Sunday, August 31, 2008

Nitecruzr Dot Net Is Now Online

After a 3 day outage, all 3 aliases of Nitecruzr Dot Net are now online. Obviously some intensive weekend work there by the Blogger team - good job guys.are all ready to serve you.

Now, we will see whether the Custom Domain Recycle and the Custom Domain Republish procedures work - and whether they remain necessary. One day, neither will be true.

Happy Labor Day, Blogger Team.

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Customising The Newer Post - Older Posts Captions

Not everybody who like Layouts templates, and their flexibility, likes the "Newer Posts" / "Older Posts" links. Some people are content to just remove them, but others would like to change the captions.

The latter task isn't terribly difficult. As always, backup your template before and after making these changes.

The simplest changes that you can make involve editing the CSS rules that control the fonts.
  • You can change all 3 links together. The "Newer Posts" - "Home" - "Older Posts" container uses the Class rule "blog-pager".
  • Alternately, you can change each link separately.
    • "Newer Posts" uses the Class rule "blog-pager-newer-link".
    • "Home" uses the Class rule "home-link".
    • "Older Posts" uses the Class rule "blog-pager-older-link".


Here is the CSS rule set for a Minima template.
#blog-pager-newer-link {
float: left;
}
#blog-pager-older-link {
float: right;
}
#blog-pager {
text-align: center;
}

Make the "Home" link bold.
#home-link {
font-weight:bold;
}
#blog-pager-newer-link {
float: left;
}
#blog-pager-older-link {
float: right;
}
#blog-pager {
text-align: center;
}

Make all three links bold.
#blog-pager-newer-link {
float: left;
}
#blog-pager-older-link {
float: right;
}
#blog-pager {
font-weight:bold;
text-align: center;
}

If you want to change the link captions, or maybe replace the captions with pictures, you'll have to edit the template XML. This is slightly more work than tweaking the CSS rules.

From the Template Editor, expand the post template, aka "Blog1". Look through the code for "nextprev". (Note): What you see below has been liberally seeded with gratuitous line breaks, to prevent post / sidebar alignment problems.

<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>


Change that. Here, we'll change "Newer Posts" to "Next", and "Older Posts" to "Prev".

<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'>
Next</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'>
Prev</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>

Here, we'll change "Newer Posts" to a left arrow, and "Older Posts" to a right arrow.

<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'>
<img src='http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_pzC_7PLtN-0/
SLspRekw94I/AAAAAAAABO0/xBrN8YSo-Vc/s200/
Left.gif'/></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'>
<img src='http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_pzC_7PLtN-0/
SLspRqEA42I/AAAAAAAABO8/yuwkwz-8Tr4/s200/
Right.gif'/></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>

Here, we'll change "Home" to "My Home Page".

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


And Save, which ever change you make. See it in action, if you like.


(Note): The "Newer Posts" / "Older Posts" links are only available in blogs with layouts templates, because they require XML. If your blog uses a classic template, this is an excellent opportunity for you to consider upgrading to a layouts template. If you insist on using HTML for the template, upgrade to layouts anyway - then use your HTML in the layouts body.


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Friday, August 29, 2008

Blogger Is Not Defrauding Anybody

With the current state of Custom Domain Publishing, and the bX codes that have become so common as of late, we're seeing some unhappy bloggers.
People are getting ripped off it seems like.
BLOGGER WHAT IS GOING ON!
and
I bought my domain from GoDaddy and it doesn't work! I want my money back!!


But, as has been mentioned before, once you buy the domain registration, it's yours, and you don't get your money back.

If you buy the domain using the "Buy A Domain" wizard, the domain is registered to you, and you get email from Google Apps, it's your domain. If the Blogger script doesn't succeed in connecting the domain URL to your Blogger blog (BlogSpot URL), the domain is still yours. Ditto if you buy the domain from GoDaddy and the DNS isn't setup for you.

You take your Google Apps email, sign into eNom or GoDaddy, and correct the DNS. Once the DNS is setup, you can publish any web site that pleases you to your domain. Maybe you can't publish a Blogger blog to your domain, until Blogger fixes their problems, but you didn't pay anything for that.

You paid $10 USD (probably) for domain registration and DNS hosting. There's no fraudulent acceptance of funds for a non working service. You got what you paid for.


Here, I paid $10 USD to GoDaddy. You may pay GoDaddy, or maybe eNom, or possibly a third party ISP, independently. Nobody pays anything to Google.


And when I purchased my latest domain, I "signed" a Go Daddy Domain Name Registration and Services Agreement.

But, do let Blogger know about the bX code that affected you, or any other problem. Just don't expect overnight resolution.

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"www.nitecruzr.net" Is Now Online

But "nitecruzr.net" is still a problem.

I was able to publish the domain back to "nitecruzr-dot-net.blogspot.com", then republish to "www.nitecruzr.net", but when I selected "Redirect "nitecruzr.net to www.nitecruzr.net.", I got the old familiar
Another blog is already hosted at this address.


Attempting to publish back to BlogSpot again, I got the other old friend, the bX-f42977.


bX-f42977
Consistency, at least.



