Bits from Bill

Technology thoughts leaking from the brain of "Bill Pytlovany"

Sunday, March 28, 2010

WinPatrol PLUS 50% Off for Malware Season

For many years April 1st has been popular as a launch date for computer viruses. Last year it was Conficker which the media blew so out of proportion it seemed like a dud. This year however I expect we’ll see a number of new trojans, rogueware and other malware activating on the first week in April. I’ve talked to more than one malware author who has plans to generate “Ransomware” attacks using known vulnerabilities starting April Fools Day.

One U.S. based hacker said they were using a tool kit available from China and has scheduled attacks to help pay taxes due on April 15th. I’m told this tool kit looks for a series of older vulnerabilities which have patches available.

So, there’s no reason to panic as long as you take steps to maintain your standard security.

  1. Run the Windows Update link and make sure you have all the current Microsoft security patches.

  2. Make sure your current Anti-Virus software is up-to-date with the most current signature files.

  3. Update the popular 3rd party software that runs on your browser. In particular make sure you have the most current version of Acrobat Reader, Adobe Flash, Sun Java Runtime and Apples QuickTime. They all have a history of vulnerabilities which allow malware authors to easily take control of your computer. I’ve provided links so you can just click on the text above. Take your time to read install instructions and descriptions so you understand what you’re downloading.

  4. If you’re a WinPatrol user upgrade to the newest version which is free to all WinPatrol users. If you don’t have WinPatrol PLUS I thought this would be a good time for a special offer. Effective immediately WinPatrol PLUS is available for 50% off. I’m also discounting WinPatrol PLUS Family Pack by $15. These prices will be good until April 7th.

Upgrade to WinPatrol PLUS $14.95 ( 50% Special )
Single user, multiple machines.

Upgrade to WinPatrol PLUS Family Pack $34.95 ( $15 Off )
Unlimited computers used by immediate family.

Folks often ask me what other products I recommend for protection. The amount of protection you need really depends on many factors. What I recommend can change from month to month. Luckily, WinPatrol works and plays well with others. While there is often some redundancy between WinPatrol and other programs, WinPatrol has some unique features and will run without any conflicts.

These days I’m a fan of two products which are priced right and come from very reliable companies. I like MalwareBytes Anti-Malware from and VIPRE from Sunbelt Software. I’m also intrigued by new free software called Immunet but I’m still evaluating its effectiveness. I can confirm it works well when paired with WinPatrol PLUS.

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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Little Kids on Facebook

The first time I saw my 12 year old grand daughter on Facebook I wasn’t really concerned until I saw that her birthday implied that she was 18 years old.  Thankfully, she wasn’t trying to misrepresent herself. She just knew that Facebook users under 18 have a different experience. It turns out correcting her birth year back to 1996 was a safer experience.


I was actually surprised to see that Facebook took any steps to protect the privacy of 13 to 17 year old kids. Do you think it’s enough? You can guess my answer would be NO! My grand daughter is now legitimately a Facebook member at 13 years old but was still encouraged to access the applications like “Lover of the Day”.

I can’t deny kids and many adults think sharing their private information is the closest thing to becoming a reality TV star. It’s like we’re raising the  Share-It-All Generation. Unfortunately, Facebook shares most of this information with companies who have no physical address or stated privacy policy.

Kids need all the help and direction possible. When it comes to your kids I’m all in favor of  “My Mom is on Facebook”

While this fun video will make you LYAO, if you’re a parent and you let you young kids on Facebook there are few things you should know. Yes, I know many of you are giving in and allowing kids even under 13 to be online so listen up.

First, not only should be a friend of your child, you should have complete access to their account so you can see who they’re friends with and what they post.  Trust me compared to what they might give away on Facebook, you’re not invading their privacy. If they see a screen that says “Allow Access” they should click the little “Leave Application” text and not the big YES button.

If you want to know what happens when they allow an application see my previous post “Who gets your personal information on Facebook”.

Like the video, Facebook is fun and appealing.   Full disclosure:  when my kids were pre-teens they were running Trivia games in online chat rooms. Our computer was in a common area and they weren’t giving away personal information or sharing photos with strangers.  So I can’t tell you what choice to make as a parent but I hope you won’t be afraid to keep your eyes open and teach you kids about what choices they have.

Especially teach your kids to “Think Before You Post” and check out the videos like Everyone.


Thanks to Abby, whose son is a Facebook developer, for the link to the “My Mom is on Facebook” video. :)

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Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Get the Most from your Expensive Software

Do you ever find yourself telling people that you know just enough to do what you need with Microsoft Word or Excel and nothing more? It’s very common that most folks learn only what they “need” to use and that’s all they know.

I have a few very powerful and expen$ive programs like Photoshop, and Microsoft Office. I frequently find myself telling friends, “I know this program can do so much more but I probably only use 5% of its capability”. Over the years I may be up to 10% but I’m certainly under utilizing features that could both make me more productive and make me look more professional.

My open question to readers today is “How do you learn to use your software? Do you want to learn more?” Currently we have a number of resources available but they’re so underutilized it’s a shame.

Daily Tips
Many programs have a feature that provides a “Did You Know...” when you first open up a program. I’m sure companies spend a lot of time creating daily tips but it’s one of the first things I turn off. Does anyone out there actually use these daily tips?

dailytipTip of Day from WS-FTP

paperclip Do you remember the Microsoft Office animated Help Agent?. You could change the clippy character to a dog or other fun character. Once thought to be the ultimate way to teach users how to learn Clippy was a novel approach using a sophisticated algorithm. Users found it insulting and “How to disabled Clippy" soon became a popular tip.


This was another approach hailed by User Experience experts as the future way we’d all learn about using our software. Microsoft created a set of window dialog types designed to support wizard sequences. While wizards are great tools commonly used for performing a single task they’re rarely used as an education tool.

Tool Tips

This maybe one of the best improvements in helping users how to learn more about their computer. By holding the mouse over a button or other control a message will appear which explains what this object does and/or can be used for. Users are often afraid of unknown actions and fear making a screwing up. The tool tip takes away this apprehension. Unfortunately, many tool tips are completely useless and repeat the same text already visible on the screen.

Help Files
Guess what? Help files really work. I highly recommend you re-think your use of Help Files. Think about how often do you use Google or Bing to look up something want to know? You should be doing the same in your favorite program. You paid big bucks for a program like Office and you should be getting your money’s worth. Windows Help is a dedicated search engine for your application.


Typically, the quickest way to access Help search is just press F1. In many cases, F1 will be linked directly to a current task. Ironically, the same week I’m recommending you all use F1, Microsoft has published a security advisory on not using F1 when browsing the web. “… a malicious Web site displayed a specially crafted dialog box and a user pressed the F1 key, arbitrary code could be executed in the security context of the currently logged-on user.”

What’s Next?

As software developers what can we do so users learn how to use all the cool, powerful features we’ve included and that they’ve paid for. It’s common to use focus groups and collect user feedback. Ultimately, the best way for folks to learn more about their software is for developers to make it more natural, intuitive and especially consistent.

Perhaps in the future we’re have dynamic interfaces that learn what the user expects. Meanwhile, take a moment and check out the help file in your favorite programs.


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