New Features and Changes

Discussion in 'Forum Announcements' started by bios, Sep 15, 2007.

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What do you think of the website's overall performance in terms of speed and connectivity?

Poll closed Nov 7, 2010.
  1. Better and Speedy Indeed.

    85.7%
  2. Worse and Slow!?

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  3. No Change / Can't Determine.

    14.3%
  1. cybercore

    cybercore New Member

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    Re: Welcome, zvit!

    [​IMG]


    Glad to see you aboard, Zvit.
     
  2. Captain Jack

    Captain Jack Extraordinary Member

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    Re: Captain Jack joins the Windows 7 Forums Team!

    Thanks Greg ! ;)
     
  3. zvit

    zvit Honorable Member

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    Re: Captain Jack joins the Windows 7 Forums Team!

    Welcome Captain Jack! I enjoyed reading your posts since I was here. Great stuff!
     
  4. Captain Jack

    Captain Jack Extraordinary Member

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    Re: Captain Jack joins the Windows 7 Forums Team!

    Thanks Mate ! I'm glad that you like it :)
     
  5. Athlonite

    Athlonite New Member

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    Re: Captain Jack joins the Windows 7 Forums Team!

    Arhgggg a harty welcome to yee cap'n jack
     
  6. Captain Jack

    Captain Jack Extraordinary Member

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    Re: Captain Jack joins the Windows 7 Forums Team!

    Thanks Matey !
     
  7. Mitchell_A

    Mitchell_A Excellent Member

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    Early December 2010 Updates

    Hello everyone,

    I am pleased to send out the following update information:

    A bug with the translator, whereas you could not switch back to English when choosing a second language, has been fixed. This bug was only around for a few days.

    The forum software has been updated to vBulletin 4.1 PL2 which is the latest release of the world's #1 Internet forum software. This release fixes several bugs.

    The forum staff meeting has concluded successfully with several new participants. We are proud to welcome these people and provide the latest news.

    We will be pleased to provide you with more information as time allows.

    Thank you. We hope you enjoy the new features. Stay tuned for more! :)

    Mitchell Anthony
    Public Relations
    Windows7Forums.com
     
    #527 Mitchell_A, Dec 6, 2010
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 8, 2010
  8. Mike

    Mike Windows Forum Admin
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    January '11 Updates

    Hello everyone,

    ~o) Welcome to our January 2011 Upgrade! ~o)

    I am pleased to announce a new set of changes for the website, which will be our first of the year. These changes aim to improve website responsiveness, as with our previous efforts using a worldwide content delivery network. Today's changes include the introduction of new forum code, web server enhancements, and a number of streamlined features to our pages to lower overall page size, database requests, and any bottle-necking which may occur in general. While our services are in no danger of overload, it is generally a good idea to improve load times as much as possible. Removing large menus that our aggregate data shows goes mostly unused is an important way of improving other core areas of the forums. Other changes have been made to tags, search, and many hundreds of enhancements introduced as a result of software modification. As software is refined, and we work to test such changes, it is further expected to improve the website experience overall:

    2011-01-04

    (Forum Core) 4.1.1 Beta - Flexible URL Mapping and hundreds of bug fixes have been introduced in the latest version of the forum software. A complete list of enhancements can be found at: vBulletin 4.1.1 BETA Available to Download
    Most notably, many search, blog, and social group improvements have been made.

    (Web Server) PHP has been updated to the latest stable version, which inclues bug fixes. Released December 9th, 2010, v5.3.4 includes an enormous number of enhancements which can be found here: PHP: PHP 5 ChangeLog

    (Performance) A number of unused legacy templates and plugins have been disabled. These features will still be available on an "as-needed' basis and are under-the-hood features.

    (Performance) The session cookie timeout is being tested.

    (Performance) To lower page load times on slower connections (DSL, Modem, etc.), hyperlinks to the Amazon.com Forum Store and several other free utilities were removed. These can be re-introduced under the Software Updates forum.

    (Search) All automatic thread tags have been rebuilt to reflect better descriptors. This type of tagging is still being refined for better results.

    (Translator) The beta full-text cache was tested and failed when switching themes. In theory, this function would speed up the translator, but is confirmed to be problematic.

    (Code) Several obsolete files have been removed, but a full audit should be conducted soon. More unused/obsolete files will be removed at some point in the future.

