Saturday, September 27, 2008

Blogger CAPTCHAs - How Many Can YOU Solve?

We all know that spam is an ever present problem. In our blogs, our email, and online forums, you can't go anywhere without seeing advertisements for something - frequently placed there by criminals, who aren't paying the owner of the host web site anything. Blogger, one of the largest content hosting services in the world, is not immune to this pestilence. So Blogger is trying to do something about the problem.

One of the things that they are doing is, supposedly, making it harder for the spammers to publish blogs. The Settings - Publishing wizard, which lets you change the URL of your blog - to another BlogSpot URL, or to a non-BlogSpot URL - is now subject to the word puzzle aka CAPTCHA. For every change made.

Re publishing your blog - whether the an external server using FTP, or to a Google server and a custom domain - is subject to stress. Every blogger using custom domain ("Another blog is already hosted at this address", "404 Server Not Found")), or FTP ("FTPConnectionClosedException", "Your publish is taking longer than expected."), publishing surely knows of the agony and frustrations. And that's even without having to solve a CAPTCHA.

Now add a word puzzle, with the contents blatantly unreadable, to the process. It's almost as if Blogger doesn't want you to publish your blog.

You tell me - how many of these could you get right? You get one try, no error message - if you get it wrong you get another different one, worse than the previous one...


t - p / l o - f - j - q / g - k?
Probably a "P", but the g / q could be either...



p - d / c l - y - x - j
The j could be an i too ...



r - k? - c - g / q - p - u / v
Forget this one, try another ...



y - WTF move on ...



y - n - j - w - e
The n though is a major stretch!



Got lucky I guess. This one though is almost readable...
d - i - q - e - d / c l - s - t


E _ N _ O _ U _ G _ H !!!

The final, most humiliating, detail is that no properly equipped spammer is bothered, at all, by a CAPTCHA. The only people truly inconvenienced by this annoyance are the bloggers who merely wish to re publish their blogs.

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

FTP Publishing and the Host Server Support Staff - Persistence Pays Off

This month, many bloggers are finding that their problems with FTP Publishing aren't all caused by Blogger. Many host server support teams, in an effort to protect their servers, are using IP filters in their firewalls. If you want to publish your blog to their server, the IP address of the sending computer has to be added, to a pass filter, in the firewall.

All server support staff aren't aware of this issue, and recently we hear the repeated complaint
I asked my server support team about my problem, and they said that they don't have a problem - so Blogger has to be the cause of the problem. What is Blogger doing about my problem?


Many times, the diagnosis from the server support team is coming from their first level support staff. My observation has been that, frequently, the first priority of the first level support staff is to ensure that they have no problem, and to inform the customer that they have to go elsewhere (ie to Blogger Support) for relief of their problem.

That being the case, and assuming that you want your problem fixed, it's now your job to ask for diagnostics. Here, a server console log (showing the flow of the FTP process, from the server perspective), and the server firewall logs (showing rejected traffic, from the server perspective), from the time period when you tried publishing, will be most useful.

Some times, the second level server support staff, whom you will be in contact with after the first level staff tells you to go complain to Blogger Support, will examine the logs and identify the problem on their own. Other times, you may have to peruse the logs yourself. In either case, you will get nowhere until you explicitly request access to the logs.

And that's persistence. In one case, persistence required 3 weeks of insisting.

However long it takes, it starts with you.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

FTP Publishing - Check Your Firewall Filters

If you have a server that is used to host web sites, you need to protect the server, and the web sites, from malicious access. One of the easiest ways to protect the server is to deny update access to computers with unknown IP addresses. As long as your clients publish from computers with known IP addresses, and those computers are never used by people with malicious intent, this is a good strategy.

If you're publishing your Blogger blog by FTP to a remote host server, and the host server protects itself by an IP filter, the filter has to allow access to any computers used by Blogger for FTP transfer. A list of IP addresses is provided in Blogger Help: Can I use Blogger if my server is restricted by IP address or behind a firewall?.
The IPs provided are:
74.125.66.132
74.125.112.132


It's not clear whether those 2 addresses completely replace the previously defined addresses:
66.102.15.83
216.34.7.186
64.233.166.192-207
64.233.178.192-207


During the past couple weeks, several bloggers have found that list to be inaccurate.
We were able to see requests from a new google IP (72.14.206.132) address being dropped by our firewall. We updated our firewall rules with this new IP (72.14.206.132) and publishing started to work.


Let's check out "72.14.206.132", using the All-NetTools WhoIs utility.

eh-out-f132.google.com (72.14.206.132)

72.14.192.0 - 72.14.255.255
Google Inc.
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, CA
US

That's a Blogger computer, but is it the only one? We'll only find out if more bloggers report finding other addresses being rejected.

It's good that Blogger is willing to provide a list of IP addresses used in the FTP process, but I would never bet on the list being 100% up to date. If you are having problems with blog publishing by FTP from Blogger, check your firewall logs. If you see an entry mentioning rejection by IP address, when you're trying to publish your blog, verify the address using WhoIS. If you see an IP address owned by Google being filtered, update your filter.

