Friday, November 30, 2007

Commenting - Locked Down, Ever So Slightly

If you're accustomed to leaving anonymous comments on other folks blogs, selecting "Other" for Identity, and entering your Name and URL, you'll have to change your procedure - that option is now gone. In its place, you may find (at the option of the blog owner) a selection to use OpenID comment authentication.

If you have an account for LiveJournal, WordPress, or many other blogging platforms, you'll be able to comment transparently. Without an OpenID account, you'll only be able to use "Anonymous" (again, at the option of the blog owner). And leaving a BackLink, in the URL field, is now a thing of the past.

This may make comments a bit more secure, but a lot more unfriendly. Not everybody who reads your blog will have an OpenID account. Those who don't will be unable to leave anything better than an anonymous comment, and that if you enable anonymous accounts.

Try it out - you may as well get used to it.



Click on Google - Blogger In Draft, in the sidebar to the right. This leads to http://draft.blogger.com/.



Now you're in Draft mode. See the Blogger icon at the top? So, click on Settings, for any blog that interests you.



And there are the new Comments options.



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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Custom Domain Publishing, And The 404 Error

When you work with a custom domain, and endure / work around the frustration of DNS setup, and later the monolithic error "Another blog ...", you occasionally may see another error. After you finally manage to redirect your blog "myblog.blogspot.com" to "www.mycustomdomain.com", and possibly after you add Google Apps to your custom domain, you or your readers will try to load the blog, and see
Not Found

Error 404
or its equivalent in another browser
Live Search
Were you looking for: My Custom Domain?


When that happens, there's just one way to recover, and that involves repeating the previous setup.
  1. If you haven't done so already, and if you're able to do so, check and correct your DNS setup.
  2. If you just removed or edited a DNS entry, examine the TTL value of the entry that you removed or edited. To improve your chances of getting through this without seeing "Another blog ...", do nothing during the TTL period, while you wait, to know that your new settings are visible from Google!
  3. Publish the blog back to "myblog.blogspot.com". You can't repeat the previous setup, without first removing the (incomplete or incorrect) previous setup.
  4. Publish the blog, again, to "www.mycustomdomain.com", using the "Advanced Settings" wizard. This repeats the previous setup, hopefully correctly this time.
  5. If you get the well known "Another blog ..." / "naked domain" error, deal with that.
  6. If the "404" is not resolved, and you do not get the "Another blog ..." / "naked domain" error, repeat from Step 2.


In some cases, you may have to publish back, then forward, several times in succession before this workaround will take effect. You're still looking at maybe 15 minutes of work, much less time than it took me to write this article, and way faster than filling out the Custom Domain Reset Form, and waiting for it to be actioned. Though do not omit Step 2 - better to be safe than sorry. Always allow time for DNS latency.

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Friday, November 23, 2007

Making A 3 Column Stretch Template

Ever since I followed the pack, and experimented with making myself a 3 column template (and discovered how deceptively easy that was), I've been considering making a 3 column stretch template. I have enjoyed my 2 column stretch template so much, that I sort of suspected that a 3 column stretch template wouldn't be a great stretch (pun intended) of effort.

And, I was right.

From what I can tell, 75% of the effort in making any template is in the setting up the widths of the containers. Remember the container layouts.

A 2 column template has 2 columns, floating opposite each other.
  • Main, floating left.
  • Sidebar, floating right.

All that you have to do is split the Main column.
  • Main1, floating left.
    • Sidebar2, floating left.
    • Main2, floating right.
  • Sidebar1, floating right.


That part is relatively easy. The challenge comes in keeping the columns from cramming themselves right next to each other. With a standard template, and each container having a fixed width, this is a real struggle. You have to calculate the width of each column, in pixels. Then, you have to add paddings, and margins, and carefully calculate the result. With a 3 column template, this is a bit more complicated, as the Main container is split into Main2 and Sidebar2, each container needing its own paddings (and the paddings of one set of containers becoming the margins of the parent container - or is it vice versa), which means that Main1 (pka Main) must be resized accordingly.

With a stretch template, the width of each container is allocated in % of parent container width. Containers Main1 and Sidebar1 float left and right, respectively. Sidebar2 and Main2 (within Main1) float similarly. The width of each container is in %. All that you have to do is establish "Main1 + Sidebar1" < 100%, with the difference from 100% becoming the margin between the two containers. Similarly, "Sidebar2 + Main2" < 100%, with the difference from 100% becoming the margin between those two containers.

Having laid out the containers, with their widths, the rest wasn't terribly complicated. I sort of reused the code from my previous effort, my 3 column Minima template.

For a challenge, I started with a standard (newly setup) Sand Dollar template. Sand Dollar is similar to Minima, in that the Main (posts / sidebar) area of the template contains very few decorations, making all screen width usable for content. The big difference between Minima and Sand Dollar is that Minima comes in two versions - fixed width and stretch, while Sand Dollar comes in just 1 version - stretch.

I examined the layout of a standard Sand Dollar template.
  • Main, floating left, width 66%.
  • Sidebar, floating right, width 31%.
  • Leaving a 3% margin between the two containers.


