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Thread: End of the forums?

  1. #1
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    End of the forums?

    As everyone can see, the forums aren't really used anymore. In addition, there are technical reasons I'm considering just shutting them down.

    They rely on an old PHP version that has been out of date for years, and is likely full of security bugs. There isn't a nice upgrade path to any decent forum system that I can find. There are new versions of vbulletin but I'm not keen on spending hours and hours setting them up, doing the imports, tweaking all the colors, etc., just for some software that nobody uses.

    Really the only hesitancy I have is that some of the threads are really valuable to me just from a nostalgia standpoint, and of course the editing forums have a ton of useful info for the 1 or 2 people that still edit JK.

    I've looked and I can't find an easy way to output "static" pages that we can just save and serve. I could probably write something to export all the forums/threads but that's another software project that I'm not keen on undertaking.

    I'm kinda curious if anyone still here has any programming chops (in any language that can talk to mysql) and would be interested in taking on an "export to static HTML" project. I could strip the database of anything personal (basically just leave join date, username, post count for all users), dump that user info + forums, threads, posts to an .sql file you could import, and then you could write whatever software it takes to export to plain HTML.

    Alternatively, vbulletin has a "cloud" plan that says it can import vbulletin 4 and it costs $15 or $30 per month. We could try that but I'm getting to the limit of what I'm willing to spend on this site so it'd be nice to have a bit of help if possible. (It's actually more a time issue than a money issue -- if any long-time member wants to manage the vbulletin cloud -- like the whole thing: tweak the colors/styles, moderation, spam filters, whatever else -- reach out, I may consider just paying the monthly fee and letting you deal with it.)

    If the forums are important to you, maybe use an archive bot or something to pull a copy because I don't know how long they will be up. I'm looking to shut down this old massassi server towards the end of January 2022.

  2. #2

    NIKVMVS-REX-TODOA

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    Then the Pretentious Patrol (FGRgaters etc.) has truly won!

  3. #3

    NIKVMVS-REX-TODOA

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    But yeah, what you said makes sense and has been a gradual process for a while now. I'm sort of surprised that there is no easy way to just disable registrations, posting and logins and have the rest of the forums remain as a static read-only archive.

    ... come to think of it, what really is the purpose of this thing compared to the forums themselves?

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nikumubeki View Post
    But yeah, what you said makes sense and has been a gradual process for a while now. I'm sort of surprised that there is no easy way to just disable registrations, posting and logins and have the rest of the forums remain as a static read-only archive.

    ... come to think of it, what really is the purpose of this thing compared to the forums themselves?
    There is a way to disable registrations and posts, but behind the scenes it's still a php application that requires a web server running a super old version of php (5.x) and a connect mysql server.

    I don't think I've ever seen that archive site, and I'm surprised to see it. All the URLs are showing with .html extensions. I suspect that is a search engine optimization thing (so they can index the entire forum system, including threads that aren't linked from the main forum page anymore). Since it's so simple, it may be that running a crawler across that url could get us a static archive we could then serve. I'll look into and see how it works. Thanks!

  5. #5
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    Found the docs on the "archive" thing: https://www.vbulletin.com/docs/html/..._group_archive

    It is still served dynamically using that old php, but I think we could definitely crawl it and save it off. Might be the best option.

  6. #6
    Hi Brian, I don't know jack about computer programming but it would be a shame I think to lose the editing information...I could spend a little time each month working on forum things that are simple.
    COUCHMAN IS BACK BABY

  7. #7
    Massassi.net needs help!

    It would be so sad to see the death of the Massassi forums! This seems to be the last (certainly the last OG) Jedi Knight series related forum for fans (with the sad demise of JKhub.net due to a server fire... btw go help those guys too if you have any of their old files saved!). I was sad enough when JK.net faded away (we basically didn't survive the demise of LucasArts under the Disney ownership).

    I can't believe there would be no way to at least archive these classic forums for future reference. Discord is all well and good but there is something to be said for the memories, and all the great files that people have created and posted here over the years. I hope it can be saved.

    Sadly, although I have been a moderator and admin on forums like these for many years on other sites, I am not an expert on the behind the scenes software stuff. I wish I was!

    Put the word out... you could post in the Steam community forums... post on the other gaming forums out there. Post on GOG, XWAUpgrade (any any other star wars fan communities, is theforce.net still around? or even starwars.com!) and any other place you can think of to find people who would be willing to try to SAVE this treasure of the community. Please don't let it die!

