Friday, October 31, 2008

Adding Your Blog To Your Domain

Many people set up a Google Custom Domain so they can have a Blogger blog, published to a non-BlogSpot URL. A domain - whether based on an existing Google Custom Domain, or on any non-Google domain - can include more than just one blog or web site. If you have another blog, you can add that to your domain, with very little trouble. This is how you develop a cluster of blogs.

Let's look at this blog, "blogging.nitecruzr.net" in a pair of abridged Dig logs. First, "blogging.nitecruzr.net".

;; QUESTION SECTION:
;blogging.nitecruzr.net. IN A

;; ANSWER SECTION:
blogging.nitecruzr.net. 3600 IN CNAME ghs.google.com.
ghs.google.com. 40227 IN CNAME ghs.l.google.com.
ghs.l.google.com. 300 IN A 72.14.207.121


And the "www" alias, "www.blogging.nitecruzr.net".

;; QUESTION SECTION:
;www.blogging.nitecruzr.net. IN A

;; ANSWER SECTION:
www.blogging.nitecruzr.net. 3600 IN CNAME ghs.google.com.
ghs.google.com. 40218 IN CNAME ghs.l.google.com.
ghs.l.google.com. 291 IN A 72.14.207.121


That's all that you need. Add to your DNS host, using their wizard, just like any other DNS setup.

blogging.nitecruzr.net. 3600 IN CNAME ghs.google.com.
www.blogging.nitecruzr.net. 3600 IN CNAME ghs.google.com.


Then, go to Settings - Publishing, publish to "blogging.nitecruzr.net", and select
Redirect www.blogging.nitecruzr.net to blogging.nitecruzr.net.
Alternatively, publish to "www.blogging.nitecruzr.net", and select
Redirect blogging.nitecruzr.net to www.blogging.nitecruzr.net.
Either way, you're done. It's easier to do it, then to write about it.

>> Top

Making A Website From Your Blog

Traditionally, setting up a web site is a lot of work.

You have to setup the infrastructure of the website, and you have to provide content for your readers to view. Setting up a blog is a lot easier, but a blog gives you the structure of an online journal, and will include details which may distract your readers.

Sometimes, you want to take a Blogger blog, and setup a web site. A blog is a web site with a dynamic home page ("main page"). Make the home page static, and you have a web site.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

MMS Mobile Blogging - Permament Delivery Failure - Need To Register

Several bloggers are reporting inability to use MMS Mobile Blogging. Reminiscent of the T-Mobile MMS outage of a couple weeks ago, except not confined to T-Mobile. This one is possibly Blackberries in A T & T / Verizon.
Now when I try to post I get a "permanent delivery failure" saying I need to register by sending an email or MMS.


If you're suffering from this problem (or trying to help someone else, who is), provide some diagnostics, as you are able, please.
  • Geographic location.
  • Make / model of mobile device.
  • Name of carrier / ISP.
  • Observed error message.


>> Top

Blog*Spot Connectivity In Canada

Several bloggers in Canada are reporting inability to access blogs, from either Toronto or Ontario. The outage apparently affects custom domain published blogs, as well as Blog*Spot published ones. The outage is stated to have been observed at least a day ago.

Since the outage appears to affect both Blog*Spot and custom domain published blogs, it's not as likely to be DNS related - either an intentional DNS block, or a DNS server corruption / outage. One Blogger was kind enough to provide a traceroute log, showing no basic connectivity issue.

Tracing route to blogspot.l.google.com [72.14.207.191] over a maximum of 30 hops:

1 <1 ms <1 ms <1 ms 192.168.0.1
2 2 ms 1 ms 1 ms 66.203.194.1
3 <1 ms <1 ms <1 ms 66.203.195.205
4 1 ms 1 ms 1 ms 154.11.63.101
5 1 ms 1 ms 1 ms TOROONXNDR02.bb.telus.com
[66.203.192.193]
6 1 ms 1 ms 1 ms chcgildtgr00.bb.telus.com
[154.11.6.29]
7 1 ms 1 ms 1 ms toroonxngr00.bb.telus.com
[154.11.6.23]
8 1 ms 1 ms 1 ms 154.11.2.154
9 2 ms 1 ms 2 ms 66.249.94.90
10 2 ms 14 ms 2 ms 72.14.236.134
11 2 ms 3 ms 4 ms eh-in-f191.google.com [72.14.207.191]

Trace complete.


If you're suffering from this problem, start by reading My Blog Is Gone, And Related Symptoms. Next, look at your MTU setting, using How To Check The MTU Setting On Your Computer.

(Update 10/31 04:00): This problem appears to be resolved.
I tried accessing my blog late last night and found that the issue appears to be resolved.


(Update 10/29 17:00): Blogger Support is aware of the situation.
I'll touch base with the rest of the team and we'll start investigating this right now.

I'll make sure to update this thread when we figure out the source of the problem.


>> Top

Monday, October 27, 2008

Comment Disposal, With Pop-up Window Selected

Several bloggers have reported inability to remove comments from their blogs, apparently when comments are enabled with "Pop-up window" selected, because they will lack a trash can - which is normally provided for each comment. The alternate selections, "Full page" and "Embedded below post", do not appear to be affected by this problem.

If you use the "Edit Posts" menu, you'll have a list of all posts with comments. If you click on the appropriate "comment" link, you'll be temporarily put into single post mode, with the comments displayed below the post - and there will be a trash can available for each comment. If you find this inconvenient, you can permanently change the Comment Form Placement option, to show comments either as "Full page" or "Embedded below post".

(Update 10/28 12:00): Blogger Support is aware of the problem.
We'll keep working on this one. ... I'll check into this ASAP.


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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Request took too long

Recently, a few bloggers are reporting an interesting pop up advice from Blogger, generally seen within post editor or possibly the dashboard.
Request took too long.

Your request took too long to complete. This is typically just a temporary error due to high network traffic or heavy usage of Blogger.