And, trying to access either "nitecruzr-dot-net.blogspot.com" or "nitecruzr.net" gives us a predictable
Server Not Found

Error 404


Oh well, it's 1/3 back anyway.

>> (Update 8/30 17:00): Nitecruzr Dot Net, in all 3 aliases, is back online.

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The Safari Browser And The FTP Blog Redirect Intersticial

I've been writing about browser display differences for a while - known differences between Firefox and Internet Explorer are legendary. Most differences, though, are in how the blog gets rendered - simply different display appearance. Cosmetic issues, not all so minor but still cosmetic.

Then we have the case of "run4istrun.blogspot.com", which is intended to be published to "run4istrun.com". The problem was originally reported as "blogspot URL not redirecting as Blogger says it should (for an FTP Published blog)", as indeed it wasn't redirecting, when viewed in Safari. In the latter case, it was just another "404 Not Found".

One intermittent problem with FTP Publishing is that blogs published using FTP are having an annoying redirect notice (called by Blogger Support, the "interstitial"), implying some degree of possible insecurity, inserted in front of the home page when the BlogSpot URL is loaded. I reported this, first, several months ago. The Safari browser, in this case, simply causes more confusion.


This is what you expect (though not prefer) to see, in Firefox.
You're about to be redirected.




This is what you see, in Safari, run in Windows.
You're about to be redirected.




This is what you see, in Safari, run in Apple.
This page can't be found.



A significant difference there, folks. Safari users, beware.

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Following Is Coming - Have Patience

The newest Blogger feature - Following - was just announced yesterday, and already we see anxious queries
Why don't I have the gadget?
and
How do I add the Followers gadget to my blog? It's not in my Gadgets list.


Apparently, Following is being added on an account by account basis, and gradually. If it's not enabled for your account, you'll see the Followers gadget on other peoples blogs (the lucky ones who have it), and that's all that you will see.

Have patience - it's coming.

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Follow Me

In the spirit of meshed online communities like FaceBook, MySpace, and Orkut, Blogger now gives us a new accessory: Following. With a single mouse click, you can subscribe to any Blogger blog by its news feed, and create a link from that blog back to your profile. You can read the contents of Blogger blogs that you Follow either in your Following Reading List, or in Google Reader.

Do you see the "Follow Me" gadget, in the sidebar? There you can see two components of Following.
  • A link to add this blog to your Following Reading List.
  • A grid of thumbnail profile photos, showing who most recently decided to Follow this blog.

Two more components are on your Dashboard, as your account gets the Following feature.
  • For each Followed blog, a link to a list of who is Following that blog.
  • Your Following Reading List, showing blog content (snippets of ~150 posts), at the bottom of the dashboard.


And look in the navbar (for any blog that has not hidden the navbar), for a "Follow" this blog link.

If a blog that interests you has the "Followers" ("Follow Me") gadget, just click on the "Follow This Blog" link, to add this blog to your Reading List, at the bottom of your dashboard. If there's no "Followers" gadget, but the blog is public and has a working feed, just go to your Reading List, and click on the "Add" button. You may also be able to use the "Follow" link in the navbar. Either way, you'll become a Follower of that blog (though the latter choices won't be as much fun).

If you want Followers for your public blog, be sure to enable the blog feed. Once that's done, add a Followers gadget to your sidebar, and make it visible (near the top is best). Encourage people to Follow your blog, and you'll get more Followers - and hopefully other people, who Follow blogs published by those who Follow your blog, will decide to Follow your blog too.

What use is it to Follow, and to be Followed, if you can't tell the world (selectively, as you wish) what you're doing? But you need to protect yourself, your blog, and your Followers.Involve yourself, and involve others, in your community.

For a more descriptive and pictorial evaluation of Following, you might want to check out Roberto's Following - A new Gadget. You may also benefit from Blogger: What is Following?. And I'll explore new and ongoing Following issues, from time to time.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Mail-to-Blogger Is Too Simple

Mail-to-Blogger is so simple, some people don't see the forest for the trees. Occasionally, we see the anxious query
How do I post by email?
as if it's a complicated process.

But, it's not.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Nitecruzr Dot Net Is Now Offline

This evening, the Custom Domain problem hit my home blog, Nitecruzr Dot Net. In a routine reload of the page, I was greeted with the dreaded
Server Not Found

Error 404


In attempting to recover the blog, I observed the equally unpopular
Another blog is already hosted at this address.


Having supposedly recycled the domain settings in Google Apps, I then received a final blow.

bX-f42977
Say good night, Chuck.


But do report it to Blogger, so they can diagnose the problem.

>> (Update 8/30 17:00): Nitecruzr Dot Net, in all 3 aliases, is back online.

>> (Update 8/27 15:30): Progress??

bX-e3i9af
Change is good
... or at least not boring.


We've got our top man working on it, round the clock.


>> (Update 8/30 17:00): Nitecruzr Dot Net, in all 3 aliases, is back online.

>> (Update 8/27 9:45): Blogger Support is actively looking at the problem.

