Thief! Get your grubby hands off me

Thief! Get your grubby hands off me

A new online, anti-theft service that makes your laptop shout out things like ‘Help, I’ve been nicked’ sounds a bit of a hoot.

Not the theft side of it, just the idea of this inanimate object squeaking and squawking about it – being the Dad of a four-year-old, it conjures up this image of Jack (of beanstalk fame) stealing the golden egg-laying hen. Can you imagine some shady-looking character, rushing down the street and trying to hush a talkative computer he’s clutching beneath his jacket?

And would anybody actually stop, question and, if necessary, restrain him?

Well, while that’s open to debate, the service isn’t. Anyone wanting to use the service simply registers their laptop online and then, if it’s stolen, they log on and report the theft. A message – which apparently you can set up yourself – is then sent to play on the audio alert. Nifty, huh.

Except, of course, if some smart Alec was able to hack in and have a perfectly legal laptop start crying foul. That would be amusing. One minute you’d be quietly tapping away at an office, or maybe at a conference or in a café, the next, “Help, this is not this person’s laptop, they’ve stolen it!”.

All eyes would naturally be on you and your dastardly deed — while you’re frantically trying to switch the damn thing off … eventually resorting to ripping out the battery before scurrying away (provided no one has made a citizen’s arrest in the meantime).

Putting that particular picture aside, I find this notion of our machines talking to us a fascinating one. It could be put to all sorts of uses.

Obviously, there’s the Big Brother aspect. Employers could get computers to shout out when certain activities are taking place.

“Stop reading the newspaper!” or “That’s enough Bebo for one day”, or “Did you pay for that music download?”

Perhaps a useful application would be for the computer to be able to tell you what you’re doing wrong. Simple stuff like, “That won’t print because your printer’s not switched on,” or “That attachment is too big to email.”

Then there’s personal use. You could program in all sorts of safeguards against specific types of behaviour. You might have a penchant for sending emails without thinking and later regretting it. The service could, maybe, scan for certain words (swearing and the like) and ask “Do you really want to send this? Take your time. Have a think about it.”

Or if you’re a Trade Me addict you could set a bid limit. “Ten dollars for that piece of tat isn’t really worth it now, is it?”.

And just think of the fun that could be had using a recognisable voice. It could be your spouse, someone famous, even your own voice. But if you really had to do as you were told, there’s only one that would do: your Mum.

“Gregory, stop looking at porn this instant …”


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