    If it's just a matter of putting it in carbonite and backing things up until such future time as it can be upgraded to something better, so be it. Surely there is someone out there who is experienced with upgrading "old" communities to something more secure since you said you don't have the time or desire to do it (otherwise, why not?). There must be people out there who would help if they only knew it was needed.

    Can you put out an ad for someone to help?

    MTFBWY
    Last edited by Kurgan; 12-05-2021 at 01:54 PM.

  8. #8
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    Hi Kurgan, I do appreciate the sentiment.

    To keep the forums open and running, the path is:

    Pay vbulletin $250 for the new version
    Run their import which will pull in all the forums, posts, users, messages, etc.
    But the styles will be the default new "vbulletin" style, so if someone wants them to look "massassi" someone will need to go in and learn their interface (they have a web interface and a way to set colors and styles and stuff) and make the tweaks

    To keep up a static archive of the the forum (no new users/posts/etc.), the path is:

    Either find or write some software that can crawl the site (probably the archive page that Nikumubeki posted above) and save off static html files
    This is probably the easiest solution, there are tools out there that do this
    It will look like the white-background "archive" page but it will preserve the content

    other possibilities:

    find an open source bulletin board system that can import vbulletin 4.x users/forums/posts and run that on modern server software
    ???

  9. #9
    I'm over it. I do like to refer to certain posts from time to time but it's no big loss. However, if there is a viable way to archive/convert them it should be considered. And if it is decided to just let them go them perhaps a timeline so people can attempt to archive in some manner posts that are important to them.
    "I would rather claim to be an uneducated man than be mal-educated and claim to be otherwise." - Wookie 03:16


  10. #10
    Having said that, I think a replacement forum might be considered. Discord really sucks as far as organization. Nothing fancy, perhaps just a way for people to still remain a part of the site if they desire.
    "I would rather claim to be an uneducated man than be mal-educated and claim to be otherwise." - Wookie 03:16


  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Brian View Post
    Hi Kurgan, I do appreciate the sentiment.

    To keep the forums open and running, the path is:

    Pay vbulletin $250 for the new version
    Run their import which will pull in all the forums, posts, users, messages, etc.
    But the styles will be the default new "vbulletin" style, so if someone wants them to look "massassi" someone will need to go in and learn their interface (they have a web interface and a way to set colors and styles and stuff) and make the tweaks

    To keep up a static archive of the the forum (no new users/posts/etc.), the path is:

    Either find or write some software that can crawl the site (probably the archive page that Nikumubeki posted above) and save off static html files
    This is probably the easiest solution, there are tools out there that do this
    It will look like the white-background "archive" page but it will preserve the content

    other possibilities:

    find an open source bulletin board system that can import vbulletin 4.x users/forums/posts and run that on modern server software
    ???
    FYI Brian the 'keep the forums open' option doesn't sound too difficult, especially if there's a group of us willing to pitch in (I would be).
    COUCHMAN IS BACK BABY

  12. #12
    If you donít want to continue doing the work of maintaining the site, thatís understandable, as you do it as a favor to us all, essentially. But maybe you should pass it on to someone or to a group of people who are willing to do it? Or to people who care? Thereís more value to many of the discussions weíve had here than there is merely to the few remaining people who edit JK.

  13. #13
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    Right, that's why I asked if anyone wanted to try running it. You need to know how to run your own server, install software like vbulletin, pay for the upgraded vbulletin, run the upgrade, and then manage the new instance. I can't keep it running as-is because the forum software itself (vbulletin 4.x) is full of security holes and the software it requires to run is also full of security holes (php 5.x). That's why it has to be upgraded to vbulletin 5, because vbulletin 5 runs on php 7.4/8.x.

  14. #14
    Where can people donate to purchase the server upgrade? (assuming it will actually be used)

  15. #15
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    I've been blessed with some additional disposable income over the past year, and I'd be more than willing to pay the $250 cost myself, assuming it's a one-time cost.

    However, I know jack **** about programming and site management, so others would have to tweak/run/etc it.

  16. #16
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    Kurgan, It's not really a server upgrade, it's the license to vbulletin, $250. I don't have a place to take donations.

    It's not really the money, it's the time it would take but also the continued time maintaining the forums. I asked earlier in the year for volunteers to help moderate and moderate new users and I don't think a single person offered to help. I'm not complaining -- the reality is that it's thankless work and even more thankless now that the forums are almost completely dead.

