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An alternative approach to setting up a development environment on Windows

Posted by battye in Development, Extensions with the tags , on May 29th, 2017

In the last article I looked at setting up a simple development environment on Windows using WAMP. If you would like to review that, please visit https://blog.phpbb.com/2017/02/28/how-to-set-up-a-development-environment-on-windows/

The longer you spend developing software, the more seriously you start to take setting up the perfect development environment. And the more seriously you start to take following best practices. One of these practices is setting up a development environment that matches the production environment that you are using. There are a couple of reasons why this is beneficial. Firstly, if multiple developers are working on a project then you can be sure that code written by one person will work for the other developers. And secondly, when that code is deployed to a production environment you know that it should theoretically work straight away seeing it was written in a matching development environment.

A simple example of failing to do this would be if a developer was using a PHP7 development environment and wrote a statement which included the spaceship operator. If this code was then deployed on a PHP5 environment, the code would not work. If the developer, knowing that the production environment runs PHP5, had set up their development environment accordingly this bug would have been noticed much sooner.

At first impression, it seems impossible that a developer writing and testing code on their Windows PC can set up a local development environment that matches their live web server which in the vast majority of cases is running on Unix. But this is actually not the case, it is possible – and in fact, not all that difficult – to do this.

It can be done using a couple of Windows programs that enable the creation of virtual Unix machines. Basically what this means is that you can set up a lightweight Unix server that runs within Windows, so you can still use your favourite Windows text editors and tools but when it comes to running the code it will be run in Unix. In this article I’ll be looking at Vagrant and VirtualBox.

Note: This article assumes basic knowledge of the command line on Windows and Unix.

 

SETTING UP VAGRANT, VIRTUALBOX and PUTTY

The first step is to install VirtualBox, which Vagrant supports out of the box. VirtualBox is a program which allows for the management of virtual machines and can be downloaded from: https://www.virtualbox.org/wiki/Downloads

Use the default set up options.

Now Vagrant needs to be installed. Vagrant runs alongside VirtualBox to allow users to quickly provision new and different types of development environments. It can be downloaded from https://www.vagrantup.com/downloads.html and once again the default installation options should be used.

You can confirm that it’s correctly installed by rebooting your PC, and then opening Command Prompt (cmd.exe) and running the command “vagrant”. This should return example usage options.

Note: Version 1.94 of Vagrant seems to have a couple of bugs, which I encountered trying to install this on a Windows 7 machine (I know, I know! But it’s the only Windows PC I had access to). The first resulted in a number of error messages when running the “vagrant” command. This was resolved by running “vagrant plugin install vagrant-share –plugin-version 1.1.8”. The second bug resulted in errors when running “vagrant up”, which I resolved by replacing 3 files – the procedure is explained at
https://github.com/mitchellh/vagrant/issues/8520#issuecomment-297792410 – it appears this will be resolved in v1.95.

With Vagrant now installed, create a folder on your PC where you want your Vagrant projects. I called mine VagrantProjects. In your command prompt window, “cd” into this folder. Then run this command: “vagrant init”. This will create a Vagrantfile. This is a file where development environment settings are stored.

Now run “vagrant box add ubuntu/xenial64” – this will add an Ubuntu 16.04 virtual box, a new release of Ubuntu. It is worth bearing in mind that there are plenty of other boxes you can choose from. Some even have the LAMP stack pre-installed which if you want to save time could be a good option. You can view a list at https://atlas.hashicorp.com/boxes/search

The download may take some time on slower connections. When it’s complete, open Vagrantfile and modify this variable to have the listed value:

config.vm.box = “ubuntu/xenial64”

Note: these steps can be combined if you simply run “vagrant init ubuntu/xenial64”
Then run “vagrant up” while still in that directory.

Watch the messages in the command prompt window for the SSH username and password. You will need to note these down so when the virtual machine is running you can log into it.

Once the VM (virtual machine) has booted, you can open the VirtualBox application to confirm that it has indeed been created. If you run “vagrant status” you will see that the state is running.

