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Technology thoughts leaking from the brain of "Bill Pytlovany"

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Should I upgrade to Windows Vista?

Our new WinPatrol is Vista CapableI’ve had a number of folks ask me about Windows Vista which was officially released to the world yesterday.  I’m sure anyone who reads my Blog has already read their share of information about Vista. I’ve read everything from Vista being the savior of the computer world, to it being just a service pack for Windows XP.

The big question I’ve gotten from family and friends this week “Should I upgrade to Vista?”  My answer is the same for any new software. There’s usually no good reason to make such a dramatic change to the status quo. I always recommend waiting to see how things work out so you can learn more. If you do experience problems, someone else may have already found a solution.  It doesn’t mean I don’t think Vista is cool or exciting. It just seems like sound advice.

I really haven’t decided what I think about Vista. I’m still playing with it and reading what others think. Next week I’ll be spending most of my time discussing Vista with a number of experts during a PC World Geek Cruise of the Eastern Caribbean.  Special guests on our ship include PC World V.P. and Editor-in-chief  Harry McCracken, TV Personality Leo Laporte, and N.Y. Times columnist David Pogue. I’m sure when I return I’ll have a lot more to say.

Will I be upgrading to Vista?  Of course!  I’m a geek so I already have.   Smile and the world will smile with you.
If you want to read more about Vista our friend Corrine has planted a full crop of good informational links at Security Garden.

 

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CastleCops 5-Year Anniversary Prize Giveaway

CastleCops.com
If you love learning more about computers and you love to win great prizes you’ll want to visit our friends at CastleCops.com.  To celebrate their 5 year anniversary of helping computer users the folks at CastleCops have created a prize extravaganza  They asked many of their friends in the industry to donate software and other prizes and boy do they have a lot of friends!

They’ll soon be giving away over $130,000 in donations from companies who recognize how valuable CastleCops and their volunteers have been to the online community. According to today’s Press Release the following amounts are going to be given away.

Cyberdefender - $35,970, www.cyberdefender.com
Prevx1 - $24,950, www.prevx.com
Microsoft - $14,000, www.microsoft.com
SUPERAntiSpyware - $11,970, www.superantispyware.com
NullBound - $9,650, www.nullbound.com
McAfee - $5,100, www.mcafee.com
CastleCops - $5,000, www.castlecops.com
GreenBorder - $4,995, www.greenborder.com
Facetime - $3,453, www.facetime.com
Uniblue - $3,000, www.liutilities.com
SonicWALL - $2,655, www.sonicwall.com
Symantec - $1,749, www.symantec.com
Grisoft - $1,200, www.grisoft.com
VirusBlokAda Ltd - $1,180, www.anti-virus.by
Panda Software - $1,539, www.pandasoftware.com
WinPatrol 2007 - $1,497, www.winpatrol.com
Firetrust - $1,069, www.firetrust.com
Trend Micro - $799, www.trendmicro.com
Sunbelt-Software - $748, www.sunbelt-software.com
Malwarebytes - $747, www.malwarebytes.org
CheckPoint - $699, www.checkpoint.com
Fortinet - $699, www.fortinet.com
TechSmith - $638, www.techsmith.com
Simply Super Software - $580, www.simplysup.com
PC Pitstop - $449, www.pcpitstop.com
Mischel Internet Security - $294, www.misec.net
ESET - $199, www.eset.com
OReilly - $159, www.oreilly.com

The contest officially begins tomorrow at noon so be sure to register and there’s a good chance you could be a winner.

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Monday, January 29, 2007

Bill Gates confirms, Vista Upgrade Under $100

Bill will be doing a number of interviews this week to promote Vista but he surprised me when interviewed by Meredith Vieira on the Today Show this morning. While factual, I can’t help thinking this was a little misleading.

Meredith: “So you don’t necessarily have to go out and buy a new computer then?”

Bill:  “No, No… it works on any reasonably up-to-date machine.  We can do the software upgrade. We make that easier than we have in the past”.

Meredith:  “What does it cost?  What’s the system cost”?

Bill: “Well, People are upgrading will find that it’s less than a hundred dollars.”

Bill: “With new machines, you actually get it with the machine itself”.

Bill Gates on the Today Show

Amazon does have the Microsoft Windows Vista Home Basic UPGRADE available to pre-order today for $98.99.  This version doesn’t include most of the features Bill mentioned in the interview. 

According to Microsoft.com…

“If you only want to use your PC for tasks like browsing the Internet, using e-mail, or viewing photos, then Windows Vista Home Basic may be the right edition for you.

