulletin forums more cell phone friendly.

Well, there are a few ways to achieve this goal, let’s check them:

1- Using Vbulletin’s built-in ARCHIVE section:

As you know vbulletin has a built-in archive section. It is originally designed for better search engine optimization and its just limited to forum display and thread display but it usually works “good enough” on cell phones too, in comparison to regular forum skin due to archive design’s simplicity.

So if you haven’t already activated it, you can do so and then promote its usage for cell phone owners. Its still not the best solution for cell phones because it is not specifically designed as a cell phone solution, nor it covers non-content sections of the vbulletin (eg. private messaging, member profiles etc.) but it can still be a good (and 100% FREE) solution which can work for some admins.

2- TAPATALK Application:

If you haven’t heard about tapatalk before, here you go:
http://www.tapatalk.com/

Basically it is a iphone application which serves a better browsing experience with phpbb and vbulletin forums. It is spefically designed for this job so is a much better solution than ARCHIVE option and it is free to use (for site owners!).

Yet it also has some catches:
a) Its for iphone only so other cell phone users will not benefit from this solution.
b) Even though it is free for you (forum owner), it has a small fee for users who will use it. It charges iphone owners when they want to install it to their iphones. It is just one time $2.99 payment but having a price tag still means, not every iphone owner will use it.

3- Having a Special Vbulletin Skin for cell Phones:

You can always get a special vbulletin skin designed for your vbulletin and then apply it to your forum via vbulletin admin cp/style manager. Then you can make this skin selectable by members in vbulletin options and your members who use iphone will have an option to use a more clean skin while browsing your forum.

This is -in my opinion- the best solution who seek something friendly for cell phone users but it is also the most difficult because it requires you to get a custom skin designed which is always an expensive practise. If you have experience with web design & vbulletin skinning, you can try to do it yourself by creating a new style set in vbulletin style manager and then customize its templates to have more basic & clean  HTML codes for smaller screens but vbulletin has a lot of templates to customize so be prepared to commit a lot of time for this task. If you want a budget for this, you can always get a proffessional designer for this job. (Nicholas Mercedar of ForumSkin.com will be my recommendation for you if you want a professional designer for this job.) Don’t expect small budgets if you want to go with a custom skin though.

By the way, while you are considering a solution for cell phones, you shouldn’t forget “WAP disaster”. :) As you know not long ago, WAP (A cell phone protocol to browse internet sites) is introduced and many internet sites spent a lot of money to be WAP compatible. They were expecting a lot of visitors from cell phones with WAP compability however they missed the point that cell phones develop faster than techologies developed for them! So while sites were going into WAP, WAP were going into trash can with new cell phone technologies. ;) After introducing of WAP, cell phones developped in such a way that, they could display normal internet sites without a need to a special cell phone display protocol. Now WAP is obsolete so are sites who were designed according to WAP technology.

Therefore a site owner should always consider this, while seeking solutions for today’s trendy “iphones”. Remember that until you get your “iphone friendly site” online, iphone can be history. :)

Hence I suggest cheaper iphone (cell phone) solutions for normal vbulletin site owners and my custom skin solution is for large and professional sites with a lot of traffic and a budget only!

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Dealing with members’ bouncing emails in vbulletin communities

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This is a headache for most community admins: They have a site contact email like webmaster@mysite.com and they use this email in the vbulletin’s webmaster address (vbulletin admin cp/vbulletin options/Webmaster’s Email setting).  This address is used by vbulletin to receive “contact us” emails of members AND also to send all automated vbulletin mailings to members like “new thread notifications”, “new private message notifications” etc.

And when the same address is used both to send automated messages and receive vbulletin contact us inqueries, you find yourself in the big problem of “bouncing emails”.

