So I got to work creating the new site. Unlike the basic original I designed a proper look and feel for the site and got to work with it's structure and content. It first launched around the middle of 2001 and slowly evolved over time.
The main content of the website contained an A-Z games listing with links to screenshots, tutorials, cheats, manuals and downloads. As well as some tutorials on emulaton and other Amiga related subjects, some file downloads, and a very popular kickstart file download page.
In the same year of 2001 I had been using the forums at GameFAQ a lot. Their Amiga board was dead when i first discovered it, without a single post, but I started posting some new Amiga related topics and soon a group of Amiga fans were using the board and posting some great topics.
We had started building up a good collection of Amiga topics, then suddenly one of the GameFAQ moderators decided our topics were all against the site TOS so he deleted all of them. We were very annoyed so decided we would be better off finding somewhere else to post our discussions.
After some searching I decided to create a new Amiga forum based around the Invision Power Board forums. InvisionFree had just been launched and were offering free hosting of Invision Boards so I created an account and created the classicamiga forums.
Once finished the members from GameFAQ moved with me to the new forum, and 5 years on we are still going.
Since the creation of the forums they have slowly evolved over time. Starting off with a few main forum sections to split it up in to main topic areas, over time this expanded greatly to include many different Amiga sections, as well as a veriety of other off topic gaming and general interest sections.
Progression of the site
When the site was created it was a personal project. I created the whole structure as static with any changes needing the webpages to be directly edited. This meant it was hard work everytime i added anything new to the site.
The site slowly evolved over time to include new content, but as I was working on it by myself it took a long time to add anything new. Other started to submit game reviews and some screenshots but I didnt have much time free to do much more than add the submitted content to the site and the site basically stayed the same, with a few minor updates and new content, until this year (2006).
As mentioned above I originally hosted the Amiga kickstart roms for people to download. I was just trying to help other Amiga fans get Amiga emulation working. But someone informed the copyright holders that classicamiga was hosting the files, so I got a warning.
I removed the files and replaced them with a page called the Kickstart Locator. This linked to any other sites hosting the files for download so I could continue to help others find the files.
But then in 2005 the law changed and it became illegal to place links on your site that linked directly to other sites providing copyrighted files. The owners of the kickstart copyright, Cloanto, contacted me to complain about the Kickstart Locator page so I removed it.
Out with the old
At the start of 2006 I decided I wanted classicamiga.com to become more than it was and to evolve beyond it's current state. This couldn't be done with the existing site due to the way it was constructed, so a whole new site would need to be built to replace it and that was going to take a lot of work.
Also the classicamiga forums had never really been directly connected to the site. The two had started out as seperate projects and never really worked together, mainly due to people finding one and not realising the other existed. Also the forum didn't look that unique with the standard default board template. So I decided it all had to be overhauled and started again from scratch.
A new Beginning
The forums were fine as they were. They just needed a tidy up and a proper template designed to make them look unique and part of the main website. In contrast the old site couldn't be updated so wasn't updated since the start of 2006 and was eventually scrapped to make way for the new site.
Also the site host Freeola (formally Special Reserve) was too restrictive for the plans i had for the new site, so the site hosting got moved to a more dedicated hosting server at 1and1.
I began work on the new site in July 2006, and the first public launch was in August. I decided the new site needed to be community based so all the site's members could help create the site they wanted to see. For this reason I decided to base the new site around a CMS (Content Management System) which allows it's members to add and edit the content themselves.
By the end of August I had been working on the new site for about a month. I had been getting to grips with the CMS structure and how it all worked, along with integrating many third party components into the new site to provide all of the additional functionality the site would need.
classicamiga.com - v2 (2006)
I had just finished most of the site development and was really happy with it, when disaster struck! I got home to discover an email from the site's host saying they had detected abnormal activity on the server and had disabled one of the site scripts they had noticed had a lot of activity from third party access.
On investigating I discovered it was an important file to the site that someone had managed to hack to gain access to the site's server. And whilst trying to fix the problem the site was hacked again, and then a third time whereby the homepage was hijacked. At this point I was forced to take the site offline until I could ensure it wasn't hacked again.
Back up and running
Many in the community using the same CMS were having similar attacks and this was quickly patched and a new version was released to fix the hole being used by the hackers.
After many updates and a lot of security tightening of the server I then discovered that due to some of the new security measures, some of the parts of the new site were suddenly broken. I managed to fix some of them, but others were using third party components so I had to ask for help from the developers of them or wait for updates. I'm happy to say that most of the development community were brilliant and worked to fix the problems as soon as they could.