    (Theme)
    Our winter seasonal look has been retired as we make room for new derivative works that involve new color schemes and interesting designs. The winter design was planned for the December Holiday Season and we are pleased so many of our visitors responded well to it.

    Feedback requested! :eek:3 We are looking for members who are familiar with using the website. Since we introduced our content delivery network earlier in the month, have you noticed any change in website performance? You can best help answer these questions by filling out a short Satisfactory Survey found here. This has existed for some time, and your answers will remain completely anonymous. Answering this short questionnaire will help us direct our energies in areas that you would like to see improved.

    Is your page load time slow? Try using our earlier theme using the Quick Style chooser. This theme uses less graphics and is less modern, but presents full text information with minimal graphics and load times. It is designed for high speed browsing!
     
    #528 Mike, Jan 4, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 5, 2011
  9. Mike

    Mike Windows Forum Admin
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    Service Monitoring and Status

    Starting this January, we provide service monitoring and uptime availability records to the public. Information on uptime and service response time can be found here. When any important service for the website fails, notices are sent out within seconds. Service checks are now reported live, and made every 60 seconds:

    Click Here to View Service Monitoring Reports
     
    #529 Mike, Jan 5, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 5, 2011
  10. Mike

    Mike Windows Forum Admin
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    Additional January Updates

    Here is a new round of updates. These latest updates are minor changes and revisions, but should serve as important for future changes coming this year as we continue to improve the website and its services for all.

    2011-01-05

    Some menu items have been changed with a few bugs fixed and some features and links re-added. Many miscellaneous bug fixes were put into place.

    Pingdom and Google Analytics publications are now online under "Interests". We are using Pingdom for full service monitoring, reporting, and emergency alerts. This information is now public domain.

    Over 90 smilies were re-introduced after performance improvements resulted in a problem that required them to be re-added.

    The new content delivery network was accidentally breaking attachments in some instances. This is fixed.

    The cost of a Premium Supporter membership has been drastically reduced as an optional account upgrade. CCBill is now available as an alternative credit card merchant as requested.

    Further optimizations were made to improve page rendering times. Future feature planning and discussion will take place at the next Windows7Forums.com Staff Meeting sometime this month.

    We are aware of the minor outage that occurred today, as a result of technical error. A contingency plan in the event of downtime detections from multiple locations is in quick development. This will improve our response time to an outage. Statistical reviews will help us keep uptime at a high level since immediate and quick access is what is demanded by all visitors.

    Thank you. If you have any feedback, please do not hesitate to post it here.
     
  11. Mike

    Mike Windows Forum Admin
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    Re: Additional January Updates

    2011-01-06

    Hello, lately I have been in the update of, well... updating our viewers almost every day. This year, I hope to take a more essential role in letting you know all of the behind the scenes work that goes towards Windows7Forums.com - even some of the more mundane areas. Today's admin focus has been on preventng spam, organizing the next admin meeting, reaching out to our team members on some new feature ideas, and taking a look at website page loading and response time.

    For those of you who do not know, we run 2 Intel Xeon Gainestown server processors with 24GB of EEC DDR-3 memory as the basis for our processing power. This gives us 16-cores of raw processing power and 24 solid gigabytes of memory. But we are also receiving thousands of database requests a minute. That's why every once in awhile its time to look into what can be done to speed up the website.

    All images have been optimized with loss-less compression to decrease page load time. This has actually resulted in a noticeable positive change. It was determined that the raw number of images being loaded was a problem, and some coding improvements have actually lowered the number of images loaded on the forum home page at once.

    Conflicting results show the page loads faster than some competitor sites, but there is also a lot more content on this site's home page. There is also an enormous sized background which can give the experience of a slow site. More work needs to be done in this area.

    AddThis.com was removed due to the JavaScript call and lack of use. Some items were tested overnight including Facebook integration, Live Search, and other features to see if their removal would speed up the website. Only AddThis.com on the main page seemed to justify removal (It has gone almost completely unused since its introduction). This allowed the removal of calls for two JavaScript files. The less useless scripts being plugged on the website, the better in general.

    We have noticed several foreign users removing translation tags from their posts. Please do not modify these tags, or you may find that you are the only one able to read your own messages!

    I would like to thank Firecracker for filling out our Satisfaction Survey. In exchange, he has received our exclusive Website Helper award.

    Measuring the performance of the web server shows that the results can be decidedly better, but are not entirely terrible. They are not perfect results either.