Next, run “vagrant ssh” – on Windows it likely won’t work. But it will provide some important information. The host/port/username will be shown again but so will “private key” – this path is important.

An SSH client needs to be installed now. This is a client that allows you to log in to a remote server – but in this case it can be used to log in to the virtual machine. Putty is a very lightweight and effective client, and can be downloaded and installed from https://www.chiark.greenend.org.uk/~sgtatham/putty/latest.html – download both Putty and PuttyGen.

Firstly, open PuttyGen, click load, and the choose the private key path specified a moment ago. Then using the default settings, click save private key. I called it pg_private_key.ppk. This key is later used merely to authenticate you and grant you access to the virtual machine.

Now open Putty. In the first screen fill out these details, which should match the information Vagrant displayed to you earlier:

Host name: 127.0.0.1
Port: 2222

Now go to Connections -> SSH -> Auth -> Private key file for authentication and select the ppk file.

Under Connections -> Data you can enter under “auto login username” the username shown in the command prompt earlier. Then go to Sessions, and under Saved Sessions type “Vagrant”. Click “Save”. Now you will not have to perform this step again, you can simply double click “Vagrant” in the future to quick-load your VM.

Finally click open, and a new command window will appear. But this time, it’s your new virtual server!

From the Putty window, type “logout” to leave the session. And in the Windows command prompt window type “vagrant halt” to shutdown the virtual machine. “vagrant status” will confirm that the state is powered off.

 

INSTALLING THE LAMP STACK

The “Linux” part has been handled now, but to continue setting up a local development environment Apache, MySQL and PHP is still required.

Firstly, Apache can be installed by running the following commands (once you have logged into the VM through Putty):

sudo apt-get -y update
sudo apt-get -y install apache2
sudo rm -rf /var/www/
sudo ln -fs /vagrant/ /var/www

So that development can take place in Windows, but run on the Linux virtual machine there needs to be some level of directory synchronisation. The final two commands create a symbolic link so you can store your files locally but also run on the webserver in the virtual machine.

On your local machine, inside the VagrantProjects folder create a new folder called html/ – this is important because of the way Apache is set up. In that folder, create a file called index.html and put this in it:

<html>
<body>
<h1>It works.</h1>
</body>
</html>

Note: A shortcut for this can be followed by creating a script like the one at https://www.vagrantup.com/intro/getting-started/provisioning.html

Now open Vagrantfile and add the following entry:

config.vm.network :forwarded_port, guest: 80, host: 4567

Now run “vagrant halt” followed up by “vagrant up” to restart the virtual machine.

Go to http://127.0.0.1:4567/index.html in your browser and you will see the file created above.

With Apache now running, let’s install MySQL:

sudo apt-get -y install mysql-server php7.0-mysql

When prompted, choose a password for the MySQL database.

You can test the connection from the command line (still using the Putty window, as it’s local to the virtual machine) by typing this command:

mysql -h 127.0.0.1 -u root -p

… and entering the password chosen above.

Pro tip: if you wanted to quickly run an SQL query, you can do it by typing the query after you’ve run the previous command. Type “CREATE DATABASE test;” to try it out. Enter “exit” to exit from the query window.

Now to install PHP7:

sudo apt-get -y install php libapache2-mod-php

phpBB requires the XML/DOM extension, so also run this:

sudo apt-get -y install php-xml

Now create a file called phpinfo.php in your html/ folder, and put this in it:

<?php
phpinfo();
?>

And then run http://127.0.0.1:4567/phpinfo.php and you will see that PHP is running correctly. As this demonstrates, any files or subdirectories you put in the /html directory become accessible through the web server.

By this point, you have everything you need to install phpBB and you can use the “test” database that was created in an earlier step.

 

INSTALLING PHPMYADMIN

To install phpMyAdmin – a fantastic tool for viewing database tables and running queries in a visually appealing way – do the following. Run:

sudo apt-get -y install phpmyadmin

Select apache2 by pressing enter, when prompted. Then select “yes” when shown the dbconfig-common prompt. Finally enter your MySQL password.

