Bits from Bill

Technology thoughts leaking from the brain of "Bill Pytlovany"

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Symantec Names Spybot a Zombie

Last month I wrote about Symantec being unfair to other popular spyware vendors. When you install NAV 2007 it will look for programs like WinPatrol and Spybot Search &Destroy and tell you they’re incompatible.  We have proved this to be false and WinPatrol works fine along side NAV 2007. Symantec however recommends users remove it.  It’s not hard to imagine how many customers I will lose because of this false warning.

Now they’ve really made me mad.  There’s a new malicious bot program making the rounds and Symantec has named it “W32.Spybot.ACYR”.  Click to read more from CNet’s Joris Evans

In my opinion, this is a blatant attempt at discrediting a popular anti-malware tool.  I can easily see WinPatrol.troj being named for the next Trojan they find patrolling the internet.

This back door robot uses a vulnerability in an open port which has been patched by recent Microsoft updates.  If an unpatched machine without WinPatrol or other real-time monitor is infected a user may never know.  Once infected the “zombie” will sit back and wait to be used in the future to relay spam or launch “Denial Of Service” attacks. McAfee has picked the name sdbot.worm!811a7027 which is more accurate based on past sdbot type infections.

I realize Symantec is losing market share to Microsoft but they’ll never have my support if they continue this attack on the little guys.

Market Research Video: Software Stocks
Research Available at PC Pitstop

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Sunday, November 26, 2006

Vista Countdown

Like me, most of my Blogger friends took it easy this long weekend. I know I had more than my share of turkey and cranberry sauce.  There was one exception.   I can only guess they opened up a new Starbucks across the street from Corinne at the Security Garden. She’s been writing like crazy and has lots of news to share. 

One of the additions at the Security Garden is a new “COUNTDOWN TO VISTA” gadget.  If you’re wondering how many more days, hours, minutes and seconds until Vista officially launches you can check it out at


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I Probably Won't Read Your Mail

I’ve decided if I ever get tired of fighting Spyware/Malware my next passion will be finding spammers and do my best to make their life miserable.  Last week it was Tora Tora Tora and Maku Maku Maku. This week is seems to be Wexa Wexa Wexa and Advanced Powerline Technologies.  Is someone actually making money because people believe stock tips from spammers will make them rich?

I have spent much of this past weekend deleting spam but I’m sure I deleted some valid Email in the process.  It’s getting a lot harder than it used to be.  So, I wanted to give folks a few tips if they want to Email me.

If your Subject line just says “Hi”, I probably won’t read your mail.

If your Subject line says “<insert name> wrote:“  I probably won’t read your mail.

If you misspell words like pi11 or ob’esity, I probably won’t read your mail.

If you reference my health or any medications, I probably won’t read your mail.

If you want me to look at a “photo from Vacation”, I probably won’t read your mail.

If you tell me I won something, I probably won’t read your mail.

If you use characters like  经营决策,电子表, I probably won’t read your mail.

If your subject line says, “IMPORTANT”, I probably won’t read your mail.

If the subject begins with “RE:“ and I don’t recognize the rest, I probably won’t read your mail.

If I see the word “Penis” or “Pheromone”, I probably won’t read your mail.

Otherwise, I hope I won’t miss your Email.  If I don’t respond in 24 hours I’m either sick, or I deleted it by mistake.


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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Zune Patent Lawsuit Prediction

Microsoft Zune Logo
One of the features that Microsoft included in Zune to set it apart from the iPod was Wi-Fi music sharing. Unfortunately, this cool and popular feature may make Zune the target of the next royalty request by the folks holding the patent on several implementations of 802.11a/g.

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in Australia holds WiFi patents used by most routers and other wireless products. Until now they haven’t really had much control over their patents as Wi-Fi has became widely accepted. Last week a federal judge in Tyler, Texas ruled in favor of CSIRO in what essentially was a test case to uphold an eleven year old patent. 

The defendant in this case was a company called Buffalo Technology which was instructed to pay $1.5–2 million dollars in damages to CSIRO. Buffalo makes the “AirStation” WiFi product line. Now that Buffalo has been ordered to pay I’m sure CSIRO will go after the guys with the real deep pockets.

