Friday, February 29, 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 changes as if you weren't logged in, you can run your browser inside a sandbox. You can be logged in to Blogger (Google) from outside the sandbox with one account, and logged in to Blogger (Google) from inside the sandbox with another account (or not logged in at all), simultaneously. Schizophrenia from a shortcut.

SandBoxIE was originally written to protect your computer while you run Internet Explorer V6 and earlier. You can, just as easily, run any other version of Internet Explorer, or any other browser, or any other program in general. Every file change that you make inside the sandbox gets saved to a replica copy of your disk, in the sandbox. Before you flush the sandbox, if you need to save anything specific, you can move it into disk storage in general. Then you flush the sandbox, and anything that you don't, explicitly, save gets flushed too.

SandBoxIE runs on your computer as a background process, and uses less than 4M of memory by itself, similar to the amount of memory used by 2 files opened in Notepad. Any processes like the browser, that you run from within SandBoxIE, use their normal amount of memory additional to that amount.

If your computer has enough resources, you can even use it to run multiple browsers on your computer, for transferring control of your blog(s) from one account to another, or instead of clearing browser cache.

SandBoxIE is free (on a trial basis), and easy to install. If you had started downloading it when you opened this post, you could have it running by now, and you could be using it.

Try it. I bet you'll find it useful.

>> Top

Thursday, February 28, 2008

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 too.

Both the Blogger feed and the FeedDigest feed are displayed as standard page elements. The former is a feed widget, the latter an HTML / JavaScript widget. Both widgets, like any other normal blog component, can be setup and positioned on the blog page using the Page Elements GUI wizard.

>> Top

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

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 error
Another 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 assistance to an individual blogger, the DNS for the custom domain in question has to be properly setup. There are several ways to setup the DNS for a custom domain that will cause problems - either immediately, or in the long run. Diagnosing a custom domain setup problem will start with various diagnostic tools.
  1. Abounce (aka TESP Abuse Reporter), which provides a browser connection log.
  2. An online version of Dig extracts DNS diagnostic data, in a commonly understood format.
  3. Ping verifies connectivity to a host (domain), and IP address used by that host (domain).
  4. An online version of WhoIs provides name and ownership for a given IP address.
  5. Rex Swain's Online HTTP Viewer provides a text log simulating what our browser is doing as it retrieves any given web page. This provides essential diagnostic information about what is, and what isn't, happening as we view our blog and other web pages.
Using these diagnostic tools together, in proper combination, we can diagnose many common DNS problems that will affect Blogger's ability to take care of this problem, for many bloggers.

Long ago, I showed a case study with my experience in setting up my first custom domain. As Google continued developing their product, the variations in setup made that one case study less and less relevant. I recently realised that there are many models of custom domain setup, that need to be examined.

Here, I'll show some Custom Domains models, using the various tools, as described above.
  • Case Study 1: A symmetrically configured custom domain, "martinezumc.org". Both primary domain and "www" alias redirect, through the DNS setup, to "ghs.google.com". You can publish to either, and have Blogger redirect the other.
  • Case Study 2: An asymmetrically configured (and fully operational) custom domain, nitecruzr.net. Only the "www" alias redirects, through the DNS setup, to "ghs.google.com". You can publish to the "www" alias, and Google Apps will redirect the primary domain to the "www" alias.
  • Case Study 3: An asymmetrically configured (and not fully operational) hypothetical custom domain. Only the "www" alias redirects, through the DNS setup, to "ghs.google.com". The primary domain is directed to a parked server provided by the DNS host. You should be able to direct the primary domain to the "www" alias, using a "301 Redirect" at the DNS server, and a Blogger redirect in "Advanced Settings".
  • Case Study 4: An incompletely setup (and not fully operational) hypothetical custom domain. Only the "www" alias redirects, through the DNS setup, to "ghs.google.com". The primary domain is not defined in DNS. You should be able to direct the primary domain to the "www" alias, using a "301 Redirect" at the DNS server, and a Blogger redirect in "Advanced Settings".
  • Case Study 5: An improperly setup (and not fully operational) custom domain. This generally is caused by bad advice from the support staff for the DNS hosting service. Only the "www" alias redirects, through the DNS setup, to "ghs.google.com". The primary domain uses URL forwarding, through a forwarding server provided by the DNS host. You should be able to direct the primary domain to the "www" alias, using a "301 Redirect" at the DNS server, and a Blogger redirect in "Advanced Settings".
  • Case Study 6: An very improperly setup (and not fully operational) custom domain. This generally is caused by very bad advice from the support staff for the DNS hosting service. The "www" alias redirects, through a "CNAME" referral, to the primary domain. The primary domain uses URL forwarding, through a forwarding server provided by the DNS host. In this case, you start with education about the need to use a "CNAME" referral to "ghs.google.com". Possibly provide a link to this series of posts, if the blogger in question seems receptive.
  • Case Study 7: A seemingly proper but not workable setup, using Yahoo DNS instead of Google Apps. Yahoo DNS works fine for its own product, but it simply doesn't provide the DNS options that are provided by Google Apps, and that are essential for a Google Custom Domain. As of yet, I have been unable to assist any blogger, using Yahoo DNS, in setting up a working Custom Domain.
  • Case Study 9: A quick way to visually include the contents of your blog inside another web site, using Frames. Frames are a way for your readers to view a web site, without providing any actual content or link hosting of the target.


