Bits from Bill

Technology thoughts leaking from the brain of "Bill Pytlovany"

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Best of Bill: Teach Script Not Cursive Writing

This morning the Today Show did a segment on how schools want to stop teaching cursive writing. It reminded me of the article below that I wrote in March 2011. One comment objected to my posting topics unrelated to my expertise but I think it relates to computers and since my original post I have become an elected member of the Scotia-Glenville School District Board of Education.

One of the arguments I always hear is, "We need cursive for signatures." I found out while running for school board, signatures are worthless not only on prescription pads but on petitions. When I gathered the signatures needed to get on the ballot I specifically asked people to sign their names so it was readable.  For many political petitions and absentee votes a readable signature is required. On my petition over half the names weren't legible.

March 22, 2011
Typically changes to primary education in our country is slow to proceed. To my surprise there’s a push to remove cursive writing from school curriculum and it’s gaining momentum. I’m shocked at the support from even older long time educators.
It turns out in New York State our English Language Arts curriculum only requires legible manuscript either print or cursive. I don’t have a background in education but I do know what kids will need to be successful.
I’ve never been a fan of the current D’Nealian cursive or its predecessors.
Teaching me in 1st grade that a capital Q was written like a number two was the first time I started to question the intelligence of my teachers. I have never seen anyone write the letter Q like that so it didn’t make sense.
My recommendation would still require penmanship but instead of cursive teach the topic of “script” or "typography" which teaches the elements of a script.  What young minds need to know is that there are a variety of “typefaces” that can be used to express feelings beyond just words.
fontsInstead of teaching kids a single cursive writing style, allow them to choose a particular typeface to practice their penmanship. Teach kids how different fonts should be used for different purposes. A font used for a business letter won’t be the same used on a poster to help find a lost puppy.

I’m all for continuing to teach penmanship but get rid of cursive and let young minds expand. Let them know there are many ways to express what they write. Even if for some reason computers disappeared this wouldn't be useless information. The knowledge of scripts and how to use appropriate fonts will carry on in future language studies in older grades.

Update: September 22, 2014
I have noticed a lot of articles lately connecting the end of cursive education to Common Core. While cursive isn't a requirement in the Language and Arts requirements of Common Core 44 states had already dropped cursive before Common Core was implemented.

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Monday, January 28, 2013

International Upgrade to PLUS Week

I’m not sure if I have the power to declare a holiday but that’s my plan for this week. It’s too cold to go outside so why not celebrate WinPatrol and support your other favorite software.

This weekend I said no to another deal that would have allowed me to retire but would have left WinPatrol fans under someone else’s control. Many of you know I’ve fought against offers to package unwanted software in our setup program. I’m often asked why I bother objecting when legitimate companies like Oracle make money by including a toolbar with Java. Other people have told me if the downloader doesn’t read the screen they deserve the toolbar.

For me the pressure really started in 2008 when I wrote…
Would you like Toolbar with your Software Order?
based on the feedback here I followed up with
No, I Don't Want Your #^$% Toolbar

Thanks to spyware warriors like Ben Edelman it’s now clear how much deception really goes into the distribution of toolbars.
IAC Toolbars and Traffic Arbitrage in 2013

When you install WinPatrol you won’t see any questions about installing software you weren’t looking for. You’ll get exactly what you asked for.

Due to the economy, a decline in the magazine business and other industry trends we don’t see as many PLUS upgrades. I’ve talked to other developers who report the same trend. Yet every 2-3 days I get a comment from someone who says. “I love your product and have used it for years. I thought it was finally time to say thanks”, along with a $29.95 upgrade. Sometimes, the person has been using an illegitimate version of PLUS but hey, we’ve all done that.  I even included a clickable “Reset” on the WinPatrol PLUS tab so users can clear their illegal PLUS code and put in a valid lifetime license.

So, if you’re that person this is the week you’ve been waiting for.

It’s  Rally for PLUS Week

I’m trying not to sound like telethon for WinPatrol or other small software vendors but you know who is worth your support. Like many of our friends WinPatrol has depended on our reputation. We have relied on word of mouth and especially from industry experts who now have blogs, podcasts and newsletters.  After explaining how WinPatrol worked to author Byron Acohido he wrote an article for USA Today describing WinPatrol as “one of the best kept secrets in computer protection.
I’ve tried to keep the free version as valuable as possible but still encourage upgrades to PLUS. I’ve been careful not to nag users or trick anyone into upgrading to our paid version.