Other Sources…
ZDNet: Wi-Fi standards face patent threat
Mac Observer: Wi-Fi Patent Ruling May Impact Apple
CBC News: Wi-Fi ruling may lead to patent lawsuits

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Monday, November 20, 2006

OJ Simpson and Zango

Two news stories today have me losing it again.  It seems O.J. Simpson isn’t the only one who gets away with breaking the law and continue to wander around freely. Our friends Ben Edelman and Eric Howes have gotten together and published details on how Zango continues to install software without consent even after the FTC fned them 3 millions dollars and made them promise to stop.

The details published today could easily be called “If I did it, here’s how it happen”. Instead of a murder Ben and Eric provide the details on how malware vendor Zango continues to install their software without your permission.

Zango said, “We embrace the new standards and will continue to create, abide by and strive for best practices that protect consumers." (Nov 3, 2006)

O.J. said, “My NFL pension can barely pay my son's tuition. You know, it's very little money.”  ($300,000 a year)

Ben and Eric said, “bad practices continue at Zango -- practices that, in our judgment, put Zango in violation of the key terms and requirements of the FTC settlement.

Read more about Bad Practices Continue at Zango, Notwithstanding Proposed FTC Settlement and Zango's Claims


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Saturday, November 18, 2006

Will HD Photo replace JPG?

Photo Folder I have dozens of DVDs containing over 10 years of my digital photos stored for safe keeping. I’ve often wondered if years from now my grandchildren will actually have the tools to read these DVDs and view the JPG file format

JPG is short for JPEG or Joint Photographic Experts Group, a standardization committee which defined the file format. This format has become the De facto standard for digital image files. Over the years a number of other formats have tried to replace JPG including PNG and a new format from JPEG called JPEG2000. Luckily for my grandchildren, the standard JPG format has survived all the attacks.

Always wanting to be king of the hill, Microsoft is promoting its own image format now call “HD Photo”. Changing the name to Hi Def Photo was obviously a marketing decision but not a bad one. According to Microsoft…

“HD Photo delivers a lightweight, high performance algorithm with a small memory footprint that enables practical, in-device encoding and decoding. It delivers compression quality comparable with JPEG-2000 and more than twice the quality of JPEG.

HD Photo is the new name for Windows Media Photo. Both names refer to the exact same file format. The Windows Media Photo name is still used to describe the implementation of HD Photo in Microsoft Windows products.”
Click here for more.

Naturally, HD Photo support is available for Windows XP, Server 2003 and will be native to Windows Vista. Microsoft has done an amazing job at making their WMV (Windows Media Video) format compete with other a popular video formats. Most video editors had no choice but to support it. I suspect the same will be true with .WDP or the new preferred .HDP extension.

For developers, Microsoft just released their “HD Photo Device Porting Kit 1.0.” It’s a royalty free way to include HD Photo support in any application. If you want to keep up on this topic, check out Bill Crows’s HD Photo Blog.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

United Nations War on Spam

United Nations When the United Nations was formed in 1945 its charter read…

  • to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war,…
  • to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person,..
  • to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and
  • to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,

One of the issues tackled by the UN in Athens this month was the international threat of SPAM. A new initative to gather information and resources on combating spam called was created.

My first thought was “What?” Shouldn’t the UN be dealing with middle east peace or stopping the genocide in Africa. Those actually may be easier problems to fix than spam.

Upon reflection, I’m encouraged that someone at an international level is looking at the problem of spam. There have been a lot of articles recently on how spam has increased.

SunbeltBLOG: “SPAM. Yeah, it’s up
the INQUIRER: “Ten people create 80 per cent of spam
PC World, Steve Bass: “Spam is Up, Up, Up
InfoWorld: “Botnet Spam Getting Out of Hand

I don’t need anyone to tell me how much my spam was increased. I’m really tired of ads for Tora,Tora,Tora, X-tra Petroleum or other stocks, viagra, rolex watches, loans, hoodia and especially e-mails which invite me to click one of their links. I’m pretty good at detecting spam based on the subject line but have accidently deleted more valid Email this month than I have all year. Who knows, maybe the UN can help.