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Custom Domain Repair Procedures Terminating With bX- Codes

A few months ago, I reported that many bloggers, in the process of setting up a Google Custom Domain, were observing a series of bX- codes instead of the eagerly anticipated
You're publishing on a custom domain.
Part of setting up a custom domain comes with the possibility of two well known failures.
Another blog is already hosted at this address.
and the equally feared
404 Not Found / 404 Server Not Found


The latter two errors lead to two equally well known workarounds.
If you get the "Another blog ..." error, recycle the domain settings in Google Apps.
and
You're getting the well known "404 Not Found". Publish the blog back to "xxxxxxx.blogspot.com", then republish to "www.xxxxxxx.org".


Now, we appear to be taking another step forward. Recently, some bloggers have observed getting a bX code when trying one or the other workaround. It appears that Blogger is finally getting serious about the custom domain problems, and the mentioned chronic symptoms. Or maybe, it's one step forward, two steps back.
  • bX-e3i9af
  • bX-f42977
  • bX-octine
These are the errors of the month, all seemingly coming during custom domain repair procedure.

>> (Update 9/2 17:00): Blogger Support has possibly resolved the problem.
We have pushed a fix for the bX-f42977 issue and it looks so far as though users can now publish back to Blogspot without any problem.


>> (Update 9/1): Blogger Support is actively looking at the problem, on a cases by case basis, and the more cases that they can examine, the sooner they will likely find the actual problem. If you wish to report your probem in the Blogger Help Group open forum, please provide 3 key details about your experience.
  1. Which repair procedure(s) did you attempt?
  2. What bX codes were observed?
  3. What are the Blog*Spot and custom domain URLs?


>> (Update 8/27 16:00): Blogger Support apologises for the inconvenience.
Some users with custom domains are seeing 404 errors when trying to view their blogs. A similar underlying issue is causing some new custom domain signups to return bX errors.


>> (Update 8/27 9:45): Blogger Support is actively looking at the problem. However, it wouldn't hurt to provide your personal details, as you are able.

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Your Blog, And Third Party Accessories

Third party accessories are a big part of many blogs.

As Blogger proceeds to command a larger and larger share of the free online web site market, they encourage (directly or indirectly) the development of third party templates, and accessories. This lets us make our blogs more personal to our desires, and shinier to our egos.

Layouts Blogger is more mature, and commands an ever growing share of Blogger. And so, the the selection of Layouts compatible templates and accessories, again provided by third parties, will grow.

And as the selection grows, so does the possible risk, from installing what's available on our blogs. As I wrote long ago, what better way to hack somebody's blog (or computer) than by conning the victim into installing the hack, on his own?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

FTP Publishing - August 2008

So once again this week, we have various bloggers, publishing (wanting to do so, any way) to remote servers using FTP, and complaining of the well known error
Your publish is taking longer than expected.


Sometimes, having reported this to Blogger, a Blogger employee will come back almost immediately with
We reset the server, and you should be good to go.
Other times, this symptom will drag on for days, and weeks. Occasionally - and keep an open mind here - problems with the host server can contribute to this error.

While awaiting action by Blogger, you might do yourself and others a favour, and provide details of your problem (as best you are able).
  1. Name of host server and connection type (FTP / SFTP).
  2. Geographical location of host server.
  3. Path, within the FTP server, of the blog.
  4. URL of blog.
  5. Name of template.
  6. How many posts in the blog?
  7. How many posts / days of posts in the main page?
  8. How many photos (average / best guess) in a typical post?
  9. How many photos (best guess) in the blog, but not in posts?
  10. How old is the blog?
  11. How is the blog archived (weekly, monthly, yearly)?
  12. How many posts (average / best guess) / archive period?
  13. What size (average / best guess) are your photos (160, 320, 480, 1600)?
  14. How many labels defined in the blog?
  15. How many posts / label, and labels / post (average / best guess)?


Note that
  • Blogs published by FTP use HTML and static publishing.
  • The number and average size of statically published pages will affect the amount of time required to publish your blog.
  • Each archive link, and each different label link, will be one more statically published page. The more posts in an archive, or the more posts with a given label, will make that static archive or label page larger.
  • The amount of time required to publish the blog will, in turn, affect how likely you are to see the mentioned error
    Your publish is taking longer than expected.

Considering all of the details, is it any wonder that you don't see that message more often? These are some reasons why I suspect that moving to custom domain publishing makes more sense, as your blog gets larger.

>> (Update 8/25 05:00): We see one example of where the host server was involved in the problem, and in finding a solution for the problem.

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Friday, August 22, 2008

Mail-to-Blogger - August 2008

Various bloggers in the Google Blogger Help forums are stating
None of my mail-to-blogger posts are making it to my blogs. And it is not till I actually go onto my blog and discover that all the emails I have done over the past 48 hours have not made it.


As of 11:00 8/22, there are no confirmed affinities to the problem. Some, but not all, complaints appear to relate to email from phone and PDAs - possibly because more people use MTB from phones and PDAs. And, the outage is not 100% - I personally have posted to my test blog, twice with no problem.

In my case, I initially tested yesterday, and got an immediate email bounce.

MTB Test 20080821-1

Delivery to the following recipient failed permanently:

xxxxxxxx.xxxxxxxxxx@gmail.com

Technical details of permanent failure:
The email account that you tried to reach does not exist.


I went to Settings - Email, then verified and Re Saved my settings. I sent MTB Test 20080821-2, which posted fine. And ditto for this morning with MTB Test 20080822-1.

