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Technology thoughts leaking from the brain of "Bill Pytlovany"

Friday, August 14, 2015

Network Connected Devices

One of the new terms I often hear is "Internet of Things". I'm not a huge fan of this terminology but it does indicate a trend towards many new devices that are connected to the Internet but don't represent your typical computer. The number of devices that now are connected to home networks or business networks has grown substantially.

Unfortunately in many cases security has been an afterthought with new Internet connected devices. This was demonstrated recently when the car company Audi recalled the many years of vehicles which contained network connected devices that could be used to control functions within the car. Nobody ever imagined someone with a computer could change the speed, the steering, or the breaking mechanisms which were now enhanced by the automobile. One of the issues that surprised me the most was the sound system could actually be used as an interface to the car's computer network.

Having devices controlled by a smart phone or laptop is not a bad idea. As long as the interface with devices includes major security protections I'll be one of the first to invest in them. Even now many companies fail trying to secure smart phones and personal computers. Seems like every week a new vulnerability is discovered and we all hear of unwanted users  taking control of devices we depend on.

Having a background in discovering vulnerabilities and a knowledge of the new computer language "ARM", BillP Studios has been asked to research a number of network connected devices. So far, we have discovered potential vulnerabilities in home thermostats, security cameras, automatic garage door openers, lawn sprinkler systems, water meters and popular printers available through the internet.




Johnson Controls Automated Water Meter with Leak Detection
Fixed


Other devices being researched include IV poles used in hospitals to control distribution of fluids and medication. While hospital equipment vulnerabilities have not been found here, others have reported this failure. Hospitals are being warned to remove certain equipment. Additional research is being done on home appliances such as washers, dryers and microwave ovens. We've looked hard at home alarm systems, devices used for television streaming, gasoline pumps, solar panels, home routers, and communication devices including police, fire, and other emergency management systems.

Ultimately, having many of these devices monitored and controlled via the Internet is a great feature to have available. These devices and their remote functionality fall into that category of computers that actually make our life easier. Obviously, all of these devices are useless if they can't be used in a secure manner.

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Saturday, May 02, 2015

64 Bit Windows is Here, Like it or Not

In recent years the average consumer hasn’t realized there has been a significant change in computer hardware. It used to be an option but now most personal computers are sold with 64 bit processor.

Typically, programs have been developed to run on 32 bit computers and most will run on 64 bit computers without any changes. As expected requests for programs that take advantage of 64 bit features has also increased. The work required to convert a program to a 64 app can vary which is why even Microsoft hasn’t converted all their programs.

The key feature of 64 bit computer is the ability to access more memory.  This is beneficial if your computer came with extra memory and you use a programs that uses a lot of memory like photo or video editors. Having more memory available is great  The downside is a program created specifically for 64 bits won’t work on any 32 bit computers. Separate programs will be needed to each type of processor.

Task Catcher 2/64

It took a little time to create a version of my Task Catcher program.  Task Catcher has features which need it to find both 32 and 64 bit programs. This isn’t possible just a 32 bit program.

One feature of Task Catcher is the ability to detect programs you want running all the time.  Now Task Catcher can find both 32 and 64 bit programs

Restarting Programs that Fail

action64




















After selecting a program you want running at all times, you have options on what action to take if the program is detected as no longer running.

restart64

If you asked to be Alerted than Task Catcher’s real-time monitor will let you know when your computer is no longer working as expected. Malware often shuts down popular Anti-Virus software but Task Catcher will re-launch your protection and/or will let you know what’s going on.


Multiple Ways to Block Programs

Task Catcher has always allowed you to block programs based on their filename but the new version supports wild cards. This allows it to catch many more unwanted programs.  Just enter specific text like “conduit”, “Ask”, “avg” or other text segments commonly found in a potentially unwanted programs. If a program or Windows Service with this text in its name tries to run, Task Catcher can automatically block it or let you decide if it’s ok.

taskcat64


These are just a couple of the features in Task Catcher 2. Like WinPatrol I’ve developed this program for my own use and it include features I can’t find in other programs. As I found myself using more 64 bit programs it was obvious that Task Catcher 2/64 was needed.

