Saturday, January 31, 2009

Moving From FTP Publishing, To Custom Domain Publishing

If you currently have a blog published to a remote server, using FTP, and you want to change the blog to publish to a custom domain hosted on a Google server, moving the blog to a Google server isn't terribly complicated, but it does take a small amount of planning. One of the small details, which may affect your success in the move, involves a possible change in the URL, for the individual posts.

If the blog has a BlogSpot URL of "myblog.blogspot.com", and it's published to "mydomain.com/blog", there's a "301 Redirect" for "myblog.blogspot.com", to "mydomain.com/blog". If you move to publishing to "blog.mydomain.com", "myblog.blogspot.com" will be likewise redirected to "blog.mydomain.com".

From the quick look there, any move from FTP to custom domain publishing should be transparent. And it is, if only the root of the blog / domain is considered.

If you use Permalinks, each post has its own URL, too. Now, we have complications. This post, published to an external server by FTP, might have a URL of "nitecruzr.net/blogging/2009/01/moving-from-ftp-publishing.html". If you're giving out that URL, you'll want that URL to refer to a similar URL when the blog is published to the Google server, as "blogging.nitecruzr.net/2009/01/moving-from-ftp-publishing.html". You're going to have to set this up on the remote server yourself though, as it's not a Blogger provided setting.
  1. If the blog is currently published as "mydomain.com/subfolder", so a post written this month is published as "mydomain.com/subfolder/2009/01/my-post.html", and you republish it under a custom domain as "subfolder.mydomain.com/2009/01/my-post.html" etc, and
  2. All posts are currently published as HTML, not PHP, on the remote server, AND
  3. You have DNS control of the server.

Then you MAY be able to use a "301 Redirect" of "mydomain.com/subfolder/" to "subfolder.mydomain.com". If you understand how to setup a "301 Moved Permanently".

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Swapping URLs Between Two Blogs

Sometimes, you have 2 blogs - and you decide that maybe the content (comments, reader population, structure) of one blog would really be better published under the URL of the other blog.

Maybe you want to keep both blogs, so deleting one would be stupid. The good news is that swapping the two is not all that difficult (though if either blog is mature, you really should plan this change).
  1. Make sure that both blogs are owned by the same Blogger account.
  2. Re publish Blog A to a temporary URL (we will call URL 3).
  3. Re publish Blog B to the former URL of Blog A (we will call URL 1).
  4. Re publish Blog A to the former URL of Blog B (we will call URL 2).
Simple? Yes, for me - Maybe, for you - Not so, for everybody.

Major Paranoia By Google Search Engine

Today marked yet another milestone in the ability of Google to make a mistake, admit to the mistake, and fix the mistake on the same day (and on a weekend morning even).


Seen all over the web.




Affecting my blog, "networking.nitecruzr.net" (among millions of others).




Even, affecting WikiPedia.



Supposedly, identified and fixed less than an hour after discovered. Apparently, this resolution is in the magnitude of the bx-sp4hmm error of 28 February 2007.

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Friday, January 30, 2009

Welcome To The Nitecruzr.Net Blogging Forum

By popular request, and as an extension to my commenting policy, I have now added a forum for discussion of all Blogging related issues.

Spammers, don't waste your time - the forum will be moderated - aggressively.

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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Internet Explorer Version 6 and the Content Warning Interstitial Screen

This month, we have yet another episode in the saga of bloggers and the interstitial warning screens. This episode appears to involve bloggers with blogs issuing a Content Warning (whether voluntary or involuntary), and having readers using Internet Explorer Version 6.


This is what some bloggers see, when viewing their blogs, sometimes after Accepting the Content Warning interstitial advice, other times this is shown immediately.




Interestingly enough, the blog source (somewhat munged in this example) looks normal.



Some bloggers have implied that their blog is under Content Warning, but they don't see the interstitial. If the interstitial advice has to be accepted, for a reader to view the blog, and the interstitial isn't presented for acceptance, the blog won't be seen. D'ohh. That may be part of the problem.

If you're experiencing this frustration, help us out, please. (Can anybody guess what question #1 should be?)??
  1. What is the URL of the problem blog?
  2. Which browsers have you tried (name and version are essential here!)?
  3. Exactly what do you observe? Be precise here, please.
    • An error message (If so, what complete and exact message?)?
    • A blank screen?
    • The background of the blog, but no text?
    • Some blog content, but not all?
  4. Which browsers do work, and which browsers do not work, for the blog with the problem?
  5. Is this your blog, and if so, is it an involuntary or voluntary content warning?
  6. When was the problem first observed?
  7. When was the problem previously not observed?
  8. Have you posted the above details (details are very useful!) in a thread in Blogger Help Group: Something Is Broken?