And a couple incidental cases.


And here a final bit of advice, and a plea. If you are able to use my case studies, presented here, to solve your problem, that's great. But note that the values "myblog" and "mydomain" are hypothetical examples, provided for use in the case studies. When you work on your problem, substitute the actual BlogSpot and custom domain URLs. Please, do not post in Google Blogger Help: Something is Broken, a report
My custom domain, "mydomain.com", doesn't work.
Give us the actual URL of the BlogSpot and Custom Domain. Help us to help you, more effectively.

>> Top

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

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.


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

  • Ping (hostname).
  • Ping (IP address).


>>Top

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<1ms TTL=128
Reply from 192.168.100.100: bytes=32 time<1ms TTL=128
Reply from 192.168.100.100: bytes=32 time<1ms TTL=128

Ping statistics for 192.168.100.100:
Packets: Sent = 4, Received = 4, Lost = 0 (0% loss), Approximate round trip times in milli-seconds:
Minimum = 0ms, Maximum = 0ms, Average = 0ms

This tells me:

  • Host "pchuck1" is online and responding.
  • It's IP address is 192.168.100.100.


>>Top

Ping host by IP address, host responds.

I enter
C:\>ping 192.168.100.100


Pinging 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<1ms TTL=128
Reply from 192.168.100.100: bytes=32 time<1ms TTL=128
Reply from 192.168.100.100: bytes=32 time<1ms TTL=128

Ping statistics for 192.168.100.100:
Packets: Sent = 4, Received = 4, Lost = 0 (0% loss), Approximate round trip times in milli-seconds:
Minimum = 0ms, Maximum = 0ms, Average = 0ms

This tells me:

  • Host "192.168.100.100" is online and responding.


>>Top

Ping host by name, host does not respond.

I enter
C:\>ping pchuck8

(I only wish I had 8 computers).

Pinging pchuck8 [192.168.100.107] with 32 bytes of data:
Request timed out.
Request timed out.
Request timed out.
Request timed out.

Ping statistics for 192.168.100.107:
Packets: Sent = 4, Received = 0, Lost = 4 (100% loss),
Approximate round trip times in milli-seconds:
Minimum = 0ms, Maximum = 0ms, Average = 0ms

This tells me:

  • Host "pchuck8" is not online, or is not responding.
  • It's thought to exist, and to have an IP address of 192.168.100.107.

Possible problems:


>>Top

Ping host by IP address, host does not respond.

I enter
C:\>ping 192.168.100.107

(I only wish I had 8 computers).

Pinging 192.168.100.107 with 32 bytes of data:
Request timed out.
Request timed out.
Request timed out.
Request timed out.

Ping statistics for 192.168.100.107:
Packets: Sent = 4, Received = 0, Lost = 4 (100% loss),
Approximate round trip times in milli-seconds:
Minimum = 0ms, Maximum = 0ms, Average = 0ms

This tells me:

  • Host "192.168.100.107" is not online, or is not responding.

Possible problems:


>>Top

Ping host by name, host is unknown.

I enter
C:\>ping pchuck8

(I only wish I had 8 computers).

Ping request could not find host pchuck8. Please check the name and try again.