WinPatrol doesn’t advertise or pay to get special placement on download sites.  Maybe we should but as I’ve also written about before many download sites place their advertised programs where you expect your program to be. The Dangers of Downloading Free Software

Join the Rally for WinPatrol PLUS
So, if it’s on your to-do list to upgrade to WinPatrol PLUS or other software you can celebrate national upgrade week.  If you’re an industry expert looking for a topic, I’m always available to explain why WinPatrol still works and even why it still has a ten year old interface! No matter how many followers you have, I’ll make sure they’re happy and trusting.

If you’ve already paid for a lifetime of WinPatrol PLUS tell us what other software you use that deserves support.  Click on comments and share why you’ve upgraded or supported other software. If you upgrade your other software let them know it’s International Upgrade to PLUS Week.

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Best of BillP: The BillP Story

Recently, I had someone ask me how I started in the computer industry.  Well, in 2009 just before my birthday I wrote up the following for BitsFromBill.  If you're curious about my background and missed this here's another opportunity to feed my ego.
Originally published: April 23rd, 2009
I was asked recently about my history in the computer industry so I thought today was a good day to share some personal information. I’m sure many of my readers will be surprised by some of the fun projects I’ve been involved with. If you’re interested, I created self indulgent and gratuitous post but it’s all part of the BillP WinPatrol Story. I don’t have enough to write a book but here’s a summary of some highlights.

I have had the good fortune to pick some real winners but I’ve also been extremely lucky to be in the right place at the right time. When I graduated from college my first job was programming employee payroll for Schenectady County, NY in a language called COBOL. After work, I discovered the bliss of a “personal” computer, the Commodore Vic-20 which would eventually change my life.

The more interesting part of the story begins in 1985 at a Commodore trade show when I was introduced to Marc Seriff and Steve Case. We shared a vision of a large online service that would be easy enough, even our mothers could use it. I joined their company in Virginia which at the time was known as Quantum Computer Services. It was later renamed America Online.

I was one of the 30-35 employees original AOL employees, half of which were devoted to customer service. In the book, “Stealing Time” the author includes the true story of my first week when I was given a hammer and screw driver so I could put my desk together. During my time at AOL I managed the software development and user experience for our C64 service; Q-Link, AppleLink Personal Edition for the Apple II and Mac, PC-Link and Promenade for the PC and lastly the prototype of our first version of Windows based software. I left in the early 90's but continued to work as a consultant for many years.

America Online
My main interests at the time and role with AOL was creating synergy between content on TV and the online world. ABC and CBS both hired me to help get their content online. One of my applications was used to take closed captioning from news events and stream it to a specialized AOL rooms. I was the first to create a tool that over layed online content to a live broadcast via something called a Chyron machine. One of our big events was a live simul-chat with Michael Jackson and AOL MTVmembers. MTV was the first to adopt the technology for video chats and called it MTV’s Yak Chat.

In the winter of 1995-96 I was invited to Redmond to work on a secret joint Microsoft/Gateway project called the Information Highway PC.  This was a large screen TV/PC  combining the TV and Internet with content provided by a satellite link from DirecTV. This was the same time Microsoft was trying to conquer the online world with their first version of MSN. It was before they realized the key was just to own the browser and not the portal.  Meanwhile AOL had declared war on Microsoft so some of my friends were a little suspicious but my focus was completely on the TV/PC and not MSN.    Microsoft

Our project was a little ahead of its time and our group was gobbled up so I headed back home to upstate NY. It wasn’t long before Gateway asked me to be part of their own PC/TV initiative called the Gateway Destination. This 30 and 36 in PC/TV was still a little ahead of its time. This was before cheap memory, fast hard drives and lighter flat screen monitors. Nobody really wanted to share a single PC/TV device in their living room.
Gateway Destination

In 1997 my old friends at ABC asked me come to Maryland part time and help in the creation of a joint venture between games developer MicroProse and Capital Cities/ABC. Our goal was the creation of ABC Sports themed games(Indy Racing and Monday Night Football). 

Soon afterwards came an exciting merger of Walt Disney Co and ABC. ABC Enhanced TVI joined Disney’s Buena Vista Internet Group and worked with a brilliant team of innovators to launch ABC's Enhanced TV.
My role was to quickly put together PrimeTime Player™ the first game which combined real-time game play on the Internet in sync with broadcasts of Sunday/Monday Night Football as well as College Bowl games.

In the midst of my fun and exciting projects in 1997 I was caught off guard by a password surfing program. This annoyed me but not as much as when AOL support suggested the only solution was to reformat my entire hard drive. That’s when I created my own personal project called WinPatrol.  This program was originally designed to help my family and friends prevent programs from taking over their computers.

