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Ask Slashdot: Good Tracking Solutions For Linux Laptop? 253

Posted by samzenpus
from the ping-home dept.
First time accepted submitter WillHPower writes "So I have ordered a new Ubuntu-powered laptop. I spent some extra bucks on lots of RAM and a good sized solid state drive. After putting money into it, I'd like to find a way to track this laptop in case it's ever stolen. Are there any good tracking software/services the run on Linux laptops? Also, are there any other techniques besides tracking for dealing with a lost or stolen laptop that I should consider?"
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Ask Slashdot: Good Tracking Solutions For Linux Laptop?

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  • CompuTrace (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DigiShaman (671371) on Monday July 08, 2013 @11:34AM (#44216187) Homepage

    Depending on the laptop (in BIOS), you can use CompuTrace with Dell laptops.

    http://www.absolute.com/en/products/absolute-computrace [absolute.com]

  • Re:Do nothing (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 08, 2013 @11:37AM (#44216213)

    Actually they do the same thing, install windows on it. Go to craigslist and notice how many suspiciously cheap macbooks with windows installs there are.

  • by MacTO (1161105) on Monday July 08, 2013 @11:45AM (#44216259)

    Since you're running Linux, you will probably discover that any thief will reformat the hard drive to install Windows. This leaves two options:

    1) Look into software that may already be baked into the firmware.

    2) Have it automatically, and preferably transparently, boot into Windows then follow some of the other advice found here.

    Neither route will help you recover a laptop once it has passed through the hands of professionals.

    Overall, you'd probably be better off detering theft in the first place: don't use it in overly public places, never leave it alone in public places, invest in a good lock, and make it look undesirable. (One thing that I like about my ThinkPad is that it looks 10 years older than it actually is. Stickers, especially "non-removable" ones, make more identifiable and harder to resell without a cleanup effort. Scratches and dings will reduces its apparent value. Heck, smashing the slot for the lock will probably deter most thieves since it would be harder to sell.) Remember, the best way to avoid being a target is to avoid looking like a target.

    Oh, and write down every serial number on the system.

  • Re:Insurance (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Monday July 08, 2013 @12:20PM (#44216589) Homepage Journal

    Encrypt the hard drive. Insure against theft. Forget about it if it's stolen.

    Right, your data integrity is almost always worth more than the hardware itself. In order to install a tracker, you have to permit the attacker access to your filesystem. Don't do that.

    If my laptop is stolen, they'll see a grub screen, and then dracut asking them for a password. I'm SoL on ever seeing it again but I don't have to go explain to clients how their security may have been compromised.

    I guess ... you could try to bait them with a Windows boot option in grub. Maybe even make it the default if you think it's really likely that your laptop will be stolen. Install the tracker there, perhaps. One could continue along that train of thought with silent grub options and delays to make a deadman's switch of sorts, that would automatically bring up wireless, connect to any routable AP and send a help packet. Hey, there's an opportunity for the next guy who wants to make a new micro linux distro that does something unique - the more silent, slim, and faster the better. Maybe even a fake Windows splash screen while it's doing its business.

  • Re:No (Score:5, Interesting)

    by egamma (572162) <egamma AT gmail DOT com> on Monday July 08, 2013 @12:39PM (#44216819)

    Can you point out a free OR open-source implementation of a phone-home BIOS on a laptop? No. No one can, as there ain't one. And a closed-cource security feature is a scam, plain and simple. I'd stay away from laptops that HAVE that feature, even if "deactivated" (how would you know?) by default.

    WillHPower did not make FOSS a requirement; why are you making it a requirement? Can you explain why a closed-source security feature must by a scam?

    WillHPower wants to get his laptop back if it is stolen. He's not asking for ideological purity. He knows that if his laptop has a tracking device that the tracking data could be used by law enforcement against him. That's what tracking software does; it tracks. That is not a bug, that's a feature, and is actually the feature he wants to have. Apparently he doesn't wear tinfoil; he's not required to. It is his right as a thinking person to choose to be paranoid, or not be paranoid.

    The best solution is some form of hardware lo-jack. Maybe a GPS transmitter that can fit in one of the external ports on his laptop, if that isn't built in already.

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