“Our problems are man-made, therefore they may be solved by man. “
- John F. Kennedy

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Saturday, November 11, 2006

Holiday Mail for Our Troops

Updated: November 14th
Few things annoy me more than people who continually verbalize, “I support our troops” but do nothing more than put a yellow ribbon magnet on their car.  On this Veterans Day 2006, it’s  a good time for everyone to spend their weekend not only thinking of our troops but doing something.

If you’re hoping to send any packages to our kids in Iraq or Afghanistan the time is now. According to United States Postal Service, Supporting Our Troops FAQ the following shipping dates are posted for military mail.

APO AE Zip 093

Parcel Post: Nov. 13
Space Available Mail: Nov. 27
Parcel Airlift Mail: Dec. 2
Priority Mail/First-Class Mail, Letter and Cards: Dec. 4
Express Mail Military Service: Not Available

APO AE Zips 090-092, 094-098;
APO AA Zip 340; 
APO AP Zip 962-966

Parcel Post: Nov. 13
Space Available Mail: Nov. 27
Parcel Airlift Mail: Dec. 4
Priority Mail/First-Class Mail, Letter and Cards: Dec. 11
Express Mail Military Service: Dec. 19

To make sure your package has the best chance to arrive check out the Postal Services, Military Addressing and Packing tips at

If you’re one of the few people who doesn’t have someone special in harms way I’ll share my nephew John with you. He’s the father of two and on his 2nd tour in Iraq. A package or just a card from any of you would certainly put a smile on his face and he promised he would distribute any gifts to those in need.  In his words…

Hi Uncle Bill,
  If any one wants to send things, they can send them to me.  We have guys all over this place who have "REAL BAD" living conditions so we bring them anything we can. here is my address:

MSG John Cavaliere
HHC, 2/10th MTN DIV
UNIT #43048
APO AE 09322
On watch: Sgt. 1st Class John Cavaliere, 2nd Brigade Combat Team personal security detachment noncommissioned officer in charge, guards a room the 2nd BCT commander and command sergeant major occupy during their visit to different areas of operation in Iraq. Cavaliere's job is to ensure the safety of 2nd BCT leaders. Photo by Staff Sgt. Angela McKinzie
       As featured in the Fort Drum Blizzard

Here’s a list of popular items…
1.  Baby Wipes
2.  Hand sanitizer
3.  Bar Soap
4.  Deodorant
5.  Magazines (Sports, Car, Hunting, Fishing, etc)
6.  Puzzle books

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Friday, November 10, 2006

I've seen the Vista

Microsoft has officially stamped their approval on a build of Windows Vista and sent it to manufacturing.  (Click here for Info)  The official worldwide release date is January 30th, 2007. (Click here)

Now that the major changes are complete it’s was time to finalize testing on WinPatrol for Vista and see what else we might have to change.  I now have Vista up and running.  I have noticed a few things that have changed and will need tweaking but ultimately WinPatrol works right out of the box with Microsoft’s Windows Vista.  No conflicts with Defender have been noted and performance it better than I expected. 

WinPatrol running under the default Vista theme

I was pleased to see that after installing Vista my Startup list wasn’t too crowded and WinPatrol looks pretty good under the default Vista theme.

I’m not sure folks have a really good reason to upgrade to Vista but I’m keeping an open mind. I’ve been critical of Microsoft at times and will continue to call it as I see ‘em.  Upgrading to Vista may not be cost effective for many people but the real issue for me is stability. So far things look good. If Vista proves to be stable I’ll be happy to install it on all my “Vista Capable” machines.


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Thursday, November 09, 2006

Latop Battery Fire Demonstration

I've written a couple times about the recent Sony battery recall and the need to keep fire safety in mind. Click Here.
My friends over at PC Pitstop created a video to see what happens to a runaway lithium ion battery commonly found in laptop computers.
Click to view PC Pitstop laptop fire video
Click image to view video

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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Intermix Media settles with California

While you may have never heard of Intermix Media but you probably know about their popular MySpace service.  In July, Intermix was purchased by Rupert Murdochs, New Corp for $580 million USD.

