Error 550 When Publishing By FTP

December 9, 2006

If you’re publishing to an external host (not Blog*Spot) by FTP (or SFTP), you may be seeing any of several errors in the log

Error 550: Access is denied.
Error 550: Requested action not taken: file unavailable.
Error 550: The system cannot find the path specified.

If so, you may want to check your (Settings – Publishing – ) FTP publishing setting. The FTP Path setting points to the location of your blog, relative to the root folder in the FTP server.

If the value for your FTP Path is “/”, you should change it to “.”. The setting “/” points to the absolute path of the root folder on the server. FTP requires relative paths, such as “.”, which points to the FTP root. This issue is discussed in Blogger Help Group: Publishing Trouble Bizarre Blogger Publishing Problem, help!!

We’ve noted in some discussions that, after you change the path to “.”, for instance, the Blogger script may change the setting to “./”, or even “/”. But your initially changing it to “.” appears to be a key step, nonetheless. Save the setting, Republish, and test.

Besides the Publishing FTP Path, which indicates where the main blog is stored, there are two similar settings, for the Archiving and Site Feed paths. Blogger Help: What is the FTP path? discusses this, and more, in greater detail.

You may also find Microsoft Error message in IIS: “530 User cannot log in. Login failed.” to be of interest.

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My Blog Is NOT Spam #2

December 8, 2006

One of the frustrations of dealing with the word verification aka captcha, when a blog is falsely identified as a spam blog, is that only the person that owns the falsely accused blog can truly experience the problem. Those of us who try to help cannot, in any way, reproduce the problem.

Any other problem – whether a dropped sidebar, or maybe a squashed navbar, or even an improperly centered snippet of code, we can either reproduce in a test blog, or examine in the blog in question. By carefully examining the blog, or the page source, we can sometimes see what’s wrong, or at least see enough of a clue to tell the blog owner what to try next. Or maybe we can get an idea what additional diagnostics might be useful.

The problem of an inoperative captcha – where either the captcha text window shows up blank, or where the blog owner carefully types the answer, hits Enter, and nothing happens – sound to me like another problem with cookies or scripts. If this is being seen more frequently recently, it’s possibly just another symptom of over diligent security measures.

My suggestion? Let’s see if clearing cache and cookies has any effect here.

Securing Your Browser – And Painting Yourself Into A Corner

December 4, 2006

In the olden days, long before Microsoft even came up with Internet Explorer, a browser was simply a program to display text. HTML was just text files, with links (“anchor links”) to other text files. Surfing the web meant reading text, and clicking on links to read more text.

Then someone decided to add colour to the text, and someone else decided to put pictures in, to make it all less boring. That was just the beginning.

Fast forward to today.

Now, we have music and movies, delivered as both complete files and files played while you download (“streaming” content) – I listen to streamed music, like XTC Radio London. And we have various files which appear to be either interactive movies, or video games, where you can control the movie elements / players with your mouse. Some games download to your computer and are played there, others may run from a game server. And we have still more code and scripting that nobody knows what it does. We hope that it’s benign, or at least not intentionally malicious, but we’re not always sure.

And some of it contains very malicious code indeed, created by well paid criminals, and designed to take control of your computer.

So your browser, other programs on your computer, and other network devices, contain as much code to protect your computer from malicious code, as code that actually does something useful for you.

Any website owner, that wants to stay in business as a website owner, has to walk a fine line.

  • Include some content besides plain old text, or your readers will see it as boring, and won’t return.
  • Include too much non-text content, and some readers won’t be able to use your website at all, because their security will block it, as possibly malicious.

Looking at it the other way, if you want to use your computer for surfing the web, you have to choose between boring (nothing but plain old text) and dangerous (exposing you to the hackers). You, too, have two extremes.

  • Block too much content, you will miss the important content of many websites, and you’ll fall asleep at the keyboard.
  • Allow too much content, and your computer becomes 0wn3d.

Originally, securing your computer meant adding software, and setting up the new software to block specific threats. And the security experts were constantly busy, cleaning up computers whose owners had “checked out this fascinating new website” or “downloaded this great new game”, without having the necessary new protection. And they were advising folks to close this security hole, or patch that setting, but after the computer had been hacked.

