As much as we love our Macs and cherish what they can do for us, there are moments when a Mac can make you ill.
First, when you turn on your Mac and it doesn’t. A good back up will help you feel better when a Mac is broken. Second, when you look around for your Mac and realize it’s gone. Your Mac has been stolen. Lock the barn door before the horse escapes. Use an app to track a stolen Mac.
An Ounce Of Prevention
If there’s a single feature about my iPhone that I truly like, it’s the app Find My iPhone. With MobileMe and GPS I can track my wife’s iPhone (and she can track mine).
Your Mac doesn’t have the same sophisticated security features.
However, with the right app, your Mac can be tracked.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, right? What you want and need is a Mac app that knows where it is, knows where to phone home, and manages to snap a few photos of whoever is in front of the camera and what apps they’re using at the time.
These six apps claim to give you a little extra peace of mind and the capability to track your Mac after it leaves your barn.
Undercover uses a number of technologies to track your Mac’s location. Using Skyhook Wireless’ famous Wi-Fi positioning technology, when your Mac comes back online, Undercover can pinpoint the location to within a few dozen meters.
It also grabs snapshots from the Mac’s built-in iSight camera and secretly and silently sends them to you. If your Mac can’t connect online, Undercover can simulate a hardware failure. Ostensibly, the thief will take it to get repaired, whereupon the Mac flashes an I’m Stolen message.
For a little less money GadgetTrak does much the same thing—only differently. It uses Wi-Fi positioning technology to pinpoint the location.
You get an email with pertinent details about the location, including a snapshot of whoever is sitting in front of the iSight camera at the time. Even better, GadgetTrak’s user console is web-based so you can use an iPhone, iPad, BlackBerry, or Android phone (or, any other Mac or PC) to track your Mac’s location.
For a little less money than GadgetTrak, Hidden purports to do a similar tracking effort to let you know where your Mac went, who is using it, and what they’re using.
Hidden can snap a photo of whatever is in front of your stolen Mac when it’s being used, and provide a Google Map view of the location. Hidden doesn’t stop there, though, and provides all kinds of IP address tracking information.
Mac Calls Home
For a little less money than Hidden, and a lot less of a feeling that what you’re buying to protect your Mac is really protecting it, there’s Mac Calls Home.
Functionality appears similar, though far less sophisticated. Mac Calls Home purports to grab network information in the background, and send it to a specified email address. Caveat emptor. I tend to avoid products from sites which also run advertisements and display user’s private Mac information online.
All is not lost for the budget crowd, though. Enter VUWER, a free (open source) app that also tracks your Mac’s location. It can capture screenshots, iSight camera photos, and specific IP and geolocation information and send it to you.
VUWER is similar to the other apps in that it runs in the background, virtually unseen. However, it’s also unique in that it tracks itself by checking a secret web site that you manage online. Change the code on the web site’s page and VUWER knows it has been stolen. Then it gathers and sends information.
Even more sophisticated is Prey, an open source project that tracks stolen PCs, Macs, and some smart phones. For Mac users, Prey works in the background, triangulates location based upon Wi-Fi hotspots (or GPS) to get a location.
Prey grabs screenshots (even thieves use Facebook and email), takes a photo with iSight, and can lock down your Mac from a thief’s prying eyes (or fingers).
Not bad for free, huh?
Unfortunately, Prey is still an infant compared to Undercover or GadgetTrak, both of which have been around for years.
Now for the reality bytes. Very smart, very sophisticated thieves can quickly and easily overcome such background security apps to get at your data. Fortunately, most thieves are just after a quick buck and intend to steal and resell. They make up 95-percent of all computer thefts, so having security and tracking app on your Mac is more like closing the barn door before the horse escapes.