Bits from Bill

Technology thoughts leaking from the brain of "Bill Pytlovany"

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Some of the Best Photos at Disney World

The holidays are unique, special and magical at Disney World but if you don't like huge crowds and long lines I "don't" recommend it as your Christmas and New Years destination. I can however recommend a fairly recent feature at the parks called PhotoPass. Instead of photographers bugging you trying to take and sell you a picture, the PhotoPass photographs wait for you at various photo-ops around each of the parks.

The first time you have your photo taken, you receive a Photopass card with a magnetic strip. When you get your photo taken again you can just hand your card to the photographer and they'll link your new photos to your collection online. Most of the time our photos were online by the time we crashed in our rooms for the night.

Tristan, Tyler and Kerrington with their friend Tinker Bell

In some cases, like above, the photographers will have your party pose in a particular way and images will be added in during processing. The Photopass locations are typically at great spots where you can have your photo taken without other guests constantly walking in front of you.

Special thanks again to Deb and my favorite "unofficial" Disney World information web site, now called AllEarsNet®

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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Is your Garage Door Stuck Open?

I’ve had fun lately as the door on my garage has been opening and freezing up all by itself. Luckily, I read enough so I had a clue.  I had heard that the radio frequency commonly used by automatic garage door openers wasn’t officially allocated to opener companies.  It was actually assigned to the US Army in 1950.

BilP Studios Garage Door

Apparently, I’m not alone.  While the military hasn’t been using the 380–399 megahertz frequency,  it will be used by new homeland security radios being allocated to 125 bases between now and 2008.  The estimated 50 million affected garage door openers make up about 90% of the installed base.  The FCC allows military frequencies to be used by low power devices as long as they don’t cause interference. Obviously, this wasn’t a problem when the military wasn’t using the frequencies.

So if your garage door starts acting strange don’t be surprised. Before you run out to purchase a new unit you should be able to adjust your remote frequency slightly to fix the problem.




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Thursday, December 21, 2006

Panda Claims WinPatrol is a Virus

First, it was Symantec’s NAV 2007 incorrectly recommending that folks remove WinPatrol when it’s 100% compatible.  Now, we have Panda Internet Security 2007 telling users it found a virus called Dialer.IQQ inside WinPatrol.exe. We just can’t get a break.

I have contacted support at PandaSoftware but haven’t heard back. Obviously, there is no virus in WinPatrol.exe.  In fact, there is no dial-up code of any kind used by WinPatrol. Doing a search on Dialer.IQQ comes up with nothing

Worried that someone else might be reporting problems based on some signature file, I ran WinPatrol.exe through a great free service called VirusTotal.  This service allows you to submit suspicious files and it will show you the results of over a dozen known AntiMalware programs.

This is the results from running our latest WinPatrol.exe file.

False Positive report by Panda Security
Click image for larger view

It would appear PandaSoftware is alone in their assessment of WinPatrol and need to fix something.
VirusTotal is a great service that you can check out at

 Update: 12/22/2006  5:08 PM  Response from PandaSecurity.

Dear WinPatrol,
I will be working in our lab to recreate this incident and resolve the issue; however, I will need to know which version of Panda you are encountering this problem with.  Please provide the full version of the software and upon retrieval of this information, I will begin the test.

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Which Browser Version is Most Popular?

I’ve been closely following the popularity shifts as new browser versions are released.  I’ve watched as the use of both Internet Explorer 7 and Firefox 2.0 has grown mainly at the expense of their former versions.

While my percentages don’t always match up exactly with other web sites(including, the ratios are pretty consistant.  Here’s what my daily stats show for changes over the last couple months.

BrowserOct 25thDec 19th
Internet Explorer 7.x11.60%29.66%
Internet Explorer 6.x54.31%36.29%
IE 6+765.91%65.95%
Firefox 2.x2.75% 17.68%
Firefox 1.x24.74% 11.21%
Firefox 1+227.49% 28.89%


According to what I read at the Security Garden, the new one to watch could be Opera! Nintendo gave its blessing again to Opera today and will be making it available for download to the Wii™, video game systems (Click for more info)  Opera is currently available as a card for the Nintendo DS™

Opera Wii Comic Strip

Opera Software ASA based in Norway has been pushing its mobile web browser on cell phones and other non-PC devices.  Given the desktop competition from IE and Firefox this maybe its best bet for success. Click here for a list of current Opera devices.

BrowserOct 25thDec 19th
Opera all versions3.18%2.44%

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Monday, December 18, 2006

What I Missed While on Vacation

I’m back from vacation and have to admit I feel extremely rested. I will miss paradise but as soon as my brain is back on EST I’ll be better than ever.