(Update 2/9): If you are seeing the above problem, regardless of whether you are using Internet Explorer V6 and your blog is subject to the Content Warning, your willingness to provide the above diagnostics will help us to help you. And, as Blogger Support suggests, upgrading to Internet Explorer V7 or V8 would be a very good idea.

(Update 2/5): Blogger Support has acknowledged the problem.
Thanks for the heads up on this folks.

We're looking into the underlying cause of this and hope to have a fix out shortly. However, I would strongly encourage those of you still using IE6 to upgrade to a newer browser. IE6 is quickly becoming obsolete across the net.


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Confusion Over "Show 7 Days" on the Main Page

Occasionally, we see a confused query in Blogger Help Group
On my blog when I choose I want to see 8 days in the main page, it shows posts from today (January 29, 2009) to December 22, 2008.

Is this "8" days for you?
or
Why can't I ever predict how many posts I'll see in 5 days?
and what we have here are bloggers who don't understand what "Show 7 Days" really means.

If we select "Show 7 Posts on the main page", we get a maximum of 7 posts displayed in main page view. Many bloggers figure that "Show 7 Days on the main page", similarly, means show all of the posts in the most recent 7 days span of time. Blogger, however, doesn't see it that way.

If you set "Show" to "7 days", you could get anywhere from 7, to any number, of posts. If you posted once / day for 6 days, and 5 times on the 7th day, you'll end up with 11 posts. If that 7 days is from 6 days in a consecutive stretch, plus one day a month ago (with no posts made during a month), you'll end up with posts from a month ago. "7 days" = 7 days of posts, not all posts from the last week, consistently.

Note that if your blog uses a dynamic template, none of this matters - blogs with dynamic templates do not archive, and are not subject to auto pagination or main page sizing.

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Another blog is already hosted at this address - January 2009

Recently, a variant on the well known custom domain setup problem, "Another blog is already hosted at this address" has been seen in newly setup custom domains.

A (excerpted) Dig extract, for the domain in question shows no problem. Maybe, the standard Asymmetrical DNS Configuration (aka Google Apps configuration).

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. 1800 IN CNAME ghs.google.com.
---
ghs.google.com. 465476 IN CNAME ghs.l.google.com.
ghs.l.google.com. 300 IN A 74.125.43.121

alternately, the standard Symmetrical DNS Configuration

mydomain.com. 1800 IN CNAME ghs.google.com.
www.mydomain.com. 1800 IN CNAME ghs.google.com.
---
ghs.google.com. 465476 IN CNAME ghs.l.google.com.
ghs.l.google.com. 300 IN A 74.125.43.121

Even with the standard DNS configuration, we still have the problem
Another blog is already hosted at this address.


An HTTP trace shows us the cause of the problem.

Sending request:

GET / HTTP/1.1
Host: mydomain.com
User-Agent: Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 5.1; en-US; rv:
1.9.0.5) Gecko/2008120122 Firefox/3.0.5
Connection: close

• Finding host IP address...
• Host IP address = 216.239.36.21
• 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)
Location:·http://www.mydomain.com(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:
1.9.0.5) Gecko/2008120122 Firefox/3.0.5
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)
Content-Type:·text/html;·charset=UTF-8(CR)(LF)
Location:·http://sites.google.com/a/mydomain.com/sites/system/app/pages/meta/domainWelcome(CR)(LF)


In this case, you'll need to disable the Sites service. You'll have to start by getting access to Google Apps. Then use the URL "www.google.com/a/cpanel/mydomain.com/SitesSettings", and disable Sites. (As always, substitute the actual domain URL for "mydomain.com").

A similar HTTP trace:

Sending request:

GET / HTTP/1.1
Host: mydomain.com
User-Agent: Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 5.1; en-US; rv:
1.9.0.5) Gecko/2008120122 Firefox/3.0.5
Connection: close

• Finding host IP address...
• Host IP address = 216.239.36.21
• 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)
Location:·http://www.mydomain.com(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:
1.9.0.5) Gecko/2008120122 Firefox/3.0.5
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)
Content-Type:·text/html;·charset=UTF-8(CR)(LF)
Location:·http://start.mydomain.com(CR)(LF)

The Start Page service is similar to Sites, except it has to be reset directly within Google Apps. As above, start by getting access to Google Apps.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Your Custom Domain and Your Registrar

When you setup your Google Custom Domain, and publish your blog to a non-Blog*Spot URL on a Google server, you enjoy the personal satisfaction of having your own domain, while your BlogSpot addresses still works. This lets people and processes like search engine spiders continue to find your blog in BlogSpot. Before you can define your domain to your registrar, your registrar has to define your domain to the Internet.

