phpBB 3 Script Integration – New Threads and Replies from an External Script

This is the third article I’ve written for pulling functions in phpBB3 for external use. This one allows you to either create new posts in a forum or reply to a thread. This was created for use with a text system, where users could text in comments which would be added to a thread.

Article on phpBB3 Integration
Article on sending PM’s

I’ve put everything needed into one file as I don’t want to go through and break it up. The previous two posts (linked above) used a seperate phpbb.php file with part of the code in but this just includes everything.

// This is not set up for new thread posting, and has been config'd to not increment post count as this is for a bot.
// Further changes will be needed to clean up code as this is using external functions instead of clear documentation. --dc
define('IN_PHPBB', true);
$phpbb_root_path = (defined('PHPBB_ROOT_PATH')) ? PHPBB_ROOT_PATH : './phpBB3/';
$phpEx = substr(strrchr(__FILE__, '.'), 1);
include($phpbb_root_path . 'common.' . $phpEx);

// Start session management

// post send controller
function sendphpbbpost($pmmessage,$userid,$pmsubject) {

$my_subject = utf8_normalize_nfc(request_var('$pmsubject', '', true));
$message = utf8_normalize_nfc($pmmessage, '', true);
$uid = $bitfield = $options = '';
$allow_bbcode = $allow_smilies = true;
$allow_urls = true;
generate_text_for_storage($message, $uid, $bitfield, $options, $allow_bbcode, $allow_urls, $allow_smilies);
$data = array(
// General Posting Settings
'forum_id'          => 7,    // The forum ID in which the post will be placed. (int)
'topic_id'          => 5,    // Post a new topic or in an existing one? Set to 0 to create a new one, if not, specify your topic ID here instead.
'icon_id'           => false,    // The Icon ID in which the post will be displayed with on the viewforum, set to false for icon_id. (int)

// Defining Post Options
'enable_bbcode' => false, // Enable BBcode in this post. (bool)
'enable_smilies'    => true, // Enabe smilies in this post. (bool)
'enable_urls'       => false, // Enable self-parsing URL links in this post. (bool)
'enable_sig'        => true, // Enable the signature of the poster to be displayed in the post. (bool)

// Message Body
'message'           => $message,     // Your text you wish to have submitted. It should pass through generate_text_for_storage() before this. (string)
'message_md5'   => md5($message),    // The md5 hash of your message

// Values from generate_text_for_storage()
'bbcode_bitfield'   => $bitfield,    // Value created from the generate_text_for_storage() function.
'bbcode_uid'        => $uid,     // Value created from the generate_text_for_storage() function.

// Other Options
'post_edit_locked'  => 0,
'topic_title'       => $subject, // Subject/Title of the topic. (string). This is needed for new posts but for our purposes isn't.

// Email Notification Settings
'notify_set'        => false,        // (bool)
'notify'            => false,        // (bool)
'post_time'         => 0,        // Set a specific time, use 0 to let submit_post() take care of getting the proper time (int)
'forum_name'        => '',       // For identifying the name of the forum in a notification email. (string)

// Indexing
'enable_indexing'   => true,
'force_approved_state' => true, // Only runs on 6 onwards...check SUCC

//Now send that post...
submit_post('reply', '', '', POST_NORMAL, &$poll, &$data, $update_message = true);


$user->data['user_id'] = 2;    // User id of poster.
$auth->acl($user->data); // Re-initiate user after recall
$userid = $user->data['user_id'];
$pmmessage = 'This is a new reply, change this to whatever you want.';


Looking through the code above you will see several points that need changing. It’s currently set to ‘reply’ (change this to ‘post’ for a new post). Change all details to suit really – it’s easy to customise.

phpBB 3 Script Integration – Sending Private Messages (PM’s) From an External Script

A while back I posted an article about integrating your site to use the phpBB3 user and login system (here). When I wrote that I also used phpBB as a message system for a site; so when a user did something they were sent a private message automatically.

This bit of code (use it in conjunction with phpbb.php mentioned in the post linked to above) allows you to call a function to send a PM to any user as long as you have their ID.