Unfortunately, re Saving may not be a 100% effective solution.

>> (Update 8/22 11:45): We have an acknowledgment from Blogger Employee Gatsby
Thanks for the heads up on the Mail2Blogger issues; we'll investigate this and report back with an update soon.


>> Forum thread links: bX-*00082

>> Copy this tag: bX-*00082

>> Top

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Custom Domains And Yahoo DNS Hosting

Custom Domain Publishing has come a long way since February 2007, when I wrote Custom Domain Names Hosted By Blogger. For a while, each custom domain was setup by hand, resulting in a variety of configurations. This prompted my Custom Domain Setup series of articles.

Then, Blogger developed the "Buy A Domain For Your Blog" wizard, and the Custom Domain Google Apps configuration, which provided an easy and standard setup. This worked for domains setup specifically to host Blogger blogs, as well as domains which host additional services. This lead, eventually, to my Righteous Solutions and Spurious Solutions pair of articles.

mydomain.com.  3600 IN A 64.233.179.121
mydomain.com. 3600 IN A 66.249.81.121
mydomain.com. 3600 IN A 72.14.207.121
www.mydomain.com. 3600 IN CNAME ghs.google.com.


That was a clean setup, and it worked for both "nitecruzr.net" and "www.nitecruzr.net", and for services besides a plain Blogger blog - for a while.

(Update 2008/12): Servers "64.233.179.121" and "66.249.81.121" having been removed from service, the correct configuration is now:
mydomain.com.  3600 IN A 72.14.207.121
www.mydomain.com. 3600 IN CNAME ghs.google.com.

or possibly
mydomain.com.  3600 IN A 216.239.32.21
mydomain.com. 3600 IN A 216.239.34.21
mydomain.com. 3600 IN A 216.239.36.21
mydomain.com. 3600 IN A 216.239.38.21
www.mydomain.com. 3600 IN CNAME ghs.google.com.


Occasionally, we see something vaguely resembling the latter setup.

mydomain.com. 1200 IN A 68.142.212.118
mydomain.com. 1200 IN A 68.142.212.119
mydomain.com. 1200 IN A 68.142.212.120
mydomain.com. 1200 IN A 68.142.212.121
mydomain.com. 1200 IN A 68.142.212.122
mydomain.com. 1200 IN A 68.142.212.123
www.mydomain.com. 600 IN CNAME ghs.google.com.

p10w2.geo.mud.yahoo.com (68.142.212.118)
68.142.192.0 - 68.142.255.255
Inktomi Corporation


The "68.142.212.nnn" series of DNS servers are the Yahoo equivalent of Google Apps. A Yahoo registered domain, in the Yahoo world, gets the same treatment as a Google Apps custom domain, with integrated, online accessories for the primary domain. But the primary domain goes to the Yahoo servers, instead of to the Google Apps servers.

And, when an anxious blogger selects "Redirect mydomain.com to www.mydomain.com.", and gets a well known (and not loved) error
Another blog is already hosted at this address
and the DNS setup involves Yahoo as the registrar, that is why. Recycling the domain settings, in Google Apps, won't solve this problem.

Right now, we have no experience with making a Blogger blog, published to the primary domain, work properly when Yahoo DNS is involved. It appears that the best solution, in this case, is to get a third party DNS service that supports "CNAME" referral, and avoid Yahoo DNS altogether.

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Custom Domains And Email Delivery

Most bloggers who setup a Google Custom Domain do it purely to serve a web site. That's what Blogger blogs are, anyway - easily setup journal style web sites. As your web site grows in reputation, you may think about the advantages of having email with the domain name. Most corporations, that have their own email and web servers, do that - so why shouldn't you?

Sunday, August 17, 2008

What's In My "robots.txt" File?

When we setup a Blogger blog, and publish it to a Google server (either to BlogSpot, or to a Google Custom Domain), we give up control of files and folders, and let Blogger maintain the structure of the blog. All that we do is post, and maintain the blog template.

Even with the files and folders controlled by Blogger, and normally hidden from view, there are ways to examine the contents of some files. And those who would be better off not examining file content do so anyway, become confused, and stress themselves needlessly. Every week, we read anxious queries
Help! My blog has been hacked!!
or
My robots.txt file is blocking my blog from being indexed!

You can make two Settings changes that are relevant here, but mostly this file is maintained by Blogger code. Occasionally, Blogger makes changes to our blogs in general, and changes the content of "robots.txt" to support the changes made. Recently, changes to "feedReaderJson" necessitated a change to "robots.txt".