This is reminiscent of the long ago seen Could Not Connect To Blogger.Com. I suggested a list of useful diagnostic details in Could Not Connect To Blogger.Com - Help Diagnose This Problem. You may also want to read Roberto's Report: Request Took Too Long?.

>> Top

Strange Behaviour By Post Editor #3

By the standards of many bloggers, I don't write a lot of posts. What I do is write, then re write the same post, repeatedly. Last month, I (and a few others like me) discovered a very odd and unfortunate behaviour in post editor - repeated loss of post updates, for posts updated repeatedly.

Yesterday, I worked a lot on my article about the Blogging Infrastructure. I even linked it, both ways, with my Beginning Blogging post, and I believe a bit more. And this evening, I had in mind still more updates.

But I got an unpleasant surprise, as I prepared to update the article.


I know I updated this post, and there should be more detail here! OK, maybe I made a mistake, so I guess I'll update it now.



Whoa! Here we see even less than above!



So, it looks like we are seeing a repeat of last months episode.

For this post, I'm going to try and finish to some degree. No repeated postings here.

>> Forum thread links: bX-*00083

>> Copy this tag: bX-*00083

>> Top

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Blogging - The Infrastructure

Setting up a web site is a lot of work. Besides the detail work, which I described in my article Blogging, which discusses the issues of content, structure, and attractiveness, a web site has to have an infrastructure.
  • Server Space.
  • Identity / Structure.
  • Procedures and Utilities.
With a web site based on a Blogger blog, all of these are provided for you, and for no direct financial charge. Along with what's provided for you comes what you don't get to choose.

Two items that you don't get to choose are directory structure and post URLs. You organise your blog logically, by label and by title, which lets your and your readers access the content in ways relevant to you. How the content is stored is up to Blogger - this is something that you don't have to worry about (which is good), and you can't control (which is occasionally not good).
A third item that you don't get to choose is home page content. The home page is dynamically chosen, from the most recent posts, and is limited in size. You can add static pages to the blog, but the static pages are only visible from links in the blog. And auto pagination limits the size of the home page (and archive retrieval pages, and label retrieval pages).

Since a blog, by tradition, is an online journal, it is organised by date, and structured by year and month. The directory structure, and post URLs, reflect this structure. A blog displays the posts in reverse date order - the latest post is at the top of the first (home) page - older posts are further down the page, and on additional pages. If you want to re arrange the posts, you change the dates on the posts.

You can re organise the home page, including making the home page static, and index the posts using labels, to create the illusion of a web site - if that's what you prefer.

All that you really have to do do is setup a blog (including the blog address and title), and write a post (including the post title). The URL of the post is made for you, and you can't control that. If you change the title, or the post date, the URL stays the same. This leaves you free to concentrate on what the readers see and appreciate - content, structure, and attractiveness. You work on blog content - and on getting readers.

>> Top

Blogger / Blog*Spot Connectivity In Turkey

Several bloggers in Turkey are reporting inability to access Blogger, and / or Blog*Spot blogs. No details have been provided by any reporting.

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

Blogger Support is aware of the problem, and is working on it.
We are looking into the matter, and working to ensure that the service is restored as soon as possible.


(Update 10/26 21:00): It looks like we have a situation reminiscent of the recent outages in India and Thailand. A government initiated blockage, compounded by the local ISPs.
By the order of local court, Turkish blogger users can not login or even display their blog sites.Some of blog users had broadcast those games freely in their blog sites.

Digiturk went to court to fix this problem.

Court decides to close those illegal broadcasts.


>> Top

Friday, October 24, 2008

Diagnosing Problems With Custom Domains: The Dig Tool

Whenever I answer a problem report in an open forum, in my email, or just in general life, which involves a blog published to a Google Custom Domain, I always start my answer with a Dig log. Dig is a very commonly used tool for querying DNS configuration data. Since many custom domain problems involve DNS setup, Dig is my first diagnostic tool.

Dig can be run locally (from your computer), or online (from a Dig server). Since Dig accesses online data, I find it reasonable to run it from online servers. I, personally, use the Kloth.Net Dig utility, which lets you select specific record types to dig for, and lets you specify a DNS server to Dig into.

If the Kloth service doesn't fill your needs, you are free to Google for "free online dns dig"; if so, you'll find numerous similar services. Eventually, you should find one to your personal liking.

Let's Dig the DNS records for this domain. Let's first look at the primary domain "nitecruzr.net".
; <<>> DiG 9.3.2 <<>> @localhost nitecruzr.net A
; (2 servers found)
;; global options: printcmd
;; Got answer:
;; ->>HEADER<<- opcode: QUERY, status: NOERROR, id: 55301
;; flags: qr rd ra; QUERY: 1, ANSWER: 3, AUTHORITY: 0, ADDITIONAL: 0

;; QUESTION SECTION:
;nitecruzr.net. IN A

;; ANSWER SECTION:
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


;; Query time: 160 msec
;; SERVER: 127.0.0.1#53(127.0.0.1)
;; WHEN: Fri Oct 24 23:43:30 2008
;; MSG SIZE rcvd: 79


Next, the "www" alias "www.nitecruzr.net".
 ; <<>> DiG 9.3.2 <<>> @localhost www.nitecruzr.net A
; (2 servers found)
;; global options: printcmd
;; Got answer:
;; ->>HEADER<<- opcode: QUERY, status: NOERROR, id: 12647
;; flags: qr rd ra; QUERY: 1, ANSWER: 3, AUTHORITY: 0, ADDITIONAL: 0

;; QUESTION SECTION:
;www.nitecruzr.net. IN A

;; ANSWER SECTION:
www.nitecruzr.net. 3600 IN CNAME ghs.google.com.
ghs.google.com. 34422 IN CNAME ghs.l.google.com.
ghs.l.google.com. 300 IN A 72.14.207.121

;; Query time: 175 msec
;; SERVER: 127.0.0.1#53(127.0.0.1)
;; WHEN: Fri Oct 24 23:43:42 2008
;; MSG SIZE rcvd: 99


Now please note that the above logs are enormously wasteful in space. When I present Dig data in an online forum, I'll typically excerpt it to just the essential data.
 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.

