For a while the city of Avondale Estates had a community bulletin board on its website. It wasn’t all that active, but it was a good place to go for information sometimes and every now and then there would be a good discussion. But about a year ago, the bulletin board was removed and it looks like nothing has taken its place. I know one of the city council members was active on that bulletin board, so I looked up his e-mail address and asked him if there was a new one. He said he had invited people to start their own Yahoo or Google groups when the city pulled their site, but it doesn’t look like there is anything all that active except for a few very specific uses.
Based on my experience with the Engineer’s Association bulletin board, I knew it wouldn’t be that hard to get a domain and install some bulletin board software. avondaleestates.com has been taken for a while, but I thought lakeavondale.com would be a good substitute since the lake is kind of a place for people to get together. It was available, so I went ahead and bought it for a year.
I can host it along with igirder.com on my asmallorange account. Nobody will know they are related since they will look completely indepdent. I had used PunBB for the Engineer’s Association because it was free, simple, not hard to install, and handled all the basics. Last time I checked there was a fork of PunBB called FluxBB and they were both still updating their software. Would this still be the best option?
I found MyBB as a more powerful alternative. It is also free, but allows users more customization, so I figured it would be better for a community.
Installation and setup is always such a nightmare. The problem isn’t really following the instructions, which are pretty clear. The problems stem from dealing with domains and sub-domains and that they don’t propagate right away. That means I can set up what is called an “addon domain” with my hosting service that will use the files in a folder of igirder.com as if it was a separate domain (lakeavondale.com). So I did this and tried to see if it worked and it didn’t. It kind of worked. I could enter http://lakeavondale.com in my browser, but it would redirect me to http://igirder.com/avondale/ which is the folder where all of the files were. That’s not what I wanted. Later I thought that what happened is I didn’t wait long enough. But at the time that made me try some other things, like deleting the addon domain in CPanel or trying a new folder name, moving the folder, or changing a password. I even tried editing the .htaccess file. But that just made things worse and I would get error messages in my browser that a location didn’t exist. It’s just very aggravating.
The biggest snag with the installation was also related to CPanel. I had set up the MySQL database with a name, username, and password. I entered those in the MyBB installation script but it said that something failed and it couldn’t log in to the database. So I tried changing the password, deleting the user and adding them again, and so on. In the end I had left out giving the user I had created permission to the database I had created. Ugh. After that it was pretty much off to the races. Except then once I was done, the forum looked awful. The CSS obviously wasn’t working so it looked like a low-fi version but even worse. This is because I had set up the location of the files that MyBB would need in the forum.lakeavondale.com subdomain and that subdomain wasn’t working yet.
I waited. Before too long, the forum looked perfect, but it had forwarded me from forums.lakeavondale.com to igirder.com/avondale/mybb which is the actual location of the files. Plus when I would log in, it would say I was logged in okay, and send me back to the opening page of the forum, but it was still calling me a guest. I guess this had to do with the subdomain still not propagating correctly. I narrowed this down to a problem with cookies. The forum was trying to give me a cookie from lakeavondale.com but I was actually in igirder.com so my browser wouldn’t take it (that’s a basic security feature). So when the login sent me back to the page, my cookie authenticating the login wouldn’t take and therefore I still had guest status.
That raised a real problem because even as an administrator, I couldn’t log in to the forum and change anything. So at that point I figured I’d wait until morning and hopefully everything would propagate and work.
The next morning I was still being forwarded to the igirder folder. So frustrating. At this point about the only thing it could be would be cPanel’s forwarding or the .htaccess file (which cPanel might write; I’m not sure). In desperation I deleted the .htaccess file know that might screw up igirder which uses domain forwarding to send people who go to www.igirder.com to just igirder.com.
Now it was working in Internet Explorer and Firefox, but I was still being forwarded when I used the SeaMonkey browser I had used when I was setting all of this up the night before. It turns out that SeaMonkey puts domain forwarding instructions in its cache somehow. After I cleared the cache, SeaMonkey stopped forwarding.
I need to add some pictures of Avondale to the board and the home page, but I have it up and running:
MyBB is actually pretty nice. It has a ton of features similar to the commerical vBulletin that most big discussion communities use. It will also let me manually approve people who register (which I want to do to limit membership to Avondale residents and also to prevent robots, although MyBB automatically includes a Captcha system for weeding out robots). It uses CSS for formatting, so I think customizing the look is going to be pretty daunting, but the editing of templates is done through the admin interface which should make it easier. There are a number of themes available if I want to change colors, but right now I just want to get rid of the MyBB logo and replace it with a picture of the lake.