When your community gets crowded, some of your members’ emails will become unaccessible: They’ll change ISPs, dump or close their email accounts, their inboxes will get full and start returning new mails, their server will temporarily or permenantly go down etc. and in all these scenarios, the emails your forum produces for them, will bounce back to you with an error message like:

“This message was created automatically by mail delivery software. A message that you sent could not be delivered to one or more of its recipients. This is a permanent error. The following address(es) failed:”
“SMTP error from remote mail server after RCPT TO:< @ >: host solmx03…..e.com [12.252.xxx.yyy]: 550 That e-mail address does not exist (#5.7.1)”
“SMTP error from remote mail server after RCPT TO:<….. @hotmail.com>: host mx2.hotmail.com [65.55.92.136]: 550 Requested action not taken: mailbox unavailable”
“This message was created automatically by mail delivery software. A message that you sent could not be delivered to one or more of its recipients. This is a permanent error. The following address(es) failed: …. @otmail.com  retry timeout exceeded”
“Inbox is full”
 etc.

 If you have a large member database, you’ll end up finding more and more of these emails in your admin mailbox everyday.

Some admins try to deal with them manually: They go to vb admin cp, search for the user who is using this email address and deletes his account or unsubscribes him from all his subscribed threads etc. so that site will not send more emails to this account anymore. Well this is a lot of work to do everyday and it will become more tedious when your board started to get more crowded and also when these members will fix their email account problems in the future and ask for a reactivation.

Some other admins try to use bounce email management hacks which are available in vbulletin.org for dealing with these bouncing member emails. Most of these hacks uses a catch-all email account which the hack monitors constantly and when its finds email in that account, it assumes the mail bounced and apply restriction to the owner of the emails you preferred (like putting him into a restricted usergroup, unsubscribing him, deleting his account etc.). This is a good approach but it does not always work with 100% efficiency because it is not easy for a script to decide whether the incoming mail is really a bounced email or something else. You’ll very frequently have members who use “auto-repliers” in their email accounts or “vacation/away notices” etc. as well as members who think they can reply these vbulletin notification mails. So these irrelevant emails will also go into the catch-all address of the bounce management hacks and most of these hacks will assume the account is bouncing although it is no. So due to their high false identification rate for bounced email detection, I personally don’t use any of these hacks.

But not using this hack, doesn’t necessarily mean we have to bear members’ bounced emails everyday in our admin accounts. My solution for this is very easy and quite effective as well:

* I create 2 separete emails in my communities as admin account. One account is an actual POP3 email account which I use for receiving site related communications. Let’s call this contact_me@mydomain.com Then I have another email account which is called post_bot@mydomain.com and I use this one for sending automated mails.

* I create post_bot@mydomain.com email address with an autoresponder tied in it. Whenever it receives an email, it returns an reply telling that this email address is not used, nor monitored and asks contacter to use contact_me@mydomain.com if she tried to reach me. This makes sure if somebody accidently emails me in this email address, she knows I didn’t get the reply and she also knows where to mail me to reach me.

 * Apart from this autoresponder tied to post_bot@mydomain.com account, this account is NOT an actual postbox (with Pop3 etc.) and after it autoresponds all incoming emails, it discards them all. So I don’t have compiling bouncing mails in my mailbox. I put this email to the “Webmaster’s Email” setting in vbulletin admin cp/vbulletin options/ Site Name – URL – Contact Details. So all automated vbulletin emails are sent from this email address and all bounced mails to this address discarded with an auto-responder message in case it was not a bounced message. This means I don’t see any bounced mails anymore in my admin email

* Now we have to make sure when somebody contacts you via vbulletin’s contact us form, you receive her email without problems. I use a simple vbulletin product to achieve this:
product-log_secondwebmaster_email
(Upload the product in vb admin cp/Pluggins & Products / Manage products/ Add/Import Product)

* This pluggin will add a new option in your “vbulletin admin cp/vbulletin options/ Site Name – URL – Contact Details” section named : “WebMaster Email for Contact Us Page”. Now you have to go to that page and enter “contact_me@mydomain.com” there. This will make sure all emails sent to you via vb contact us page, comes to contact_me@mydomain.com email address which is a POP3 email that you use and monitor. But all vb automated emails will go FROM post_bot@mydomain.com  address and you won’t be bothered with bouncing ones anymore.