Now run the following database queries (on the command line, using the mysql command demonstrated in the previous section):

GRANT ALL ON test.* TO phpmyadmin@localhost IDENTIFIED BY ‘password’;
FLUSH PRIVILEGES;

This creates a database user called phpmyadmin (with a password of your choice, specified in the command above) with access to the test database created earlier.

Then run this command:

sudo vim /etc/apache2/apache2.conf

This will open the vim text editor. Press “i” to enter text edit mode. Then add the following line at the end of the file:

Include /etc/phpmyadmin/apache.conf

Press “Escape”, then “:wq” to save and exit the file.

With this done, you will now be able to log into phpMyAdmin by visiting this URL – http://127.0.0.1:4567/phpmyadmin/ – after logging in you can see the dashboard and view your tables and run queries.

With this complete, you now have a working development environment running on Linux with Apache, PHP and MySQL installed along with phpMyAdmin.

How to set up a development environment on Windows

Posted by battye in Development, Extensions with the tags , on February 28th, 2017

What you’ll need:

  • WAMP
  • QuickInstall
  • phpBB 3.2

As software developers the most important aspect of the development process is setting up a local development environment. The vast majority of web servers run on Linux systems, but most consumer operating systems use Windows. This doesn’t preclude Windows users from developing PHP applications though. There are a number of ways to do this, such as using an emulator like Vagrant to create a virtualised Linux environment or actually installing the Linux operating system on your computer. But the easiest approach is to simply install an application which will allow PHP, MySQL and Apache to run on a Windows machine and the application I most like for this is called WAMP.

WAMP is a free program which can be downloaded from http://www.wampserver.com/en/. Select your operating system type and click on the download link.

Once downloaded, open the installer and select your desired language (English or French are the only options at this time). From here, follow the prompts – the default options should be sufficient.

Once set up, navigate to the www directory that WAMP has created (usually C:\wamp\www). This is where the webserver files are served from. For the purposes of this tutorial I created a subdirectory in here called “demo”.

Firstly, download the latest version of the QuickInstall tool – QuickInstall is an invaluable tool for developers because it allows multiple boards to be created with pre-defined settings and later managed at just a few clicks. Why this is so important is if, for example, you are developing multiple extensions you can easily set up a different board – a vanilla, brand new board – to test and develop each one on individually.

Extract the QuickInstall zip file contents into the “demo” folder.

Now, download the latest phpBB version from https://www.phpbb.com/downloads/ – v3.2.0 at the time of writing. When you extract the contents from the zip file, copy the “phpBB” folder to your clipboard. Now, go to \www\demo\quickinstall-master\sources and paste the folder here. This will be the source board that QuickInstall will use to create a new forum.

Finally the “boards”, “cache” and “settings” directories in QuickInstall need to be writable by PHP. This is all that needs to be done to set up a basic congifiguration of QuickInstall. If you now navigate to http://localhost/demo/quickinstall-master/ in your browser the setup page will be displayed, automatically displaying the Profiles tab.

q_1

Under database settings, enter “root” as the user and leave the password blank (these are the default WAMP settings; if you used something different then it’s important that it’s reflected here). In a real world environment you would never want to have a blank database password, but as this is strictly a local set up that nobody else will be accessing it will not pose a security problem.

The rest of the settings can be left as-is. I would however recommend under the admin settings using an easily memorable username and password though, because you may be accessing this test board very regularly, and under the populate board settings checking the Yes option just so you have some test data to work with.

Once you Submit this form, the Boards tab will become visible.

q_2

You can modify some settings such as the board name if you wish (handy if, as mentioned above, you wanted to create a different board for each different extension you are developing) but the only field that needs to be explicitly defined is the database/directory name. In the past I have just used an incremental naming system (“test_board_1”, “test_board_2”, etc) so I will use test_board_1 for this example, but you can use any name you want.

