Testing and Using VUWER

 

To confirm that VUWER works, log in to any authorized account on the laptop. If your laptop is connected to the Internet, VUWER should “check in” within a few minutes, either by sending an email (Installation Option 1) or by updating the vuwerlastcheck.txt file on the remote account (Installation Option 2).  If you opted for an initial data capture upon login during the installation process, you should also see the iSight/FaceTime camera’s green LED blink on momentarily about 30 seconds after login is completed, and receive image and IP geolocation data shortly afterwards.  Thereafter VUWER should continue to check in according to the interval specified in the first control field.

 

Š      Activating the Lost / Stolen Mode of VUWER

 

Next confirm that VUWER can be remotely activated, and that the image and data files are correctly transmitted, using the appropriate procedure as outlined below:

 

Installation Option 1

Installation Option 2

Installation Option 3

Š      Edit the web page, and change the fifth control variable to the activation password.  You can also adjust the intervals for control variables one through four, if you wish.

 

 

Š      Edit the fifth control field of the vuwercontrol.txt file, either by logging in with SSH and using the echo command (see the example below), or by using a text editor directly at the remote computer.  You may also adjust the intervals for control fields one through four, if you wish.

Š      Using a text editor (e.g. TextEdit), edit the fifth control field of the vuwercontrol.txt file after logging into the VUWER Dropbox account on another compuer.  You may also adjust the intervals for control fields one through four, if you wish.

Š      A screen capture image, a camera image, and an IP geolocation data file will be emailed to you according to the intervals specified in fields two through four. A timestamp will be included with each email.

 

Š      A screen capture image, a camera image, and an IP geolocation data file will be copied to the remote account according to the intervals specified in fields two through four.  The image and data files will be placed in the same folder as the control file.  A timestamp will be included in the name of each file.

Š      A screen capture image, a camera image, and an IP geolocation data file will be copied to the VUWER Dropbox account according to the intervals specified in fields two through four.  The image and data files will be placed in the same folder as the control file.  A timestamp will be included in the name of each file.

Š      Set the fifth field to any other alphanumeric value in order to deactivate VUWER.

 

Š      Set the fifth field to any other alphanumeric value in order to deactivate VUWER.

 

Š      Set the fifth field to any other alphanumeric value in order to deactivate VUWER.

 

 

Priscilla:~ holman$ ssh lapmon@zzzzz.dyndns.org

Password:

Last login: Mon Jan 21 19:25:35 2008

[zzzzz:~] lapmon% echo 15 15 15 15 ihavebeenstolen > ~/Tim_s_MacBook/vuwercontrol.txt

[zzzzz:~] lapmon% exit

Priscilla:~ holman$

 

 

Editing the vuwercontrol.txt file via SSH login.  The activation password is ‘ihavebeenstolen’.

 

Š      The VUWER Control Variables

 

The VUWER web page control variables (Installation Option 1) and the vuwercontrol.txt file on the remote computer account (Installation Option 2) and Dropbox account (Installation Option 3) have the same format.

 

Control Variable

1

2

3

4

5

Starting Default Value

15

(minutes)

15

(minutes)

15

 (minutes)

15

(minutes)

ok

 

The five fields have the following functions:

 

Control Variable 1:  Tells VUWER how long to wait before the next access of the web page or remote computer to update the control variables.  The minimum interval is 1 minute, and the maximum is 1440 minutes (24 hours).  A good default value is 15 minutes.  Control variables 2 through 4 should each be set equal to, or a multiple of, control variable 1.

 

Control Variable 2:  Under normal circumstances, this variable tells VUWER how long to wait between check-in emails (or updates of vuwerlastcheck.txt on the remote computer).  If the computer is lost or stolen, and control variable 5 is set to the activation password, this variable sets the screen capture interval.  The minimum interval is 1 minute, and the maximum is 10080 minutes (7 days).  During initial testing, set this variable to 15 minutes.  Once you are confident VUWER is working, a larger value like 240 to 1440 minutes is probably better for Installation Option 1, to prevent your inbox from filling up with VUWER check-in emails.  For a desktop Mac that is always turned on, the maximum value of 10080 minutes may be appropriate for Installation Option 1.

 

Control Variable 3:  Sets the camera image capture interval. The minimum interval is 5 minutes, and the maximum is 1440 minutes (24 hours).  A good default value is 15 to 60 minutes.  Setting this variable to a value greater than 1440 will disable the camera, except for images taken during login or startup.

 

Control Variable 4:  Sets the IP geolocation data collection interval. The minimum interval is 5 minutes, and the maximum is 1440 minutes (24 hours).  A good default value is 15 to 60 minutes.  Setting this variable to a value greater than 1440 will disable VUWER geolocation, except for data collected during login or startup.