Driving to Christina's House with Robin and Cindi

Apparently the world of malware has been ramping up for the holidays.  Sunbelt’s Blog has multiple reports of Rogue antispyware applications including new variants of Spyaxe, SpywareSheriff and Gromozon.

Microsoft has also been releasing their share of updates. On Tuesday, December 12th Microsoft released three “Critical” and four “Important” updates. ( Click here for info ) They also made available the first performance update for Internet Explorer 7 with little fanfare.  According to Microsoft, “The computer may respond very slowly as the Phishing Filter evaluates Web page contents in Internet Explorer 7

A lot of my time this week will be digesting an indepth review of Windows Vista published by Paul Thurrott. I’m in no rush to upgrade to Vista but as a software developer I don’t have any choice. I need to make sure we’re 100% compatible with all versions.

“The sheer size and scope of Windows Vista makes it difficult to review, to digest, and to understand. If you step back too far, it doesn't look very impressive at all: It's like XP with a spit-shine. But if you get too close, it's easy to get lost in the seemingly never-ending lists of new features.”

Paul’s evaluation is far more than a review and could easily be called “Everything you wanted to know about Windows Vista, but didn’t really care enough to ask

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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

TiVo's Needed in Hotels

It's pretty common these days for hotels to include in-room high-speed internet access and even wireless WiFi connections in common areas. It wasn't long ago I would choose where to stay based on internet access. A company called STSN(now Ibahn) was one of the first high speed hotel providers. Before traveling I would also go to the STSN web site to check which hotels were supported. This was a big improvement over the days when hotels didn't even have modular jacks. I used to pack a knife and screw driver to hook up my 1200 or 9600 baud dial up modem.

Cindi and I are currently on vacation and there's an amenity we both hope to have next year. If we're lucky we can choose our vacation location based on the availability of TiVo or some other in-room DVR. It's not like we're TV addicts but we're seriously hooked on the ability to pause or do a quick rewind.

We're not the only ones. Our grand kids have been raised in a world where entertainment can be paused. Recently at the dinner table our youngest grandson Tristan(4) told us all to "Pause!, please" while he went to the kitchen for a drink.

There was a Slashdot post recently about a TiVo patent which may apply so perhaps there is hope!
The patent application describes the invention as "a multimedia mobile personalization system provides a remote control that detects a user's electronic tag, e.g. an RFID tag." It also promises personalized viewing at a variety of locations, detailing how TiVo might forward stored shows from home to a TV in a hotel room, for example. It remains to be seen whether hotels will be eager to help TiVo undermine their pay-per-view video revenue.

Click here for more info

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Sunday, December 10, 2006

Honolulu Marathon Technology

We said our goodbyes to Oahu but had the pleasure to see a couple of friends who I admire greatly. We had dinner in Kailua with a former BillP Studios intern Christina who is there teaching special education. We also had lunch and spent some time on Waikiki Beach with our lead researcher Robin who is just beyond amazing. We just happen to be in town for a special anniversary of Pearl Harbor but won't be there to see Robin run/walk in Sundays 34th Annual Honolulu Marathon.

Considering Robin has been legally blind since birth this is a concept that blows me away. This will be Robin's 4th marathon and she's working to beat her best time of just over 5 hours.

The really cool part of the marathon is all participants get a special micro chip that can be used to track their progress during the race. There are five sensor mats along the 26.2 mile route which detect when runners pass by. I'll be tracking Robin's chip #1699 on

The next cool tech aspect is that they video tape the runners at each of the sensor mats and use the time stamp to create personalized DVD's edited for each runner. They have what must be video editing software that will go through the entire video extracting clips of an individual runner based on the time stamp created by the chip. That's a great use of technology.

"Each of your personal scenes is edited into the race storyline with the best race highlights, scenic video, narration, music, graphics, and cheers from the crowd.

Personalized titles display your name, race number, and split times on the screen whenever you appear in the video. Other features include a personal digital finisher certificate displaying your official results and an animated course map."

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Saturday, December 09, 2006

Mt. Snuffleupagus

This was the first thing I wanted to see once we got to Kauai. It's called the Sleeping Giant was featured years ago on an episode of Seasame Street Goes to Hawaii.  It’s the first place to go in the search for the birth place of Snuffleupagus.
Sleeping Giant
"The Nounou Mountain ridge bears a striking resemblance to a sleeping giant. Legend states that this giant once roamed the land and was much loved by the Hawaiians. They planted taro fields in his footsteps. One day the village chief wanted a new heaiu built. The villagers were much too busy farming so the giant volunteered. It took him two weeks to complete the project and when he was done, the village had a luau for him. It is said that after eating so much at the party, the giant laid down and has not awoken yet. Other folklore states that in ancient times, the people of Kauai planned to discourage any invaders to their island by lighting fires behind the mountain. This would illuminate the figure of the giant and thus scare off any invasion forces."