---
ghs.google.com. 34422 IN CNAME ghs.l.google.com.
ghs.l.google.com. 300 IN A 72.14.207.121


In some of my articles, I'll abridge the log, showing the context of the query.

;; QUESTION SECTION:
;nitecruzr.net. IN A
;; ANSWER SECTION:
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

;; QUESTION SECTION:
;www.nitecruzr.net. IN A
;; ANSWER SECTION:
www.nitecruzr.net. 3600 IN CNAME ghs.google.com.
ghs.google.com. 34422 IN CNAME ghs.l.google.com.
ghs.l.google.com. 300 IN A 72.14.207.121


What do we see in the above examples (abridged or condensed)?
  • The primary domain (ie, the "domain root") is redirected by Address ("A") to 3 servers, provided by Google Apps, "64.233.179.121", "66.249.81.121", and "72.14.207.121". Please note that, as of 2008/10/24, this configuration became out of date, and was replaced by 4 mutually redundant servers.
  • The "www" alias is redirected by Alias ("CNAME") to the Google custom domain load balancing DNS proxy, "ghs.google.com".
  • Each Address and Alias has a Time To Live ("TTL") of 3600 seconds, ie 1 hour. That one hour is the amount of time that a local DNS server can consider the DNS entry in its cache to be fresh. If a non authoritative server is asked for DNS information, it checks its cache, and it find data which is stale (has expired past TTL), it must refresh its cache by getting fresh information from an authoritative server. Note that TTL is a tuning factor, and it varies by DNS server. When you add a DNS address entry to your domain, unless you know what you're doing, accept the default TTL provided by the DNS Manager wizard.
  • With "www.nitecruzr.net" referred by "CNAME" to "ghs.google.com", "ghs.google.com" is referred by "CNAME" to "ghs.l.google.com", and "ghs.l.google.com" referred by "A" to "72.14.207.121".
  • To see this information in a real life GUI display, as setup with the GoDaddy DNS Hosting service (for instance), you may read Custom Domains - The Details In The DNS Settings.


Note that, occasionally, you may see slightly different results than what you see above. There are a couple subtle syntactical conventions, involved in using the various DNS Manager wizards provided by the thousands of registrars all over the Internet, which periodically create challenges for us.

Also note that if you just updated DNS addresses, you may have to wait while your local DNS server is refreshed. If you run a Dig against the domain authority server, you can get up to date results instantly.

Regardless of its intricacies and weaknesses, Dig is one tool in my Custom Domain Diagnostic toolset - the one tool that I use most often, in my custom domain diagnostics.

>> Top

Custom Domain Publishing - Moving Back To BlogSpot Won't Be Easy

When you setup a custom domain properly, and publish a blog to a non-BlogSpot URL, the BlogSpot URL remains active.

With the BlogSpot address active, you can move forward to the new address, without worrying about loss of readership, or search engines indexing problems. Both the old (BlogSpot) and new (custom domain) addresses will work, for eternity. This feature, in my opinion, is one of the ideas which exemplifies the reputation of Google, for innovative design.

If you decide to move back, and publish to BlogSpot, this may not be such an easy task.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Embedded Comment Form Problem?

Recently, a few complaints have been seen about inability to leave comments on blogs, possibly in blogs using the newly provided Comment Form Placement, "Embedded below post". Having seen the announcement yesterday, I too, eagerly enabled the option in this blog. This post is the first which I have created, since doing so.

So, let's see what happens now. I have gotten several comments today, to several of my earlier posts, which were written before enabling the option. If you wish to make a comment regarding this issue, and can't do so here, please do so using my general post, Leave Comments Here. But having eyeballed this post, and a couple earlier ones, I see the embedded comment form on all posts, when you are in post view (not main page view).

In blogs which use a separate comment page ("Full page") or possibly a pop-up page ("Pop-up window"), you'll see the link caption at the bottom "Post a Comment", which will have a URL of the form "www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=nnnnnnn&postID=nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn". In this blog, and when you are in main page view, if you'll look below this post, you'll see "nn Comments", which will have a URL "blogging.nitecruzr.net/2008/10/embedded-comment-form-problem.html#comments". The latter link will put you into post view, and position you at the "Post a Comment" form.

I've seen several blogs where the problem, as described, can be observed. In those blogs, the "Post a Comment" link will be "blogging.nitecruzr.net/2008/10/embedded-comment-form-problem.html#comments", and will be seen even in post view, and in place of the actual "Post a Comment" form. This gives a link which, when clicked, simply leads back to itself.

In some cases, changing the comment option to "Full page" or "Pop-up window" may provide relief from your problem. Possibly you can then try, again, "Embedded below post".

For a discussion of these, and other, procedures, you may refer to my later post Problems With Posting Comments To Blogs Using Inline Comment Forms.

When commenting on your current circumstances, please provide diagnostics:
  • The URL of your blog.
  • What comment option did you use, when it worked ("Full page" or "Pop-up window").
  • When / if did you select Comments "Embedded below post".
  • Whether you have published any changes to your blog since selecting "Embedded below post".
  • Did you try changing the comment option, and if so, to what setting, and did that help?


>> Top

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Following - The Implications #2

Last month, I predicted the emergence of the rule about Following and your reputation in the community
You are judged by what blogs you follow.


In musing about the vulnerability of Following to spamming, I realised a corollary to that rule
You are judged by who Follows your blog.


Let's look at some simple cases that expand upon the first rule.
You are judged by what blogs you follow.

  1. If you Follow a splog, (using presumption of innocence before guilt) you're maybe simply being mislead. If you follow only one splog, you need to remove that Following. Otherwise, people who might Follow your blog will be creating a link to a Profile (yours) that links to a splog.
  2. If you Follow just 2 splogs, you're possibly a splogger yourself. People who Follow your blog risk being tagged as in Rule 1, so they too would need to remove any Following to your blog.
  3. If you Own just 1 splog, you are a splogger. Period. People who Follow your blog risk being tagged as in Rule 1, so they too would need to remove any Following to your blog.