This scenario is another example why I recommend immediately checking server logs, any time there's a problem with FTP publishing. This problem is probably involved in some of the previously reported symptoms, observed at the Blogger end
ConnectException: Connection timed out.
a variant
FTPConnectionClosedException: Connection closed without indication.
or maybe the well known
Your publish is taking longer than expected.
Depending upon what response the firewall is making to the client computer, and how the client computer interprets the response, either symptom is a perfectly reasonable result.

If you examine the firewall log from your server, and find that the firewall is rejecting addresses other than "72.14.206.132", take action.
  1. Verify any rejected addresses, using a WhoIs or similar query.
  2. If you find any such addresses, that absolutely verify as Google, add them to your firewall "pass" list, and test.
  3. If you are now successful in publishing, post here, in Blogger Help Group: Publishing Trouble, or both, and let your peers know of your findings. While we await advice from Blogger Support, we have to support each other.


And be sure that you know the scope of the pass list. Make sure that the firewall doesn't have any exceptions that need to be configured.
I granted the new IP access via the IIS/FTP "Directory Security" tab for my FTP site. No problems there. BUT I had forgotten that the inetinfo.exe process was listed as an exception to the firewall rules. Once I found it again, and added the new IP to the inetinfo.exe's scope, problem fixed!!


If you update the firewall pass list, and add a new IP address, make sure that there are no extra pass lists that need to be updated with a new address also.

Be persistent, when requesting diagnostics like server logs, from the support staff for your server. And be aware of other current issues, too.

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Monday, September 22, 2008

The HTML / JavaScript Shell For Layouts Templates

With all of the predefined page elements that Layouts Blogger provides, that fulfill maybe 90% of the need for you to edit the template, there will be the 10% that they don't provide.

Services provided by third parties - like guest books, or news feeds, or even visitor meters - won't be provided by Blogger, to everybody's liking.

In some cases, Blogger / Google will provide one version of a given service - like Blogger Comments, Blogger Feeds, and Google Analytics - but their versions aren't the most popular in many cases. And some blog owners will develop their own simple applets, like the Cumulus / Google Translation Bar. Bloggers are like any people in any walk of life - they all want something different - better - or new.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Following - For (Even Less Than Not Quite) All

Recently, I wrote about Following, and two reasons why it's only available (currently) for bloggers that use the various dialects of English. You'd think that it should be available, immediately, to anybody with a blog that's properly presented in the language of their choice. And that would by preference be the possibility, but reality says not.

Today, we see one example why "not" is going to be seen more than "can", as more and more non English bloggers start to envy those of us who have Following.

Jane, in Hong Kong, has a blog that (until recently) had a bilingual title
Reddie's Page | 鸿屋
This was fine, for the blog, and it was good for her readers - some who prefer to read English, and others to read Chinese. But, she had no Followers for the blog, even though the Following gadget was properly installed.

Whenever someone clicked on the link from the Following gadget in her blog
Follow this blog
(try it!!), instead of the popup window
Follow this Blog
(try that too!!), they would get a popup window
Bad Request
Error 400
A "Bad Request Error 400" is a network error, usually resulting from a trashed packet, or a network problem that the reader can't control (and generally can't understand).

This "Bad Request Error 400", though, is a problem that the reader can control, but a bit of work is required. Roberto's Report: Following - A Language hitch? shows us the immediate problem, and offers one workaround.

But what's going on here? The problem starts from the dynamic URL in the link. A URL that contains a "?" represents a dynamic call to a web server, where the portion of the URL after the "?" is a series of arguments, applied dynamically against the server represented by the URL to the left of the "?".

Here's the URL attached to the Following gadget for this blog (with gratuitous line breaks, to make it readable)
javascript:_FollowersView._openPopup
("http://www.blogger.com/follow-blog.g?
blogID=24069595&blogTitle=The+Real+Blogger+Status");
here's the URL from Jane's blog (while Following did not work)
javascript:_FollowersView._openPopup
("http://www.blogger.com/follow-blog.g?
blogID=5982485953789049064&blogTitle=Reddie%27s+Page+%7C++%E9%B8%BF%E5%B1%8B");
and finally, here's the URL from her blog right now
javascript:_FollowersView._openPopup
("http://www.blogger.com/follow-blog.g?
blogID=5982485953789049064&blogTitle=Reddie+in+Hong+Kong");


OK, that's nice, but what's the problem? It's quite simple, actually.
%7C++%E9%B8%BF%E5%B1%8B
is the hexadecimal representation of the latter portion of the blog title
| 鸿屋
and there's the problem. The server that is servicing the request
www.blogger.com/follow-blog.g
can't accept
%7C++%E9%B8%BF%E5%B1%8B
as part of the argument. Following uses the blog title
Reddie%27s+Page+%7C++%E9%B8%BF%E5%B1%8B
in the popup window "Follow this Blog", and that's not acceptable to the server.

