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The Dawn of Physics Overflow: The beginning

Last weekend, I finally had the opportunity to start testing the installation of a Q2A site on my laptop, heavily supported by a nice, friendly, and very competent informatics expert 🙂 …), so I’d like to report about this a little bit. As expected, we still have some more work to do. To find hosting and importing the TP data is not exactly straight forward, but I really want these nice questions to be on the new site too … ! However, we have some good news, as there are things that already work quite nicely and in some cases even better than on SE (!)  too :-P.

To install Q2A on my laptop, we first had to get a web server (Apache HTTP) and make PHP and SQL work. When trying to install these things separately, things got more and more complicated and entangled, such that we had to give up this approach. Happily there exists some kind of an all-inclusive package called XAMPP for Windows, which runs the things we need and much more.  Now I can just run XAMPP as an administrator, to activate the Apache server and MySQL (the picture should be clickable to zoom in).

XAMPP control panel

These preliminary steps will not have to be done when going online, as MySQL and PHP are expected to be installed on the server that will host the site.

After these preparations, we could almost straight forwardly follow the steps described in the fucking manual  😉  to install Q2A and create a database to hold the content of the test site.  After logging in as a Super Administrator (on the real site I will of course NOT be the dictator ;-P, there should be non anyway), the site with a few more or less stupid test questions looks like this:

Recent question list

Installing LaTex (or Mathjax strictly speaking) was relatively straight forward, we adopted the procedure described in the second not accepted answer to this question asking how to install LaTex in Q2A. Applying this mark down editor with LaTex, one gets a nice preview when writing posts that displays the compiled LaTex too, and the editor is even more comfortable (for people like me who are too lazy to learn all LaTex commands by heart), than what SE provides  … ;-P.

LaTex preview

Concerning the possibility to view the revision history of posts, this can be done by installing the Edit History plugin. It almost works, such that you get as in SE, a link to the edit history below each post:

Edit History

However, there are still some bugs involved (leading to error messages that non static functions should not be called statically in some PHP files) which obviously have the effect that that the link to the edit history is not always available, and when adding LaTex in an edit, the latest patch does not show the compiled equations. But we are working on this (among other things)  and I postulate that the problem has a unique solution ;-). No, I am not going to ask about it on SO … 😛

Working with a system of categories, such as one called Meta and another one called Main with subcategories Theoretical Physics, Phenomenology, Experimental Physics, Astronomy, Mathematics, etc is quite easy, as the (sub) category can be chosen too when typing a question.  But I presently don’t know, if Q2A has the feature of following (ignoring) tags, categories.

In summary, it can certainly not be expected that everything works exactly as we want it to be right from the start or day zero we go online, rather things will continuously improve.

The next big task is to import the TP questions into the test site sitting on my laptop now. To do this we have exported a data dump from the test site, which the nice friendly informatics expert who supports us, is now analysing and comparing to the TP SE data dump to write a conversion script. Converting the TP data dump to the same format and structure the test site data dump has, it should then be able to import it into the test site. But this is not straight forward at all, and many things have to be considered …

Concerning the hosting, I will write Prof. van Hees another mail from another less suspicious than my google mail account ;-), as Arnold Neumaier has given me the advice to do.

I think at least we have done now a more serious step towards realizing our new site  🙂



  1. Yay! This is extraordinary! (I suppose the answer to the third question is Supersymmetry Demystified : ) )

    As for the bug with the edit history (MathJaX not compiling),

    This bug is there on SE too (Especially in the older revisions) so it’s not so much of a problem.

  2. By the way, have you checked the versatility of the LaTeX plug-in? Is in-line LaTeX allowed?

    • Dilaton says:

      What exactly is meant by in-line LaTex, that you can use $math expressions$ in a flowing text? This should work too, but to be sure I’ll recheck it when I’m back at home…

  3. By the way, is there the option to roll back or view the source of the old revisions?.

  4. Another plug-in required:
    Maybe you should post the following posts now:
    – What plug-ins do we need (where users can post plug-ins in the comments)
    – What should be the site settings in the Admin dashboard (poll for each major setting)
    – Possibly important contributors (in the comments)

  5. Oh, I see you’re not using the CDN, but the plug-in.

  6. Does the plug-in support uploading images?

    Maybe you could report the LaTeX problem on Q2A?.

  7. As for the LaTeX bug…

    Instead of using the MarkDown + MaThJaX editor, use the plain markdown editor and add the following javascript (the MaThJaX secure CDN) onto the custom head html:


    If that doesn’t work, use the insecure version (it really shouldn’t matter):


    Maybe that would work…

  8. Here’s a plug – in that allows one to *upload* an image (not just post a link) using a service called PostImage.Org.

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