    As an aside, maybe I just need to threaten to cancel the forums once a quarter or so, it seems to attract people to post

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian View Post
    Kurgan, It's not really a server upgrade, it's the license to vbulletin, $250. I don't have a place to take donations.

    It's not really the money, it's the time it would take but also the continued time maintaining the forums. I asked earlier in the year for volunteers to help moderate and moderate new users and I don't think a single person offered to help. I'm not complaining -- the reality is that it's thankless work and even more thankless now that the forums are almost completely dead.

    As an aside, maybe I just need to threaten to cancel the forums once a quarter or so, it seems to attract people to post
    Like I said, I can cover $250, if it's a one-time license cost. Or is it recurring?

    I can't run it though.

  18. #18
    Ah. I just happened to be checking the news when I saw it. People may not be sitting there saying "nah, I don't want to help" but may not have been aware the forums were in trouble. Believe me I know about thankless work! Similar problems exist for lots of other communities I'm sure who are using the outdated software or need to get a license.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Al Ciao View Post
    Like I said, I can cover $250, if it's a one-time license cost. Or is it recurring?

    I can't run it though.
    I appreciate the offer. If we can find someone to run it I may take you up on it. It's a one-time software license purchase but it lasts as long as vbulletin 5.x is supported. Once they roll over to 6 we have to pay again. 5.x has been out for more than 5 years and they haven't announced version 6 yet.

  20. #20
    Sounds like you shouldíve pitched this as an opportunity to upgrade the forums. Like, maybe itíll have some cool new features. Like instant DMíing. Or tagging people in posts. Or Discord integration.

    We could revitalize the forums so that itís the best place to talk about Donald Trump on the entire internet. Whoís with me?

  21. #21
    I may be ignorant, but what about something like this? Or would that be more work than the above suggestion?

  22. #22
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    That's an ok open source forum but as far as I can tell there's no way to import our vbulletin data into a database of that forum.

  23. #23
    I could probably whip up a static version with an SQL dump. I don't really have a lot of time myself, but I think that's something that's doable relatively quickly.

    You've probably already tried crawling the site with wget, right?
    Sorry for the lousy German

  24. #24
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    Nope, I haven't really tried anything yet. I appreciate the offer. I bet it will be easier to just crawl/save the "archive" section if it comes to that.

  25. #25
    Child's Play CharityBlockyness Rocks!
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    I'm not proficient in web design or editing, but I also will be happy to contribute financially if you need anything. This community was a massive part of my childhood. I'm 34 now with 2 kids and I can't wait to show them the Dark Forces and Jedi Knight series when they get older. I still have hundreds of levels, mods, and skins all saved on my hard drive. Including a ton of projects I started working on but never fully finished. While I don't post that often anymore, I check Massassi.net and the forums out of habit, at least a couple of times per week to see what's new and if anyone else from the past comes lurking out of the shadows. Regardless of the outcome, thanks for giving us a fantastic community over the years, Brian (and CM).
    Author of the JK levels:
    Sand Trap & Sand Trap (Night)


  26. #26
    Canít Joncy just figure it out? Doesnít he know how to do, like, everything?

  27. #27
    So, building an archive with wget is feasible. Will probably download plenty of duplicate files and kill Brian's bandwidth without proper limitations but it works to conserve the forums as they are now.

    You can see what I got so far here: https://massassi.bjoern-tantau.de/

    I forgot to rewrite the links while downloading the files, so some might point back to the real deal, while I'm working on rewriting them.
    Sorry for the lousy German

  28. #28
    ..would like a shrubbery.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Impi View Post
    So, building an archive with wget is feasible. Will probably download plenty of duplicate files and kill Brian's bandwidth without proper limitations but it works to conserve the forums as they are now.

    You can see what I got so far here: https://massassi.bjoern-tantau.de/

    I forgot to rewrite the links while downloading the files, so some might point back to the real deal, while I'm working on rewriting them.
    You're probably better off running it on the server itself rather than eating up the bandwidth. Have it crawl locally and generate the pages.

