Articles – How to run your very own forum using phpBB

How to run your own forum

Introduction

A forum is nowadays the place and I mean THE place to get information. Benefits of a forum includes:

1. A well “documented” place to look for answers to your questions. Most of the time, you think of it, others may have already asked it before.
2. Think of a forum as a searchable help book
3. Backing up is easy since everything is “saved” to a database
4. Easy navigation and neatness, you can group forums, create sub forums, move threads around (aka Moderating) delete nonsense threads.

A forum also create a sense of belonging and normally, people frequent a few forums for different questions, needs or maybe just preferences. Of course, you would want fast answers to a questions and posting it in a forum with more members naturally will get answers within a shorter time.

This article is by no means an addon to the vast great and comprehensive documentation of phpBB but one that shows you how to install phpBB from a user point of view.

OK, below is what we will go through:

1. Pre-Installation Check list
2. Installation
CHMOD
Security – Delete these files after installation
4. Configuration
5. Test(s)
6. Market!
7. Backing Up your forum
8. Restoring and migration of your forum

Pre-Installation Checklist

Server/ Host –  You will need to host your forum. And it’s only natural for me to introduce you Hosting @ ITCoW.com Well, don’t forget you can host it free at places like spaceports.com and Lycos UK but I did hear bad experience hosting your forum @ Lycos UK.

Domain – Now, if you host it free at those free hosting sites as stated above, you won’t need this but a domain name makes you stand out. Like you want to run a forum for all fans of a soccer club, a superstar or a sports star. Registering a domain like superstar-forum.com obviously stands out than having

PHP and mySQL – This is precisely the reason why Lycos UK (and spaceports) is selected as they are offering FREE* mySQL database(s) and PHP support. Don’t worry too much about php and mySQL. Basically, php is a programming language while mySQL is a database system. If you want to know more you can visit PHP and mySQL‘s website. You can also download them on their site but installation of PHP and mySQL is not part of this article but generally, it is easy to install php and mySQL on a Windows (XP) machine, it is like installing any software. And if you have a Linux machine, you might already have it installed!

phpMyAdmin – This is highly recommended and it comes standard with all Hosting Plan ITCoW.com offers. It is a useful tool and you can forget about learning mySQL! This tool provides you with a interface via any browser to administer your mySQL databases. Please read this if you need help on how to create a database using phpMyAdmin or post in ITCoW’s official forum.

*note that they put advertisements on your site, but it’s free so you can’t complain much can you?

phpBB – phpBB, this is the software you need to run for your forum. phpBB is one of the most popular forums system around and phpBB needs PHP and mySQl to work thus the above. It is also good to read the phpBB installation guide.

   FTP Client – You can use WSFTP LE which is free and available here or any other FTP client. I am using WS FTP Pro 7.5

HTML Editor – I strongly recommend Firstpage 2000. Or you can by all means use Notepad, this is needed should you need to edit those .php files.

Installation

1. I will start by downloading phpBB from their site. The latest version as dated of this article is 2.0.4, released on 16 Jan 2003. Download it! I downloaded the .zip format as I am working on a Windows machine but the server I will be installing to is a Linux Redhat server.


I download the .zip format

2. Unzip the download files


Unzip the files.


All the files needed to run your very own phpBB

3. Remember to go through the Installation Guide located in \phpBB2\docs\INSTALL.html and you’ll see phpBB don’t only run on mySQL but of course, it’s the preferred choice as mySQL works best with PHP!

All you need to do now is to upload EVERYTHING to your host.

My host is located in a test server:

URL of server – http://64.191.57.15/~etegrati/
URL of Forum when installation is completed: http://64.191.57.15/~etegrati/forums
FTP – 64.191.57.15 and FTP userID and password
mySQL – mySQL database name, userID and Password to access this mySQL database
Server Absolute Path – ?

The path to geeklog is always asked when you wanna install plugins etc. To find the path, first FTP this file “phpinfo.php” into your account. Then access it using it any web browser. You need to unzip this file THEN upload it. See my phpinfo.php file here.

Scroll down till you see the PHP Variable section and look for _SERVER[“PATH_TRANSLATED”]. Mine reads /home/etegrati/public_html/phpinfo.php, ignore the phpinfo.php. My server path is /home/etegrati/public_html/ It can sometimes be something very different, don’t worry, just note the path. You will need it later.

Server Absolute Path – /home/etegrati/public_html/


Uploading…

CHMOD

After uploading everything, you will need to CHMOD 777 config.php, it sounds difficult, don’t worry, it’s easy.


CHMOD

In WS FTP, right click on config.php (it may look different, depending on your FTP client) and choose FTP Commands > CHMOD

Then type in CHMOD 777 as shown and click OK. That’s it! What happen? Well, you have enabled phpBB installation program to write the configuration you’re going to key in, into this file on it’s own.

4. After successful uploading of files, go to your forum URL + the installation directory (install/install.php). Mine is http://64.191.57.15/~etegrati/forums/install/install.php (this link will not work, READ THIS to know why) and you will see the following:


The phpBB installation page in Internet Explorer.

Fill in all the necessary and click on Install.


