Thursday, September 27, 2012

Blogger Blogs Being Hijacked By Instagram Gadgets

We're seeing a noticeable amount of noise today, from blog owners reporting that their blogs appear to be susceptible to antivirus detection - and others reporting that their readers are complaining of mysterious misdirection, when viewing their blogs.
My blog is struggling to fully load, and hangs saying "Waiting for platotv . com" and "Waiting for directagain . net"
and
I'm getting warnings from Avast when I try to view my blog!


Upon examination of the blogs affected, we see a large number which contain the "I'm An Instagram Addict!", or similar, gadget. Most blog owners who admit to having an Instagram gadget have reported relief, having removed the gadget in question. We're still looking, to see where these dodgy gadgets are coming from.

(Update 2012/10/08): We are now seeing suggestions from various people, representing themselves as employees of "BadgePLZ", suggesting that the problems with their code has been fixed.

If your blog is generating antivirus alerts - or if your readers report misdirection - you may wish to remove any Instagram accessories, recently installed. You may wish to clear cache and restart the browser, after removal. You may need direct access to various dashboard wizards, in some extreme cases.

Right now, the majority of the problems reported seem to involve an "IFrame", targeting "badgeplz . com".
<iframe src='http : // badgeplz . com / instagram / ?u=mun_mun90&t=c&bgclr=f2f2f2&brclr=cccccc&px=1&py=5&pb=5&brds=5&incls=n&svc=instagram&pbclr=ffffff&sze=75' allowtransparency='true' frameborder='0' scrolling='no' style='border:none; overflow:hidden; width:118px; height: 482px'></iframe>
We're currently unsure whether this is an intentional hijacking, or simply bad coding. Until the owners of "badgeplz . com" state their intentions, we'll simply advise you to remove this gadget, if you have added it to your blog.

As usual, I'll caution you against indiscriminate installation of third party gadgets, in general.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

You Do Have To Add A Second "CNAME"

We're seeing evidence of confusion, in Blogger Help Forums, from blog owners who read the out of date instructions, about using "Buy a domain".

We see considerable confusion, where people using that feature insist that they don't have to add a "CNAME". In other cases, people using the Blogger / GoDaddy DNS Configuration wizard will think that the second "CNAME" is being added for them.

Right now, everybody has to add their own domain ownership verification token - aka the second "CNAME". We're hoping that the (currently offline) "Buy a domain" wizard will automatically add the domain ownership verification - just as it adds the other DNS addresses - but we'll see that, when we see it. The Blogger / GoDaddy wizard should, likewise, take care of this, on your behalf - but right now, it doesn't. The bottom line? If you go to the Publishing wizard, and see
Error 12
or a variant, after typing the domain URL into "Advanced settings", better get busy.

What not all blog owners realise is that the new "CNAME" must be just that. Blogger is not being arbitrary, or pedantic, in requiring precision.
  • It must be a "CNAME". A "TXT" will not work.
  • The "Name" value must be specified precisely as supplied (Plus or minus the trailing period!).
  • The "Destination" value must be specified precisely as supplied (Plus or minus the trailing period!).
You cannot fly by the seat of your pants, and try what seems like it might work, as a "substitute". Webmaster Tools provides a blog ownership verification process - which may, or may not help.

If the registrar for your domain does not allow the addition of this "CNAME", you will need to setup a third party DNS host for your domain. You do have to add this second "CNAME" - even if this may conflict with older Blogger Help instructions.

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Monday, September 24, 2012

The New "CNAME" Needs To Be Added, And Used, Promptly

One oddity, observed by a few blog owners, is that even after adding the "CNAME" to verify domain ownership, not every blog owner is able to see theirs successfully verified.
I added both "CNAME"s - and I'm still getting "Error 12" when I try to publish.
There are several "common sense" rules, that not everybody observes.
  1. The new "CNAME" can't use the example values.
  2. The new "CNAME" has to be a "CNAME". Don't let your registrar add a "TXT" instead.
  3. The new "CNAME" has to be specific to the URL in question. Enter your published URL precisely, into "Advanced settings".
  4. The new "CNAME" has to be added with attention to domain manager address entry convention.
Even with these rules observed, there are still a small handful of unsuccessful blog owners, seeing "Error 12" - or "Error 32".

One of the possible reasons for these last few hold outs, I believe, relates to timing.

Friday, September 21, 2012

What Is This New "CNAME", Anyway?

