Track Lost Mobiles or Laptops with Prey Software

Prey (http://www.preyproject.com/) is an automatic tracking system for mobiles and laptops. If you only want to track a handful of devices, it's totally free to use, and the software is open source.

Here's how you use it, and what it does. First, go to www.preyproject.com and download the client application. You can install it on a Windows, Mac or Linux computer, or on an Android smartphone. Next, sign up with the web site and register your devices. Although you can install the client on desktop PCs, it really works best with laptops.

With everything set up, you can log into the web site and see a list of all the devices you're tracking. And that's all there is to it. Until, of course, one of those devices gets stolen. At which point, log into the web site again and mark the device as missing. Or, if the device is a smartphone, send it an SMS message that contains the secret word you specified when you installed the client app on it.

Once the device has been instructed to go into "missing" mode by the Prey web site, the installed client springs into action, and does whatever you've told it to do. If the device has the ability to work out its location, either via the mobile phone network or GPS, it'll send you a map of where it currently is. If there's a webcam on there, you can tell it to take a photo of the current user and display that on the web site too. Or, you can have it take regular screen shots instead. Needless to say, you can also protect your data. You can remotely lock the device or delete the files on it.

There are quite a few tools that offer the same sort of features that Prey does, but I've never seen one that works so well, or is so easy to set up, and which is also completely free. I tried it on my Android smartphone and it accurately sent back a map of precisely where the phone was. My next job is to install the Windows version on my netbook, so I can track that too.

And it's worth remembering that such software isn't just useful for tracking stolen hardware. If you'd like to know where your kids are, or perhaps you want to keep an eye on an elderly relative who values their freedom to roam, Prey will do it. As for the morals regarding how you use it, and on whom, that's entirely up to you.

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