Bits from Bill

Technology thoughts leaking from the brain of "Bill Pytlovany"

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Facebook Wants Your Pre-Teen

If you look at the terms of service for many websites you’ll find they claim users under 13 are not allowed.  This is required to protect themselves against COPPA (Child Online Privacy Protection Act). Even the search engine notes “you may not register for the Community feature or create a user profile if you are under 13.” At the same time they market various products towards kids including Zwinky and Smiley Central using an invasive toolbar.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is now recommending removing the under-13 restrictions. Mark’s main reason is education. I have no doubt the first lesson kids will learn is how easy it is to give away your personal information and get scammed. Then again, they might think it’s normal for Facebook to post messages to all their friends without their approval.

I haven’t talked to many people who think Facebook should be open to children under 13. That includes all the parents who already allow their pre-teens to have a Facebook account.  Their response is always be how they supervise what their kids are doing online so it’s ok. If you think it’s ok for kids under 13 to create a Facebook profile or your pre-teen already has an account click comments below and share your opinion.


For full disclosure, both my daughters have been online since 1983 and they received an exceptional education. Given my role in the evolution of the online world they did have a much different experience.
Erica (right) was running trivia games in chat rooms when she was 9 but she was among friends. She never experienced the predators that currently roam the various globally created pages that appear at random. Now in their 30’s they could teach classes on internet safety.

On the other hand, my oldest grand daughter who recently turned 13 has blocked me from Facebook.  I used to send her links like “Who Gets Your Personal Information on Facebook” and the “Think Before You Post” which she thought would never apply to her.  She’s a member of the Share-it-all and the It-would-never-happen-to-me generation. She thinks it’s fun to pose as a 19 year old.

There are plenty of educational benefits to the Internet but for pre-teens Facebook is not one of them.  The parents who grew up with Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” campaign should apply it to their kids as well. Again, I’m an old fart and this is my opinion. I encourage you to post yours.

Related Stories:

Consumers Union urges stronger Facebook protections for children

13 year old suspended for Facebook post wishing bin Laden killed math teacher

Facebook’s Zuckerberg Wants Kids Under 13 To Use Site

7.5m Facebook users are under 13

Senator To Facebook CTO: Your Company Is 'Indefensible'

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Friday, May 13, 2011

64-bit Windows is here, Like it or Not.

If you’re in the market for a new Windows computer you’ll be joining the ranks of x64-bit processor users. It used to be an option but these days 64-bit systems are standard configurations.  The infiltration of the market has increased dramatically this year and many programmers like myself are working extra hours to catch up with some of the quirks that arrived with 64-bit systems. 


For a long time many people stayed away from 64 bit systems because they feared lack of support for their legacy hardware devices. Those fears have seemed to disappear but many of us have noticed quirks in 64-bit systems that affect regular software.  Unfortunately you won’t have much choice and will be encouraged to purchase a machine that comes with the 64-bit version of Windows. 

I’m not a 64-bit fan
If I didn’t have to support all my friends with 64 bit machines I wouldn’t have one. When I asked on twitter for a reason we need 64 bit the typical answer was to have more memory.
Local programmer Chris Miller, @anotherlab said, “64bit Windows means you can have more than 4Gb of RAM, which is great for a developer with a mess of apps all running at once.”
Personally, I would be just as happy this year with only 4 GB’s and a fast SSD to use as virtual memory.

The most affected software are low level utilities like my WinPatrol. Most software won’t have serious problems but like many security programs WinPatrol uses low level API’s directly for optimized performance and to catch malware at infiltration points.

Over the last year I’ve continued to distribute a 32-bit version of WinPatrol and worked around various quirks.  It’s obvious now that if I want to continue to enhance WinPatrol and create more powerful features I’ll need a 64-bit only version.  That will be my primary focus this summer.

Programming 64 Bits

According to Microsoft, “The key is that all of the existing Win32 knowledge you have directly applies to the 64-bit version of Windows, and the majority of your code should compile for the 64-bit platform without changes.”. 
Any programmer who hasn’t started 64-bit programming is already way behind. If you thought your biggest challenge going to update your data types you’re sadly mistaken. You’ll find many new changes and promises of maintaining the same code base may be true but only if you’re willing to drop support for XP, W2K and systems with limited performance.

According to well known programmer, Merijn Bellekom, "It's pretty unclear in the MSDN what is mirrored and what is redirected, especially when both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of an application exist, like MSIE itself."

Other programming experts have clued me in that many routines which provide WinPatrol’s optimized performance will have to go.

64-bit Stats
Getting access to real data on 64-bit usage hasn’t been easy. That fact has held up a lot of development efforts. While web sites are provided a lot of useful data in a browsers user agent data, the CPU size isn’t provided.  Luckily, my friends at PC Pitstop have been following the increase in 64-bit Windows for over two years and have provided some surprising stats.

My first surprise was to see that our neighbors to the north lead the way in 64 bit implementation.

Not as much of a surprise is that more home users have been sold on 64 bit Windows than businesses.


For more information on 64-bit stats visit

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