Once you click Submit, the button will be hidden momentarily. This is okay – due to the test data being inserted into the database it might take a little time for the board to be created. It shouldn’t take more than about a minute, after which point you will be automatically redirected to your test board and logged in:

q_3

At this point the board has been created in www\demo\quickinstall-master\boards\test_board_1 and a database created called “qi_test_board_1”. A great feature of WAMP is that it comes with phpMyAdmin, a web-based tool for manipulating MySQL databases and running queries. This can be accessed at http://localhost/phpmyadmin and you will see the new database listed there:

q_4

By this point you have a fully functioning phpBB testing environment which you can modify as you desire. Most aspiring developers will already have a text editor of choice, but if you are new to extension development there are a number of tools you can start out with. Notepad++ (https://notepad-plus-plus.org/) is a simple but powerful text editor which has been on the scene for many years; and is free. It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles but it has syntax highlighting, auto-completion and a few other handy things which work well for PHP development. Another nice text editor which is a little more modern and feature-filled is Sublime (https://www.sublimetext.com). Technically it is a paid product, but you can download and use it for free if you can put up with periodic reminders to buy the program. Otherwise you can easily purchase a license on their site.

For more advanced developers a full-fledged IDE might be desirable and the best one I’ve used is PhpStorm. It’s the IDE of choice for a number of phpBB team members and has more features than you could possibly ever use; the highlights being powerful debugging capabilities, refactoring, testing facilities and version control integration (such as Git).

Now you can get started on your extension idea, or any other tweaks and modifications you wish to make to phpBB!

phpBB to ship with VigLink extension

Posted by Marc Alexander in Development, Extensions on December 9th, 2016

Beginning with phpBB 3.2 Release Candidate 2, the phpBB package will include a VigLink extension.

Currently, we rely solely on ads served throughout phpBB.com to fund the project’s expenses, namely: web hosting, legal expenses, software licenses, travel expenses for community events, etc. Our ad revenue has been steadily declining for a long time because the unobtrusive ads we’re willing to serve to visitors are less and less profitable. We have explored a variety of alternate funding options, such as utilizing more profitable advertising or accepting donations, however we feel that these solutions would either be ineffective or result in tangible undesirable effects.

We believe that this is the best solution to our current problem, namely that it provides a necessary revenue stream for the project while not negatively affecting the usability of the phpBB software.

The new extension allows phpBB users to support the phpBB project or alternatively elect to monetize their forums using a service called VigLink. If you enable the VigLink extension, whenever a user follows a link from your forum to any of VigLink’s partner websites and performs certain actions (such as making a purchase), a referral credit will be generated. To be clear, this will only affect existing links and should be entirely unnoticeable. It can also be entirely disabled, at your discretion.

After installation, it will be up to you to pick between disabling or enabling VigLink to help support phpBB or to use your own VigLink Convert account to earn money with your board. In order to accommodate this newly added feature, we improved the overall look of the “Send statistics” page in the Admin Control Panel and extended it to support extensions:

viglink_acp_example

phpBB Numerology – Extension categories (Part 5)

Posted by battye in Extensions, Modifications with the tags , , on November 23rd, 2016

To round out this series, we’ll look at the different categories of extensions that people like to download.

The list of extension categories is:

  • Official Extensions
  • Cosmetic
  • Tools
  • Security
  • Communication
  • Profile/User Control Panel
  • Add-Ons
  • Anti-Spam
  • Entertainment
  • Miscellaneous

Overview of extension categories:

part_5_1

It’s worth mentioning that the download figures will not add up to the total extension downloads from part four, because some extensions belong to more than one category.

Add-Ons are the most popular type of extension, most likely due to their broad nature, with all of the top 10 most downloaded extensions belonging to this category (among others).

Official Extensions get downloaded in huge numbers due to their high profile, while some of the most downloaded extensions like Board Announcements and Advanced BBCode Box 3.1 belong to the Communication category.

Interestingly Anti-Spam extensions don’t feature highly, but with that said it’s probably a good thing if additional measures are not required to keep the spambots at bay.

This brings to a conclusion the phpBB Numerology series. I hope those that appreciate their statistics – or have a general interest in phpBB and its user submitted customisations – have enjoyed these last five blog posts.

phpBB Numerology – All customisation downloads (Part 4)

Posted by battye in Extensions, Modifications, Styles, Uncategorized with the tags , , , , , , on November 16th, 2016

MODs, extensions and styles are what immediately come to mind when thinking of the phpBB.com customisation database, but there are other types of customisations too.