I split the Main container (now named Main1).
  • Main1, floating left, width 77%.
    • Sidebar2, floating left, width 25%.
    • Main2, floating right, width 72%.
    • Leaving a 3% margin between the two containers.
  • Sidebar1, floating right, width 20%.
  • Leaving a 3% margin between the two containers.


You can change any of these, as you like. You can make the main column narrower or wider, or make either sidebar narrower or wider, within limits. Just remember, if you go over 100%, you may end up with a dropped main or sidebar. And note that, if you're willing to have both sidebar columns on the same side and next to each other, this process becomes a bit simpler.

Enough design, let's look at the actual coding.

First, backup the template that you have right now.

Next, go to the Edit Template wizard. Find two snippets of code.

The first, in the Header, at the top ...

@media all {
div#main {
float:right;
width:66%;
padding:30px 0 10px 1em;
border-left:dotted 1px $bordercolor;
word-wrap: break-word; /* fix for long text breaking sidebar float in IE */
overflow: hidden; /* fix for long non-text content breaking IE sidebar float */
}
div#sidebar {
margin:20px 0px 0px 0;
padding:0px;
text-align:left;
float: left;
width: 31%;
word-wrap: break-word; /* fix for long text breaking sidebar float in IE */
overflow: hidden; /* fix for long non-text content breaking IE sidebar float */
}
}


And a second, in the Body, nearer to the bottom ...

<div id='main'>
<b:section class='main' id='main' showaddelement='no'>
<b:widget id='Blog1' locked='true' title='Blog Posts' type='Blog'/>
</b:section>
</div>

<div id='sidebar'>
<b:section class='sidebar' id='sidebar' preferred='yes'>
<b:widget id='BlogArchive1' locked='false' title='Blog Archive' type='BlogArchive'/>
<b:widget id='Profile1' locked='false' title='About Me' type='Profile'/>
</b:section>
</div>


And replace those two snippets of code with two slightly larger snippets. When you do this, carefully examine your current template, and what widgets you have in the Main (posts column) and Sidebar containers. Here, we have only BlogArchive1 and Profile1. If you've added any custom widgets to your main or sidebar columns (and almost everybody does, after any amount of time), be sure to copy the widget code from your current template to your new template!

The first ...

@media all {
#main1-wrapper {
width: 77%;
float: left;
padding:20px 0 10px 1em;
word-wrap: break-word; /* fix for long text breaking sidebar float in IE */
overflow: hidden; /* fix for long non-text content breaking IE sidebar float */
}

#sidebar2-wrapper {
width: 25%;
float: left;
padding:0px;
border-left:dotted 1px $bordercolor;
text-align:left;
word-wrap: break-word; /* fix for long text breaking sidebar float in IE */
overflow: hidden; /* fix for long non-text content breaking IE sidebar float */
}

#main2-wrapper {
width: 72%;
float: right;
text-align:left;
word-wrap: break-word; /* fix for long text breaking sidebar float in IE */
overflow: hidden; /* fix for long non-text content breaking IE sidebar float */
}

#sidebar1-wrapper {
width: 20%;
float: right;
margin:20px 1em 10px 0;
padding:0px;
border-right:dotted 1px $bordercolor;
text-align:left;
word-wrap: break-word; /* fix for long text breaking sidebar float in IE */
overflow: hidden; /* fix for long non-text content breaking IE sidebar float */
}
}


And the second (which now becomes the same code as for my 3 column fixed width template)...

<div id='main1-wrapper'>
<div id='sidebar2-wrapper'>
<b:section class='sidebar' id='sidebar2' showaddelement='no'>
<b:widget id='BlogArchive1' locked='false' title='Blog Archive' type='BlogArchive'/>
</b:section>
</div>
<div id='main2-wrapper'>
<b:section class='main' id='main2' showaddelement='no'>
<b:widget id='Blog1' locked='true' title='Blog Posts' type='Blog'/>
</b:section>
</div>
</div>

<div id='sidebar1-wrapper'>
<b:section class='sidebar' id='sidebar1' preferred='yes'>
<b:widget id='Profile1' locked='false' title='About Me' type='Profile'/>
</b:section>
</div>


Save your changes.

Test.

And finally, backup the template, again!

And please feel free to examine the test result.

>> Top

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Can't Delete A Page Element?

In a Layouts template, the ability to add and delete page elements is one of the neatest tasks in maintaining your blog. Sometimes, though, a page element added can't be deleted later.

You can edit a page element either from the blog itself (if you have enabled Quick Edit), or from the Page Elements wizard. When you edit an element, it should have a button to "Remove Page Element". But the button isn't always there, and this generally happens when the element is locked.

To unlock the element, go into Edit HTML, and backup the template. Then scroll through the template listing there, and look for the entry for the problem page element.

Let's say that we need to remove the "Key Articles" page element.