I soon specialized in small utilities and created a number of useful programs for my friends at Gateway and new friends at Epson America. Both were pleased with my Ink Monitor program which detected when your ink was low and immediately connected users to an online store for ink purchase.

As the threat of spyware grew the distribution of WinPatrol expanded and soon became my prime focus. WinPatrol grew from word of mouth and slowly developed its own cult following. In winter of 2002 I first launched the premium version, WinPatrol PLUS. Since 2004 WinPatrol and internet safety has become my passion.

As a member of the security community I’ve had the honor to work with volunteers who spend countless hours helping users decipher hijack logs. I’ve as the pleasure of sharing data with AntiSpyware crusaders who pour over millions of bytes of captured data proving how reputable companies were encouraging invasive adware popups. I’ve reverse engineered malware attacks tracing their roots to countries whose governments turn a blind eye to criminal activities. I’ve been threaten, received cease & desist orders from lawyers and offered big bucks to join the dark side.

I’m now happy to write and share my experience with others. I hope that my insights into the ever changing consumer technology industry may be valuable to others and encourage their thoughts and imagination. I don’t expect everyone to agree with everything I write, but I continue to consider myself lucky if I can spark new innovative thoughts from my readers.

On the personal note, I’m married with four grown children and four grand kids. Tomorrow, I’ll be celebrating my 54th birthday and in the BillP WinPatrol tradition I’ll be offering something special for Fans of WinPatrol.

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Friday, January 11, 2013

Verizon FIOS Listened To Me on Twitter

When I switched to FIOS Internet in 2009 it was cheaper & provided higher upload speeds which weren’t even available from Time Warner. It was an easy decision to switch from Time Warner to Verizon FIOS. While not having a physical store seemed like an issue my experience over the past few days proved Verizon FIOS is determined to be #1.

If you don't want to read my entire experience just take my word. See if FIOS TV is available at your location. If it is, order it and be prepared to bring all your Comcast or Time Warner equipment back telling them to suck it.

Unlike FIOS for the Internet we weren't the very first FIOS TV install in our area. FIOS TV is completely digital which means all TV's require a box. Time Warner currently still sends analog channels so TV's without space for a box would work for lower channels. We stuck with Time Warner even though as a TiVo/cable card user I was forced to use an extra, flakey adapter because Time Warner used something called Switch Digital Video even though the government said they were supposed to wait longer.

Eventually, Verizon FIOS TV came out with a standard definition digital box that was small enough to fit behind the TV's in the kitchen and over our bath tub.

So we made the switch from Time Warner. Even though we called TW and told them we would be switching they refused to offer a better deal to keep us as a customer. They obviously didn’t learn how to keep customers during the relationship with America Online. They waited until two days after I returned all our DVR's before they called asking how they could keep us.

Our initial FIOS install did have some serious problems. I didn’t help that we don't have a typical media household but even after I had prepared a long blog post, Verizon did enough to make us happy.

This week we switched to an amazing new TiVo XL4 which instead of two cable cards only needs one for its four tuners. That meant I could use one from the TiVo I was replacing and return one saving us $4 a month.
Activating the new cable card was an easy process I could do over the phone without even speaking to a human. Everything went ok except of course for some reason the HBO channels didn't get the proper activation signal.
So I called and spoke to a human who was helpful and stayed with me until all our channels showed up. He wished me a Happy New Year and at my request forwarded me to the department that could send out a postage paid box allowing me to return the cable card I no longer needed.

The next lady was extremely personable (maybe too much) and quickly arranged for a free postage paid return kit. I figured while I was talking to real people and getting help I'd ask about getting an upgraded router that supported 802.11n. That would give us faster wireless speeds over our current 802.11b/g router supplied free by Verizon. She thought since I was a good customer it might be possible and she connected me to a tech she thought would help. He wasn't helpful at all and told me I had to go online. I had a bad feeling and knew I'd be tweeting about him.

So, I went online, searched and poked around. I even tried their Windows program called In-House Agent in hopes it might have an option to replace my router. Unfortunately, the In-house Agent gave me so many JavaScript errors I couldn’t use it.  Most people wouldn't see these errors but as a JavaScript programmer they kept popping up.

So, I did what would have eventually been a source to vent my frustration and share my experience. I Tweeted a short explanation about my FIOS experience.

In under 5 minutes the phone rang. It was Troy calling from Verizon. All he'd say was that he heard I had some problems reactivating my cable card and he was doing a follow up to make sure I had a positive experience. Troy did the one thing that all consumers request, he listened. Not only did he listen but he understood every step of the process I had experienced. He even understood how TiVo and FIOS TV worked together. He understood why I would benefit from a new router and knew about MoCA technology which I only learned about last week.