    Alternatively, instead of downloading with wget and downloading, create a transparent cache as a proxy on top of the site that just stores the generated output:


    Code:
    <?php
    
    $filename = './cache/' . md5($_SERVER['REQUEST_URI']);
    
    
    if (file_exists($file)) {
        echo file_get_contents($file);
    }
    else {
        $ch = curl_init();
        curl_setopt($ch, CURLOPT_FOLLOWLOCATION, true);
        curl_setopt($ch, CURLOPT_RETURNTRANSFER, true);
        curl_setopt($ch, CURLOPT_URL, 'http://127.0.0.1:8001' . $_SERVER['REQUEST_URI']);
        $page = curl_exec();
        file_put_contents($file, $page);
        echo $page;
    }
    Any request to forums.massassi.net/* goes to this script, which then gets the server running vbulliten to generate the HTML and stores it.

    Then as each page is requested, the HTML output is stored. You could have wget run on the server and just crawl all the links to generate the relevant HTML code without storing it itself. The advantage to this is that all URLs will stay the same, external links to threads will work. Once the cache is generated, you can turn off the forums server but keep it just in case you ever need to start it again.

    Remember to back up forum of ego and all the other hidden ones though.
    TheJkWhoSaysNiTheJkWhoSaysNiTheJkWhoSaysNiTheJkWho
    SaysNiTheJkWhoSaysNiTheJkWhoSaysNiTheJkWhoSaysNiTh
    eJkWhoSaysNiTheJkWhoSaysNiTheJkWhoSaysNiTheJkWhoSa
    ysNiTheJkWhoSaysNiTheJkWhoSaysNiTheJkWhoSaysNiTheJ
    k
    WhoSaysNiTheJkWhoSaysNiTheJkWhoSaysNiTheJkWhoSays
    N
    iTheJkWhoSaysNiTheJkWhoSaysNiTheJkWhoSaysNiTheJkW

  29. #29
    Quote Originally Posted by Impi View Post
    So, building an archive with wget is feasible. Will probably download plenty of duplicate files and kill Brian's bandwidth without proper limitations but it works to conserve the forums as they are now.

    You can see what I got so far here: https://massassi.bjoern-tantau.de/

    I forgot to rewrite the links while downloading the files, so some might point back to the real deal, while I'm working on rewriting them.
    wow this is some kind of crazy fake massassi
    COUCHMAN IS BACK BABY

  30. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tracer View Post
    wow this is some kind of crazy fake massassi
    You wanna see some kind of crazy fake massassi? I'll show you some kind of crazy fake massassi: GONE




    (dev server... won't be up/public for long, but feel free to poke around. DO NOT TRY TO LOG IN because it's unencrypted / no ssl)
    Last edited by Brian; 12-11-2021 at 11:28 PM. Reason: dev server address removed -- it's gone

  31. #31
    @Brian, I'd be happy to help. I sent you a PM with more of my details. I'm a senior software engineer with a lot of background in maintaining backend systems.

  32. #32
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    Thanks for the offer to help! I think we can work something out. I'm going to continue on my path to move the main site to a new server, and once that work is done, I will send you a pm and we can work it out. It sounds like the plan is to buy a license to vbulletin 5 and figure out how to do the upgrade, right? Hopefully we can get it in a docker container (same with supporting mysql server) so it's easy to deploy/move around. I would expect we can work on this in January sometime, will that work?

  33. #33
    Quote Originally Posted by Brian View Post
    Thanks for the offer to help! I think we can work something out. I'm going to continue on my path to move the main site to a new server, and once that work is done, I will send you a pm and we can work it out. It sounds like the plan is to buy a license to vbulletin 5 and figure out how to do the upgrade, right? Hopefully we can get it in a docker container (same with supporting mysql server) so it's easy to deploy/move around. I would expect we can work on this in January sometime, will that work?
    Yup, January works fine for me.

    We'll need to dig into it a bit, but vbulletin might be a mess of legal licensing. I don't believe we could really host their software on the public docker repo. That would push us towards either doing a private repository or getting creative with how we move the image around (I mean, you could export and import the image into the local container repos on the target VMs. That's just a bit annoying though).

    phpbb might be somewhat of a better choice just because it already has precanned docker images on docker hub from trusted publishes (for example, https://hub.docker.com/r/bitnami/phpbb/ ).

    In either event, at least some of this discovery process is going to be figuring out what the vbulletin table schema looks like and how hard it would be to translate it into whatever destination we are after. Before buying the license, I'd want to at least spend a little time understanding the beast (i've never peered into a vbulletin db).

    All that said, my expectation is, assuming the vbulletin devs aren't/weren't insane, that moving the data will be somewhat easier than fixing the color scheme to be our beloved green and black

    Looks like a few people have already taken up such a task

    https://www.phpbb.com/community/view...2438#p13252438

    Not saying we should use this, just saying it shows that such a conversion is possible and perhaps something we can reference while doing the massassi conversion.

