Earlier this year, a friend who is the wireless network engineer at a state university had his coat (and his iPod Touch) stolen. Because the iPod Touch has a built-in wireless connection, and because my friend manages the network, he was able to use the campus wireless network to track down his coat and the iPod. Campus police were called, the thief was punished, and my friend got his stuff back, all in the course of one afternoon.
My friend was lucky the thief didn't leave campus upon swiping the coat, and of course, not everyone has access to an entire wireless network like that. So what's the best plan of action if your iPod, laptop or other wireless device is stolen? CNET News writer Daniel Terdiman suggests Adeona. The open source project maintained by developers at the University of Washington is named for the Greek goddess of safe returns, Terdiman says.
Unlike proprietary tracking software, which often relies on centralized corporate servers and always costs a chunk of change, Adeona is free, more private and simple to use. Here's how it works, according to Terdiman:
... [A] user needs only install a piece of free, downloadable, software on their computer, and then make sure to make a copy of a credential key that the software provides and that they must keep on, say, a thumb drive, and which is required to track the laptop if it's stolen.
The software can then report IP addresses from which the laptop is used and with which the authorities may be able to pinpoint its location. Adeona can also track the laptop by identifying the wireless network on which it is being used, which can also effect a quick recovery.
The project leaders warn, however, that like any tracking software, Adeona can be abused -- to track the online activity of a significant other, perhaps.