Bits from Bill

Technology thoughts leaking from the brain of "Bill Pytlovany"

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

National ID System Replaced by Facebook

I’m always writing about privacy and my recommendations on protecting your personal information. The success of social networks like Facebook has proven that most people really don’t care about privacy. The same people who may have signed a petition against a National ID number now share their info willingly with applications on Facebook.

On July 26th, 2006, the American Civil Liberties Union released a brilliant video on how our sensitive information may be used in the future. I’m certain I laughed my ass off the first time I saw it. Little did I know how close to reality it might be in just a few years. It seemed like a joke at the time but watching it now I have a completely different opinion. Instead of fearing a government, we should watch out for the companies who have partnered with Facebook.


Click to View National ID Video

The purpose of this video was to help the ALCU in their fight against a National ID system.  While it was designed to be a warning, this video can now be used as an example for creating a great social application interface.

I’m as guilty as many sharing my information although I do have my limits. Unless there’s a good reason I won’t be broadcasting my location especially when we’re on vacation. I won’t accept invitations that allow unknown companies free access to information I think I’m sharing with just my friends. As the owner of WinPatrol, so much of my information is public that it’s hardly worth worrying about.  Ironically, having multiple sources know my information can even be useful.

How about you? Have your thoughts changed since you first viewed this video years ago?  Does it create fear or does it inspire you to create a new product that might utilize a users available information?

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Friday, July 16, 2010

Why Rob Cheng Hates His Apple iPod

Twice a month I write an article for the folks at PC Pitstop.  Their bi-monthly newsletter includes tips and wisdom from other tech experts that makes it a must read. Click here to subscribe.

In this weeks newsletter, PC Pitstop’s president Rob Cheng opened up a hornets net when he gave his five reasons why he hates his iPod. You can read his comments at but I’ll share my favorite.

“Although we like to believe that Apple invented the MP3 player, it is simply not true. When I began working at Gateway in 1991, our #1 graphics card was made by a company called Diamond Graphics. I quickly became friends with the CEO and Director of Marketing. We had some good times together. Later, they introduced in the late 90's, the industries first MP3 player, the Diamond Rio. Even way back then, it was a run away success.”

Rob continues to describe how the Recording Industry Association of America sued Diamond and how Diamond went out of business. The rest is history and eventually the “iPod” became a term synonymous with a portable digital music player.

As an early adopter I had one and still have it. It doesn’t hold many songs and I have to use scotch tape to hold the battery door closed but it works! So here’s what the father of the iPod looks like. 


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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Remove Your Anti-Virus Security Software

What happens when you have four different security programs installed on a computer? It’s a lot like watching a slow turtle crossing the street. You sit, you wait, you stare and most of the time there’s a crash before it’s over.

I frequently have friends drop off their laptops along with the comment and the question, “It runs REALLY slow, do I have a virus?”.

Case Study: Bob’s Laptop
This week’s computer maintenance task was typical. There was no malware, trojan horse, key logger, virus or even rootkit on Bob’s laptop. So why did it take 10 minutes to boot and run so slow?  Turns out there were four, yes four different security suites installed. 

One of them was McAfee which had expired last year but was still running five different services. I suspect it came pre-installed when he purchased the computer two years ago. Even after running the uninstaller, I still had to manually remove more McAfee programs including a reminder service just in case Bob changed his mind in the future.

Next I started to remove the Anti-Virus packages which also hadn’t been updated in the last six months.  First I removed Window Defender from Microsoft. I’ll elaborate more below but the newer Microsoft Security Essentials from Microsoft does what Defender did and much more.

When I removed CA Internet Security I immediately noticed a different in computer performance.  I don’t mean to imply CA was the problem but at least we were down to a single Anti-Virus Suite. It still wasn’t as fast as I’d like but it was a vast improvement to be down to a single suite hooked into the Window kernel.

The last suite to remove was Symantec’s Norton 360. I’m not a big fan of Norton but there are some folks at Symantec who I respect for their support. They’ve become legendary in the industry but this creates a level of trust that makes some users blind to using their software properly.  Well known security packages like Norton and McAfee create a false sense of security. Users bypass learning how to properly use the product and they fail to configure the software. They often miss out on updated signature files designed to catch new threats.

I had a personal experience of this over confidence from the mayor of my home town Village of Scotia.  Once a week his computer sends me an Email with an link that I obviously shouldn’t click on. When I reported this, his response was “I’m sure my Norton will take care of it”.  The mass mailer bot using his address book continues even as I was preparing this article.


Clicking on the link will take users to a page that appears to be an advertisement for Canadian drugs. Unfortunately,clicking the wrong click to escape and the ad will make an attempt to infect the next person helping to spread the malware.

I finally removed all the security programs from Bob’s computer and it ran fast enough for me to provide some regular maintenance steps needed to speed things up like deleting temp files, defrag his disk, and I used WinPatrol to remove all the crap that didn’t need to be auto starting every time he rebooted.

So What’s the Answer? 
ScottysOrb64_normal First  (no surprise) I installed WinPatrol which works and plays well with others but shouldn’t be used alone. WinPatrol works differently than Anti-Virus scanners and so it doesn’t compete for the internal Windows kernel interface commonly used by security suites 

I also configured Bob’s Window Updates so files would be downloaded automatically but installed at Bob’s discretion. Keeping your system updated is critical. Unless there’s a special threat I do continue to recommend installing Windows updates 5-10 days following their release.


mse So what was my choice for Bob’s main security program?  (Drum roll please)
The answer this week is the free Microsoft Security Essentials. It may be actually be unpopular to praise products by Microsoft but the Redmond based company has devoted serious resources towards making your security a priority. On July 15th, the Microsoft Antimalware Team will release a new generation of their antimalware engine.

You can click the icon above and check out Microsoft Security Essentials but first go to the Remove programs applet in the Windows Control Panel and get rid of the multiple security packages that you no longer use. Even if you don’t use them, they’re using you.

For additional help removing old useless security suites you’ll find a list at the Security Garden, AntiVirus Product Removal Tools. Thanks to Corrine for her comment.

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