Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Help Diagnose Your Mail-to-Blogger Problems

Mail-to-Blogger, like every Blogger / Google product, malfunctions periodically. Rare is the month when we see no posts
It has been several days now that I have been unable to publish to my blog, using my Mail-to-Blogger address. Is Mail-to-Blogger down again?


In the absence of a flood of complaints from other bloggers, maybe the problem doesn't strictly originate from a Blogger / Google problem. Maybe you can help to identify the problem.

I setup a blog which I publish using Mail-to-Blogger, and when a problem is reported, I can see if the problem is universal or not. Maybe you can help too, by trying some basic troubleshooting techniques. Your ability to use Mail-to-Blogger may benefit.
  • If you're sending email from a cell phone or PDA, try emailing using a desktop computer.
  • If you're sending email using a desktop computer, try using a different computer.
  • Try emailing from another email account, or better, an account on another service.
  • If you're sending photos in the email, try sending a basic, short message with no photos.
These are very simple things to try, and are mostly quite affordable. Try them, while you wait for advice in the online forums.

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Sunday, December 28, 2008

FTP Publishing - December 2008 #2

Last week, we had reports of another old friend
ConnectException: Connection timed out.
That problem was reported to be resolved. Today, we see more reports of the same symptom.

At least one comment implies that the problem being reported to day is not the same as last week. Last week, the symptom of the problem was, in many cases, worked around by changing the host server name from "ftp.mysite.com" to "mysite.com", or vice versa, depending upon its current setting. That may not be the case, this weekend.

Let's continue trying to enumerate the symptoms.
  • The blog BlogSpot URL (if applicable).
  • When was the blog setup in Blogger? (If the blog was published immediately by FTP, say so).
  • The blog domain URL.
  • When was the blog setup for FTP publishing?
  • The name of the server hosting company.
  • The Blogger FTP server setting (name or IP address of the server), in use right now.
  • What operating system, browser, and version of Java do you use?
  • Where are you located, and what ISP do you connect through?


(Update 2009/1/1): It appears that the optimism expressed below may have been premature.

(Update 12/31 9:00): We are told by a Blogger employee that this has been fixed.
The problem should not recur in the short-term, and we will work to ensure that we are far less likely to have this kind of problem in the long-term.


(Update 12/29 17:00): Blogger Employee has now acknowledged the problem
Thanks for hanging in there during this busy time; we're aware of this and still working through some kinks on our side.

I'll make sure to post an update when we have one!


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Saturday, December 27, 2008

How To Use A Proxy Server

This blog is "bloggerstatusforreal.blogspot.com", and is currently accessed through its custom domain URL as "blogging.nitecruzr.net". Depending upon how you are connected to the Internet, you may be able to access it using either, one, or neither URL. Some private and / or public networks, such as schools, private companies, and / or ISPs may filter access to "*.blogspot.com", for one reason or another.

If your access to the Internet is through a network which is subject to filtering, you may be able to access your blog by using a proxy server. Using a proxy server isn't difficult.

Normally, to access this blog post, you
  • Type the URL of the post into the address window in the browser.
  • Hit Enter.
To use a proxy server, you simply add an additional step - you
  • Type the URL of the proxy server into the address window in the browser.
  • Hit Enter.
  • Type the URL of this post into the address window in the proxy server page.
  • Hit Enter, or Go.
From then on, you surf by clicking on any link, as usual.

Nothing mysterious there.

That said, you need to know how to pick a proxy server. Surely, just as fast as you learn to use a proxy server, the operator of the network which blocks BlogSpot is learning and blocking proxy servers. So, have alternatives available.

I currently use the Anonymouse Proxy, in my browsing - and my documentation. You may choose what you like.
  • Click on any one of these links.
  • Paste or type in the blog or website address, where it says to enter the blog or website address.
  • Hit Enter, Go, HideMyAss, or whatever.


To find an infinite, and updated, list of other possible solutions, just Google for "free proxy server", and pick one. Proxy servers, like any web sites, comes and go. Have alternatives, and know how to pick others.

One of the downsides of using a proxy server is increased latency - you may notice that web pages seem to take longer to load, sometimes 2 or 3 times longer. Normally, as you surf the web, you
  • Type the URL of the target web page, into your browser address window (or click on a link from another web page).
  • Wait briefly, while your request is uploaded, to the target web server.
  • Wait a bit longer as the content of the target web page is downloaded, to your computer.
  • View what's been downloaded.
When you view web pages through a proxy server, this is a bit more complicated.
  • Load the proxy server home page.
  • Type the URL of the web page, into the proxy server address window.
  • Wait briefly, while your request is uploaded, to the proxy server.
  • Now, you have to wait for the proxy server.
    • Wait a while, until the proxy server is available to read your request.
    • Wait while your request is uploaded from the proxy server to the target web server.
    • Wait while the target web page is downloaded to the proxy server.
  • Wait still longer as the content of the target web page is downloaded, from the proxy server to your computer.
  • View what's been downloaded.
It's like having to go through another layer of management, to get a project approved at work. You spend too much time waiting.

So use a proxy server, when it's needed. If you use a proxy server simply to isolate your computer from possibly malicious content though, you may benefit more by using a sandbox.

