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The History of Romance.ucam.org

RUO0 was the original concept of the site, as conceived at the Edinburgh Festival late at night after leaving the pub! This was a brief specification as an MS Word Document in August 1999. Richard wrote the spec, and John, on the promise of a bottle of Glenfiddich, and because it seemed like a fun thing to do, got to work making it actually workable on a computer....

RUO1 was launched in Cambridge in February 2000, just after Valentine's Day. It was initially in a partnership with RAG such that they would put up posters for us, and in return, successful couples would make a 'thank-you' donation to RAG. That was why we waited till after the RAG Blind Date to launch. Features were added to the site, and by the end of the summer term, we had over 100 members! The URL for the site, and its name were both http://romance.ucam.org During that summer, we could not host it on John Surcombe's computer in St John's, and so we arranged hosting with Seem Internet Solutions under the domain http://www.romanceucam.org.uk

RUO2 was the result of the gradual metamorphosis of RUO1 over the next year (October 2000 - June 2001). Despite being the final years of both Richard and John, the site developed, gained features, and most importantly, gained members. By the end of the year, the site had had over 2647 members and 400170 messages exchanged. John wrote the very popular Chat system, and during several mammoth all-night coding sessions, we implemented the Love Web, Invite System and other enhancements. There was also a vast amount of work needed for publicity, and also the Computer Security Group worked with us to improve security to better than that of Hermes, while writing a paper on their work! Although RUO2 was in many ways, a very good system, it had some problems. Worst of all, the site had been initially implemented in ASP running on Microsoft Windows 2000 and IIS, using an Access 97 Database. While this had been an excellent choice for the early RUO1 due to its simplicity, we had outgrown it. And the stability of the system was not good. Also, we wanted to continue to grow, to make the site available to other universities, and to add other features. So, we decided to buy our own Linux Server, and to do a total re-write of the site in Java. The computer service agreed to host the server for us at the start of the new term, and we moved over to Seem for the summer.

RUO3 was supposed to be ready for the start of term in October 2001. Richard was back for an MPhil, and organised a major launch at the Societies' Fair (complete with 15 kg of chocolates and a 'puppy promotion'), but John was now working full time, and the new site was not ready. The initial plan was to leave the old site in its summer holiday home on Seem. But their reliability wasn't. After their continued failures to fix it and then leave it alone, we had to move, and we borrowed a virtual Win2k box from Alex in Trinity Hall. Thanks to Alex, we were able to continue urning the Michaelmas term 2001, but his dedication and patience was sorely tested by Windows. I can only apologise for the frequent service interruptions suffered during that term, resulting from on separate occasions, a RAM failure, a Trinity Hall network outage, a cooked Pentium III, and various crashes of the "Operating" system, and database corruption. Finally, on 23/11/01, VMWare crashed for good, and our virtual box was irretrievable. As a result, we moved hurriedly to the new system, although it still wasn't ready. At the moment, we have made it usable, but it is far from finished....

RUO2.9 At the beginning of the Lent term, 2002, RUO3 is still missing much functionality. And Valentine's Day is fast approaching! So, we have moved back to the old ASP code, which is fully functional. We aren't going to touch M$ with a barge-pole, though! So we are using Linux/Apache, the Chilisoft! ASP server, and Postgres. This hasn't been simple, and thanks lots to Michael Brown especially for the help in moving the data to Postgres, and modifying the ASP where necessary.

RUO3.1 Actually, the above paragraph was rather optimistic at the time of writing, and Chilisoft proved a disaster. In the end, Richard re-wrote the entire site in PHP (thanks partly to the asp2php tool.) PHP is vastly more powerful, and is what we should have done to begin with! The combination of Linux, PHP, and PostgreSQL is entirely Open Source. Hopefully, the new incarnation (March 2002) will prove the reliable, stable platform we hope....
In the meantime, the Oxford site running RUO2/ASP/Access has outgrown Seem (Traffic > 1GB /day !!) thanks to the terrific efforts of Andy Hine and Dave Agrawal. After 2 weeks of successful testing of the Cambridge code, we moved the Oxford site to our Linux server as well. This was very timely, as Seem had complained about the 'abuse' of their terms and conditions - I guess we were eating too much bandwidth!

RUO3 - A year later... It's now April 2003, and everything is going very well. The system has proved extremely stable (the current uptime is 184 days, since we moved the server to provide more heat where it was needed) and the code has proved durable and stable. Of course, we've added to it a bit over the last year :-) And we now have 2 engagements and a marriage to show for it!
The site has grown to include offshoots at other universities (Bristol, Edinburgh, Warwick) with more to follow. Our traffic has increased even further, although, thanks to mod_gzip, the bandwidth munching isn't so bad. (550 MB/day). Dave Agrawal and Andy Hine, the founders in Oxford have now passed on their mantle to Alice and Gem. Their achievement has been incredible: over 2 years, the site has grown from nothing to over 1500 members, the millionth message mark has been passed, and it is the place to be in Oxford. Well done!

RUO3.2 - July 2003. We didn't quite make it to a full year of uptime, thanks to a power cut on 22 June after 251 days! Soon afterwards, a failing hard disk prompted us to get around to the planned upgrade in a hurry. So, the server now has 2 GB RAM, 3 hard disks, and Mandrake 9.1. All is still going well, and we now have offshoots at: Cambridge, Oxford, Bristol, Warwick, Edinburgh, Imperial, Leeds and Oxford Brookes. We have currently 2563 active members, and 3,596,535 messages have been exchanged, as of writing this.

Why the name RUO3 ?
We were (and in Cambridge, still are), Romance.ucam.org, choosing our real name to be the same as our domain name. But this could never be suitably generic, or meaningful to anyone outside of Cambridge. So, we hunted for a suitable new name. RUO3 is "The 3rd incarnation of Romance.ucam.org". It is short, easy to remember, and hopefully will make people curious!

Who is Hamish ?
Hamish, the RUO mascot, is a small Scottish bear. He appears on many of the buttons. Here he is:

RUO has had various domains - so here is a brief explanation:

  • http://ruo3.org (with or without the 'www') is the new main overall address of the site.
  • http://romance.ucam.org (no 'www') is the old main address of the site, and the main address in Cambridge.
  • http://romance.al.cl.cam.ac.uk was once the physical address of the server in the Cambridge University computer department.
  • oxfordromance.org.uk, bristolromance.org.uk, edinburghromance.org.uk, warwickromance.org.uk are the addresses for other universities. More are planned...
  • ruo3.org.uk, ruo3.co.uk, ruo3.com are also our domains.
  • eddie.trinhall.cam.ac.uk, polymorph.trinhall.cam.ac.uk, romanceucam.org.uk are now obsolete.
Please only use http://ruo3.org or http://romance.ucam.org. All other addresses are subject to change.

RUO is completely free to use. This is how it is financed.

Successes so far
See the Testimonials page for what people have told us!

Back to about Romance.ucam.org.