Joomla 2.5 has been out for a while and I’ve been waiting for it to stabilise. I’ve been putting it off for some time, but with Joomla 1.5 support being withdrawn and many of the extensions becoming obsolete, it looks like it’s going to be time to upgrade the ORC website. I’m planning to use the Joomla jUpgrade extension to do this but I reckon it will require some tweaking afterwards!
ORC has around 200 members, as I’ve taken the steps of removing any accounts that haven’t logged in for over a year. This should reduce the number of profiles to copy over that may have issues. For obvious reasons, I want to keep the user data, the forum posts, events, downloads, and functionality.
Current Joomla Configuration
The site currently runs Joomla 1.5 on PHP 5 and MySQL. It also links to a Mediawiki 1.18 install. The template is JS Optimus Free (customised) by JoomlaShack, that will likely need some alteration again.
- Admin Tasks (mod_comprofilermoderator – sys admins/mods only)
- ORC Info (mod_cb_login)
- Shout Box (Batjo’s mod_shoutbox)
- Latest Posts (mod_kunenalatest)
- Main Menu (mod_MainMenu)
- ORC Calendar (mod_eventlistcal15q which won’t exist any more)
- Upcoming Events (mod_eventlist)
- Who’s Online (mod_whosonline)
I’ll have to reinstall any component marked with an asterisk (*), as a version for Joomla! 2.5 exists. Those marked in bold shouldn’t need migrated as they are supposed to be migrated by jUpgrade (however I suspect they will need checked or reinstalled).
- Akeeba Admintools*
- Akeeba Backup*
- Community Builder - it does work but may need reinstalled.
- Kunena – doesn’t migrate rankings cleanly and you may need to reset category permissions.
- CBCaptcha for Community Builder
- User – Mediawiki login (Harold Prins‘ mediawiki plugin)
Right, first I put the site into maintenance mode. I’ve also done some basic housekeeping, cleaning out old messages, checking the database, and making sure that everything is as up to date as I can make it. I’ve also emptied the caches and trash for the forum, menus, and modules. I’ve made a full backup of both the database and file structure (as well as using Akeeba Backup to create a JPA download), and also moved the folder structure to a test folder. The phpMyAdmin Synchronize facility works well for creating a quick and easy backup of the databases.
I’ve created a place-holder index.htm for the site which says it is undergoing an upgrade – for some reason, the default option for putting a site off-line in Joomla still allows logins (which is why I’ve moved folder to a test environment as well). It is pretty easy to do - create a blank index.htm folder then create the following text within it:
<head>Site Offline<head> <body><h1>THE SITE IS CURRENTLY OFFLINE</h1> <p>It is being upgraded.</p></body>
That at least lets people know what going on.
I have also created a test sub-domain and database (which uses the same login criteria). So the “production” site is off-line, and the test site is now the one I’ll be working upon.
Phase 1: Using jUpgrade
I’ve copied the necessary folder structure to the test site, but haven’t made any modifications yet to the config files or database. If you’ve used Akeeba Admin Tools to create a customised htaccess file, rename .htaccess in the root of your website folder to .htaccess.live (or similar). If you don’t, jUpgrade will stall.
Change paths to test server.
Make sure configuration.php is writeable (CHMOD 644) and open it in a text editor. There are two variables you need to change for the full path to the test folder
var $log_path = ‘/path to test/logs’;
var $tmp_path = ‘/path to test/tmp’;
Note that we’ll also need to change the path to the database at some point but leave it as it is right now. We’ll come back to it later. Righto
“Whichever way you look at it, it’s brown trousers time” – Holly, Red Dwarf
Performing the jUpgrade
Backup your site AGAIN just to be safe. If you haven’t already install the jUpgrade module from RedComponent. Note this requires registration to download so create a throw-away password rather than you own sysadmin one (but you knew that already, right?) .
The defaults are usually OK, but you can check the parameters to see what you can do with them. I’m leaving them to the defaults as I’m not expecting problems, but three are worth looking at ( you might also like to make sure that the template positions are set to be saved as well!):
- Target Directory is usually the path to your test server/jupgrade
- Prefix for old database – by default is “jos_”. If you’ve changed this (which is a smart move – it is a security risk), make sure the correct prefix is set here.
- Prefix for new database – by default is “j25_”. We’ll be changing this later on so you can leave it as is.