Click on Start Install when you have filled in everything.

5. Installation Done! When installation is completed successfully, you will see the following screen:


Installation Successful! Congrats!

Security

Refer to point 8 of the installation guide.

Once you have succssfully installed phpBB 2.0.4 you MUST ensure you remove the entire install/ and contrib/ directories. Leaving these in place is a very serious potential security issue which may lead to deletion or alteration of files, etc. Please note that until these directories are remove phpBB2 will not operate and a warning message will be displayed. Beyond these essential deletions you may also wish to delete the docs/ directories if you wish.


After successful installation, you are prompt to delete 2 directories.


Deleting the files.

Configuration

Now you will need to configure your board. First log into the Administrator account you created during the installation process by clicking on Log In on the top right corner.

You will then see the following:

Please refer to phpBB’s documentation on how to do the administration of your newly installed phpBB forum, particularly this section. Enjoy!

Test

Now you need to test your forum, just create a few forum, sub categories forums, post something then delete something away. Move thread around, well, things you expect you will do with your new forum. Test them all!

Market

I think many have an idea or at least a targeted audience or else your forum is gonna be quiet. Get people to register in your forum, start discussion on things that may interest others and most importantly, LISTEN to feedbacks!

Backing Up your forum

Remember to backup your forum at least once a week. You can do that easily using phpMyAdmin. I’ll show you how.

Go to your phpMyAdmin and select the mySQL database on the left if it is not selected. you will see the page with the following, showing all your tables, type etc.

Click on Export

Then Select the radio button Structure and data, then click Select All, put a tick on Save as File and lastly click Go like below.

Then download the file, it’s a .sql file and keep it. It’ll be needed should something happen to your mySQL database or server and should you need to do a re-installation. Keep in mind doing a re-installation does not include all the existing threads and settings you have made to your phpBB forum but doing a restore does!

If you open your download .sql file, you will see something like the following, note that the following is just an example:

# phpMyAdmin MySQL-Dump
# version 2.3.2
# http://www.phpmyadmin.net/ (download page)
#
# Host: localhost
# Generation Time: Feb 21, 2003 at 08:11 PM
# Server version: 3.23.54
# PHP Version: 4.2.3
# Database : `etegrati_rsforum`
# ——————————————————–

#
# Table structure for table `phpbb_auth_access`
#

CREATE TABLE phpbb_auth_access (
group_id mediumint(8) NOT NULL default ‘0’,
forum_id smallint(5) unsigned NOT NULL default ‘0’,
auth_view tinyint(1) NOT NULL default ‘0’,
auth_read tinyint(1) NOT NULL default ‘0’,
auth_post tinyint(1) NOT NULL default ‘0’,
auth_reply tinyint(1) NOT NULL default ‘0’,
auth_edit tinyint(1) NOT NULL default ‘0’,
auth_delete tinyint(1) NOT NULL default ‘0’,
auth_sticky tinyint(1) NOT NULL default ‘0’,
auth_announce tinyint(1) NOT NULL default ‘0’,
auth_vote tinyint(1) NOT NULL default ‘0’,
auth_pollcreate tinyint(1) NOT NULL default ‘0’,
auth_attachments tinyint(1) NOT NULL default ‘0’,
auth_mod tinyint(1) NOT NULL default ‘0’,
KEY group_id (group_id),
KEY forum_id (forum_id)
) TYPE=MyISAM;

#
# Dumping data for table `phpbb_auth_access`
#

# ——————————————————–

You have successfully back up your forum!

Restoring and migration of your forum

There comes a time when you need to migrate your precious forum with all the threads, replies and settings you have made to a new home like it’s very own dot.com or just a new URL etc. If you have backup your database, restoring it as just as effortless.

Go to your phpMyAdmin and select the mySQL database on the left if it is not selected.

Click on SQL.

Then click on Browse and select your latest backup of the database, the .sql file and click go. phpMyAdmin will run for a while depending on the size of your .sql file and will say if it is successful! That’s it. All there is to do now if to FTP all the files into your new URL/ FTP server and you’re all set to run your original forum from that site. You may need to edit the config.php file, the mySQL database name and tweak the configuration of phpBB. That’s it

 

I hope this has been a useful article to you in setting up your very own forum, I had some fun writing this. Comments are most welcome, you can post them in the forum. Thanks for reading!

I strongly recommend you give http://www.phpbbhacks.com/ a good visit as they have some great hacks like a Photo Album you can integrate into your new phpBB forum. This allow more functions for your forum posters! There’s also Templates you can use to, with a click, change the whole look of your forum. Here some screenshots. Do check out http://www.phpbbhacks.com/templatesdemo/ for more! Click below image for larger view…


Spiderman Themed

X-men Themed

Links:

Ministry Of Hosting
Hosting @ ITCoW.com
Test Forum – This is the forum installed by the above article.
ITCoW Forums – Tell us what you think, how we can improve on this article. Please post under Articles Feedback or Questions.

spaceports.com
Lycos UK
PHP
mySQL
Redhat
phpMyAdmin
http://www.phpbbhacks.com/

– Contributed by etegration
21 February 2002

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