    If things go right, then there's a REAL strong probability that passwords will need to be reset. Unless vbulletin is horribly insecure there's not going to be a good way to know what those old passwords were. That should be semi easy to overcome by making sure we communicate to everyone here the necessity of making sure email addresses are up to date so they can do password resets. If we want to go really crazy, we could look into using the Discord Oauth2 protocol for the forums. That'd take you out of the business of storing credentials. How possible/impossible that will be is going to depend on a LOT of things. It's definitely more of a "nice to have".

    Anyways, just my thoughts on where and how we can look into going about this stuff.

  34. #34
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    Awesome! Brian, just let me know what you figure out and when you want me to drop that $250. I have PayPal that I use for online financial transactions, hope that works for you.

  35. #35
    I've not gone anywhere (other than moving to be local to you and Dud, Brian) and I'm willing to help with maintenance / moderation (as always) / whatever else. I have experience running webservers and apps (though admittedly, my experience in the space is about as old as the version of vB we're running now). Also happy to kick in funds to keep it afloat - though I know that's not your motivation. Just let me know how I can help. I loved the idea of the discord, but it's impossible to follow a single conversation the way that I'd like. The forum's structure is pretty alien in a world of Facebook and Reddit, but the info we have here is still valuable. And if we modernized it, it'd be pretty cool if we could spark a bit of life again. It's clear we're all still interested in being internet friends - the discord is BUSY.
    -=I'm the wang of this here site, and it's HUGE! So just imagine how big I am.=-
    1337Yectiwan
    The OSC Empire
    10 of 14 -- 27 Lives On

  36. #36
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    Thanks all 3 of you! I believe we have a plan in place to get to this in January. I will contact you all then! Thanks!

    Re: vbulletin. I think just buying the license and upgrading is going to be the easiest path forward. No custom development involved as far as I can tell. Yes, we can't make a docker container and upload it to a public registry. However we could possibly create a private git repo somewhere (where only us have access) and work from there. If it doesn't make sense to put it into docker, that's fine. I can spin up a separate server for it. But we should discuss in January.

  37. #37
    ..would like a shrubbery.
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    Quote Originally Posted by cogman10 View Post

    If things go right, then there's a REAL strong probability that passwords will need to be reset. Unless vbulletin is horribly insecure there's not going to be a good way to know what those old passwords were.
    This is easy to fix with little code:

    1. Look at the vBulliten login/registration system for the hashing algorthim
    2. Amend whatever new software is in use to use that algorithm on login
    3. Re-hash the password using a more modern secure algorithm (e.g. php's password_hash) and store it in the database

    You just need a column in the db that stores whether the password has been updated or not. That way people have the old hash until they log in and it gets updated.
    TheJkWhoSaysNiTheJkWhoSaysNiTheJkWhoSaysNiTheJkWho
    SaysNiTheJkWhoSaysNiTheJkWhoSaysNiTheJkWhoSaysNiTh
    eJkWhoSaysNiTheJkWhoSaysNiTheJkWhoSaysNiTheJkWhoSa
    ysNiTheJkWhoSaysNiTheJkWhoSaysNiTheJkWhoSaysNiTheJ
    k
    WhoSaysNiTheJkWhoSaysNiTheJkWhoSaysNiTheJkWhoSays
    N
    iTheJkWhoSaysNiTheJkWhoSaysNiTheJkWhoSaysNiTheJkW

  38. #38
    Quote Originally Posted by Ni View Post
    This is easy to fix with little code:

    1. Look at the vBulliten login/registration system for the hashing algorthim
    2. Amend whatever new software is in use to use that algorithm on login
    3. Re-hash the password using a more modern secure algorithm (e.g. php's password_hash) and store it in the database

    You just need a column in the db that stores whether the password has been updated or not. That way people have the old hash until they log in and it gets updated.
    Fair points. We'll probably need to do a bit of digging anyways to see what they are doing there if vbullitin is 5 years old. php 7 added a few new password encryption algorithms that we'd want to move to anyways (rather than using password_hash which is bcrypt).

  39. #39
    Here's hoping Massassi's forums will have new life in 2022!

  40. #40
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    I did launch the new massassi last year and this month I hope to get the rest of the sites I host off that old server. Rbots, JK Arena, TACC, massassi.com, etc. Once that is done I will be ready to work with you guys on the forums.

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