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Friday, December 26, 2008

Preview Mode Isn't An Actual Preview

Occasionally, we see confused queries from bloggers
I setup my blog, and it looks OK in Preview. When I look at it online, it looks like crap. Help!
or
Nothing displays right, using Preview mode. When I look at the blog later in my browser, it looks better, but it is missing details.


And there are examples of bloggers who confuse Preview mode with reality.


Does this look like this post?


When the post is published, it is added to the blog with the template code providing formatting. Under post editor, the template isn't part of the display. See the type face in the picture? In Preview mode, all of the text displays in Times Roman, the Blogger default font. I hate seraph fonts, but in Preview mode, without the template, that's what I'll see for the text.


See the way the text wraps around the photo, where it shouldn't?


One critical difference (for me), between Preview mode and reality, is Preview mode doesn't observe "<br clear=left />". I use that separator after each photo, in my posts. Other people, depending upon what template based features are important to them, may notice other critical differences.

You'll see similar differences, if you look at this post in various feed readers, for instance using your browser feed reader. Feeds don't use the blog template, either, and different feed readers may display the blog content in various ways. Most of us design our blogs and arrange content according to how the published copy, using the template, appears. People using a feed reader in Following, for instance, will have to adapt to the differences.

The confusion here is similar to confusion about display differences caused by multiple browsers. If you want to see what the blog looks like to your readers, you have to publish each post, then view the post in different browsers, and view the blog in various feed readers. That's the only consistent and reliable testing standard.


(Update 2010/09): Preview Mode has been recently improved - and this improvement has brought new challenges for us to accept.

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

FTP Publishing - December 2008

This week, we have reports of another old friend
ConnectException: Connection timed out.


Possibly, this is a recurrence of last month's problem, or maybe an earlier problem.

If you are suffering from this problem, please provide diagnostic information:
  • The blog BlogSpot URL (if applicable).
  • When was the blog setup in Blogger? (If the blog was published immediately by FTP, say so).
  • The blog domain URL.
  • When was the blog setup for FTP publishing?
  • The name of the server hosting company.
  • The Blogger FTP server setting (name or IP address of the server), in use right now.
  • What operating system, browser, and version of Java do you use?
  • Where are you located, and what ISP do you connect through?
If you have other blogs that are not having a problem publishing, the same information may be relevant too. Remember, we're looking for a solution for your problem, so be generous, and precise.

And spend some time reading about possible problems with FTP Publishing. All problems aren't caused by Blogger - sometimes, the host server will cause this symptom, too.


(Update 2010/01/27): We have a new occurrence of this problem, this week.


(Update 2009/1/1): This symptom appears to be repeating itself, yet a second time.

(Update 12/28): This symptom appears to be repeating itself, though with slightly different details being reported.

(Update 12/26): After attention by "John P" (possibly a Blogger employee?), this problem appears to be fixed
The problem has now been fixed. Sorry for the trouble.


(Update 12/25): I have seen some comments from bloggers who state that changing the name of the host server, from "ftp.mysite.com" to "mysite.com" resolved their problem. If your server name is not of that form, I'm not sure that will do you any good, though.

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Monday, December 22, 2008

Backing Up The Blogger Gadgets

As our blogs become more a part of us, and we connect more to our friends and their blogs, we use more gadgets that connect our blogs to our friends blogs. Things like lists, bloglists, and linklists become larger, and become more important in our blogs.

Responsible practices, as bloggers, include backing up our blogs and their contents. Backing up the comments, the posts, and the template, are all possible, and all are a good idea. Unfortunately, the gadgets such as lists, bloglists, and linklists aren't part of the posts (they aren't blog content), and neither are they part of the template (they aren't blog structure).

So occasionally, we hear the plaintive cry
I just deleted my blog. I had the posts exported to an .xml file, and I back up my template regularly, but what about the blogroll in my sidebar? Oh no!!!
and right now, we have no answer to that. Other than
Start over.
or
Maybe Blogger Support will restore the blog - if you are patient enough.


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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Custom Domain, SubDomains, and Virtual Hosts

Having multiple blogs in a custom domain is a simple matter, but like all custom domain details, it's rigid in its simplicity. A custom domain array consists of a home blog, plus any number of alternate blogs. These alternate blogs are generally setup as virtual hosts, using "CNAME" referrals to "ghs.google.com".

A single domain can include any number of virtual hosts, in an array. If you want to organise your virtual hosts in separate groups, each group administered by a different individual or organisation, you setup subdomains. Each subdomain can be hosted on the same or different DNS server(s) as the main domain, and can be administered separately, with no interference between the subdomains.

Adding virtual hosts to your domain is simple - one more virtual host is simply one (or possibly, two) more "CNAME" to "ghs.google.com". Adding subdomains to your domain, on the other hand, is a bit more work - and should be done only if you're comfortable with DNS administration. Make it easy on yourself - stick to setting up virtual hosts, and leave the task of setting up the subdomains to those with complex administrative structures, like enterprise complex organisations.

For more insight about subdomains and virtual hosts, see

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One Blog, Multiple URLs

Having multiple blogs in a custom domain is a simple matter, with a custom domain array. Sometimes, you may want to publish just one blog, but use multiple domain URLs for that blog.

There are several ways to get what you want - each represent subtle variations from the standard custom domain array model, that are occasionally confused with each other. The variations will produce completely different results, so consider these details carefully.

