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Technology thoughts leaking from the brain of "Bill Pytlovany"

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Top Ten Blog Posts for January 2008

Most popular posts for January 2008 



This post is intended to make it easier for people would find the January archive page find the post they may have searched on.

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Sunday, January 27, 2008

Online Activation is the Future

I’ve always been fairly open minded when it comes to software piracy. I’ve always known that a number of people were using illegal PLUS codes. Until recently I didn’t realize how many! I figured the folks using generated code were probably not going to support WinPatrol anyway so it’s not like I was losing money. However, it really isn’t fair to those friends of Scotty who have shown their support over the years.

After doing some research, I decided to take step one in clamping down on illegal codes. I want to make sure all legitimate supporters had the quickest possible access to the PLUS database. They deserve the best. Online activation seems to be making a difference and has already shown me just how many people have been naughty.

Over the last two days over 4000 activations have been attempted using codes which weren’t provided by BillP Studios. Most attempts came from specific locations in the world. Some repeated attempts are coming from a few folks determined to create new keygen schemes.

Message when illegal PLUS codes are entered

In some cases we will have problems with our long time PLUS members who may have typed a number one where the letter L should go. I’m standing by the computer and responding to Emails quickly to get folks back using PLUS as quickly as possible.


WinPatrol Update

In other news, those of you who were quick to download our newest version may want to stop by again. I did find a bug that, depending on your processor type, may delay new startup alerts. It’s amazing and embarrassing how much changing a compiler setting can affect software. WinPatrol 14.0.2007.1 is available at http://www.winpatrol.com/download.html.

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Friday, January 25, 2008

WinPatrol 14 Enhances Keylogging Detection

I recently wrote about a local man who was jailed for felony eavesdropping after admitting he stalked his ex-wife using a key logger program. The more I researched this case and heard about others, the more enraged I became. Luckily, there is a way I can help.

While WinPatrol has always detected keylogging programs, only our PLUS version fully supported their identification and removal. Keyloggers typically hide in locations which are unknown to most startup managers like msconfig.exe. These secret locations used to be one of the features used to encourage users to upgrade to WinPatrol PLUS. It’s obvious to me that detection of keylogging software is too important to be a premium feature. The free version of WinPatrol 14.0 will now provide full support for the identification and removal of keylogging software.

This used to only be available to PLUS members


In the process of testing the new version, I downloaded known keyloggers and was amused at their warnings.

Spector Warning


Web Watcher  warning

I’m sure there are legitimate reasons why someone would need a keylogger program but when I read the agreements above I want to barf. When the obvious reasons these programs are used are to spy on someone without their knowledge, these agreements are pitiful. Are they suppose to free the vendor of any liability when their program is used for felony eavesdropping?

Some of these programs are built on excellent technology and this software category is well established. Many will argue that parents may need keyloggers to monitor children but I strongly recommend parents take other approaches. Visit Homeland Security’s “National Cyber Alert System” and you’ll see I’m not alone.

I’m not going to take on the whole industry but I can help folks adhere to their agreement. If someone has a keylogger on their system, our newest WinPatrol will detect it and help them remove it. For information on other new features and to download 14.0 go to http://www.winpatrol.com/upgrade.html


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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Support for Downloads without Surprises

Last week I posted a message about the packaging of ad supported programs along with popular software. It appears to be a common practice that is happening far too often when downloading software.  I don’t have anything personally against the companies involved in this behavior but it just isn’t something for me.


I would like to thank everyone who showed their support with comments and even some new WinPatrol PLUS upgrades. I hope the community dialog continues and other companies will continue their best practice models.


The support has been very motivating and has kept me busy.  Stay tuned tomorrow for details and news of WinPatrol v14.0.

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Monday, January 21, 2008

How to "Fix" Advertising Keywords

I’ve often been asked why I don’t advertise WinPatrol and attract new PLUS customers using Google adwords or other online methods. Unfortunately, there’s competition for prime advertising space and since most folks use the free version of WinPatrol I just can’t compete.

Here’s an example of other companies taking advantage of our good name in their own advertising. When they bid for keywords like WinPatrol I don’t stand a chance. Ironically, the following ads show up when I go to my LinkedIn profile.

Google Ads found on pages that mention WinPatrol
Not sure what they claim to fix in WinPatrol


All the Google ads I’ve found seem to point to the same company although though they have multiple websites. I’m not familiar with the company that makes the RegCure program but it appears they use some heavy handed tactics to encourage users to pay for their software.


RegCure Website that claims to Fix WinPatrol
From one of multiple RegCure websites

There seems to be some debate online as to if RegCure is a “Rogue” application. When I searched for reviews on RegCure I found a number of websites that pretend to be review sites but just want to sell you RegCure or some other program owned by the same company. I can’t say they’re doing anything wrong other than annoy me but this kind of behavior sure is suspicious.

If you need to “Fix” WinPatrol just Email support and I’ll make sure you’re treated well and there won’t be a charge.