Troy found the router I needed. He gave me some tips to help me set up all my wireless devices since the new router would require all my devices would need to be updated with a new SSID and passcode. He let me know Apple devices would be case sensitive and that I should change the router password from its default for my security.

He arranged to overnight my router so I'd have it by Friday. He apologized because if it had been before 4 PM I'd have it the next morning.

So, for all of you who ask me tech advice I recommend switching to Verizon FIOS if it's available in your area. I'm told Time Warner is now charging people a monthly fee for a router.  As my grandson used to say, “That's dickulous.” I haven't even mentioned how the video quality is better with FIOS, the additional channels or any of the other reasons I've told people to switch in the past. 
As promised, my friendly UPS man delivered my new router today. On the bottom, my current ActionTec router provided by Verizon. Apparently, it’s so old they told me to keep it and not bother sending it back. On top is my new Actiontec MI424WR Rev. I. Apparently, this revision is only about a month old so it supports the most features available. Not only will I have 802.11b/g/n 2x2 WiFi, it supports Gigabit Ethernet, has 1.2GHz ARM CPU and supports the new 1.1  MoCA®(Multimedia over Coax Alliance)

It looks like my timing was just right to start the 2013. I’ll admit my rant today is based on just one experience with their customer support. It may not always work this well but if you haven't already guessed, I'm sticking with FIOS, TiVo and definitely Twitter. You should too.

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Saturday, January 05, 2013

Rebooting to Windows 8 Safe Mode

I always love it when I’ve been one of the first to include a feature that I want myself and believe other users will appreciate it. Our new version is not only important, but it may be critical for Windows 8 users who may need to repair their computer.

One of the benefits of Windows 8 is the instant boot capabilities on Windows RT and almost instant boot on Windows 8 Pro. Unfortunately, this speedy boot time may prevent the traditional “Press F8” to enter safe mode. The new release of WinPatrol 2013 provides an easy method to reboot Windows 8 version of Safe Mode also called the Repair, Reset or Restore mode.

This is the new Safe Mode for Windows 8. In previous versions of Windows getting to Safe Mode required banging on the F8 key during reboot or hoping to choose the correct key to access the firmware menu.


Sorry to say, this new feature is not available on WinPatrol’s Free Edition. Like ActiveX monitoring and Custom Registry monitoring this feature gives users access to more advanced features. My policy has been to keep more technical features reserved to PLUS members who typically have more experience using WinPatrol and can reverse any unsafe changes.

While I’ve explored possible enhancements for Windows 8, I heard everyone say they wanted WinPatrol 2013 to include bug fixes and improvements needed by other Windows versions. There are also plenty of new features that are useful to FREE Edition users.

New bug fixes include preventing the launch and subsequent error message if you’ve Uninstalled a program after moving it to the Delayed Start list. Uninstall programs don’t know about WinPatrol so I’ve had some confused users wondering why they got an error when the Delayed Start list tried to launch a program that no longer existed.

Other fixes of reported problems include:

Bug fixed when hiding the Scotty System Tray icon. Scotty System Tray icon

Bug fixed in the "First Detected" Date for Active Tasksfirstdetected. Since the First Detected list is valuable in finding programs that infiltrated your system at the same time this was a major priority to help you hunt for and remove attacking programs.

Schedule Task 1.0 differentiated from Scheduled Tasks 2.0. 

Added Minimize, Maximize buttons to main tabbed screen. minimize WinPatrol is built using what Windows called a PropertySheet window. This type of window was common in Control Panel Applets. While it’s not designed to be resizable or include a Max/Min feature WinPatrol uses some programming tricks to give users what they’ve always wanted.

Options available for Delayed Start programs now include “Run program as Administrator”. There are few instances where you need to run a program as an administrator but this gives more power to the WinPatrol feature that launches applications in a specific order. 

Complete update of WinPatrol Help pages. Documentation is included stored locally and is available on each tab by clicking blue help icon.help36
There is still room for improvement but this feature has been considered essential for new and/or non-expert users.  Each help file includes a link to any updated information including better ways to teach WinPatrol based on user feedback. Our goal continues to make WinPatrol a program for everyone.

Back to our new Reboot to Safe Mode feature here are more screens available using our new feature for Windows 8 users. Under normal use, you may never see these screens.



Based on past updates there are a lot more people using Windows 8 then I really expected. I have heard from a number of people who were pleased they can use WinPatrol to boot directly into the Desktop mode.

No matter how you feel about Windows 8 I’m dedicated to do everything possible to support changes that occur in the Windows world. When the time comes to upgrade to Windows 8 or even Windows 9, WinPatrol will be there for you.

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