<div id='sidebar-wrapper'>
<b:section class='sidebar' id='sidebar' preferred='yes'>
<b:widget id='LinkList1' locked='true' title='Key Articles' type='LinkList'/>
<b:widget id='Label1' locked='false' title='Topics' type='Label'/>
</b:section>
</div>


Change that to "false", and save changes.

<div id='sidebar-wrapper'>
<b:section class='sidebar' id='sidebar' preferred='yes'>
<b:widget id='LinkList1' locked='false' title='Key Articles' type='LinkList'/>
<b:widget id='Label1' locked='false' title='Topics' type='Label'/>
</b:section>
</div>


Then go back to Page Elements, re edit the "Key Articles" page element, and you should have a "Remove Page Element" button.

As an alternative, the Template Editor "Revert widget templates to default" wizard may be useful.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Vagaries Of Publishing Your Blog To A Custom Domain

Since the Google Custom Domain product was made available to eager bloggers, there has been a well known limitation - the inability to get both "www.mydomain.com" and "mydomain.com" to redirect to the same Blog*Spot blog. I've been writing about this limitation since March 2007, a couple months after Custom Domains was launched.

That limitation was resolved in October, 2007.

But the ability to make "mydomain.com" == "www.mydomain.com" brought more uncertainty. Not all DNS Hosts support "CNAME" referral, of both the primary domain ("mydomain.com") and a subdomain ("www.mydomain.com"). Yet that referral is essential to the success of custom domain use.

When you setup your domain, the domain setup wizard (provided by your DNS host) should provide you with two lists - "A" and "CNAME". All direct references ("Hosts") go into the "A" list, and all others ("Aliases") into the "CNAME" list. The latter includes entries like "ftp", "mail", "pop", and all of the miscellaneous services which your DNS host might provide for you.

If you add a "CNAME" record for the "www" alias, for your domain "mydomain.com"", addressed to "ghs.google.com", you end up with a record shown as
www.mydomain.com. CNAME ghs.google.com.

If your DNS host allows you to do a "CNAME" referral to your primary domain "mydomain.com", it may be done in 1 of 4 ways
  1. The alias specified as ".", addressed to "ghs.google.com".
  2. The alias specified as "@", addressed to "ghs.google.com".
  3. The alias specified as "www", addressed to "ghs.google.com", as the first entry in the "CNAME" list, and with no entries in the "A" list.
  4. The alias specified as "mydomain.com", addressed to "ghs.google.com". This may, or may not, require deletion of any "A" list entries (similar to #3).
The correct procedure for your DNS host you must find out from instruction provided by your host, or from experimentation. If the latter, I suggest that you try 1 - 4 in sequence, carefully testing after each attempt.

It's also possible that a server based "301 Redirect", properly setup, will substitute for the primary domain "CNAME", though it will require a "CNAME" referral for the "www" alias (or another of your choice). We're unsure how to diagnose a "301 Redirect", per the examples below.

But wait. There's more.

Note: In the examples below, I'm using the "ping" command to diagnose my example domain, mydomain.com. You may check your specific domain, similarly.

Having explicitly setup
www.mydomain.com. CNAME ghs.google.com.
and having implicitly or explicitly setup an equivalent
mydomain.com. CNAME ghs.google.com.
you would hope to test both aliases successfully.

C:\>ping mydomain.com

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

Reply from 66.249.81.121: bytes=32 time=74ms TTL=246
Reply from 66.249.81.121: bytes=32 time=71ms TTL=246
Reply from 66.249.81.121: bytes=32 time=73ms TTL=246
Reply from 66.249.81.121: bytes=32 time=75ms TTL=246

Ping statistics for 66.249.81.121:
Packets: Sent = 4, Received = 4, Lost = 0 (0% loss),
Approximate round trip times in milli-seconds:
Minimum = 71ms, Maximum = 75ms, Average = 73ms

C:\>ping www.mydomain.com

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

Reply from 66.249.81.121: bytes=32 time=74ms TTL=246
Reply from 66.249.81.121: bytes=32 time=71ms TTL=246
Reply from 66.249.81.121: bytes=32 time=73ms TTL=246
Reply from 66.249.81.121: bytes=32 time=75ms TTL=246

Ping statistics for 66.249.81.121:
Packets: Sent = 4, Received = 4, Lost = 0 (0% loss),
Approximate round trip times in milli-seconds:
Minimum = 71ms, Maximum = 75ms, Average = 73ms


So what if you get

C:\>ping mydomain.com
Ping request could not find host mydomain.com. Please check the name and try again.

C:\>ping www.mydomain.com

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

Reply from 66.249.81.121: bytes=32 time=74ms TTL=246
Reply from 66.249.81.121: bytes=32 time=71ms TTL=246
Reply from 66.249.81.121: bytes=32 time=73ms TTL=246
Reply from 66.249.81.121: bytes=32 time=75ms TTL=246

Ping statistics for 66.249.81.121:
Packets: Sent = 4, Received = 4, Lost = 0 (0% loss),
Approximate round trip times in milli-seconds:
Minimum = 71ms, Maximum = 75ms, Average = 73ms


What do you do now? Well, what we have discovered is that, despite having made the proper DNS setup (for both domain aliases), you may still see the disappointing result as immediately above. The successful setup for "mydomain.com" may only be seen, in your browser, once you have completed the final steps.
  1. Not published the blog to "mydomain.com" (you cannot do this).
  2. Published the blog to "www.mydomain.com".
  3. Selected "Redirect mydomain.com to www.mydomain.com.".
Here you have to take a step into the unknown, and try the final 2 steps. Domains ending in ".org", for instance, will generally show the first, preferred result when doing the ping test; domains ending in others, such as (but not limited to) ".com", will generally show the second, disappointing result.

