Click here to view current Bits From Bill posts Bits from Bill

Technology thoughts leaking from the brain of "Bill Pytlovany"

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Bits From Bill Stats

It’s hard to believe it’s been over two and a half years since I started to ramble my thoughts on this little Blog. As I get older I find myself writing more and coding less so I’m grateful to all my readers for their encouragement. I wanted to take today to say thanks and show you all how things are going. I especially owe a lot to the good folks at PC Pitstop who link to Bits from Bill in their newsletter as well as others who include links on their blogs or articles.


Bits from Bill usage for the last year


This month in particular has been a good one. The Windows XP SP3 discussions were well read and commented on.


Access to Bits from Bill by country


One of the things I’m most proud of is how many readers I have outside the US.  It just goes to show how global our internet community is and how important it is to respect the views and opinions of everyone around the world.


Operating systems used by Bits from Bill readers


It looks like Windows XP remains popular and even though I’m a Windows guy I’m pleased I can provide topics of interest to both Linux and Mac users.


I plan on continuing to keep writing and hope my audience will continue to grow. My wife Cindi still doesn’t understand why anyone would actually care what I think, so thank you all again.


 


 


 

Share on Facebook


Friday, May 30, 2008

Dell Phone Support Disassembles My Laptop

Dell made the news recently after my friends at New York’s Attorney Generals office sued for “false advertising, failure to provide services and deceptive business practices”. I recently purchased a new Dell laptop and while I didn’t submit a complaint I was a victim of one of the charges.

Most news organizations and bloggers are focusing on misleading finance offers and long waits on the phone but my experience was a first of its kind for me. According to the list of complaints my experience falls in the following category…

  • pressuring consumers, including those who purchased service contracts promising “next day onsite” repair, to remove the external cover of their computer and remove, reinstall, and manipulate hardware components;

My new Inspiron 1520 had a problem with bad memory. As a technical person it wasn’t hard for me to run the appropriate tests and confirm my own diagnosis. After removing the external memory chip, the problem still existed so it appeared the laptop would need internal servicing.


So I called Dell to arrange my repairs. Imagine my surprise when the phone rep wanted me to remove the keyboard and unscrew internal components so I could access the internal memory chip. I was stunned. I just couldn’t imagine them telling somebody’s mother how to do this over the phone.


Even I didn’t feel comfortable snapping off my keyboard so I pleaded with the rep to just let me pack up my laptop and ship it to Dell. Nope, if I wanted it repaired, my only option was to work with the phone rep. I finally agreed and sure enough it turned out I had a bad memory chip inside my laptop.


Now for the good news. Dell still didn’t want me to send back my laptop. Instead, they shipped the required hardware to a local repair rep who came out to my home and completed my repairs. Kudos to Dell for in-home repairs but please stop the over-the-phone surgery.


Labels: , ,

Share on Facebook


Thursday, May 29, 2008

Remove AOL Email Footer Advertising

Earlier this month Yahoo! Mail Blog announced that advertisements would no longer be included at the end of messages sent by Yahoo Mail users. The news brought hopes from other free Email users that perhaps Gmail and Hotmail might follow Yahoo’s example.

Last year I wrote how angry I was,(as a paying customer) that AOL started to insert advertisements at the end of my Emails. I even came up with a way around it although it was a bit of a hack.

Thanks to a tip from one my readers, I learned that AOL does provide an way to opt-out. I’m not sure if this is an official solution but it worked for me.

AOL users can click the following, remove the check box and click Save.
http://controls.api-mail.aol.com/mailcontrols/app/en-US/FooterControl.html

Remove AOL Email footer Ads
Remove AOL Email Footer Ads




Labels: , ,

Share on Facebook


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Adobe Flash Player Vulnerability

A few of the most powerful web objects always have reports of regular vulnerabilities that can make it dangerous for even the most careful web surfer. Seems like at least once a month I hear about problems with JavaScript, Quicktime and now yet again, Adobe Flash.

As much I hate to recommend disabling such a powerful and useful component I have killed the version of Adobe Flash currently on my system. There are too many reports of infected sites to take any chances. Versions that appear to be affected include 9.0.115.0. and 9.0.124.0.