Simple and effective. ;)

Now some notes about this configuration:

1- Vbulletin also allows you to enter specific email address for contact us page in “Contact Us Options” (vbulletin admin cp/vbulletin options/ Site Name – URL – Contact Details). So you could have entered “contact_me@mydomain.com” there as well but there is catch with this approach: Contact Us options puts a “Other” field into contact us page and this other field sends the incoming mail to default webmaster email. Since we don’t receive them anymore there we can’t allow this so this is where this hack comes handy.

2- Some might think tieing an autoresponder to an email account which gets a lot of bouncing emails creates an infinite loop but it does not. Modern mail servers easily recognizes this pattern and discards these emails so you won’t receive infinitive bounces when you send an auto-reply to a bouncing account.

3- Some admins think bouncing emails are hard on server, creating server load but it does not unless you have a huge number of them. In a large community where you receive a few hundreds to a few thousands bouncing emails everyday wouldn’t put any load into your server but I’d admit if you receive tens of thousands of such emails, this can be another story. But this is really a rare scenario for most admins if though your community is large.

4- The product I added above will work in vb versions above 3.5.x. This includes 3.5.x, 3.6.x, 3.7.x and 3.8.x (which was the most recent when this blog entry is created)

5- I personally don’t use any of the bounce email management hacks myself because I don’t believe they can effectively deal with bouncing emails. As described above, an email incoming from a member email can be a legitamate email (eg. member accidently replied to a thread new reply notification via email), temporary issue (email box full at the moment), permanent issue (email account is closed) or even irrelevant email (vacation auto-reply of the member). It is not easy for any application to intelligently analyze these emails and decide which are really bouncing and which are not so I prefer the method described above to fight bouncing emails, rather than bounce email management hacks. But if you found a stable and nice hack which deals with them fine, then you can stick with it. I don’t demote them all. :)

 

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Beware of Scam after successful Trademark Registrations : IBIP-International Bureau for Intellectual Property

Other 8 Comments »

After you complete a tradermark registration with any Intellectual Property Office, you may receive a scam letter which looks like it comes from that office and asking money transfer/check payment for your trademark application.

If you don’t read it very carefully, it looks like it comes from the registration authority and it creates a strong impression that this money is needed to complete your trademark registration. Well, guess what, it does not come from the authorities, nor it is required, it is simply a fraud attempt.

Here is a sample letter:
IBIP-International Bureau for Intellectual Property scam letter

It is titled as :

IBIP-International Bureau for Intellectual Property
Register Trademarks Here:
Registration of Trademarks published by the USPTO

which gives you the impression that it comes from United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). It uses the same application format of USPTO while referrencing your trademark application and it addresses you by you name and arrives your address which were giving in your registration application. For the payment amount it uses “Charges of registration” term to give you the idea that it is for your trademark registration and also uses a US address, phone number, fax number and bank account number to lure your further:

IBIP-International Bureau for Intellectual Property LLC
975 Bacons Bridge Rd. #214, Unit 148 Summerville SC 29485, USA
Tax 10 26-1968684 PH/Fax (843) 628-7602

In case of payment per cheque:
IBIP-International Bureau for Intellectual Property LLC 975
Bacons Bridge Rd. #214, Unit 148 Summerville SC 29485, USA

In case of payment per money transfer:
WELLS FARGO BANK, N.A. SWIFT: WFBIUS6S ABA: 121042882 ACCOUNT#: 3240489942

And it asks you to send 1537,10 Euro in large letters!

Now let’s read the very tiny text at the top, shall we?

Dear Addresse! We offer to include your corporate text in our private company direc­tory, as far as it is included in the Official Gazette which are edited by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Our offer in­cludes the placement of addresses on the basis of our own data re­cords, the completion of the related work and the carrying out of indi­vidual researches. With regard to the exact details of our service (address service, individual researches, access to databases), we refer to our general terms and conditions of trade overleaf, these forming the basis for our conclusion of business. You confirm this offer by re­mitting the following amount and in doing so, you confirm that the wor­ding of the entry entered by ourselves and rendered here is correct. The duration of the period of entry as the entitled user always amounts to one year as from the conclusion of the contract. The entry includes the name of the company and its postal data. For the sake of comple­teness, we have provided you with the word mark, serial. no., filing date, registration no , intern. registration no., registration date, priority date and the BA number. Any requests for amendments and additions are to be made in writing. THIS IS NOT AN INVOICE. THIS IS A SOLICI­TATION. YOU ARE UNDER NO OBLIGATION TO PAY THE AMOUNT STATED UNDERNEATH, UNLESS YOU ACCEPT THIS OFFER. WEARE NOT AFFILIATED WITH THE USPTO. 

