It’s update time. The season is over and a slower news cycle is upon us. It’s time for me to roll up my sleeves and work on the site. First up is the transition of our Content Management System (CMS) from Expression Engine‘s 1.x series to its 2.x series. I had hoped to accomplish this upgrade last March but, unfortunately, some of the third-party scripts the site uses had not yet been updated to the new version, my personal life was much too busy and, frankly, I did not have sufficient funds to pay for a server upgrade and all the script upgrades. Although money is still tight, things aren’t as busy and all the scripts I need are now available. It’s time to get cracking.
The CMS software was almost completely rewritten in this update. As a result, many of their native and third party scripts, and quite a few of my own scripts, either need to be updated or replaced with something new. I’ve already rewritten my homebrewed scripts. Unfortunately a few third-party scripts have no direct upgrade path, so I will need to pay for a replacement or I will need to write a replacement myself. Luckily many of the replacements are actually superior, so in a lot of cases we’ll end up with better functionality as a result.
Getting BBTF updated is a rather large, time-consuming undertaking. I’ve done some trial runs on my development server and I must say the upgrades are not trivial and the process is often problematic. I’ve learned that the upgrade is better done in steps rather than trying to do it all at once by stringing together a series of upgrade scripts. It is also far easier to troubleshoot problems when the process is done piecemeal. This does cause a few problems because, with my schedule, some portions of the updates will need to be done over a number of days. Although I will try to make the transition as inconspicuous to you as I can, my tests suggest some things may not be available (like bookmarking, categories) for a longer time than I’d prefer.
As in most anything, planning makes perfect. In preparation for the conversion to 2.x, a few items (polling, for one example) will need to be disabled. To keep you apprised of problems, I am creating this thread specially for the upgrade process. Although most of the upgrades will be done in the wee hours, there may be times I will need to take the site offline for short periods during the day. I will try to post a notice at least 24 hours in advance of any planned outage.
With the size of the site’s database I have found less problems crop up during the upgrade when I reduce the number of fields in a few of the tables. Since changing the structures of some of the underlying databases also will make the upgrade of the archives and search features easier, I have decided to make most of these changes prior to the conversion. Again, from my testing, this changeover will, for the most part, be transparent. Nevertheless, I warn you that a few of the older/lesser trafficked blogs may go offline for short periods. I also warn you that the site will most likely be offline for most of the day I run the vendor’s conversion script. I will try to schedule this downtime in late November well before the Winter Meetings. Once again, I will try to give you sufficient notice to lessen the shock (especially for our most hardcore Primates).
Once the conversion to 2.x is completed I will incrementally update the site. Unlike past upgrades I will try to keep the site’s architecture about the same and will simply incorporate new features into the existing site design. My plan also includes upgrading the site’s servers after the holidays. As I mentioned above, I had hoped to upgrade the servers last March but unfortunately with a wedding on horizon, I didn’t have the time or money to get it done. In the interim I was able to tweak the server configurations to get the site’s performance up to a passable level. I fear, however, with some of the features I have planned, our current servers will not be up to the task. I will do my best to get our servers upgraded this January.
Anyway, with less stuff going on in my personal life this winter, I hope to use my time wisely to make the site more useful for next season. I hope you will find my additions worthwhile. Thanks for your patience through the process.
UPDATE: 12/9/2012 - The updates are underway. Due to requests from the Hall of Merit regulars, some of the updates were postponed until after balloting
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