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  • #16
    What To Expect in the Migration

    At a high level, we plan to put the site in maintenance mode at 8:00pm EDT on Friday night, 27 March. The next thing you'll see is sometime Sunday (morning? afternoon? Evening?) the site will come back online. We bought a new domain name so when you visit sci.rutgers.edu, it will redirect you to the new domain. That's how you'll know it's back.

    When you see it on Sunday 29 March, you'll notice a few things:
    1. The main front page will be pretty different. There are features that we were using, and frankly some old 1990s vintage HTML, that will all be cleaned up. Every post that is on the site today will still be on the site. Every user who's on the site today will still be on the site. The changes are mainly cosmetic.
    2. Avatars, smileys, and image uploads should finally work.
    3. Moderators and administrators will see a lot of differences behind the scenes.
    4. All the security warnings in your web browser should go away. I do IT security for a living, so if there's a security warning I will be fairly embarrassed. 😀
    5. The new site is "responsive", which is the technical term for automatically reformatting to look good on mobile. Take a look at the comparison screenshots at the bottom of this post. They show what the new site looks like on an old iPhone SE. Much more readable.


    Bumps we might experience
    • You might have trouble logging in if you don't type your userid right. Today I login typing OldGrumpyDad. I could type oldgrumpydad or OLDGRUMYPDAD and it it would log me in just fine. The new site is case sensitive. So you have to type your login name exactly as you see it. I'll only get logged in if I type OldGrumpyDad as my user name. If this is a problem for you, we can always change the capitalisation in your login ID. Just contact us.
    • Email notifications may not be turned on immediately. We definitely will have them, but they might not get turned until Sunday night or Monday.
    • Numbers and ranks might change. I don't know how attached people are to the numbers beside their names (how many posts, how much reputation, etc). But those will almost certainly adjust. The numbers get recalculated and they might go up or down a bit. If you had 1742 posts, you might see that drop to 1738 or something. The counting mechanism in vBulletin isn't that accurate. (You'd think computers would be good at that...)
    • Some pages like blog posts might look different or might not be where they used to be. Over time everything will get restored one way or another.
    • There's a chance it might be slow. I doubt it. The current site doesn't run on anything particularly powerful, and the new hardware is pretty reasonable. But we have a lot of ways to speed it up if it feels slow.
    • We might hit a licensing bump with vBulletin. I have no idea how they can tell how many servers we run using their commercial software. If they think we're still running 2 when we only paid for 1, there might be some problem where they restrict functionality or something. We haven't seen any problems in testing. We'll deal with that if it happens.


    Why does it take so long?
    I'm glad you asked. This is pretty techie, so if you're not a techie, scroll down to the pictures below and go on about your day. 😀 We can copy the data from one place to another, import it into the database and be up and running in about 20 minutes. So why on earth does it take all weekend to do the upgrade? It's a lot of upgrading.

    We start with the vBulletin 4.2.3 exactly as you see it today. We copy the data across. Then we clean it up. There are something like 350,000 registered users hanging out in the database, and about 348,000 of them are spammers we blocked ages ago. Sad but true. We have to delete them and clean the database up, and that takes a good 2 hours. We also have to rebuild some database indexes, and those take an hour or two. When the database is clean and pristine, we start upgrading. We have to get to 4.2.5 (the last of the 4.x branch) and then we can start on 5.0.0 and so on. Each upgrade takes a bit of time, and sometimes the upgrade process wants to re-index the data, update every post, or do something expensive like that. And with almost 2 million posts out there, anything that decides to touch every post is gonna take some time.

    During the last few years, though, vBulletin wasn't the only software that got upgraded in the world. PHP did, too. So somewhere around vBulletin 5.2.0, I have to upgrade PHP on the system to a more modern (but not the latest!) version. Then we can do a few more upgrades up to get us to VBulletin 5.5.0. Then I have to upgrade PHP again (to the latest version) and then we can keep on upgrading vBulletin. When you put it all together, the upgrades themselves take time to run, and there's a lot of pausing between them, too.

    And I'm careful. We don't (yet) have a whole lot of great backups of this site. So between major upgrade steps I take snapshots and backups. Those take a bit of time (a few minutes). But it means that if I screw something up, I can roll back to a known working site that's at least partially upgraded. The last thing we want is to spend all day Saturday and then fat-finger something and have to start over.

