Bits from Bill

Technology thoughts leaking from the brain of "Bill Pytlovany"

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Should I Upgrade to Windows 7

Are you wondering if you should upgrade to Microsoft Windows 7? Yesterday on Facebook I heard from an old friend who asked a question I expect I’ll hear a lot this year.


As a Microsoft MVP award winner I’m under no obligation to promote Microsoft products. If you’ve read my blog before you know I haven’t been a fan of Windows Vista. Contrary to advice from Microsoft, I also recommend waiting 7-10 days before installing Windows updates. My answer to Rhonda may sound like a paid advertisement from Microsoft but I believe strongly in the benefits of Windows 7.


I typically tell folks to wait and let others test new software. Windows 7 may have been just released to the general public, but it’s been widely deployed for months. Some of us have been using a stable version of Windows 7 since last November.

Vista Users:
Many readers have told me they’re going to wait for the first service pack before the upgrade to Windows 7.  If you’re currently using Vista think of Windows 7 as the ultimate service pack. Don’t wait.

My Pick: Windows 7 Ultimate Upgrade $219 

Best Value: Windows 7 Family Pack $149


Happy with Windows XP?
If you’re happy with Windows XP I’m not as enthusiastic about upgrading. If you can afford it, you have time to reinstall your favorite software, and you aren’t dependant on really old hardware or software then go for it.  I really wish I could upgrade and have all my machines running Windows 7.  Unfortunately, I still depend on some older hardware on my main desktop so I won’t be upgrading immediately. At least, as a developer I need to keep a machine running XP so I can test and verify all new versions of WinPatrol. I even have an old Gateway Astro running Windows 98 just for testing.

If you are ready to upgrade to Windows 7 plan ahead. Create a pile of CD’s with all your favorite software and make sure you have your license numbers and codes.  Download any software online and get your registration keys. Backup your Email and any documents, music and photos so you can do a clean install.

Buying a New Computer?
No question, you’ll want Windows 7. 
“Do I want a Multi-Touch screen?”
If you can afford it and like to show off, sure, but most people don’t “need” a multi-touch screen. It’s cool but I’m still waiting for a real multi-touch killer app. Personally, my next purchase will probably have multi-touch screen.
“Do I want Windows 64 bit?”
If you have to ask the question probably not.  There are some advantages to using a 64 bit system but at this time there are still too many potential disadvantages. Intel hasn’t scaled back their research in making faster, cooler 32 bit processors. My next purchase will probably be a 32 bit machine.

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Think Twice Before that Netbook Purchase

Have you noticed that your fingers feel numb when you wake up? Do your fingers fall asleep when typing, holding the steering wheel or fork? If you recognize these symptoms you may have the first signs of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

The concept of Ergonomics is not new to computer users and repetitive movement injuries like Carpal Tunnel Syndrome have been discussed before. Unfortunately, I predict the incidence of these injuries is going to rise along with the increase of small laptop and netbooks. Long hours on a regular keyboard can be bad enough but think about how cramped up your hands are updating your Facebook status on your new netbook.


I often write about things I experience and today’s blog is no different. This morning my doctor prescribed special wrist splints to treat the pain I now have shooting up my wrists. Luckily, CTS(Carpal Tunnel Syndrome) is very treatable when found in its early stage. Unfortunately, I love my Thinkpad and may have a hard time changing my keyboard habits.

There are many other repetitive movement injuries often diagnosed as CTS. True Carpal Tunnel is specific to pressure on the “median nerve” which travels through a small crowded area of the wrist. It can be diagnosed very easily by your doctor. When caught early it can be treated with rest and anti-inflammatory drugs.

I know you’re all thinking, “What about Blackberry’s and other cell phone use?” I don’t think it’s far fetched to to believe CTS is in the future of many of you using hand held devices to text your friends of update Twitter. I can’t say for sure but I can make the claim using a small laptop keyboard contributed to my latest medical condition.

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Monday, October 12, 2009

Faster Startup with Windows Prefetch

Earlier this month I had a huge reaction to my post about cleaning up the Windows “Temporary Internet Folder”. Comments from readers provided many other great tips but there was some confusion over one of my major points. Even if you don’t use the stand alone Internet Explorer browser, other components of Windows use this folder so if you missed this post check it out.

See: Free #1 Tweak to Improve Windows Performance

A few people also mentioned the Windows Prefetch folder. Prefetch is a pretty cool feature that started with Windows XP, was improved in Vista and even more optimized in Windows 7. There are two primary functions provided by the Prefetch system both designed to speed up your boot and recover time.


The first methodology used by Prefetch is to tell Widows which programs or code segments are commonly used at startup by multiple programs or processes. Instead of the having Windows load the same code segment multiple times, it’s loaded once and available for all the programs who use it.

The second focus of Prefetch is to help the disk layout of programs which are commonly loaded at startup. Window keeps track of commonly loaded programs and will check how these programs are stored on your hard drive or other storage device. If needed, the disk will be de-fragmented and organized during idle time so that the programs are easily accessible at boot time. This information is stored in a text file layout.ini found in the prefetch folder.


Other memory optimization information is stored here and used by Windows to decide which code segment should be in active memory and what can be cached. Under Windows XP, many background programs like virus scanners which aren’t common startup programs may get more attention than they deserve. While it’s been fixed starting with Vista, it can still be a problem under Windows XP. If this becomes a problem the solution is a simple reboot. There has always been the controversy over keeping your computer on over night or to reboot each day. I now recommend occasional rebooting which will also help refresh the Prefetch information.