Three simple rules, right? Not quite. Now, let's look at some simple cases that expand upon the second rule.
You are judged by who Follows your blog.

  1. If you are Followed by a blogger who also Follows a splog, (using presumption of innocence before guilt) that person is maybe simply being mislead. If the other blogger follows only one splog, he (she) needs to remove that Following. Otherwise, your blog will have a link to a Profile that links to a splog. You then need to Block that blogger from Following your blog.
  2. If you are Followed by a blogger who Follow just 2 splogs, the other blogger is possibly a splogger. You now risk being tagged as in Rule 1, so you need to Block that blogger from Following your blog.
  3. If you are Followed by a blogger who Owns just 1 splog, that blogger is a splogger. Period. You risk being tagged as in Rule 1, so you need to Block that blogger from Following your blog.

In other words, you (as a blog owner) have to keep your Followers clean, just as you need to keep your Followed list clean. Association with a splogger or a splog risks you being treated as a splogger.

If we carefully keep our Followers list clean, by Blocking anybody who fails to keep their relationships clean (or who is actively malicious), we keep our own relationships clean for any bloggers who surf through our blogs and profiles. If we do not keep our relationships clean, anybody who would link to us (or allow us to link to them) must Block us instead.

So keep your own Followers and Followed lists clean. Please. The spam free surfing potential of Following depends upon you.

>> Top

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Strange Behaviour By GUI Template Wizards

Several bloggers are reporting inability to change the blog template, using the GUI Fonts and Colors, and Page Elements, wizards. The screen space which should contain the visual information - a view of the main page (for Fonts and Colors), or a block view of the gadgets (for Page Elements) - is replaced by a copy of the Blogger sign in screen.
The frame below then contains the Blogger Sign in page: To access your blog, sign in with your Google Account and then the actual sign in fields/sign in button
Alternately, the screen contents are normal, but no controls work, or page elements can't be moved around.
When I go to my Add and Arrange Page Elements page all I see is a google sign in page. This is when I am using IE. When I use Firefox I can see the Layout screen with all of the information but I can't make any editing changes.


If you are one of the victims of this mystery, help diagnose the scope of the problem.
  • From the dashboard entry for your blog, you have 4 links which lead to blog maintenance wizards:
    1. New post.
    2. Edit posts.
    3. Settings.
    4. Layout, which itself contains 4 wizards.
      1. Page Elements.
      2. Fonts and Colors.
      3. Edit HTML.
      4. Pick New Template.
  • Starting from your dashboard, click on each in turn (Test #4 with 4 sub tests), and observe, explicitly, which give you a wizard that operates properly and which do not.
  • Setup a new blog (blogs are free), and make it as like the current one as you dare. Repeat the above 7 observations, with the new blog.
  • Specify the name and version / service pack level of the operating system on your computer, and the name and version of the browser(s) that you have tried using.
  • If your computer has a Microsoft Windows operating system, check your Windows Update Log, and try to correlate when the latest updates were done, relative to first observing your problems.
  • Report your details, objectively, in a thread in GBH: Something Is Broken.


(Update 10/27 23:30): One blogger found the problem to involve an update to Java.
I uninstalled my java update 7 and now everything is better.


>> Top

Blogger Accounts, And Authenticated Sessions

People with multiple identities have been objects of interest for many years. Robert Louis Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is a literary classic, that many people refer to, when mentioning schizophrenia. Schizophrenia becomes a common problem when we use Blogger, and other Google products, too.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Layout: Add A Gadget

Recently, we see concerned bloggers asking about their inability to add page elements to their blog. Besides several key settings in the template, there's a naming problem, which surfaces occasionally.
When I go to layout, and then to Page Elements, I'm given the option to "add a gadget" but not to "add a page element." The Add a Page Element button has never been displayed since I started the blog, so it's not something I broke myself.


Oh no!! How do I add a page element!!??



What everybody may not realise is that what Blogger used to call "widgets" are now called "gadgets", and adding a "widget" (weird term) / "page element" (boring term) is now called adding a "gadget" (descriptive term).

What we used to call the "Page Elements" wizard may be found as the "Layout" link in the dashboard. If you publish the blog using a dynamic template, layout customisations may not be supported - and you may not have "Settings - Layout".

Of course, there could still be cases where the "Add a Gadget" link doesn't appear, doesn't appear where you need it, or doesn't work for you. You still need to be aware of template restrictions, whether intentional or non-intentional.

When you look at the selections in "Add a Gadget", note the author names, carefully. The gadgets that are not attributed as "By Blogger" are provided by third parties, and should be selected with care. If your blog uses a dynamic template, you'll especially want to use gadgets "By Blogger" - and avoid the "HTML / JavaScript: gadget - as gadgets in dynamic templates require specific code, that you will probably not find in third party accessories.

>> Top

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

T-Mobile MMS Mobile Blogging - Carrier Not Supported

Currently, a few bloggers are reporting inability to post to their blogs by T-Mobile MMS Mobile, getting the advice that their carrier is not supported by Blogger.
Your carrier is not supported by Blogger Mobile. Please try using Mail-to-Blogger or visit http://www.blogger.com/mobile-request for more information.


If you're suffering from this symptom, please report your details in an active BHG forum thread. Explicitly state, in your problem report, the name of your carrier (T-Mobile or otherwise). And provide the make and model of your PDA / phone, and your geographical location. And tell us how long you had been using MMS Mobile with no problem. And are you able or unable to send pictures or text?

(Update 10/20 23:30): It appears that Blogger fixed the problem, though in silence yet again.

(Update 10/20 14:00): Blogger is looking into the problem now, and is involving T-Mobile Support.

>> Top

Comment Moderation In Blogger Blogs

Comment moderation, with native Blogger blogs (published to BlogSpot or externally) is pretty simple, with very few choices and no options. You can, if you choose, moderate before the comment is published. You can do similarly, later (after the comment is published). In either case, you can either allow the comment to be published (or remain), or choose to not publish (or delete) the comment.