 

Control Variable 5:  If set to the activation password (chosen during installation), VUWER goes into lost / stolen mode.  If this variable is set to any other alphanumeric string, VUWER remains in normal operating mode.  The word ‘ok’ is used as a default, but any other word (except the password) will also work.

 

Control variables 2 through 4 must be greater than or equal to control variable 1.  If not, VUWER will internally set them to the same value as control variable 1, or to their minimum values, whichever are larger.

 

Š      Using VUWER Debug Mode

If you have problems with your installation, you can troubleshoot VUWER by activating debug mode using the setup menu.  While in debug mode, VUWER will generate and periodically update a file named ‘vuwerlog.txt’ on your computer’s desktop.  This log file provides timing information and error messages related to every major VUWER script action.

 

Don’t leave VUWER in debug mode permanently, as the presence of this log file will be a dead giveaway to any thief in possession of your Mac.  Once you have returned VUWER to normal operating mode, you should erase the log file.

 

Š      Choosing the Best Capture Intervals

 

(1)  During initial testing, set the control string to “15 15 15 15 ihavebeenstolen” (replace ‘ihavebeenstolen’ with your own activation password).  You should receive a camera image, screen image, and IP information file every 15 minutes.

 

(2)  Once you’re confident VUWER is working properly, set the control string to “15 360 15 15 ok” for a laptop.  Once every 6 hours of laptop operation (probably about once a day for a typical user), VUWER will send you an email or update the vuwerstatus.txt file to let you know it is working properly, but otherwise will access the Internet every 15 minutes to see if you have updated the control string.

 

(3)  For a desktop computer using Installation Option 1, setting the control string to “15 1440 15 15 ok” or “15 10080 15 15 ok” will provide check-in emails at intervals of one day to one week, respectively.  For a computer that is always on (e.g. a workstation), a longer interval may work best for you.

 

(4)  If your computer is stolen, set the control string to “5 5 15 15 ihavebeenstolen”.  Once you have photos of the thief, and have collected data on his location, you may want to change the string to “5 5 60 60 ihavebeenstolen”.  In the long run, frequent screen shots will be much more useful than frequent photos of the thief in recovering your laptop.  Social networking sites, email, and instant messaging programs are so common that it is almost inevitable that you’ll learn his identity from monitoring his web surfing.

 

Caution:  When VUWER is activated, every iSight/FaceTime image capture causes the camera’s green LED to turn on for about a second.  My experience has been that most people will not notice the blinking LED (or if they do notice it, will simply dismiss it), provided that you don’t use the camera excessively.  VUWER is designed to limit the minimum image capture interval to five minutes, but I recommend that you keep the capture interval between 15 and 60 minutes, or even longer.  You don’t need hundreds of photos of the thief; a few good images will suffice.  Similarly, you probably don’t need to check the IP address of the computer more often than once every 15 to 60 minutes.  In general, not even a laptop will move around that quickly, and fewer IP geolocation queries will reduce the load on IPInfoDB.com, the web site that VUWER uses to track the computer’s external IP address.

 

Another problem may arise if you are using the Google Gmail server to email images and IP data from your laptop (Installation Option 1).  First, transmitting these files via the Gmail SMTP mail server will be much slower than transferring the files directly to a remote computer.  Second, Google monitors unusual activity from Gmail users.  If your laptop continuously emails dozens of files every hour through the Gmail server, you may risk the chance of Google suspending your account as a possible spammer.  For these reasons, I would not recommend acquiring a screen image more often than once every five minutes if you choose Installation Option 1.

 

The biggest advantage of Installation Option 2 or 3 is that screen captures via secure copy or Dropbox may be uploaded once a minute with almost negligible impact over a standard wireless, cable, or DSL connection.  The thief will probably never notice any effect over his Internet connection.  You could easily collect hundreds (if not thousands) of screen capture images every day, and have a complete minute-by-minute time-stamped record of what the thief was doing with your laptop.

 

Installation Option 2 has an additional advantage in terms of privacy.  If you own or control the remote computer, SCP file transfer will not require storing VUWER files on the servers of a commercial service (i.e. Dropbox).  Advanced users may find this increased security and privacy desirable.

 

Š      VUWER Update Notification

 

During startup or login, VUWER will check to see if a newer version is available.  If it is, a notification message will be added to the status email (Installation Option 1), or by creating and updating a file named vuwernewversion.txt (Installation Option 2 or 3).  If you have activated VUWER notifications, you’ll also see the new version indicated when the status update notification appears on your computer screen.

 

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