One of the new features of WinPatrol is the ability to disable ActiveX components that exhibit vulnerabilities. This feature is so important it’s included in the free and USB Flash version. If you have WinPatrol you can select Flash9(x).exe and click on Disable. You can always Enable again if you really need to but hopefully a new version of Flash will be released soon.

Disable Flash with WinPatrol
WinPatrol 2008


According to SecurityFocus

“Continued investigation reveals that this issue is fairly widespread. Malicious code is being injected into other third-party domains (approximately 20,000 web pages), most likely through SQL-injection attacks. The code then redirects users to sites hosting malicious Flash files exploiting this issue.“

Note: This is a drastic step. You will not be able to view most YouTube videos and will see a number of broken image boxes. The good news, you'll also miss some advertising as well.

ZDNet: Adobe Flash zero-day exploit in the wild
ZDNet Update: Adobe Flash drive-by attacks redux

Update: According to Adobe...

"We've just gotten confirmation from Symantec that all versions of Flash Player
9.0.124.0 are not vulnerable to these exploits. Again, we strongly encourage everyone to download and install
the latest Flash Player update, 9.0.124.0
. "


Labels: , ,

Share on Facebook


Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Honor Flight Network: Update and Challenge

Memorial Day is over but not forgotten although I’m still a little off my normal topic.  It was a beautiful weekend here in upstate NY and I thought it was important to share our good fortune with others. As I announced on Monday, all sales of WinPatrol PLUS would be matched and the proceeds would go to our local chapter of Honor Flight Network.


The Honor Flight Network brings our honored World War II veterans to Washington D.C. to visit the four year old WWII Memorial and other available sites.  The next trip for the local Albany NY chapter is planned for September/October.


I had 18 PLUS upgrades on Monday for a total of $539.10. My promise to match means I’m sending a check to Honor Flight Network for $1078.20 and I’ve never felt better.


I’d like to challenge my friends to match this donation.  I have a number of old AOL buddies who still have comfortable bank accounts so I would encourage them to kick in a few dollars and match my donation. I also have some buddies at Microsoft, Google and other tech companies who have done well so I hope they’ll participate as well.


If you’d like to give to your local chapter just go to http://www.honorflight.org/regional.htm for a list.


If you have a vet you’d like to see have an opportunity go to http://www.honorflight.org/vetsapp.htm



“Honor Flight recognizes American veterans for your sacrifices and achievements by flying you to Washington, DC to see YOUR memorial at no cost. Top priority (for which we are currently accepting application only) is given to WW II and terminally ill veterans from all wars. In the future, Honor Flight will be expanded to include Korean and Vietnam veterans. In order for Honor Flight to achieve this goal, guardians fly with the veterans on every flight providing assistance and helping veterans have a safe, memorable and rewarding experience. For what you and your comrades have given to us, please consider this a small token of appreciation from all of us at Honor Flight. For further information, please contact us a (937) 521-2400 or visit us at www.honorflight.org


Thank you for your patience this holiday weekend. My next post will be back on tech topics.


 

Share on Facebook


Monday, May 26, 2008

Honor Flight Network

There are so many charities that sometimes it’s tough to pick and choose. Lately, a lot of folks have been sharing their economic stimulus checks with folks working in either Myanmar or China. I’ll be sending a check to the local chapter of the Honor Flight Network.


The goal of this charity is to send World War II veterans to Washington D.C to visit the four year old WWII National Memorial. The Honor Flight Network won’t be a charity for long because our World War II veterans are passing away at a rate of 1,200 a day.

Kilroy was here


Our local chapter provides the following…

Patriot Flights will take the Veterans and health guardians on a one-day excursion from Albany International Airport , leaving early morning and returning by 6 PM at NO COST to the Veteran. Upon arrival in Washington D.C. the veterans and their health guardians will be met by motor coaches, taken to lunch and then transported to view the World War II Memorial.

