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I’ve never had a computer stolen. I once had a couple of old Cisco routers stolen from the trunk of my car, but never anything like a computer, cell phone, or iPad. When I think of those Cisco routers, I would love to have seen
the look on the thief’s face as he tried to figure out what the hell they were. I was using them to study for a Cisco certification and even *I* wasn’t sure how to get them to work! Good luck to any common thief trying to convince a pawn shop that they were worth anything. I picture them rotting in a landfill somewhere.
But what if I did lose a laptop? Or my iPhone? Or one of the kids left their iPod somewhere and someone swiped it? It happens all the time. A thief can walk off with a couple of thousand of dollars worth of tech in one armful. Leave the TV… it’s too heavy. Stereo? No way. Oh… nice shiny iPad? That’s worth $500-600 easily. Same thing for a smart phone. Macbook Air is $1100. And it’s not just Apple products… a decent Windows laptop or desktop is still hundreds of dollars or more. Your new Android phone is going to set you back $500 or more to replace. These items are particularly attractive to thieves because of their high monetary value, small size, and ease of dumping… and the chances of the police recovering your stolen tech is slim to none. By the time you’ve even filed a police report, your iPhone is packaged and on its way to an unsuspecting EBay buyer anywhere in the world.
So what can you do to dramatically increase your chances of recovering your stolen property?
Let me introduce you to a neat little program called Prey. Before I go any farther, I’ll tell you that Prey comes in a free and a paid version. Even if you don’t feel like spending a single penny to help protect yourself from thieving paws, I highly suggest that you consider installing the free version! It’s not nearly as feature-rich as the paid version, but it’s still awesome, and you can install it on up to 3 devices. And when I say devices, I mean any Windows, Mac, Linux, iPhone, iPod, iPad, or Android piece of tech that you own. But forget about the free version for a minute, and let’s talk about the paid one. I bought it. Yup. Yesterday. So this isn’t me just looking around for things to promote… this is something I should have bought ages ago, and it’s only a fluke that I haven’t had to use it yet. Trust me… every time one of my children says “I lost my iPod” I feel my skin crawl. So far “lost” means that they forgot it at their grandmother’s house… or it’s under the bed… but it’s only a matter of time before one of them truly loses it. And that’s where Prey comes in.
Installing the Prey client on your device takes less than a minute. Once you log in with your Prey account, you’re all set. From that point you can decide to never touch it again, or if you’re like me, you’ll probably want to log into the Prey website and simulate a “stolen” device.
You can see from the screenshots that you have a lot of different actions that you can take. Simply move the selection bar from OK to MISSING, and you will start to receive reports from your stolen device as soon as it connects to the internet. You’ll get a map of its current location, detailed information about the network that its connecting to, and even screenshots of what the thief is doing. And my favourite? Activate the webcam and have it email you a picture of the thief. Say cheese! You can also do standard stuff like lock the computer, have it display a message, sound an alarm, even speak a message in an eerie computer generated voice… “Hey shithead! I want my computer back!” Or whatever you feel like saying…
And even if your device hasn’t been stolen, it’s comforting to know that you can activate the siren for the times when you can’t remember where you set your iPhone. Or when calling the children to the supper table is too boring, why not have their iPod talk to them in a robotic voice… “Supper. Now! That’s right. You heard me. Now!” Oh… I can’t wait to get Prey installed on their iPods.
As I mentioned above, you can install the free version of Prey on up to 3 devices, and I think that it’s a great idea to do that. The program will automatically capture your serial numbers, which are critical in recovering stolen goods, and most of us do not have these written down. So at the very least, you will have that, and the ability to track your stuff should it wander away from you. But I fully believe that this program is insurance for my electronics (Did I mention that the paid version can protect up to 10 devices? No? Well I just did!), and more than willing to pay for it, especially given the amazing deal that the fine folks at AppSumo were able to offer. If you’re not familiar with AppSumo, they are an awesome company that works to secure amazing discounts on software and training from other internet companies. They’re primarily focussed on internet entrepreneurs but occasionally a deal comes along for the masses… like this one!
Will this change? Probably. Many of the AppSumo deals are time limited, but I don’t see a timer associated with this one. Still, it’s unrealistic to think that this offer will be available forever… so at the time of this writing $49 is a pretty sweet deal for something that normally costs $162.
And like I said earlier… even if you don’t want to spend the money to protect your hard-earned tech… do yourself a favour and install the free version. The Prey website has a section with customer testimonials… and these look to be 100% legit.
I wish that I had Prey installed on those Cisco routers.
Last week I wrote about buying my first iMac. And here’s a quick update: I LOVE IT! In fairness though, I might very well have been saying the exact same thing had I bought a 27″ all in one Windows machine too. It might be less the fact that it’s Apple, and more the fact that it’s a beautiful machine. The jury’s still out on that one. But doesn’t matter.. I love it.
Today I want to talk a little about what I did to my Dell Inspiron laptop. I’ve removed Windows 7 from it, and gone with Ubuntu Linux! Exciting, isn’t it? Yeah well, for me, it kinda is. I’ve never installed Linux before. I’m not really that type of geek. (Whatever the hell that means) But the current installations of Linux are a lot more user friendly, and a lot less geek factor required.
I have to say… my laptop runs noticeably faster under Ubuntu than it did under Windows 7. I think that it shipped with Vista, but I had put a copy of Windows 7 on it last year. Maybe it was the hardware. Maybe it wasn’t high enough for Windows 7 to run as well as it probably should. I don’t doubt that. But still… doesn’t change the fact that Ubuntu runs beautifully on it.
I honestly don’t find that it looks as slick as Microsoft Windows does, but it’s not horrid. I’m sure that there must be a version of Linux that is closer, but Ubuntu comes highly recommended, so that’s why I went with it.
As for software, as long as I have Firefox to start with, I’m fine. After that, I installed VLC (movies and music) which is far better than Windows Media player (I also run this on the iMac), Tweetdeck (for Twitter), Open Office (a Microsoft Office clone) and Evolution (e-mail program). I’ve been an Outlook user all my life (well, maybe not THAT long) and I was hesitant to install Evolution, but ya know what? It’s pretty damn good! Oh yes, and even Skype runs on Linux. All these programs are free, and stable, and do 99% of what I need a computer to do.
Other than the XBox 360 (and my roomie’s Toshiba laptop) there are no Windows devices on the network any more.
And really… I can’t say as I miss them.