Microsoft has a comparison chart available so you can select the right version of Vista for you. (Click here to compare)

Click to See the full segment on MSN.com, following a short ad.

Bill is also scheduled to appear tonight on the DailyShow with Jon Stewart. Should be fun!

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Sunday, January 28, 2007

Say Good-bye to Hard Disk Drives

I didn’t make any predictions on New Years Day because I was traveling so instead maybe I’ll make predictions all year long. Today’s prediction is that by 2010 “personal” computers will no longer have “hard disks”.

Replacing hard drives will be non-volatile memory commonly called “Flash memory”. It’s also called a “Solid State Disk” although there is no disc platter involved.

If you’ve been a digital camera user you’ve seen the price of memory like compact flash and Secure Digital cards plummet while the size capabilities have exploded. SanDisk has a 2 GB CompactFlash for $49.99.
SanDisk SDCFH-2048-901 2GB ULTRA II CF Card

Currently, you can put the entire Linux OS on a USB Flash keychain.

According to our  friends at Engadget, A-Data is now making a 128GB SSD with a SATA Interface.  That’s three times the minimum requirement for even Windows Vista!

While I may not be ready to replace my current 500GB Raid0 SATA drive, it’s only a matter of time before SSD will catch up with the four critical factors.

Size
Price
Speed
Reliability

Speed will soon surpass mechanical drives and with no moving parts reliability is close behind. Once the price per byte comes down we’ll see a mini rack of removable Solid State Drives on the front every computer sold. I’m looking forward to it if only to make organization of my files easier to handle.

Next year I’ll continue my prediction discussing how every user will have their own personal SSD that they can plug into a computer and reboot to their user profile. After that we’ll be reading about software licenses that include text like “This version of Google Photoshop may be installed on up to 3 personal SSD chips” before digital rights management control kicks in.

 

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Saturday, January 27, 2007

Upgrade to Vista, Lose CompuServe Access

Thanks to Markham for forwarding this disturbing news for CIS users.

Microsoft Corporation will soon release a new computer operating system called Microsoft Vista. This new operating system is scheduled for consumer release in early 2007. Most consumers currently use earlier versions of Microsoft's operating system, like Windows XP, Windows 2000, Windows 98, or Windows ME, and may not plan to change the existing operating system on their computers.

If you do not plan to purchase and install the Vista operating system, your CompuServe® account will continue to function as it does today, and you can disregard this message.

If, however, you are a user who plans to purchase and install the Microsoft Vista operating system on your existing computer, please read the following message to ensure that you do not experience disruption to your CompuServe Internet service.

CompuServe software will not be compatible with Microsoft's new Vista operating system. If you are planning to upgrade to Vista, please be aware that doing so will mean that your CompuServe software will no longer function, and you will not be able to connect to the Internet using CompuServe. Members who decide to use the Microsoft Vista operating system will need to sign up for a different Internet service (see options below) prior to switching to Vista and cancel their existing CompuServe account.

The following are some alternative Internet Service Provider options to consider:  

<Information on joining AOL>

We are currently evaluating options that will allow us to continue to provide CompuServe Internet access to our members who choose to use the Microsoft Vista operating system.

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Friday, January 26, 2007

Zero-Day Maybe, Vulnerability No

I’m really getting annoyed by some of the scary headlines I’m seeing lately. There must be a lull in the Anti-Malware business if companies have more press releases about malware infections then they do announcing new products or features.

Last week F-Secure started a panic with comments like, “A significant network attack was launch globally…  exploiting a timely widescale media event as the key mechanism for delivering its payload”. They even uploaded a scary video to YouTube to get more attention. Truth is, most Email systems filtered out this spam attachment and few reports exist of people actually downloading payload and activating it.

Now everyone is using “Zero-Day vulnerability” for just about any flaw out there. Symantec recently reported a new Microsoft Word 2000 Vulnerability. Many Office products have been found to have security flaws but I wouldn’t classify them as a “Vulnerability”. Secunia classifies this new Word report as “Extremely critical” but it suggests a solution; “Do not open untrusted Office documents”.

Vulnerable – “open to assault; difficult to defend; capable of being wounded or hurt”

In the above examples, the user must take some kind of non-recommended action before the install can take place. They all required the download and opening of some file attachment.

The WMF Exploit last year was a Zero-Day Vulnerability because you could become infected just by viewing a web page.  MSBlaster was a zero-day vulnerability which could infect you just by being connected to the internet. This happen due to an open port vulnerability in a key system service within Windows(DCOM RPC).

