Bits from Bill

Technology thoughts leaking from the brain of "Bill Pytlovany"

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Where Can I Find an Alternate PDF Viewer?

Apparently Adobe isn’t making enough profits by selling Photoshop for $699. The basic Acrobat program needed to create PDF files is sold for $99 but that’s not enough either. The program to view and print PDF files appears to be free but if you’re not careful it comes with some unwanted baggage.


Adobe makes extra money every time someone downloads and installs the Google Toolbar. I usually know better but even I didn’t see the check box in my haste to download most recent Acrobat reader.  Given the number of vulnerabilities that keep occurring with the Acrobat reader I always recommend folks check to to be sure they have newest version. 

I’ve never been a fan of companies which keep trying to add programs to  my autorun list. Adobe Download Manager installs a number of components that run in the background and regularly connect to see if I need my software updated. These includes the Adobe Speed Launcher ( read_sl.exe ), Adobe Reader and Acrobat Manager ( adobearm.exe ), AcroIEHelper Library ( AcroIEHelper.dll ) and Adobe PDF Helper ( Acroiehelpershim.dll ) and Adobe Services like GetPlus_Helper.DLL

Given all the vulnerabilities and extra software, I decided I’ve had enough with Adobe. The PDF format has gotten so popular I would still need a program to view and print PDF’s.


Classic Bad Behavior
When discussing this issue on Twitter quite a few people recommended I switch to a PDF reader called FoxIt.  This program looked promising especially after I read “NO BLOAT”.  They lied.


The download process was clean and simple as long as I remembered to uncheck the options to make my new search provider and home page.


Why would they think I want to change my home page or default search? I thought it was bad enough these options were pre-checked but I never even had a choice if I wanted the Toolbar.  It was installed automatically. Sorry, but I consider this bloatware. What I wanted was a PDF viewer that’s all.


Luckily, I was greeted with a friendly warning from my favorite Windows Watchdog which immediately removed the unwanted toolbar.


That wasn’t the end of the story. FoxIt is a classic example of the bad habit of software including crap you never wanted. Before the install was complete I was encouraged to install an eBay shortcut on my Desktop!


After some more recommendations from Twitter friends, I’m currently using a program called Sumatra which is free and open source. You can download Sumatra at  The only negative thing I can say so far is I don’t really like the color yellow they use.




Do I sound bitter?
What really makes me sad is this trend has become so widespread that everyone expects and accepts it.  Folks silently continue to download bloated software until their machine eventually becomes unmanageable and/or full of bugs. I’ve also been approached by and I always reject their offer.  If I had accepted their offer to include a toolbar with the free WinPatrol I could have retired this year. Apparently, most people really don’t care.

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Auto Update Kills Computers Again

Everyone who reads Bits From Bill knows that I’m not a big fan of automatically updating software. There are just so many different configurations it’s nearly impossible to accurately test new software.

My previous posts include

* Auto Updates are Evil
* Update causes OLMAPI32.dll error
* Auto Update Programs Running all the time
* Microsoft Security Update Problems

For those who have asked, I’ll never have a system to automatically updating my WinPatrol program. I prefer to roll out new versions so that our big fans are the first to have new versions. If a serious problem does occur they’re also most likely to have the knowledge to follow instructions on how to fix any problems.

McAfee Fail
McAfee and others might consider this approach in the future. Today, McAfee updated users with a new signature file which left thousands of computers useless. A false positive in the virus definition file caused a required Windows system file to be deleted.  Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time a problem like this has occurred. 

For details, check out Ed Bott’s coverage for ZDNet
Defective McAfee update causes worldwide meltdown of XP PCs

WinPatrol Beta Test
While WinPatrol doesn’t have any many users as McAfee I wouldn’t want this to happen to a single user. So before the release of the next version of WinPatrol I will have a beta period restricted to qualified users.

If you’re interested in participating I would so much appreciate the help. If you don’t know how to follow instructions and just want the new version early don’t bother.  To test the next version of WinPatrol send an Email on Saturday, April 24th to support@WinPatrol.  Include 1) what version of Windows you use, 2) your default browser and 3) how/where you first heard of WinPatrol.  I won’t be responding immediately but if you’re selected you’ll receive instructions by the end of the month. You’ll be asked to follow some steps for specific tests so again, don’t apply unless you are willing to provide some time towards testing.

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Saturday, April 17, 2010

Using Internet Explorer 6, Are you Kidding Me?

One of the fun reasons of hosting many websites is the information that I can collect from all the visitors.  No, I can't tell how old you are, what you wearing or other personal information but all web administrators collect information like what browser you’re using, your operating system, language and even your screen size.

