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Showing posts from February, 2008

Intentional Schizophrenia, Using A Sandbox

To protect your computer, and your network, any security expert with any experience will tell you to use a layered security strategy. One layer of security is to only run programs that you can trust, and to only access web sites that have trustable content.

Occasionally, you may need to run a program that you don't trust, or access a web site that has untrustable content. For many years, anti virus and similar security programs have used replicas of the operating system, called sandboxes, to do just that. When you open a file, run a program, or surf a web site from inside a sandbox, any changes produced by what you're doing go into the sandbox, not out into the computer operating system. When you finish what you're doing, you flush the sandbox, and any possible malware (along with any other results) gets flushed.

You can, just as easily, use a sandbox to run two parallel processes, like using your browser. If you want to upgrade your blog, and simultaneously examine ch…

Using Your Blog Feed To Index Your Blog

Besides letting your readers view your blog, promptly and regularly yet at their convenience, and letting your readers view the contents of other blogs and web sites while viewing your blog, there's a third use for blog feeds. Let your readers see a digest, or index, of your latest posts.

Look in the sidebar, near the bottom - for the two sections "The Real Blogger Status - Comments", and "The Real Blogger Status - Posts". Those are two Blogger Feed widgets, which display the comments feed, and the posts feed, for this blog, respectively.

Then, look at the very bottom of this blog. There you'll see a digested copy of the latest posts, using a custom feed from FeedDigest.

Compare the Real Blogger Status posts feed in the sidebar, and the equivalent feed at the bottom, and you'll find a few differences. Both FeedBurner and FeedDigest offer a few useful options that help you make a feed of your blog, showing what you like. The Blogger widget has its uses…

Diagnosing Problems With Custom Domains

Google Custom Domains, that give us the possibility of having a blog with a non-Blog*Spot address, without loss of features caused by using an external published blog, are a major improvement over plain old Blog*Spot to many bloggers. But be aware - some technical expertise, and cooperative support by organisations outside Blogger, is essential. And, note the possible effects of cache and DNS latency, any time that you diagnose or examine a custom domain problem.

One problem with blogs that are published to custom domains, is the well known monolithic errorAnother blog is already hosted at this address.

Blogger Employee aka Gatsby has promised his assistance in resolving the latter error.we have come up with a workaround fix that should take care of this problem for a lot of you guys.Yet what Gatsby doesn't point out is that many problems are caused by the bloggers themselves - in choosing a DNS host, or in registering a domain in the first place.

Before Gatsby can offer effective a…

The Ping Command

The command utility "ping" is one of the simplest, and most universally useful, utilities used in computer networking. It asks just one question.

Do I have connectivity to a given host?


It answers that question, and possibly one other.

What is the publicly known IP address for that host?


Depending upon whether you specify a host by name or by IP address (and either is useful), and whether that host actually does respond, you may get a series of responses.

Ping host by name, host responds.
Ping host by name, host does not respond.
Ping host by IP address, host responds.
Ping host by IP address, host does not respond.
Ping host by name, host unknown.


You run Ping simply by opening a Command Window, and typing the command. You can:

Ping (hostname).
Ping (IP address).


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Ping host by name, host responds.

I enter
C:\>ping pchuck1

Pinging pchuck1 [192.168.100.100] with 32 bytes of data:
Reply from 192.168.100.100: bytes=32 time<1ms TTL=128
Reply from 192.168.100.100: bytes=32 time&l…

Hidden Linklists

This lets you, the blog reader, decide whether you want to see the BlogRoll / LinkList. You select the LinkList view that pleases you, not the blog owner. So, how does it work?

LinkList Hidden
Here you see no linklist.

LinkList Shown
Here you see the linklist, as you would normally do.


(Question): This rocks! So, Chuck, how do I get this into my blog? For the answer, see Adding CumulusLinkList Code Into Your Blog. Note that, unlike MultiStyle Labels (which support only one labels widget), Hidden Linklists support multiple linklist widgets in your blog. This necessitates very careful coding, so follow the Cumulus instructions religiously.

The "Buy A Domain For Your Blog" Wizard

Now that Google Custom Domains are becoming more polished, and people can see their usefulness, many bloggers who are less technically savvy are wanting one. Having more web presence than the plain old "myblog.blogspot.com" is probably the dream of many.