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Thursday, January 17, 2008

TechWatch Radio Interview on Saturday Morning

Just a note to anyone who might want to hear more about WinPatrol directly from the author; I’ll be live on TechWatch Radio this Saturday, January 19th, at 10 AM EST. I’ve chatted before with hosts Sam Bushman and Jay Harrison and it’s always a fun time.


To listen live on Saturday morning you can go to http://www.accentradio.com.


To hear my interview from a couple years ago you can listen to http://www.winpatrol.com/techwatchradio.mp3.


Update: Saturdays Interview now posted thanks to TechWatch Radio who were the first to hear about the new version of WinPatrol available later this month. http://www.billp.com/blog/billp-techwatch.mp3.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Would you like Toolbar with your Software Order?

Yesterday, I had a chat with a nice guy who does business development for IAC, the folks behind Ask.com. IAC is also behind other products I don’t care for like Zwinky and so-called FunWebProducts. IAC has had a lot of success lately talking companies into including their free Ask.com toolbar and they thought WinPatrol might be a popular partner.


Last year a number of companies decided to treat their customers with automatic installation of the Ask.com search/toolbar. If you’re not paying attention when you install software from Webroot, Nero and Zonelabs(Check Point) you’ll soon have a branded version of the Ask.com toolbar installed. My new friend at IAC tells me it’s quite common and they recommend pre-checking the install option to make sure more users receive the toolbar. He mentioned bundled installations of DivX and Skype as examples of this being an accepted industry practice.

The sales pitch to include a toolbar with WinPatrol was compelling. I’m told that the my reputation wouldn’t be affected and I would be providing my customers with a service by including the free toolbar. All the companies currently installing the toolbar are very happy. He even leaked the news that another well known Anti-Spyware vendor would be announcing their own deal soon.

I crunched the numbers and sure enough the revenue I could receive by including the toolbar would be huge. My overhead is low and the free version of WinPatrol has many thousand downloads even on the slowest day. If I chose to include the Ask.com tool bar I could probably retire comfortably by the end of the year.


Unfortunately, a number of people think I’m a really, good guy and I respect their opinion. For the last ten years WinPatrol has had a flawless reputation. I know myself, I really hate companies that install additional software that I didn’t ask for. It’s not only rude, it’s just wrong.


While IAC may be a respectable company, I’ve never been a fan of programs like SmileyCentral, and Zwinky that install multiple programs when users just want a single cool program. They also auto install the MyWebSearch toolbar and SearchAssistant. Ask.com may very well grow to become the number one search engine but they’ll do so by getting installed on computers without being asked for. (no pun intended)


I’m going to have to pass and keep WinPatrol simple and pure. There will be a new version of WinPatrol later this month and it won’t include any toolbars. Hopefully, users and editors will continue to recommend Scotty the Windows WatchDog because they love and respect WinPatrol. This may not be the best business decision I’ve ever made but I can live with myself.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Writers Guild Strike Needs Arbitration Now

I can live without knowing if Dr. McDreamy is ever going to get along with Meredith or what hot chick will sleep with Charlie on Two and a Half Men. I can even survive without the Academy Awards. I am however very concerned about friends who are being directly affected by the trickle down affect of the Writers Guild strike.


The Writers Guild and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers have been at odds far too long. (As of today, it’s been over ten weeks) The bitterness between the two groups has hurt hopes for a reasonable solution. It’s time for someone to come in an arbitrate this conflict.


While everyone agrees the housing market has put us on a path towards a recession, the impact of the entertainment industry decline is going to lock us into an ecomonic tragedy. Sure, it may seem like writers aren’t on par with air traffic controllers or health care workers but the results on our economy is far more than most people realize.  It’s time this strikes gets attention from some leadership who can make a difference.


 

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Saturday, January 12, 2008

Ex-husband gets Jail Time for Keylogger

It’s taken almost two years but a Schenectady man has finally admitted to putting spyware on his ex-wife's computer and logging her activity. David Monty who pleaded guilty to stalking and felony eavesdropping now faces a sentence of 18 months to 3 years.


Go to jail


According to court documents, Monty created a blog in his ex-wife's name and disclosed information about her clients. He also emailed this information and blog links to the five physicians she worked for. He collected information by intercepting her E-mail, Instant message conversations and passwords. She was soon fired and had to search for new employment.


Much of his sentence has already been spent in Schenectady County Jail and he could be eligible for parole this spring. The victim who said “It’s done and over with and I can get on with my life” also acknowledged she’ll be writing letters encouraging the the parole board to keep Monty safely behind bars for his full sentence. She also received a five year order of protection.


As I’ve written before, use of key logger spyware is despicable. This software is sold openly as a tool for parents to spy on this kids but it is more commonly used for illegal and destructive purposes.

Links:
Bits from Bill: WinPatrol 14 Enhances Keylogger Detection

PC World: WinPatrol Adds Keylogger Detection


Scotty Icon Free Download WinPatrol 2007

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Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Death to the DVD Disc is Coming

No, I’m not joining those who have predicted that Sony’s Blu-ray has won over HD-DVD. What I’m suggesting is the optical disc format has reached it’s peak and will go the way of the cassette tape.