So you see: They expect you to send 1537 Euro so that they can put our trademark in to their “Official
Gazette! And I’m sure many falls for this scam as the letter is pretty fraudulent.

And here is how it works: When your trademark application is approved, it is published in the registering organization’s website. It can be USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office), WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) or any other local Intellectual Property Organization of different countries. In this publising, trademark owner’s name, address and trademark information
like item number, registration date etc. is also published. So these scammers simply monitor new registrations and then send this scam letter to the addresses of new registrars which gives itself and impression that  it comes from the official organization and asking for a required payment to complete your trademark application. It is simply deceitful. Moreover if you receive this
letter it means that actually your trademark is registered already (so they got the info from publisment of official organization) and your official letter of approval is already on its way. But I bet you’ll get this scam letter before the official letter and if you don’t read well, unfortunately you can fall for it.

It seems that these scammers monitor many different Intellectual Property Organizations as I’ve run into different scam alerts of different organizations. There are also different names they use so if your letter comes from a different “name”, don’t fall for it. Here is some of the names used by them:

RIPT – Register of International Patents and Trademarks
IBIP – International Bureau for Intellectual Property
ODM – Patent Trademark Register
IBFTPR – International Bureau for Federated Trademark & Patent Register
IOIP – Organization for Intellectual Property
ODM – Register of International Patents
ODM – Office Data Management
IOPTS – International Organization for Patent & Trademark Service
FIPTR – Federated Institute for Patent and Trademark Registry Inc.
CPTD – Central Patent & Trademark Database
CCIT – Commercial Center for Industrie and Trade
CPD – Central Patent Database Register of International Patents Register of International Patent Bulletin/Registredes données bulletin europeén des brevetes Institutof Commerce for Industry, Trade, Commerce/Wirtschaftsinstitut für Industrie, Handel, Handwerk
AG Central Data-Register of International Patents

They might likely to fake a different name after the one they used are busted as in the example of “IBIP
- International Bureau for Intellectual Property”.

So beware..

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VBulletin compatibility with different versions of MYSQL and PHP

Vbulletin Comments Off

It might not be very easy to keep a log of each vbulletin’s compatibility with each version of MYSQL and PHP but there are some important items to remember so here they are:

  • Vbulletin 3.0.x versions are incompatible with PHP 4.0.6 or lower. They are not also officially announced to be compatible with PHP 5.x. However they are reported to work fine with php5.x after vbulletin version 3.0.4. So to upgrade your PHP version to 5.x, you should be at least running vb version 3.0.4 or above. And if you want to play safe with official support, you should make sure you have vbulletin 3.5.x at the least to upgrade to PHP 5.x series. In other words if you are running vbulletin 3.0.x, you are suggested to stick with PHP 4.x.
  • Vbulletin has full compatibility with MYSQL 5.x versions since 3.5.1. So if you vbulletin version lower than 3.5.1, you should make sure your server has MYSQL 4.x, not 5.x

Bottom line is that if you are still running vbulletin 3.0.x series, you should also keep your MYSQL in 4.x and PHP 4.x as well.  You shouldn’t upgrade your PHP 4.x to 5.x and musn’t upgrade your Mysql 4.x to MYSQL 5.x  before you upgrade your vbulletin to version 3.5.1 or above.

If you are still keeping your vbulletin 3.0.x board due to custom hacks etc., you might run into this problem in certain times like server migration,  upgrade or host company change. New web servers are likely to come with mysql5.x and PHP5.x installation by default so if you change host or server, you might end up in such a server and have serious problems in your vbulletin installation.