  • Optionally, moderate before the comment is published.
    • Publish the comment.
    • Don't publish the comment.
  • Moderate after (if) the comment is published.
    • Delete the comment.
    • Don't delete the comment.
Pretty limited options? Admittedly so, but still they are a more realistic solution than trying to block commenters or visitors.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Custom Domains And URL Forwarding - Still A Bad Idea

Setting up a Google Custom Domain, which gives us the ability to publish our Blogger blog to a non BlogSpot URL, is a reasonably simple process. That simple process, though, depends upon several not so simple factors.
  1. Our understanding of how rigidly simple the DNS setup is.
  2. Our acceptance of how rigidly simple the DNS setup is.
  3. Our use of a registrar that provides us the DNS setup that is required.
Custom Domain setup is simple, but allows for no deviations. You may read my series Diagnosing Problems With Custom Domains, and examine a total of 7 unique configurations, 2 of which work properly, and 5 which either don't work at all, or work temporarily or unreliably.

One example of the latter possibility - a configuration which works temporarily - is a custom domain setup using URL forwarding. Here, I'll show excerpted Dig logs of various domain DNS configurations.

During the past couple weeks, we have seen dozens of reports similar to "ronpaulnews.net".
ronpaulnews.net.        51      IN      A       66.249.81.121
www.ronpaulnews.net. 43200 IN CNAME ronpaulnews.net.

An intriguing variation would be "herotherlife.com".
herotherlife.com. 10800 IN A 74.208.41.41
www.herotherlife.com. 86400 IN A 72.14.207.121

Then, we have "reputationist.info".
reputationist.info. 3600 IN A 64.202.189.170
www.reputationist.info. 3600 IN CNAME ghs.google.com.

These are, each, various examples of URL forwarding. Apparently, URL forwarding worked for a while, though I've been predicting the emergence of this problem for some time. Now, changes by Blogger means that URL forwarding does not work reliably, and many blogs are out of action.

If your blog recently stopped working, and your DNS is setup similar to "herotherlife.com", "reputationist.info", or "ronpaulnews.net", that is why you are here. You need to change your setup to use a Google Apps configuration, with up to date DNS.

With a normal custom domain DNS configuration, the domain uses an "A" or "CNAME" referral, which points directly to a Google server. When the Blogger script verifies that the domain URLs both point to Google, it can proceed with confidence.

If one, or both, of the domain URLs point to a non-Google server
ronpaulnews.net.        51      IN      A       66.249.81.121
www.ronpaulnews.net. 43200 IN CNAME ronpaulnews.net.

or
herotherlife.com. 10800 IN A 74.208.41.41
www.herotherlife.com. 86400 IN A 72.14.207.121

or
reputationist.info. 3600 IN A 64.202.189.170
www.reputationist.info. 3600 IN CNAME ghs.google.com.

the Blogger script has no way of knowing that your Blogger blog is targeted, even indirectly. The Blogger script can't look within the forwarding script on the non-Google server, as it can when verifying "A" and "CNAME" referrals, by using Dig (as we do above). Trying to eliminate one cause of the "Not Found Error 404", the Blogger script is conservative, and without an "A" or "CNAME" referral, you see
Another blog is already hosted at this address.


It's quite simple, when you understand the complexities. But you do need to either understand the complexities, or at least understand that they exist, and accept the advice of the people who do understand.

Having changed your DNS to use "A" / "CNAME" referrals for both URLs, remember to publish back to BlogSpot, then republish to your "www" alias, to ensure a clean repair of the problem.

(Update 11/21): Want to see a tangible example why URL Forwarding is a bad idea? That's one more example showing that URL forwarding is simply another spurious solution.

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Another blog is already hosted at this address - October, 2008

Ever since Google Custom Domains were configured using Google Apps, allowing a combination of custom domain blogs and non custom domain services in a given domain, bloggers everywhere have gotten used to the imminent appearance of the monolithic error message
Another blog is already hosted at this address.
during the custom domain setup process.

Initially, the problem was reset by Blogger Support, when requested by a form entry submitted by the blog owner. Later, we developed a blogger accessible reset procedure using Pages, a service controlled within Google Apps. It appears now that the latter solution is no longer usable.

Custom Domains generated recently from the "Buy A Domain For Your Blog" wizard continue to have access to Google Apps, but the Pages app is no longer available. The alternative apps, Start Page and Sites, may or may not have the same effect as Pages, when used in a reset process for the mentioned symptom.

Some people have stated that they got acceptable results from simply enabling Sites, and setting Sites to a non defined virtual host, ie "nosites.mydomain.com".

If your blog is showing "Another blog is already hosted at this address", and the above possibilities do not work, you will probably have to repeat my experience.

Yesterday, I purchased my test domain "nitecruzr-test.net", and started setting it up. After I selected "Redirect nitecruzr-test.net to www.nitecruzr-test.net.", and managed to endure yet another never ending CAPTCHA sequence, I became yet another victim of the above error.

My test domain was reset by Blogger Support, and after republishing it back to BlogSpot then repeated to the custom domain, and with yet another CAPTCHA session of frustration, it is now online. I sympathise with all of you other bloggers whose newly purchased custom domains suffer the same ignominy.

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Custom Domain Publishing, And Google Apps - October, 2008

When you setup a Google Custom Domain, either using the "Buy A Domain For Your Blog" wizard, or using Google Apps manually, you'll get a complement of 4 DNS records defining the domain. 3 "A" records will define the primary domain ("root") by IP address, and one "CNAME" record will define the "www" alias by server name ("ghs.google.com"). This has been the standard since Google Apps started being used to setup the DNS for custom domains.

Here's the setup for my latest custom domain, "nitecruzr-test.net", as of 12 October, 2008.

nitecruzr-test.net. 3600 IN A 64.233.179.121
nitecruzr-test.net. 3600 IN A 66.249.81.121
nitecruzr-test.net. 3600 IN A 72.14.207.121
www.nitecruzr.net. 3600 IN CNAME ghs.google.com.