That strategy is called “permit by default (deny on demand)”, and is one reason why propronents of alternative operating systems like Linux will sneer at Windows as insecure. Now, browsers are being released with built in protection, and with that protection activated by default. This is “deny by default (permit on demand)”, and is more like Linux security.

And there’s today’s problem.

Recently, Microsoft released Internet Explorer Version 7, and Mozilla Foundation released Firefox Version 2. Both browsers contain protection activated by default, protection that would have been activated (if even available) only upon demand, in previous versions.

The browser releases were preceded, almost immediately, by Bloggers release of its Beta Blog product. It’s quite likely that Beta Blogger was tested against Firefox Version 1.5, and Internet Explorer Version 6, but releases no more current than that.

And that’s where we are now. Painted into a corner by our new software, with restrictions by default. Protected – and unable to use Beta Blogger – by the newer software. And there were some unknown changes made in early December by Blogger, of which we know only that we need to clear our cache to use Beta Blogger.

But the browser settings, and changes by Blogger, probably aren’t the only problem here. Your other protective components – your network level perimeter and personal firewalls, and your application level anti- malware programs – may also need tuning. If you have a well designed layered defense, the various components are (or should be) updated regularly. I observe one or more updates to mine, at least weekly.

Some material that’s subject to filtering, for instance scripts, may be subject to caching also; so a filtering change may not be immediately effective. After applying any security update, you should clear the cache on the browser, then test each change. If you’re using two or more browsers, you should clear both simultaneously, for consistent results.

You need to test immediately after making changes, so you know when any change causes a problem. It’s much easier to solve a problem, when you can observe that the problem started after you made a specific change.

My guess is that the current problems involve two key components, that are required by Blogger, and that are being blocked by either your browser, or by external security products.

  • Cookies provide the ability for Blogger scripts to retain selections and settings, as needed. Remembering your previous login requires cookies to be allowed.
  • Scripts provide the ability for any Blogger GUI application, such as photo uploads, post editing, or word verification (aka captcha) to run on your computer.

If Blogger made any changes to their servers that require different cookies, or different scripts, on our computers, it’s possible that what’s cached on our computers right now is causing a problem. This is why the recommended strategy, of clearing cache and cookies, would work.

Both cookies and scripts are prominently featured in various security settings recommendations. If incorrectly blocked, either could provide some of the problems seen in the Blogger Help forums of late. For advice from Blogger, see Blogger Help: Continual prompting to login, or “Session Expired” messages. And see below for an interesting detail about cookies and Blogger.

The bottom line here? It’s your computer, and some of the problems can only be resolved by you.

And your problems are only going to get worse. But that’s another story.

(Edit 2007/01/03): In addition to the third party cookies issue presented below, there’s a good chance that first party cookies could be a problem too. It’s very possible that a lot of folks specified “www.blogger.com”, rather than “blogger.com”, as allowed to serve cookies. Check your cookies settings, in both Firefox and Internet Explorer.

(Edit 12/30): Now on the subject of cookies, there is a special type of cookie, which may be relevant right now. Most cookies are designed to be read by the same server that wrote them, ie, cookies written by “www.blogger.com” can only be read later by “www.blogger.com”. Why would processes running from any server care about cookies written by processes running from another server?

How about when changing servers?

So when Blogger replaced Beta Blogger (which used “beta.blogger.com” for many of its activities) with New Blogger (which uses “www2.blogger.com”), they may have New Blogger login processes setup to read cookies from Beta Blogger login processes. This is called third party cookies. If you’re having problems with login, and cookies in general are not a problem, check and make sure that third party cookies are not a problem.

(Edit 11/6): If you are publishing a Beta blog to an external server (FTP / SFTP), you need to check the filter on your firewall. Blogger may be publishing from servers with unexpected IP addresses.

Blogger Blogs And Permissions

December 1, 2006

With Blogger Blogs, not everybody can do everything with every blog. Blogger doesn’t provide anything as simple (or as obnoxious) as Simple File Sharing under Windows XP. Though they don’t have Simple Blog Access, the choices that they do provide aren’t a lot more granular.