To encourage this, Blogger recently added the "Buy A Domain For Your Blog" wizard. Like all Blogger wizards, it has its advantages and its disadvantages.

Backup Your Layouts Template

As I told you earlier, in Backup Your Template (Classic), you should always keep a copy of your template local to your computer, just as you should always keep a complete copy of your blog itself. That advice hasn't changed for New Blogger blogs; if anything, it's more necessary.

Advertising Your Newsfeeds

The newsfeeds provided on your blog, when you activate them, are a great way for you to encourage your readers to read your blog frequently - at their convenience, rather than yours - and reliably view each of your newest posts.

Once you activate the feeds, your blog will have a small line at the bottom of the page (in main page view)Subscribe to: Posts (Atom)or at the bottom of the post (in post view)Subscribe to: Post Comments (Atom)
Hopefully, you see the difference there. In main page view, you get the All Posts feed subscription for the blog, and in post view you get the Comments feed subscription for that post.

None of that offers the full range of possible feeds, and any of the possibilities may interest any given reader.

To advertise my blog feeds, I have an additional post describing those feeds, and I have a colourful (OK, orange) icon which advertises that post. Look at the top of the sidebar, just below the Followers badge. See the orange "XML" button? It'…

Google Blog Search

The Blogosphere, including Blogger blogs both published to Blog*Spot, and to non-Blog*Spot URLs, is immense, and is growing constantly.

In the Blogosphere, you'll find blogs created as a "first blog" by beginning bloggers, as well as blogs created by those who have dozens of other blogs already. Anybody with Internet access is entitled to make his / her own contribution.

If you want to estimate, in any 10 minute slice of time, what blogs are being published, you can examine the Recently Updated Blogs list. That list, however, only shows you what blogs are being updated - it in no way shows you what blogs, in total, occupy the Blogger portion of the Blogosphere. In reality, there is no way a single, flat list could ever enumerate the entire blog population.

When you view Recently Updated Blogs on your own, you'll understand this to be true.

403 Forbidden Again - And Again

Recently, a few bloggers have seen the return of an old favourite (not)
Google Error

We're sorry...

... but your query looks similar to automated requests from a computer virus or spyware application. To protect our users, we can't process your request right now.

The general thought is that Google just changed some settings, and they need to change them back. Now.

In reality, the situation isn't nearly so simple.

The problem doesn't just involve settings. Hackers are increasingly inventive, so Google servers do behaviour and signature analysis of all incoming network traffic. As the hackers get more inventive, the analysis has to be more picky, which makes analysis prone to false positives. Then changing software on our computers makes for still more problems.

When you see the error, it's possible that some basic diagnostic information might make it possible for Blogger Support to troubleshoot the problem.Browser.Internet connection.Location - geographical and politic…

Keep The "Next Blog" Link Safe To Use

The Blogosphere, like the web in general, is subject to attack and misuse by malicious people, even as it is available for legitimate use by any person.

Until a month ago, the "BlogSpot.Com" region of the Blogosphere was known for rampant misuse. I warned of this misuse, by referring to use of the "Next Blog" link as "Porn\\\\Next Blog" surfing. This analogy of mine was not a great stretch of the imagination.

You could see this fact reflected in the blogs visible in "Next Blog". Besides the illegitimate blogs - the ones published for hacking and for porn and spam distribution - a large number of legitimate blogs, when visible, would have no Navbar. The task of removing the Navbar is not at all complex.

BlogSend Notifications Subject To Spam Detection

If you have a blog with multiple authors, you may have learned by now that you need to watch what's being posted. If there's lots of posting activity, though, you can't always check the blog - or even the newsfeeds from the blog - as often as you'd like, to see if something has been added. BlogSend saves you from that task, by simply notifying you (or your designates) when a post is added.

SpellCheck

... does not work.

Several times / day, recently, we see the anxious queryI write essays and spell check is not working...What is up with that and when will it be fixed?
We know that it isn't working - Blogger has even stated soThe "Check Spelling" button in the Blogger post editor is currently non-functional.
If Blogger fixes it, maybe they will let us know. You can watch the Known Issues for Blogger feed (in the sidebar, to the right), or you can subscribe to a feed here. One day, you may see an update.

Of course, if you used Firefox, you wouldn't bother with this spellchecker. The Mozilla spellchecker is more robust, and applies to all web sites. And you can add your own words to the dictionary.