The site was then put back online for it's members to fully test for bugs and errors caused by the security updates. Bugs were found due to some components still being broken, but i am happy to say that most have since been fixed.
During September the classicamiga Forum underwent a transformation. The main site was working properly again so I thought it time to start bringing the forum and website closer together to form one whole. The forum's look changed from the boring defauly Invision Board look to a classicamiga themed grey, red and blue appearance.
The new look forum
And thanks to the site hosting changing for the new site, the forums could now also adopt the same domain to fully combine the two into one site.
The big crash!
On the 15th November 2006 Invisionfree, the company classicamiga was using to host its forum, suffered a harddrive failure in the oldest of their servers, S1. The classicamiga forum had been hosted with them since the start of Invisionfree so the forum was being hosted on this S1 server.
The first we knew about this was when we tried to access the forum and received a server not found error. Two days later the server was back up and restored, but something was very strange. Where were all the posts from between March 2006 and 15th November 2006? And all of the template changes I had made to the forum to make it fit into the main site look and feel were also lost. Going to the Invisionfree support forum showed exactly the same problem with all of their posts since March 2006 missing.
Having to wait a few more days for some kind of answer, the Invisionfree staff finally posted a message on their support forum stating that the S1 server had suffered a harddrive failure and that the only good backup they had was from March 2006! It seems, after much digging from other Invisionfree users and questions to the Invisionfree staff, that they had only been doing backups to the same harddrive! Something quite stupid when you consider you are doing the backups in case of such a failure, so the last thing you do is store the backups on the same harddrive as the data.
Invisionfree promised they should be able to get the lost data back as they were sending the failed harddrive off to a data recovery specialist. A month past and Invisionfree gave no news of data recovery!
FInally, after over two months of waiting, Invisionfree finally announced what we had all expected. The lost data was lost forever! Apparantly they had somehow sent the wrong drive to the data recovery specialist, so the recovered data (which had been fully recovered from the drive they sent) wasn't even the right data! Idiots!
Classicamiga Forum v2 launches
A week after the initial forum harddrive failure, the classicamiga staff members held a discussion regarding the recovery of the forum and how long we should wait until we needed to look for alternatives. We decided that due to the lack of proper backups on Invisionfree's part that even if they could recover the data we couldn't really trust them enough to know the forum data would be safe in the future.
For this reason classicamiga decided to part company with Invisionfree and setup a self maintained forum that we knew was properly being backed up. After looking at all of the current forum software packages available it was decided that instead of going with the latest version of Invision's forum (as used by Invisionfree) we would instead use vBulletin Board.
So in the middle of December after some time spent setting up a new server and the forum software, the new classicamiga forum was launched using the same website address as before http://forum.classicamiga.com
The new forum is much more feature rich than the old one and contains a lot of fun, as well as useful features that we hope our members will enjoy. We couldn't move the existing members accounts over from the old forum, so we ask that everyone please re-register on the new forum as we would love to see you all there.
If anyone still wishes to take a look at the old forum to see what it looked like, and to read some of the old topics then you can still find it by going to http://oldforum.classicamiga.com
Please remember that the old forum is now locked, so no new registerations or posts can be made. It is purely for historical purposes.
Classicamiga Game and Demo project launches!
At the start of October 2006 classicamiga launched it's Game and Demo Scene projects. The main goal of these is to catalogue and archive all games and demos released for the Amiga over the years, and to include as much additional information and support material for each including screenshots, videos, audio files, manuals, diskscans, boxart, cheats, walkthroughs, guides, downloads and anything else that can be found for each.
Since the start of the project the staff and members of classicamiga have been working hard adding data to both the game and demo sections and you can now see the extent of this work in the Demo and Game sections of the site.
Much is still to be added to both sections, so keep visiting regularly to see the new and updated content. And if you have something you would like to contribute to the site please let us know. Equally if you are looking for a specific game manual, cheat, walkthrough or demo then please let us know on the forum.
Reviews and Comments
Also added to the site at the same time as the Game and Demo project was the ability to leave comments on any site content, much like a mini forum thread under each page of the site. This allows any member to leave a comment or personal thought under a site article, and under any game or demo entry on the site.
In addition all members can add their own Reviews for any Game or Demo on the site. These Reviews are completely self managed so all members can add and edit their own reviews whenever they would like and they will appear on the site as soon as they save them. This is a great way to get members involved in the site content and to bring a personal touch and community element to the site.