Even after you complete the 2 final steps, and you are able to type "mydomain.com" into the browser address window, and see your web site displayed (though as "www.mydomain.com"), you may still get the second, disappointing result when doing a ping test. Try it and see.

If this article helps you, please comment below and let us know what TLD (".com", ".net", ".org", what have you?) your domain is part of. What you tell us may help others.

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Monday, November 19, 2007

Custom Domain Publishing - Another Symptom Of The Confusion

One of the challenges in setting up a blog, successfully published using a Google Custom Domain, involves getting DNS Hosting. You have to have a DNS server pointing your domain to "ghs.google.com", and so many bloggers don't get this detail.

I have written already about the confusion in Blogger documentation
Remember: you only need to get the domain name; you don't have to pay extra for hosting service.


Today, as I explored the possibility of publishing The Real Blogger Status to a Custom Domain, I found more misleading documentation.
Domains are registered through a Google partner and cost $10 (USD) for one year.

I went to Settings - Publishing, and selected "Switch to: • Custom Domain".



We are immediately offered registration through "a Google partner". No mention here of DNS hosting, or of any additional fees.



Selecting "Switch to advanced settings", we get the familiar setup.



Here's the well known advice "... you don't have to pay extra for hosting service.", when we select "setup instructions".



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Sunday, November 18, 2007

Can't Add Or Reposition A Page Element?

In a Blogger template, the dashboard Layout wizard is one of the neatest features for accessorising your blog.

The wizard is very versatile, and resilient. But sometimes, you won't be able to add or reposition a page element, when you want to.

You Can Go Back - But Be Sure That You Know The Consequences

New Blogger and the Layouts template, while a great improvement over the Classic template, is just a little rough around the edges. We've all learned that over the past year, though some have had a worse time than others.

Some folks have had enough.
  • Maybe they can't take the problems or suspense.
  • Maybe the promised features just aren't there.
  • Maybe there are incompatibilities with some essential tweaks.
  • Maybe the selections of third party templates, for New (Layouts) Blogger, aren't inspiring enough.
  • Maybe they want to setup a blog that publishes by FTP.
Whatever.

Well, if you can't work with the Layouts template, you can use a Classic template.
  • Select Template.
  • Select Edit HTML.
  • Select Revert to Classic Template.

This will give you an old template, with the unfortunate limitations.
  • You'll lose any tweaks that you made to the New template.
  • You won't have new features like GUI template editing, or page elements.
  • You'll still use your Google account for authentication, so you'll have a Classic blog (template) that only New Blogger (Google) accounts can leave comments on. This may confuse the viewers.


The good news here is that, should you decide that reverting wasn't in your best interest, you can recover your Layouts template, as you just left it.

Having reverted recently, try moving forward again when you're ready, but setup a test blog, and test your custom settings there. Just as Old Blogger didn't remain very long, I'll bet Classic templates won't be supported forever.

If you decide to do this, will you please let us know at Google Blogger Help what your experiences are with this? Maybe there are other issues that I'm not thinking of right now. Your experiences, if documented, might save somebody else some grief, and that's what the forums, and this blog, were created for.

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Publishing Externally? Going Back To Blog*Spot Isn't Difficult

If you're currently publishing your blog externally, because you wanted to use a non-Blog*Spot address, maybe you tire of the limitations of the Classic template, and want to use some of the shiny Layouts template features. Or maybe you have simply grown tired of the many problems with FTP Publishing, a circumstance shared by many bloggers recently.

With that motivation, it's not too hard to go back to publishing on Blog*Spot. Maybe you'll even want to move to publishing to a Google Custom Domain, later.


Not too hard to go back - just select
Switch to: • blogspot.com



Of course, going back will be a bit easier to do if you have a Blog*Spot address available, to return to. And any time you change the URL of a blog, and especially if the blog has any maturity or reputation, you will do yourself a favour to think about the change, first.

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Monday, November 12, 2007

Please Don't Spread EMail Viruses

Last week, I got an extremely distressing bit of email, in my Inbox.

I get spam all of the time (I'm sure that you do too), and the content of spam you all know what I'm talking about. Disgusting. This was worse. This wasn't spam, from an anonymous sender.

A friend, who I respect highly, sent this bit of email to me.

I won't repeat the content of the email, but if you wish, you can read about The Budweiser Story, as analysed by Snopes.