This tells me:

  • Host "pchuck8" is unknown.

Possible problems:


>>Top

Monday, February 25, 2008

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.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

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.

The good news is - this is a simple enpugh task. The Template Editor now includes a pair of scripts to save and restore the template, as needed. It's a bit more user friendly than starting Notepad each time.

Start from the dashboard Template wizard. Look at the upper right corner of the wizard, and hit "Backup / Restore". Hit "Download full template", point the wizard into the right folder, select or type a file / file name, and hit Open.


Select Download full template to Save the template. Hit Choose File to select a file to Restore the template from, then Upload to do the restore. What could be easier?



Before you make any changes to your template, back it up. But whenever you do backup, consider what you'll be able to backup - and how you will restore what's backed up.

If you decide that you don't like your changes, instead of spending time fixing each change, just restore from backup. Short term result - simple, on the fly changes. Long term result - more progress in making changes, and a more pleasing blog for your readers.

>> Top

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's another HTML / JavaScript page element - just a hyperlink - text (with a colored background), with a hidden URL.

<div style="text-align: center;">
<a style="text-decoration: none;" href="http://blogging.nitecruzr.net/2005/06/real-blogger-status-newsfeeds.html" title="The Real Blogger Status NewsFeeds (Click for Atom, RSS)"><span style="border-style: solid; border-color: rgb(255, 204, 153) rgb(102, 51, 0) rgb(51, 51, 0) rgb(255, 153, 102); border-width: 1px; padding: 0pt 3px; background: rgb(255, 102, 0) none repeat scroll 0%; font-family: verdana,sans-serif; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; font-weight: bold; font-size: 10px; line-height: normal; font-size-adjust: none; font-stretch: normal; color: rgb(255, 255, 255); -moz-background-clip: -moz-initial; -moz-background-origin: -moz-initial; -moz-background-inline-policy: -moz-initial;" class="mrgall0">XML</span></a>
</div>

You don't have to have a separate post, discussing the feeds - you can, just as easily, use the XML button to advertise one feed - say, the RSS feed for this blog (or your blog, as you like).
<div style="text-align: center;">
<a style="text-decoration: none;" href="http://blogging.nitecruzr.net/feeds/posts/default?alt=rss" title="The Real Blogger Status RSS Feed)"><span style="border-style: solid; border-color: rgb(255, 204, 153) rgb(102, 51, 0) rgb(51, 51, 0) rgb(255, 153, 102); border-width: 1px; padding: 0pt 3px; background: rgb(255, 102, 0) none repeat scroll 0%; font-family: verdana,sans-serif; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; font-weight: bold; font-size: 10px; line-height: normal; font-size-adjust: none; font-stretch: normal; color: rgb(255, 255, 255); -moz-background-clip: -moz-initial; -moz-background-origin: -moz-initial; -moz-background-inline-policy: -moz-initial;" class="mrgall0">XML</span></a>
</div>

You can even advertise an Atom feed. It's your blog - use your imagination.
<div style="text-align: center;">
<a style="text-decoration: none;" href="http://blogging.nitecruzr.net/feeds/posts/default?alt=atom" title="The Real Blogger Status Atom Feed)"><span style="border-style: solid; border-color: rgb(255, 204, 153) rgb(102, 51, 0) rgb(51, 51, 0) rgb(255, 153, 102); border-width: 1px; padding: 0pt 3px; background: rgb(255, 102, 0) none repeat scroll 0%; font-family: verdana,sans-serif; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; font-weight: bold; font-size: 10px; line-height: normal; font-size-adjust: none; font-stretch: normal; color: rgb(255, 255, 255); -moz-background-clip: -moz-initial; -moz-background-origin: -moz-initial; -moz-background-inline-policy: -moz-initial;" class="mrgall0">Atom</span></a>
</div>

Besides the blog and comments feeds, there are also the possibility of feeds related to a given Label. You might, for instance, subscribe to my feed about Blog Feeds.

Eventually, I may add a scripted procedure to offer a Label feed (or others) to your readers. Right now, it's a manual procedure. Used properly, it can help readers who target specific topics - maybe folks wanting ongoing updates on posts about Custom Domains, or maybe posts about Languages.

The possibilities are practically endless, and your readers will enjoy what you provide.