The 64 bit version is now available and will be updated regularly. Any compatibility problems should be reported to support@taskcatcher.com so they can be fixed quickly.

The free Task Catcher includes all of the new features but does limit the number of programs in each list. This will still allow many to use the free version for their needs. Purchasing a license will remove any limits.

Special thanks to all our supporters so you’ll never worry about unchecking a box when installing our software.

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Thursday, March 12, 2015

BillP’s WinPatrol Toolkit

Over the years I added a lot of features to WinPatrol and many were unnoticed or forgotten. It was actually at the request of one of our blind users I added the ability to assign unique sound files to each WinPatrol notification type.

Reviewers were often critical of WinPatrol’s use of old style windows and buttons. While many considered the interface boring I kept it this way to support popular screen readers and other accessibility tools. Even Robin, popular researcher for BillP Studios and college professor is legally blind.

A program wanting to have custom sounds can use the Windows Sounds Applet in the Control Panel as a user interface.  Few programs actually take advantage of this feature but WinPatrol has always supported this enhancement.

SoundApplet


I've created a FREE easy to use app that will allow you to customize your WinPatrol with your favorite .wav files. I've included some .wav examples but they're pretty boring. 
BillP's WinPatrol Toolkit can be downloaded from BillP.com or click the image below.

Toolkit1


BONUS:
For those wanting a different system tray icon, the toolkit will also trick Scotty into using one of the choices currently available.

        Option101    Option102    Option104   Option107     Option159

This is a first pass so I expect improvements based on your feedback. The program is Free as-is. While I’ve had permission from WinPatrol’s owner, Bret Lowry to release this app, there is no guarantee future versions will be supported.

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Tuesday, March 03, 2015

WinPatrol & Task Catcher Both Golden


Last week I was happy to be a part of a new release of

WinPatrol
(v33) from “WinPatrol (Formerly Ruiware, LLC).  This is the first major release since WinPatrol ownership was transferred to former lead at Sunbelt Software, Bret Lowry.  The introduction of Bret’s WinPrivacy program has received a lot of attention.

winprivacy

WinPrivacy

At the same time, I was happy with the release of Task Catcher 2 from BillP Studios. This program has been around for many years but remained in the shadow of WinPatrol. A small number of fans have used Task Catcher for its feature of restarting programs that fail or are closed by other programs.

Task Catcher 2 is a complete rewrite but continues use the C programming language so it can run in the background without impacting performance. It continues to support older versions of Windows while taking advantage of the newest technology from Microsoft.  Windows Phone and Surface RT users will be pleased when Task Catcher Universal is available.

track-screen

Task Catcher Program Tracking

One new feature in Task Catcher is its ability to track usage of your favorite or even unwanted programs. The screen above shows it’s initial data which will be expanded based on user feedback and needs.

Previous features have been renamed and enhanced. Watch List is now appropriately called “Restart List” and the Black List is now called “Blocked” programs.
 
blocked

Task Catcher 2 has expanded the flexibility and control over blocking a program and preventing it from running. Using text which is part of a filename can be entered to block programs.

Using a small part of a filename allows Task Catcher to block all related programs. For example, using text segments like “avg”, “conduit” or “ask” will block a range of programs related to the undesirable text.

BillP Studios has also recognized the need to block programs used for online extortion. Expanding quickly are ransomware apps that encrypt a users data and require a payment to restore their files. Task Catcher checks for suspicious apps that encrypt data and offers users a chance to block program that may not be familiar.

WinPatrol (v33)

I was happy to have a chance to work on changes for the new WinPatrol. I’ve enjoyed the break but I still know how the software works inside and out. The user interface includes some new columns that provide consistency. Startup programs and Delayed Start both include a Status column letting users know if a program is running.

One of the major enhancements comes with the updated History screen. It’s obvious that more changes to this screen are on the way.

WinPatrol-History


Unlike Task Catcher 2, WinPatrol will continue using the Tab Dialog UI and standard Windows buttons. I’ve stayed with Common Dialog buttons to support users with screen readers.

As part of our affiliation agreement WinPatrol PLUS members who use Task Catcher have access to the WinPatrol PLUS Info database.  WinPatrol PLUS  members will have one-click access to my BitsFromBill Blog.

plusnews-winpatrol

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