  • Only administrators can change blog settings. All administrators can change all settings – there is no granularity here.
  • Only members can post articles to a blog.
  • There are levels of ability to post comments to a blog.
    • Everybody.
    • Everybody registered with Blogger (Google for Beta blogs).
    • Blog members.
    • Comments disabled.
  • For Beta blogs only, there are levels of ability for read access to the blog. Adding this filter necessitated authentication using a Google account.
    • Everybody.
    • Everybody invited, as a reader.
    • Blog members (“Authors”).

If you want anything better, you’ll have to get an alternate solution.

  • If you want to block comments by IP address (a vague solution with limited success), you’ll need a third party commenting service, like Haloscan.

Your Browser Cache, and Web Sites With Dual Addresses

December 1, 2006

As you surf the web, and read various web sites, you’ll occasionally notice oddities. Following one link, you’ll see one version of a web site; following a second link, you’ll see the same web page, but with different content.

Obviously, the web page was updated, between the first time that you visited it, and the second time. Nothing odd there.

But here’s the oddity. You visit the web site a third time, using the first link, and you see the same, older content. Then you check the second link again, and it shows the newer content again.

What’s going on here?

It’s simple, really, and this example, which uses Blogger, also applies to the real world. With Blogger, “http://www.bloggerstatusforreal.blogspot.com/” and “http://bloggerstatusforreal.blogspot.com/refer to the same blog, which is “bloggerstatusforreal“.

On your computer, “http://www.bloggerstatusforreal.blogspot.com/” and “http://bloggerstatusforreal.blogspot.com/” are stored in your cache, separately. Let’s look at a hypothetical example.

  1. Your browser cache has a 1 week expiry.
  2. You read
    http://bloggerstatusforreal.blogspot.com/
    2006/12/your-browser-cache-and-web-sites-with.html

    today. You cache today’s copy, under bloggerstatusforreal.blogspot.com.

  3. I update “Your Browser Cache, and Web Sites With Dual Addresses” tomorrow.
  4. The following day, you read
    http://www.bloggerstatusforreal.blogspot.com/
    2006/12/your-browser-cache-and-web-sites-with.html

    You cache tomorrows copy, under http://www.bloggerstatusforreal.blogspot.com.

  5. You then reread
    http://bloggerstatusforreal.blogspot.com/
    2006/12/your-browser-cache-and-web-sites-with.html

    Since it’s only 2 days old, you’ll read it from cache. The cached copy precedes the update in step 3.

Step 5 will show an older copy of the web page, even though you do it after step 4. Next week, bloggerstatusforreal.blogspot.com will expire a day sooner than www.bloggerstatusforreal.blogspot.com. The problem may repeat, in reverse.

So expect to see alternating differences, one version being more current than the other, forever.

If you ask for advice from the experts, and they advise you to clear your cache, this is why. Both versions of the blog, on your computer, will be refreshed simultaneously, and then be in synchronisation with each other. This allows more reliable troubleshooting.

Blog Ownership Stuck With The First Google Account? Don’t Delete It

November 30, 2006

Under Classic Blogger, it was possible to transfer a blog from one administrative account to another, by adding the second account, then deleting the first. Incorrectly done, though, you could end up with a blog with no administrator, and no way to add an administrator. And another trouble ticket for Blogger to resolve.

So Blogger changed the possibility, with Blogger Beta. Under Beta, you can add a second (or third, or …) adminstrator, but you can’t delete the first administrator. That takes care of the possibility of having no administrator. But it creates a second problem (which apparently Blogger doesn’t find important) – you can end up with an account that has no need to administer a blog, but having been the first administrator, is stuck with that ability none the less.

Having accepted that fact, one bright person came up with the idea

OK, what if I delete the first account?

A drastic, but seemingly effective way to resolve the problem.

But today, it appears that procedure is both drastic and fatal. When you delete the original administrative account, the blogs associated with that account disappear. This is stated by Blogger Employee, in Blogger Help Group: Something Is Broken Since switch my blogs aren’t on dashboard Help blogstars or Employee.