To get the total picture here, you may want to review proper domain configurations.

Not all DNS hosts will support each of the solutions, described here. Make sure that the support technician at your registrar understands what you need, and if offered an alternative solution, consider the offering with great care. Be prepared to assert your needs, and escalate the issue to a supervisor, if necessary.

One Domain, Two URLs, Two Blogs, Separate Content Displayed In Each Blog

One domain can have a home blog, accompanied by any number of virtual hosts. You will need a separate blog for each virtual host in the domain, and each blog has to be published to the URL of the specific virtual host.
First, setup the domain root. Symmetrical configuration.

mydomain.com. 3600 IN CNAME ghs.google.com.
www.mydomain.com. 3600 IN CNAME ghs.google.com.

Publish a blog to either "mydomain.com" or "www.mydomain.com".

Or asymmetrical configuration.

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.

Here, you can only publish a blog to "www.mydomain.com".


Note very carefully here. An "A" / "CNAME" referral has to point to the primary address for the blog. In the above example, the blog has to be published to either "mydomain.com" or "www.mydomain.com". An "A" / "CNAME" referral to a non published URL is useless, and will not substitute for a "301 Moved Permanently" redirect to the published URL.


Next, setup a virtual host.

blog.mydomain.com. 3600 IN CNAME ghs.google.com.
www.blog.mydomain.com. 3600 IN CNAME ghs.google.com.

Then, publish a second blog to either "blog.mydomain.com" or "www.blog.mydomain.com".

If you want to have both the domain root, and one or more virtual hosts, you'll need multiple blogs published in Blogger.
  1. One published to either "mydomain.com" or "www.mydomain.com".
  2. One published to either "blog.mydomain.com" or "www.blog.mydomain.com".

But what if you want one blog, alternately addressed as either "mydomain.com" or "blog.mydomain.com"? First, setup the primary URL, as above.

mydomain.com. 3600 IN CNAME ghs.google.com.
www.mydomain.com. 3600 IN CNAME ghs.google.com.

Again, publish a blog to either "mydomain.com" or "www.mydomain.com". And again, "mydomain.com" and "www.mydomain.com" wil be the primary / secondary URL pair. Now, consider the options.

You can combine the two virtual hosts, and the separate existences of "blog.mydomain.com" and "www.mydomain.com", using either a "301 Moved Permanently", an iframe, or a "CNAME" referral. The variations produce completely different results, so consider them carefully.

One Domain, Two URLs, One Blog

If you want to use the same blog for "blog.mydomain.com" and "www.mydomain.com", you'll generally use a "301 Moved Permanently", or a "302 Moved Temporarily", at the DNS Host, with the alternate URL(s) redirected to the primary URL.
  • With a "301", the alternate URL will redirect to the primary URL, transparently. Any alternate URLs will never be seen, they will only land the reader at the primary URL - if your readers click on a link using the alternate URL, they will see the blog, but under the primary URL.

    If you depend upon having the blog indexed by the search engines, you will want this choice. The search engines will index only the primary URL, and all will be well.

  • With a "302", the alternate URLs will redirect to the primary URL, but not transparently. The alternate URL will have as much visibility as the primary URL - if your readers click on a link using the alternate URL, they will see the blog, under the alternate URL.

    If you depend upon having the blog indexed by the search engines, you won't want this choice. The search engines will index both the primary and alternate URLs, they will see this as "duplicate content", and both URLs will be penalised.
If you're going to use a "301" or "302", choose carefully.

Two Domains, Two URLs, One Blog

A variation on the above configuration would have a second domain, substituted for the virtual host, directed to the first domain. Again, you will want to use a "301 Moved Permanently" redirect, to the primary URL.

One Domain, Two URLs, Two Blogs, Same Content Displayed In Both Blogs

A third alternative would be to have multiple blogs in the custom domain cluster (as in the solution discussed at the top), each blog published to a separate virtual host in the domain. If you want to duplicate the content of one blog in another blog, use an iframe in one blog, sourced from the other blog. Your readers will view the alternate blog, as the alternate URL, and see the content from the primary blog. The search engines won't look at the content of the iframe, your secondary blog won't have much content, and all will be well.

One Domain, Two URLs, Two Blogs, A Spurious Variation

An interesting variation on the first setup is to have a "CNAME" referral from one virtual host to the other.

blog.mydomain.com. 3600 IN CNAME www.mydomain.com.

Then, the normal "CNAME" referral of the second virtual host to Google.

www.mydomain.com. 3600 IN CNAME ghs.google.com.


This produces the same final result as a pair of consecutive "CNAME" referrals!

blog.mydomain.com. 3600 IN CNAME www.mydomain.com.
www.mydomain.com. 3600 IN CNAME ghs.google.com.

The one difference is that the first variation requires two DNS lookups instead of one.
  1. Lookup of "blog.mydomain.com" (which says "Look at www.mydomain.com").
  2. Lookup of "www.mydomain.com" (which says "Look at ghs.google.com").

If your readers are interested in "blog.mydomain.com", have them look, directly, at "blog.mydomain.com" referred to "ghs.google.com".

blog.mydomain.com. 3600 IN CNAME ghs.google.com.


Choose your blog clustering carefully, according to what you want your readers, and the search engines, to see. Don't use spurious variations.

