Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The DNS Host Is Crucial For A Custom Domain

When you setup your Google Custom Domain, the instruction for the DNS addressing setup is rather basic.
Add one or more "A" and / or "CNAME" records. Point "www.mydomain.com", and / or "mydomain.com", to "ghs.google.com", or to a series of Google servers.

Unfortunately, all DNS hosts don't provide multiple "A" referrals / "CNAME" referral to "ghs.google.com"; some only allow for a conventional "A" referral to a single, fixed IP address.

These instructions are most often seen when you purchase the domain directly from a third party registrar, and your registrar sets up the domain itself - since when you use "Buy a domain", all of this detail is done for you.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Background Images In Your Blog

Background images make the blog so much more colourful than plain old solid colour backgrounds. A background image
  • Is not clickable.
  • Can be seen where no foreground content is present.


Look at using a background image under the text title, for instance. Note that this is the opposite from replacing the text in the title with a picture. If you put a picture in the title, no background will be visible, unless you intentionally make the picture too small for the title space, or use a transparent .gif file for an image.

We do this using CSS rules. Look in the template for
#header-wrapper {
width:660px;
margin:0 auto 10px;
border:0px solid $bordercolor;
}

Change that to
#header-wrapper {
width:660px;
margin:0 auto 10px;
border:0px solid $bordercolor;
background-image: url(http://whatever.wherever.com/what.gif);
background-repeat: no-repeat;
}

The CSS object "header-wrapper" is the name for the screen area, used in most standard Blogger Layouts templates, which will contain the text blog title and blog description. Your template may use that name, or another; or you may want your background in another container altogether. If you have, separately, tweaked your header, any of the above settings may differ. Just add the "background" rule to the container which pleases you.

If you have a Classic blog, your template may or may not use a CSS rule to define the header. It may or may not use a CSS object "header-wrapper". Be aware of the possibilities. You could, conceivably, have a <div> tag, with all of the rules defined there in the HTML.
<div style="width:660px; margin:0 auto 10px;
border:0px solid $bordercolor;">
...
</div>

if so, change that to
<div style="width:660px; margin:0 auto 10px;
border:0px solid $bordercolor;
background: url(http://whatever.wherever.com/what.gif) no-repeat 0px 0px;">
...
</div>


You can apply a background image to any area in the blog, not just the header. The Body is a popular place for a background image. If you have a large image, you won't want it to repeat.
body {
...
background-image: url('whatever.wherever.com/what.gif');
background-repeat:no-repeat;
...
}


One recently popular variation on the plain old background image is one that stays in place on the page, as the reader scrolls.
body {
...
background-image: url('whatever.wherever.com/what.gif');
background-repeat:no-repeat;
background-attachment:fixed;
...
}

With any large screen area, your image will probably be smaller than the area being covered. You'll probably not use "norepeat", so your background image gets reused, repeatedly, in a checkerboard pattern, over the entire area. Many background images tile, so they automatically fill the body of the blog.
body {
...
background-image: url('whatever.wherever.com/what.gif');
...
}


For more information, see the W3Schools tutorial: CSS Background

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Google Custom Domain - Case Study #1

If you're going to setup a Google Custom Domain, you have to start with DNS properly setup. In most cases, you will want the "www" alias, as well as the rest of the domain, to refer to Google. This requires you to properly use the setup procedures provided by your DNS Host, as a complement to the facilities provided by Google.

NOTE: This case study shows how a Custom Domain was setup, in the early days. A much more comprehensive tutorial can be found in Your Blog, Custom Domains, And Righteous Solutions. You may examine the illustrations below, for background, but the correct configuration is described in the latter article.

This case study uses my church website, martinezumc.org, with DNS service provided by GoDaddy. So, I logged in to the GoDaddy control panel, and followed the Google GoDaddy instructions (instructions for other hosting services are also in that document). Steps 1 - 4 were on target. So, I document below Steps 5 - 7 of the instructions, which became my steps 1 - 8.

Note that GoDaddy is simply the example that I use here. Blogger provides How do I create a CNAME record for my custom domain?, which provides instructions for half a dozen different popular DNS Hosting companies. This case study describes my personal experince, with my custom domain. From what I've seen, you should be persistent and resourceful, when setting up your custom domain.