Here's the "robots.txt" file for this blog, "blogging.nitecruzr.net", as of 2008/08/17.
User-agent: Mediapartners-Google
Disallow: 

User-agent: *
Disallow: /search
Allow: /

Sitemap: http://blogging.nitecruzr.net/feeds/posts/default?orderby=updated

Here we see 3 entries. For an explanation of some terms, and for a demonstration illustrating the results, please refer to Google Webmaster Tools - "Analyze robots.txt". You may also be enlightened by reading The Web Robots Pages.
  • This allows access to all blog components of the blog ("Disallow: (null)"), to the spider "Mediapartners-Google", which is the spider that crawls pages to determine AdSense content. This entry overrides the following entry, for the specified spider.
    User-agent: Mediapartners-Google
    Disallow:
  • This disallows indexing from all URLs containing "/search"(ie, label searches) - and it allows all other blog URLs.
    User-agent: *
    Disallow: /search
    Allow: /
  • This defines the URL of the sitemap. It's interesting to note that, when I used Google Webmaster Tools and added a sitemap, I added it as "blogging.nitecruzr.net/atom.xml?orderby=updated", yet it gets stored as "blogging.nitecruzr.net/feeds/posts/default?orderby=updated".
    Sitemap: http://blogging.nitecruzr.net/feeds/posts/default?orderby=updated


Here's my analysis of "robots.txt" for this blog, run using the wizard. You'll want to view this in full screen mode, zoomed as highly as possible.

Note the hypothetical effects of indexing 3 hypothetical blog URLs, against both "Googlebot" and "Mediapartners-Google", shown at the very bottom.


I've now examined a dozen or so different similar files, for blogs published to both native BlogSpot and custom domains, and excepting the URL of the sitemap, all files have been identical in content. My conclusion is that this is a normal file, and unless we start seeing a flood of complaints about indexing problems, I see no reason to suspect a problem.

So, the next time someone comes to you moaning
My robots.txt file is blocking my blog from being indexed!
you can assure them
No, your "robots.txt" file is normal.
Then, introduce them to Google Webmaster Tools, and its many diagnostic reports.

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Friday, August 15, 2008

Problems With The New Dashboard And Post Editor

Bloggers everywhere are now enjoying the new look of the redesigned Blogger Dashboard, and the improved buttons in Post Editor. With every change though, such as a redesign or improved functionality, comes problems. This change is no exception.
I notice that there's a new dashboard but I also noticed that when I try to put my cursor over the "publish" button it turns into a line and the button doesn't work unless I rest it below the publish button.
or
The button for NEW POST, PUBLISH POST & SAVE NOW are NOT working?
or
I can't upgrade my template. There's no "UPGRADE YOUR TEMPLATE" button!


Whenever Blogger makes a script change, like this one (that's visible), or similar ones that you can't see immediately, things will stop working. Sometimes, it will be because of old code, cached on your computer, interfering with their new code. Other times, it may be because of differences in the browser that you are using. And in many cases, you'll have a security device in the browser, in the computer, or on your network, that interferes with cookies and / or scripts on your computer.

If you see a problem, check the Blogger Help Forums, and look for others reporting the same problem. Look at the etiological spread of the problem. If you don't see a huge flood of reports of your problem, look at your computer, and see if there's anything different on your computer, that could contribute to the problem on your computer.

(Update 9/30 18:00): Blogger Employee is now asking for diagnostics describing your experience with the missing Template Upgrade button.
Please reply to this thread with your browser and operating system info.

Also, I recommend trying from another browser to see if that helps.


(Update 8/17): Help us out here, provide details please if you're affected by this problem. Precision counts here.
  • What is your exact problem - buttons missing, or buttons don't work?
  • What buttons, on what screen?
  • Are you using Draft (Blue) or Production (Orange) Blogger?
  • What browser, and what operating system (name and version) do you use?
  • What anti-virus product, and what cookie / script blockers, do you have on your browser or computer?
  • Have you tried clearing both cache and cookies, and restarting the browser?


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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Custom Domain DNS Addresses And Destination Addressing Conventions

When you setup a Google Custom Domain for your blog, the essential first step is to setup one or more Address referrals. An Address referral will be entered as either an "A" ("Host") or "CNAME" ("Alias") record, and will consist of 2 essential components.
  1. A "from" address.
  2. A "to" address.
How you enter the "from" and "to" records is an essential issue, and is not universal in nature.

Note that in this article, as throughout my blog, I'll show extracted Dig logs to describe any Address referral.

When I setup my custom domain, "nitecruzr.net", on GoDaddy, I'll use the the GoDaddy Domain Manager. Your DNS host may, or may not, be GoDaddy, and your setup may, or may not, be the same as I describe.

When I setup a "CNAME" referral, I might define a local host "blogging" ("from"), as referred to a distant host "ghs.google.com" ("to"). I'll define host "blogging.nitecruzr.net" by entering "blogging", and the DNS Manager will add the ".nitecruzr.net" for me. We then say that the "from" address is relative to the domain, or is a "relative" address.
blogging.nitecruzr.net. 3600 IN CNAME ghs.google.com.


When I setup an "A" referral, I might define a local host "@" (aka the domain root) ("from"), as referred to a distant host ("to"), using an IP address. If I define the "to" address as "64.233.179.121", this is an "absolute" address - an IP address cannot be relative to a host name. An IP address has to be absolute.
nitecruzr.net. 3600 IN A 64.233.179.121


When I setup a "CNAME" referral, I refer the "to" addresses by host name. I'll enter the "to" address as "ghs.google.com", and the Domain Manager will add a trailing ".", giving my "CNAME" referral an absolute address.
blogging.nitecruzr.net. 3600 IN CNAME ghs.google.com.

Do you see the trailing "."?

Not all DNS Hosts work this way!