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Saturday, December 20, 2008

Custom Domain Publishing, And Something Completely Different

Setting up a Google Custom Domain is not a complicated task, when you understand that, for all its simplicity, it is uncompromisingly rigid in its simplicity. There are but 2 or 3 possible solutions that will work properly. Much time is spent dealing with alternate solutions that won't work properly, in the long run.

Unfortunately, until Blogger fixes all of the problems that cause the "Server Not Found Error 404" symptom, even the righteous solutions will sometimes come up with the "404" symptom.

Here's an excerpted HTTP trace of a typical "Server Not Found Error 404" symptom. You may wish to compare this with a similar trace, but for a working domain.

Sending request:

GET / HTTP/1.1
Host: mydomain.com
User-Agent: Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 5.1; en-US; rv:
1.8.1.18) Gecko/20081029 Firefox/2.0.0.18
Connection: close

• Finding host IP address...
• Host IP address = 209.85.171.121
• Finding TCP protocol...
• Binding to local socket...
• Connecting to host...
• Sending request...
• Waiting for response...
Receiving Header:
HTTP/1.1·302·Moved·Temporarily(CR)(LF)

Sending request:

GET / HTTP/1.1
Host: www.mydomain.com
User-Agent: Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 5.1; en-US; rv:
1.8.1.18) Gecko/20081029 Firefox/2.0.0.18
Connection: close

• Finding host IP address...
• Host IP address = 209.85.171.121
• Finding TCP protocol...
• Binding to local socket...
• Connecting to host...
• Sending request...
• Waiting for response...
Receiving Header:
HTTP/1.1·404·Not·Found(CR)(LF)

There we see the secondary URL redirected, by "302 Moved Temporarily", to the primary URL (which is the URL to which the blog is published). Attempt to access the primary URL returns the "404".

Here, it matters not the style of the DNS configuration - I've seen Symmetrical, Asymmetrical, and Virtual Host configurations, with the primary URL being either the domain root, or the alias - and the "404" can be seen in all possible combinations.

And now, for something completely different, seen starting today.

Sending request:

GET / HTTP/1.1
Host: mydomain.com
User-Agent: Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 5.1; en-US; rv:
1.8.1.20) Gecko/20081217 Firefox/2.0.0.20
Connection: close

• Finding host IP address...
• Host IP address = 216.239.34.21
• Finding TCP protocol...
• Binding to local socket...
• Connecting to host...
• Sending request...
• Waiting for response...
Receiving Header:
HTTP/1.1·404·Not·Found(CR)(LF)

---

Sending request:

GET / HTTP/1.1
Host: www.mydomain.com
User-Agent: Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 5.1; en-US; rv:
1.8.1.20) Gecko/20081217 Firefox/2.0.0.20
Connection: close

• Finding host IP address...
• Host IP address = 209.85.171.121
• Finding TCP protocol...
• Binding to local socket...
• Connecting to host...
• Sending request...
• Waiting for response...
Receiving Header:
HTTP/1.1·404·Not·Found(CR)(LF)

Here, we see the secondary URL returning the "404" without the redirect of "302 Moved Temporarily" being involved. Either Blogger has developed a way for the secondary URL to fail in the same way that the primary URL is failing (dual, symmetrical failures), or there is a new problem altogether which affects both URLs identically.

It will be interesting to see what develops over the next few days.

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Everybody Makes Mistakes

In February 2008, out of necessity, I developed (using publicly available code) my on-the-fly multi-lingual translator applet, which you can see in the top of the sidebar. When originally developed, the applet offered a dozen or so languages, a population which has now grown to 34, from several enhancements.

Some time ago, I became aware of an anomaly which bothered me mildly - if you were viewing an archived post in your blog, and you used the translator, you would get a nicely translated copy of the main page of the blog, not of the archived post. In other words, if you had attempted to translate Make Your Blog Speak More Languages, you would, none the less (today) have gotten a translation of Importing / Exporting Blog Contents Now In Production (Orange) Blogger.

This was slightly annoying, but just one more oddity which I never took the time to research. Until today.

To shorten this narrative somewhat, today I found a small code error which caused the anomaly. If you acquired this applet from the original post Make Your Blog Speak More Languages, your copy will probably have this code problem, too. Fortunately, it's a simple correction, in the header section of the applet code.

<form action="http://www.google.com/translate">

<script language="javascript" type="text/javascript">

<!--

document.write ("<input name=u value="+location.href+" type=hidden>")

// -->

</script><input value="http://blogging.nitecruzr.net/" name="u" type="hidden"/>

<noscript><input value="http://blogging.nitecruzr.net/" name="u" type="hidden"/></noscript>

<input value="en" name="hl" type="hidden"/>

<input value="UTF8" name="ie" type="hidden"/>

<input value="" name="langpair" type="hidden"/>

<input onclick="this.form.langpair.value=this.value" title="Andorran / Catalan" value="en|ca" type="image" height="20" src="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/__v4nth5_ki0/SP-fM7vwhSI/AAAAAAAAHl0/ZoZkfhEb01M/s320/Andorra+-+Catalan+-+ad_flag.png" width="30" name="langpair"/>

...