There might be a lot of different errors vbulletin throws in these incompatible MYSQL/PHP versions but most known is the one you get when you visit your user control panel:

Database error in vBulletin 3.0.x:Invalid SQL:
SELECT thread.threadid, thread.forumid
FROM thread AS thread, subscribethread AS subscribethread
LEFT JOIN deletionlog AS deletionlog ON(deletionlog.primaryid = thread.threadid AND type = ‘thread’)
WHERE subscribethread.threadid = thread.threadid
AND subscribethread.userid = xxx
AND thread.visible = 1
AND lastpost > 114785000
AND deletionlog.primaryid IS NULL

mysql error: Unknown column ‘thread.threadid’ in ‘on clause’

mysql error number: 1054 

BTW. there is a quick code modification fix to this error here, but such a incompatibility can always cause more problems in your forum so you are suggested to fix the incompatibility by version upgrades, rather than this fix.

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Check IP address of your dedicated server in SPAM blacklists before hiring it

Internet 1 Comment »

This is something very few of us do: You hire a hosting service from a hosting company and even though you take notice of many issues like server specs, support, bandwidth etc., you usually don’t even think about the IP address they assign to your brand new server.

Dedicated server IPs are usually assigned in sets of 5 consecutive IP address like 64.20.56.0, 64.20.56.1, 64.20.56.2, 64.20.56.3, 64.20.56.4. These IP addresses are not created for you, they were serving to other servers/domains before you and they might be abused by their previous owners. This sometimes happen if they belong to a spam/warez/hack related site and before the hosting company terminated their account, they might have used the IPs in unacceptable ways and get blacklisted. And sometimes they belong to legitimate sites but they had security breaches which were abused by hackers and IPs are blemished.

Whatever the reason is, if these IPs which you are going to own now is blacklisted in large email networks you will have troubles sending emails from your sites. Most of your emails might be filtered to spam/junk boxes in frequently used email services like hotmail.com and some other emails might be rejected with a bouncing “you are blacklisted” message.

So it is imperative to make an blacklist check before your dedicated server is assigned IPs and ask your host to change them if the IPs they are going to assign are flawed. There are different sites which you can check IPs blacklist status. Some of them are:
http://whatismyipaddress.com/staticpages/index.php/is-my-ip-address-blacklisted
http://www.mxtoolbox.com/blacklists.aspx
http://www.kloth.net/services/dnsbl.php
http://www.email-unlimited.com/tools/check-ip.aspx

So what you should do BEFORE hiring a dedicated server is to ask your host which IP your server will be assigned and then make a check in the sites above and if the IP is blacklisted, ask for another IP before they build the server.

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Maxthon (MyIE) 2.0 vs. Firefox

Internet 3 Comments »

I’m a big Maxthon fan. It is my default browser for years. I guess I jumped Maxthon ship in its very early days when it was known as “MyIE”. Due to my profession, I have all browsers installed and use them from time to time to test web applications but when it comes to browsing internet for myself, Maxthon is my only choice as my browser.

It has announced 2.0 version sometime ago and since I was pretty happy with 1.0, I didn’t upgraded for a long time. But then I decided it is time to move on, then for the last few weeks I’m using Maxthon 2.0. Well it is more powerful than ever and I really liked it (once again) ;)

I don’t want to compare it with IE as IE can not be considered as a browser anymore. For me, it is just a “browsing engine” anymore, not a browser to use. :) However firefox definetely deserves to be counted as a browser so I like to compare Maxthon with Firefox to give you an insight:

* Maxthon Uses IE Engine: This means it is prone to IE security breaches but also means it inherits its compatibility. It is upto you to decide whether this is a advantage or disadvantage. :)

* Maxthon is much more faster in start up: I don’t mean it is faster in compiling webpages because IMO they are both as fast. However firefox is killing me when I click its icon to start it up. It takes too long to start! :( Maxthon is very fast on this. Actually this is not Firefox’s fault, as Microsoft loads IE engine to memory during Windows start up and since Maxthon uses this engine, its start up time is incredible fast. But Firefox has to load all its .DLL’s and libraries to the memory from the ground so it takes a lot of time for it to initiate. Even if it is not firefox’s fault, I’m the one experiencing this delay as a user so I have my right to dislike it anyway! I suggest firefox devs to develop to caching system which will initiate firefox related libs and dll’s during Windows start up. Until then, Firefox will get a big minus from me.