Recently, some bloggers have been seeing unstable DNS performance. One blogger, of unknown background, has "authoritatively" stated that
66.249.81.121 is gone forever. Removing that A record will help.


We can't verify the latter claim, but we can examine the current status.

C:\>ping 66.249.81.121

Pinging 66.249.81.121 with 32 bytes of data:

Request timed out.
Request timed out.
Request timed out.
Request timed out.

Ping statistics for 66.249.81.121:
Packets: Sent = 4, Received = 0, Lost = 4 (100% loss),

C:\>ping 64.233.179.121

Pinging 64.233.179.121 with 32 bytes of data:

Reply from 64.233.179.121: bytes=32 time=223ms TTL=243
Reply from 64.233.179.121: bytes=32 time=212ms TTL=243
Reply from 64.233.179.121: bytes=32 time=211ms TTL=243
Reply from 64.233.179.121: bytes=32 time=244ms TTL=243

Ping statistics for 64.233.179.121:
Packets: Sent = 4, Received = 4, Lost = 0 (0% loss),
Approximate round trip times in milli-seconds:
Minimum = 211ms, Maximum = 244ms, Average = 222ms

C:\>ping 72.14.207.121

Pinging 72.14.207.121 with 32 bytes of data:

Reply from 72.14.207.121: bytes=32 time=1583ms TTL=244
Reply from 72.14.207.121: bytes=32 time=231ms TTL=244
Reply from 72.14.207.121: bytes=32 time=238ms TTL=244
Reply from 72.14.207.121: bytes=32 time=218ms TTL=244

Ping statistics for 72.14.207.121:
Packets: Sent = 4, Received = 4, Lost = 0 (0% loss),
Approximate round trip times in milli-seconds:
Minimum = 218ms, Maximum = 1583ms, Average = 567ms

It does look like the server in question is out of service, at least right now. A brief examination of the Google Apps forum provides no useful details.

(Update 10/13): A very authoritative source has confirmed that "66.249.81.121" is out of service, permanently. A new configuration is pending, and for right now, I will go with 2 servers. I recommend that you do the same, if you're able to change your DNS setup.

nitecruzr-test.net. 3600 IN A 64.233.179.121
nitecruzr-test.net. 3600 IN A 72.14.207.121


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Saturday, October 11, 2008

Help Your Readers Search Your Blogs

Sometimes, your readers will benefit from more than a navbar based, direct blog search, of a single blog.

As I discussed some time ago, if you have a single blog, and want to provide a very simple search, you can do that using a Blogger dynamic search in an HTML / JavaScript gadget.

You can provide a gadget to do a direct blog search, in addition to the search gadget in the Navbar - or (if you block the Navbar), you can do this instead of the search gadget in the Navbar.

But what if you have multiple blogs, maybe in a custom domain cluster, that you want your reader to search in combination? Or maybe you would like refinements to your search? That's when you use the Google Custom Search Engine.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Phishing Attempt In Google Blogger Help Today

In the early morning (PDT) today, Blogger Help Group: Publishing Trouble was host to a brief and rather lame phishing attempt.

A one hour posting flood, encompassing several dozen posts, were made by a hacker, representing himself as a Blogger Employee.
Go To This Link And Sign In With your Blogger Account And Your Blog Will Instantly Unlocked.

http://xxxxx.xxxxxxx.com/restoreblogger/blogger.html

Blogger Team.
(The complete URL of the phishing web site has been masked for your protection).


How lame is this?


As lame as this attempt looks, folks, expect another, which will be harder to detect. Hackers are very patient, and very persistent. Don't be fooled - the blogs that you may save will be yours! Learn from this attempt!!
  • Never provide your Blogger credentials, except to a Blogger ("blogger.com") web site.
  • Never click on a link to a non-Blogger URL, inside Blogger Help Group, expecting Blogger services.
  • Get a Site Verification tool, from a reputable security vendor, if one isn't built in to your browser.
  • If you recall entering your account / password into the above web site, in a vain attempt to get your blog unlocked, change your password. Now - not tomorrow.
Use common sense and education - the essential security components.

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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Your Blog, Permissions, and Token Based Access

Those of us who carefully control access to our blogs - whether granting read access to only certain friends, or providing author or alternate administrator status to our most trusted friends - use the Settings - Permissions wizard to grant and monitor the access. Not everybody knows how our friends are granted access though, and that may be part of a major flaw in controlling access.

Take a look at the email, that your friends get, when you grant access to one of your blogs. In it, you'll find a message with a clickable link (details masked here, to protect the innocent)
The Blogger user xxxxxxxxx has invited you to read the private blog: xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx.

To view this blog, visit:
http://www.blogger.com/i.g?inviteID=nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn&blogID=nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn

You'll need to sign in with a Google Account to confirm the invitation. If you don't have a Google Account yet, we'll show you how to get one in minutes, or you can view the blog as a guest for up to 30 days.
Do you see the link?
http://www.blogger.com/i.g?inviteID=nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn&blogID=nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn


That link contains a component called, in security context, a token. You execute the token when you click on the link; and you gain access to the blog, when you execute the token.

One of the benefits from token based access is the ability that you, the prospective new blog member, get when you receive the invitation email from a friend. You can execute the token from any valid email address that you wish, simply by forwarding the email as you see fit.

Unfortunately, this is both a benefit and a drawback to token based access. Besides you forwarding the email to yourself, at another address, there's nothing stopping you from sharing the email with other friends. Or, even posting it in a public forum.
Question: If my blog is configured to be viewed only by authorized people, how come anyone can see it, by clicking the link:

http://maumau44.blogspot.com/?guestAuth=_O7DZR0BAAA.VmQii4g5EwTaF6pOh...


You, the blog owner, have to be able to trust your friends. Don't make your friend a member, if you can't trust him to not share access with others.

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AOL Journals Migration - Private Journals

The migration from AOL Journals to Blogger blogs has now begun. But, we still expect challenges.