If you have some favourite games or demos then please write a review for the site. It would be much appreciated.
After getting the new site's important game and demo sections up and running I thought it time to spend time giving the site a better design and identity. The original design of the new site was more functional than design centred as it was only intended as a framework to work with while the functionality of the site was being developed. Now that the site was expanding and growing in content it needed a proper design to compliment the content.
After some time experimenting with template ideas and looking around to see what was available commercially I decided to take a professionally designed template that was already available online and cunstomise if for my own needs. Why try to develop something from scratch when someone else has already created exactly what you need? I then combined this with existing site and forum design elements, as well as the classicamiga identity to create the site's new look. This worked very well and has now given the site a much cleaner design and layout. The pre-existing template I used allowed a much cleaner code structure that conformed to xhtml standards and removed the reliance of out dated tables that the old site template was using.
The navigation was also completely overhauled. The original site's side menu system had started to quickly grow into a very long and hard to navigate structure. The new menu structure splits this into a three level menu system. Instead of having one central menu system that expands and contracts as areas of the site are visited this new menu structure contains the main sections of the site split between icons across the top of the site. These each lead into their own sub menus under the icons making the different areas of the site much easier to identify and explore. A third level of menus is also available down the left of the site which is used to provide links directly related to the area the user is currently in. This creates much more instant and obvious focus on the features and links available in any given area being used.
In April 2007 the site started to experience some seriously bad slowdown. After much investigating this was being caused by two related parts of the site. The size of the site and the database server.
Until this point the site was being hosted on a shared web server which used a seperate shared database server. This meant that the site needed to share the server load on the database server with an unknown number of other sites hosted by the same hosting company. This arrangement had worked OK up until this point (although the site wasn't as fast as we wanted), but as the site was continuing to grow the number of database entries for the game and demo scene sections had reached 4000 entries. The existing shared database being used by the site was generating a lot of queries, especially on pages where a lot of dynamic content was present and being shared it just couldn't keep up with the site's needs.
For this reason we needed to move!
The Server move
I had been considering it for some months, but finally the database issues slowing the site down to a crawl convinced me we needed to move. At the start of May I moved the site from a shared server hosting package to a dedicated server of our own. This was hosted in the same data center as the shared hosting package so the move went very smoothly. Everything was seemlessly moved over to the dedicated server for us. All I had to do was setup the databases again and relink them. Very impressed with the upgrade.
So Classicamiga is now running on its own dedicated server, situated in one of the biggest and best equiped data centres in the word.
And was the move worth it? Definitely! The speed increase was instantly noticeable. Some pages had been taking nearly a minute to load on the old server. Now they load in under 10 seconds at the most. A huge improvement. In addition the dedicated server meant no sharing of database servers as it is all now hosted on the same server. And this gives classicamiga access to a lot more resources to host everything we want to include on the site now, and into the future.
Classicamiga Software section launched!
Once the Game and Demo sections were fully up and running, and their layout, design and function completed it was time to look at other areas where classicamiga could expand. One area that has never been covered well on any Amiga related website is Amiga productivity software. We can find many sites focusing on Amiga games, or the Amiga demo scene, and classicamiga has brought both of these together into a singe site. However no site has ever really focused on the rest of the software the Amiga has to offer.
And it isn't just the software currently available for the Amiga. During its lifetime the Amiga saw the development of many new forms of software, such as 3D rendering. The Amiga was among the first system ever to have a fully functioning 3D application as we know them today, as well as some of the best bitmap image programs ever created. These programs all evolved from more basic first releases and no where online did it document the evolution of this software, or provide information and a central archive to show what the software was like, and who was involved in its creation.
Therefore classicamiga added an Amiga software section to its databases. The structure is very similar to the existing game and demo sections as they use and share the same design and code. So far we are up to over 60 software entries in this relatively new section. But there are a lot more still to be added. We definitely need some help from anyone interested with this section. We need packaging and box scans, manual and other supporting material scans, diskscans, detailed information about each software title and any other information or images and files you can think of.
This software section is starting to take shape, but unlike the game and demo sections this is starting from scratch so will take time before it starts to contain a more complete snapshot of the productivity software available for the Amiga.
Hardware section is coming...
I've wanted to include an Amiga hardware section on classicamiga for many years. However this is quite a complex and detailed section to create. The main structure for this section is now in place, with templates and a few other database related parts left to finish.