This story has been going around the Internet since September 2001. I find it particularly distressing, since
  • The story is a lie, and it has been proven to be a lie. Read about The Budweiser Story, as analysed by Snopes.
  • I've seen this lie, in my Inbox, several times.
  • This lie stays alive because American citizens seem to want to believe that it's true. I've seen this lie several times, and not once has it been prefaced with
    Here's a nice bit of fiction.
    or even with
    Here's a nasty bit of fiction.
    No, it's almost always prefaced with
    Here's an inspiring true story about real Americans supporting real Americans.
  • The United States Of America is a nation of many faiths, and many of us celebrate our diversity in various ways.
  • Christians, Jews, and Muslims are all Children Of Abraham. True followers of Allah do not kill followers of Jehovah, simply because they are followers of Jehovah. There is a war going on right now, but it is not Followers of Allah vs Followers of Jehovah.
  • Americans do not rejoice as other Americans die.


Don't spread lies. This lie is spreading virally. Don't spread viruses, particularly EMail viruses. There are several reliable web sites that exist solely to identify lies and viruses, like The Budweiser Story.

Learn these websites, and use them. And the next time you get email that starts out
I know that you won't believe this but ...
or
This is a true story. Really.
check out what you are being told, against 2 or 3 of the above links. And maybe you'll know enough to say
NO it's not true.


Please.

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Sunday, November 11, 2007

Make An IFrame To Contain Another Blog On Your Blog Page

One obvious way to merge two websites (either or both being a blog), is to use the same template on each, and link between the two in a consistent fashion.

The reader of either blog never has to know when he's viewing the other, unless he habitually observes the content of the browser Address window.

But how about if you would like to display one blog, in its entirety, in the middle of the other blog page? That's a feature called an IFrame. It's an astonishingly simple solution too.
<iframe width="100%" frameborder="0" src="http://blogging.nitecruzr.net/2007/11/make-iframe-to-contain-another-blog-on.html" height="400"></iframe>

Friday, November 09, 2007

Identifying A DNS Problem

DNS, which lets you translate a host name or URL into an IP address, is a key process in Internet use. Sometimes, though, it doesn't work. You try to browse to http://www.example.com, and you get a cryptic
Firefox can't find the server at www.example.com.

or
We can't find "www.example.com"

or worse, sometimes the classical
404 Not Found

Or even, the white screen of death - no error - no response.

Now the above example symptoms could have been caused by any of several scenarios.

  1. Host www.example.com doesn't exist.
  2. Host www.example.com isn't operational today.
  3. Your DNS (that translates www.example.com into an IP address) isn't working.
  4. Your MTU setting is causing a problem with accessing www.example.com.
  5. (This is not fiction, folks) - Your ISP, or a government agency, is intentionally blocking your access to www.example.com.
  6. You don't have Internet connectivity.


What to do now? Well, if your Internet connectivity is down, you've got different work to do. But, if you can access any other web sites, or if you're otherwise certain that your service is not the problem, then make sure that your DNS is working. To do this:

  • Find out the IP address of the web site. There are various web sites all over the Internet that will let you use their DNS servers, thru your browser. I use 2 web sites, consistently, and keep their URL and IP addresses available.

    1. All Net Tools, by IP address: http://216.92.207.177/toolbox .
    2. All Net Tools, by name: http://www.all-nettools.com/toolbox .
    3. DNS Stuff, by IP address: http://66.36.247.82/ .
    4. DNS Stuff, by name: http://www.dnsstuff.com/ .

    I use either of those two web sites; in case one goes down I use the other. And, if I'm researching a DNS problem, I access either one by its IP address. Finally, given the possibility that one or the other might change its IP address, I can hopefully resolve its name, using the other website. So, I keep all 4 addresses handy.

    • For All Net Tools, I enter the web site URL into the "SmartWhois" window, and hit Enter or Go!.
    • For DNS Stuff, I enter the web site URL into the "DNS lookup" window, and hit Enter or Lookup.

  • Conduct a simple 4 step test. In this example, I'll target www.yahoo.com, which uses (among many others) 66.94.230.33. Feel free to use whatever web site, for your testing, that pleases you.
    • Clear all caches, to ensure consistency.
    • From a command window:
      1. Ping www.yahoo.com.
      2. Ping 66.94.230.33.
      3. Note success / exact text of error messages.
    • From your browser:
      1. Browse www.yahoo.com.
      2. Browse 66.94.230.33.
      3. Note success / exact text of error messages.

  • Now, consider the results of the tests.
    • If you see a difference between both IP address accesses, as compared to both named accesses, you very likely have a DNS problem.
    • If you can ping (with a successful return), but not browse, with identical results for IP address and name, you may well have an MTU setting problem.
    • If you see a combination of results, you may need to research BOTH a DNS and MTU problem.
    • If the tests aren't conclusive, consider the ubiqitous LSP / Winsock corruption problem.


>> Top

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

One Lamentable Mail-To-Blogger Weakness

Some bloggers, frustrated over the painfully limited design of the Post Editor and un helpful features like AutoSave, have skipped using the Post Editor entirely. They are simply composing their posts in a text editor, and emailing the content.