Forget about the DVD Wars

The battle between Blu-Ray and HD–DVD format hasn’t helped. Even with Warner Brothers exclusively backing the Blu-Ray Association, sales of movies on disc has been on the decline. This week at CES a lot of folks are calling Blu-Ray a winner even though the adult industry and Microsoft has backed HD-DVD.

Some have also said Microsoft wants both to fail because “They want confusion in the market until they perfect the digital downloads.” I say, “It worked!”. In fact today, Microsoft acknowledged it is backing off plans to promote HD-DVD exclusively in its xBox game console.

Advocates for both claim superior video and audio but they’re missing what consumers want. There’s a point where the average human can’t detect the differences in sound and appearance. If anything, the increases in clarity can show more flaws in productions. Why would I pay $20+ for disc when I can just download the movie to my PC or TiVo for $12 or less.

The future media is Solid State Memory or what’s commonly called Flash memory. I wrote about this a year ago, and I’ll stick by last years prediction.

Granted a Blu-ray DVD can hold 25 GB’s per layer it’s only a matter of time before we see an explosion in Flash(NAND) memory size. HD-DVD only holds 15 GB per layer. Yesterday at CES SanDisk introduced a new 12 GB microSDHD card. SanDisk calculates with 12 GB you can store a 24.5 hours of video along with 2,600 photos and 1,500 songs.

Alternates to DVD


While the size and cost of flash memory isn’t there yet it’s coming. It’s not likely I can fit a Blu-ray disc into my Phone, GPS or video camera. No moving parts or lasers means my battery will last a lot longer watching a movie from flash memory. It’s also much easier and cheaper to build a flash memory slot into a new TV or other home appliance than it is a disc player.

My new OLPC XO laptop isn’t the first laptop to choose a flash drive in place of a mechanical hard drive and DVD and it won’t be the last. No moving parts, minimal power consumption, well over 100,000 write cycles, all means my next laptop will include a solid state drive instead of a legacy hard drive. I won’t miss trying to figure out if my DVD player supports +R – R, +RW or -RW.

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Friday, January 04, 2008

Your Sears Purchase Details Available to World

When I first heard about this from Ben Edelman I couldn’t believe it. Unfortunately, this isn’t an urban legend you’ll find a Snopes or PhoneyMail.com. Sears has made it extremely easy for you to review the details of your purchase history. You’ll find your model number, download manuals and you can even purchase extended warranties. The only problem is you’re not the only one who can access this information.

Want to see what items your friends, family, and neighbors have purchased? Just set up a Sears “Manage My Home” account. It’s easy at http://www.managemyhome.com/. All you need is an Email address. Once you have an account just go to your home profile and click on “Find your products” under “Sears Purchase History”.

All you need now is a name and address. It doesn’t need to be your name and even the phone number you enter won’t matter. I found some purchase histories going back to 1982 and hey, I didn’t know my daughter bought a Freezer last October.

Why can I access this private purchase information?

Easy to access purchase information

Apparently the “softer side of Sears” refers to the brains of the people at the Sears Holding Corporation. If so called reputable companies are this ignorant, can you imagine what lack of privacy we all have with other companies. Anyone looking to start a class action lawsuit, let me know. I’ll be the first to sign up.

If you feel guilty looking up up someone’s information (as you should ) my address can be found by clicking here. You can see the eight items I’ve purchased at Sears in the last five years. (I actually don’t recommend the Galaxy Refrigerator which was returned.)

Update: Sears has fixed this particular stupidity due to obvious criticism.

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Thursday, January 03, 2008

Anti-Spyware Coalition Still Alive

Later this month, I will be getting together in our nations capital with a number of our friends to discuss that state of spyware. The Anti-Spyware Coalition is holding the event which will consist of various moderated panels.

  • User Behavior and Spyware

  • Anti-Spyware Liability

  • Is Adware Dead?

  • CSI Spyware: Can Investigators Stay Ahead of the Bad Guys?

  • Education: What Works and What Doesn’t?

The event is open to the public but a $250 admission fee is required unless you’re connected to the government or educational institution. For more information go to http://antispywarecoalition.org/events/jan2008.php


I’ve attended a number of events like this in the past and they’ve all been extremely successful. While the panels can be informative the behind the scenes dinners and informal meetings really make a difference. Every time I’ve gotten together with other good guys it has resulted in an avalanche of information sharing. It also motivates me to get off my butt and continue to make a difference. I’ve been trying to come up with the next big change to WinPatrol and I suspect this meeting will spark an idea.

I’ve posted photos and made mention here of half the planned panel members. There are a few I haven’t met in person yet so I’m really looking forward to this months event. You can click the link above to get a list of who will be participating.


Other references:

CSI Spyware: Better than the TV Show (PaperGhost)
Antispyware Coalition: The History and Future of Spyware (Donna)
Save the date: Anti-Spyware Coalition public workshop (stopBADware.org)

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