So, right now, the workaround is to remove all non (English) "alphanumeric" characters from the blog title. If you want to display a multi-lingual blog title, display it as an image embedded in the template.

This, however, is a technically complex "solution", and it's intimidating to some folks. Many bloggers like having their blog titles in text, as part of the blog content, not in a picture. Many English bloggers like this, and many non-English bloggers should be entitled to the same choices.

So right now, blogs that have titles that contain non-English (non alphameric) characters (ie, possibly anything that has to be represented by hexadecimal codes ("%E9%B8%BF%E5%B1%8B") won't be able to use the Following gadget, even if both the blog itself and the readers profile are both in English.

This post, and the posts written by Roberto, are a good example of diagnostic technique. Sometimes, you see the picture, but you need to look at the right details. In this case, the
鸿屋
isn't the problem. The problem is the
|
Apparently, a "%7C" breaks a quote delimited character string in a dynamic URL argument.

Kudos, Bob, for getting to the bottom of this issue.

(Update 9/22 16:00): Blogger Support acknowledges the problem:
Some users may find that they are unable to follow blogs with quotation marks in their blog titles.


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Saturday, September 20, 2008

Your Access To Blogger / BlogSpot, and IP Networking

IP Networking is how your computer, and millions of other computers worldwide, connect to Blogger and to Blog*Spot, and millions of still more computers. The Internet is based upon IP ("Internet Protocol") Networking. IP Networking, which uses packet switching technology, was legendarily designed for a military / political need - to survive imminent military action during the United States / Soviet Union Cold War, in the mid 1900s.

I'm envisioning a legendary, top secret, conversation:

Military Strategist #1:
Let's put computers on all of our military bases, and let's connect all of our computers with each other. Colonel Frimmis in Richmond can work better with Colonel Frammis in Dallas, with their computers directly connected.

Military Strategist #2:
And what happens when the Russians find out? They'll sneak over here, cut the network cable between Dallas and Richmond, and we'll be in deep you know what. The Alpha project will fall behind schedule, and General Frommis will kick our butts.

Military Strategist #1:
No problem. We'll give some of our computers multiple connections. We can connect Richmond and Dallas directly, and connect both to Atlanta, Chicago, and Denver through backup circuits. They won't be able to cut all of the cables, will they?

Military Strategist #2:
Now you're talking. Hole 3 looks like a #3 Wood, or do you think a #2 Iron to get over the sand trap?


And, the Internet was born. Was Al Gore one of the strategists? You be the judge of that.

What all of this legendary stuff means, for this discussion, is that your computer should be able to use multiple possible connections between it and every other computer ("server") in the world, that you want to access, at any given time. Defining and maintaining each connection to each server, and in this example between you and Blogger, is a joint responsibility.

If you can't access Blogger today, don't just post in Blogger Help Group
I can't connect to Blogger. What has Google broken this time?


Do some troubleshooting, please. Find out how widespread the current problem is, before making a unilateral accusation. And work with the experts and other helpers, not against them.

And by the way, it looks like the intermittent Blogger publishing problems of the week were indeed solved last night. Congrats, Prashant.

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Friday, September 19, 2008

Following - For (Not Quite) All

Those of us who have been enjoying following the development of the Blogger Following global community may have observed the Blogger Buzz announcement of September 11.
Now it's available to all users in English.


Since not everybody that uses Blogger speaks English (nor is English even the most common language of the world population), this doesn't quite indicate a global release of the product. And those of you who do speak English may want to check your language settings, and make sure that your Blog and Profile languages are set to English. Hopefully, you'd already know that, but maybe not everybody has this as a priority.

So what happens if your Blog or Profile Language is set to something other than "English"? If you try to add the Following gadget to one of your blogs, you might observe the advice (in French, for instance)
Ce gadget est experimental. Il n'est pas encore disponible sur tous les blogs.
the keyword here being experimental.

See Roberto's Report: Following - Which Languages? for details about this discovery, particularly if English is not your primary language.

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Strange Behaviour By Post Editor #2

Mindful of the volume of complaints seen in the forums today, I'll see if this post can be published.

Having tested in my previous post, it appears that posts can be updated. Now, we'll verify that new posts can be created. (1) Looking good, so far. (2) Test 1 was successful. (3) Test 2 was successful, and the updates show in the published post. And this post is visible in Edit Posts. (4) And test 3 was successful. (5) And so on. Back to work, now.

>> Forum thread links: bX-*00083

>> Copy this tag: bX-*00083

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Strange Behaviour By Post Editor

Normally, when I publish a post, I'll re publish repeatedly, to get the right content. For this post, I won't be doing that.

I just spent 1/2 hour updating another post, Another blog is already hosted at this address. I had to copy and paste some changes, from the published copy to Post Editor, when revising other changes. Here's what I did, initially.
  1. Start Post Editor.
  2. Make changes to an existing post.
  3. Publish the changes.
  4. Verify the changes in the updated post.
  5. Go back to Post Editor to revise the changes.
  6. The changes just made are gone.