So today the total amount of all sales of my WinPatrol PLUS program will be matched and proceeds will be sent to the Albany chapter of the Honor Flight Network. So, if you’ve been thinking about upgrading, today might be a good day.

Labels: , ,

Share on Facebook


Sunday, May 25, 2008

TiVo Beacon Error 1359 Caused by Xobni

There’s a new add-on for Microsoft Outlook which I was really starting to love. After the beta for Xobni was recommended on Twitter I thought I’d check it out and it soon became a very useful tool in managing the large volume of Email I receive.


Xobni has some great features like extracting phone numbers automatically from Emails. It gives you immediate access to previous Email conversations. It also connects people on the CC lists so it helps create a social friends network within Outlook. Since I personally handle all our support Email Xobni became an immediate time saver for me.


Xobni add on for Outlook


Here’s the Problem
Normally, I can view photos and listen to music located on my computer on my TV thanks to TiVo Desktop Software(formerly called TiVoToGo). Viewing photos is just one of the many cool features that integrate all my TV’s with my PC. Last week when I went to look at some Memorial Day Parade photos they weren’t there.


TiVo Beacon Service not found
The Beacon service is required to access music and photos via TiVo


Error 1359 while trying to start the TiVo Beacon Service
This occurred when trying to restart the TiVo Beacon Service


After spending hours trying to find out why my TiVo Service broke I finally narrowed it down to Xobni. It didn’t make any sense but according to my WinPatrol “First Detected” column, Xobni was the only new change to my system.


WinPatrol First Detected Xobni


Sure enough, removing Xobni fixed the problem. If you don’t have TiVo I can still recommend Xobni even though I have no idea why it would affect my TiVo Server. In a home with five TiVo’s, the TiVo service takes priority but if Xobni ever finds the problem I’ll definitely reinstall their Outlook Plug-In.

Update: While I found messages in the Xobni forums dating back to Feb it appears my new best friend, Greg Duffy at Xobni has found the solution. Greg left a link in our comments but I wanted to make sure everyone saw it.
http://community.xobni.com/showthread.php?t=153


Labels: , ,

Share on Facebook


Thursday, May 22, 2008

Help Friends/Family with WinPatrol FLASH

Are you the one your friends and family call when they have computer problems? Are you interested in optimizing your friends and families systems?
If so, the new WinPatrol Flash Edition is a tool for you. You may have also been one of the many WinPatrol users who have asked for this feature over the years.

WinPatrol Flash Edition is a portable version of the main tabbed WinPatrol Explorer interface. WinPatrol Flash can run from a USB/Flash drive without having to install any WinPatrol files or settings on the system you’d like to fix or optimize.


WinPatrol FLASH Edition
WinPatrol FLASH Edition

The idea is WinPatrolFlash.exe will allow you to work on someone’s computer, even using your PLUS access, without installing anything new on their system.

  • Remove Un-Wanted Auto Start crapware.
  • Disable Un-Needed Automatic Services
  • Remove Annoying Toolbars and BHO's
  • Create Reports that provide a snapshot of potential problems
  • Disable ActiveX Controls & MORE!

Click here to Visit WinPatrolFlash.com


Labels: , , ,

Share on Facebook


Thursday, May 15, 2008

Acquistions Week: CNet, Plaxo, Dictionary.com and WinPatrol?

While Microsoft wasn’t able to acquire Yahoo, there were a number of friendly mergers this week.  In a time of economic trouble it seems that acquisitions may be the answer.


    CBS and CNet
CBS and CNet

Very big news for CNet which has been struggling to find a direction lately. The assets, especially their personnel is a big win for CBS. While the Wall Street Journal says, “CBS to buy online pioneer CNet for 1.8 billion” they do CBS a disservice.  CBS was one of the original partners with IBM in the creation of Prodigy in the late 80’s.  I was working for Sportsline in the early 90’s when CBS added their name to the service and it was a great deal. I also wrote about my project with CBS to stream a news feed into chat discussion rooms during the war in Kosovo. While CBS hasn’t been as visible as other media companies, they’re also an online pioneer.