Step 1

The Default GoDaddy Settings


Here we see all DNS entries created by GoDaddy, when "martinezumc.org" was setup originally. All entries point to GoDaddy, using an "A" record equating "@" (the domain root) to "68.178.232.100".

Step 2

Just 2 Quick Changes


  1. I deleted the "A" record pointing the domain to GoDaddy.(See Note 2, below)
  2. I added a "CNAME" record equating "www" to "ghs.google.com".
For more detail about DNS records, see PCMagazine Definition of: DNS records, or FAQs.Org: How DNS Works.
(Note 1): This example is for a domain setup for the ".org" TLD, and using GoDaddy as the registrar. All experience so far indicates that the different TLDs (.com, .info, .net, .org, ...), and the different registrars (like GoDaddy) have different rules. Be careful here, and ask questions in Blogger Help Group: How Do I?, if anything here is not completely clear to you. We are still learning the details, and I suspect Blogger staff is too. If you have any doubt about the effectiveness of your DNS setup, execute Step7 below, and proceed only when you get similar results.
(Note 2): If you have an existing website with other content, and just want to add the blog as "blog.mydomain.com", don't delete the "A" record. Just add a "CNAME" record equating "blog" to "ghs.google.com".

Step 3

I Setup Blog Publishing


I went into Settings - Publishing for the blog currently published at "martinezumc.blogspot.com", selected "Switch to: Custom Domain", and set it to publish to "martinezumc.org". Note that it clearly warns us
martinezumc.blogspot.com will redirect to your custom domain.
with no mention of www.martinezumc.blogspot.com. This makes it unlikely that we should expect "www.martinezumc.org" to work.

Step 4

I Tested martinezumc .org


Success!

Step 5

I Tested www .martinezumc .org


Here we see just what I predicted, in Step 3, above.

Step 7
And to verify the GoDaddy setup (and diagnose the 404), a simple set of ping tests.
C:\>ping martinezumc.org

Pinging ghs.l.google.com [64.233.179.121] with 32 bytes of data:

Reply from 64.233.179.121: bytes=32 time=94ms TTL=242
Reply from 64.233.179.121: bytes=32 time=92ms TTL=242
Reply from 64.233.179.121: bytes=32 time=94ms TTL=242
Reply from 64.233.179.121: bytes=32 time=94ms TTL=242

Ping statistics for 64.233.179.121:
Packets: Sent = 4, Received = 4, Lost = 0 (0% loss),
Approximate round trip times in milli-seconds:
Minimum = 92ms, Maximum = 94ms, Average = 93ms

C:\>ping www.martinezumc.org

Pinging ghs.l.google.com [66.249.81.121] with 32 bytes of data:

Reply from 66.249.81.121: bytes=32 time=94ms TTL=242
Reply from 66.249.81.121: bytes=32 time=93ms TTL=242
Reply from 66.249.81.121: bytes=32 time=93ms TTL=242
Reply from 66.249.81.121: bytes=32 time=96ms TTL=242

Ping statistics for 66.249.81.121:
Packets: Sent = 4, Received = 4, Lost = 0 (0% loss),
Approximate round trip times in milli-seconds:
Minimum = 93ms, Maximum = 96ms, Average = 94ms


And there is a demonstration of the dynamic name resolution of "ghs.google.com".
64.233.179.121
hs-in-f121.google.com
66.249.81.121
bx-in-f121.google.com


And, seeing as "www.martinezumc.org" resolves properly, in this example to "66.249.81.121", we can conclude that the 404 above is coming from Google, not GoDaddy.

The host named "ghs.google.com" is a load balanced server array. It's provided to give your readers the best performance possible, when visiting your blog.


And, last but by no means least, the DNS Report for "martinezumc.org".

And with DNS Referral setup and verified in Step7 above, continue by setting up the blog itself.

Note: The above case study describes my personal experience. There are multiple bloggers, setting up blogs with different TLDs (.com, ,net, .org are simply 3 examples), using multiple DNS hosts. From what I've seen, you should be persistent and resourceful, when setting up your custom domain.

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Saturday, October 20, 2007

Examining The Structure Of A Blog

Any time you examine a blog - either yours or a friends or strangers - you look at the content, and maybe the template. The content is obvious - you read what the blog has to say. Then you look at the template, and at the accessories and decorations.