Other bloggers claim that AutoSave doesn't work either.
Your request could not be processed. Please try again.
Auto Save failed.


And some claim problems with the posting date / time.
when i post the time it is wrong and doesn't change. keeps showing 12.08.


>> (Update 9/20 8:00): Last night, Prashant declared this episode to be over.
Recently, some of our users reported problems with editing, publishing and auto saving posts. We have released a fix which should prevent this from happening.


>> (Update 9/19 12:00): A Blogger Employee has (finally) posted a pinned thread, with a possible workaround.
Clear your browser's cache but do -not- clear your cookies.
In the process of adding this update, I note that my Post Editor shows very old contents for this post. Moving to another computer, I am able to update the current copy of my post. (1) But, to annotate the update, I have to move to yet a third computer. And I must note that the second computer is NOT typically used for composing or editing posts, so having a Post Editor article in cache there is not a possibility. And now, I am out of computers. I suspect that I will have to cease updating this post.

>> If you're still experiencing this problem, try clearing both cache and cookies, and restarting the browser. Or, try using a different browser for your editing.

>> (Update 9/18 13:00): A Blogger Employee is now asking for diagnostic details.
could you tell me the URL of the blogs you're experiencing this problem with, what Operating System (e.g. Windows XP) you're using, what Web browser you're using (e.g. Firefox, Safari, Internet Explorer), and what country you're in.


>> (Update 9/18 8:00): The problem is not 100%, and it's not consistent. I'm able to post here, now. (1) And, having posted and verified the post, I can edit and see my immediately previous change. (2) And I can correct and annotate the previous change, too. (3) And so on. (4) And now we see 4 posts in a 10 minute span of time, and no loss of updates. (5) Looks like I, at least, am back in business. (6) And see my subsequent tests, too.

>> Forum thread links: bX-*00083

>> Copy this tag: bX-*00083

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Following - The Implications

As we all join the global community of Blogger Following, we should bear in mind the old adage
You are judged by who your friends are.


In the case of Following
You are judged by what blogs you follow.


If bloggers can see you, they can see what blogs you Follow. And, they can see who Follows those blogs. Did I hear someone mention "Nineteen Eighty-Four"?

So, it bears thinking that you might want to resist the temptation to Follow the kinky lifestyle or blatant abuse blogs, if you hope for a lot of friends at your church to Follow your blog. Similarly, folks who Follow kinky lifestyle or blatant abuse blogs might present a problem, if a lot of that type choose to Follow your blog. Remember, Following provides 2 way links, between the Followed and the Followers. Does anyone remember "Six Degrees Of Separation", a few years ago?


This blog should probably be hidden, using the Edit User Profile wizard "Select blogs to display" link. It's private, so the public has no need to know about it.


My Humble Opinion, anyway.

(Update 2010/05): In a little over 18 months, a number of selections have been added, to let you control your security and visibility as you Follow each individual blog.

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Sunday, September 14, 2008

Removing the "Subscribe to:" Caption / Link

Not everybody who produces a blog, and not even everybody who produces a blog and provides a feed, likes the caption / link at the bottom of the posts column
Subscribe to: Posts (Atom)
or
Subscribe to: Post Comments (Atom)
Some folks think this feature makes the bottom of the posts look cluttered. Maybe they're right.

Fortunately, it's not hard to remove. First (and I always advise this) Backup Your Template. Next, From the Template Editor, select "Expand Widget Templates". Look through the code for "nextprev".

<!-- navigation -->
<b:include name='nextprev'/>

<!-- feed links -->
<b:include name='feedLinks'/>


Remove just one line.

<!-- navigation -->
<b:include name='nextprev'/>

<!-- feed links -->



Save. Test. Finally, Backup Your Template, again.

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Internet Explorer: "Operation Aborted"

Recently, many bloggers, when loading the blog of their choice under some older versions of Internet Explorer, have been faced with a rather monolithic error
Internet Explorer cannot open the Internet site http://<Web site>.com.
Operation aborted

This error has been seen before - just last month, SiteMeter updated their script, and many blogs with SiteMeter code became unreadable. Right now, though, the culprit doesn't seem to be SiteMeter, though we can't tell for sure at the moment. Nitecruzr Dot Net does use SiteMeter, and it's apparently not affected by this problem.


This won't make your readers very happy.



As of March 2009, we are seeing some bloggers state that removing the recently updated Followers or Friend Connect gadgets resolved their issue. Of course, with Following / Friend Connect becoming an immensely popular accessory, this isn't a good long term strategy, but it may provide a way for you to at least diagnose your problem. Alternatively, you can try structured diagnostic procedures, and remove any recent updates.

You can find a few discussions about this problem, by Googling "Internet Explorer SiteMeter Operation Aborted". Here are some examples.