</form>

<a href="http://blogging.nitecruzr.net/2008/02/make-your-blog-speak-more-languages.html"><span style="font-weight:bold;">What Are These?</span></a>

If your blog is using the code which I provided, you may wish to look in your applet code for the snippet highlighted above, and remove it. I think that will make the applet then reliably translate whatever individual post (archive, label search, what have you) rather than simply the blog main page.

Everybody makes mistakes, sorry about that.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Importing / Exporting Blog Contents Now In Production

For a long time, bloggers have been asking for the ability to transfer blog contents - comments and posts - from blog to blog.

Last week, Blogger announced that feature recently added to Production Blogger.
Today’s release features a brand new graduate from the Blogger in Draft testing ground: Import and Export for Blogger blogs.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

A Blog Recently Made Private Won't Be So, Immediately

Occasionally, we see the plaintive query
I just changed my blog so only my friends should be able to read the posts. My visitor log shows unknown visitors though. What is going on - has someone hacked my blog?
and there we see a question from someone who doesn't know about search engine cache.

If you make your blog private, the search engines won't index your newer posts, but what's already indexed will stay in cache. And if someone sees a search page entry, and clicks on it, they'll get (among other things) "View Cached Content", and they'll read the cached posts.

The search engines won't care that you made the blog private. This will be similar to a deleted blog - you can delete, or make the blog private, and what's in cache will stay in cache. And you'll keep getting readers, to the cached posts.

When you make your blog private, the "robots.txt" file is updated. Here's a copy of the file for this blog, "blogging.nitecruzr.net", which is public (you are here - D'ohh).

User-agent: Mediapartners-Google
Disallow:

User-agent: *
Disallow: /search
Noindex: /feedReaderJson

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

And in comparison, here's the file for "private1.nitecruzr.net", which is private. If you don't have access to this blog, you won't see anything.

User-agent: Mediapartners-Google
Disallow:

User-agent: *
Disallow: /search
Noindex: /feedReaderJson
Disallow: /

There are two differences here.
  1. The sitemap for "blogging.notecruzr.net".
    Sitemap: http://blogging.nitecruzr.net/feeds/posts/default?orderby=updated
    which isn't present in "private1.nitecruzr.net", since private blogs have no feeds, and no sitemaps.

  2. Search engine spiders are forbidden access to private blogs.
    Disallow: /
The "robots.txt" file is voluntary, though, and not all spiders honour it. A disobedient spider could index your blog, and again the posts will end up in cache.

And there's a third issue here. New readers will use the search engines (and possibly "View cached content"), but your established readers will have the blog bookmarked and cached on their computers. Until the cache expires on their computers, they'll see your blog, too. And, they will continue to trigger the visitor meters.

So, if you make your blog private, after it's been well known for a while, don't expect your visitor meters to go immediately to zero. And be aware that a private blog may still be visible to uninvited guests.

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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Nobody Is Guaranteed The Blog URL Of Their Chosen Relevance

Almost daily, somebody writes in great anguish a complaint like
How can some one use my FCC licensed callsign and set up a blog on Blogger?

I even sent in proof that I am who I claim to be, including my drivers license and my FCC license.
as if (USA government assigned) FCC callsigns (or personal nicknames, or mothers maiden name, or whatever) have any significance in the Blogosphere.

Anybody is free to setup a blog, using any available URL, and publish anything legal and within limits of Blogger TOS. If someone else sets up a blog using your auto license (issued in what country?), tough, you can't have a URL that's taken.

Don't waste time whining about how Blogger won't email the current owner, and ask them if they would be willing to give you control of the URL. Whether the blog has one post daily for the last 5 years, or 0 posts total, Blogger won't get involved.

Pick another URL, and get to work making your URL well known.

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Friday, December 12, 2008

Custom Domain Publishing, And Google Apps - December, 2008

In last month, I wrote about the details of the first change to the Asymmetrical (aka Google Apps) Custom Domain configuration, since June 2008. The Asymmetrical configuration started out as a trio of DNS servers, providing addressing for the domain root (aka "naked domain").

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

In November 2008, "66.249.81.121" was removed from service, giving us a pair.

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

Now, it appears that "64.233.179.121" is gone, too.

C:\>ping 64.233.179.121

Pinging 64.233.179.121 with 32 bytes of data:

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

Ping statistics for 64.233.179.121:
Packets: Sent = 4, Received = 0, Lost = 4 (100% loss),


We see numerous reports this week like
I've been using a custom domain successfully for the last 8 months. I purchased a custom domain name through Google. This afternoon I started noticing that every other page load of any blog page started showing:

Server not found
Error 404

An excerpted HTTP trace confirms our suspicion.

Sending request:

GET / HTTP/1.1
Host: mydomain.com
User-Agent: Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 5.1; en-US; rv:1.8.1.18) Gecko/20081029 Firefox/2.0.0.18
Connection: close

• Finding host IP address...
• Host IP address = 64.233.179.121
• Finding TCP protocol...
• Binding to local socket...
• Connecting to host...
Maximum execution time of 15 seconds exceeded!
Done


Now, we have one Google Apps DNS server left.

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

Soon, I believe, we'll be told to use the new Google Apps Engine servers.

mydomain.com. 1800 IN A 216.239.32.21
mydomain.com. 1800 IN A 216.239.34.21
mydomain.com. 1800 IN A 216.239.36.21
mydomain.com. 1800 IN A 216.239.38.21
www.mydomain.com. 3600 IN CNAME ghs.google.com.


