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phpbb has modifications available to address these problems. I know the best one for phpbb3 is not listed under the mods database on phpbb.com It's an entire suite of mods, url rewriting, no duplication, unique meta tags etc.
No patches for phpbb2 for about year now, think that speaks for itself.
If you don't have money (for vbulletin license) use SMF,
if you know php(i mean if you can develope something with php) use phpbb.
I think, you have to think like this:
if i buy license for vbulletin, in how many days will i take my money back. (with adsense or something else)
Vbulletin is the best forum system i think..
Buy license and vbseo. Enjoy it =)
If you don't want to pay for SEO to vbseo, you can use zoints seo system.
Regards from Turkey,
(Sorry for my bad english)
As far as phpbb2 goes you never had to reapply your hacks, at least for the last 3 or 4 years. With each update they have also released a mod file that is basically a hack itself to apply the changes to your current files. If you have easy mod installed these usually go off without a hitch so for most updates you're talking about minutes, there are exceptions of course. Really no big deal because you just don't complete the installation and manually edit the changes where the conflict occurred.
As far as phpbb3 goes it has similar update system built in, I haven't used it yet but from my understanding it automatically applies updates to files that have not been modified. Files that have been modified you're given a notice for and you can either back out of the update to apply manually or have the updater do it.Apparently it shows you exactly what lines its going to add or edit. I believe there is even an option for manually doing it through updater itself. phpbb3 does come with a file editor so I don't see why they wouldn't take advantage of it.