Right now, all that I can recommend is that, if your blog is affected by this symptom, try and figure out what changes you made most recently, such as adding any HTML / JavaScript code, maybe in a gadget.
(Update 5/21 11:45): Blogger is working on this problem.
We're looking into this and will update this message when we have a fix.

(Update 5/21 9:00): This problem appears to affect this blog, for some readers. You may need to use a proxy server, in that case.

(Update 5/20 17:30): Blogger has acknowledged this problem.
We're looking into this; thanks for the report! We'll update the thread when we have a fix.


This problem comes and goes periodically, with differing basic causes.

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Saturday, September 13, 2008

Blog*Spot Connectivity In The UK

Several bloggers in the UK are reporting inability to access any BlogSpot blogs.

For right now, please use a proxy server to access all Blog*Spot blogs. And read BHG Resources: My Blog Is Gone for insight into diagnosing this problem.

And find or start a thread, and post diagnostic details, in Blogger Help Group: Something Is Broken
  • Where are you located, and what ISP do you use?
  • What operating system and browser do you use?
  • Can you provide a PathPing or a TraceRoute, log to assist us?


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Friday, September 12, 2008

Troubleshooting Problems With Your Blog, Or With Your Connection To Blogger

I'm a desktop / network support technician, and I enjoy troubleshooting problems with other peoples computers. I prefer that my own computers remain trouble free (of course, that won't always be the case). I can apply my skills in desktop / network troubleshooting to the tasks involved in troubleshooting problems with Blogger, and Blogger blogs.

So, consider this. Blogspot / Blogger hosts millions of blogs, and has many more millions of worldwide customers reading those blogs. You send in a complaint to Blogger Support, about your blog, or your connection to Blogger / BlogSpot, and your complaint goes into a long queue. And if it's just YOUR problem with YOUR blog, or YOUR connection, that's where it will likely stay. Problems affecting multiple blogs, and problems affecting multiple Bloggers, or customers, will always get higher priority. That's common sense.

So, if YOU notice a problem with YOUR blog, or with YOUR connection, it's up to YOU to do some initial troubleshooting. Now, as a desktop support technician, I preach diagnostic procedure. Constantly.

Note: This article is a Blogger specific adaptation of Solving Network Problems - A Tutorial.

Here's where multiple observations is essential. If you see a problem with your blog, do any of your friends see the same problem? Do you see the same problem with your friends blogs?

You also have to understand the concept of cache, which partially explains why not everybody sees a problem with your blog at the same time.

Now the customer, and server, population for Blogger is immense. Blogspot uses thousands of servers to host the millions of blogs that they have. So the fact that your friends may or may not see the same problem on your blog, or you may or may not see the same problem on your friends blogs, is not in itself definitive of a worldwide Blogspot problem. But it can help us develop a procedure for diagnosing your problem.

There are several major items involved in any problem.

  1. The content (the text that you typed into your post, or the template) for your blog might have (gasp) coding errors. This will affect everybody who views your blog, until you fix your mistakes. And, if you haven't done this yet, backup your blog. NOW.

  2. The database where your blog is stored might be corrupt. This problem may affect other blogs, and other Bloggers. It will affect other folks viewing your blog, if they don't have a good copy already cached on their computer. If your problem is not part of a major outage, republishing your blog, which takes the source text (item #1) and rebuilds the blog into a web page, may resolve this.

  3. The server which serves Blogspot content to you may be having problems. This will affect your ability to view multiple blogs. Other Bloggers using this same server will have the same problems. With 4500+ servers, it's possible (but not likely) that you may know somebody else sharing your server. If your problem is not part of a major outage, clearing cookies and changing your server may resolve this.

  4. Your computer, or your network, may have problems, or some characteristic of your ISPs service may cause a problem with a Blogger server. I work with these sort of problems, and know how tricky they are to diagnose. This will affect you only, or others in your area too. It may, or may not, affect your access to multiple blogs.

  5. The cache of your blog, and other blogs, on YOUR computer, may contain bad content from any previous existence of any problems. This should only affect your computer, though any other computer may have similar problems.



  • If both you and your friends see a problem with your blog, there's a good chance that any fixes that affect only you won't have too much effect. Here you need to concentrate on items #1 - #3, from the above list.

  • On the other hand, if you have multiple friends viewing your blog (and here is one example why having friends is a good thing), and nobody but you sees any problems, items #4 and #5 are more likely suspects.

  • If some friends see problems, and others don't, it's still more likely that the problems involve items #1 - #3.

  • If you see problems with your friends blogs, and your friends see those same problems, it's likely an outage at Blogspot. Maybe Blogger Status will acknowledge the outage. Don't hold your breath, but look there anyway. File a Blogger Contact Report, but again, don't hold your breath.



OK, let's translate the above sermon above into a usable procedure.

  1. Check Blogger Status. Check Real Blogger Status (here). It's possible that the problem has been noted already. Check the online Blogger databases - Blogger Help, Blogger Known Issues, and Blogger Status. Check the online forums - Google Blogger Help, and Blogger Forum.