You define your domain, and how the content is hosted, using a series of "A" and "CNAME" referrals, pointing to Google. Before you can do that, your registrar has to define how the domain is hosted, using a series of "NS" and related records.

Here's what I might see, in a Dig log for my domain "nitecruzr.net".

; <<>> DiG 9.3.2 <<>> @ns54.domaincontrol.com nitecruzr.net ANY
; (1 server found)
;; global options: printcmd
;; Got answer:
;; ->>HEADER<<- opcode: QUERY, status: NOERROR, id: 32937
;; flags: qr aa rd; QUERY: 1, ANSWER: 14, AUTHORITY: 0, ADDITIONAL: 0

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

;; ANSWER SECTION:
nitecruzr.net. 86400 IN SOA ns53.domaincontrol.com. dns.jomax.net. 2008032400 28800 7200 604800 86400
nitecruzr.net. 3600 IN A 216.239.32.21
nitecruzr.net. 3600 IN A 216.239.34.21
nitecruzr.net. 3600 IN A 216.239.36.21
nitecruzr.net. 3600 IN A 216.239.38.21
nitecruzr.net. 3600 IN NS ns53.domaincontrol.com.
nitecruzr.net. 3600 IN NS ns54.domaincontrol.com.
nitecruzr.net. 604800 IN MX 10 aspmx.l.google.com.
nitecruzr.net. 604800 IN MX 20 alt1.aspmx.l.google.com.
nitecruzr.net. 604800 IN MX 30 alt2.aspmx.l.google.com.
nitecruzr.net. 604800 IN MX 40 aspmx2.googlemail.com.
nitecruzr.net. 604800 IN MX 50 aspmx4.googlemail.com.
nitecruzr.net. 604800 IN MX 50 aspmx5.googlemail.com.
nitecruzr.net. 604800 IN MX 50 aspmx3.googlemail.com.

;; Query time: 152 msec
;; SERVER: 208.109.255.27#53(208.109.255.27)
;; WHEN: Wed Jan 28 04:19:13 2009
;; MSG SIZE rcvd: 394

Before I could define the Google servers "216.239.32.21", "216.239.34.21", "216.239.36.21", and "216.239.38.21" as hosting the domain content, my registrar had to define the domain itself to the Internet. Essential domain entries are the "SOA" and the 2 "NS" records.

If my registrar had not setup my domain properly, I might have seen other results.

; <<>> DiG 9.3.2 <<>> @localhost myfictiousdomain.com ANY
; (2 servers found)
;; global options: printcmd
;; Got answer:
;; ->>HEADER<<- opcode: QUERY, status: NXDOMAIN, id: 61551
;; flags: qr rd ra; QUERY: 1, ANSWER: 0, AUTHORITY: 1, ADDITIONAL: 0

;; QUESTION SECTION:
;myfictiousdomain.com. IN ANY

;; AUTHORITY SECTION:
com. 900 IN SOA a.gtld-servers.net. nstld.verisign-grs.com. 1233112405 1800 900 604800 900

;; Query time: 35 msec
;; SERVER: 127.0.0.1#53(127.0.0.1)
;; WHEN: Wed Jan 28 04:13:42 2009
;; MSG SIZE rcvd: 111

Here, we see that "myfictiousdomain.com" doesn't exist, excepting in my mind. In this case, we get the "SOA" record for the ".com" TLD.


; <<>> DiG 9.3.2 <<>> @localhost myfictiousdomain.com ANY
; (2 servers found)
;; global options: printcmd
;; Got answer:
;; ->>HEADER<<- opcode: QUERY, status: NOERROR, id: 5712
;; flags: qr rd ra; QUERY: 1, ANSWER: 0, AUTHORITY: 1, ADDITIONAL: 0

;; QUESTION SECTION:
;myfictiousdomain.com. IN ANY

;; AUTHORITY SECTION:
myfictiousdomain.com. 1800 IN SOA dns1.name-services.com. info.name-services.com. 2002050701 10001 1801 604801 181

;; Query time: 111 msec
;; SERVER: 127.0.0.1#53(127.0.0.1)
;; WHEN: Fri Aug 28 15:41:10 2009
;; MSG SIZE rcvd: 94

Here we see that "myfictiousdomain.com" was registered by eNom ("name-services.com" is an eNom domain), but no DNS addresses have been setup.