Many of you may have had less than ideal experiences with Intermix. Their software included programs like Incredifind, KeenValue, Grip Toolbar and PerfectNav.   In April, NY Governor-elect, Eliot Spitzer sued Intermix because they, “Surreptitiously installed spyware and adware”
Click here for more Info

This week the People of the State of California settled its own lawsuit against Intermix for installing spyware on computers without a users consent. Intermix agreed to pay $300,000 and promised to stop any deceptive practices. Our friend and fellow spyware crusader Ben Edelman served as an expert witness and reports on his experiences. 

Remarkably, I also found evidence of ongoing Intermix installations, despite Intermix's 2005 promise to "permanently discontinue distribution of its adware, redirect and toolbar programs." For example, in my testing of October 2006 and again just yesterday, the Battling Bones screensaver (among various others) was still available on (a third-party site). Installing Battling Bones gives users Intermix's Incredifind too. Even worse, this installation proceeds without any disclosure to the user of the Intermix software that would be installed.

Click here to read more from Ben.

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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

eVoting Machines Suck

I’m so pleased that in our little village in upstate NY we still have  mechanical voting machines.  Given all the negative ads I’ve seen this year it’s obvious that some folks will go to any length to control an election.

Mechanical Voting Machine

If you like really, really scary movies I suggest you watch “Hacking Democracy” which is being shown this month on HBO.  In fact, it’s on tonight at 6:30 PM or TiVo it at 11:45 on HBO2. The documentary details the efforts of a group called

One of the first things you learn when studying computers is “Computers only do what people tell them to do”.  In the case of voting machines, it has made it even easier for people to change the outcome of an election.

Thanks to Paul Schindler for pointing me to an article I was looking for about all the missing Ohio votes in the 2004 presidential election  Ken Blackwell who supervised the flawed voting in 2004 is now running for governor in Ohio.

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Saturday, November 04, 2006

Boy Scout Respect Copyright Patch

Only in California would they create a merit badge for respecting copyright protection. Boy Scouts in the Los Angeles area can now earn a merit badge for learnings why downloading music and movies is bad.
While I think this is a little over the top it seems to fit. “The mission of the Boy Scouts of America is to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law.”

Boy Scout Copyright Patch
Respect Copyrights

It’s no surprise that it was the Motion Picture Association of America which came up with this program. According to Dan Glickman, Chairman and CEO of the MPAA, “The film industry is a major contributor to the Los Angeles economy and as such, it is important to protect the economic vitality film brings to L.A. and the state of California.”

Director of public relations for the LA area coucil of Boy Scouts of America, Victor Zuniga said, “The Respect Copyrights patch is a fun way for young kids to learn more about what goes into the making movies while garnering a deep appreciation for creative works and the importance of copyright protection.”

Instead of the MPAA influencing the Boy Scouts it might be better if the film industry learned some ethical and moral lessons from our scouts.

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Friday, November 03, 2006

Whiz Kid Endorses WinPatrol

I had a frantic phone call last week from a woman whose grandson had downloaded WinPatrol to her computer and she didn’t know what it was.  She said, “My grandson reads everything about computers and told me this would help keep me safe”.  She wasn’t sure really sure if she was being charged or not so I told her he would have had to use her credit card for us to charge anything.

After hearing more about WinPatrol she was quickly convinced that her grandson was correct and he made a good choice in what he downloaded. We had a nice chat about kids and how much the new generation knows about computers. 

I finally asked her how old her grandson was and she replied “Six”.  We depend mostly on word-of-mouth recommendations but I think this was the first time we were endorsed by a 6 year old.  Smile

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Thursday, November 02, 2006

WinPatrol 30 Day Trial

For a number of years folks have asked me to create a 30 day trial version of WinPatrol PLUS. I’ve resisted in the past because I really hate the idea of any kind of nag screen.  I also want to make sure people know there is and will continue to be a totally freeware version available.

I have come up with a compromise that should work.  I have created a 30 day trial version of WinPatrol.  It won’t pop up a nag screen but will default to our PLUS registration tab when launched instead of the list of startup programs.  There’s still no begging or threats of dangerous spyware cookies. The free version will still remove cookies and dangerous spyware but I think once people see the power of PLUS they’ll see the value.

At the end of 30 days users will have all the features and protection of our free WinPatrol. I appreciate when folks upgrade to PLUS but I still want all our users to continue to be happy with their choice.

The trial version of WinPatrol PLUS 10 can be downloaded at

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