First of all make sure you’re connected to the internet. Once you’ve saved these parameters, run the jUpgrade. It took a few minutes, but downloaded Joomla 2.5 and installed it to the jupgrade folder. If successful you should see
Joomla 2.5 Upgrade Finished!
You can check your new site here:
Site and Administrator.
If the upgrade fails for any reason, you can run a clean update by switching on the “Delete Previous Migration” parameter and trying again. Remember to rename the .htaccess file and reset the permissions on configuration.php.
Phase 2: Moving to the new site
Righto. We’ve now got a working Joomla 2.5 installation, in a folder called jupgrade. The database has also migrated to a new set of j25_ prefix tables. This isn’t ideal for me, so I’m moving them to a new folder at the root of the web-server and will also move the database as well. I’ve renamed the older folder and migration on the test server. I’ll have to clean these up later, but they are there if I need them.
I’ve opened the configuration.php site and altered the following variables:
var $log_path = ‘/path to new test/logs’;
var $tmp_path = ‘/path to new test/tmp’;
As I’m also using a new database I’ll also need to redo the following paths:
public $user = ‘database username‘;
public $password = ‘new db password‘;
public $db = ‘new db‘;
Phase 3: Tweaking the Joomla install
Now the screaming starts! I’m now ready to go in as the administrator, as there’s a few steps I need to do there.
Global Configuration – Site
- Site Offline – Yes
- Offline Message – “Use Site Language Default Message” selected
- Use URL rewriting set to “Yes” (rename htaccess.txt. to .htaccess afterwards)
- Include Site Name in Page Titles set to “After”
Global Configuration – System
Nothing needs tweaked here by me.
Global Configuration – System
- Gzip Page Compression set to “Yes”
- Server Time Zone set to “London”
Run Joomla! Update from the control panel and make sure it has been applied. Right! So far, so good…
Phase 4: Templating, Modules, & Menus
This could be a bit of a sod. I have a 2.5 version of JS Optimus Free, but can’t install it as the old template is still there . I’ve made a backup and gone into website path/templates and deleted the old template from there. This has allowed me to install the new template, but I now have two styles for js_optimus_free within the Template Manager styles. Neither are ideal as I want a new setting to use a fluid look of 90%, so I’ve had to tweak the template a little, as well as copying the logo and modifying the style sheet. I’ve had to reassign the menu positions again in the template, but that’s easy to sort out.
Phase 5: Modules and Plugins
The ranks didn’t copy across so I’ve had to truncate the j25_kunena tables and import them in using a SQL dump from the original database.
I’ve installed the plugin/modules for Kunena Latest (and enabled a Latest Posts module) and Kunena Statistics as well. I also had to reset the permissions on the forums, so jUpgrade doesn’t seem to work properly with Kunena.
CBseems to have worked, but I’ve taken the opportunity to reinstall it as it doesn’t seem quite right (the icons didn’t show correctly).
I installed the new version and enabled the Xmap – Content, Xmap – Kunena and Xmap – Weblinks Plugins. I had to create a new sitemap and also recreate the Menu link.
I migrated the data from the old database creating the j25_eventlist_xxxx database entries, then installed the component. Aside from recreating the Menu link and also the uploads directories in the Remository config, all migrated OK.
I reinstalled this – I’ll need to redo the CSS from a backup.
This is the one module that had me worried as it had many of the PMs for the site members. However, I migrated the xxxx_uddeim data across to j25_uddeim_xxxx tables, then I reinstalled the components, and rebuilt the Menu item.
Although the Mediaiwki bridge works, there appears to be an undocumented bug with Joomla! 2.5 within the AuthJoomla section of the Local Settings file for Mediawiki. The index.php?option=com_user link will generate a 404 error as Joomla 2.5 uses com_users (see below). I’ve changed them as follows:
$wgAuthJoomla_LoginURL = $wgAuthJoomla_domain .'index.php?option=com_users&view=login&return=' . $wgAuthJoomla_LoginLink; $wgAuthJoomla_LogoutURL = $wgAuthJoomla_domain . 'index.php?option=com_users&task=logout&return=' . $wgAuthJoomla_LogoutLink;
The Web Links menu needed rebuilt and there are no Categories. A bit time-consuming but not too much of a hassle.