But, if you insist on using Internet Explorer, you'll have to wait for Blogger to fix their product. Or maybe find another third party product. If you use a word processing program, like Microsoft Word (which does have spell and grammar checking), be aware of the poss…

Self Policing Of Our Blog Content

Until January 2008, Blogger maintained the Blogosphere very loosely.

As a result, the "Next Blog" link in the Navbar would, quite likely, load on your computer a blog which you wouldn't want your kids to view. This was the result of what I believe to be a well organised criminal, hacking campaign which used BlogSpot.Com to host blogs that led, intentionally, to hacking content designed to make your computer part of another botnet.

There was a side effect to the hacking activity. The front end to that activity used porn - in various forms - to entice the reader to click into the blogs containing the hacking activity. And, with the thousands of blogs that were part of the hacking activity, came the smaller operators, who innocently provided adult content, though not with illegal activity intended. Personal blogs, that contain porn.

The Page Element Wizard Lacks ScrollBars

In Known Issues for Blogger: Layouts Arrange Scrollbar 1028093, Blogger notesThe Layouts page elements editor has not had scrollbars around the wireframe template. Until this is resolved, you can often scroll wide templates by clicking and dragging on empty space.So, if your blog is wide, and you can't see all of the page layout in the Page Elements wizard, this is why.

The implication in the KIB post is that the issue is temporary. We are encouraged to use the wireframe components, even with the issue unresolved.

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Comment Pagination For Blogs

Recently, Blogger changed the pagination for comments, and apparently broke comment pagination for blogs with Classical templates.Comment pagination does not work in post view on blogs with Classic templates. To workaround this issue, click through to the comments form.

For those of you with popular blogs (and lots of comments traffic), your readers will have be unable to view more than 200 comments, if the comments are displayed inline. This effect may involve blogs with Layouts templates too. To workaround the problem, your blog readers can click on the "Post a Comment" link, and view all comments in the separate window.

Until this is sorted by Blogger, you may want to disable inline comment displays, and force your readers to view all comments in a separate / pop-up window.

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Setting Up A Custom Domain Starts With A BlogSpot Blog

If you wanted a blog published to an external server, using FTP, one of the problems with that procedure was the status of the current BlogSpot URL. As soon as you published your blog to the external server, your old URL on BlogSpot became instantly available. This gave you the same problems as if you had changed your blog URL within BlogSpot.

Occasionally, folks having tired of the problems with publishing by FTP would try to switch back to BlogSpot, and run problems caused by lack of planning when they originally switched to FTP publishing. When Blogger designed Custom Domains, they started by resolving those problems.

When you setup a custom domain, you publish your blog to the custom domain URL. Instead of simply switching your blog to the custom domain URL, the BlogSpot URL currently in use is redirected to the new custom domain URL. The BlogSpot URL remains active, and your reader, when requesting the BlogSpot URL gets the blog at the custom domain. This is automatically don…

Blogs Are Being Removed For Just Cause

In mid January 2008, Blogger started to do something about a major problem.

Blogger blogs have been long used for illegal purposes - hacking, porn distribution, and spam distribution - in massive numbers. Cleaning up the hacking, porn, and spam is not an easy task - there's nothing on any one blog that saysThis blog is used for hacking, for porn distribution, and / or for spam distribution.
Detection of such illegal blogs, like detection of malware in general, has to be done by heuristic analysis and signature comparison. Unfortunately, detection of illegal blogs, like detection of malware, using both methods, are subject to two major problemsFalse Negative Detection - Many illegal blogs are not detected, because the authors of such blogs are very skilled at making their blogs like normal blogs.False Positive Detection - Many legitimate blogs are falsely detected, again because the authors of the illegal blogs are very skilled at making their blogs look like normal blogs.
As Bl…

Adding A LinkList To Your Blog

Blogging is all about ourselves, and our friends.

We write about ourselves, and we refer to our friends, as they write about themselves. One of the most popular accessories on our blogs - the blogroll, or linklist - is simply a collection of links to our friends blogs. We typically position a linklist in the sidebar, so it's available to our readers as they peruse our blog.

With a Layouts template, adding a linklist, like many other accessories, is done with the dashboard "Add a Gadget" wizard. Once we have added the new linklist, and have "Configure Link List" open, it's just a matter of pasting or typing the names and addresses of our friends blogs, one by one, into the linklist.