>> Top

Friday, February 22, 2008

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 political.
  • Operating system.
  • Security devices and software.
Any, or all, of these factors might be relevant. Be as detailed as possible, when reporting your observations.

The bottom line? Be thankful that you don't see the old "403 Forbidden" error constantly.

>> Top

SpellCheck

... is now stated to work.

We will see.

>> Top

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.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

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.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

SpellCheck

... does not work.

Several times / day, recently, we see the anxious query
I 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 so
The "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 possible problems.

>> (Update 2/22): We see an update, not yet in Known Issues though.

>> Top

Saturday, February 16, 2008

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.

Friday, February 15, 2008

The Page Element Wizard Lacks ScrollBars

In Known Issues for Blogger: Layouts Arrange Scrollbar 1028093, Blogger notes
The 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.

>> Top

Thursday, February 14, 2008

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.

>> Top

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

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 done for you, when you publish to the custom domain.
We won't leave your readers behind! http://xxxxxxx.blogspot.com will redirect to your custom domain.


But this solution presents us with a new concern. Before you publish to a Custom Domain, you have to publish to BlogSpot. This is true whether you are setting up a new blog, or whether your blog was previously published to an external server using FTP.

You have to have a BlogSpot URL, to forward to the custom domain. That's how you start, now.
  1. Get the blog working as a normal BlogSpot blog.
  2. Now, you have a choice.
It's as easy as 1-2-3, but you do have to do all 3 steps, in the right order.

>> Top

Blogs Are Being Removed For Just Cause

In mid January 2008, Blogger started to do something about a major problem - blogs established in BlogSpot, in massive numbers, for illegal purposes - hacking, porn distribution, and spam distribution.

Cleaning up the hacking, porn, and spam is not an easy task - there's nothing on any one blog that says
This 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 problems
  • False 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 Blogger tries harder to reduce the population of illegal blogs, and based upon the massive size and deviousness of that population, more legitimate blogs are going to be falsely flagged as illegal.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

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 "Add a Gadget". 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.

Look at the list to the right, under the Help Links picture. I just added a link to my Networking blog, PChuck's Network, as an example.
  • New Site URL http://networking.nitecruzr.net/
  • New Site Name PChuck's Network
  • Hit "Add Link".
  • Repeat with more of your friends web sites - or various posts in your blog.
  • If you need to change any entry in the list, now or in the future, click on the "Edit" link to the left of the entry in question.
  • Any linklist can be displayed in any of three orders.
    • Alphabetically.
    • Reverse alphabetically.
    • Manually or un sorted. If you select "Don't Sort" for "Sorting", you can re order the list as you like. To move any entry up or down in the list, click on the up or down arrow next to the "Edit" and "Delete" links. Be careful, and don't click on "Delete" unless you mean to.
  • When you're done adding and editing your list of friends web sites, hit "Save Changes". Hit "Cancel", if you mess up too badly, and want to start over.
  • As with any Page Elements object, reposition the new linklist on the page, as it pleases you.
  • Hit Save.
  • Admire, and test, your new blog accessory.


After you have your linklist setup, adding an entry to the list is simply a matter of editing the list. You can do this from the Blogger dashboard Layout wizard - or, if you have QuickEdit enabled, by clicking on the QuickEdit tools icon (aka "DragonFly") at the lower right corner of the linklist in question.

You can have, theoretically, as many linklists in your blog as you like. And, you can have as many items in a list as you like. So, get started. You're welcome to add a link to this blog, to start your linklist off right.
  • New Site URL http://blogging.nitecruzr.net/
  • New Site Name The Real Blogger Status
  • Hit "Add Link".


After you have your new linklist working, if you decide that it takes up too much room on the page, you can hide your linklist, or possibly show your linklist on a separate blog page, with a bit of effort. Or look at the new page element - the BlogList. And now, we have Following, a two way BlogList, which is still more fun.

The LinkList gadget, though, has one major deficiency - it lacks the ability to open linked pages in a new tab / window. My policy, and I'll bet I'm not alone, is to open a new browser tab / window whenever I link out of my blog to another blog or web site. This is a convenience to my readers, and I know other folks do the same. But you can't do that, with a Blogger LinkList.

If you want a linklist with targets opening in a new window, you have to code it as raw HTML, and install it as an HTML / JavaScript gadget.