I definitely don’t want to do this again. jUpgrade works to a certain extent, but isn’t quite the solution to move the Kunena Forum, nor did it move the categories successfully – as it’s the only product out there that’s free to use, I guess there’s nothing else to migrate users. Upgrading to 2.5 took me over a day, with fairly intensive work required. If I were to do a similar upgrade again, I’d likely un-install the Kunena Forum software and reinstall it after I’d run jUpgrade.
“No plan survives contact with the enemy” - Helmuth von Moltke the Elder (trans.)
Also it’s taught me that no matter how prepared you are, something always goes wrong. Despite testing everything out upon a new test site initially, I still needed to rely on backups. Also, although I’m not much of coder I’ve learnt quite a bit about the Joomla backend and MySQL as a result!
RSS feeds like the one on the site here are probably one of the more useful tools for websites – they provide streams of articles and information, and are usually automatically updated when you publish an article. WordPress provides one straight out of the box and also filters it down by category if needed. For example, if I only want to publish and RSS feed for the RPG category I would use http://themandragora.com/category/rpgs/feed/ rather than http://themandragora.com/feed/. It is pretty basic, but it works!
These category feeds make it quite useful for displaying specific information. For example, the ORC website uses a number of feeds: one outputs events from the calendar, another tracks recent changes in the wiki. Both are provided by different Joomla modules or applications, but they provide a similar output.
I’ve put together some brief suggestions below for tools you might like to use with RSS feeds and RPG blogs.
- An on-line service called TwitterFeed allows the parsing of RSS feeds to Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn (although I hardly use the last). It’s quite useful in that its very simple to setup and automatically add articles or events from an RSS feed to appear in your twitter and Facebook streams/time-lines. Unfortunately, Google+ does not allow any third-party access of its API right now, so I’m afraid its still a manual link you’d need to do in your stream.
- WP to Twitter is a useful WordPress plug-in allowing you to choose any or all posts to output to a Twitter account. You can also use it to hash tag your posts, so if you tag a WordPress post with “RPG”, WP to Twitter tags it with #RPG.
- Wordbooker allows your WP articles to be automatically published to your Facebook time-line/wall. There’s a lot of options that you can use with this, and if you have a Facebook fan or group page, you can also choose to publish to these as well.
If you’re blogging about RPGs, there’s a number of blog networks you can use that cater specifically for RPGs, notably the ones below. Note that you will need to blogging about RPGs regularly and your content should reflect that, plus you’ll need to provide an RSS feed so that they can publish your articles. They are also worth a visit as an RPGer, as they’re a lot easier to search than combing the internet for materials or information.
The RPGBA is “a collection of Pencil and Paper Role Playing Game related websites that opt-in to be aggregated. Members benefit from having a relationship to each other and by having a unified place for people to look for RPG material. The RPGBA does not include the entire source material but rather includes the first 100 words and links back to the original source. In this way members get traffic to their respective sites while still getting the benefit of belonging to the Alliance.”
The RPG Bloggers Network provides a similar service but is slightly more basic (being older). Note that you will need to “make sure you’ve been posting regularly for at least three months. I know this seems like a pain, especially if you are just starting out. But we need to see that you are a regular updater before we consider accepting your blog.”
If you’re planning to blog about RPGs, you might also find it useful to make sure that your site is using a proper Meta Description for each of your posts or pages. Bear in mind that RPG is a very common search term on the ‘net so make sure you are as descriptive as possible! At the very list, tag your post with the proper RPG system, rules-set, or setting. It can be difficult to find stuff to write about at first but once you get into the flow of it, then it becomes far easier.
I’ve been a busy guy over the last fortnight, both at work and at home. Work has been mad, but I’ve found some time to complete the following at long last.
Secret Fire Games – website
I’ve built a new website for Secret Fire Games, using WordPress and also phpBB3 for the forum. I created the theme with Artisteer. I’m hoping that this will help highlight the Secret Fire RPG, and Secret Fire Games as a “micropress”. Like microbreweries, a micropress is to my thinking, to paraphrase the microbrewery definition from Wikipedia, something that “produces a limited amount [of product], and is associated by consumers with innovation and uniqueness,” which is pretty much how I’d describe what we did with The Secret Fire RPG. I’d love to hear peoples reactions to the game (and the site!).