* Both browsers uses very well designed pluggins to enhance its capabilities. I think firefox pluggins are more than maxthon pluggins and they are also written well. But IMO firefox pluggins are more interfering and is not as fast regarding performance. I don’t like firefox to check for pluggin updates everytime it starts (which is already slow enough!) and I find Maxthon pluggins less inteferring and faster.

* As for configurability, Maxthon is way ahead. It is incredible customizable in every way you can imagine and as a matter of fact this is why I love it. Firefox is also very good in customizations but it is not as good as Maxthon. Just check both browsers options pages and you’ll be amazed by number of configurability option maxthon provides.

Bottomline : I use both browsers but Maxthon is still my favorite.

 

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Vbulletin, max_user_connections setting, persistent MYSQL connections and too many open mySQL connections

Vbulletin 3 Comments »

While you are using vbulletin, you may get a nasty “User ….  has already more than ‘max_user_connections’ active connections” database error and your board might go down.

If you contact vbulletin support for this error, they’ll ask you to contact your hosting company and when you email your hosting company, they might not be very helpful telling you :

a) Your vbulletin is openning too many mySQL connections in the server, then fails to close them, hence you get the problem. So they’ll blame vbulletin and ask you to consult with application team so that they’ll revise the application to make less connections to the MYSQL server.

b) They’ll tell your application(s) (=vbulletin) is making persistent MYSQL connections more than acceptable amount and will ask you to stop this.

You’ll then pass this information to vbulletin support team and first thing they’ll tell is to check your MASTER DATABASE PERSISTENT CONNECTIONS setting in your includes/config.php file and make sure it is like this:
$config['MasterServer']['usepconnect'] = 0;

If this setting is like this, your vbulletin shouldn’t make persistent connections to the server and Jelsoft will tell there is not anything they can  do and it is your host that should solve the problem at this point.
Well the chances are that this setting is already like this so you’ll get stuck where your host asks Jelsoft to fix the application and Jelsoft tells application is already good and your host should increase max_user_connections setting in the server. Though situation. :)

 As a matter of fact both sides have their points but if I need to pick a side, I’m likely to pick Jelsoft’s side and blame your host. But first let’s have a deeper analyze of the problem and see how come this problem happens in the first place:

Vbulletin is a MYSQL driven application so it connects to MYSQL server everytime it runs (=a website visitor triggers it by visiting ANY vbulletin page). As Jelsoft told you, vbulletin does NOT make persistent connections to the server if config.php file setting is set as you are told. It is also a stable product so it does not create unclosed open connections either. So your host is actually not right while blaming the vbulletin as the culprit of the problem.

Most of the times this error occurs because your host has a very small max_user_connections setting in the server. And in this case, the only fix to the problem will be your hosting’s increasing it. The host will not like this offer much though because it means that MYSQL driven sites will make the server more busy, hence add to the server load and slow down the server when it allows sites to make more connections to the MYSQL. However this is actually the only fix to the problem most of the times.

But there are also some cases where your host has a point. Sometimes they already set this setting to a high number but vbulletin keeps producing the error from time to time. There are usually 2 reasons to this:
a) One of the hacks/pluggins you use in vbulletin might be bogging down the server with too many connections or by slowing down the server somehow. To make sure this is not the culprit make sure you disable too third party pluggins in your vbulletin admin cp and see if you still get the error or not.
b) A vbulletin default query might taking a long time to run, locking all tables during the run and while tables are locked, new MYSQL queries triggered by other visitors compiles and cause the error. If your post count is too many, you have a high traffic and default vbulletin searching is used frequently you can have this problem because database search in a crowded board is always a bottleneck which can cause this error.

If this is your problem, there is not much your host can do actually. You can then consider cutting searching a little (eg. disallow searching for guests), consider moving to a dedicated server or if you are already on dedicated, increase your RAM to deal with more mysql connections.