How about the links? Any blog of any size has links - usually within the blog, and outside the blog. Maybe links to other blogs produced by the same person, to the close friends of that person, and to acquaintances and strangers.
OMG, Chuck, that could take days. I don't have time for that nonsense.


But that nonsense can be a key to finding a contact to a friend or stranger, or a problem in your own blog. And maybe you do have time, if you automate your research.

IT-Mate provides a free useful product - vURL Desktop Edition - that walks through any blog or website, extracts each link, and presents you with an alphabetised and normalised list of all links found. You can look at the list presented to you, and find other links within that blog, to other blogs, and to other web sites. Along with the link list, it provides a listing of the source code, similar to a "View - Page Source" command in Firefox or Internet Explorer.

For each link that interests you, a (right click of mouse) context menu offers many options, such as opening the site in your browser, or running another copy of vURL against that web site.

Once you have a list generated by vURL, you can examine the blogs in the list using hpObserver Site Online.

Combining vURL and hpObserver, you can parse and monitor a lot of Blogger blogs.

Another useful product is Sala's HTML Graph Applet, which gives you a stylised picture showing the node structure of your blog or web site.

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Monday, October 15, 2007

The AFF Splog Farm #3

The Blogosphere currently has a real problem - active hacking, and obnoxious unwanted commercial "adult" content, is in 1 out of every 3 blogs being published. Do some "Next Blog" surfing, and see what I mean.

I wrote, originally, about this problem a little over a month ago. I published an update last Friday, indicating that the problem isn't going away, and Blogger hasn't done anything to solve it.

Yesterday, the problem changed direction.

This is what we had a month ago (and last week). That's a dead web site.

http://aff-friend-finderwvghpcb.blogspot.com/

Note the blog name, in the URL.
aff-friend-finderwvghpcb
aff-friend-finder <== Name
wvghpcb <== Suffix


Possibly to make their blog setup faster or more scalable, the sploggers stopped using dictionary words in the blog names.

Here's a (slightly altered) entry taken from the Recently Updated Blogs list, during the morning of 10/15/2007. That's not the actual URL, as I do not link to sites serving malware or spam. If you really want to see some, just go surfing for 5 or 10 minutes. This example should tell you what to look for.

http://049768cqslzid.blogspot.com/

Note the blog name, in the URL, now.
049768cqslzid
049768 <== Splog Number: Always 6 digits (right now).
cqslzid <== Suffix: 6 - 12 alphabetic characters, possibly dictionary filtered.


But name change or no, it's the same crap.


This is what you'll see, if your computer is properly protected, with a layered security strategy.


They can't even spell "Blogger".



If your computer isn't properly protected, you'll probably see different content.


This is approximately what you'd see, if your computer isn't fully protected. If you didn't use Microsoft Paint, there would even be pictures in place of the white space.

I don't see this crap on my primary computer, because I use a Hosts file based site blocker. So simple - and requires very little effort to install.





And thanks to Firefox, and its pop up blocking, I don't see this either.



All of the ads in the latter two pictures change constantly. What you see there is purely a vague approximation, provided to give you a hint of what the splog master is doing. Sometimes, what he's doing may make your computer the newest member of the botnet being offered, if you're not protected.

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This Looks Dangerous #3

This is a welcome improvement from the old ability to remove our own administrative ability, without knowing. Let's see if it works.


See an improvement? "grant admin privileges" is way more obvious than "admin".



So click on the link, and get a warning. So, we'll select "Grant Admin Privileges".



Now, we have 2 administrators. Click on the link again.



And now, the second and the key warning. Here, I hope that the default selection is "Cancel". Having observed the warning, we'll select "Revoke Admin Privileges".



And now, we have one administrator again.


A welcome improvement here, folks.

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Friday, October 12, 2007

The AFF Splog Farm #2

The Blogosphere currently has a real problem - active hacking, and obnoxious unwanted commercial "adult" content, is in 1 out of every 3 blogs being published. Do some "Next Blog" surfing, and see what I mean.

A little over 1 month ago, I went Next Blog surfing, and today, I repeated my experience. And the figures haven't changed. Today, I surfed through 20 blogs, 2 of them were financial scams, and 6 were obnoxious "adult" content. I should add, "adult" content of low quality. Total crap.

And of the "adult" content, one variant seen frequently has been found to contain active hacking attempts.

