No one buys an expensive item and expects to have it stolen (unless they’re committing some kind of fraud). However, you should still take a few simple precautions in the event that one of your prized possessions is stolen. Here are a few simple steps to follow.
Identify Which Items Matter
For me, the items that matter are:
- Any item that costs more than $1,000.00 (car, guitars, television, computers)
- Any item that contains my data (mobile phone, netbook)
- Anything that I will be hopping mad if it’s stolen
Cyclists might have an expensive bike, photographers will probably have a DSLR or two and a few lenses.
Expensive purses, luggage, watches, jewelry and art are a few other things you might want to think of.
Record Key Information
Whatever items you identify as worthwhile, you’re going to want to record the following information:
- Serial number (MEID or CDMA number for a mobile device)
- Any other distinguishing features (modifications you’ve made, identifying marks)
The serial number is the most important thing to note.
This is the information you will need to give the police if your possessions are stolen.
Take photos of your items and their serial numbers.
When you photograph a serial number, make sure you set your camera to “macro.”
The photos don’t need to have great composition, they just need to be functional.
If the item looks just like hundreds of thousands of others, like a stock MacBook, you can skip photographing it.
Backing Up the Info
You’re going to want to record this information in a place where you will always be able to access it. A Word doc on your laptop won’t help you if your laptop is stolen.
My solution was making a Google Docs Presentation (Google Doc’s version of PowerPoint), with all of the information. Since Google Docs save to Google’s servers, I will be able to access the information from any computer.
Here’s what one of my slides looks like (the serial numbers are blurred):
I record the information for computers and devices on loan to me by my employer because I never take for granted that someone else has diligently recorded the information.
Computers & Mobile Devices
Be sure to password protect your computers and mobile phones with a reasonably strong password so that they will be useless to a thief.
Practice safe computing.
Picking a computer used to be easy.
These were the rules:
- Buy what you can afford, the better the machine, the better the performance
- Don’t buy the top of the line tech, it’s too expensive and the price will drop in three months
- Don’t buy a Dell or Gateway
OK, that last one was my rules, but I still stand behind it.
The point is that if you bought a more powerful computer, you would see a direct result in the performance of of everyday tasks. Everything from Solitaire, to MS Word, to Counterstrike would work better on a more powerful machine.
Over the last few years, the rules have changed. Fairly basic and low-end models will accomplish your tasks without a hitch.
There are also a ton of different types of computing experiences that you can buy into. You can get a lightweight, inexpensive computers, or a lightweight expensive computer. You can buy a cheap run of the mill desktop machine, or monstrously powerful box that could run NORAD (For the record, NORAD’s website is a little too friendly for a missile defense organization). Finally, you can’t exclude tablets and smart phones from the mix.
So here’s the deal. You need to determine how and where you use your computer.
The three key questions you should ask yourself are…
Where do I use my computer?
On the train, on a plane, in a house, with a mouse et cetera.
Do you need mobility? If you don’t a desktop will work.
What do I do with my computer?
The overwhelming majority of people I have encountered over the years use their computer for five basic functions:
- Browsing the Internet
- Listening to music
- MS Office, and more specifically, Word, PowerPoint, and Excel
- Saving/ viewing photos
- Watch movies
If this sounds like you, you don’t need a powerful computer. I wouldn’t recommend spending more than $1,000.
If you play high-end games, do 3D graphics work, edit movies, process massive quantities of data, then you will need to contemplate a pricey machine.
What feels comfortable for you?
Do you prefer sitting at a desk with a mouse, lounging on a couch, or sitting in a coffee shop with an overpriced latte?
The whole point of this discussion is that form is just as important as function.
What do I buy?
I can’t give you an outright recommendation here because there are too many combination of tasks, locations, and I don’t know your individual needs. What I can do is describe my usage, and hopefully it will help you identify your own needs.
I use a combination of technology to meet my needs.
I have a powerful desktop at home. At one point I used this beast for data processing, but those days are long behind me. Basically it holds my vast music collection, it has an alarm clock on it that wakes me up in the morning, and I browse the Internet with it. Over the last few years basically everything I do has moved from desktop software, to browser based software. The bottom-line is that I am completely underusing this machine, but I don’t think I will have to replace it for a long time. If I had to replace it today, I would get something much less expensive.
I do all of my gaming on consoles so that I don’t have to worry about the power of my computer. Any PC gamer knows the rat-race keeping up with the current software. I just don’t have time for that crap.
I have a lightweight laptop that I carry damn near everywhere. I travel a lot, and I don’t want to lug around a heavy computer. Since I do almost everything online, I don’t need a lot of power. This is why I am planning on getting an iPad. I’m confident I can meet all of my needs with that tablet.
Since getting a Droid, I have managed most of my email on my phone. This has greatly increased my mobility, and freed me from carrying the laptop everywhere.
Between the iPad and Droid, I think I will finally be able to go laptopless.
I use a lot of technology to meet my wide variety of needs. You probably have fewer, more, or different needs that I have. My advice is to stop and think about your technology interactions. You will learn a bit about yourself, it might help you save money, and hopefully you can streamline your life a bit.
Feel free to write me if you want guidance on a specific purchase, but please include answers to the questions I posed above so that I have the proper context to advise you.
Regardless of the technology you are using, please make sure that the software is up-to-date, and you are taking the proper precautions to prevent viruses.
Practice safe computing.
In this multi-post “how to” guide I am going to go over everything from deciding between a desktop and a laptop to deciding between individual parts.
For starters, we will begin with the easy question – desktop or laptop.
Both have advantages – desktops are cheaper and much easier to upgrade. They are also generally more powerful. But laptops are good too – they are portable and compact. They take up less space and can be used on the go.
So the question remains – “Which one do I buy?”
Well being in retail, or more specifically being a guy who sells computers, I can tell you that it really boils down to one question – Does the portability matter to you? If it does, then you should obviously go with a laptop because no one wants to carry around a huge tower, keyboard, mouse, monitor, and whatever cords you need to plug it in. And if it doesn’t, then ask yourself, “would I be happy with a desktop?”
Now for those of you who think there is more to it, there isn’t. The decision process is that simple.
In my follow up post, we will be looking more closely into the different types of laptops and how to decide between them, so stay tuned!