// PM send controller

function sendphpbbpm($pmmessage,$userid,$pmsubject) {

$message = utf8_normalize_nfc($pmmessage);
$uid = $bitfield = $options = ''; // will be modified by generate_text_for_storage
$allow_bbcode = $allow_smilies = true;
$allow_urls = true;
generate_text_for_storage($message, $uid, $bitfield, $options, $allow_bbcode, $allow_urls, $allow_smilies);
$pm_data = array(
'from_user_id'        => 2,
'from_user_ip'        => "",
'from_username'        => "admin",
'enable_sig'            => false,
'enable_bbcode'        => true,
'enable_smilies'        => true,
'enable_urls'        => false,
'icon_id'            => 0,
'bbcode_bitfield'    => $bitfield,
'bbcode_uid'         => $uid,
'message'            => $message,
'address_list'        => array('u' => array($userid => 'to')),

//Now We Have All Data Lets Send The PM!!
submit_pm('post', $pmsubject, $pm_data, false, false);


You’ll need to modify the code above slightly to fit your needs, for example changing the admin username and user id, and then calling the function but it’s all pretty simple stuff one you’ve got all this.

To call the function (send the PM) to a fictional user 11:


$pmsubject = 'Please read this PM.';
$pmmessage = 'Thank you for reading this PM!';

$userid = '11';



Posting threads and replying to threads uses a similar system so I’ll put up some script for that shortly.

Benchmarking and testing your PHP script with microtime

When you’re building a new website you often code it ‘on-the-fly’. That’s to say, strapping in new features here and there until it does exactly what you want – but leaving a mess that needs to be optimised.

One of the best ways of testing your site for scalability (other than getting huge traffic straight away) is to test how long your PHP scripts take to parse. We can do this by comparing the time at the start and end of a script to give us the processing time.

Continue reading “Benchmarking and testing your PHP script with microtime”

Using Google Maps, Geocoding and PHP to find the distance between UK Postcodes

UPDATE: A new version which calculates distance based on roads is available.

If you’re looking to make any kind of radius checker, delivery calculator etc, you will need to have some method of calculating this distance. Unfortunately for us in the UK, Royal Mail keep a tight grip on postcode data.

As a result, the best low-budget way of finding postcodes is by using the Google Maps api – which in itself isn’t 100% accurate (but good enough).

So we can use the following code:

// Specify Postcodes to Geocode
$postcode1 = 'BH151DA';
$postcode2 = 'BH213AP';

// Geocode Postcodes & Get Co-ordinates 1st Postcode
$pc1 = ''.$postcode1.',+UK&output=csv&sensor=false';
$data1 = @file_get_contents($pc1);
$result1 = explode(",", $data1);
$custlat1 = $result1[2];
$custlong1 = $result1[3];

// Geocode Postcodes & Get Co-ordinates 2nd Postcode
$pc2 = ''.$postcode2.',+UK&output=csv&sensor=false';
$data2 = @file_get_contents($pc2);
$result2 = explode(",", $data2);
$custlat2 = $result2[2];
$custlong2 = $result2[3];

// Work out the distance!
$pi80 = M_PI / 180;
$custlat1 *= $pi80;
$custlong1 *= $pi80;
$custlat2 *= $pi80;
$custlong2 *= $pi80;

$r = 6372.797; // mean radius of Earth in km
$dlat = $custlat2 - $custlat1;
$dlng = $custlong2 - $custlong1;
$a = sin($dlat / 2) * sin($dlat / 2) + cos($custlat1) * cos($custlat2) * sin($dlng / 2) * sin($dlng / 2);
$c = 2 * atan2(sqrt($a), sqrt(1 - $a));

// Distance in KM
$km = round($r * $c, 2);

// Distance in Miles
$miles = round($km * 0.621371192, 2);

echo 'The distance between '.$postcode1.' and '.$postcode2.' is '.$km.'Km ('.$miles.' miles).';


You could use $result1[0] and $result2[0] to check codes. If the value is anything other than 200 the postcode is invalid. Also note UK is also searched for to guarantee correct results!

The result is also rounded to make sure we only have 2 decimal places. Make sure your postcodes do not have any spaces in when they go to Google, if you’re collecting them from a form maybe use:

function nowhitespace($data) {
return preg_replace('/\s/', '', $data);
$postcode1 = nowhitespace($postcode1);

to remove all spaces before processing, and the following to check it’s ok after processing:

if (($result1[0] != 200) || ($result2[0] != 200)) {
echo "<p>Invalid Postcode(s) Entered. Please try again.</p>";
} else {

Good luck!