The actual Mt Snuffeupagus is called Mount Ihu Papa'a Lo'ihi Nui (More info)

If you think Mt. Snuffleupagus is silly, check out part of the Christmas display in downtown Honolulu.
Mele Kalikimak

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Thursday, December 07, 2006

Spyware is still a hot topic

Diamond Head
View from the Hyatt Waikiki

Wearing my WinPatrol shirt while traveling has generated a share of comments and sparked some serious discussions. I'm pleased that a few people have stopped to tell me how much they love WinPatrol. Most of the time people ask me if I raise or train dogs when they see the Scotty logo.

As soon as explain what I do the conversation ends up with people sharing horror stories about spyware infecting their computers. Being on a plane for nine hours I had more then my share of discussions. In most cases, a lot of friends are still telling folks to go get the free Adaware or Spybot Search & Destroy. More than half the folks I talked to finally formatted their systems to fix the problem. I also heard just as many stories from folks not happy with Norton and couldn't find how to completely remove it.

Everyone also seems annoyed with programs like Real Player, QuickTime and CTFMon which keep getting back in the Startup Programs list and taskbar. I think we have a few new WinPatrol users after they found out we could disable these programs from coming back.

I'm back on a plane to my next location later today but the flight is short and my WinPatrol shirt is now packed away.

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Monday, December 04, 2006

BillP on Vacation

If you’re a regular Bits from Bill reader you may notice a decline in activity over the next two weeks. It’s starting to get cold in the northeast so I’m taking a short break and going to a warmer location. It’s also part of a birthday gift for my wife Cindi. It would be impolite of me to specify her age publicly but I will say its a big one.  Wink Wink

One of the big treats on this trip will be a chance to see our long time, lead researcher Robin who lives in Honolulu.  Robin is responsible for most of the information found in the WinPatrol PLUS knowledge base. For more information on Robin, ( Click Here )

Of course, we are going to a tropical location which has high speed access so I’ll be checking in now and then to see what my friends are saying.  I’m sure I’ll also post an occasional photo so you’ll know we’re having a little fun.

Mahalo nui loa!

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Sunday, December 03, 2006

McDonalds Patents How to Make a Sandwich

I don’t think I’m the only one who thinks that the patent office has been a little crazy in approving patents on ideas which are obvious to the casual observer.  The number of patent lawsuits have increased 250% in the past 15 years. Many have reached the U.S. Supreme Court due to the lack of common sense rules.

In a recent case, a company that makes gas pedals for GM is being sued by a company who makes them for Ford.  The gas pedal can actually be adjusted based on the height of the driver.  Doh!  The company bringing the suit, Teleflex said, its method took less space than previous combinations.

At question are the current rules used to determine what is a patent infringment vs. an obvious combination or extension of existing ideas.  The Supreme Court is being watched closed by everyone in the tech industry including Microsoft and Cisco who have both submitted briefs.

In the words of Justice Breyer…”It looks to me at about the same level as I have a sensor on my garage door at the lower hinge ... and the raccoons are eating it. So I think of the brainstorm of putting it on the upper hinge.

I have my favorite stupid patent applications but the latest comes from McDonalds.  They have applied for a patent relating to “methods of making a sandwich”.

The present invention relates to a sandwich assembly tool and methods of making a sandwich, which may be a hot or cold sandwich, quickly by pre-assembly of various sandwich components and simultaneous preparation of different parts of the same sandwich.

Flow Chart for making a sandwich
International Publication Number WO 2006/068865 AW
Section (54)

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Friday, December 01, 2006

Bits from Bill One Year Anniversary

I never knew it would be possible but I’ve been a blogger now for a full year. Two years ago I’m sure I was making fun of people who Blogged.  It has been a lot more work than I expected but it has also been lot more fun. I’m very grateful to all of you who have been regular readers and especially those of you leaving your comments.

One Year Graphic of Bits from Bill readers

As you can see my initial Blogging started out with a bang.  At the time I was able to provide a lot of information on what was called the Zero-Day WMF Exploit so I had plenty of new visitors. It looks like after the initial rush I’ve been able to attract a growing audience.

I was also lucky to have the support of many friends and fellow Anti-Malware crusaders who encouraged me to write more.

The Good Guys
Alex Eckelberry, Ben Edelman, Dave Methvin, Wayne Porter, Eric L. Howes

The hardest part has been making sure to have something posted on a regular basis to keep you all coming back. I was surprised at how much time I would spend doing research on each post not to mention the grammar checking and tweaking the structure of the presentation.  The fun part was doing the research and finding the truth from all the garbage being posted by various sources. I am an information junkie and my kids will tell you, I love trying to be a know-it-all.

I hope you’ll all stick with me for another great year ahead.


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