; <<>> DiG 9.3.2 <<>> @localhost myfictiousdomain.com ANY
; (2 servers found)
;; global options: printcmd
;; connection timed out; no servers could be reached


Here, we see that "myfictiousdomain.com" is apparently defined to the Internet, but the name servers provided by the registrar are improperly setup, or are simply not responding.

In neither of the latter cases will you have a working domain. You, and your readers, will see (yet again)
Server Not Found

Error 404
or a similar error.

Please, know your responsibilities, and your registrar's responsibilities.

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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Search Engines, Backlinks, and Latency

Besides knowing your visitors, an important part of maintaining your blog includes knowing how your visitors found your blog. And that involves monitoring the inlinks to your blog. Inlinks can be either dynamic (search engine result page hits), or static (bookmarks, blogrolls, feeds, linklists, and text based links in other peoples blogs and web sites).

Dynamic inlinks are important, because that's how people find our blogs initially (though after the random access from "Next Blog", which now is irrelevant to posting volume). Static inlinks, on the other hand, are truly exciting. Each static inlink represents a real person out there in The Web, who thought enough of our contribution (at some time) that they will say to their readers
Hey! Here's a blog like mine, with more content that you may want to read!


When you see static inlinks, you know that your blog is truly a part of the Web, not just the Internet (and no, the two aren't the same!).

To help us recognise static inlinks, and to help us connect our blogs and web sites in exciting ways, Blogger and other web hosts provide backlinks. Backlinks are the result of extracts from the search engines, periodically run by the web site host, identifying links to our blogs from other web sites. Since they involve extracted data from the search engines, they involve latency, which makes them inherently inaccurate. This latency is similar to to search engine result page (SERP) inaccuracy, which also leads to dissatisfied visitors.

If you use Google Webmaster Tools, or a similar search engine / web site relationship monitoring procedure, you'll observe these details.
  1. Very few blogs are indexed daily. Not all blogs (or web sites) are indexed even weekly. Many SERP hits to our blogs may have been indexed months ago, and are alive in cache only.
  2. Blogger, and other web site hosts, doesn't extract backlink data from the search engines every day either.
  3. Each spider visit doesn't re index the entire blog. Many visits may just index the main page of the blog, with occasional visits following the archive and other sidebar links, and maybe the various text based internal links to other blog posts.


If you examine the inlinks, in your backlink list for a given post, you may notice that some links are not from an individual post in somebody else's blog, but the main page itself. Some main page entries may originate from blogroll or linklist entries being indexed, others from text inlinks - but text inlinks indexed as part of a post on the main page. With blogs being indexed more regularly from the main page only (#3 above), this should be statistically expected.

Unfortunately, indexed main page inlinks are not permanent. If you publish posts to your blog, you'll note that the content of your main page will change regularly. So will the content of other blogs, including the ones which contain inlinks to your blog. This will include static inlinks to your blog, which your web site host indexes as backlinks, when they are embedded in post text.

The backlink on your blog today (maybe from a search engine extract from last month, run by your web site host earlier this week) may refer to a main page post on a blog that's months old. By now, the post on the other blog, that included a link to your blog, was archived long ago, and won't be on the main page of the other blog. And the link to your blog won't be there either.

The other blog may still include a link to your blog, in the original post - but that post won't be indexed by the search engines, if the other web site is mainly indexed from its main page. There's no fraudulent intent of the publisher of the other blog. The search engine only indexes the other blog from its main page. There's no fraudulent intent of the publisher of the search engine.

Blogger lists inlinks to your blog that existed once, long ago. There's no fraudulent intent by Blogger either.

If you're in the habit of following your backlinks, you have probably seen this effect, though never reasoned out its true cause. Some of you may see this as a flaw in the backlink concept. It's not a flaw that can be avoided, unfortunately. And it's certainly not a problem that can be fixed by Blogger.

>> Top

Blame It On The Fuzz

Every day in Blogger Help Forum: Something Is Broken, we see the demurrals.
Having read the definition of a spam blog, I fail quite to see how my blog can fall into this category.
and
My blog is not spam! It is nowhere near spam!!
all reports, such as these, are coming from people who don't know about fuzzy logic.

You spend a lot of time publishing, and publicising, your blog. You want a blog that's interesting, innovative, up to date, and / or useful - and you want readers who appreciate your effort.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Labels and Mail-to-Blogger - A Major Limitation

Periodically, we see an innocent request
How do I use tags (aka labels) if I post by email (aka Mail-to-Blogger)?
and the unfortunate response is
You can't add labels to a post through Mail-to-Blogger.


Mail-to-Blogger lets you post text, with titles. That's it. No adding or editing labels, no changing the post date, no selecting backlinks or comments for the post being created.