…the problem appears to be that you deleted the Google Account that these blogs were registered with. Be aware, when you delete your account, your blogs go with it.

In other words, do not delete an account having any blogs associated with it.

Including A Video In Your Post

November 28, 2006

Photos are an easy way to make your posts more interesting. Going one step further, we have moving photos, ie videos.

Including a link to a video is as simple as including a link to a photo.
>>The Perfect Plumber

&gt;&gt;<a href=”http://video.google.com/videoplay?
docid=2638976382458360943&q=plumber”>The Perfect Plumber</a>

But look at my post in PChuck’s Network: Don’t Do It Yourself – If You Don’t Think About What You’re Doing

There we have a Shockwave Flash movie, embedded in the web page.

<embed style=”width: 400px; height: 326px;” id=”VideoPlayback”
type=”application/x-shockwave-flash”
src=”http://video.google.com/googleplayer.swf?
docId=2638976382458360943&q=plumber”>
</embed><br clear=”left”><a
href=”http://video.google.com/videoplay?
docid=2638976382458360943&q=plumber”
rel=”nofollow”>The Perfect Plumber</a>

Many video hosting sites expect that you will, eventually, be passing their displayed material along to your friends; that’s the fun of using the Internet. So they will make it easy, and provide the code for you to embed their video in your web page. Look at the embedded code above. Following the embedded object itself, you’ll see the link back to the website. There you can hopefully find the code that you need.

Use Post Pages When Advertising Your Blog

November 26, 2006

In one Microsoft help forum, some time ago, one wanta be helpful guy would answer dozens of help requests daily, by copying his entire library – 800+ lines of technical information – into each post.

This should take care of you. If it doesn’t, post back here with your questions. Now, read my entire compilation of experience. Your answer is in here – somewhere.

Now that Blogger provides its easy to build online web sites, anybody can do the same using a blog.

Blah blah blah. The answer is somewhere in my blog.
>>http://myblog.blogspot.com

Possibly this is done from ignorance. He doesn’t know about addressing his posts. This is how spammers and trolls operate too.

Want advice? Check out my web site – it’s in there somewhere.

Genuinely helpful folks, when they give advice, make their advice complete and relevant. The easiest way for you to do this is to link directly to the right article. To do that, your posts need to be individually addressable.

Go to Settings – Archiving. Make sure that “Enable Post Pages?” is set to “Yes”. That gives each post its own page.

Blah blah blah. The answer is in this article in my blog.
>>http://myblog.blogspot.com/myarticle.html

That’s better.

But wait – there’s more.

Thanks to the magic of anchor tags, you can link directly to the section in the relevant post.

Blah blah blah. The answer is here, in this article, in my blog.
>>http://myblog.blogspot.com/myarticle.html#ThisTag

That’s much better, and now complete and relevant.

When you give advice, send the reader right to the advice. If the reader finds the answer immediately, he’ll appreciate you more, and read the rest of the blog later. And hopefully, bookmark the blog, so his friends will find you later.

Registering An Address For An Externally Published Blog? Be Careful!

November 25, 2006

When you register an address for a Blog*Spot blog, it’s a pretty simple process. Setup a new blog, give it a Title, and a URL. The URL will be something like xxxxxxxx.blogspot.com, where “xxxxxxxx” must be unique. There is only one way to check for availability of any “xxxxxxxx”, and only one way to register your choice for “xxxxxxxx”, and make it unavailable for someone else.

  1. Enter the blog Title.
  2. Select an available URL.
  3. Select a template.
  4. Add a post to the new blog.
  5. Publish the new blog (this step only necessary for a Classic blog).

When you publish your blog externally, it’s a bit more complicated.

  1. Hire a service to host the blog / web site.
  2. Register your URL.
  3. Hire a service to provide you a directory (DNS) entry.

You may hire a package deal, where all 3 components are provided by the same service, maybe even your ISP. You may get all 3 components for free, ie no actual hiring involved. But you will have to spend some time on step 2, choosing and registering the URL.

Now, choosing the URL for an externally hosted blog / web site is not as simple as choosing a Blog*Spot URL. You will register the URL with the company that actually provides the registration service. There are, unfortunately, multiple companies that provide the service, and no one company has a master list of allocated URLs. So you can only tell them what you prefer, based upon what’s available at the time. If the registrar verifies your choice as available, they register it in your name and you now own the URL of your choice.