This part of phpBB Numerology takes a look at every type of customisation.

Overview of all customisation downloads:

part_4_1

There are some obvious anomalies in the data (like the Viewtopic Birthday MOD) which haven’t been removed from this raw analysis. With that said, this data still gives a fairly accurate representation of how people use the customisation database.

The first figure that sticks out in this table is the the 52.02 views per download for bbCode. This is disingenuous. Taking the fairly popular bbCode “Open URL in new window” as an example, it’s had 8026 views and 0 downloads. Why is this? Because there is nothing to download – the instructions are on the main contribution page: https://www.phpbb.com/customise/db/bbcode/open_url_in_new_window/

MODs, due to their prevalence in the phpBB2 and phpBB 3.0 era, are still the undisputed king of the customisation database and will take some catching up. Styles may catch up in the medium term though, as it’s a forever expanding customisation type in phpBB 3.1.

It’s not surprising to see phpBB tools well represented on the list. AutoMOD and UMIL alone represented 208757 and 151820 downloads respectively – very popular tools. Converters and Bridges round out the top 8, being quite niche categories.

As noted earlier, the figures may be a little high due to anomalies but after taking into account off-site downloads through development topics and the like the numbers may actually be conservative. It’s therefore very pleasing for everyone involved in the phpBB community, and something to be very proud of, that phpBB customisations have exceed 15 million downloads.

For the fifth and final part of phpBB Numerology we’ll go back to where it all started – extensions – and take a closer look at the categories of extensions that are most popular.

phpBB Numerology – Language packs (Part 3)

Posted by battye in Extensions, Modifications, Uncategorized with the tags , , , on November 9th, 2016

The third part of this series has a look the most popular language packs.

Most downloaded language packs (phpBB 3.x):

Most downloaded language packs (phpBB 3.x):

The most interesting observation, bar an anomaly with Brazilian Portuguese, is that the number of downloads corresponds quite closely with the number of total pageviews. This implies that when people download language packs, they know in advance what they want and there is little hesitation in following through to actually download it.

The average views per download for language packs is 2.29. By comparison, for phpBB 3.1 extensions that figure is a little higher at 3.53 – which suggests perhaps people casually browse more for extensions than language packs – which makes sense given for region specific forums a language pack is a necessity.

That European languages dominate the top positions in the list is not surprising either. It is evident from the make up of phpBB.com’s own community that phpBB is very popular in Europe.

In part four of phpBB Numerology, we’ll look at some of the lesser known customisations.

phpBB Numerology – MODs (Part 2)

Posted by battye in Extensions, Modifications with the tags , , on November 2nd, 2016

For the second blog post in this series I thought it would be interesting to do a direct comparison with the data presented in the 2011 post.

Most downloaded phpBB3 MODs:

part_2_1_updated

There are a few figures which are unrealistic, which have been struck out accordingly. For example, “User recent activity” apparently has nearly 80,000 downloads while its customisation page has only had 5300 page views.

The most significant movers and shakers were the Advanced BBCode Box 3 MOD, which had a huge spike in downloads in moved up 18 positions from 2011. The ReIMG Image Resizer also experienced a spike, but due to its favourable position in 2011 only moved up 7 places. None of the top 10 from 2011 experienced large drops.

Most downloaded MOD/extension authors (primary authors for phpBB2 and phpBB3):

Most downloaded MOD/extension authors (primary authors for phpBB2 and phpBB3)

Due to the overwhelming successes of the Attachment MOD and Cash MOD for phpBB2, both Acyd Burn and Xore remain among the most downloaded phpBB MOD/extension authors of all time.

nickvergessen is the third most downloaded author of all time, despite not having any entries in the top 10 downloads for an individual customisation. This is because two of his submissions are/were highly popular and fall just outside the top 10 of their respective lists; phpBB Gallery for 3.1.x has 57,070 downloads while NV advanced last topic titles for 3.0.x has 49,372 downloads.