    A forum staff meeting has been set for January 16, 2011 pending further feedback. Premium Supporters are welcome to join at 12:00 AM US Eastern Time and should use Contact Us to join us on Skype for fun discussions, Q&A, etc.

    CDN testing is continuing.

    The website was testing several methods of calculating who is online, and this will have an impact on "Who's Online" information over the next 8 hours. It will not impact site performance, the ability to use the website, or the accuracy of analytics data.

    Further changes were made to undercut website resource usage. These changes will be mostly unnoticeable, but it may well become logical to undo these changes if they do not result in a marked improvement.

    With a goal to decrease page load time, debug tools like YSlow for Firefox have led us to evidence that there is simply too much data loading on a single page, even with CDN capability. Further debugging stats will be looked at soon to come to a final analysis and decide what can be done. Items loaded in corner areas are of particular concern, since they actually require a large amount of resources to load.

    Overall, there are not many programming or code changes today. This issue is being looked into, but for most people it does not seem to be a major problem. Not much will change for today following this testing, except that our service will continue uninterrupted with friendly moderators, members, and useful information accessible to everyone.

    I hope to update you again soon and further collect your feedback. Thanks again, Firecracker!
     
  12. Mike

    Mike Windows Forum Admin
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    Re: Additional January Updates

    Release Notes for 2011-01-11 Update

    Significant changes have been made to speed up website performance using the CDN. The front page has been modified for this operation. Page load times have decreased.

    The core forum software has been updated to the final release of version 4.1.1. These are additional improvements. Release notes have not yet been made available.

    The search engine optimization software has been updated.

    Some issues with the translation service seem to have become problematic. If possible, please use standard English character set or Google Translate to write in English. We are looking at ways to resolve this problem.

    A video has been posted on how to upload compressed files for use in the BSOD forum and in general.
     
  13. Firecracker

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    Re: Service Monitoring and Status

    Oi, what is going on? cannot access it. there is another fatal error like the other I had the other day.

    Fatal error: Call to undefined function print_portal_output() in /home/w7/public_html/cmps_index.php on line 46 :mad::confused:
     
    #533 Firecracker, Jan 16, 2011
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2011
  14. Mike

    Mike Windows Forum Admin
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    Re: Service Monitoring and Status

    Non-urgent services have been taken down. More information will be posted soon.
     
  15. Mike

    Mike Windows Forum Admin
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    Web Server Upgrade

    You may be aware that our service was overloaded over the last two days, and this had a lot to do with a massive amount of inbound traffic. After some investigation, the team of experts at WiredTree found a problem with our firewall that was bringing the server to a complete standstill. Once this problem was identified and fixed, our capacity to handle incoming traffic returned to normal.

    At present time, efforts are still being made to improve our capacity to serve a large audience of visitors. This includes switching from the free apache web server to a commercial solution that is much faster.

    This new type of web server is designed, intrinsically, to handle tens of thousands of requests while using extremely low resource consumption. Comparisons show superior scalability and much better performance. Whether or not the website can afford to sustain such a large investment is still under consideration.

    We are currently using a 15-day evaluation version of the software to look for improvements. Some preliminary data does show improvement, but only time and reliable measurements will indicate whether or not it is a worthy pursuit. As a web server, apache will still work, and is in fact used by the majority of websites on the Internet. However, a new generation of web servers has been designed to use the same configurations and increase capacity. The move over to this new technology was a nearly flawless process and took place about 30 minutes ago.

    Thank you for your patience during this time.
     
  16. Firecracker

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    Re: Web Server Upgrade

    I know what it feels like when there's problems and/or potential bottlenecks, last night we got these files for 32bit and 64bit, put them on our site, and our network here was flooded to a halt. Not was it our members here at our lan on our Lan web site downloading, but 32 million others downloaded them too. what is it with networks and servers that slow them down?

    How are we moving all this information around from server to server?:confused: how long is this taking? we just moved few weeks ago from a Host, now we moving to another server? isn't this costing us money with all this moving?:mad: Isn't this causing a lot of down time and unavalibility?:mad: Didn't fixing the firewall improve things?