I’m a big fan of CNet even though they haven’t been giving WinPatrol as much attention as they used too. I frequent News.com, I always check their product reviews before making a purchase and I subscribe to CNet videos via TiVoCast. I’m very excited about this deal and expect CNet will experience growth and higher visibility. I can’t wait to see David Letterman’s “Top Ten Reasons CBS purchased CNet”.


Comcast and Plaxo
I’ve never been a fan of Plaxo.  I tried it once and they were sucking in my entire address book before I knew what was happening. It was frightening because I thought they might be sending out invites to my contacts. Leo LaPorte said it best on Twitter when he said “I don't want Comcast to have my personal info. I really don't want them to have my friends info.” If you’re like Leo you can delete your Plaxo account by clicking here. I’ll be sticking with LinkedIn.


Comcast is mistaken if they think customers want anything more than faster broadband access.  I recall when I first installed Road Runner over 10 years ago they bragged about how much content they would have.  Like most people, the first thing I did was change my home page back to where I wanted to go and bypassed any of their content.


Ask.com and Dictionary.com
If you’re a regular Bits from Bill reader you know how I feel about Ask.com’s parent company IAC.  While I have nothing against Ask.com, the IAC MyWebSearch toolbar and it’s related applications are evil. I actually use Dictionary.com but if I start seeing ads to download Zwinky, MyWeb Searchbar or other IAC Media applications I will be blocking it.


WinPatrol and ?
I was honored for the 2nd time this year by a reputable company wanting to add WinPatrol to their product line.  In both cases, it would have meant that WinPatrol would have increased development and a long life.  Unfortunately, I’m old and spoiled so I wasn’t able to accept the offers.  Any deal would have to allow for me to retire in comfort so I could spend my time writing here on my blog and on leaking my thoughts on Twitter.

Share on Facebook


Monday, May 12, 2008

Windows XP SP3, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

It’s been a week now since Windows XP Service Pack 3 has been deployed and the results are good, bad and little ugly.


The Good
I’ve been one of the 99% of those who downloaded and installed Service Pack 3 with no trouble at all. I already wrote last month about what changed in SP3 but now we have the results of performance benchmarks. While some folks have reported increased performance, the benchmarks don’t show any major improvements. In my own tests, I have found a slight increase in internet speed but it depended on my configuration. The results will vary depending on your firewall and the use of network monitor device protocol.


The Bad
Some folks (not all) using HP computers and AMD processors quickly reported problems rebooting after installing SP3. If you haven’t upgrade yet or have problems you’ll want to review the information available in Jesper’s Blog. Jesper experienced the problem personally and with some helped worked through the issues and provides a detailed solution for others who might have problems.


The Ugly
Depending on who you ask you’ll get a different answer about how SP3 affects different versions of Internet Explorer. If you’re using the beta version of IE8 most recommend you downgrade from IE8 before installing SP3. I didn’t experience any problems but I also skipped IE7 when I installed the IE8 beta. My friend Corrine has some good details on the relationship between IE and SP3.


This upgrade is good example of why I recommend waiting 7–10 days before installing any new updates. It’s nearly impossible for Microsoft or anyone to test such critical software when it’s used by millions with millions of different configurations. Thanks to Jesper and others, information is now available to resolve potential problems from Service Pack 3.



Labels: ,

Share on Facebook


Monday, May 05, 2008

Not All Video Games are Evil

One of the big news topics last week was the release of Grand Theft Auto IV. Immediately came the condemnation of the video game industry from parent groups and others with their own conservative agenda. While games like Grand Theft Auto get all the attention you may be surprised to know there are video games designed to change the world in a positive manner.


My friends at Breakaway Games know a thing or two about simulations and take the topic very serious. Best known for their battle simulations Breakaway entertains and provokes thought without gangsters and prostitutes. I’ve listed some titles you might take a look at.


Pulse!
Playing doctor will never be the same once you have a look at “Pulse!”. Developed jointly with Texas A & M the future of medical education is featured by this virtual simulation of clinical health care training.



A Force More Powerful
If you’d like to see yourself as Ghandi or Martin Luther King this simulation game might be for you. Your job is to oust a repressive dictator by creating a campaign of non-violent resistance.


