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Railfan Technology > System Upgrade Notice


Date: 05/05/19 23:05
System Upgrade Notice
Author: webmaster

Some of you have noticed over the past couple of months there have been minor site hiccups that come and go.  We have been quietly rolling out various code upgrades to make the site more efficient and compatible with future application software.  This has been pretty painless, but a few things pop up here and there.
 
As a member, the site may seem simple, but under the hood there is thousands of lines of instructions, much of it custom written just for Trainorders.com. During the past year our developer has been reviewing and updating our entire code base that makes the site operate. So far more than 15,000 lines of code had been reviewed and updated, with thousands more undergoing review.  Some of the code that runs Trainorders.com is approaching 20 years old and it was in need of an audit and tweaking to ensure it is prepared for the future. 
 
Trainorders.com functions with a series of applications that work together on a Linux operating platform, to bring the interface we are so familiar with.    Applications include a database system that manages all the data from message postings to membership data.  There is the web server that serves out content across the internet. There is a file server system that manages the millions of media files hosted here. The PHP engine is what carries out the instructions that give the site its interactive features. These are the main software systems that make the site possible.
 
These systems are not stagnant applications, and are constantly being updated by their developers.  Elderly software becomes unsupported, and this opens a serious security problem.  Upgrading to newer versions will usually result incompatibility with the code that makes the site operate.  We have always kept up with updates, but about every decade these application packages undergo major rework.  Moving to updated applications typically requires a lot of code rewriting to make the site compatible.  That is what we are doing right now. We are also prepping the site for geographically serving of content.  Currently, the site is being served from San Francisco, but by the end of the year we should also be serving media from a location in the Midwest. This will speed up the site for members east of the Rockies.
 
I receive regular suggestions requesting various features to be added, along with chastising for having such a dated looking interface. Serving out millions of files a day, and managing several terabytes of data is not a trivial exercise.  There is a huge amount of software infrastructure in place to keep the site running reliably.  I don't see what changing the interface will do for us, except create compatibility problems and confusion for some users.  Ultimately, Trainorders.com is an old fashioned dialup bulletin board that uses a concept that was common place in the 1980s.  Back then I was a middle school computer nerd and I had an acoustic coupler 300 baud modem hooked up to my Commodor 64 computer.  During the evening when our home phone wasn't in use I called various local computer bullet boards where I conversed about computer technology.   I see Trainorders.com as a modern version of those old board systems.
 
In closing, I have been running the site for 22 years now and I plan to hand the reins over to a new caretaker sometime after I have 25 years into the project.  My goal is to leave the web site in tip-top shape and perhaps the next caretaker will bring their own vision to remold Trainorders into a different experience as they see fit.

Todd Clark
Canyon Country, CA
Trainorders.com



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