With Mail-to-Blogger, you write a post, give it a title, and send it to Blogger. Anything more requires either the "Edit Posts" menu, or "Post Options" in Post Editor.

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403 Forbidden - January 2009

And as another issue for starting the New Year right, we have a return of yet another old friend
We're sorry...

... but your query looks similar to automated requests from a computer virus or spyware application. To protect our users, we can't process your request right now.


One post in the Blogger Help Group: Something Is Broken forum, "Blogger/Google aware of 403 errors" was kind enough to provide a link to the Blogger Known Issues Hot List, where unfortunately, this issue is not seen. Yet there are half a dozen threads, and a dozen or so individual complaints, in the forum.

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Setting Up A Favicon For Your Blog

Once you get a well known blog established, one often overlooked, yet simple task is adding a favicon for the blog.
  1. Design a logo that's recognisable in a 16 px x 16px size image.
  2. Create two logo files, one a .ico, the other a .png. You can use IrfanView, or another free graphics tool, to do this. For discussion about the two files, see WikiPedia: Favicon.
  3. Upload the logo files to an image hosting server. You may find the free hosting service offered by IconJ to be useful.
  4. Add the favicon definition into the blog HTML. Your blog has a default favicon (the white on orange "B"), and you'll have to override that..

The first step is the most difficult, and is mainly why I don't have an icon for this blog, yet. Once you create the image files, just upload the image to a reliable server, and define it in the blog template.

Here's what you probably have, right now:


<head>

...

<link href='http://www.blogger.com/favicon.ico' rel='icon' type='image/vnd.microsoft.icon'/> <<== Default favicon - provided by Blogger (and built in to the template)


Here's what you need:

<head>

...

<link href='http://www.blogger.com/favicon.ico' rel='icon' type='image/vnd.microsoft.icon'/> <<== Default favicon - provided by Blogger (and built in to the template)
...

]]></b:skin>

<link href='http://www.yourhost.com ... /favicon.ico' rel='icon' type='image/vnd.microsoft.icon'/> <<== Your custom favicon .ico file, Microsoft Browser compatible
<link href='http://www.yourhost.com ... /favicon.png' rel='icon' type='image/png'/> <<== Your custom favicon .png file, for non Microsoft browsers
</head>


Add the two "link" records at the end of the template header, immediately preceding the "</head>" record. It is important to add them after the "</b:skin>" entry.

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A T & T DNS Hosting Validating "A" / "CNAME" Target Using Ping?

In an extremely odd case this week, we have one blogger who is setting up a custom domain, and upon entering what should be a valid CNAME, is advised
The CNAME entry that you are trying to use failed because it is does not have a valid A record. In other words when you try to ping ghs.google.com it does not directly return any pings or an IP address. It will when it has been translated or resolved from the actual name ghs.l.google.com. The name ghs.l.google.com returns pings and has a valid A record. You may want to try to use this name instead.

From reading this report, it appears that the A T & T DNS Hosting Setup wizard is attempting to validate DNS setup based upon ping response. This is an incorrect screening technique.
  • False Negatives. Many DNS servers won't reply to pings.
    • Ping traffic has low priority in some networks.
    • Other networks may deliberately block or drop ping traffic, as it's used in some hacking attempts.
  • False Positives. The vast majority of hosts on the Internet, that do reply to pings, won't be DNS servers.

If the above linked thread isn't a deliberate troll in the forum, I suspect that A T & T Technical Support has some explaining to do. The host "ghs.google.com" is an essential component in a Google Custom Domain. If your registrar persists in offering this diagnosis, I strongly suggest that you get another registrar for your custom domain.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Bloggers Posting Comments To Their Own Blogs See "Your request could not be completed."

Of about half the comments that folks provide to this blog, the contents of the comment being posted warrants an immediate response from me. So I'm quite used to the procedure of comment moderation - having selected the Publish link in my email, then opened the specific post, and composed a response on the fly. And for the past week or so, several times / day, I will see
Your request could not be completed.
upon hitting the "Post Comment" button. Retrying the "Post Comment" button generally gets the comment posted, though it's still annoying.

The text "Your request could not be completed." is a well known phrase, some time ago (though to have been) replaced by the endless series of bX- code errors. This month, it looks like the well known monolithic error is back again.

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The MTU Setting Problem - Why Is It So Obscure?

The Maximum Transmission Unit, aka MTU, is a critical setting on your computer.

The MTU setting controls the size of the messages
that it passes to other computers. When you surf the Internet, your computer is in communication with hundreds of other computers, each with their own possibility to contribute to packet loss. Packet loss is caused partly because of an optimistic MTU setting on your computer, and partly because of constantly varying paths between the computers, resulting from packet switching.