See the linklist in the top of my sidebar? ">> Home" etc? That's a native Blogger linklist.

<ul>
<li><a href="http://blogging.nitecruzr.net/">&gt;&gt; Home</a></li>
<li><a href="http://blogging.nitecruzr.net/search/label/About%20Us?max-results=100">&gt;&gt; About Us</a></li>

<li><a href="http://www.nitecruzr.net/">Nitecruzr Dot Net</a></li>
<li><a href="http://test-draft.nitecruzr.net/">Draft Test</a></li>
<li><a href="http://www.ultraguest.com/?id=1138394596&sign=1">Please Sign My Guestbook</a></li>
<li><a href="http://www.ultraguest.com/">Get A FREE Guestbook</a></li>
<li><a href="http://blogging.nitecruzr.net/2005/06/leave-comments-here.html">Leave General Comments Here</a></li>
</ul>

None of those links create a new tab / window, when you click on them. To make that happen, I'll have to code native HTML, in an HTML gadget.

<ul>
<li><a href="http://blogging.nitecruzr.net/" target="_blank">
&gt;&gt; Home</a></li>
<li><a href="http://blogging.nitecruzr.net/search/label/About%20Us?
max-results=100" target="_blank">&gt;&gt; About Us</a></li>
<li><a href="http://www.nitecruzr.net/" target="_blank">
Nitecruzr Dot Net</a></li>
<li><a href="http://test-draft.nitecruzr.net/" target="_blank">
Draft Test</a></li>
<li><a href="http://www.ultraguest.com/?id=1138394596&sign=1" target="_blank">
Please Sign My Guestbook</a></li>
<li><a href="http://www.ultraguest.com/" target="_blank">
Get A FREE Guestbook</a></li>
<li><a href="http://blogging.nitecruzr.net/2005/06/leave-comments-here.html" target="_blank">
Leave General Comments Here</a></li>
</ul>

Right now, I appreciate the convenience of the linklist, so I can't add " target="_blank"". And you have to open your own new window. Sorry.

>> Top

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.

>> Top

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 Persian).

This blog has 2 columns.
  • Main, floating to the Left.
  • Sidebar, floating to the Right


That is because, in English, text starts at the left, and ends at the right. In Arabic, it's vice versa - text starts at the right, and ends at the left. To make a bi-directional template work, we replace "Left" with "Start", and "Right" with "End".

  • Main, floating to the Startside.
  • Sidebar, floating to the Endside.


So, in a template that supports bi-directional text, we change the float settings.


#main {
width: 400px;
float: 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 */
}

#sidebar {
width: 220px;
float: right;
color: $sidebarTextColor;
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 */
}


Becomes


#main {
width: 400px;
float: $startSide;
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 */
}

#sidebar {
width: 220px;
float: $endSide;
color: $sidebarTextColor;
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 */
}


This is the example of the column float settings, only. Text float settings, anywhere in the template, needs to be changed similarly. Float settings of "left" need to be changed to "$startSide", and "right" to "$endSide", to make this really work.

As you customise your template, you too might want to change your float settings, so your blog becomes more readable to readers of Arabic, Hebrew, and / or Persian (and more in the future). If you want your blog to be more easily enjoyed by those nationalities, anyway.

>> Top

Monday, February 11, 2008

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='blog-pager-newer-link' expr:href='data:newerPageUrl' expr:id='data:widget.instanceId + "_blog-pager-newer-link"' expr:title='data:newerPageTitle'><data:newerPageTitle/></a>
</span>
</b:if>

<b:if cond='data:olderPageUrl'>
<span id='blog-pager-older-link'>
<a class='blog-pager-older-link' expr:href='data:olderPageUrl' expr:id='data:widget.instanceId + "_blog-pager-older-link"' expr:title='data:olderPageTitle'><data:olderPageTitle/></a>
</span>
</b:if>

<b:if cond='data:blog.homepageUrl != data:blog.url'>
<a class='home-link' expr:href='data:blog.homepageUrl'><data:homeMsg/></a>
<b:else/>
<b:if cond='data:newerPageUrl'>
<a class='home-link' expr:href='data:blog.homepageUrl'><data:homeMsg/></a>
</b:if>
</b:if>

</div>
<div class='clear'/>
</b:includable>


See "olderPageUrl"? If you're viewing this as a single article, that value will be "http://bloggerstatusforreal.blogspot.com/2008/02/stop-posting-clickable-links-to-malware.html". The corresponding data object "olderPageTitle" should be "Stop Posting Clickable Links To Malware". Instead, it's simply "Older Post".