Validating email addresses in PHP with Preg filters, DNS, MX Servers and other checks

UPDATE: It is now easier to send a confirmation email to the provided address to validate it, or to use a framework than a custom script.

There are many tutorials online that show users how to validate an email address, but most do it wrong. This means many websites will reject valid addresses such as customer/[email protected] or abc!def!xyz%[email protected] (yes, they are valid!) with the following expression:

Continue reading “Validating email addresses in PHP with Preg filters, DNS, MX Servers and other checks”

SPF Records for Google Apps Hosted Mail – avoiding rejected emails

Using Google Apps for your domain’s email? Well you definately need to set up some SPF records.
It seems yahoo is extremely strict when it comes to checking for SPF records on a domain, and bounces anything with missing records. Many other email providers like hotmail simply SPAM your message straight away.

Google provide the following resource for this problem:

But, they recommend using

v=spf1 ~all

That’s all fine and well…but what about the official website? Oddly, they recommend using – instead of ~ (

v=spf1 -all

But seeing as it’s google hosting my mail, I’ve been using ~ successfully for some time now, with no more bounces.

Testing whether you’re configured correctly

Easy, just send an email to [email protected] and you’ll get a bounce right back with the SPF status in (

How can I configure my server?

If you have access to all your DNS records for your domain you can add it yourself (for example through WHM or root plesk panel) but on most shared hosts just fire off an email to the support team who will add the record for you.

On Plesk & Cpanel you can add either a SPF record or a TXT record through your DNS editor, making it easy to do this yourself.

Automatic Local, FTP and Email Backups of MySQL Databases with Cron

I’ll start by saying this is not all my own code, it is based on dagon design’s original release in 2007 (Automatic MySql Backup Script) but this version builds on their version 2.1 to add FTP support.

What this script does:

  • Backup all of your MySQL databases on a server individually, then package them into a single tar.
  • Save that tar locally, on a FTP server or even email it to you

What you need:

  • PHP
  • MySQL
  • An account with relevant mysql access (it needs access to the databases you wish to backup)


Zip containing dbbackup.php & dbbackupconfig.php –

What I’ve added:

To upload to a remote FTP server, I added this to the config file:

## FTP Options

// Use FTP Option?
$useftp = true;

// Use passive mode?
$usepassive = true;

// FTP Server Address
$ftp_server = 'host';

// FTP Username & Password
$ftp_user_name = 'username';
$ftp_user_pass = 'password';

and this to the main file below email sending:

// do we ftp the file?
if ($useftp == true) {
$remote_file = $BACKUP_NAME;

// set up basic connection
$conn_id = ftp_connect($ftp_server);

// login with username and password
$login_result = ftp_login($conn_id, $ftp_user_name, $ftp_user_pass);

// turn passive mode on?
ftp_pasv($conn_id, $usepassive);

// upload a file
if (ftp_put($conn_id, $remote_file, $file, FTP_BINARY)) {
 echo "successfully uploaded to ftp: $remotefile\n";
} else {
 echo "There was a problem while uploading $remotefile\n";

// close the connection

That’s all!

Stripping everything but letters and numbers from a string in PHP with preg_replace

Useful for a number of things including username and anything else you don’t want ANY special chars in, leaving only alphanumeric digits.

$string = 'us$$er*&^[email protected]@e';
$string = cleanabc123($string);
function cleanabc123($data)
$data = preg_replace("/[^a-zA-Z0-9\s]/", "", $data);
return $data;
// This will be 'username' now
echo $string;

And if you wanted it to also remove whitespace, you could change the function by removing the \s whitespace character.

$data = preg_replace("/[^a-zA-Z0-9]/", "", $data);

Remove whitespace (spaces) from a string with PHP and preg_replace

Seeing as ereg_replace and that whole family has been depreciated in the newer PHP releases it’s surprising how many sites still show and use it.

This simple function strips out whitespace from a string. Could be useful in taking spaces out of usernames, id’s, etc.

$string = 'us er na  me';
$string = nowhitespace($string);
function nowhitespace($data) {
return preg_replace('/\s/', '', $data);
// This will be 'username' now
echo $string;

You could use this to make all whitespace only 1 space wide by changing the ” in the following line.

return preg_replace('/\s/', ' ', $data);

Last example modified from the PHP manual.