updated 03:25 pm EDT, Fri July 18, 2008
First Look: Adeona
If you have a MacBook (or MacBook Pro), you know how convenient it can be to pack it up and take it with you. Unfortunately, the small size and weight of a Mac notebook also makes it a prime target for thieves. Short of locking down your Mac with a metal cable wherever you go, the next best defense for your notebook may be a special tracking program such as Adeona.
Notebook tracking apps function like a Lo-Jack for computers. The moment someone steals your laptop, the tracking program waits for the thief to connect to the Internet, at which point it broadcasts the thief's IP address. In theory, at least, this can help authorities discover the physical location of your computer.
The problem with such programs is that they often require an annual fee, and if you lose your notebook, you'll have to enlist the aid of the app's publisher. If that publisher should go out of business, your tracking software will become useless as well. Even more frightening is that in allowing third-party tracking, you also have to trust a company not to abuse this information and share it with others. The outside groups might have the best intentions, but if a rogue hacker or employee peeks into their data, the point could be moot.
If you'd rather not pay a fee, and feel squeamish about letting "trusted" strangers track your notebook's location (even when it's still in your possession), you might prefer Adeona, which is a free, open-source program for Mac OS X.
Since it's open-source, the program is also available for examining, so you can verify that it doesn't contain any hidden features that might allow others to monitor without consent.
To use Adeona, you first have to install a client on your Mac. This software encrypts and periodically broadcasts your computer's IP address to the OpenDHT distributed storage service. If someone has stolen your MacBook, you can visit the service and view the last IP address posted by the program. Using this information to pinpoint a geographical location, you should then have evidence for the police, who can help recover your system.
Since the information stored on the OpenDHT service is encrypted, only you should be able to read the IP, thereby protecting your notebook's location from unauthorized viewers.
For further aid in identifying a thief, the app can also take periodic snapshots using a built-in iSight camera. This does turn on a green recording light, but hopefully, a thief will ignore it or assume it's harmless.
Using the built-in iSight camera, the program can capture a picture of the thief
To actually run a trace on a Mac, you have to use special retrieval tools available from the Adeona website. While not complicated, they're still less convenient than simply calling a publisher and letting them do the work for you.
Adeona should be considered a viable, open-source alternative to proprietary tracking systems. If you want convenience, and don't mind the cost and risk of letting a third-party track your MacBook, you might prefer a commercial tracking solution. But if you want a free option and don't mind taking time to track your hardware manually, there's nothing wrong with Adeona.