    Just brought up this, because I dunno but there should be some talking and thinking before we do stuff. I dunno if the admins have met yet, but some points to consider.:)
     
  17. Mike

    Mike Windows Forum Admin
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    Re: Web Server Upgrade

    No. To explain things a little better, if it is possible at this point, what has been replaced is actually the web server software itself. Wait, did you just ask how the website actually operates? Here it comes... :p

    This software contains added support for many, many more connections, handles dynamic content about 6 times faster (which most of the website consists of), and gives a 50% performance increase to PHP, which is the scripting language upon which the website is built. If this is a way to eliminate any mystery of what is going on, I hope that it can help in this reply.

    So, in fact, the actual main server we use that houses the secured database, and in fact houses the primary web server, is in fact the same, and is of an extremely high capacity to the point that there is now currently tons of free memory. Normally I would rather not go into specific details on such things, but we have 24GB of DDR3 EEC and 16 processor cores on hand. If we ran out of memory, after that, paging would still take place on server-grade solid state HD technology, which wouldn't really be that slow. The problem is that dynamic content eats up a lot of CPU cycles, especially when thousands of people go to it at the same time. Imagine if your computer had 600-1000 people trying to connect to it every second. This is what we have to deal with.

    With the new web server software, certain things are done better. A memory I/O cache is created and it integrates with measures we already have in place to make things faster. The software is specifically constructed to serve dynamic content better. When combined with hardware and software optimization, this creates much faster page loading. There is also a file-based cache where we are able to utilize temporary space on a separate drive for this purpose. Further, the number of connections per system per second can be limited fairly easily, so that flooding attempts and denial of service attacks are dealt with easier.

    So, in fact, this is all a software upgrade, and the current server, which is of good quality and which has sufficient cores, with an excellent connection and support to match, is fine for the purpose of hosting this website. The problem really seemed to be a bottleneck at the web server level and an inability to handle an enormous amount of traffic. Add to this delays that we were detecting from overseas users due to the overhead problems and there we were.

    We talk every day by phone, text, and staff forum. We could strip the site's features to bare bones, and keep the website's main page very light weight and simple, but this would look somewhat boring and this is not really an option. We could remove the unique images for every forum and this would make the site load in under a second. But wouldn't this look horrible? Generally, the front page of a site should have a lot of important information that is easily accessible. And it shouldn't look half bad either.

    It is good to have things like social groups and album pictures shown, even though they slow down page rendering significantly. So, upgrading the technology is a better idea from this perspective. We got to a point that we needed an enterprise-level solution to a enterprise-level problem. Rather than buy another physical server or something, which would be a somewhat wasteful use of resources.

    That depends on what information you are talking about. We have access to, and are now once again using, a content delivery network. Content such as images, JavaScript, Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), and anything else we want to really put there that doesn't change all the time is placed there automatically. Certain folders can also be sent there manually. We can't put everything there, but we could put up all static content like support files, attachments, and so forth. This distributes the content around the world. In fact, here is where those places are on a map:

    North America:
    na-network.

    Europe:

    eu-network.

    Asia/Pacific:
    asia-network.

    The ones in blue are still being built, so in fact, super-fast content delivery in Asia isn't available yet, but those people can still get to the data here by using longer routes. They have to get to our main server in Chicago anyway, but it would be faster for them when we distribute the content across multiple servers.

    Every time you access this site you are using a database, possibly thousands of times, depending how long you are on. And this database houses all content ever created by anyone here since something like 2006.

    This content delivery network allows us to host less stuff from one place - the content we know really won't change for a very long while. Not any database information, but the things I mentioned before. We also use Google to host some dynamic libraries created by Yahoo that we need and to monitor visitor trends to figure out what we need to do next.

    This is all possible at relatively low cost, as CDNs have become less expensive over time. Hosting large support files, though, is a big set back. Its not possible for us to host a popular file for very long, since our bandwidth, like most other sites, is metered. So its a good thing that there are places like Softpedia and Peer-to-Peer networks. Peer to Peer networks (P2P), or BitTorrent, get a very bad reputation because of the abuse and piracy associated with them, but when used to host legitimate files that are digitally signed or generally good to have on hand, like support files, freeware, and so on, this is very useful to have.

    Overall, everything has been done to make the website as fast as humanly possible. We are running the latest version of practically everything, and to my knowledge, we were getting a 2 second load time from an island in the Mediterranean Sea earlier today. Content pages load much faster because they have less database calls, scripts, and more text. For a webpage, this is not bad.

