Bits from Bill

Technology thoughts leaking from the brain of "Bill Pytlovany"

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Windows 7 Certified and Free Win7 Upgrades

Earlier this week I described an ideal scenario where Windows 7 was ready for release this summer. While a few made fun of one of my spelling errors I only had one person who asked if I really thought it could happen.

The same day I posted my thoughts I also read some insight from our good friend Harry McCracken who wrote “Windows 7 to ship in October, Probably unless it’s January”  Seattle Times is reporting “OEM Exec says Windows 7, September, October

So what do I really think? I need to tell you today because tomorrow I’ll be participating in a four day Microsoft Most Valuable Professional Summit which includes a strict Non-Disclosure agreement.  That means, most of what Microsoft tells me I can’t share with my readers.

Certified for Windows 7

I agree with Harry and the Seattle Times that we’ll start to see Windows 7 machines in October ready for the holiday shopping season. Still, Microsoft won’t want students purchasing Macs when they go back to school so you can bet we’ll see manufacturers offering, “Free Upgrade to Windows 7” after purchase.   While I shudder at the thought there will also be machines that are “Windows 7 Certified” for the back to school shoppers. I don’t expect it to be the same fiasco that occured with the Vista Certified machines but we’ll see.


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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Release Windows 7, Summer of 2009

When I first read that the next release of Windows 7 was going to be a “release candidate” my reaction was to shout obscenities at my computer screen. I’ve been part of many Window beta tests in the past but Microsoft really seems to be rushing the release of the newest Windows. I really want Windows 7 to be a success and the thought of a quick beta cycle scares me.

After reading more including Ed Bott’s “Who Needs Another Windows 7 beta”, I have reversed my opinion.  I don’t agree completely with everything Ed says but he got me thinking.

Right now Windows 7 has momentum. The press and bloggers so far on Win7 has been extremely positive. The performance provided by Windows 7 has been surprising. The longer a beta the higher the expectations and some of the current excitement will fade.

Interruption of Imagination
Every new beta release is a distraction to developers. The time it takes to create a frozen version takes away from a developers imagination and productivity. I’ve worked at Microsoft and I accomplished a lot more when I was sitting in my office all day then I did sitting in meetings or running focus groups. The internal testing required before any public beta is a lot longer than you might think.

Most Beta Testers Suck
As a developer I can tell you , beta tests aren’t what they used to be.  The number of people who actually report decent bug information is minimal. Most people download the beta just to be an earlier adopter. Developers are lucky if users read the release notes and compatibility list let alone any beta instructions. There are so many different machine configurations that sadly the only way to find some bugs is to have full global adoption of new software.

Just use Auto Updates
Anyone who reads Bits From Bill knows I think AutoUpdates are evil. Unfortunately, they’ve become a fact of life. Microsoft has determined Auto Updates are part of the equation and has perfected the procedure as much as technically possible.

Compatibility Already Exists
While there are plenty of new features in Windows 7, there’s a reasonable chance if a program is compatible with Vista, it will work okay on Windows 7. There are many new features a program can take advantage of but under the hood Windows 7 is still a new version of Vista.

Bailing out the Computer Industry
Last year Microsoft told customers that Windows 7 would ship in January 2010.  This would be a huge mistake because it would completely miss the opportunity to increase holiday computer sales. For manufacturers to ship a shiny new Windows 7 computer, the product needs to be final sometime in October. While I don’t expect a government bail out of computer manufactures, it’s in the consumers best interest to have many successful competing OEM’s. (Original equipment manufacturer)

Students will choose PC’s not Macs
If they really want to push it, t
he next big computer sales period is the end of summer when parents and students are shopping.  Vista’s current reputation may encourage more Mac purchases for kids going off to school. If there’s a release candidate in April, like currently being reported, that might allow a final OEM product being available by early summer.  That would also be a huge boost for student computer sales and certainly help Microsoft’s bottom line.