Infoworld says…”A zero-day vulnerability refers to a security hole for which exploits are already available when it was discovered.”

Zero-Day? maybe
Flaw? Certainly
Vulnerability? Not necessarily.

 

 

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WinPatrol in the Saipan Tribune

I’ve often reminded readers to think about how small the world has become and that it’s time to think global. Today I had the treat of discovering that WinPatrol has even been mentioned in the Saipan Tribune.

In a column called “Avoiding computer nasties”, by Ed Stephens Jr,   WinPatrol is included as one solution against problems like the recent “Storm Worm”. While  the whole Storm Worm has been blown way out of proportion, I’m happy for the mention.

“WinPatrol is a freebie favorite that I’ve been recommending for years now. The pay version is even better; it has a one time fee of $39, and its sharpest trick is explaining the lineage of those mysterious background programs that are always running on your computer. For me, it’s money well spent.”

Actually, the amount is wrong, it’s only $29.95, but I’m pleased Mr Stephens thinks we’re worth it.

It’s not uncommon for WinPatrol to be mentioned internationally, but it was a pleasure to be included in the Saipan Tribune.  My father was actually stationed in Saipan during World War II. Saipan is one of 15 tropical islands which make up the United States Commonwealth of the Northen Mariana Islands.
 

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

WinPatrol 2007 Beta Update

Last week I announced the availability of the new Vista-compatible WinPatrol 2007 with its new delayed start feature.  I’m pleased with the reaction and the feedback has been extremely positive.

Today I’ve released new version, technically called 11.0.4.2007. This version fixes a few bugs but mainly provides additional interface elements which will make our Delayed Start feature easier to use and provides additional protections against user error or misunderstanding.

When WinPatrol 2007 was announced I directed folks to our beta page in hopes everyone would read a little bit about the responsibilities and risks of using new software. I found that just like nobody likes to “RTFM”. A lot of folks didn’t read our tips for this particular beta. As of this morning that stats from our web site show…

18,944     Downloaded wpbetasetup.exe                
  1,622     Actually visited our beta2007.html page     

I think good software should never need a manual so the new version handles some issues previously explained on our beta page.  Special thanks to everyone who has sent feedback. 

For more information go to http://www.winpatrol.com/beta2007.html

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Monday, January 22, 2007

Windows Vista is Coming

The official launch of the consumer versions of Windows Vista is only seven days away.  I thought it would be a good time to start watching my Blog stats to see how quickly my readers are seduced into installing Vista.  As of today, it looks like  1.3% of my readers have already installed Vista.

Bits from Bill - Operating System stats

I haven’t really talked much about Vista.  At this time, I’m afraid I might come across as some kind of Microsoft basher.  Truth is I’m a big MS supporter and even spent a winter in Bldg 24 on the Redmond campus working on a secret project. I have a lot of respect for the folks at Microsoft so I don’t necessarily want to be quoted for comparing Vista to the quality of Windows ME.

Mostly, I’m disappointed.  I had hoped that Vista would be a huge step forward for Windows and that everyone would be more excited.  Judging from the buzz online, everyone is supportive, but nobody is lining up outside computer stores waiting to be the first to purchase Vista.

According to Mary Jo Foley last month

First-year Windows Vista sales will stall.”
“Many PC makers and resellers still aren't promoting Vista. Many can't answer even basic questions about which machines will and won't run the various Vista SKUs. Granted, Microsoft moves the bulk of Windows copies via OEM preloads, not retail sales -- but I'm still doubtful.”

My experience is that many consumers “have to” have what ever is the latest and greatest so people will be upgrading to Vista even quicker than they upgraded to XP.  ( XP adoption was actually very slow.)  I’ll be watching the stats and will let you all know what I see both here in Bits from Bill and other web sites. Analysis have recently been predicting 15% will be using Vista by this time next year.

I’ll also be watching the number of Mac users which currently averages about 2%.  My biggest surprise is that at least one of my readers out there is still using OS/2.  Smile

 

 

 

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Sunday, January 21, 2007

Fear the Spam Storm, Not the Trojan

It must have been a slow news weekend. A number of news sources have been eagerly warning folks about the Trojan storm heading their way. It originated at F-Secure.com when they, like many of us, noticed a large number of spam E-mails which contained a worm/Trojan they call “small.DAM”.
They even posted a Storm-Worm video on You-Tube showing the storm as it was discovered around the world.