So if you are getting “User …  has already more than ‘max_user_connections’ active connections” database error” in your vbulletin board frequently, here is your path to go:

1- Check vbulletin config.php and make sure usepconnect setting is off like this:
$config['MasterServer']['usepconnect'] = 0;

2- Disable all your vb pluggins and hacks and see if you still have the error

3- Contact your host and ask what’s the value for ‘max_user_connections’ in the server and if it is possible for them to increase it more.

4- If they can’t increase it, you should either switch to a host which has a higher setting in their server, or move to a dedicated server in which you own the server and set settings as you wish. In the meantime you can turn off vbulletin searching features to see if it will help releive the error.

5- If you are already on dedicated, you should check your server load and make sure they are under 1.0. If you have high server load you need to upgrade your server speed. If your server load is fine, then you should consider upgrading your RAM and configure the apache, mysql and php settings to use this increased amount of RAM in a more optimized manner.

Good luck!

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Chat Applications Review : Digichat, Flashchat, Realchat, Parachat

Internet, Vbulletin 8 Comments »

If you have a community, at some point, you consider adding a chat application to your site to increase the interaction between users. Nearly all large web communities have a member chat room. Chat room applications come with different price ranges, hosted solutions and platforms so you have to consider a lot of factors while selecting your chat room solution. A few major issues are:

  • Platform : This means the language application is coded. Chat room applications are written in different languages ranging from PHP to JAVA but I guess you’ll easily notice that all well developed chat solutions uses JAVA platform to give you the most smooth chat experience.
  • Host solution: Some scripts are installed on your server so you need to have your own dedicated server to run them. When you install it to your server you have the advantage of having full control of the application, but this solution also means you’ll be spending your own bandwidth and server power for the chat room. If bandwidth or server power is a bottleneck in your server and your chat room gets crowded you may have problems. On the other hand some chat applications are installed in remote servers and they give you access to your own chat environment which is hosted in their server. In this solution, your server does not spend bandwidth or server power for the chat room.
  • Integration: If you have a community, you’ll also consider integrating your chat room application with your community member database so that whenever a member logins to your site, chat application also knows him and grant him certain access you specified according to his credentials and usergroup. To achieve this goal, you have to select a chat room solution which is capable of integrating with your database.
  • Price: This is of course a concern. There are a lot of scripts which are simply free or very cheap but there are also expensive chat room solutions which can cost as much as $XXXX range.

I’ve worked with many different chat solutions in client boards and in my own communities and I like to give you my comments about a few remarkable ones which you can consider installing to your community based site (especially vbulletin powered).

FLASHCHAT:

Flashchat is a very popular PHP based chat solution. If you patronize small forum communities, I’m sure you have run into that application in one site or another. It is very popular because it is quite cheap (just 5 USD!) and its user interface is pretty charming to end user.

It also have great hacks which integrates it very smoothly with your vbulletin community so many admins who consider to have a chat application, usually starts with FlashChat.

In one my own communities, I also used it for about a year and so and many of my clients still use it in their sites. If you have a small community, it can be a good starting application and I suggest it for admins who do not have large forums.

However IMO, it has a few important disadvantages:

a) It is PHP based, so unlike JAVA based solutions, its chat speed is not so high and smooth. When it comes to chatting, JAVA is the ultimate solution.
b) It puts a high load on the server if ore than a few people enter the chat room. For instance in my server, it couldn’t handle more than 15 people in chat room without taking server load to its tops.
c) 2 years ago a security breach about flashchat is found and it was such a popular script that many exploits have been written to use this breach and many servers which used flashchat have been hacked. Well this can happen to any web application and it has been patched quickly but I don’t blame the script or its author for this but when you use a popular script, its security breaches getting exploited is pretty common so its popularity is also a disadvantage on this aspect.

DIGICHAT: Let’s jump from the cheapest script to most expensive. It has different packages with different features and hosting solutions but the least expensive one starts from $549 so this is the most expensive hosted solution.

I think its charm is its lovely user interface though. It has an awesome design and chatting is very smooth (thanks to its Platform Java). In some more expensive packages it also provides solutions like video chat, voice chat, moderated etc. and it is quite popular chat solution.