Until Blogger fixes the problem, I will encourage all concerned Bloggers to remove the Navbar from your blogs. And let Blogger know that you're concerned about the problem - use both the Blogger Contact Form, and the Blogger Wishlist.

>> Forum thread links: bX-*00065

>> Copy this tag: bX-*00065

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Print Your Blog To Paper

It's a very good idea to backup your blog, periodically. Making a mirror copy of the blog, on a local computer that you control, is a good idea for many reasons. You also might like to make a printed copy of the blog. If you would simply like to print off your blog to paper, to save the text of the posts, here is code that will let you extract a selection of updates.

http://yourblog.blogspot.com/search?
updated-min=1999-01-01T00:00:00Z&
updated-max=2008-01-01T23:59:59:00Z&
max-results=5000


Simply
  • Copy the code into a text word processor such as Notepad.
  • Replace
    • yourblog.blogspot.com - The blog URL.
    • 1999-01-01T00:00:00Z - The start date and time.
    • 2008-01-01T23:59:59:00Z - The end date and time.
    with the appropriate values, to suit your needs.
  • Remove gratuitous line breaks, from the code, so it all forms one single long line.
  • Copy and paste the entire line, as a URL, into the address window in your browser.
  • When the proper display is seen in the browser, use the browser print wizard to print as you wish.


After you've done this a few times, and suffered the truncated horizontal content, and orphaned vertical content, you'll understand why Adobe Acrobat and similar formatting programs are so expensive - and yet so popular. Your browser will do only so good a job reformatting the content of the blog, horizontally and vertically, when printed.

But use Print Preview, and try the many alternative print formatting services.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Mysterious Blank Spaces In Blog Posts

Various bloggers are complaining of mysterious blank spaces in the middle of their blog posts. The common factor noted, so far, is that the blogs affected are using a Rounders template.

The blank spaces appear to be the result of AdSense or Google Ads content, which some bloggers aren't even aware of.
<div style="float: right;"><script type="text/javascript"></script>
<script src="http://pagead2.googlesyndication.com/pagead/show_ads.js"
type="text/javascript">
</script><iframe name="google_ads_frame" src="http://
pagead2.googlesyndication.com/pagead/ads?
client=undefined ... "
marginwidth="0" marginheight="0" vspace="0" hspace="0"
allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="" scrolling="no"
width=""></iframe>
</div>


Note the " ... " above, that represents a large amount of detail removed, for the sake of brevity.

The example above, from a forum thread, involves a blog with Rounders 4. My personal test of a new blog using Rounders 4 is negative, so the problem isn't consistent with the Blogger Template Library containing corrupt code. Another forum thread suggests that the template was acquired from a third party, identity currently unknown.

>> Forum thread links: bX-*00071

>> Copy this tag: bX-*00071

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Blogging And Your Gmail Account

With New Blogger, Google lets you use your Google account to access your blog, and your friends blogs. They do this for your convenience.

Not everybody wants convenience. Some folks see using their email account for Blogging as an invasion of privacy. Others are afraid of losing their email account, and losing Blogger access at the same time.

The good news is that Google accounts are free, and you can set up another, or as many as you like. And, you can use either an existing or new email address, GMail or other, as you like.
  • Go to your GMail main window.
  • In the lower left of the window, find "Invite a friend".
  • Enter your email address (yes, the address displayed).
  • When you get the invitation from yourself, open and accept it.
  • Choose any new Google address that pleases you (and that's available).
  • Log out of your current GMail account, and into your new account.
  • Transfer your blogs to your new Google account.


If you're going to use one GMail account for your email, and another for Blogger / Google Groups / whatever, don't get confused when you find that you have to login periodically, to either your Blogger, your Google Email, or your Google Groups, sessions. Many Bloggers (myself included) have found that the various Google cookies used tend to be confused by the various activities.

Whatever email account that you base your Blogger account on, please be sure that it's an active account, able to process automated email invitations, and keep it active.

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Your Email Address Is Private To You

One of the long awaited features in New Blogger was the ability to restrict access to your blog.

Designating your blog as private, to be read by authorised parties only, was a much requested feature.

Blogger uses your Google account to identify you, and verify that you are authorised to view any blog (including yours). And that causes occasional concern, fortunately unnecessary in this case.