I don’t consider TSF to be a fantasy heartbreaker – mentioned here - despite it having its roots in OD&D (Original D&D) and other FRPGs. What I’m finding interesting is just how polarised reactions can be to a game like The Secret Fire. Some old school gamers love it, some hate it – new gamers love it, some hate it too; but its the level of polarisation that interests me: it gets a very strong reaction often with no middle ground. I’m glad that the name was changed from Legends & Labyrinths and became non-OGL: it instantly become its own game as a result rather than sounding like yet another d20 system fantasy heartbreaker. Some online reviews have even said it outweirds LotFP (Lamentations of the Flame Princess): I consider that a job well done.
ORC website update
Again on the web front: I’ve updated the ORC website, but I’ve still to make the move to the next version of Joomla (1.7). I’m worried what happen with the Kunena forum and some of the modules when I do. I upgraded the Community Builder and UddeIM PM software though. I got rid of the Gallery and Mobile version as the latter knackered the site logins and the the Gallery was hugely out of date (and not really seeing much use), so that’s two less things to upgrade.
Ashes of Freedom D&D3.5 Campaign
Again at ORC, my Ashes of Freedom game concluded on Saturday, with a certain amount of sturm und drang: pitched battles featuring undead and Mandragora, Red Mandragora flying the PCs off a cliff, a Red Dragon taking on a Lich, plot revelations galore, and Demogorgon nearly fully manifesting on the Prime Material plane. And a doomsday device beginning to count down…
I’m a little sad that its over, but the game has had a good innings and there’s a lot of material I’m very happy with. It may be that I return to Volkrania again some day as a setting, but for now it is at peace. I think that no matter how you feel about D&D, if you have a good campaign vibe like that, who cares? I’ve left it open to begin another chapter at some point – always a good idea to leave ‘em wanting more.
Our GrimDark 40k RPG gaming group are reaching the end of their sessions of the Deathwatch game. I’m not used to being in a position of command, but as Squad Leader Sammeal, I’m not doing too bad: patching wounds and leading a bunch of Adeptus Astartes (40k Space Marines) against a Genestealer threat is quite rewarding. I’ve never really thought of myself as having leadership skills – I’m always hero #2 in an RPG – but this has given me a chance to shine for once in a leadership role (or at least glow dully).
So that’s the end of what I’ve been up to.
As it stands, I’m kinda amazed that I have free time to do anything else these days. However, I’m taking September off: ORC can manage without me for a month, and I’m not running/playing anything (yet); we have multiple venues; plenty of folk running games, and the website is updated as much as I can (see above). The Secret Fire RPG is out and the website has been updated. I’ve still got some tweaking to do with the theme – for different screen sizes (a right damn pain, let me tell you), but that’s a minor issue. I’ve not yet begun proper work on my part of the first TSF supplement: Fragment 1: Way of Tree, Sword, and Flame, but I’ve a lot of ideas that I’ll put down later, not to mention an adventure for TSF.
LSD and I are away to the Caribbean, Antigua to be precise, for a week and we’ll be going off-grid. No mobile, email, ‘net, nothing. I’m loading my Kindle as I fully intend to relax: I’m not going running around the island. The accommodation is all-inclusive, and I intend to avail myself of this!
The Dresden Files RPG
The Wednesday night sessions I play will switch to a fortnightly one. I’ve only recently got into the Dresden Files and love the whole idea – especially a certain scene in Dead Beat which is just… so… mind-blowingly… cool. Anyway, I’m looking forward to playing the RPG!
Arunstoun & Cthulhutech
I’m finally going to get this Call of Cthulhu setting created. With Cthulhu Brittanica: Shadows over Scotland out, I definitely need to run at least one game of Call of Cthulhu in that setting. Even if Shadows over Scotland is set in the 1920s, I may use the events to foreshadow another episode of Through the Looking Glass, my Cthulhutech setting (part of Dark Edinburgh).
Against the Odds
I’m still weighing up this setting for use with The Secret Fire RPG. There’ll need to be some changes to it, but I’m glad to report that at least one of the players from the original 4e game is using some of the events in the game to spur the plot for his own novella.
The Secret Fire
Well, I’ll contributing to Fragment 1: The Way of Tree, Sword, and Flame.
So that’s what I have been, and will be, up to!