Stolen laptop? Now you can tell those thieves exactly what you think of them.
Front Door Software Corp.’s Retriever program displays your contact information as your computer boots up. There’s even space for a plea to a Good Samaritan — “$50 for my safe return,” maybe.
In most cases, that’s enough to help an honest person return the machine, said Carrie Hafeman, chief executive of the five-person company based in Evergreen, Colo.
But in the darkest scenarios, Retriever takes off the kid gloves.
You can log on to a Web site and check a box indicating the computer is missing. Now during start-up, a big yellow and red banner appears on the screen, boldly declaring the laptop lost or stolen. This message is set to reappear every 30 seconds, no matter how many times the thief closes the window.
You can remotely switch on a second password prompt if you fear the thief has also stolen your regular Windows, Macintosh or Linux login.
Behind the scenes, Retriever uses built-in Wi-Fi to sniff out nearby networks, then suss out what Internet service providers power them. With that information in hand, Hafeman said, you can file a police report and get help locating the criminal.
While waiting for law enforcement to come through, you can even let off steam by sending new messages to the nagging “Stolen Computer!” screen.
“You are being tracked. I am right at your door” was one, Hafeman said, adding that she could not bring herself to say others that came to mind. Customers have also tried to induce fear or guilt by switching their contact info to “Secret Service” and “Catholic church.”
The latest version of Retriever, which costs $29.95 for three years of use, is even more aggressive.
Now, when the “stolen” screen pops up, the laptop cries for help. Use a canned message (“Help, this laptop is reported lost or stolen. If you are not my owner, please report me now.”) or record your own.
“You can say, ‘Get your hands off me, you S.O.B.’” Hafeman said.