Seeing your Google account, which coincidentally may be the same as your email address, as you peruse your blog, is a bit scary.

Editing A Layouts Template

A Layouts template, the template in a New Blogger blog, when published to Blog*Spot (or to a Google Custom Domain) is written in XML, not HTML. A lot of HTML based tweaks won't work in New Blogger.

If you force HTML into your template, you may end up with one of the new, cryptic error codes
bX-lgwej
This says that your post template contains invalid HTML.

Are you seeing this error? If so, don't despair.

XML is not as user friendly as HTML was. But 90% of the HTML based tweaks can probably be copied into HTML page elements in the GUI Page Elements section of the Template. Forget about raw XML, and use Page Elements.

XML is not as forgiving as HTML. You may have to learn some discipline, when coding New Blogger template entries, and even posts.

Most HTML tags, like the Anchor tag, come in pairs.

<a href="http://bloggerstatusforrealbeta.blogspot.com/
2007/01/editing-template-in-new-blogger-blog.html">
http://bloggerstatusforrealbeta.blogspot.com/
2007/01/editing-template-in-new-blogger-blog.html</a>
is an anchor link to this article. Notice the
<a...> ... </a>
pair.

Some HTML tags, like the Break tag, don't come in pairs.
<br>
is a tag that I use a lot. There is no sequence
<br> ... </br>
A Break tag, in strict HTML, is better written as
<br />


The requirements of strict HTML you will probably have to learn from experience. An Object tag can't be written as the Break tag is written.
<object />
isn't valid. Nor is a simple
<object ... >


Here's how I got an embedded video object to work, in my Miscellaneous Musings post More Bumper Cars
<span style="text-align: center; display: block;"><object height="350" width="425"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/z9tKWzxSZ5E"><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/z9tKWzxSZ5E" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="samedomain" height="350" width="425"></embed></object></span>
Note the Embed and Param tags, too. The Param didn't require pairing. The Object and Embed tags did - you'll get errors when publishing with them unpaired. I got an error when I tried publishing Object as
<object ... />
The only solution was to publish it as
<object ... > ... </object>
Apparently all tags aren't as versatile in formatting as the meta tag is. Life isn't fair, nor is strict HTML easy. Deal with it.

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Monday, October 08, 2007

New Blogger Limits - Labels

As I wrote so long ago, Labels are one of the most significant features of New (pka Beta) Blogger.

But everything good has its limits. If you use Labels enthusiastically, as I have, you will discover them (they will find you) periodically.


You have too many labels, or the total length of your labels is too great.


You are limited to a total of 200 characters, in the Labels string, for any post. I believe that this includes all commas and spaces between labels.

Look at my example.
Labels for this post:
Label1, Label2, Label3, Label4, Label5, Label6, Label7, Label8, Label9, Label10, Label11, Label12, Label13, Label14, Label15, Label16, Label17, Label18, Label19, Label20, Label21, Label22, Label23, Label24, Label25, Label26, Label27, Label28, Label29, Label30, Label31, Label32, Label33, Label34, Label35, Label36, Label37, Label38, Label39, Label40, Label41, Label42, Label43, Label44, Label45, Label46, Label47, Label48, Label49, Label50, Label51, Label52, Label53, Label54, Label55, Label56, Label57, Label58, Label59


Like limiting the size of your main page, you really have to exercise some judgement about labels. A blog of any appreciable size, with 200 characters of labels in some posts, would have a rather large label list. The above example, with 59 labels, is waaay to many. Think of your readers, please.

(Update 2009/10/02): Nearly one year later, and we see newly discovered limits in labels.

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Dragonflies

Along with Labels, the Layouts template editing ability is probably the neatest feature in New Blogger. The GUI Page Layout editor is totally kewl.

Not too many folks realise though that you can edit page elements from other than Page Layout editor mode. When we're logged in as an administrator, we can make changes to the individual page elements, just as we can edit posts. Similar to the "Edit Posts" pencil at the bottom of each post, you'll find the QuickEdit widget at the bottom right of every page element.

And here's some confusion.
How in the world do I get rid of the cute little dragonflies that seem to be a part of the template that I have?? I do not know enough about the HTML to find them or what they might be called.

Well, I've been studying the HTML / XML, but I don't know the name myself. It does sort of look like a dragonfly, though. It's just another thing that got put, into Blogger Beta, without a name. Another violation of one of my principles
Everything gets a name.