Creating A Subject Related Feed

This blog is about blogging, and I suspect that a few of you have subscribed to one or more of the feeds that are provided here. I use a number of feeds, too, in this blog - look in the sidebar.

When your blog has an activated feed, every label search can be accessed as a feed. You can subscribe to one of the topics related feeds here - maybe my Labels feed, or my internationally relevant topic - Languages.

You can include subject feeds from other blogs, too, using custom feeds published by services like FeedBurner.

Just decide what you want, and use your imagination.

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Your Blog With A Bi-Directional Template

Those of you who write in Arabic, Hebrew, or Persian may have recently rejoiced when Blogger announced support for your languages, so your blog can now be read in your native tongue. One of the challenges in making these 3 languages work properly was the ability to write from right to left.

You can see the effect of this process, in this blog, which is not yet setup for bi-directional text. Look at the language translator widget, in this blog, at the top of the sidebar. The Arabic flag is the first one (from the top left), as the flags are in "alphabetic" sequence (that's alphabetic by the English labels, since I speak only "English"). Anyway, if you hit the Arabic flag, you'll see this blog translated into Arabic.

Unfortunately, the Arabic that you see will be justified to the right, not to the left as we do in the rest of the world. With the columns floating, and text justifying, as they do, what you see may or may not be readable in Arabic (Hebrew, or…

Editing Labels

There is no way to directly edit a label, short of editing each post, one by one, and changing the label field.

Change the problem label, by retyping it, one post at a time. That's slow and tedious.

But - that's not the only way to change a label.

The Data Object "newerPageTitle" / "olderPageTitle" Names Are Misleading

At the bottom of this page, if you're viewing this article in main page mode, you'll see a link labeled "Older Posts". If you're viewing this as a single article, the link will be "Older Post". If I've posted a more recent article than this, you'll see an additional link "Newer Posts", or "Newer Post", respectively.

In many online forums and web sites, instead of "Older Post", you'd see "Stop Posting Clickable Links To Malware", the actual title of the immediately older post in this blog.

Let's look at the code that provides this set of links. Stretch the width of the browser window, and / or reduce text size, so you can see each line in its entirety, if it matters to you.

<b:includable id='nextprev'>
<div class='blog-pager' id='blog-pager'>
<b:if cond='data:newerPageUrl'>
<span id='blog-pager-newer-link'>
<a class=…

Stop Posting Clickable Links To Malware

Every week, JohnBlogger or some other indignant blogger posts in one of the Google Blogger Help forums
Hey, you need to get rid of blog http://obnoxiousblog.blogspot.com.In most cases, they are doing a good and noble thing - informing Blogger (through the forum) that obnoxiousblog needs to be purged. Sometimes, a Blogger Employee will cruise through the forum, see the post, and remove obnoxiousblog.

But this won't happen all of the times, and it won't happen immediately. And until obnoxiousblog is removed, JohnBlogger is helping the criminals that provide obnoxiousblog, and others like it. And obnoxiousblog (and others like it) are part of immense groups of splogs, that are used for hacking, and providing you with more spam in your email, in your online discussions, and in the web in general.

And, even if it does happen, and Blogger purges obnoxiousblog, there will be 10 like it to take its place, almost immediately. Hundreds of splogs like obnoxiousblog are posted daily.

Unti…

Make Your Blog Speak More Languages

I speak and write English (Americanised English, for you Brits).

Until this weekend, my blogs were all published in English, and in English only. Thanks to the Kaspersky fiasco of Friday (Kaspersky is a Russian product), however, I was motivated to correct that shortcoming.

This was, surprisingly, an easier task than I had anticipated. If you will examine the sidebar of my recipe blog, you will observe my multi-lingual translator, courtesy of Google Translator.

MultiStyle Labels

This lets you (any one of your readers) decide how you (he / she) wants to list the Topics (aka Labels), in my (your) blog. You (your readers) select the Style that pleases you, not the blog owner (you). So, how does it work?

Hide
Select Hide Style to hide everything except the MultiStyle Labels Menu Bar. Hide Style is the default in this blog; other blogs may vary.





List
Select List Style for the familiar long list, alphabetised, with post counts.





Menu
Select Menu Style for a pop up list, alphabetised, with post counts.





Zoom
Select Zoom Style for a long list, alphabetised, using larger fonts to identify topics with higher post counts.