An interesting workaround, and like many workarounds, it has its good and its bad points.
  • The Good.
    • No AutoSave to slow you down.
    • No more tiny Post Editor window to deal with.
    • Composure of posts in the full featured text editor of your choice.
  • The Bad.


If you're going to create a number of posts, the Edit Posts menu will let you apply labels, to existing posts, without using the Post Editor. If multiple posts have the same label applicable, you can add a label to multiple posts simultaneously. You'll only have to type each label once. That should save a small amount of time.

But you will have to use the Blogger interface, in some way, to add labels. You can't avoid use of both the Edit Posts menu, and the Post Editor, completely.

>> Top

Use Detective Work To Find A Blog Owner

Many times, you'll see an interesting blog, and want to contact the owner. Or maybe you'll be unable to even see the blog, because it's private. Or maybe a popular blog, that you're used to seeing, has been deleted, or is now private. Or maybe you want to use a given URL, but that URL is already in use. How do you contact the owner then?

In other cases, maybe somebody has left comments on your blog, you want to read his blog, but he's not providing any link. And, his profile doesn't show any published blogs. Can you figure out if he's actually published any?

The most popular means of contact is comments. Commenting is a native feature in Blogger, and there are third party products too. But both the native Blogger comments, and the third party ones, are optional, some blogs don't use either, and sometimes the comments that you leave don't get read, or are ignored.

So, what do you do if comments don't produce results? Or, if you don't have a blog to comment on?

Don't waste time asking Blogger for help. Blogger protects the privacy of bloggers, and they won't provide contact information. If a blog is setup as private, the owner wants people to be able to request access, and he really thinks about what he's doing, he'll make it possible to be contacted. If there's no information in the profile, Blogger won't help you.

But what if the owner didn't make it possible to be contacted, at least by a published email address, or a listed blog? If he's not a complete recluse, chances are that he's left a trail, somewhere, on the web.

For a Blogger Blog, you can start with Google Blog Search. GBS will search for a Blogger Blog, and give you information relevant to Blogger Blogs, that you won't find in a general web search.

Next, go to Google Web Search, and some other web searches (and there are no end to the possibilities here). Plug in the URL of the blog, or the profile of the blogger. See if any posts, or web site entries, show up for that URL, or profile. It's likely that somewhere, one or two posts, or web site entries may be from him, or from third parties who know how to contact him. Maybe he left an email address somewhere.

In some forums, forum members can send private messages to folks who post there. You may not get the email address you want, immediately, but if someone is a forum member, maybe you can send email blindly. If he feels moved to respond, so much the better. And if you become active in a relevant forum where he's a member, maybe you can communicate with him there.

Or, if you find an existing, semi-current, thread where he has already posted, you may be able to weave an answer to one of his posts into that thread, with your own thoughts. Try and make your post as topical as possible, though.

Good old fashioned detective work and diplomacy. It's still applicable. Google may be a friend, but it's not your only friend. Think about it.

And if the owner is willing to give up the URL, have it transferred properly. Please do not have it transferred by deletion.

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Monday, November 05, 2007

Spacing Changes In Layouts Templates #3

A new post starts out with wide vertical spacing. Look at what we have here, from line to line. Nice and wide vertical spacing. Clean and easy to read. The perfect look for a blog, right?

Now, let's throw in a quote.


In the past, and looking at my example shown in Spacing Changes In Layouts Templates, you'd start seeing the problem here. My immediately previous article Spacing Changes In Layouts Templates #2 suggested an obnoxiously tedious workaround to this problem, which involved surrounding each indent element, such as
<blockquote> ... </blockquote>
with an extra span set to give

<span style="line-height: 1.2;"><blockquote> ... </blockquote></span>


This was fine - it made my blog posts look neat and tidy again - but it had its drawback. It was a major pain in the ass to use - any of my blog posts, of any length, would include 2, 3, or more formatting elements, which I would have to surround each one.

So today, whilst browsing Blogger Help Group: Something Is Broken, I come across Blockquote problem w/ Minima template, with a better workaround.

Go to the Template | Edit HTML tab. In the CSS (top) section of your template code, find the post section. In this section, under the ".post p" heading, find the line that says: line-height:1.6em. Move this line to the ".post" section.


So, let's see what we have in my template.


.post {
margin:.5em 0 1.5em;
border-bottom:1px dotted $bordercolor;
padding-bottom:1.5em;
}

...

.post p {
margin:0 0 .75em;
line-height:1.6em;
}


and change it to


.post {
margin:.5em 0 1.5em;
border-bottom:1px dotted $bordercolor;
padding-bottom:1.5em;
line-height:1.6em;
}

...

.post p {
margin:0 0 .75em;
}


Move the one line of code, in red. Save, and View Blog.

Simple, but still a workaround.
  • It's one change / template setup in the blog (remember if you change templates, you'll have to repeat this one change). Not one change / page element in each post, for eternity.
  • When installed, you lose spacing differences in indented elements (<blockquote>, <ol>, <ul>).
The blog is neater now, but it's not as readable - see the quoted sections above?. Not as easy to spot, as they used to be, when they used 1.0em spacing.