Ever since Blogger finally restored the custom domain publishing feature, blog owners have been asking about the addition to the domain setup process - the new "CNAME".
Do I really need this? My old blogs don't have it, and they are fine.
and
My registrar won't let me add a second "CNAME" - they allow one "CNAME" / domain (my "www").
and
My registrar won't allow long addresses, such as what you have for "Destination" / "Target" / "Points To".
And we are learning that this requirement is going to be a problem for blog owners using some registrars, who can't provide this "CNAME" in their customers domains.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Custom Domain Setup Now Lacks The "Buy a Domain" Wizard

As we sift through the wreckage of the blogs damaged by the recent Blogger custom domain security issue, we note a significant omission. The "Buy a Domain For Your Blog" wizard is conspicuous in its absence.
When I click on the Settings - Publishing options, I don't even have the option to check availability or purchase a domain name. Where is the "Buy a domain" display?
Right now, it appears that "Buy a domain" was sacrificed, so that the general custom domain publishing feature could be restored more promptly (though not promptly enough, for many blog owners). There are several tasks that must be completed by "Buy a domain", which are complex - and the necessary coding simply could not be completed by Tuesday of this week. I saw one message of hope.
We will be restoring the ability to purchase a custom domain from Blogger soon.
We'll simply have to have faith, that they are working on this feature as we lament its current absence - and that its absence is brief..

In the mean time, some wanta be domain owners have found a domain purchase wizard provided by Google Apps - though that's not "Buy a domain". Google Apps has two different wizards providing domain purchase options, each with a widely different address and Top Level Domain menus.

(Update 2012/10/09): "Buy a domain for your blog" is once again part of the Publishing wizard.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The New GUI Is Here

Several people are reporting seeing the New Blogger GUI in their dashboard - even when they did not intentionally upgrade. Possibly, this was forced by the necessary Custom Domain Authentication Feature, which is now operational - on the New GUI only.

I am expecting my Blogger account to change, soon. Let's see if I get a "Your blog post published successfully!" display. So far, I am in Virginia - though I am thinking of a procedural workaround for that shortcoming. I realise that everybody won't have a workaround for their dislikes - though we have to be contemplative, and accept the changes.

If you wish to make your feelings known, please post in the latest Problem Rollup: V4 I do not like the New Blogger Interface because ...

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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Custom Domain Publishing Is Back - And With A New Detail

After a very stressful week, Blogger Engineering has restored the custom domain publishing option.
Last week we encountered an issue that could affect Blogger users in the process of configuring a custom domain, during the verification of ownership of domains between the provider and Blogger. Blogs with previously configured custom domains were not affected.

With the reason for disabling custom domain publishing being security, Blogger Engineering has added a step in the publishing process, to add a random token as a "CNAME", and verify your right to publish to your domain, from Blogger. You get the random token from the "settings instructions" document, "How do I use a custom domain name for my blog?".

Monday, September 17, 2012

Blogger Blogs Showing "Possible Blogger Terms of Service Violations" Notice

Last week, we saw a fairly large number of reports from blog owners, reporting that their blogs had been apparently classified as spam hosts - but with a new symptom.

Possible Blogger Terms of Service Violations

This blog is currently under review due to possible Blogger Terms of Service violations.

If you're a regular reader of this blog and are confident that the content is appropriate, feel free to click "Proceed" to proceed to the blog. We apologize for the inconvenience.

If you're an author of this blog, please follow the instructions on your dashboard for removing this warning page.

When the problem was forwarded to Blogger Support, they identified a recent change in the spam classifier as a cause - and suggested that they could review and reverse all such false classifications, en masse.

Later that same day, Blogger Support declared that the problem was resolved.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Enabling Blogger, If You Now Have An ISP Provided Email Account, That Uses Google Apps Based GMail

We're seeing problem reports from some confused blog owners, who are apparently customers of ISPs who have made the switch, from using a private email infrastructure, to using GMail based email (administered using Google Apps).
When I try to sign in I get this message.
Blogger has not been enabled by the administrator of the domain
How do I administer my blog?

We've known, for a while, that having a Blogger account based on a Google Apps provided GMail account may not be a good long term strategy - particularly if the Apps account is based on a domain which you own, and the domain was purchased to host one of your blogs.

Possibly considering the latter scenario, Blogger / Google now requires that you enable the Blogger service, for any new Google Apps controlled domain - if you wish to use email addresses in that domain to host Blogger accounts. This is a safety measure, helping to prevent you from having a Blogger account that you can't control - or can't recover access when you forget the password.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

New Custom Domains Are Broken

Many owners of Blogger blogs - and most owners of Blogger blogs published to non BlogSpot URLs - know the sad truth.
Mapping a blogspot domain to a custom domain is currently disabled.
It's been this way, for several long days.