WorldMap Live Storm-Worm  Click to view video

The Trojan arrives has an attachment to an Email which has any number of subject lines containing a tantalizing news headline like "Russian missile shot down Chinese satellite", “Sadam Hussein alive!” or "230 dead as storm batters Europe".
While everyone has been spreading the news, our data has found no indication of widespread infection. Hmmm... either WinPatrol must really be doing something right or this threat isn’t all that widespread.
Are attachments like this still getting through Email filters? Are people downloading attachments with names like, video.exe, full video.exe, Read More.exe, Full Text.exe or Full Clip.exe to see new stories? I say no. At least not to the extent deserving of this weekends attention.

I'm ready to take on the storm. I suspect most of the E-mail was generated by spam-bots and not via actual infections. Instead of a successful Trojan or worm I see this as nothing more than a very successful spam campaign.

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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

WinPatrol 2007 Beta

On February 18th, our plan is to release the newest version of our software called WinPatrol 2007.  Today, I’m pleased to announce an opportunity for my readers to have an early preview of the latest and greatest.

The newest feature of WinPatrol will greatly accelerate your system startup time. While WinPatrol 2007 has been improved in many ways our favorite new feature is called "Delayed Start".  You probably have programs which you do want running in the background but you don’t need to launch immediately on boot up. WinPatrol’s Delayed Start allows you to specify the time to wait before launching programs which may typically try to load while other system initialization are happening.

Here's a screen shot of the newest feature of WinPatrol 2007
WinPatrol 2007 with Delayed Start

I'm pleased to say WinPatrol runs great with Windows Vista and takes full advantages of its enhanced security features.  Using Vista's UAC(User Access Control), you may find some startup programs require your permission before they can begin.  Moving these programs to the Delayed Start list can prevent simultaneous annoying systems pop ups.

User Access Control Dialog that pops up all the time in Vista

All new features are available in both the Free and PLUS versions of WinPatrol.  WinPatrol 2007 remains a free download thanks to the support of those who have paid up to $29.95 for a PLUS membership. Like the goal of all our versions, WinPatrol 2007 helps to put you back in control of your computer.

If you’re interested in checking out the WinPatrol 2007 beta go to http://www.winpatrol.com/beta2007.html
I also have five WinPatrol sport shirts which will be shipped to a random selection of readers who send us bug reports.

WinPatrol PLUS Sport Shirt

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Thursday, January 11, 2007

Worlds Best Vista Craplet Cleaner

When I first installed Windows Vista Ultimate, I was surprised to see only four items in the Startup Programs list. You can be sure that any version of Vista that comes installed on a new computer will have a lot more.

WinPatrol's report on Windows Vista
WinPatrol 2007

The Canadian Broadcasting Corp is reporting on its CES interview with a Microsoft official who implied many startup programs installed by OEM’s would create compatibility problems with Windows Vista.  According to the so-called “Microsoft official” who spoke on the condition of anonymity, “We call them craplets”.   The article goes on to explain, “We can’t do anything about it because it would be illegal.

I’m not sure why they care. The customer isn’t going to be able to call Microsoft to complain, they’ll be calling the computer maker.

As tempting as it may be I don’t think I’m going to adopt the “Craplet” terminology.  I haven’t found anyone at Microsoft who will admit to using the term Craplet.  I am happy to say, WinPatrol has been helping folks remove Craplets since 1997.  If Microsoft really wanted to help remove these programs they should just include WinPatrol as part of Vista.  Wink

 


 

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Apple iOne, Everyone else iZero

I haven’t been to a Consumer Electronic Show in many years but I was sorry I didn’t get the time to attend this years show in Las Vegas.  A lot of friends attended this years show which was full of news, new products and personal appearances by Bill Gates at many small functions.  Usually, Bill may give a keynote speech and then disappears.  Bill and wife Melinda have been very busy in the 21st century and while it has been wonderful for the poor and needy of the world, his absence on the Redmond campus has hurt Microsoft.  The excitement over Windows Vista hasn’t come close to previous new versions and this may have been different had Bill been more hands-on.

Meanwhile, Steve Jobs is putting 150% of himself into rebuilding Apple’s product share.  Thousands of new products have been introduced at CES but the biggest news reported this week was the “iPhone” from Apple.  The media loves Apple and if Jobs plays his cards right, we could even see the Mac market share back to respectable numbers this year.

Want proof?  Last month Linksys, a division of Cisco announced the “iPhone” but nobody cared much. They actually own the iPhone trademark but there are reports an agreement over the naming rights is near. I suspect the price tag will be more than when Apple paid a million dollars for the rights to the word “Classic” many years ago.