    There are various times when we have to rebuild database indices, update web site templates, and test that we haven't broken anything (does search work? do image uploads work? Are user profiles correct? etc.). When we're finally at 5.6.0, Oddity has a lot of work to do to rebuild the main landing page, all the formatting and templates, and organisation of the forums. VBulletin 5 is pretty different from its ancestors, so that takes a bit of time to do and time to test. We've done this whole process end-to-end in a weekend before, so we're confident. When it's finally done, we pull back the curtain and reveal a whole new site. Everything at sci.rutgers.edu and www.carecure.org will automatically bounce you to the new web address. Those old domain names will go away eventually.

    Mobile Screenshots, before and after

    On the left, the original site as it is today. On the right, the same view on the new site, with its mobile layout.

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    • #17
      Originally posted by Joe-MN View Post
      Since you are a veteran in IT, you should know not to do an upgrade at a critical time. With COVID-19 around, and getting worse, it would be bad for this website to be down/disrupted/unavailable just when people are looking for answers, reassurance. Just my opinion.
      Its not ideal but it's the time we have available. The CareCure Facebook group is an good alternative resource shared by many of the same folks as here, including SCI-Nurse KLD and Jim, and lots of us, last I checked. Worth joining IMO.
      "I have great faith in fools; self-confidence my friends call it." - Edgar Allen Poe

      "If you only know your side of an issue, you know nothing." -John Stuart Mill, On Liberty

      "Even what those with the greatest reputation for knowing it all claim to understand and defend are but opinions..." -Heraclitus, Fragments

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      • #18
        I hear ya

        Originally posted by Joe-MN View Post
        Since you are a veteran in IT, you should know not to do an upgrade at a critical time. With COVID-19 around, and getting worse, it would be bad for this website to be down/disrupted/unavailable just when people are looking for answers, reassurance. Just my opinion.
        I hear ya. It's a valid point. We put a lot of thinking into it. Let me share some. It's risk-based. First off, there's no loss of data possible. The absolute worst case scenario is that something goes horribly wrong on the new one, we waste our weekend, and Sunday afternoon I throw up my hands and just turn on sci.rutgers.edu. We all go back to the same old forums. So the maximum negative is people go 24-48 hours without access to these forums and we end up on Sunday right where we were on Friday.

        Since that's the worst case scenario, every other imaginable outcome is better than that. The new forum will be faster, more feature-rich, more functional, more reliable. You'll be able to upload images, customise your profile, work with it on your mobile phone. You'll be able to do so many things that are better than they are now, and some things that aren't even possible now. During these times when people really want these forums to work and when they really want them to be available, they'll be better than ever.

        It's always easy to find a reason to postpone for another week, another month, another year. What I have learned through experience is that if you limp along until you're forced to upgrade, you're upgrading in an emergency. And options get taken off the table that would have been available to you if you upgraded when you wanted to. Remember we've been practicing since November. Almost 4 months off and on we've been looking at this, starting over, re-upgrading, figuring out how it works. etc. If we kept going until it crashed, we would not have the benefit of the prep and practice and picking our own time.

        You're not saying to wait until it crashes. You're just saying maybe don't do it in the middle of the COVID-19 crisis. But how long will this last? Does anyone know? No. This is the new normal. It's not permanent, but it's not going away any time soon. We might be like this a few months or even a year. It isn't like a flood or a hurricane or any other event that has a really clear start and stop. This catastrophe simply isn't understood well enough to factor into a timing decision.

        Lastly, we're volunteers?doing isolation just like everybody else. Having a lot of free time on our hands makes this an especially attractive time to spend a weekend on it. If I wait until life gets closer to normal, my weekends are gonna get busy like they used to be and it'll be a lot harder to take the time to do it right.

        All I can say is that I really understand how precious these forums are to this community. We're gonna take really good care of it and make sure that it keeps on running, better than ever.

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        • #19
          Normally the SCI-Nurses do not respond to questions on the CareCure FB page, instead referring members there to our forums, but during the down-time planned for this weekend, we will monitor that space for any pressing issues and respond there. Once the new site is up, we will return to our previous policy. Thanks.

          (KLD)
          The SCI-Nurses are advanced practice nurses specializing in SCI/D care. They are available to answer questions, provide education, and make suggestions which you should always discuss with your physician/primary health care provider before implementing. Medical diagnosis is not provided, nor do the SCI-Nurses provide nursing or medical care through their responses on the CareCure forums.

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          • #20
            oldgrumpydad,

            Thanks for the reply and good luck.
            Better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt.

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            • #21
              Good luck this weekend Dale & Paco, we appreciate all your hard work! See you in the new digs!

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