With some DNS Hosts, if I enter a "to" address as "ghs.google.com", this will be taken as a relative address. The Domain Manager may then add the domain name on the end.
blogging.nitecruzr.net. 3600 IN CNAME ghs.google.com.nitecruzr.net.


Obviously, I do not mean to define a "to" address as "ghs.google.com.nitecruzr.net". When I setup a "CNAME" referral for these DNS hosts, I then enter the "to" address name as "ghs.google.com.", signifying an absolute address. The DNS Manager then does not add a trailing ".nitecruzr.net", and all's well.

However, I do have to know whether the Domain Manager configures "CNAME" referrals, by default, with absolute, or relative, addresses for the "to" addresses. Knowing this, I can correctly enter a "to" address with, or without, a trailing ".".

Such a tiny detail - and so essential.

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New Blogger June 2008 - Embedded Comments

Many bloggers who depend upon comments as an essential part of their posts have never been content with comments in a separate window - popup or not. Occasionally, you see the anxious query
Does anyone know how to make all comments appear directly under the post?


Until now, the answer to that question has always been
Not under native Blogger, unfortunately.


With New Blogger June/July 2008, that limitation is no more. Now, you have a third option for displaying comments.
Embedded below post


Note that you may, or may not, see my test comment below this post. If you're viewing posts in archive view, or in main page view, you'll still see the comment link, and have to click on that. A page with multiple posts, and comments interspersed between the posts, would be too hard to read.

If you're viewing this individual post, inline comments "Embedded below post" make sense.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Installing A Third Party Template

One of the neatest features of Layouts Blogger is the ability to backup and restore your template, using a wizard, without having to copy and paste code. You use a single link to download the code, and a two step procedure to choose then upload a template backup.

If you're getting a template from an external source, you can upload what you get using the restore procedure, too. If you get a template as text, you'll install using the "Edit Template" window. If the blog uses a Classic template, the "Edit Template" window will, of course, be the only choice.

If the blog uses a Layouts template, you'll have the use of the Browse then Upload buttons, which will only upload XML code - so you'll have no chance to make a mistake. If the template comes as a text file, it might be HTML or XML, so make sure when pasting the code into the "Edit Template" window that the blog uses a Classic or Layouts template, respectively.

Installing an HTML template into a blog that uses Layouts, or an XML template into a blog that uses Classic, will cause you various problems, some which you may see immediately, others only later. If you use the "Edit Template" window to install your template, make sure that you have the right type.
  1. If the blog "Edit HTML" wizard has an Upload button, but the template is HTML, you won't be able to use it until you Revert the blog to use a Classic template. Don't try using the "Edit Template" window, until you Revert the blog.
  2. If the template is XML, but the blog "Edit HTML" wizard has no Upload button, you will need to Upgrade the blog to use a Layouts template. Don't try to use the "Edit Template" window, to install an XML template. If the blog is published by FTP, you won't have this option at all.
  3. Use the "Edit Template" window ONLY if there is no "Upload" button, and the template is HTML.
  4. If the template is XML, ONLY use the "Upload" button.
  5. If you follow all 4 of the above rules, you'll be fine. Since you're here, you probably ignored one or more.


You cannot fit a square peg into a round hole, nor a round peg into a square hole. Neither can you make a Classic template work in a Layouts blog, nor a Layouts template work in a Classic blog. Before you load a third party template using the "Edit Template" window, make sure that it's the right type of template.

Having said that, I will note that you can use HTML in a layouts template, and that is easier to do than you would think. That's still a layouts template, though - there is no way to fit XML code into a blog that uses a classic HTML template.

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Saturday, August 09, 2008

Blog Access Blocking, By Denying Individual Permission, Won't Work

In a corporate network, you have one or more teams of employees, whose duty is to assign and maintain authentication and authorisation information. Authentication validates who someone is, and authorisation validates what ability that person should be granted, when accessing corporate resources on the network. Each employee gets one and only one identity, and has one specific list of access rules (authentication / authorisation). This restriction can (must) enforced, because each employee provides proof of identity, when registering as an employee.

With Blogger (Google), as with most Internet services, there is no real proof of identity required. In the online world, many people maintain multiple identities. That is one of the features of online life, called "freedom". Freedom to be who you want to be, or at least to seem to be.

So you, and I, can have as many Google accounts as we wish. Google accounts are free, and if you have multiple lives, or interests, you can have a different Google account for each, and more. And therein lies a problem.

Occasionally, someone asks about having a publicly accessible blog, but blocking specific individuals from accessing or commenting upon the blog.
How do I block one person from accessing my blog? I want it to be otherwise publicly accessible.
but that's an impossibility. Since nobody is restricted to having one identity, if you block one identity from access, it's no great effort for someone to use another. Any determined attacker won't be put off by one identity being blocked, though he may be slightly angered, and his next series of attacks may be nastier than before.

If you're going to restrict access to your blog, you have to start with a private blog. That's the only real solution for restricting access.

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Monday, August 04, 2008

Cannot Upload Picture - Internal Error

For our third wildfire this month (and today being the 4th of the month yet!), we have a problem with Blogger, and Post Editor. When trying to upload a picture, the blogger sees
This image could not be uploaded due to an internal error.


