Finding a stolen computer

I have not had any computer/phone equipment stolen since I left the first model Palm phone on a desk at a trade show many years ago. I seem to remember it was in 1994 at a Guttenberg Printing show in Long Beach. When I reported it to the organizers, they thought I was mad. They had never heard about mobile phones.

So now 17 years later I have several computers and occasionally I get paranoid about someone taking one of them. So I though I would sign up for a free Mobile Me account and log in each device with their Find My Phone, but I could not find a Find My Mac/PC.

So I looked around for alternatives, and the one that strikes me as the best of the bunch Prey. This is OpenSource software (free) and there is a more advanced version that costs $5 a month. So I am trying out the free version.

It does some useful things. First there is no obvious software on the computer in question, so the thief doesn’t know it is installed.

Once you notice the device is missing you can turn on “reporting” from their website. This does several things: Turns on IP address tracking, so you can tell from where the computer is connected, it displays a map of the location, using the whatever camera is attached to the device it photographs whoever is sitting in front of the camera, it shows screen capture of what is happening on the screen, and sends this report every ten minutes to you over the email address you used to set up the device.

Not only that you can lock the device, hides emails, passwords and other personal data, and can also sound alarms on the computer and tells the viewer they are being monitored.

If you have an Android phone you can install this and it performs the same function, but you need to send the phone an SMS message to start the reporting.

All of this is free.

As yet, there is no iPhone or iPad device, but in the meantime I am placing this on all my computers.

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