My only complaint
One of the reasons Windows will generate new computer sales is because there currently is no upgrade path from Windows XP. If you have Windows XP you’ll need to install Windows 7 by reformatting from scratch.

Microsoft has posted a list of new changes for the upcoming Release Candidate.

Part II:

Windows 7 Certified and Free Win7 Upgrades

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Monday, February 23, 2009

Find What's New to Clean Up Malware

My thanks to everyone who has participated in the beta test of the newest WinPatrol. I’ve heard a lot of good comments and one suggestion was so valuable I couldn’t wait for a future release to make it available.

Available today is the last beta of what will become WinPatrol 2009. If you’re like to participate you can download beta 4 at

The latest WinPatrol feature is so simple I can’t believe nobody has thought of it before. One of WinPatrol’s unique features is to keep track of when a program, service, hidden file or registry entry was first detected on your machine.

When any kind of infection occurs all its related files will show up as recent additions to your system. WinPatrol 2009 includes a new single list that sorts critical files and entries by their date detected. There’s a really good chance any new malware files will show up at the top of this list.

WinPatrol Recent Tab
WinPatrol new Recent Tab

In the past months I’ve had a number of friends and family members bring me their laptops to clean up malware. If I had a Recent list at the time I probably could have helped them over the phone.

This should be the last beta version so if you’d like to participate I would love to hear from you. Next week I’ll be in Redmond blogging from Microsoft’s Most Valuable Professional Summit.  I hope to announce our official launch soon after I return.


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Friday, February 20, 2009

Adobe Gets Sloppy and You're at Risk.

Do you remember a time when you knew your personal computer was safe from infiltration? There was a time when the only danger was from inserting a strange floppy disk. Nowadays, if you’re connected to the Internet every day brings a new threat.

This week’s big vulnerability announcement comes from Adobe and affects their Acrobat and Adobe Reader programs.

“This vulnerability would cause the application to crash and could potentially allow an attacker to take control of the affected system. There are reports that this issue is being exploited. There are reports that this issue is being exploited.

Adobe is planning to release updates to Adobe Reader and Acrobat to resolve the relevant security issue. Adobe expects to make available an update for Adobe Reader 9 and Acrobat 9 by March 11th, 2009"

Now, I’m a Adobe user and aside from their overzealous startup habits I’m a fan of Photoshop and the universal PDF format. Still, I’m having a hard time understanding how anyone could still release any code that is vulnerable to a buffer overflow attack. The technology and programming libraries exist so that only a programmer from the dark ages should allow this kind of behavior.

I don’t claim to be a perfect programmer but a company as big as Adobe should  have a whole crew implementing best practices for their development team.
This is incredibly sloppy and I just don’t get it.

To make matters even worse, Adobe provides no guidance as how to prevent attacks. My advice is to disable any Adobe reader on your system.
If you’re a WinPatrol user, click on the ActiveX tab and sort by company name to find your Adobe components. Select the Acrobat reader and click on Disable.

If you’re not a WinPatrol user you can protect yourself by opening up Acrobat or Adobe Reader and disable Javascript from within that application. You should find it under the Edit menu -> Preferences. You can uncheck the box in front of “Enable Acrobat Javascript”.

It may also be a time to replace your default PDF file reader with a new one. I’m sure some of my readers can comment on what they find is the best alternate for Acrobat so stop back for more information.

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Saturday, February 14, 2009

WinPatrolToGo for the "Computer guy" or Girl

This weekend I’m re-launching the portable version of WinPatrol with a new look and new name.  I’m pleased to announce the release of WinPatrolToGo. (formerly called WinPatrolFlash)

WinPatrol To Go

  • Are you the “Computer Guy” or “Girl” in your family?

  • Do your friends and family call you when their computer needs serious help?

  • Would you like to increase the performance of their computer?

  • Do you want to be the hero of your friends and family?