One of the first challenges to show up is with Private Journals. To use the import tool, you'll have to make the journal public. After the import is done, and you have a working blog, you can make it private (select friends can read it), or you can make it closed (nobody but you can read it).

If you have a private journal, and it has comments that were made while it was private, you might want to hold off on making the journal public.
Bear in mind you decide to make your Journal public, all comments added while it is private will be deleted. Comments posted to a private Journal are written with the expectation of privacy.
I'd be surprised of Blogger leaves this as an open issue, but let's wait until they can acknowledge the situation. You have until 10/31 (and possibly later).

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AOL Journals - The Migration Has Begun

Earlier today, Blogger Employee Gatsby announced the start of the migration process, from AOL Journals to Blogger Blogs.
The first thing to do is check out our migration guide, which should walk you through all of the steps you need to take.


Now, we see the first announced successful migration, including pictures.
Finally got it to transfer..I went to my Hometown Journal, copied the exact Url from the page onto paper..then went to IE and deleted all cookies. Then signed back on to the Email that gave the link to start transfer, signed in, continued to next page, typed in exact url and bingo..finally transferred, even the pictures came though.


Yes, Virginia, there is hope.

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Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Creating A Horizontal Index For Your Blog

Most of us, when we setup a blog, we just write the posts, and maybe add an Archives Index gadget in the sidebar. If we want to get fancy, we can use labels, and have a Labels Index in the sidebar.

You may want to make your blog look like a web site, with the new Blogger static pages editor, and an index at the top of the blog. That's not a difficult thing to do, it just takes ingenuity. Note as in many of my posts, all example code here is presented with lots of gratuitous line breaks.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Following - A Focused Replacement For "Next Blog"?

Recently, Blogger launched Following, which looks to me like an eventual replacement for the "Next Blog" link. By Following the right blogs - those with some Followers, and that are owned by bloggers who are Following other blogs - you immediately become part of a global network of bloggers and blogs. By Following the blogs that interest you, you focus your surfing on your interests, and do the same for those who surf to your blogs.

If you Follow the right blogs, you help attract traffic, through the backlinks to your profile, and there to your blogs. And as you see your Followers and blog traffic increase, you will be encouraged to publish more posts, which will encourage still more traffic to your blog. This provides the same effect as traffic from the "Next Blog" link, except it will be from bloggers who share your interests, as you Follow blogs that interest you. Traffic from bloggers who share your interests (and are interested in the content of your blog, and other blogs like yours) will be more likely to encourage traffic from other bloggers who are interested in the content of your blog, and other blogs like yours.
  • Like traffic from "Next Blog", the more that you publish, the more traffic you should see.
  • Unlike traffic from "Next Blog", some of the traffic you should see will be return traffic, from people already Following your blog.
  • Unlike traffic from "Next Blog", traffic from Following will be from bloggers who are interested in the content of your blog, not from random surfing.
  • Unlike traffic from "Next Blog", traffic from Following will not happen immediately, but will last long after the 10 minute "Next Blog" window has expired.
  • Unlike traffic from "Next Blog", some traffic from Following will come from bloggers who are Following blogs that are owned by bloggers who share your interests.


All of this means that more bloggers who Follow your blog are likely to return to your blog, unlike "Next Blog" where most traffic is random, and only marginally likely to encourage repeat visits. Combined with the potential to provide surfing in an environment free of hacking, porn, and spam, Following looks like an elegant replacement for the "Next Blog" link in the Navbar.

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Following - A Spam Free Community?

If you randomly look at Blogger blogs, you'll see all types of blogs, none of which are 100% like any other blogs. The content, the layout, and the features all distinguish each individual blog from each other blog, even among individual blogs produced by the same author.

One feature that is common on many (though not all) Blogger blogs is the Navbar. I've been writing about the Navbar, and the "Next Blog" link on it, for several years.

Being a Follower (aka Reader) requires no invitation to a blog - all publicly accessible blogs with a newsfeed can be Followed. As a Follower, you read the posts in the blogs that you Follow. You can Follow a blog by using Following, and Follow visibly or invisibly, through your browser or through your Google Reader Reading List. Or, you can manually add the blog URL to your Google Reader, and read the blog without using Following. Following is simply a fancy way of setting up a 2 way connection between people and blogs. You Follow my blog visibly, and
  • I can see you, and readers of my blog can see you.
  • We can view your profile (should you make that public).
  • We can see a list of other blogs that you Follow (again, if your profile is public).
  • We can see a list of your blogs.


Following is simply a way of connecting people and blogs, in a way which will hopefully make it less useful for spammers.
  • The code behind the Followers gadget makes it transparent to robotic processes such as the Blogger anti-spam classifier, and search engine spiders.
  • Most Followers to a blog will be real people, not spammers.
  • Since any individual Follower on any blog is subject to removal ("Block") by the blog owner, spammers won't last long even if they do get to Follow a blog for a while.
  • Most blog owners will acquire new Followers very slowly, so they will enjoy checking each new Follower out frequently, and will promptly take action and Block any spammer.
  • Blogs with lots of Followers won't show any given Follower for any amount of time, as newer Followers will replace previous ones in the display.
  • Following a blog requires intentional action by the Follower, and there's very little chance of anybody intentionally surfing to a splog.
  • The payoff from Following is not immediate - your Followers, and surfing activity to your blog, won't happen immediately when you start Following a given blog.
  • The drop in payoff from Following is not immediate - your Followers, and surfing activity to your blog, will continue long after when you start Following a given blog.


Following is simply a way to target your surfing, to connect to others like you, and possibly to help target the surfing of others who surf to your blog. No real blogger will knowingly target his surfing to blogs owned by a spammer (nobody is going to Follow a spammer but another spammer), so it will be difficult for spammers to hide their abuse amidst legitimate blogs, as sploggers have been doing in the Blogosphere and the "Next Blog" links. And since the payoff from Following is a delayed process, no spammer will be able to attack, take his payoff immediately, and ignore his splogs being destroyed after the fact, as he hauls his ill gotten gain to the bank.