Let Blogger know that this needs to be fixed properly.

Spacing Changes In Layouts Templates #2

(Note 11/25): The below content is informational only. The problem in question is not demonstrated, because of the workaround currently in place.

A new post starts out with wide vertical spacing. Look at what we have here, from line to line. Nice and wide vertical spacing. Clean and easy to read. The perfect look for a blog, right?

But don't get used to it - what does this look like in Internet Explorer? In my previous post, Spacing Changes In Layouts Templates, I showed the problem. Maybe the advice given by Paul R will help here.
Now, let's throw in a quote.

And now, look at the vertical spacing. It's fine now, until after the unsorted list below. Nice one, Paul.

So, how did this work? Well, in the above example in my previous post, I have

<blockquote>Now, let's throw in a quote.</blockquote>


and in this post I have

<span style="line-height: 1.2;"><blockquote>Now, let's throw in a quote.</blockquote></span>


Look at my other posts, for instance. Enough! I Want To Go Back! and Beta Blogs: My 3 Week Evaluation both exhibit this behaviour.

Other folks who have observed this.


(Edit 11/18): And today, we see the new comment (#2, below)
The fix worked for me on Firefox, but not in Internet Explorer.
DOHH! Why should this not surprise me?


(Edit 11/24):See Spacing Changes In Layouts Templates #3 for an update, making this workaround unnecessary.


(Edit 10/17): From Problem with the line space of the posts., we find possible hope:
As a temporary fix for current posts, I (accidentally) found that if
you add <span style="line-height: 1.4;"> before each blockquote, and </span> after the blockquote, then the line spacing goes back to normal after the quote, as it is supposed to.

Spacing Changes In Layouts Templates

(Note 11/25): The below content is informational only. The problem in question is not demonstrated, because of the workaround currently in place.

A new post starts out with wide vertical spacing. Look at what we have here, from line to line. Nice and wide vertical spacing. Clean and easy to read. The perfect look for a blog, right?
Now, let's throw in a quote.

And now, look at the vertical spacing. With enough lines in here, you can see a change in post layout. The vertical spacing becomes much tighter. This looks sloppy. I've also seen this happen when you include <ol> and <ul> post elements. It appears to happen with any indentation element.

But let's try a test, per advice outlined below.
Testing.


Look at my other posts, for instance. Enough! I Want To Go Back! and Beta Blogs: My 3 Week Evaluation both exhibit this behaviour.

Other folks who have observed this.


(Edit 11/24):See Spacing Changes In Layouts Templates #3 for an update, and now you cannot (hopefully) even see the problem.


(Edit 10/17): From Problem with the line space of the posts., we find possible hope:
As a temporary fix for current posts, I (accidentally) found that if
you add <span style="line-height: 1.4;"> before each blockquote, and </span> after the blockquote, then the line spacing goes back to normal after the quote, as it is supposed to.

So I will test this in Spacing Changes In Layouts Templates #2, and we will see how it works out.

Make A Popup Text Window

Occasionally in your posts, you might want to add a quick popup window, explaining some concept in slightly more detail. The normal technique to add detail to an article, beside simply writing more text (D'ohh), would be to write a separate post, and link to that post.

But there's a quicker, more elegant way to do this. And you don't end up with another window, as the link above for "link to that post".

Check it out. Hover your cursor over the words "a quicker, more elegant way" above.

It's not hard to code.
But there's <a title="This is quick, and easy to do!">a quicker, more elegant way</a> to do this.


We can add a popup in text, or we can attach it to a picture.

Like everything here, there are details to consider, which may or may not matter to you. Compare the words "link to that post" with "a quicker, more elegant way" - do you see the colour differences? The former is a link, and may (depending upon the CSS rules in the template) have different values for an unfollowed vs a followed link. The ability to show the reader a link in a different colour, based upon whether he has or has not clicked on a link to that specific web page, is a neat feature with HTML.

The latter example above, "a quicker, more elegant way", isn't a link, so it doesn't show any colour difference. It makes the text look cleaner. But with no colour difference, how do your readers know where to hover the cursor?

So add just a bit more code. Look at the example above - "where to hover the cursor".
But with no colour difference, how do your readers know <a title="Hover the cursor here!" style="color:#5588aa; text-decoration:none;">where to hover the cursor</a>?


Next, let's add a bit more text, and see what the limitations are here.

This doesn't work in all browsers - Internet Explorer V6 didn't support the "title" tag - the "alt" tag has this function. Other browsers, that use the same engine, may or may not support this. But its does work for Firefox, and for Internet Explorer V7.

And, there are limitations. Check out "add a bit more text" (above), and see if you can spot one.

If you're in any way curious about how I setup this page, and showed the HTML so neatly, see my tutorial on anchors and HTML. And you can always examine the code for any specific page element, if you're using Firefox. Or check out the W3 Schools tutorials, that tell you all about each HTML tag, as used above.