  • Do you own what’s called Pen Drive, USB Drive, Jump or Thumb drive?

If you answered yes to any of those statements than WinPatrolToGo is for you.

This single .exe file can be downloaded or copied to a thumb drive or other portable flash devices. Run it directly from your portable drive on anyones machine to help analyze and improve their performance.

No need to install any files or uninstall following use. While you’re able to modify system settings on the target machine no WinPatrolToGo files will be left over.

Startup Programs as viewed by WinPatrolToGo
Check out Auto Run Programs with WinPatrolToGo

WinPatrolToGo is FREE. You’re welcome to use WinPatrolToGo as long as you like.  Additional information on files can be obtained by upgrading to WinPatrol PLUS.  Current WinPatrol PLUS customers may transfer their current PLUS code to WinPatrolToGo and store on their portable drive, no additional charge.


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Friday, February 13, 2009

Social Networks are a Ponzi Scheme of Friendship

Are you getting tired yet of the term Social Media or Web 2.0? Have your friends convinced you to join Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or some other social networking site? The truth of the matter is that Social Networking is a giant ponzi scheme.

When you first join a social network you start with only a few friends. It could only be your only friend is the one who convinced you to join.  The network typically has no real value until you add more friends and invite them to join.  Many networks will try to harvest your entire contact list in an effort to increase its membership.  So, you Email your friends and family and there’s a new layer of friends supporting the pyramid and the cycle begins again for them. Soon, you reap the benefits of “Friend of a Friend” and the network begins to have value.  As long as there are new users to join the network will be a success.

I don’t know if this is the year we’ll peak with social networks but they’re certainly hot.  According to Pew Internet & American Life Project, 11% of online American adults are now using Twitter. I’m not sure what defines an “online American” but I know I’m one of them.

I mentioned before that I am “Twitterpated” and you can follow me at I also have a WinPatrol information feed at that currently has 75 followers. You’ll me on LinkedIn,  Facebook  and you can read why people love WinPatrol on my Fans of WinPatrol page.  It’s only been active a couple weeks and we already have 143 members.  Click below to join. 

WinPatrol on Facebook

Now This is Important
You don’t have to be a member or participate on Twitter to benefit from its huge network of Tweeters.  has become the Google of real-time and current information. Most news organizations are using Twitter to research stories.  When US Airways flight 1549 splashed down in the Hudson I heard it first on Twitter. While on board a ferry racing to the scene, @jkrunms shared a photo taken by his phone via Twitter. Before ABC announced this years line up for Dancing with the Stars, I already had the list from folks on Twitter. It takes Google some time to index the world wide web so if you need immediate info I recommend adding   to your favorite places.

Follow @BillP on Twitter!

As Phil Collins sang,  You follow me, and I’ll follow you or was it the other way around? 


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Sunday, February 08, 2009

Protection is Here for Win32/Conficker.A and .B

Has your computer been infected recently?
Last month I wrote about the Conflicker Infection that has been the topic of many security experts.  Anyone who received an update patch from Microsoft last fall should be safe but apparently, plenty of people aren’t updating regularly.

Microsoft has recognized this infection is still around and has provided a fix along with additional information at Thanks to Brett Roberts in Auckland, New Zealand for the tip.

Is it that bad?
The French publisher Libération has reported the Conficker worm disrupted computers used by the Ministry of Defense in France and grounded the Navy's Dassault Rafale aircraft.

French Rafale Fighter Jet

Last Friday the City of Houston Courts System had been infected and shut itself down for the day.  While they expect the court system to be up and running on Monday, many expect to find Conficker popping up on other city systems. While I typically recommend waiting a week or so for Microsoft’s Windows Updates, this is one update too many people missed.