In part three of this series, we’ll look at the most downloaded language packs for phpBB which will also offer some insights into which regions phpBB is most popular.

phpBB Numerology – Extensions (Part 1)

Posted by battye in Extensions, Modifications with the tags , , on October 26th, 2016

Five years have now passed since our first statistical journey through the archives of the customisations database (see MOD Statistics: The most downloaded MODs from the MOD Database). Armed with just one table from our database, I’m setting myself the challenge of creating five blog posts worth of in-depth (and hopefully interesting) statistical data about the way users download extensions from phpBB.com.

The obvious starting point is to revisit the original blog post, and see what the state of play is in 2016. Then, we looked at the most downloaded MOD authors and well as the most downloaded MODs of 2011 and of all time. We’ll repeat that exercise with extensions now.

Starting with the most downloaded extensions overall, we can see it’s a tight race for first place between Board Announcements, Advanced BBCode Box and Pages. Little over a thousand downloads separate the three extensions which average close to 30 downloads a day.

Most downloaded phpBB3 extensions:

Most downloaded phpBB3 extensions

Just after the half way point of 2016, Application Form and Scroll Page are favourites of the phpBB community with close to a thousand downloads each.

Most downloaded phpBB3 extensions submitted in 2016:

Most downloaded phpBB3 extensions submitted in 2016

While dmzx has submitted more extensions than any other author with 43 extensions, it’s VSE who has been associated with the most downloads by far – 55875 in total.

Most downloaded phpBB3 extension authors (primary authors):

part_1_3_updated

Stay tuned for part two of Numerology in next weeks blog post, where we’ll take a stroll down memory lane and look at the movers and shakers of phpBB 3.0.x between 2011 and 2016.

* Data accurate as of June 28, 2016; click on each image to view at full resolution

Extension Skeleton Development Tool

Posted by VSE in Extensions on March 29th, 2016

Hello extension writers!

At phpBB’s conference in Prague last year, nickvergessen created a tool that makes getting an extension project started super easy!

ToolKit phpBB Extension Skeleton

The Extension Skeleton is an extension that you install in your development phpBB board. Once installed, you can use it to generate the starter files and directories for your own extensions.

The Extension Skeleton will ask you for some basic information about the extension you want to create, such as the name, author information, requirements, and what type of components it will use (listeners, controllers, styles, template events, unit testing, etc.). It will then generate an extension package based on your needs. It will be a working “skeleton” of the simple Acme Demo extension, and will be ready for you to begin to edit and update with your own code.

It can be accessed via Graphic User Interface through a link in your forum’s navbar

Extension Skeleton Tool

It can also be accessed from the Command Line Interface with the command:

$ bin/phpbbcli.php extension:create

The Extension Skeleton is a great little tool that every extension developer should have in their toolkit. It simplifies and expedites the mundane task of starting a new extension, and ensures you have a correctly configured set of composer, PHP and style files with which to begin coding your extension.

Happy coding developers!

phpBB Developer Documentation

Posted by nickvergessen in Development, Extensions with the tags , , , on July 5th, 2015

When the phpBB Team met in Prague last month for a short productivity meeting we achieved many things. We fixed bugs, worked on our bamboo infrastructure, reduced the size of the extension validation queue and worked on a new phpBB/Symfony Authentication bridge however one of the most significant things we did was start the base of our new developer documentation:
https://area51.phpbb.com/docs/dev/31x/

The plan with this documentation is to consolidate all core and extension development related information that is currently spread out on our wiki, Area51 (and a variety of other places) into one central location.

As a first step the “[HowTo] Convert a 3.0 modification into a 3.1 extension” tutorial was converted and is now available to view here.

Since then, we have ported over many many other Wiki pages and readmes to the new doc system including:

The documentation is written using rst and our documentation source can be found in the “development” folder of our pre-existing documentation repository: https://github.com/phpbb/documentation/

We will be continuing to move existing documentation over the coming months and if you are familiar with rst and git(hub) and want to help, please do feel free to send pull requests. Whether it is with porting existing documentation over, fixing typos or even writing brand new pieces of documentation, every contribution is appreciated.