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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Deleting Your Blog

The process of deleting your blog has been a challenging issue for some time.

Prepare for the deletion first. Consider the issues.All of these issues bear discussion, before you start.

The deletion process itself is not complicated. Start from the dashboard Settings - Other screen.


There's the link - "Delete blog" - right at the top of the screen. Easy to find, and to click on.



Having clicked on the link, we get a good stern warning.
Deleted blogs can be restored within 90 days before they are removed forever.
Plain enough?


And a link to let you export the blog contents, before deleting the blog. I'd export first, any time. Just note, you will be able to restore the blog for up to 90 days after deletion - and then, never.

Note that the blog may disappear from your dashboard - but removing it from the search engines may take some planning. If you truly want to get rid of a blog (or the URL, anyway), you have 2 just choices:
  1. Transfer control of the blog to someone else, carefully.
  2. Make the blog into a stub, then re publish the stub under another URL.


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Removing The Navbar From Your Blog

The Navbar, and the Next Blog link, are great blog accessories, and make your blog part of the Blogosphere. Not all blogs need the navbar though, and not all blog readers appreciate a blog with the navbar on it. Blogger recently admitted that we are permitted to hide it on our blogs, if necessary.


(Update 2009/11/12): With the new "Next Blog" link, and the transparent navbar design, do you really feel obligated to do this?

Note that all that you can do, here, is prevent the navbar from being visible. The code still exists, in the blog template; the navbar simply isn't visible when the blog is displayed.

Fortunately, hiding it isn't difficult. With the new Designer templates, just Edit the Navbar gadget, in the dashboard Layout wizard. You'll have a selection, "Off", at the bottom of the color selections. Save, and you're done.

A useful alternative to hiding the navbar - especially if you find the various links useful - is to make the navbar transparent. The Navbar gadget color palette includes two useful colors - "Transparent Light", and "Transparent Dark". You may find one of those settings more useful than "Off".

You'll have a little work, if your blog does not have the right template. Just add some extra CSS code in the template. I find that adding the required code right at the bottom of the Header section works best. You're welcome to put yours anywhere you wish, and not all bloggers agree where to do so, when they find it necessary to hide the navbar.

Find the 3 lines of code shown below, that are in the template now, and add the first line of code to immediately precede them. This will be at the end of the blog header, just before the blog body. In a normal template, and without "Expand Widget Templates" selected, this will be maybe 4/5 towards the bottom of the template. Backup the template, before, and after, you make this modification!
#navbar-iframe {height:0px;visibility:hidden;display:none} <== Add this line,
]]></b:skin> <== immediately above
</head> <== these 3 lines,
<body> <== that are already there.

Some templates may work better using

#navbar {height:0px;visibility:hidden;display:none} <== Add this line,
]]></b:skin> <== immediately above
</head> <== these 3 lines,
<body> <== that are already there.

With a Designer template, this is simple enough. From the Template Designer wizard, the Advanced - "Add CSS" option lets you add code.
#navbar-iframe {height:0px;visibility:hidden;display:none}
or
#navbar {height:0px;visibility:hidden;display:none}
That's all that you need. See my Musings blog, as a demonstration.

With a Classic template, the code may be different.
#navbar-iframe {height:0px;visibility:hidden;display:none} <== Add this line,
</style> <== immediately above
</head> <== these 3 lines,
<body> <== that are already there.


Some classic templates (possibly some Layouts templates, too) may look better with one additional tweak. The Blogger supplied CSS library may include code that gives the Header container a top margin of 50px, to allow room for the navbar. If your blog uses a patterned or coloured background in the body, you'll have a noticeable blank area at the top. If this is a problem for you, add one additional CSS rule.
#navbar-iframe {height:0px;visibility:hidden;display:none} <== Add this line,
body #header {margin-top:0px !important;} <== and this line,
</style> <== immediately above
</head> <== these 3 lines,
<body> <== that are already there.

If the top container in your blog template isn't "header", you'll have to do some checking. Some templates have an additional container "header-wrapper" for instance. And not all templates reserve vertical space for the navbar. But for those that do, you now know where to start looking. Firefox with Firebug is a great tool, in this case.

And here's a neat variation on the above. If your objection to the navbar is its looks, how about a navbar that's only visible when the mouse is moved over top of it?
#navbar-iframe{opacity:0.0;filter:alpha(Opacity=0);} <== Add this line,
#navbar-iframe:hover{opacity:1.0;filter:alpha(Opacity=100,FinishedOpacity=100);} <== and this line,
</style> <== immediately above
</head> <== these 3 lines,
<body> <== that are already there.


This does not work in all browsers, but Firefox has no problem with it. You can see this in action in my Miscellaneous Musings blog, and in my home blog Nitecruzr Dot Net.


Note, please, that if you copy the above lines of code and paste them into your template, the comments above, such as "<== Add this line," and "<== and this line,", must be removed. Do not copy the comments.