  2. Check Recently Updated Blogs, which lists all blogs updated in the immediately previous 10 minutes. The number of updates enumerated there may confirm or deny any suspicion of a widespread publishing problem. If any doubt, check in another 15 - 20 minutes (open another window), and compare the 2 lists.

  3. Note that both Blogger Status and Real Blogger Status provide Atom and / or RSS feeds. If you use Syndication / Atom, you may find this convenient. Or, you can Follow this, and other, blogs, for a more convenient subscription.

  4. Are you, and your friends, having problems viewing your blog, and other blogs? If the problems are just yours, or if they involve multiple blogs, pray, then troubleshoot the cache. If you see an improvement, clear cache and cookies on your computer. If this helps you, let your friends know, and have them do the same (if they are affected).

  5. If your friends see the same problems with your blog that you see, chances are that the previous step won't fix things by itself. Did you just post something, immediately before the problem was noted? Go back and verify what you just changed. Correct the problem, if necessary, and republish. If you get an error from publishing, proceed to the last step.

  6. Did you make a change in the blog content, from executing the previous step? If so, clear your cache.

  7. If you have executed all above steps, and you or your friends still see problems, then it's time to seek collaborative analysis.

    • Try to file a report with Blogger Support, observing their current (and dynamic) problem resolution policies. Wait for the botmail.

    • Reply to the botmail, objectively pointing out that none of the suggested references - none of the online Blogger databases, or the online forums, offer any help.

    • File a description of the problem, what you've done to date, and the botmail problem number (if any provided), at Blogger Forum and at Google Blogger Help.

    • Look in the forums for others with your problem, or for any helpful suggestions. Let others know that you are having this problem. Note any correspondence with Blogger Support, and note your problem number. Provide useful diagnostic information about you, your computer, and your Internet service. Links between your thread in one forum, and any others, are not a bad idea either.

    • Check back in Blogger Forum and at Google Blogger Help, for comments to your posts, regularly. Be prepared to answer questions. Crosspost updates to the other forum.


  8. If any of the above steps help you diagnose or resolve the problem,

    1. Say a prayer of thanks to the deity of your faith.

    2. Backup your blog. Having a local mirror of your blog can be very useful.

    3. Sign my GuestBook, or alternately, leave me a comment. Knowing that this blog is of use, or not, motivates ongoing additions and improvements.

    4. Post back in the above mentioned forums, and close any open threads. Become part of The Solution.



If you're having a problem, don't just drop it on Blogger Support. Involve Blogger Forum and Google Blogger Help, too. Update all 3 groups, regularly, when suggestions are made by any others. Be patient and persistent.

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Thursday, September 11, 2008

Nitecruzr Dot Net Et Al Is Now Available In 24 Languages

Following a rather intense effort yesterday, by Roberto of Roberto's Blogs, all 23 languages currently available in the Google On The Fly Web Page Translator are now part of the Cumulus Translator Bar.

We hope to see more languages made available by Google, in the future. As they come out in the Google Translator, we plan to add them to the Translator Bar, straightaway.

For a more pictorial description of the Translator Bar, and it's development process, see Roberto's Report: Language Translator Set-up.

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Following And Google Reader

Having noted a couple downsides of the new Blogger community, Following, I have been intrigued to note that a number of bloggers are in agreement with me on one issue - Following interaction with Google Reader is a bit rough. Or was, for a while. The advice we get about Following, in this capability, is
following a blog will create a subscription to the blog in your Google Reader account.

That's a rather vague statement, and says nothing about what happens if a given blog is already in Google Readers, or what happens when you remove a Followed blog from your Reading List.

So, I decided to find out what happens.


Having accumulated a small number of interesting blogs in my Reading List, I clicked on the View in Google Reader link. I see all of my Followed blogs, plus a few others that I added some time ago.



The advice is
You can also hide followed blogs if you'd rather not see them in Reader.
Good advice, so now they aren't seen.



I click on the Manage Subscriptions link, and under Preferences, I see the checkbox "Show followed blogs from Blogger", and it's now unchecked.



With "Show followed blogs from Blogger" unchecked, my Reading List is a bit empty.



So I go back to Settings - Preferences, and re check "Show followed blogs from Blogger".



And now, I see my Followed blogs again.


So it looks like you have two possibilities - see all Followed blogs, or no Followed blogs. This is better than always seeing Followed blogs, but I hope it can be improved upon. For a start, how about "Don't duplicate blogs." - that doesn't sound so complicated, does it?

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

GMail Combined With Mail-to-Blogger

The Mail-to-Blogger feature of Blogger has intrigued me for a while. It's a neat way to get people to send email to your blog, and can even be used to have more than 100 named individuals publish to a private blog. But there are several limitations that have always bothered me.

