Bits from Bill

Technology thoughts leaking from the brain of "Bill Pytlovany"

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Rebooting Bits From Bill

Over ten years ago I started to share my thoughts and advice here at Bits From Bill.  At the time I focused on new technology and what folks could do to make using a personal computer safe and efficient. Blogs may not be popular anymore but the support I've had here has encouraged me to keep in touch.

As many of you know I've battled with health issues in recent years. The struggle had an impact on my work including the time I was able to devote to this blog. I'm hoping to reboot sharing what my brain finds valuable and will write about topics I hope you'll find worthy.

"... the first tech toy... I use every day...."
I will be sharing tips about my new best friend Alexa. The popular Amazon assistant is being included in a variety of devices and is in a category all it's own. I've talked to many people who haven't explored Alexa enough to realize how powerful these devices are.  Alexa is the first tech toy I've purchased since 1999 that I use every day and it has truly enhanced my productivity. (In 1999 I discovered TiVo)

"... a lot of loT devices to be Alexa compatible."
Naturally, as a Blue Hat hacker, I will still be paying attention to tricks used to steal passwords and personal info. I'm surprised at the attention given to Wikileaks for disclosing details of tools we've been talking about for years.  I'll share my research into security flaws in Windows Universal and devices using the "Internet of Things"(IoT). Don't be surprised if I promote loT devices to be Alexa compatible.

"Central Nervous System Lyme Disease"
I will share my experiences with technology advances
in medicine. In 1980, I wrote a paper predicting how computers would be used in the future of health care. I may share more personal details of my own experience.
Dead Tick
I'm in the process of being a survivor of chronic Central Nervous System Lyme Disease. Only 10-15% of those infected by a Lyme infected tick are of the CNS type. Mine was finally confirmed following a spinal tap ordered by my hero, Dr. David Rockwell. The time it takes me to write isn't what it used to be but it's healthy for me and I'll save the best bits for you.


Share on Facebook


Saturday, August 06, 2016

Retirement of an Independent Developer

As an Independent Developer I've experienced a couple common problems with growing old and planning for retirement.  The first is a challenge for anyone who works for themselves. When you have an occupation without  a pension or shared retirement plan you really need to put something aside for retirement. I reinvested most profits back into the business which mostly went to health benefits. Makes me wonder if adding 3rd party toolbars would have been the best long term business decision. 

Another more unique challenge is how to complete a product cycle.  Over the years I've developed special relationships with many of my customers. How do you notify a large user base that you no longer support a program because you want to retire?  In the case of my flagship WinPatrol product I found Bret Lowry. A young ambitious and experienced security expert Bret has an understanding and respect for his customers. Bret is now the face of WinPatrol and owns all its code, graphics and reputation. Many WinPatrol fans have been using it for over 10 years so it was important to meet everyone's needs. Bret has combined the best of WinPatrol technology with his own experience to create new solutions ready to battle with new security threats.

Over the last couple years, I've updated an old favorite called Task Catcher. I also created a service to let folks know what personal data has been compromised and how. Customers found the "BlueHat" service to be curious but most who took advantage of this service were already educated on best practices for personal security. As more attacks were acknowledged by large and small corporations it became increasingly difficult and costly to keep up. It also put me in contact with too many untrustworthy groups who were stealing personal information. 
I've had many ideas for the future but continued health issues have made me realize I won't be able to make the commitment required of an Independent Developer. As such,  I'm taking this opportunity to officially announce my retirement. I've had an amazing experience working in the personal computer; online service;  PC gaming; Interactive TV, Security industry and more. My brain will continue to think, "How can this be better?" as I use my laptop, phone and other programmable devices. Education is still important to me from sharing good computer stories to serving on the board of our local school district.

To my friends who have made donations during my toughest time of medical treatments, I will forever be grateful and will forward your kindness on to others.  If I do create any programs that might be useful I'll be making them available for free. I will also continue to live up to the honor of receiving the Microsoft “Most Valuable Professional” awards. I hope to have more time to help answer questions online, write useful Bits from Bill leaks and continue speaking engagements when possible.

THANKS!
Bill




Share on Facebook


Saturday, December 26, 2015

BillP Studios Update for 2015

It's been awhile since I've updated my Bits from Bill.  After the sale of my WinPatrol program, life online has been quiet.  I do have a couple for utilities available along with my popular Task Catcher program but they haven’t required as much time as I put into WinPatrol.  It has still been a challenge since getting older has come with a few surprises.

The result of multiple hospitalizations has meant a temporary loss of many BillP managed websites. This includes email functionality for sites like BillP.com and TaskCatcher.com.  I can't say when everything will be back to normal so I'm making my personal e-mail available to anyone with questions.  I can be contacted at BillP@aol.com.  I've had this e-mail address for almost 30 years and I plan on keeping it even if they do make fun of America Online on NCIS.
  
Page Not Found

I've hosted my web sites using Verio for almost 20 years and this is the first time I’ve been offline for such a long period of time. Verio has helped as much as possible but this outage is a failure that is my responsibility.

The past year has been one of transition. I've really been lucky to have many friends online who have provided support in many ways. Over the years of developing WinPatrol  I’ve been lucky to  consider many customers as friends and will continue to be helpful as long as I can. I hope that 2016 will be a year of recovery and the introduction of new BillP apps that are universally available to all Windows 10 systems, including tablets, phones and the “Internet of Things.

I'll continue updates here on Bits From Bill.
Thanks,
BillP




Share on Facebook


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.

Share on Facebook