And note, above, my anal insistence that you install the customising code immediately preceding the existing </style> tag. This is so it's easy to locate the added code. If you decide, one day, that you need the navbar back, it is then easy to find the code that you need to remove.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A Second Small Step Towards A Cleaner Blog

A few days ago, I witnessed a transient implementation of a feature that many bloggers have been asking Blogger for, for quite a while. With any blog of any decent size, almost everybody has a few posts that really should be removed. But who has the patience to delete each post, one at a time? Until today, that would be how you would delete multiple posts - one post, then another, and another.

Not now.


I select 3 posts to be deleted.



I hit the "Delete Selected" button, and get a simple yet serious warning.



I hit the "OK" button, and now they are gone.


Quick, and easy.

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There Are No Abandoned URLs Available For Re-Use

Every day, some hopeful blogger innocently asks
Many people have a great idea for a blog only to find the name of the blog has already been taken, except these bloggers have created the page, put no content in it, and leaving no contact infomation.

This leaves the individual who wants the name of their blog at a complete loss.

as if Blogger will simply reverse their BHG FAQ statement (look under Custom Domains, FTP Publishing, & other URL Issues)
4.) This blog address looks abandoned – can I have the URL?
Sorry, no can do. After a blog is deleted, the subdomain is reserved for the previous owner of the URL to reclaim if he/she so chooses. People claim blogs after years without use more often than you would think.
and their earlier Blogger Help answer
Blogger accounts and Blog*Spot addresses do not expire.
I don't think that Blogger can have a more universally fair, and supportable, policy than that.

If the URL is taken, it's taken. You can't have it, unless you are able to contact the owner directly. Don't waste everybody's time, claiming to be the owner who needs the blog deleted, but cannot remember the account name or password.

Find another URL. Don't waste your time, repeatedly asking for an "abandoned" URL (or possibly, just deleted), when you could be taking another that's available, working on your new blog, and building its reputation.

The reputation of your blog isn't built on the URL, it's built on content, relevant to the needs of the readers. Get to work, build your blog, and build its reputation. And use an available URL.

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Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Custom Domain Publishing, And New Google Apps Accounts

Most custom domain setup procedures focus on buying a new domain using the Settings wizard for the blog, or publishing your blog to an existing domain. When you see the well known error
Another blog is already hosted at this address
you're going to have to use Google Apps. If you're publishing to an existing domain, and the domain was purchased through "Buy A Domain For Your Blog", you'll already have a Google Apps account for your domain - just find and read the email. If you didn't use "Buy A Domain", you'll have to set a Google Apps account up - and this is the time to do so.

If your domain isn't registered in Google Apps, use the Google Apps Sign Up wizard. Here, you have the option of buying a new domain (similar to "Buy A Domain", except you don't have to associate your Blogger blog immediately), or registering an existing domain.

If you select the latter, you have to prove your ownership of the domain in question, by adding a "CNAME" or "TXT" record to the domain DNS. The Google Apps wizard will give you the precise settings needed, which will let you prove ownership of your domain.

Once the existence of the new virtual host is verified by Google Apps, your account is setup for your domain, and your ability to manage your domain. Now, you can do necessary things like recycling the domain settings, and nice things like setting up email for your domain.

If there's already a Google Apps account associated with the domain (whether you or someone else previously set one up), you'll get an error.
This domain has already been registered with Google Apps. Please contact your domain administrator for instructions on using Google Apps with this domain.
When you see this, you'll need help from the Google Apps forum, so you can use the existing account and login to Google Apps.

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Sunday, December 07, 2008

Your Blog, Custom Domains, And Righteous Solutions

A Blogger / Google Custom Domain is reasonably simple to setup - when you understand that custom domain design uses three rigidly defined models, in the DNS addressing.

A lot of the trouble, that many blog owners experience, comes from doing it their own way.

Your Blog, Custom Domains, And Spurious Solutions

To publish your Blogger blog to a non-BlogSpot URL, yet on a Google server (which gives you the ability to use dynamic HTML and a Layouts template), you setup a Google Custom Domain. Custom Domain publishing is very simple to setup - when you understand how simple it is, when you get it right - and how agonisingly complex it is, when you do not understand.

Some bloggers just give up, and look for simpler solutions.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

The Blogger WishList

I setup my first Blogger blog with a Layouts template - The Real Blogger Status - Beta - in August 2006, and converted this blog to Layouts in early 2007. Since then, Blogger has developed Layouts Blogger, and made some great changes, to smooth out what started out very roughly.

But, there are still improvements to be made. Some, badly needed.

Open In A New Window. Blogs are simply specialised web sites, and one of the benefits of web sites is that they are designed to be linked, one to another, in endless chains. Many people, myself included, like to open a new window, for any links that lead to other web sites. This is a convenience to my readers - they can read my web site as they read another web site which provides complimentary information. And after they finish reading the other web site, they simply close the window, and they are back here.

Blogger gadgets and scripts don't provide for this need, unfortunately. Scripts like image embedding in post editor, and gadgets like the BlogList and LinkList, don't let you select "Open links in a new window". If we want images, or links, to open in a new window, we have to code HTML. This helps necessitate the "Edit HTML" mode in post editor, and forces us to add a linklist as raw HTML, in an HTML gadget, when we add linklists with links opening in a new tab / window, to our sidebar.

Use the Blogger Wishlist - let Blogger know what improvements are needed.

(Update 2009/5/15): The wishlist functionality was briefly provided, and suggestions were vigorously discussed, in the Blogger Enhancements Discussion AppsSpot forum.