Click for iPhone news from CNet

InfoWorld coverage of the Linksys iPhone

CNet reports: Cisco sues Apple over use of iPhone trademark

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Sunday, January 07, 2007

Updates on Tuesday, Not so much

I actually have great things to say about Microsoft today.  They made a decision on Friday to pull some of the security updates that they had previously announced would occur on Tuesday, January 9th. 

Originally, Microsoft announced that this Tuesdays automatic update would include eight security updates including three Critical updates for Microsoft Windows, one Important update for Windows and Microsoft Visual Studio, one Important update for Windows and Microsoft Office and three Critical updates for Microsoft Office.

After some testing of the updates raised concerns the new scheduled update will include only four security patches.  Three Critical fixes for Office and one of the Critical fixes for Windows.

No official explanation was given by Redmond officials but one of my sources at Microsoft just plainly admitted potential conflicts in the four patches were found and a delay was necessary.  (His/Her) exact words were, “The cure was worse than the disease” along with a hint about broken media players.

If you’ve read my past articles on software updates you know I feel strongly that system updates of this magnitude are nearly impossible to test. I’m pleased to see the Microsoft is continuing to improve their testing methodology and they’re not afraid to pull a potentially flawed release.

Even with the positive signs of increased testing I still continue to recommend holding off a while before installing any updates.  Unless your online habits are risky, there are enough other guinea pigs out there.

 

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Thursday, January 04, 2007

SiteAdvisor Goes Overboard with Firefox 2

Thanks to one of our reader comments for pointing out that Bits from Bill may not look properly formatted  when viewed by Firefox 2.  While I have limited control over the Blogger format I downloaded Firefox 2 today. Hopefully I can tweak my template and make it look better.

Installing Firefox was easy enough but I was very confused when I first launched the program.  Instead of a Firefox start page, Internet Explorer launched and displayed the following.

First result of running Firefox

Why were you redirected to this page? SiteAdvisor's "Protected Mode" is enabled, which shields your PC from interaction with red and yellow sites. Currently this mode is only supported with the Internet Explorer browser. Other browsers have been blocked from opening so that they can't be used to circumvent Protected Mode's enforcement.

I’ve always been a fan of SiteAdvisor but this is insane!
What if every IE utility popped up a warning message like this when I tried to run an alternate browser? 

Suppose I want to use both browsers? I will have to turn Protected Mode back on every time I need to use Internet Explorer?

So far, Bits from Bill looks OK to me.  If anyone has had a bad experience feel free to send a screen shot to the WinPatrol.com Email address of “Support”.

I’ll continue to play with Firefox 2 but this has made me reconsider using SiteAdvisor when(if) I go back to Internet Explorer. 

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Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Internet Explorer 7 is #1

Since Internet Explorer 7 was first release I’ve been watching my Blog statistics to see how quickly Microsoft’s new browser had been accepted. I first reported on the increased usage in October when IE7 was being installed as part of a scheduled Windows update.

Today the percentage of IE7 users reading Bits from Bill hit 31.67% exceeding other browsers including all previous versions of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. 

Browser usage today on Bits from Bill

I don’t know how these numbers are reflected on other sites but apparently IE7 is now the most popular browser used by my readers.  It’s pretty amazing considering I have recommended that users don’t upgrade at this time.  

I also noticed the total percentage of Firefox usage has gone up from 27.5% to 32% since October 25th when I started to keep track.  Total percentage of IE usage has gone down 3% points during the same period.

 

 

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Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Happy New Year (insert name)

The latest spam I’ve experienced this weekend all seemed to start with Happy New Year and someones name or just Happy NW (random name).  In some cases, the sender wants me to purchase stock in something called Physicians Adult Daycare(PHYA). In other cases, it’s a link to something far more dangerous.  It appears that malware authors have been planning special treats for us to help them celebrate a brand new year.

As always I advise you resist the tempation to open Email greetings from people you don’t know, even if the name is the same as some long lost friend.  If someone sends you a greeting card,  don’t fall for it.  Even if it’s someone you recognize, confirm with them first before opening up any animated greetings from unknown websites.  If you see an attachment named “postcard.zip or postcard.exe” you can be sure it’s some kind of trojan waiting to infiltrate your system.

I won’t be sending out animated greeting cards or Happy New Years Emails so I’ll take this time to wish you all a Happy, Safe, Productive and Peaceful New Year!

 

 

 

 

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