    As the website's content continues to grow and number of unique visitors continues to increase, we will have to keep taking action. It won't be the last time some upgrade happens, but we shouldn't need additional equipment for awhile. Keeping the website running all the time is actually monumental task, and it has become harder as time has gone on simply due to the fact that our requirements keep getting bigger. The point is to store as much information as possible so that you can go back and always find what you are looking for. Possibly forever. For so long as there is technology to discuss and a place to reach us. And non-bankruptcy!

    I hope this explains most of how everything works. It has all been set up to actually provide a unique experience. Like I wrote before, we could remove all or half the features, and probably not need all of this extra stuff, but people actually use the features. People like gaining experience points, using albums, using a live search, having a sidebar, seeing a map of the world with dots of people on it, being able to see in real-time what people are posting, and so forth. Providing tutorials, videos, blogs, and software solutions are ways to keep the site interesting, instead of it just being another forum site.

    But the content and people who are on the site will always have the most important part, whether they realize it or not. A site like this doesn't operate if no one posts anything. Do you realize that with every post you make, you are potentially adding a page to the website?
     
  18. Firecracker

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    Re: Web Server Upgrade

    So none of this is even getting Processed on the GPU or the graphics card or using the Garphic cards memory, Server don't really need any of the resources on the graphics card because you don't have a monitor. Could the server use the resources on the graphics card using Directcompute?
     
  19. Mike

    Mike Windows Forum Admin
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    Re: Web Server Upgrade

    There is no need for GPU or graphics memory in web hosting. Everything is done through command consoles and databases. We are not running out of resources in any way. In fact, Joe and I have been working on a way to make pages render even faster tonight. Some fine tuning of the database was made and additional work was done in optimizing page cache. An internal error was identified that gave some external web applications (like search engine bots) the idea that there was an infinite loop redirect error on the site which was going on for a few days. This was also fixed. GPU memory would not really speed up the site or be useful. Techniques that take page templates and cache them into memory, thereby reducing CPU cycles is what makes the website faster at this time. Now that this has been stretched to the limit, we are going to look at some of the suggestions from Chrome -> Developer Tools -> Audit to make the site faster. As well as YSlow in Firefox. These tools give an idea on what can be improved. However, some things are incorrect as far as that is concerned, but all of the items which load constantly may not need to load at all and this is something that does slow down page rendering. However, at this point in time, it seems like only a few people are concerned about the website being slow?

    Our next move is to bring you a Cloud Computing forum, if possible, and additional styles for the website *coming soon*.
     
  20. Mitchell_A

    Mitchell_A Excellent Member

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    End of January Updates

    The end of January has brought several new changes to the site once again! :)
    While none of these are major and most will go un-noticed, it's still important to keep our users informed.

    End of January 2010
    • We continue to provide links to what is widely believed to be Service Pack 1 RTM and await its official release on Microsoft.com.
    • ip_conntrack issues have been resolved as we reached maximum concurrent connections.
    • SQL database has been optimized for memory efficiency.
    • Web server has been upgraded to LiteSpeed Enterprise with extensive cache.
    • CPU utilization has been reduced by an estimated 70%
    • Forum optimisation and template cache software has been updated.
    • Software used to generate menu tabs was updated.
    • Our content portal management system code has finally been updated after six months.
    • A Windows 8 News forum has been launched as we look at ways to improve our Windows 8 coverage.
    • UTF-8 encoding issue has been resolved. This issue was causing new posts to be rendered incorrectly or not displayed at all.
    • <ACRONYM title="vBulletin SEO">VBSEO</ACRONYM> 3.6.0 Release Candidate 2 is now running.
    • "Like" feature had to be reset for the most part. This should be the last time this happens. We apologize for the excessive amount of notifications you may have received after the system was reset.
    • We continue to debate and plan the opening of our Cloud Computing forum area.
    • Database backup and restores are undergoing testing.
    • In some cases, after years, forum descriptions were updated.
    • The syndication to Twitter and Facebook was entirely re-coded and is now a live stream. All posts, including replies, are now syndicated.
    I would also like to apologize for the outages that occurred when we launched the SP1 download. We are pleased to denote that the problems lasted only a short period of time. Mike worked around the clock to get the site back to normal as quickly as possible and our traffic numbers have been absolutely amazing as a result.

    Thank you all for your continued support. If you have any suggestions, questions, complaints, please do not hesitate to reply to this thread, post in the Feedback forum of send me a Private Message. :cool:

    Mitchell Anthony,
    Public Relations.
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