If you don’t have budget problems, I can suggest going with digichat as a stand-alone chat solution but frankly speaking it is not my first choice when it comes to integrating it with vbulletin. I don’t find digichat customizable enough in comparison to parachat and realchat when it comes to integration.

REALCHAT: This has been my first suggestion for years for vbulletin communities. A lot of my clients are using it and I like its flexibility to integrate with your member database. But unlike other scripts, it does not come with a remote host solution, so you have to install it your own server (hence have a dedicated server) to use realchat. IMO its user interface is also is not as charming as other chat solutions and in comparison to its price tag, I believe it could be a little more charming. But from developer point of view, I suggest realchat to any large community sites if you don’t have problems running chat application in your own server and can afford it. Its a stable, rock solid, flexible, well supported and customizable chat application.

PARACHAT: I have worked with all of these chat scripts above but didn’t hear about parachat for years. Then one day, when I was looking for a chat solution which is more reasonably priced than digichat and realchat and more powerful than flashchat, I bumped into it and I used it for 1 year in one of my large communities. Well it surprised me and prove to be much better than I expected in the first place.

I find it very flexible when it comes to integration just like realchat so it got a very big plus from my developer side. It has different hosting solutions (remote hosted or dedicated hosted in your own server) and also different packages for different needs and budgets. I used remote hosting of professional package and the service was very stable for the entire year I used it. I haven’t used dedicated hosted solution so I can’t tell anything about its load on the server but as far as I can remember, its license fee was lower than digichat and realchat’s dedicated solutions. It also started to support video / voice chat options but my package didn’t cover them when I used their services so I can’t tell about its quality.

So after this review, let me give you my 2 cents about which solution to use:

* If you have a small community & small budget and your chat room will not be crowded, start your chat experience with flashchat. It is nearly free and will give you everything you need until your chat needs grow.

* When you need a more solid chat room, you can jump to parachat remote hosted solution. You can choose between Advanced or Professional package according to your needs and budget. Since it is remotely hosted, bandwidth, installation, server load or having a dedicated server will not be a concern to you. Your chat room will even work when your site server is down for a reason. I believe parachat will give you everything you need if you own a moderate sized community.

* If your community grows more than that and you need a fully managed, dedicated hosting solution or even a chat server, you can decide between parachat (this time Enterprise package), RealChat or Digichat. If budget and full integration is no concern, you can select digichat which provides the best user interface. But if you need a tighter integration with your community, more flexibility and customization, select between RealChat or Parachat. Both scripts have a free evaluation installation options so I suggest you to install both of them and choose after you and your staff experience them

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Should we upgrade to latest vbulletin version 3.7.0

Vbulletin Comments Off

This is by far one of the most frequently asked question to me. Whenever a new vbulletin version is released, I’m asked whether vbulletin board should upgrade to this version or not.

Well if your board is not hacked or at least not in a major way, to answer this question is very easy: yes, you should. However if your board is not hacked dramatically, you are not likely to ask this question anyway (at least not to me!) so nearly always I have to answer this question for large vbulletin communites which are hacked in a major way.

To answer this question at this scenario, you should always consider if the new features of vbulletin worths time and efforts to port your hacks and upgrade. This decision can change from board to board regarding the sophistication of its hacks, its budget for upgrade project and its goals and niche.

When vbulletin 3.0.x were first released, it was a huge lap from vbulletin 2.x and for most of my clients I suggested switching to this new version. When vb 3.5.x is released, I suggested heavily hacked boards to stick with 3.0.x and rest be upgraded. When 3.6.x is up, I suggested nearly all hacked boards to stick with its current version especially if it was 3.5.x anyway. Now 3.7.x is released and I believe that it is a good version to consider upgrading since it bring many new features to vbulletin which can be worth upgrading unless you are too tight in your budget, has very recently upgraded or very heavily hacked.

So bottom line is, yes vbulletin vb. 3.7.0 is a good jumping point for vb powered hacked communities to consider version upgrade. This suggestion will be stronger for communities who are still running on 3.0.x.

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