Laptops, smartphones and tablets: all so useful and so portable. And, unfortunately, easy to misplace or have stolen. And, as you use these portable devices, their value quickly grows beyond just the cost to replace them.
Photos, personal or work-related documents, music, yours or your family’s calendars, or just your list of contacts; these things can have great value, intrinsicly or monetarily. This is digital data that you just don’t want to lose.
LoJack for your laptop or phone.
You may have heard of “tracking” apps for smartphones and laptops. These are sort of like having “LoJack” for your electronic device. In fact, one of the deluxe products in this arena is actually “LoJack for Laptops”.
As with the car version of LoJack, these apps don’t prevent theft or loss, but they will assist in finding and protecting your device after it becomes lost. By remote control, you can make your smartphone or laptop or tablet do one or more of: lock itself, sound an alarm, report where it is, take a picture and send it to you if it has a built in camera, or even erase itself to protect your data.
The way it works.
It’s pretty simple to use these apps. Most work just like this:
1. You load a tiny piece of software into your portable device that just sits there out of your way, waiting to be “activated”.
2. Then, if your device gets lost or stolen, you send a text message to your device to turn on the app and do whatever you want. That’s it!
What it can actually do depends on the capabilities of the device that you’re protecting. If your laptop or phone has a camera built in, then “Prey” can make it take a picture and send it to your email. If your device has a GPS chip built in – as all cell phones do – then it can report its exact location to you. If your device doesn’t have a GPS chip, then Prey can report the Internet IP address to which it is connected and send you an approximate location for that.
Which one to use.
There are many of these tracking apps around. Some only work with particular types of devices, as with LoJack that only does laptops or “Where’s My Phone” that only works with iPhones. Some are free – like “Where’s My Phone” and some are pay, like LoJack-for-laptops. Some are very easy to use while others have a too many things to remember for those rare occasions when you’re actually going to need it.
As of this writing, however, there is only one that works on any platform, is very easy to use, and, for personal use, is free – my favorite price: “Prey Project.” (“Prey” – www.PreyProject.com)
It’s easy to set up Prey for as many devices as you might like to manage – though approaching the website for the first time can be a little confusing. (Clue: you only need to “download” anything on those devices that you actually want to protect. You don’t need to download anything to your desktop computer.)
The simplest way to set up Project Prey seems to me to be:
1. Set up an account at Prey first.
— On your computer, go first to the PreyProject.com website and then click on the “login” link in the upper right.
— From there go to the “set up an account” option and fill in name, email and password.
2. Go into your email and find the confirmation message from Project Prey and click the link in it. That will take you back to the PreyProject.com website where you should login with your new password.
— After you login, it will say “no devices…”. That’s correct.
3. Download the app to your device:
— If you have a smartphone or tablet device, go to the App Store for your device and download the “Prey” app.
— If you have a laptop, then on your laptop go to the PreyProject.com website and click the “Download Now” link on the front page to get the correct software for your laptop.
4. Set up Prey on your device by starting the software or app on your smartphone or laptop and go to the settings for it to give it your Prey account email and password.
5. Now, check the Prey website on your computer. (You may need to “reload” the page.) Where it once said “No devices” it will now be showing your newly protected device.
6. All set. Now go through the activation process for your device and try it out.
— Mark your device as “missing” and set the options for how you want it to react. (Try setting it to sound an alarm.)
— Now, for a phone, send it a text message “PREY ON”. (For a laptop, you wait for some amount of minutes for the Prey Project system to try to contact your computer.) If you’ve set it to Alarm, then you’ll hear a siren start to come from your device’s speakers, and almost immediately you’ll receive an email with a map marking the location of your device.
That’s it. Repeat steps 3, 4, and 5 for each device that you want protect through your Prey Project account. Up to 3 are allowed for free per account. More for a small fee that is competitive with other similar services.
I hope this is helpful, and helps to keep your portable devices under your control. Please do give me a call if I can assist setting up Prey or a service like it for you. Mike Pepper ~ Computer Guy, www.PawlingComputerGuy.com, 845-855-5824.