Incident Commander
If you’d like a job with Homeland Security this simulation game is for you. You’ll face hostage situations, bomb scares, chemical spills and other potentially real life disasters. Incident Commander is distributed free to municipalities by the Dept. of Justice.


Incident Commander


Code Orange
If the hospital environment suites you, Code Orange Emergency Medical Management Training for Mass Catastrophe might thrill you. Can you handle mass casualties from a weapon of mass destruction as they flood your ER?


Disclaimer: My friend Doug Whatley at Breakaway Games and my other real gamer friends will tell you I’m not a gamer. My attention span reaches its limit with simulations like the old Activision title “Little Computer People”.


Labels: , ,

Share on Facebook


Friday, May 02, 2008

Girls Softball Team are my Heros

Today I’m going way off topic. No tech news, no spyware tips, just a good news story. If you’re a regular Bits from Bill reader this might give you a good idea of what makes me tick.


On Saturday, in a college softball game in Ellensburg, WA spectators experienced a once in a lifetime display of sportsmanship. Senior Sara Tocholsky hit a three run homer for her Western Oregon team propelling them into the lead. Unfortunately while reaching for first base, her knee buckled and she fell to the ground in pain. Umpires were quick to point out that unless Sara continued around the bases her run would not count. In addition, she could not receive help from any of her teammates.

Sara Tocholsky is carried around the bases by the opposing team.

Enter Central Washington first baseman, Mallory Holtman. She asked officials if it would be ok if her and her teammates could carry Sara around the diamond allowing her to touch each base. That’s what they did. Holtman along with shortstop Liz Wallace carried Tocholsky around and lowered her to each base allowing her to complete her first home run and score the winning run.


Few people know that my all-time favorite sport is Little League Baseball. Every year in August I look forward to the Little League World Series from Williamsport which has been broadcast in HD for years. There’s nothing like the raw emotions of the kids who compete in these games.

I used to work for a joint venture of ABC Sports and games company MicroProse. Every year I’d propose we do a Little League World Series video game but it never happen. My old buddy Doug Whatley recently Emailed to tell me Activision was finally going to do it. So I guess I have a little tech news for you. Watch for Little League World Series 2008 to be released on Aug 5th for the Nintendo Wii.


When I was growing up they didn’t have a rule that said all kids got to play. I still learned and appreciated what true sportsmanship is all about. My admiration goes out to the girls of Central Washington and their coach Gary Fredrick. No matter what the score, they’re big winners.


Labels: , ,

Share on Facebook


Thursday, May 01, 2008

Fred Langa Announces Retirement

When Fred Langa got his first non-kit personal computer 30 years ago he was hooked. Like many of us, he used his PC knowledge to create programs he thought were needed. Fred had a natural ability to share this knowledge with others and spent most of his time teaching all of us more about our PC’s.

Fred was Editor-in-Chief of Byte Magazine which in the early days was a tech must read. He was also was instrumental in building the circulation of Windows magazine, NetGuide, and Home PC Magazine.

Freds influence became obvious to me when he told his readers know about a new version of WinPatrol some fives years ago. A few months after the release of WinPatrol PLUS Fred posted these comments in his newsletter.


“It's an interesting hybrid tool that combines a Startup/Active Tasks monitor and a way to sniff out Worms, Trojan horses, Cookies, Adware, Spyware and other malicious programs. Now, there's a new version…”

The resulting spike in PLUS membership was due this simple mention in the Fred Langa Newsletter. It also resulted in future mentions in other publications because of all the experts who read his column.


Results of a mention by Fred Langa


Fred announced his retirement today but instead of reflecting back and bragging about his accomplishments, he shared a summary of what he’s learned over the last three decades. Read Freds last column in the free version of the Windows Secrets newletter at https://windowssecrets.com/comp/080501#lplus0.

It’s hard for me to imagine Fred retiring completely. I tried it once and couldn’t do it but Fred has a lot of other great interests that will keep him busy doing good things.


Labels: , ,

Share on Facebook