Blogger Help Group Won't Always Have All Of The Answers

Blogger Help Group is the forum where bloggers help each other - and Blogger Support has even recognised that, with various links to Blogger Help from their Blogger Help database, and their Blogger Known Issues blog. Sometimes, though, the questions exceed the experience level in Blogger Help. Occasionally we see the irritated query
I posted this question last week, and I haven't gotten an answer. What's up with that?
or
Are you folks deaf? Why isn't anybody answering my question???
as if all knowledge is here, and everybody is always present to answer any possible question.

Everybody doesn't know the answer to every question - that's why there is more than one helper posting occasionally. Maybe the questions which you are asking haven't been asked yet. Maybe one of the helpers knows the answers, if you are able to ask the questions objectively.

And while you're pondering the reason for the lack of response to your question, consider how unique your problem is. Some question aren't answered because the details are so obscure that no one is knowledgeable about your problem. If your blog uses a Classic template, for instance, you may be out of luck. Many bloggers have moved on to Layouts templates, and the expertise enjoyed by the helpers may have followed the trend. You may have to do some research on your own, and ask more specific questions.

Even if nobody knows the answer to every question, some folks may at least know how you can find out the answers, and can guide you as you figure out what you want to know. And if you do figure out the answers, share the answers, but share the answers politely.

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

EasyHitCounters Appears Out Of Action

During several past weeks, we've seen quite a few reports of bloggers, who are using visitor meters from EasyHitCounters, stating that their counters are not working.

I'd advise anybody who isn't getting results, or any support, from EasyHitCounters, to try using a mature and responsive product like SiteMeter or StatCounter.

In order to accurately meter visitor activity on your blog, you need a service that can accurately and reliably provide statistics, over long periods of time. Moving to another service won't help you to develop your blog, as well as you can with statistics gathered over long periods of time. One general problem with third party products is unreliability, and it appears that EasyHitCounters falls into that category right now.

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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Custom Domains, and a Typical "404 Not Found"

Sometimes, even with a properly setup custom domain, you (or your readers) may encounter a well known problem
Server Not Found

Error 404

Externally Published Blogs, and the Redirect Interstitial Warning

A couple months ago, I noted that blogs published by FTP were showing, in some cases, a new (and not popular) accessory - the redirect warning.
You're about to be redirected

The blog that used to be here is now at http://xxxxxxxx.com/.
Do you wish to be redirected?


This month, we have numerous reports of blogs published using both custom domains and FTP are showing this warning, when you load them using the blogspot URL.


This is reasonable for FTP Publishing, not so for custom domain publishing.


Blogger needs to be more selective when showing this warning.
  • You expect to see this for blogs published by FTP. FTP Publishing is to an external server that could easily contain malicious content placed there directly, without being published through Blogger.
  • You do not expect to see this, nor do you want to see this, for blogs published to custom domains. Content published to custom domains is hosted on Google servers, published through Blogger, and only from Blogger blogs.


(Update 2009/04/04): This may not always be a bogus warning. Looking deeper, this may be a righteous display, in some cases.

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Renaming Your Custom Domain Requires Careful Planning

Just like publishing a BlogSpot blog, sometimes we change our mind about the URL to use for a custom domain published blog. And just like changing a BlogSpot URL, changing a custom domain URL should include some careful planning.

First, never start this process without all domains involved being properly setup in DNS.

Whenever changing a custom domain URL, an essential step will be publishing the blog back to BlogSpot. Always do this, before publishing to a new URL - if there is a problem with the Blogger database, knowing whether the problem is in the database entry for the old URL, or for the new one, will make a huge difference in being able to troubleshoot and resolve any issues that come up.

If you bought the new domain using "Buy A Domain", you currently have a Blogger blog published to the new domain URL. You can't publish another blog to that same URL, until you clear that URL by publishing the blog currently published to that domain back to BlogSpot. If you haven't yet bought the domain, you will have to buy it, either directly from your registrar, or using "Buy a domain".

  1. Check DNS address configurations for all domains.
  2. If necessary, clear the new domain by publishing any blog currently published there back to BlogSpot.
  3. Publish the blog in question back to BlogSpot.
  4. Publish the blog in question to the new domain - if that's what you're trying to do

Finally, besides the technical issues above, you're going to see a drop in page rank and in search engine originated traffic. Moving from a custom domain, back to a BlogSpot URL, is going to require your attention - similar to the initial move from BlogSpot to the domain - except you won't have domain to BlogSpot redirection, similar to the BlogSpot to domain automatic redirection, to help retain your readers.