Some parts of this section are still to be worked out, such as how to include detailed pages for the actual Amiga models. Do they get included in the main database with the rest of the hardware? Or should they be kept separate with a more article based approach for each model? This is still to be decided.
The main thing for this section is to get the works completed and functioning. Then we can start to add content and launch the section for the staff members to start working on it.
New sections still to come, and existing ones redeveloped
There are still many more ideas to expand classicamiga even further. In addition to the hardware section, which will hopefully finally be launched before the end of this year, there are other areas that still need improvement and more completely new areas to be created.
External website directory
. A weblinks directory has existing on classicamiga since it began years ago. However I've never been 100% happy with any of the implimentations of the section. I want it to be an Amiga web directory for the Amiga community to use as a central resource to navigate the huge range of Amiga websites still active around the world. This has not yet been realised, so this section will be redeveloped soon to hopefully finally achieve this goal.
The existing classicamiga image gallery is curently offline due to incompatibilities between the gallery software and newer versions of Joomla. This will be updated and redeveloped when time allows it. I'm not currently sure what the gallery could be used to focus on. I want it to really be more of a visitor focused gallery, rather than just containing a collection of game screenshots and other existing images. I want to see photos of members systems, screenshots of desktops and much more. Ideas welcome and development of a new improved gallery to start shortly.
Classicamiga reference library.
This is a new idea I've recently had. There were many books published about the Amiga and its software over the years, and as the system gets older many of these books are now out of print and are in danger of becoming lost. The Amiga community therefore needs a central repository to store all of these reference books for current and future use. I would therefore like to create a central Amiga reference library with each book scanned and stored as a PDF for users to access and download when needed. The only stumbling block to this idea is copyright. The Amiga community will need to help classicamiga here as we will need to seek permission from the publishers and authors of each book before we can scan them and include them on the site. Hopefully this will be possible. If anyone can help with this please contact us.
This has long been a dream of mine. To have a central resource of Amiga magazined scanned and available to read. Yes I know that the Amiga Magazine Rack exists. It was the main reason I cancelled the launch of the original classicamiga magazine section a couple of years ago. However while the AMR is a great project it isn't how I wanted such a project to work. Splitted each magazine into separate pages, with many pages from each issue missing is not how I want such an archive to be. The AMR is really just a reference site to quickly look up a game review or walkthrough. The classicamiga magazine archive will be more focused on archiving the whole of each magazine for historical reference. This means scanning and storing ever page of each magazine, including all adverts. And each magazine will be stored in complete form in PDF format, hopefully OCR'd so that the contence can be searched by readers. Therefore the aim of this is quite different to that of AMR. I'm not looking to make it an online reference to read individual low resolution scans of magazine pages, but instead a central reference library to store whole higher resolution copies of each magazine issue to be downloaded and read. Again, this could cause issues of copyright which need to be investigated.
While the site is heavily focused on Amiga emulation, as well as using the real systems, there is still no actual section dedicated to emulation of the Amiga. There are now Amiga emulators for many platforms. Therefore a section will be coming soon to detail what is available, with downloads, links, useful information, screenshots and much more.
There are many great Amiga based projects in development within the Amiga community, from software based ones such as WHDLoad and ClassicWB, to hardware ones like Minimig. I want to eventually create a section that contains a directory of all of these great projects. So that a central resource will exist to detail these projects, allowing them to gain more focus and expand knowledge of their existence. This section will need to be a directory and will contain photos and screenshots, details of the people behind each project with contact details and links, plus downloads and support material where possible.
And if you have any ideas for other sectons classicamiga could contain please get in contact and let us know.
We still have much to do and a lot more still to come. The Game, Demo and Software sections are an ongoing project that will continue to be edited and added to over time as we find and create new content. We are always on the lookout for original games and software manuals, boxart and other supporting material that can be scanned in and added to the site. The data for each will also be added to and updated as we find more information about each entry.
In addition we have all of the projects and content ideas mentioned above to be worked on including the hardware and emulation sections. Plus there is much much more to come.
There is also the move from Joomla 1.0.X to the newer 1.5.X to be worked on very soon. Support for the older Joomla 1.0.X versions will end next year, so we have just under a year to migrate the site to the newer 1.5 code base. To do this I'm thinking that a section version of the site will need to be set up alongside the existing site, and the structure and content migrated over. Then the site can be switched over to the newer version once it is all up and running. Announcements about this will be posted as it become relavant.
If you are interested in helping us with any of the current or future classicamiga projects, please get in touch via the forum or by contacting Harrison.