Monday, May 12, 2008

Back-to-myMac brings the Mac Back

An interesting story coming out of White Plans, NY talks of a woman who's apartment was burglarized with close to $5,000 of electronics stolen including a couple of Apple laptops and how she was able to help catch the culprits as well as get her stuff back.

The thief apparently was using the computer and one of the victim's friends (who knew her laptop was stolen) noticed a few days later that she was logged in (presumably on some instant messenger) and called her.

The woman was able to use Apple's "Back To My Mac" application on another computer to get control of her stolen laptop and activated the camera in the laptop, taking pictures of the thief. A quick review with her friends and they figured out that the guy was a friend of a friend of one of her roommates who had been at the apartment a few weeks before.

A quick call to the police and they arrested the thiefs as well as getting back most of the stolen electronics.

I'm guessing that she's happy she wasn't one of those self conscious users who tape over the camera to keep something like this from happening and I'm not at all worried about the thief's privacy violation. Of course, the chances of other thiefs really being this stupid to make use of a stolen computer without wiping it clean are probably pretty low, so I'm not sure how often this kind of think can happen (but you know they still do give out the annual Darwin awards).

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Thursday, May 01, 2008

I've been cleared

I've joined the US's Registered Traveler Program. Clear (a subsidiary of Verified Identity Pass Inc.) operates the local facility here at Dulles, so I joined their network.

In exchange for submitting to (and paying for) a background investigation and biometric authentication (fingerprint in my case, though they also had iris scanners there it wouldn't work on me) you get to have a very short security line -- though you still go through the same "take-off-your-shoes" security process. They seem to be working on getting some form of scanner approved for scanning shoes while they are still on your feet, but recently they did not pass the TSA testing that was done.

The cost of the program from Clear is $128 (at least for the first year -- they weren't clear on what subsequent years will cost). $28 of that goes to the TSA for the background investigation and the rest to Clear (of which, I'm sure, a portion goes to the airport). You can extend that by a year when you use a discount code (and the party who gave you the discount code also gets a year -- so there's something in it for everyone. My discount code, if you're interested in getting a free month added to your subscription is: DSCAM1142273 - use it to your hearts content.

One might ask why I would join the program given that I was already a United 1K member and able to use the premium passenger lines at Dulles. There were several reasons including:

  • The premium lines are only available when the flight you a premium member on the flight you are leaving Dulles on. I have seen the staff turn away United premium members when they were booked on some other airline where they did not have status.
  • Even with the premium lines, you can still get stuck in a slow line (I have waited as long as a half hour in the line) and if I'm tight for a flight, that can be too long.
  • The program is available at other airports (though I'm not sure if I'm only able to use it at Clear supported airports or any registered traveler airport) and in particular, San Jose Airport -- which has no premium lines and where the line for early morning flights can be crazy long -- is one of the Clear supported airports.
  • I travel often enough that the time savings, even if small, is worth it (in my opinion).

Of course, about 2 weeks after signing up (and paying), I received an email from Marriott (where I am a Platinum member, of course) with the following offer:

So, after I signed up I found out I could have gotten it for free. I called them expecting to get the "Gosh, I'm sorry, but it's too late now" and was pleasantly surprised to hear "No problem sir, we'll just extend you another year". Good deal!

You might be wondering what I think now that I'm a member. I've used it on 5 of my last 8 flights (Portland International Airport does not yet participate in the Registered Traveler program), nor is it available at foreign airports. In Dulles it's down with the employee security line it workes great -- in fact, the people from Clear are almost too helpful (trying to help gather things ready to go through security). I've timed it with another person who was going through the premium security line and I was about 10 minutes faster then them at a time when the lines were short. In San Francisco the clear area opens at the front end of the regular security line, emptying directly into the xray scanners (so, essentially, you jump to the front of the line).

One thing on the negative side, if you're traveling with people, you can't bring them with you, so either you have to go through the regular lines, or you have to split up. That already happened to me when I was traveling with George on our way to the European Identity Conference in Munich -- that's how I figured out that there was a 10 minute difference (it was an experiment!). Not sure what I'm going to do when I am traveling with my family to England & Ireland this summer -- I don't think my wife will be as easy going about it as George was :-).

All-in-all, I'm a happy customer..... And remember, if you want to sign up, use the discount code "DSCAM1142273" so we both can get a free month :-).

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