Original code by Ramani of HackOSphere, improved by Chuck of RBS.


(Question): This rocks! So, Chuck, how do I get this into my blog? For the answer, see Adding CumulusTopics Code Into Your Blog.

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Phishing Attack Warning Messages From Kaspersky Internet Security

We have recent reports that Kaspersky Internet Security is issuing "Phishing Attack" warning messages, when any BlogSpot blog is loaded on a protected computer.

To validate any such warnings, use other anti-malware sites, such as McAfee Site Advisor. Verification of such warnings is a necessary task, so not to cause a panic. Claims that the entire BlogSpot address space is infected won't do anybody any good, except maybe the hackers who would love to see benevolent web sites, hosted by BlogSpot, avoided by those needing advice.

Don't be caught up by rumours - please validate any security alerts. And post your findings at Google Blogger Help - Something Is Broken.

>> (Update 2/10 1:02): Kaspersky customers report that the KIS signature update was received but the problem remains unresolved. It's definitely a false positive though.

>> (Update 2/9 21:00): Advisory note on Kaspersky Support Forum noted, possible time stamp 2/9 21:19 UDT statesFalse alarm …

Make Your Blog Keep Your Time

Like the language problems which plague bloggers from time to time, we occasionally have problems with the times in our blog posts and in other places. Like the language issue, too, the time settings can be found in various places, and any one of them may affect you.

First, each blog has a setting for Time Zone. From Settings - Language and formatting, check "Time Zone".

Secondly, each blog owner has a Google account. Your Google account, too, has a Time Zone setting. From your dashboard, select "My Account" on the right. Then, under "Personal info & privacy", select "Edit", and there, too, check "Time Zone".

Finally, your computer has a clock, and that too must be maintained, using an applet provided by the Operating System. This will vary by Operating System, and it too will include Time Zone. And check the clock too.

If you have a problem with time keeping, anywhere, remember to check all 3 settings.

Show Title Field

Most bloggers, but not all, like to prefix their individual posts with a title. The title field is useful in separating, and identifying, each section (aka post) in a blog. For the bloggers who don't want a title to distract from the contents, there's an option.

If you don't want titles for your posts, or if you want to make the titles less obtrusive or use images instead of text, you can turn titles off. Go to Settings - Formatting, and set "Show Title field" to "No".

What a neat idea. So simple - and yet not so simple. Like many Blogger settings, this one has a double edge. If you, like many bloggers, use permanent links (set "Enable Post Pages?" to "Yes") so you can link directly to individual posts, and you set "Show Title field" to "No", what happens? The URL for each post uses the first few words in the first paragraph.

For this post, with titles disabled, you might have something like "bloggerstatu…

Google Groups Are Hosed Right Now

And probably will be for the weekend.

You can post a new topic in any group, such as Blogger Help: Something Is Broken. You can't reply, reliably. Occasionally, your reply will post. Generally, you'll get " ... try again later".

Actually, you can post a reply. It's not a simple task, but you can reply to any post, if you're desperate. It's simpler than it looks, after you do it a few times, and precisely as written. Really.
Open a text editor, like Notepad.Hit the Reply button for the post in question.Copy the complete text of the post reply window (Ctrl-A then Ctrl-C), and paste into the Notepad window (Ctrl-V).Hit the "Edit Subject" link.Copy the complete text of the Subject window (Ctrl-A then Ctrl-C), including the "Re:".Hit the Discard button.Hit the "post your question" in the menu bar at the right.Paste into the "Subject" box (Ctrl-V).Copy and paste from the Notepad window (Ctrl-A, Ctrl-C, then Ctrl-V), in…

Make All Links Open In A New Window

If you compose your blog, as I do, with lots of links to other blogs and web sites, you may make it convenient for your readers to view those other blogs or web sites then return to your blog. Instead of viewing the other blog or web site in the same window, you open the other blog or web site in a new window. When your reader finishes viewing the other blog or web site, he / she simply closes the new window. The article that he or she was reading, in your blog, is right there in front of them.

You can, similarly, do this with pictures. If you want your reader to view a picture, then return to the text in your article, you open the picture in a new window.

Instead of coding each individual link to a blog, picture, or web site, you can make all links within your blog open in a new window. Simply add a "<base target='_blank' />" to your blog, in the header.

Find
<head>

And change that to:
<head>
<base target='_blank' />

But, consider this c…