Following - The Ups And Downs

The new online Blogger community feature - Following - is now over a week old. Most of us who are using it actively, on our blogs, know the euphoria when loading our blog and seeing a new, unfamiliar face
All right - a new Follower!
But check those profiles closely, boys and girls - not all of them are the real thing. I've removed one bogie from my list already, and I'm looking at another 2 which look a bit dodgy.

What better way to pimp your splog, then to Follow a well known blog? What you get, when you Follow another blog, is an automatic backlink, through your profile, to your blog. Talk about a great target for sploggers.

And there are other downsides to the craze. When you add a blog to your Reading List, it's also added to your Google Reader subscription list. If the blog is already on the subscription list, it's now there twice. And conversely, when you remove a blog from your Reading List, it's still there on the subscription list - and it's there twice, if it was there before you started Following it.

So enjoy Following, and being Followed. But watch your followers, and your Google Reader subscription list, carefully.

>> (Update 9/11 17:00): Blogger is slowly improving the Following - Google Reader interaction.

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Verifying Ownership Of Your Site To Google Webmaster Tools

As a web master (blog master), besides adding posts and enhancing the template, you have a third activity which is almost as time consuming. You will be constantly connecting your web site (blog) to other web sites and blogs. In many cases, you'll simply send the owners of the other web site (blog) a request to link to your blog.

For links to some web sites, you'll not use email, you'll use an online wizard. To prove ownership of your web site, instead of sending email, you'll add a file of specific name, or maybe specific content, into the web site. You can't add a file to your blog, though, with blogs you have no control over files and folders - all that you do is publish posts.

One of the most important web sites that you can add your blog to is Google Webmaster Tools, which provides you the web site (blog) owner the ability to monitor and tune the relationship between your web site (blog) and the Google Search Engine.

Note that some time ago, Blogger added a quick, universal verification of your blogs. At the bottom of your dashboard, under "Tools and Resources", you'll find a link "Webmaster Tools". This appears to generate a file known as the "WMX Verification File".

Right now, there are some odd circumstances which may be a result of using that link. For right now, I would only verify my blogs, one at a time, adding a meta record - as shown below.

When you verify ownership of your web site to GWT, you add a file of specific name and content, to the root. When you add your blog, you can't do that, so you add a record of specific content - a meta record - to the template. Note that the automated process which reads the blog header, and verifies your ownership, appears to be sensitive to private blog settings.

This meta record, which provides your verification of ownership to Google Webmaster Tools, may be the most important single line of code in the template. Add this with care.
  1. Sign in to your Google account.
  2. You start from Google Webmaster Tools - Dashboard.
  3. In the Click here to add a site box, enter the URL to your blog, and then hit Add Site. Make this entry identical to the URL to which the blog is published. Use the following examples, substituting appropriately your value for "myblog", "mydomain", "xxxxx", and "zzz".
    • If the blog is published to "myblog.blogspot.com", enter it as "myblog.blogspot.com".
    • The blog will never be published to "www.myblog.blogspot.com", so do not enter it as "www.myblog.blogspot.com".
    • If the blog is published to "mydomain.zzz", enter it as "mydomain.zzz".
    • If the blog is published to "www.mydomain.zzz", enter it as "www.mydomain.zzz".
    • If the blog is published to "xxxxx.mydomain.zzz", enter it as "xxxxx.mydomain.zzz".
    If you rename the blog, either changing the BlogSpot URL or republishing to a Custom Domain, remember to repeat this exercise with the updated URL.
  4. This will take you to Overview.
    Next Step
    Verify your site. By verifying your site you can access comprehensive statistics and crawl errors about the pages in your site
  5. Click the link for "Verify your site".
  6. This will take you to Verify a Site.
  7. In the Choose verification method... pull down list, select Add a meta tag.
  8. This will generate your site verification meta tag. Highlight and Copy the text from the box.
  9. In a separate window, edit the template for your blog. Add into the template, in the heading section, your site verification meta tag, that's provided by the GWT wizard. After you add the meta tag, you should have something like:
    <head>
        <b:include data='blog' name='all-head-content'/>
        <title><data:blog.pageTitle/></title>
        <meta name="description" content="......."></meta>
        <meta name="keywords" content="......."></meta>
        <meta name="verify-v1" content="......."></meta>
    
        <b:skin><![CDATA[/*
    

    Note that some detail was removed from the above example, and that the above example shows template code for designer and layout templates.

    You might want to observe the different ways to format a meta tag, including differences between classic and layouts formats. The XML, in a layouts template, will require a properly closed tag.
    • The tag will probably be presented, by the GWT wizard, as
      <meta name="verify-v1" content=".......">
    • One way to code the tag, in a layouts template, would be
      <meta name="verify-v1" content="......."></meta>
    • A second way to code the tag, in a layouts template, would be
      <meta name="verify-v1" content="......." />
  10. Save Template Changes.
  11. Go back to Verify a Site, and hit Verify.
  12. This will take you to Overview. Part of the display will include:
    You've successfully verified (your site)

    and may include
    No pages from your site are currently included in Google's index.
    and
    You have not submitted any Sitemaps. Submit a Sitemap to help Google discover pages our crawlers might not otherwise find.
    Select the Sitemaps menu entry.