Ultimately this information is used by website administrators to make your experience on the website more attractive and more compatible with your machine.  It's one way of telling how many people are still using Microsoft Windows and how many people are using Internet Explorer versus Firefox or Chrome

Information collected this month indicates that Windows 7 is now installed on more machines than Windows Vista. At least among my readers.

I did find one disturbing trend. Over 15 percent of my visitors who use Internet Explorer are still using version 6 or below. This is very scary.  “Using Internet Explorer 6 is is like leaving all your doors and windows open, then telling everyone on Facebook/Twitter your family is going on vacation.”

Break down of visitors using Internet Explorer


Most of my readers know I may not be an advocate for auto-updates but seriously folks, it’s time to update your browser if you’re still using IE6. There are so many vulnerabilities out there being used there’s a good chance you already have some kind of infection on your system and don’t even know it. Using IE 6, you’re most likely vulnerable to something called Drive-by Downloads.  That means a program could be installed on your system just by visiting a website.  You could change your mind and click out of it before you see it and it would still be too late.

If you’re one of my readers still using IE6, please take the time and update to Internet Explorer 8.  Most of my readers are using an alternate browser like Firefox or Chrome but there still may be times you’ll need to use Internet Explorer. If you do, you definitely want the newest version.

WinPatrol Users: You don’t have to exit WinPatrol during the install of IE8 but be prepared to respond Yes to questions about changes to your system.  On the WinPatrol PLUS Options “Hide Alert Messages” screen is a checkbox in front of “Hide and Allow Run Once programs…”.  This will make updates like this run quicker and smoother.

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Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Will an Android “iPad” Win the Game?

While the Apple iPad maybe the Cinderella product this week, recent updates to my Verizon Droid shows that Google’s Android OS is still a prince. Folks are saying that the iPad is a game-changer but it may not necessarily win the game. The idea of a tablet really isn’t anything new. My ThinkPad x61 is both a great tablet and a powerful laptop

The single biggest asset for the iPad is Apple’s Customer Satisfaction and Public relations. The “I gotta have me one” factor for the iPad is off the charts. Nothing bad about having your own cult following but that doesn’t always mean you’ll reach critical mass appeal.

The release of Android devices like the Droid and Nexus have received a lot of positive attention. You can’t beat some of the powerful features and flexibility. “If” we start seeing folks carrying around iPads it won’t be long before they’ll be followed by Android based Pads. It’s rare for me to carry around my ThinkPad especially with the screen facing out so aside from showing off I don’t see it in our future.  Are man-bags doing to be the new style?

I have an iTouch(iPad Nano) that I love, but I went with a Droid phone for the Verizon connectivity. I have really been surprised by some of the Android based features that I’ve come to rely on. The new features released with Android 2.1 update1 will keep me using Google devices.

Android 2.1update1

The first new feature I noticed this week was just fluff but lots of fun. Droid now has animated background that reacts to touch and movement. I now have a water background that ripples when I touch it. This again is not a new concept. I had a program for Windows 95 called Crystal Walls that had the same functionality.  It’s just fun.


The next cool application now included is Google Goggles. This has long been talked about but is finally available.  This feature provides visual search results. In the past you could use the Android Bar Code reader to look up and compare products. Now you can just take a photo of a product or other objects and Google will search based on the image. If you’re taking a photo of a location, Google will also pair up your built-in GPS data to give you more information about what ever you’re looking at. Google has done a great job integrating GPS information with applications.


The 3rd new feature I was pleased to find was a little microphone button on the virtual keyboard.  I can now bypass the keyboard completely and use voice to text input. For years I’ve tried various voice input, including Dragon Naturally Speaking but nothing has met my requirements.  The Droid is the first device I’ve found that I am comfortable using voice input.  Much to my surprise I’ve been using Voice Search since I first found it on my Droid. This is another feature that ties your search into your GPS location. If you’re looking for a store or restaurant, it will list the closest location first.

I had no clue voice search would be as simple and accurate to use.  Now with voice to text input I actually started to write this article while sitting in a parking lot waiting for my daughter. Google says this is still in beta so I’m looking forward to improvements.

Other new features include easier access to photos and an improved slideshow. There’s also a tweak to the music player but this remains the one application seriously lacking in features.


Now that Apple has brought tablet devices to the main stream we’re going to see and hear a lot about other tablets. I’m guessing the final four will include Windows, Windows Phone 7 and Android.  Right now Apple is riding the wave, and attracting the most developers is a real plus. Unfortunately, like the Macintosh, Apple’s tablet OS is a closed system. This could be a plus or minus depending how you look at it. I could do a whole article on why this is good and bad.  It didn’t work so well in the PC market and only time will tell if it succeeds in the tablet marketplace.


What do you think? Click on Comments and share your view.

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