Taking A Laptop On A Bike Tour? Read This.

Prey SoftwareIt takes a lot to make us say ‘wow’ but this month we’ve said it twice: first to the Kindle 3 (our new favourite bike touring gadget) and now to a free piece of software that helps you track down a thief, if the worst happens on a bike tour.

The idea is this:

1) Download Prey and install it on your laptop or smartphone. During this process, you register your email address and a password with the Prey website.

2) Once registered, the Prey software ‘sleeps’ on your machine. It’s not findable through a search. It doesn’t appear on your control panel or list of programs. As soon as your laptop or phone is stolen, however, you can make Prey pop to life by registering your device as ‘missing’ through the Prey website.

3) As soon as your computer or Android phone is registered as missing, you just have to wait until it connects to the internet. When the computer is online, it can send you a report. You can select what you want to receive. Would you like a screenshot? Maybe you’ll catch the thief on Facebook or Skype and find out his username. You can also take a picture of the thief with your webcam or use geo-location services to figure out exactly where the machine is.

Hopefully you’d never have to use this software, but if you are the victim of theft, this could help you get your stuff back. And if you’ve lost more than your computer, finding out where your laptop is could lead to the rest of your things. Think of it as a bit of free insurance for your next bike tour. Neat!


  1. Amaya
    27th May 2011 at 12:28 pm #

    Trust me, laptops really do get stolen. Do yourself a huge favor and install this free, open-source software before setting off on your next bike tour.

    • TogetherByBike
      27th May 2011 at 5:32 pm #

      Yes laptops get stolen – very often in fact, but that doesn’t make me really trust a product like ‘Prey’.

      If you want to protect the data on the laptop, use strong encryption for anything that is important. I recommend Truecrypt (http://www.truecrypt.org/).

      Once your data is encrypted, store a backup of it on something like Dropbox (http://www.dropbox.com/) or a private server. Then if your laptop is stolen it’s just an inconvenience (possibly insurable?) rather than a risk of having all your private information being read and/or appearing online.

      Note that Truecrypt & Dropbox work on Linux, Mac & Windows.

      Prey might help you get the laptop back but it’s the contents that (for me) are the most valuable part.

      Just my $0.02…


      • friedel
        28th May 2011 at 10:13 am #

        I think you need both; good backup / encryption and something like Prey. The backup protects your stuff. The Prey software means you have a better chance of identifying the thief, and that could mean getting not only your laptop back but also anything else that was stolen at the same time.

      • Arthur
        17th June 2011 at 7:46 pm #

        Note that Mac users will most likely opt for the built-in Filevault, which costs about four mouse-clicks to enable and does completely transparent AES encryption.

        In my opinion this should be on by default on any portable device.

        • friedel
          18th June 2011 at 6:33 am #

          Interesting… I have a Macbook but when I try to find the Filevault program, I come up blank. Will do some more research. Thanks!

    • Arthur
      21st June 2011 at 8:00 pm #

      Friedel, it’s not a separate application so that’s why you might not have found it. It should be present from 10.3 onwards.
      For 10.5, you can enable it like this:
      System Preferences program -> Security icon ->
      Filevault tab -> Turn On Filevault button.

      I’ve been using it daily since about march 2008. No issues.

  2. Will Hawkins
    31st May 2011 at 3:33 pm #

    A very useful post and very useful comments too. Losing a laptop is a pain. Losing your data (photos, documents, details etc) is worse.

    I have installed ‘Prey’ and I already use SugarSync.

    Thank you


  3. pakistancycling
    7th June 2011 at 12:48 pm #

    Thanks for this nice information. 🙂

  4. arlen
    15th June 2011 at 2:31 pm #

    do you use any gps units…
    if you do….
    which brand and model.????
    why i ask is trying to make up my mind in which one i might buy….


  5. Alex
    20th July 2011 at 12:51 am #

    PDF from a presentation I put together that covers some of these issues and more – in general, about protecting your confidential/private information when travelling: http://apapadop.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/110625-infosec-on-the-road.pdf

    Hope your readers find it helpful.


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