That's wrong. If there needs to be a generic label "Older Posts" / "Older Post", provide that as "olderPageLabel". But make "olderPageTitle" provide "Stop Posting Clickable Links To Malware", corresponding with "olderPageUrl" being "http://bloggerstatusforreal.blogspot.com/2008/02/stop-posting-clickable-links-to-malware.html".

>> Top

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.

Until January 2008, obnoxiousblog would have no problem with getting readers. The "Next\\\\Porn Blog" link would get readers a plenty. In January, Blogger put a stop to that, and made the "Next Blog" link work only for genuine personal blogs, like yours and mine.

So now, a part (at least some part) of traffic to obnoxiousblog depends upon folks posting, in online forums
Hey, check out my blog!
http://obnoxiousblog.blogspot.com
Some of them do this intentionally, others are like JohnBlogger, who are trying to do a public service (we hope), but in reality, they help the sploggers.

Please, JohnBlogger, remove your posts which contain clickable links.
Go to the post in question.
  1. Click on "More options" at the top right.
  2. Click on "Remove".
  3. Click on "Yes, remove it now.".


If you feel the need to report obnoxiousblog, report it but make the link non-clickable.
Hey, you need to get rid of blog hxxp://obnoxiousblog.blogspot.com.
That's a non-clickable link, and it shows other bloggers how to report obnoxious blogs too.

Next, let's get to the business of getting the splogs removed. Please.
  1. Flag the splogs.
  2. Report the splogs.
  3. Move on.


>> Top

Sunday, February 10, 2008

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, you will observe my multi-lingual translator, courtesy of Google Translator. It provides on the fly translation of the currently displayed web page, and whatever web pages that are subsequently loaded from following any links. It provides translation from English, to any of (as of 2013/02/05) 65 different languages. You can see the enumeration of the available languages here, in the code - or you can move the mouse over each flag, and check out the popup tags.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

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.

>> Top

Friday, February 08, 2008

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 states
False alarm fixed. Please update local bases.


>> (Update 2/8 20:30): Kaspersky customers, in their support forum, are also suspecting a false positive detection.

>> Top

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, for "Personal information" on the left, 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.

>> Top

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 "bloggerstatusforreal.blogspot.com/2008/02/most-bloggers-but-not-all.html". Editing the first paragraph after the post is published will be like changing the title after the post is published, you'll end up with a discordant URL.

So disable titles on your blog, if you like, but be aware of the possible consequences.

>> Top

Saturday, February 02, 2008

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.
  1. Open a text editor, like Notepad.
  2. Hit the Reply button for the post in question.
  3. Copy the complete text of the post reply window (Ctrl-A then Ctrl-C), and paste into the Notepad window (Ctrl-V).
  4. Hit the "Edit Subject" link.
  5. Copy the complete text of the Subject window (Ctrl-A then Ctrl-C), including the "Re:".
  6. Hit the Discard button.
  7. Hit the "post your question" in the menu bar at the right.
  8. Paste into the "Subject" box (Ctrl-V).
  9. Copy and paste from the Notepad window (Ctrl-A, Ctrl-C, then Ctrl-V), into the "Message":" box.
  10. Compose your reply.
  11. Hit "Post message".


It's a pain, but for urgent problems, this will work.

>> (Update 19:30): The problem appears to be fixed, another fix made in silence.

>> Top

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 carefully. If you construct your blog heavily using hypertext, as I construct my blogs, do you really want your readers having to close a window each time they finish reading a linked article in your blog? Do this with discretion.

While the reader is in your blog, give them one choice of what to read at any time. If they click on a link to read some detail, let them read the detail. Then, they click on the Back button, and return to where they left the previous article. Only if the reader is leaving your blog, to read another web site for detail, should you keep your blog open in the current window, and open a new window for the new web site.

Of course, if you have an insanely huge amount of links that you would like this way, maybe in a few linklists, you could host the linklists in another blog, and include the other blog in an iframe or maybe a series of posts linked to your public blog. Maybe including the iframe in your sidebar would work for you.

>> Top