Take the extra time, and think this out. You'll appreciate this advice, in the long run.

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Saturday, January 10, 2009

Protect Your Readers - Install Third Party Code, On Your Blog, Selectively

Recently, we've seen a few reports of blogs which contain malware, or links to malware. Unlike the Adult Friend Finder splogs, and similar blogs, the blogs recently identified are generally privately published, and contain genuinely intended material. The owners have added code, provided by third parties, that contain the malicious code or links to other web sites which contain the malicious code.

Inclusion of malware, or links to malware, is simply what I call a Layer 4/5 security malfunction by the blog owners. Bloggers see a shiny feature on somebody's blog (maybe a blog produced by the malware producer, maybe by another victim of the malware), and decide that they want the shininess on their blog too.

Sometimes, but not always, Blogger Support will identify bad stuff.
It seems now that many of the reported URLs have a 'BlogLinker.com' code snippet in them- *please* stay away from this widget in the future; it is completely nefarious.


But we have to take the responsibility, here. Blogger Support can't help your readers repair their computers, after they are infected. If they manage to take your blog offline before it infects the general public, don't expect an email telling you what they found. You're going to have to find out what you did wrong, maybe with no blog to examine.

When you see a shiny feature on another blog or web site, think carefully. Maybe some online web site analysis would be a good idea, to avoid adding code to your web site that might hurt your readers. If you don't check out a shiny item on somebody else's web site, before you install it, somebody else might check it out on your web site after you install it.

Blogger Buzz: Keeping Your Blog Secure points out other possibile problems.
For example, a site counter widget may indeed be providing your blog with helpful tracking data, but at the same time may also be discreetly sending that information to advertisers for the purpose of collecting the online habits of your readers. A blog template you downloaded from a third party site might include pop-up ads or links to dangerous sites that install malware on visitor's computers.


Even code that is not distributed for malicious purpose may harm your blog. You may end up using extraordinary means to remove it, too.

Third party code can be useful, when it's benevolently provided. Make sure that any code that you install on your web site is not harmful or malicious to your computer, and to your readers computers, before you install it.

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Sunday, January 04, 2009

Custom Domains And Third Party Registrars

A Google Custom Domain is an elegant and simple way to have a Blogger blog published to a non BlogSpot URL - if you get the DNS addresses setup properly. Setting up the addresses is very simple, using the "Buy A Domain" wizard. Some bloggers spurn the wizard, and roll their own, and that is where many custom domain problems start.

If you use "Buy A Domain" in setting up your custom domain, you'll get a domain with DNS hosted by eNom or GoDaddy. We are somewhat familiar with the DNS wizards provided by both registrars. The DNS wizard (assuming that one exists) provided by a third party registrar (ie not either eNom or GoDaddy) may or may not have similar options.

Two well known and very significant variations in the policies and procedures used by any registrar are absolute vs relative addresses, and how the domain root is denoted, in a referral record. Besides these differences, you'll need to know how to use the wizard itself. The eNom and GoDaddy wizards, for instance, are very different from each other.

Besides the details of using the wizards, the allowable wizard settings will vary. Each registrar tunes its DNS servers, and each will have their own idea of how long a DNS record should exist, in cache, on your local DNS server. The "TTL" ("Time To Live") setting has implications that affect every custom domain.

Some registrars, too, just can't support the settings required for a reliable custom domain.

If you must use a third party registrar (ie not eNom or GoDaddy) for your DNS hosting, please pick your registrar carefully and discriminately.

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Saturday, January 03, 2009

Blogger Does Not Provide Email Or Phone Based Support

Every day in Blogger Help Group, we see one or two anguished cries
What is the email address for Blogger? I need to make my complaint in person.
or
Why can't I talk to a real support person, and not to a forum?
and the answer is simple.

Blogger does not provide email / phone based, one on one support. Period. You can't just talk to a person.

Friday, January 02, 2009

FTP Publishing - What's In A Name?

Recently, many bloggers attempting to publish their blogs externally, using FTP, have posted a noticeable volume of reports about a chronic and unresolved problem
ConnectException: Connection timed out.