Fortunately, named or not named, it's only visible to you, in a specific situation. And, once you explain that to folks, the general philosophy is
I can live with that, as long as the readers aren't seeing it.

And they're not seeing them. Only you can see them, in a specific situation.
  • When you are logged in to the blog as an administrator (or were logged in just recently).
  • When the blog has Quick Editing enabled.


There are 3 ways to prevent the dragonflies from displaying.
  1. Log out from your account.
  2. Disable Quick Editing.
  3. Edit your template.
    1. Backup your template.
    2. Select "Expand Widget Templates".
    3. Find, and replace, all instances of
      <b:include name='quickedit'/>
      changing each to
      <!-- <b:include name='quickedit'/> -->
    4. Save Template changes.


If none of the three possibilities above help you, or apply, then look at template corruption.

(Note): You may find it necessary to clear browser cache, after doing each of the above, to make sure the dragonflies will be gone. But in cache or not, after you log out, you still can't edit your blog. Try logging out then clicking on a dragonfly (if you still see them). You'll find out.

You're welcome to do without your dragonflies, and edit your page elements from the Page Elements GUI wizard. I won't - I like mine.

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Friday, October 05, 2007

Custom Domains - An Improvement?

One of the most well known, and resented, shortcomings of the Google Custom Domain product has always been the inability to have your blog respond to both "www.yourdomain.com" and "yourdomain.com", simultaneously.

Bloggers have been requesting, and waiting for, this shortcoming to be corrected constantly, since January 2007, when Custom Domains was released.

Today, I idly went to check the Settings for one of my blogs, that's published to a Custom Domain. What did I happen to spot?



Surprise!!!


Now to find a way to test it, and hopefully make it work??!!

Obviously, we need to start with both "martinezumc.org" and "www.martinezumc.org" hosted by Google.


C:\>ping www.martinezumc.org

Pinging ghs.l.google.com [64.233.179.121] with 32 bytes of data:

Reply from 64.233.179.121: bytes=32 time=75ms TTL=247
Reply from 64.233.179.121: bytes=32 time=73ms TTL=247
Reply from 64.233.179.121: bytes=32 time=75ms TTL=247
Reply from 64.233.179.121: bytes=32 time=72ms TTL=247

Ping statistics for 64.233.179.121:
Packets: Sent = 4, Received = 4, Lost = 0 (0% loss),
Approximate round trip times in milli-seconds:
Minimum = 72ms, Maximum = 75ms, Average = 73ms

C:\>ping martinezumc.org

Pinging ghs.l.google.com [64.233.179.121] with 32 bytes of data:

Reply from 64.233.179.121: bytes=32 time=70ms TTL=247
Reply from 64.233.179.121: bytes=32 time=76ms TTL=247
Reply from 64.233.179.121: bytes=32 time=75ms TTL=247
Reply from 64.233.179.121: bytes=32 time=71ms TTL=247

Ping statistics for 64.233.179.121:
Packets: Sent = 4, Received = 4, Lost = 0 (0% loss),
Approximate round trip times in milli-seconds:
Minimum = 70ms, Maximum = 76ms, Average = 73ms


So now, the rubber must meet the road.



Dang!


And as normal, what looks like yet another flat tire. But think again. That's just the old monolithic error, which has a tested workaround.



Half an hour of perplexed meandering through Google Apps, and ...



Success!


One small step forward.

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Google Custom Domains - Not For Everybody

Google Custom Domains are a simple solution for providing non-Blog*Spot URLs for blogs published on Blogger servers. But as simple as they are, they aren't universally useful.

If you just can't use a custom domain, don't despair.

Go to Settings - Publishing, and select
Switch to: • blogspot.com


Then, refresh browser cache.

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Separate Your Paragraphs

Every week, you see the question
Why do my posts all end up as one long paragraph? I carefully type each paragraph, and put in lots of line breaks. What I get is a mess.


And in most cases, it's a simple problem. On the surface, that is.

Go to Settings - Formatting, and set "Convert line breaks" to "Yes".

But this will have repercussions. A lot of HTML is sensitive to line breaks - putting gratuitous line breaks inside Embed code will cause problems. And other elements, like Tables, will look whacky.