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Sunday, November 04, 2007

Arranging Text And Pictures Within Your Blog Posts

When you use post editor to create a blog post, and you use the convenient picture upload wizard in the post editor, you notice one annoying behaviour. No matter where the cursor is when you upload a picture, the picture always gets uploaded at the top of the post. Multiple pictures get uploaded at the top, each one placed above the next.

If you like your pictures interleaved with the text, you then have 2 choices.
  • Upload the pictures in the post before you write the text. Plan the order and arrangement of the pictures, then add text, before and after each picture.
  • Relocate each picture, one at a time.
    • If you upload in Compose mode, learn how to grab, drag, and drop each picture, into the desired location.
    • If you upload in "Edit HTML" mode, learn how to cut and paste the exact components of code, into the desired location.


If you relocate the pictures after uploading, do so carefully. There are known problems with certain browsers, using drag and drop under Compose mode. And if you don't know what you're doing, it's easy to cut and paste incomplete portions of code, if you cut and paste under "Edit HTML" mode. Learn how to backup and restore the blog, before taking chances.

However you upload the pictures, remember if you use "Edit HTML" mode, and you setup the pictures to float (with text arranged beside each picture), to follow each picture with a break, clearing on the same side as the picture. And after you do this, stay in "Edit HTML" mode for editing that post. If you switch to "Compose" mode, you'll find that the floating and breaks will get dropped.

I make it a habit to always switch back to "Edit HTML" mode before Publishing a post. That way, whenever you open a post, you will always be in "Edit HTML" mode, predictably. Open a post in "Compose" mode, after you previously published it with carefully arranged pictures, just once, and you won't do that again.

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Saturday, November 03, 2007

Completing The Migration - Converting To A Layouts Template

New Blogger - what I will call here "New Blogger 2006" - has been with us now for one year, give or take a few months. This time last year, I had just previously written about the impending migration to Blogger Beta (aka "New Blogger 2006"). Now, we are completing the migration.

I say "completing the migration" because there are, currently, folks seeking guidance on how to complete the migration of their blogs.

All blogs are now under New Blogger - that's not the issue - Old Blogger was laid to rest some months ago. Not all blogs are using Layouts templates, however. Some blogs, which are published using FTP to external servers, will always be using Classic templates. Yet there are some blogs which can be migrated to Layouts, that haven't.

Anybody who has been posting, or helping, in any of the Blogger Help Group forums has seen this query.
I just finished entering a post into my blog. I previewed it - and it looked fine. Then I published it. And now, my blog looks like crap. What happened to my blog?


Well, what happened is that you didn't test your post enough. The Post Preview wizard simply doesn't provide a valid test, for every blog.

And my guess is that the template migration process doesn't provide a valid test, for every template, either. There will be template features, on any blog with any complexity, that will have to be tested in a live browser. Preferably, two, or more, live browsers.

Expecting that, after migration, there will likely be template features, in any Classic blog of any complexity or size, that won't be migrated automatically, I'll ask a rhetorical question.
When would you prefer to be testing your new Layouts template?
  1. Now, while your blog is online and operating (as a Classic)?
  2. Or later, after migration, while your blog is down (with missing features to be patched in) (And with complaints from your readers)?


I'll bet you'll answer
#1

in a heartbeat.

Why stress yourself? Having added various features to both Classic and Layouts templates, I'd bet that any Classic template, that originally took more than an hour or two to setup, probably wouldn't migrate as is, with all features intact. I'd waste an evening, to reduce stress and make a more successful migration happen. Start this process before you execute the migration.
  1. Be aware of Layouts template migration issues. Learn from other folks mistakes.
  2. Be aware of Layouts templates design deficiencies and limitations. Learn from others disappointments.
  3. Setup a test blog.
  4. Copy the current template, and the posts with comments, from your current Classic blog.
  5. Migrate the test blog, to a Layouts template.
  6. Customise the test blog, adding template features, as necessary.
  7. Test the test blog, with the Layouts template, in multiple browsers.
  8. When you have the test blog all working, so it looks like you want your blog to look, then migrate the production Classic blog to a Layouts template.
  9. Finally, copy the fully tested Layouts template, from the test blog, to your newly migrated production Layouts blog.


The bottom line? Some planning, and extra (and redundant) effort, will make for a less stressful migration. Less stress will make for less mistakes. Less mistakes will make for a better experience by your readers. And your readers are The Bottom Line, aren't they?

If you consider this to be excessive thinking, consider my hypothetical experiences in Which Migration Experience Would You Prefer?

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Thursday, November 01, 2007

Blog*Spot Connectivity In South Korea

A few bloggers in South Korea are complaining of inability to access any Blog*Spot blogs.

When reporting the problem, please include a PathPing log (if you can) or a TraceRoute log, targeting bloggerstatusforreal.blogspot.com.

For right now, please use a proxy server to access all Blog*Spot blogs.

>> According to one blogger, the South Korean presidential elections are prompting this action by the South Korean government.

>> Forum thread links: bX-*00072

>> Copy this tag: bX-*00072

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