So not only is Following less susceptible to abuse, there is probably very little payoff from abusive Following, and no motivation for spammers to attack us through Following.

But, and this here is a big but, this concept will work only with several practices consistently observed.
  1. All bloggers (not spammers) have to believe that a Following neighbourhood can be kept spammer free. We have to use Following for surfing, and complain loudly when a spammer is allowed to appear.
  2. All bloggers have to keep the Followers lists on their blogs spammer free. We have to check out each new Follower on our blogs promptly, and Block anybody with a profile containing links to spam, including both blogs Owned, and Followed.
  3. We have to check out each long term Follower, occasionally, to ensure that he's not a latent spammer, and Block any Follower that starts publishing or Following splogs, and any Follower that allows spammers to Follow him. Informing any clueless Follower, who is Following or being Followed by a latent spammer, would be the polite thing to do.


And as we develop the community of Followers around us, we help provide more surfing opportunity in a universe free from hacking, porn, and spamming. And maybe bring about the end to needing the "Next Blog" link in the Navbar.

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Friday, October 03, 2008

Following - Visit The Blogs That You Follow, From Your Browser, Occasionally

I'm a great believer in cyberspace, and it's use in everyday life. I browse, I chat in online forums, and I chat using Instant Messengers (3 of those). I couldn't do without cyberspace, ever. But sometimes, I like to go places physically, maybe to a restaurant, so I can taste some of the food that I read about during my online activities.

And so it is with Following, which is a sort of cyber-cyberspace community. You can setup relationships with other folks blogs, and theirs with yours (backlinked through your profile), and you can view their blogs using Google Reader. But I like to use my browser occasionally, to view a blog as it's designed to be viewed - through a browser, not through a newsfeed reader.

A newsfeed reader displays a newsfeed - an XML replica of your blog, not the original HTML copy. XML is meant to be viewed by computer programs - newsfeed readers - primarily. When your newsfeed reader detects that a given blog contains something (generally new) that might interest you, you are shown a snippet of an article, with a link to the original HTML copy. You can follow the link to view the web site (blog) in question, in your browser.

Just as there are always going to be differences in the way different browsers render a given web site, there will be differences between how newsfeed readers render a web site, relevant to the way the web site author intended for it to be viewed. Hence the link, in the newsfeed reader, so you can view the web site in your browser.

And using Following is similar. You can Follow a blog, but viewing a blog in your browser is never a bad idea. In many cases, viewing a blog in your browser, as you setup a Following, is a good idea too. When you do that, and hoping that the blog owner was thoughtful and installed a Following gadget in the blog, you simply click on the "Follow This Blog" link, to Follow the blog in question.

Having said that, I will note that I, personally, am generally more inclined to Follow a blog that interests me, when the blog owner has been thoughtful and installed a Followers gadget. I encounter very few blogs that motivate me to manually add a blog, using the Reading List "Add" button. I would bet that I'm not alone here.

It's not like you pay for a gadget. They're free, so live a little - maybe you'll get more readers. Of course, if your blog has a Classic template, you can't have XML based accessories, like the Followers gadget, in your blog. Sorry. Maybe this will be one more reason for you to upgrade to Layouts.

Continuing in my musings, I have to wonder about the need to mass import all of your Google Reader links, so you can Follow each one. Right now, this is not a completely reliable mechanism. Complaints of missed Followings, and duplicate subscriptions, are reported regularly.

And what kind of life do people have, when they are Following dozens of blogs simultaneously? What else do they do, besides Follow blogs, in cyber-cyberspace? So be selective - Follow the blogs that truly interest you, and visit those blogs with your browser, so you can setup the Following. And add the Followers gadget, so folks can Follow your blog, conveniently.

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Thursday, October 02, 2008

AOL Journals Shutting Down Oct. 31, 2008

On Sept 30, 2008, Kelly Wilson of AOL announced to AOL Journals Users - United States
We're sorry to inform you that on Oct. 31, 2008, AOL® Journals will be shut down permanently. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.


Blogger has now created an automated tool for importing from AOL Journals to Blogger. The tool, described in Blogger Help: Importing your blog from AOL Journals to Blogger, sounds fairly intuitive and linear. To help with any possible problems, they have also created a Google Group: Blogger-Help-AOL Import.

A bit of bother will be experienced by those with private journals. You'll have to make the journal public, before you can start the migration. And as AOL Journals works right now, taking a journal from private to public will cause deletion of comments made while it was private. This is a matter that bears correction.

Note: Do you already have a Blogger blog? If you do, just transfer your Journal and make a new blog, then merge the two blogs - either dynamically (blog feeds, iframes, and / or links) or statically (export - import). Right now, the Export - Import wizard is available in Draft (Blue) Blogger only.

But take it easy, and chill just a little. You have until 10/31 (at the earliest). The AOL Journal Transfer utility was just released 10/8. There will be bugs, so give Blogger a chance. They don't work overnight (at least I don't think so).

(Update 10/9): Blogger Support requests that we include the AOL Journal and BlogSpot blog URLs, when reporting any failure of the blog import process.

Further advice is provided about alternative solutions
You certainly may choose to migrate to another blogging service. Since Journals has no built-in exporting function, you'll need to find a blogging service that has the ability to import from AOL Journals.


For right now, it looks like Blogger has thought this one out fairly well.

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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Custom Domain Blogs - October 1, 2008

Like many Blogger blogs that publish to a Google Custom Domain, all blogs in Nitecruzr Dot Net were off the network last night.

The good news is that Blogger Employee Dana, proactively, published an announcement at 23:46 September 30.
Some users are seeing their custom domain blogs forwarding to www.google.com

We are aware of this problem and are working to resolve this issue immediately.
This is a major improvement from malfunctions of this magnitude, and as the problem apparently started around 23:00, this is particularly significant.

The following morning, during the process of re establishing all aliases in the domain, I encountered a couple of old (yes) friends (not)
Another blog is already hosted at this address
and
404 Server Not Found


Some custom domain blogs came back with no problems - others didn't. If you have a blog that didn't, you'll likely see one of the above symptoms.


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