The Prefetch folder is another good reason to keep your list of auto startup programs to a minimum. Using programs like WinPatrol can clean up which programs are auto started and thus stored in Prefetch. Adding WinPatrol PLUS will help you decide which programs are really required.

Delete Prefetch Files?
A lot of tipsters advocate going into the Prefetch folder and deleting the files so it can start with new information. I’ve been playing with this and while I haven’t seen any difference, I don’t see this causing any harm. The next few times you reboot it might take a little longer but that’s expected. I have determined that Windows does do some garbage collection on its own and limits the number of .pf files in this folder to 128 or less.

Microsoft will pay you to forward this Email.
If you believe this one I have another myth for you. An online tip I’ve seen recommends modifying the registry value used by the prefetch mechanism.
HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Session Manager\Memory Management\PrefetchParameters

There are four values used here by Windows.
0 – Disable Prefetch
1 – Use Application Launch Prefetch only
2 – Default Boot Prefetch
3 – Maximum Prefetch

If you read that you can use a value higher than 3 don’t believe it. I’ve heard from people who swear they see faster performance but there’s no technology to back up the claims.

I’ll be doing some more research on how prefetch, SuperFetch and other memory optimization is done in Windows 7 but for now I recommend just letting Windows do its thing.

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Friday, October 09, 2009

Super Optimized WinPatrol 2010 Coming Monday

Thanks to continued support and encouragement I’ve been hard at work at making my WinPatrol program the best it can be. For almost 12 years, WinPatrol has consistently been one of the least intrusive programs out there but I thought it was about time to optimize Scotty even more. Even though WinPatrol is written in the programming language “C” I’ve found some monitoring functions were even quicker when written directly in machine code or what we call Assembly language.

The new super optimized version will be available to the public on Monday, October 12th. To show my appreciation to everyone who has supported WinPatrol I've made the new version available early but just to PLUS members. Just go to You’ll need your name and plus code which are available on the PLUS tab in the WinPatrol software. Fans of our free version will have access on Monday.

What's New

  • Additional Support for Firefox 3 and Google Chrome
    Since Firefox 3 changed from cookie.txt to SQLite database format Scotty hasn't been hungry for Firefox cookies. Support for Firefox 3 has been the single most requested features. Turns out I was able to include support for the SQLite format without increasing the size of WinPatrol.exe. While I was at it I also included support for Google Chrome which also uses SQLite to store their cookies.

  • Reduced Memory Footprint
    The monitor component of WinPatrol has been optimized and shrunk so WinPatrol.exe is now only 314 KB instead of its previous 336 KB size. I’m confident you won't find a smaller Windows system monitor as powerful as WinPatrol.

  • Up to 30% Faster Performance (Sorry PLUS Only)
    Real-time scanning uses 30% less CPU than the polling provided by the free version. The real-time component has been optimized using more direct machine language then its original C coding.

  • Conflict reduction with other security applications.
    Contrary to the warnings by AV suites, Scotty has always worked and play well with others. WinPatrol.exe has been optimized to handle the results of any Windows hooks in its own code space reducing any conflicts created by other security programs.

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Saturday, October 03, 2009

Upgrading to Apple QuickTime Pro

I have plenty of respect and admiration of the Apple Corp but like many, I’ve been critical of some of their auto upgrade tricks. A common complaint is they don’t make it easy to remove their auto upgrade programs from your list of Startup programs.  The last complaint I wrote about was their efforts to force people to download the Safari browser when you download any other Apple product.

See: “Dear Apple, We don’t want Safari” and “Do I Really Need Apple Mobile Device Service

I don’t have a new complaint today but I did want to share something I found pretty funny. Today, I upgraded to the newest QuickTime. This is usually a good habit considering all the past security vulnerabilities.  What I found interesting was Apple’s method to encourage users to upgrade to the paid or Pro version of QuickTime

Free QuickTime Menu with Pro features disabled.

As someone who publishes a free program, I’m always looking at ways to encourage folks to upgrade to WinPatrol PLUS. I’ve really tried not to be annoying or obnoxious. Most people tell me I’ve made the free version too powerful so there’s no reason to upgrade. Apple on the other hand has plenty of features only available on the PRO QuickTime. I have no problem with Apple’s technique. I just think it looks a little desperate.

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Thursday, October 01, 2009

Microsoft “Most Valuable Professional” Program

I’ve often followed the advice of Groucho Marx when he said, “I’d never be a member of club who would have me as a member”. One exception to this rule is a group of highly specialized technical experts known as Microsoft® Most Valuable Professionals. Last year I was honored to receive MVP recognition for my work in the field of computer security.


I’m proud to announce that today I received notification of my newest Microsoft® MVP Award. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and knowing other MVP’s from around the world. I can tell you it’s a great feeling to be considered one of their peers.

Microsoft describes MVP’s on their website

"We seek to recognize the best and brightest from technology communities around the world with the Microsoft® Most Valuable Professional (MVP) Award.

These exceptional community leaders come from a wide range of backgrounds. They are teachers, artists, doctors, engineers, as well as technologists, who actively share their high-quality, real-world technical expertise with the community and with Microsoft.

With the MVP Award, we thank these inspiring individuals for representing the voice of thousands in the community through the powerful and independent feedback they give us, and for helping our customers maximize the potential of their software."

I’m sure I’m not alone today in getting my notification so I’d also like to congratulate all the other hard working, caring MVP’s who received their award. Good Job!

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