This symptom has been seen in the past, and for a long while, and is very likely the result of dozens of actual problems. The current volume of reports, vastly surpassing the chronic past level, suggests a new, recently created problem. Various workarounds for this latest problem have been published by several optimistic bloggers.
I fixed mine and post a blog about it.
and
Instead of entering your domain name, enter the IP address, then try to publish.
and even
Using ftp.mydomain.com did work (instead of the usual ftp.myhost.com)


These reports, and others like them, would lead us to believe that the current problem revolves around the FTP setting "FTP Server" - and changing the value of that setting seems to have a restorative effect, for some bloggers. The setting in question can, potentially, have several possible values. Not all possibilities will work for any specific domain and / or server.
  1. IP Address. This will work, when the FTP server hosts one web site, hosted on one IP address. It won't work, if the domain is intentionally spread among multiple redundantly arrayed servers, using DNS for load balancing, or if the server hosts "http" content by default.
  2. "mydomain.com". This will work, when the default service for the domain is configured to serve content using FTP.
  3. "ftp.mydomain.com". This is the proper URL for the domain "mydomain.com".
  4. "myhost.com". This will work, when the FTP server hosts one web site, "mydomain.com". It won't work if the server hosts "mydomain.com", "myotherdomain.com", and / or "mydomain.org", or if the server hosts "http" content by default.
  5. "ftp.myhost.com". This is the proper URL for the host server "myhost.com".

If you are the victim of the mentioned error
ConnectException: Connection timed out.
and the error is caused by the current problem, and not by another problem, changing the "FTP Server" setting from one of the above to another may help you. But you'll have to try up to 4 alternatives, hoping that you can determine each one appropriate.

Each different FTP Hosting server will have different identity settings, so if any one change works for you, rest assured that it won't work for everybody. And as soon as Blogger fixes their current problem, their fix will possibly invalidate your change. It's possible, keeping an open mind, that the folks suffering right now are those who made a similar change last week, to get around the problem at that time. When Blogger fixed that problem, it broke their workaround.

So if you make a change this week, based upon the current problem, remember what you changed from. If things start working for you now, then stop later, back out your workaround.

(Update 1/5): Is it possible that Blogger lets you leave the "FTP Server" setting blank, and derives the setting from the value of the domain name, or another FTP Publishing setting?
In my Settings, I have NEVER put anything under the FTP: space. It has always been empty. Now I am reading that something should be there
Is this maybe where this whole mess started?

(Update 1/4): The current problem has been declared fixed, by Blogger Support staff.
This problem has once again been fixed. I am very, very sorry for the trouble and assure you that we will work to permanently eliminate the problem.


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Thursday, January 01, 2009

Removing Your Blog From The Search Engines Caches

When you were young, did you ever play with a dandelion?

I have - they are (in some places) easy to find, and free fun to be had (don't let your parents see you though). Did you ever blow on one, watch the pieces fly thru the air, then run around and try to pick the pieces up? That's your blog, all over the net.

The only way to kill dandelions is while they are young, yellow, and solid.

When dandelions get old, white, and airy, just touching one will make it blow into pieces. The pieces go everywhere, and next year, you'll have more dandelions everywhere. That's when your parents will have to deal with the problem.

FTP Publishing - January 2009

During the past week, we have had two incidents (maybe one incident, incompletely resolved) of a well known (and extremely unwanted) error
ConnectException: Connection timed out.
commonly seen by bloggers who are trying to publish their blogs to external servers, using FTP. The problem was reported as fixed, originally, on December 26. It popped up again, on December 28, and that occurrence was reported as fixed on December 31.

From reading several threads in the forums, it appears that the problem was not fixed. Several reports are by bloggers who complain
Changed the domain settings (according to another forum thread) and removed ftp just keeping domainname.com. That fix worked but as of today the problem is back. This is starting to get really frustrating.
and
working for me on the one of two ftp blogs that was broken before. Now the other one, that was ok before, is broken.
and other, more optimistic observations
I fixed mine and post a blog about it.
and
Instead of entering your domain name, enter the IP address, then try to publish.
the latter are yet more cases where the owner switched from using "ftp.myserver.com" to using "myserver.com" (or vice versa) as a target server URL, a technique which has provided limited success. These are representative of several possible "FTP Server" changes currently being tried, with varying success. The technique of using an IP address instead of a server name, or vice versa, has been in use for some time.


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


Keeping an open mind, it's quite possible that the majority of the problems being reported are from folks affected by the problem as fixed 12/31, who applied their workaround before 12/31. Then Blogger fixed their problem, making the workarounds a problem. Others reporting their own personal experience with
ConnectException: Connection timed out.
may actually be experiencing a different problem. The symptom itself has been around for many months.

Unfortunately, only Blogger Support knows the details here, and only Blogger Support can sort this mess out reliably. Whatever workarounds that bloggers try may work in the short term, and will likely come back to haunt us later.

(Update 1/4): This has been declared fixed, by Blogger Support staff.
This problem has once again been fixed. I am very, very sorry for the trouble and assure you that we will work to permanently eliminate the problem.


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