If you compose your posts using "Edit HTML" mode, you'll be creating code. Many bloggers instinctively make their code easier to read, by adding lots of white space separating the paragraphs. Unfortunately, that white space, with "Convert line breaks" set to "Yes", becomes part of the post. Look at this post, for instance.

Blogger is trying to make this better. In New Blogger June / July 2008 (recently released into Production (Orange) Blogger), they are doing several things to improve this problem.
  • Making it more advantageous for us to use "Compose" mode, not "Edit HTML", for composing posts.
  • Making the post editor under "Edit HTML" mode be more sensitive to line breaks in the display.
  • Making the post editor under Compose mode (which is now the default) convert line breaks, selectable per post, in addition to the "Convert Line Breaks" setting for the blog.


But as post editor under NBJJ2008 makes things better, the opportunity to confuse may become worse. If you use "Edit HTML" under New Blogger, you may not have to worry about extra line breaks in the code. What happens if you switch back and forth, between the current post editor, and the newer version? My guess is, if the new post editor doesn't very intelligently (intuitively even) remove all extraneous line breaks, you'll end up with a worse mess.

So choose this setting, and use New Blogger June / July 2008, with care. Know the issues.

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Thursday, October 04, 2007

Tables Are Very Sensitive To Gratuitous Line Breaks

A table is a great way to organise content in your blog. With related data positioned above or next to each other, and still allowed to flow from line to line, as a display coded in HTML is designed to do, you can show the various relationships easier. But use tables carefully - they are syntactically sensitive.

The problem is easy to show, by example.

Here's a very simple table - 1 row, 2 cells.


Make this line
Appear above this line
And make this line
Appear just above this line

<span style="text-align:center;"><table align="center" border=1><tr><td><table align="center" border=1 cellpadding="20"><tr><td>Make this line<br>Appear above this line</td></tr></table></td><tr><td>And make this line<br>Appear just above this line</td></tr></table></td></tr></table></span>


Add gratuitous line breaks, which makes it easier to read the source code, and it becomes a bit untidy.













Make this line


Appear above this line

And make this line
Appear just above this line




<span style="text-align:center;">
<table align="center" border=1>
<tr>
<td>
<table align="center" border=1 cellpadding="20"><tr>
<td>
Make this line
<br>
Appear above this line
</td>
</tr>
</table>
</td>
<tr>
<td>
And make this line
<br>
Appear just above this line
</td>
</tr>
</table>
</td>
</tr>
</table>
</span>


If you have "Convert line breaks?" set to "Yes", as many bloggers typically do, every new line in the middle of the table is rendered at the top or bottom of the table. The more cells, columns, and rows present, the worse the problem gets.

Just remove all gratuitous line breaks, carefully, from the "<table> ... </table>" code.

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Make A Private Blog - With A Public Entrance

One of the features requested by many, provided finally with New Blogger 2007, was the ability to restrict readership to a blog. Not only do you need membership to post in a given blog, you need membership to read some blogs. This is an excellent improvement in blogs, where the prospective readers know how to contact the owner.

What if you wish to read a given blog, and you don't know how to contact the owner? You're out of luck, if you don't feel like doing some detective work to identify a contact point.

Maybe not, if the blog owner has some foresight.

If you are the blog owner, and you want to have a private blog, that's made available in a limited fashion, make it easy for your readers. Blogs are free, so setup 2 blogs. Give the public the address of one blog, and leave it public. Put a single welcome message in the blog.
This is my blog, and entrance is by invitation. Send an email to me@my.private.domain, requesting entry. If I feel like granting you entry, I'll send an invitation back to your email address. Make sure that your email service can accept the invitation, open the email and accept the invitation, and you're in.


An alternate solution would be for you to setup a post in the public blog, and have people comment on that post, which you moderate.
This is my blog, and entrance is by invitation. Leave a comment with your email, on my post Leave Comments Here, requesting entry. If I feel like granting you entry, I'll send an invitation back to your email address. Make sure that your email service can accept the invitation, open the email and accept the invitation, and you're in.


You send invitations for membership in the second blog, which is private. Your prospective readers can join, using whatever account they wish, only after you invite them. You can use many different techniques to make the two different blogs look like one blog.

Your readers can bookmark the second blog after they get in, and everybody is happy. Except, of course, the unlucky ones who can't get an invitation. But who said life was fair?

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