So the folks experienced in registering URLs use a lossy process. They find several possibilities, then have their registrar register one of the choices, usually in a list sequenced by preference. And here’s where the problem starts.

If you see a possible URL, based upon your listing what’s available at any time, there’s no guarantee that the same URL will be available an hour later, or even 5 minutes later. There are multiple registrars (as I indicated above), and at any time, other folks like you could be choosing the same URL. This is a much more common situation when you are choosing a URL based upon current trends. If you think it’s trendy, you probably aren’t the only one.

But that’s not the only problem here. Besides other people like you, you may have to compete with an automated domain squatting process that observes your research, sees what names you check for availability, and registers those names for itself. If you decide 5 minutes, or an hour, later to register a specific URL, you may find that it’s not available. At least, not available for the normal registration fee of $10. Try $1,500 – payable to Domibot (or any of several different names that they operate under).

I hope that you haven’t read this far, and are now wondering what I’m smoking. I’m perfectly serious – and you can read about this further, if you like. Here, too, we have a discussion where this problem was discovered. And, if you’re wondering

Just how much money can Domibot make, anyway?

you may want to read Bob Parsons (GoDaddy) The add/drop scheme… where the scam is discussed in detail, and in dollar value.

So, if you’re planning to register a URL, and are looking for a good one, that’s descriptive and unique, be aware of the possibilities. If you read the discussion (and be warned – it’s a pretty long one), you’ll find that no one really knows how Domibot operates. There are 3 ways to deal with them.

  • If you find an available URL that looks good to you, register it on the spot.
  • If you later find that your choice is available for $1,500, pay the fee.
  • Wait until the URL is again available, either 5 or 10 days later.

Read the linked articles, if you think I’m dreaming. I’m not.

The Page Cannot Be Displayed (Error 404)

November 24, 2006

This is a very popular error message, being seen recently. And by popular, I don’t mean well liked, as in

Chuck is a popular guy.

I wish.

I mean we are seeing it a lot, recently. Or it’s being reported a lot. Or maybe, it’s always around, but the other problems are down a lot, so this one is visible.

The problem here is, it’s used so much we don’t know what it means. It could be anything like

  • Your computer won’t connect to it.
  • We don’t know where it is
  • We know where it is, but we won’t let you connect.

In Microsoft Windows Networking, it might be a combination of the old Error 5 aka Access Denied and the Error 53 aka Name Not Found. Both of these are very popular (and again not well liked) errors in Windows.

So how do we fix it? That’s the bottom line.

You start by identifying who’s responsible for it. The message itself is coming from your computer. Start with a little basic troubleshooting. If the problem is just you connecting to one or more web sites (like your blog, and maybe other blogs), then it’s vaguely possible that the problem is in your computer or your network, or maybe your ISP’s network. If either is the case, then the ball is in your court. Help is available, though.

If you can eliminate your computer or network, and your ISP’s network, and the Internet as a whole, then the problem is probably in Blogger somewhere. This is a huge network in itself. Now you have two choices, and I recommend that you try both, simultaneously.

  • Report the problem to Blogger, directly.
  • Report the problem to your peers (and to Blogger indirectly).

And report the problem objectively, and calmly. Help the people who will try to help you.

When you report the problem, whether in a Blogger Help form, or to an open forum, try to include some description of the scope of the problem.

  • What are you trying to do? Read a blog, publish to your blog, publish a picture to your blog?
  • Just your blog, just some blogs (which blogs?), or all blogs?
  • (Currently relevant) Are the blogs in question Classic, or Beta, blogs?
  • What browser do you use? Brand and version will be useful.
  • Did you try from just one computer, or from multiple computers?
  • Did you maybe try from another location (another network, maybe your friends computer)?
  • Is the problem constant, intermittent, occasional? Did it just start, or have you always seen it?
  • Have you changed anything on your computer or your network recently?

These are all standard troubleshooting questions, and all are useful to anybody who has to help you diagnose the problem.