If you are the owner of a Blogger blog, currently published to a non BlogSpot URL, you have probably seen the problem, when trying to view your blog - even after setting up righteous DNS addresses, and having published the blog to the domain.
404. That’s an error.

The requested URL / was not found on this server. That’s all we know.

How Not To Make Your Blog Private

Blog owners have been asking, for years, how to protect their blogs against viewing by undesired or unknown readers.
How do I password protect my blog?
When told that Blogger password protection involves membership invitations, accepted using a Blogger Google account, some would be private blog owners decline the suggestion.
That's too complicated for my readers! Can't I just give everybody a password?
But Blogger does not use common passwords.

Some blog owners, who are technically astute, find add on template code, provided by third parties - which demands a password, in a popup window, to continue. This is where their problems start.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Attempting To Remove Old FTP Published Blogs From Blogger Account Corrupts The BlogList

Recently, we've seen a few reports from unhappy blog owners who used to publish blogs using FTP, who tried to delete the FTP published blogs from their Blogger account, and now can't access their dashboard bloglist - or even login to their Blogger accounts successfully.
I recently tried to delete an old FTP published blog from our account, I hit the "delete blog" button, and I get error code bX-dm6o9e. When I try to access my dashboard, I get the same error.

The option to publish a Blogger blog to remote, non Google hosted, server space - known as FTP Publishing - ended several years ago. Now, people attempting to clean up their blog list, and trying to remove old, FTP published blogs will find a problem. We note that the dashboard utilities, in general, can still be accessed, using the navbar links - or the quick edit post links.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

The New GUI (2011) Will Soon Become The Blogger GUI

This month, we are seeing a sign of the end of The Classic Blogger GUI, coming soon.
The old Blogger interface will be removed in the coming days. We've made many improvements to the new Blogger interface. Learn more You can upgrade to the new interface at any time.
We've all been expecting this, for a while - but it's still a shock. Some of us are concerned that forced use of the New GUI will cause problems in productivity, if not blog functionality.

Blogger Supports Their Customers - But They Support Their Active Customers More

Every week, in Blogger Help, we see the cries of frustration.
Many years ago I had a Google account with a "gmail.com" e-mail address. But I deleted this account, because I didn't need it anymore. Later, I wasn't able to login to Blogger, to delete my blog. And I also wasn't able to remove it by contacting Blogger. Why doesn't Blogger support their customers?
The point being overlooked here is that both Blogger and Google do support their customers.

Blogger / Google, like every commercial enterprise worldwide, simply supports their active customers more than their not-so-active customers.
  1. They have millions of customers, who spend much time maintaining and publishing their blogs.
  2. They also have some customers, who start blogs, and leave them dormant for many years - then require assistance recovering access to their Blogger accounts, because they have forgotten the account name or password, and the backup email address can't be used.
Considering that Blogger / Google is not a non profit organisation, and needs to support customer activity, which group of customers should they support most readily?

Monday, September 03, 2012

The Multiply Blogging Platform Is Ending

Recently, people who use the popular Multiply blogging platform were given bad news.
From December 1st, we will unfortunately no longer be able to support Multiply in its current form - notably we will be removing the social networking and content sharing part of Multiply (photos, videos, blogs, social messaging, etc.). We have decided to discontinue providing and hosting these services, as we have concluded that other Internet sites who are committed to social networking services will do a better job serving you than we can.

They are, right now, unsure what options they can offer, to help existing Multiply blogs be transitioned to alternatives such as Blogger.
We're still finalising the exact list of formats and platforms that we'll export to, but users will be able to download all their original media and data, (in some flexible formats) and also able to migrate directly to alternative blogging platforms.

So, let's see what options Blogger Engineering can offer. Watch this space, for updates.

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Sunday, September 02, 2012

One Of The Blogger / Google Custom Domain DNS Servers Is Down

This afternoon, we started seeing some frantic problem reports, in Blogger Help Forum: Something Is Broken.
My custom domain published blog is not loading today. What is going on with your servers???
The numbers, of concerned blog owners, are relatively small, compared to normal custom domain publishing problems - but the concern is very real.

When we look at the DNS addresses for the domains involved, we see one common factor - a custom domain, relying solely on the Google Apps DNS server "216.239.32.21".