Having verified ownership of your site, you now can add a Google Sitemap, or use the other features of Google Webmaster Tools.

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Saturday, September 06, 2008

bX-e3i9af Error Possibly Not Resolved

Last weekend was a bad time for many owners of blogs published to custom domains, with numerous blogs returning the well known "404 Not Found" error in various flavours. When attempting to repair the problem, the owners were greeted with two error codes - bX-f42977 and bX-e3i9af. My home page blog, Nitecruzr Dot Net was offline for several days with this problem.

During the weekend, Blogger Support developed and pushed a fix which eliminated this problem. The fix was effective in most cases, but possibly not all.

Today, several bloggers have reported that the problem has returned. Analysis of the DNS setups show standard Google Apps style configurations; yet when attempting to publish the blogs back to BlogSpot, or repeat the publish to the custom domain, these bloggers are greeted by the bX-e3i9af error.

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Thursday, September 04, 2008

FTP Publishing - September 2008

This month, we continue to see reports of several frequent symptoms, causing much anguish in bloggers who publish their blogs by FTP. The well known
Your publish is taking longer than expected. To continue waiting for it to finish, click here.
and
ConnectException: Connection timed out.
and a variant of the latter
FTPConnectionClosedException: Connection closed without indication.


But this month, there is hope. Several workarounds for these symptoms have been discovered by various relieved bloggers.


In several cases, bloggers have found use of the domain name, as opposed to the host server IP address, in the blog (Settings - Publishing - ) "FTP Server" setting, to resolve the problem. In one case, the reverse was true - changing from the server name (domain name?) to an IP address provided relief from the problem noted. It's possible that checking with the host server support team, and verifying the correct setting, may provide help here.

If your blog is hosted on a shared hosting service, you'll have to use the domain name rather than an IP address. If you use the IP address of the server, the FTP service on the server will try to publish your blog to the default space in the FTP service. On a shared hosting service, your blog will probably not be the default. You'll either get an explicit "Security Violation" (name / password checked immediately), or "Your publish is taking longer than expected" (name / password checked with data stream).

I suspect that this change is necessitated by a change in the host configuration. GoDaddy, who is one of the hosting services in question, has been making server configuration changes in recent months, and it's possible that other hosting services have been doing the same.



In other cases, the support staff for the host server made changes in the firewalls protecting the host servers, and resolved the problem. In one case, Blogger started using Passive FTP. Passive FTP, identified in FTP logs with the "PASV" command, is easier to configure (and secure) at the client end (ie, Blogger), but is harder to support at the host end. In one case, Network Solutions staff required several weeks of troubleshooting before settling on this configuration change.
If you are currently experiencing either of the noted symptoms, making the mentioned changes may resolve the problem. Trying either change is surely better than simply reporting the problem to Blogger and sitting around waiting for them to resolve the issues on their own, while your blog grows stale.

And in yet other cases, some host firewalls use IP Address filtering, sourced from a list provided by Blogger. Not all Blogger documentation, including the list used for the IP address filter, is 100% up to date.

And of course you should also continue to keep aware of the many general network issues that can also cause problems with FTP Publishing.

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Wednesday, September 03, 2008

The eNom Domain Manager

Making any custom settings to your custom domain, beyond what is done by the "Buy A Domain" wizard, involves the eNom / GoDaddy Domain Manager.

The eNom Domain Manager, like the GoDaddy Domain Manager, lets you setup the "A" and "CNAME" records for your custom domain. The similarity ends there. This is a very basic wizard - what you see is what they give you - it's just one big spreadsheet.

(Note): This article was written before Blogger deployed the 4 Google Apps servers now in use. Please use this guide only as a simple tutorial on using the eNom DNS Manager wizard. For actual DNS addresses, and up to date configuration advice, see Your Blog, Custom Domains, And Righteous Solutions.


You login, and there you are. No menu, no links, or scripts. Hit the "Edit" button under "Host Records".



Hit the "Add new" button, to add a record.



Add two "A" records. For each "A" record, enter "@" for "Host Name", an IP address for "Address", and make sure that "A (Address)" is selected for "Record Type". And hit "Save".

Add one "CNAME (Alias)" record. Enter "www" for "Host Name", "ghs.google.com" for "Address", and make sure that "CNAME (Alias)" is selected for "Record Type".



Check what you have added.



And, you're done.



Not too much simpler. Finally, run a couple Digs.
nitecruzr.net.  3600 IN A 64.233.179.121
nitecruzr.net. 3600 IN A 66.249.81.121
nitecruzr.net. 3600 IN A 72.14.207.121
www.nitecruzr.net. 3600 IN CNAME ghs.google.com.


(Update 2009/10): Please note that the above advice, specifically mentioning 3 x "A" referrals, has been changed and will now require 4 x "A" referrals, and the 1 x "CNAME" referral.

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.


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