One blogger reported seeing this error after installing a Pyzam template. From the volume of the posts in the forums, I don't think that's the only defining factor.

Some questions might be relevant, though. Answer as much as you can manage, please.
  • Does the blog have a Blogger standard, or third party, template?
  • Does the blog have a Classic or Layouts template?
  • Are you in Draft (Blue), or Standard (Orange) Blogger, when you see the error?
  • Has this blog ever been customised using Draft (Blue) Blogger? If so, what changes were made?
  • Are you using Page Elements, or Post Editor, when you are trying to upload?
  • What browser (name and version) are you using?
  • What operating system (name and version) are you using?
  • What security programs or devices (anti-virus, for instance) do you use to protect yourself?


>> (Update 8/4 20:00): Blogger Employee Gatsby reports that they are working on the problem.

>> Forum thread links: bX-*00081

>> Copy this tag: bX-*00081

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Saturday, August 02, 2008

Blogger, Internet Explorer, and SiteMeter

Yesterday, as Blogger started to deal with the massive false positive spam blog problem and the forums started to calm down, another problem became visible. Dozens of bloggers reported an inability of their blogs to load, under Internet Explorer. Several of my blogs, including this one, were apparently affected.As the blog loaded, and toward the end, I would get a loud popup error
Internet Explorer cannot display the web page. Operation aborted.
and frequently the well known full page display
The page cannot be displayed

The page you are looking for is currently unavailable. The Web site might be experiencing technical difficulties, or you may need to adjust your browser settings.


The common factor in the problem reported involved the presence of SiteMeter code, on the blogs reported. All of my blogs, listed above, have that code too.

Given the choice of having a blog accessible only under Firefox (and trackable), or having a blog accessible under both Firefox and Internet Explorer (and not trackable), I chose the latter and removed my SiteMeter code. This was not a difficult task, I just cut the code from the widgets in the footer of each blog. And I saved the removed code, which was a good thing.

I simply edited the page element in the footer, at the bottom of the blog. Wherever your SiteMeter widget is, if you put the code into a page element, you can do the same.
<!-- Site Meter --> <script src="http://s17.sitemeter.com/js/counter.js?site=s17nitecruzr" type="text/javascript"></script>
<noscript><a href="http://s17.sitemeter.com/stats.asp?site=s17nitecruzr" target="_top">
<img border="0" alt="Site Meter" src="http://s17.sitemeter.com/meter.asp?site=s17nitecruzr"/></a></noscript><!-- Copyright (c)2006 Site Meter -->

and changed that to
<!-- Site Meter --> <!-- Copyright (c)2006 Site Meter -->


In the process of writing a problem report to SiteMeter, I needed an exact copy of the content of the popup error. Attempting to reproduce the error, I went back to my home blog (which I care about least, of the 3 above), and added the code back. Having reloaded the code, I reloaded the blog under Internet Explorer, and noted an oddity - no error popup.

I returned to my SiteMeter Statistics list, and observed that my visit was now visible in the visitor log. An hour later, I am now refreshing the "Who's On Your Site" display, and I see all 3 blogs represented again. Some entries include Internet Explorer, and multiple pages viewed, indicating successful loading of the blog.

> > (Update 8/2 13:00): SiteMeter states that they have resolved the problem.

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Friday, August 01, 2008

Creating A Custom Template

When you first start blogging, you'll find a nice assortment of templates to choose from, to serve as the foundation for your new blog. After you've developed a few blogs, or tweaked one blog for a while to get it just right, you may decide that the Blogger provided assortment isn't so comprehensive as it looked earlier.

What to do now?

One solution would be to go wandering through the blogosphere, looking for other bloggers who have experienced the same frustration as you, and see what they did. In some cases, they'll offer the results of their efforts, frequently for no cost to you.

That's a third party solution - and third party solutions have both advantages and disadvantages.

Maybe you decide that you know what you want better than they do, so if they could create their own, why shouldn't you? And now, the fun begins.

What do I do now?

If you're completely new to this, then learn how templates work, and why they don't. Take an existing template, decide what you don't like, and figure out how to change what you don't like. None of this will be wasted effort, because all of what you do will be experience when you build a template from scratch.

After you've been tweaking and removing what you don't like from the existing template, start putting what you do like into a clean template. You can develop and test your clean template in a second blog, while you work on your existing template in your first blog.

When maintaining two blogs becomes too much work, and you can get more done by making changes straight into the second blog, there's the start to your first template developed from scratch. Keep the first blog, as a baseline, and start working on the second blog.

You work on the second blog in reverse order to how you previously worked on the first. Use the pieces of the first as models, and add the pieces into the second. Where you like a feature in the first blog, simply copy the code into the second. Where you want something different, write the code from scratch. By the time you've gotten this far, you already know how templates work, so now you learn why they don't work as you like them, and how to make the pieces that you want.

Again, just one step at a time. Backup your changes, and test your changes, with anal regularity.

Oh yeah, for testing your changes, there's the New Blogger June/July 2008 feature that lets you export comments / posts from one blog, and import them into another. So work on one blog, keep the second blog as a baseline, and copy the blog contents back and forth to create a nice uniform test environment.

And enjoy the learning. Blogging can be fun, if you relax.