Additional Help
If you use OpenDNS, which I recommended last year, you’ll soon have additional protection.  Starting Monday, OpenDNS will offer a feature to help administrators detect local machines which have been infected and will block machines from phoning home their payload. This is an entirely new direction for OpenDNS but given the scope of Conficker I think they may be on the right track. If you missed my post on OpenDNS you can read more at

Update 2/10: Reports out of Houston now indicate the city's infection was in fact W32/Virut.n a variant of the virus Virut. This is contrary to news stories still being filed. The city had been using antivirus software from McAfee which did not include a signature file for this infection. Total down time was 4 days.

PC World reports, OpenDNS has partnered with our comrades at Kaspersky to obtain updated lists of malicious IP addesses.

Update 2/12: To show how serious they think Conficker is, Microsoft has announced a $250,000 reward towards the arrest and conviction of the folks responsible for this virus. 

Update 3/26:
 Conficker Judgement Day on April 1st

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Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Windows 7 Limited to 3 Applications at one Time

Microsoft has announced the various flavors of Windows 7.  As I had hoped Microsoft tried to reduce the confusion and say they will be concentrating most on their Home Premium and Ultimate versions. Apparently there will still be six official SKU’s which isn’t much of a reduction.

There’s no word yet on price but I suspect the Windows 7 Starter will be the under $100 USD version. I’m very surprised at a restriction of “3 concurrent applications” and anxious to find out how that works.  My first question to Microsoft is “Do programs like WinPatrol monitoring your system count as one application”? I suspect this feature will be getting a lot more attention in the press this week.

Microsoft said I can share the following information starting Feb 3 at noon PST.

Windows 7 Starter

  • Broad app and device compatibility with up to 3 concurrent applications
  • Safe, reliable, and supported
  • Ability to join a Home Group
  • Improved taskbar and JumpLists

Windows 7 Home Basic (emerging markets only)

  • Unlimited applications
  • Live Thumbnail Previews & enhanced visual experience
  • Advanced networking support (ad-hoc wireless networks and internet connection sharing)
  • Mobility Center

Windows 7 Home Premium

  • Unlimited applications
  • Aero Glass & advanced windows navigation
  • Easy networking & sharing across all your PCs & devices
  • Improved media format support, enhancements to Windows Media Center and media streaming, including Play To
  • Multi-touch and improved handwriting recognition

Windows 7 Professional

  • Unlimited applications
  • Ability to join a managed network with Domain Join
  • Protect  data with advanced network backup and Encrypting File System
  • Print to the right printer at home or work with Location Aware Printing

Windows 7 Enterprise and Ultimate

  • Unlimited applications
  • BitLocker data protection on internal and external drives
  • DirectAccess provides seamless connectivity to your corporate network. 
    (requires Windows Server 2008 R2)
  • Decrease time branch office workers wait to open file across the network with BranchCache. (requires Windows Server 2008 R2)
  • Prevent unauthorized software from running with AppLocker

Ultimate includes all Enterprise and all Home Premium features, including multi-language packs.  Windows 7 Enterprise is available only through Microsoft Volume Licensing


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Sunday, February 01, 2009

WinPatrol v16 Monitors Changes to UAC Settings

WinPatrol v16 is still in beta and may be for a while if folks like Microsoft MVP Corrine keeps giving me great suggestions. This latest new feature was a must after reports surfaced that User Account Control settings in Windows 7 could be changed by malware. In fairness, as this Microsoft response points out “The only way this could be changed without the user’s knowledge is by malicious code already running on the box”.

I’d like WinPatrol users to know we have their back if some malicious program or even a family member changes the UAC settings on their machine. WinPatrol was also the first program to monitor changes to Windows AutoUpdate settings. Sure enough we’re starting to see many trojans and viruses in the wild trying to monkey with autoupdate setting.

WinPatrol alerts you if someone disables User Account Control
WinPatrol Warning if the User Account Settings have changed

This beta download is available at

I encourgage those of you helping to test WinPatrol to give this feature a drilling both on Vista and Windows 7. I still want to make some changes to text in our new version but if all goes well I can launch WinPatrol v16 in a couple weeks.


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