(Update 2009/4/17): The Blogger WishList form appears to be gone, possibly replaced by the Blogger Help Survey form.

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Friday, December 05, 2008

Custom Domains, DNS, and Latency

One of the least understood details about Google Custom Domains is the need to wait, when setting up, or when making changes to, the DNS addressing for the domain.

This is important, before publishing the blog within Blogger, or telling our readers about our new non-BlogSpot blog. Daily, we see anxious queries
I just used the "Buy a Domain For My Blog" wizard, and paid for my domain with my credit card. The credit card company confirmed the charge. But I see that it's "In Transition"??
or
You told me how to fix my DNS problem, and I did just what you told me. But I don't see my changes when I Dig the addresses for my domain. I know that I made the changes!

What is going on here? Why do I have to wait, unpredictably?

Thursday, December 04, 2008

A Small Step Towards A Cleaner Blog

I was just routinely loading a short list in my "Edit Posts" screen, and in this case a list that didn't fill up the entire screen. This left the bottom of the screen visible. And, I spied two new bits of colour at the bottom, that I never saw before.


It didn't look like an April Fools joke.


But before I could try it out, it was gone.


Watch your screens - I bet it will be back. It's just not here, right now.


Thanks for the rush, Blogger.

(Update 12/10): I was right - it came back. Looks permanent, now.

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Why Isn't Blogger Solving "Another blog or Google Site is already using this address."?

Along with the similar cry, "Why Isn't Google Solving The Server Not Found Error 404 Issue?", this is a concern of many blog owners.

Many blog owners only want to publish to their newly setup non-BlogSpot URL, and have their readers able to access their blogs. Like the answer to the latter question, the answer to this question is simple.
Google is solving "the problem". One problem, at a time.

The error message "Another blog or Google Site is already using this address." (and similar phrasings) is a symptom of many different problems. Solution of the symptom may involve several differently possible scenarios.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Schizophrenia And Custom Domain URLs - December 2008

Last month, I reported an oddity in custom domain publishing - the observation that, for some domains, the selection
Redirect mydomain.com to www.mydomain.com.
was apparently treated as selected, even if not so, by some custom domain scripts.

A number of bloggers reported seeing "Server Not Found Error 404" for custom domains that had been operational for some time, and subsequently revealed that they were only publishing to "www.mydomain.com", with no DNS address definition for "mydomain.com".

In the latter cases, my advice would be
  1. Add a DNS address definition for "mydomain.com" (or "www.mydomain.com", as necessary).
  2. Wait for the appropriate TTL latency period to expire.
  3. Publish the blog back to BlogSpot, then forward to "www.mydomain.com" again.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Do You Really Want To Delete Your Custom Domain Published Blog?

Now that custom domain publishing is becoming progressively more popular, a different class of bloggers are using it - bloggers who are more concerned about the aesthetics or content of the blog, rather than merely the shiny non-BlogSpot URL. Occasionally, we see a report
I setup my blog, and published it to my domain. Then I decided that I didn't like what I was writing about (the looks of the blog, the way it was organised, whatever ...). So, I deleted the blog. Today, I decided to try again using my domain, just a different subject (style, design, ...), so I setup a new blog. But lo, when I try to publish the new blog to the domain, I get (drumroll, please)
Another blog is already hosted at this address.
Now what do I do?


In a perfect world, the Blogger script that processes deletion of a blog would include finding and removing all custom domain linkages. Having deleted a custom domain published blog, the domain entry in the Google database would be clean and shiny, and ready for another blog immediately. Blogger staff being human, that won't always (seldom) happen. The deletion process, run against a custom domain published blog, will leave database artifacts, that will later provide another example of
Another blog is already hosted at this address.


If you're going to delete a blog that involves a custom domain, do it properly.Separate the custom domain reversal process from the blog deletion process.

Similarly, if you're going to change one published blog for another, in the same non-BlogSpot URL, publish the first blog back to BlogSpot, and make sure that it's working as a BlogSpot blog. Then, publish the second blog in place of the first, to the domain.

If you ignored my advice, or if this advice comes too late for you, and you just deleted your custom domain published blog, sorry. Now, and since you're here reading this, it's probably time to dust off the old "Another blog is already hosted at this address." reset procedures, and / or the Custom Domain Reset Form.

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Monday, December 01, 2008

Following - The Limitations

As the Following product matures, and many blogs gain significantly large quantities of Followers, we occasionally see the anxious query
My blogs now has nn Followers, but I can only see 18 pictures. What happened to the others?


More and more bloggers are discovering an odd limitation of the Followers gadget - it shows a maximum of 18 Followers. As your blog gains a new Follower, you lose the icon of the oldest Follower, previously displayed, from the display.

Obviously, the more popular blogs don't want to show all Followers - some blogs would have their entire sidebar reduced to one big cloud of icons, were that so. It would be nice, though, if we could select the number of icons which we wish to display.

A second limitation to Following is that we can only Follow up to 300 blogs, at any time. This is simply a Following limitation, that prevents our advertising ourselves on more than 300 blogs - which I cannot see as a bad idea, since Following should involve some activity by you. You can subscribe to as many blogs (and / or web sites) as you wish - there is no limit on subscriptions.

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