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The Blogger Anti-Spam Bot Bites The Big One

Since January 2008, Blogger has been working hard to keep hacking, porn, and spam out of the blogosphere. This work is not by humans, though, but by an army of unattended computers, called by many the Blogger anti-spam bot.

The anti-spam bot is not static. It has to be constantly updated, to keep up with constant activity by the producers of the many large splog farms that inhabit the blogosphere. It's going to produce false positives, as well as false negatives, and it's going to produce inconvenience to many bloggers.

This week, a recently applied update appears to have taken an excessive amount of innocent blogs with it. Major inconvenience to many. Can you say "egregious false positive rate"?

One blogger seems to have a way around the problem - at least to let your readers know what's going on.
If you still have access to your blog, you can still post a new widget at the top of your blog that contains text to tell your readers what has happened.

Using Page Elements, create a text widget with a brief message, and position the widget in a conspicuous place on the blog.
Note to Readers - Blogger's spam robot has run amok and has tagged 1000s of blogs, including this one, as "spam." Obviously, I am not a spam blog.


So, if you can't post but you can access the Layout wizard, you can at least let your readers know why you aren't posting.

As far as resolving this for your blog, I'm sure that you have done what a few other bloggers have instinctively done, and started the well known blog review request process.

In this case, and based upon the level of complaints seen so far, I suspect that's going to be a waste of time from you. Unless Blogger brings in extra staff, there's no way that they can review all of the requests generated by this experience. How long does a review requests typically take? Multiply that by 100 (minimum). Would you really want to wait that long?

> > (Update 17:00): Blogger admits to the problem, and implies that they are resolving it on their own.

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FTP Publishing and Complications From Authentication

Long ago, when you attempted a two factor authentication (account name / password) process with a server, the normal connection procedure would verify for the existence of a given account, and verify the password against that account. If either verification failed, a properly written server based script would tell the user what he was doing wrong - either "Invalid account" or "Invalid password".

Then security experts realised that if you issue an error saying "Invalid account", you were, in effect telling a possible intruder what accounts did not exist on the server in question - enough connection attempts would then tell an intruder what accounts did exist. This is a known hacking technique, called by some security experts "account name mapping". Knowing the existing accounts, the hacker can then try to guess the passwords on those accounts.

Some secure servers, made resistant to mapping, don't issue any error messages, they simply ignore your unsuccessful attempts (non existent account or invalid password) . Make too many unsuccessful attempts, and your IP address gets blackholed.

If you're a person trying to connect, you just keep trying - try another password, or another account name. If your IP address is blocked, you wait a while (5 minutes or so) and try again.

But what if you're not a person connecting interactively, but a person running a script? Like publishing from Blogger by FTP, to a distant host server? That complicates matters.

One of the problems with establishing a connection with a distant server is not knowing if the server in question is there, or is there but not responding, or is there but intentionally ignoring you. The Blogger FTP publishing script has to allow for all of these possibilities. Blogger doesn't want for you (really, they don't) to sit and watch the Spinner Of Death any longer than you want to watch it. They also don't want to come back to you and say
We can't publish today, the other server isn't answering.


It's a tuning issue. Wait too long, and the bloggers get impatient. Don't wait long enough, and the bloggers get angry. Each distant host server will have different connectivity issues, and the issues will vary by current load, and by network status.

So add the authentication process on top of that, and add some servers that will simply ignore improperly authenticated connections. How is the Blogger FTP Process realistically expected to reliably connect (or not) to all distant host servers? Especially with some problems knowingly tolerated by the operators of the distant host servers?

So the next time that you can't publish your blog to your distant host server, don't just get into the forum and yell
Hey everybody, Blogger is hosed again.
Do some diagnostic work first. Please.

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FTP Publishing - Another Example Of The Complexity

Not all problems with FTP Publishing are caused by Blogger, directly or indirectly. Sometimes, the operators of the host servers, involved in the FTP publishing process, provide subtle yet significant clues to bigger problems. You have to keep your eyes open, though.

Here is an example, with a customer of Network Solutions.
My host is Network Solutions - yesterday they sent an e-mail reading

We are aware of an issue with FTP and UNIX packages. They will generally deny the first connection, but allow subsequent connections. We are requesting that our customers attempt to connect to their server twice until we have a resolution.


Blogger isn't going to (in reality, they can't, reliably) tweak their FTP publishing process to repeatedly attempt a connection with a host server, just because the operators can't solve their own server problems. This is a case where the customers have to get involved, and convince the server operators to fix their server problems.

>> (Update 8/25 5:00): It appears that this problem was related to security at Network Solutions.
Blogger publishes with "passive FTP". To overcome this, Network Solutions identified the IP addresses from which Blogger publishes, then "white-listed" those addresses to its servers so they would accept FTP uploads from Blogger.


>> (Update 8/4 14:00): We have an interesting communication (edited) from Network Solutions.
Hi this is Connie at Network Solutions. I’m writing to affirm that our engineering team is aware of the issue and they’re working diligently to resolve it. It’s a short-term issue, and we’re sorry about the difficulties you’ve experienced along the way. If you would, please try to reconnect to your server. If you continue to run into a snag please contact me at (email address edited).


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