For several years I’ve been taking my private laptop to work, like most of my colleagues. Often I’m asked to set up a laptop for a guest talk, and many times I had to provide my own computer for the presentation.
Frankly, I hate to share my own, private laptop, however for a long time it was inevitable. Over that time people lost respect and thought it was OK to use my computer, just to look something up real quick.
It annoyed me to no end, so I unconsciously developed a few strategies to make it very unattractive to use my laptop. Let me share…
1) No Desktop Icons
You wouldn’t believe how many people are stunned by an empty desktop. They’ll rather leave it alone than mess with the start button or some funny looking menus.
2) Different Interface
Even an alternative Windows theme is unsettling for the standard user. Macs are not commonly used around here, and I found that transformation packs can do wonders. People seriously believe my computer is a Mac, which makes it seem very complicated to use, and thus unattractive. Let me say the laptop case looks nothing like a Mac and the keyboard gives it away with the infamous Windows key. Yet all they see is the interface and it stops them dead in their tracks. I installed FlyakiteOSX for the slightly different look, but there are a few alternatives..
3) No Taskbar
Now that’s a killer! Something must be seriously wrong with this machine and I’d say it deters close to 90% of people. Unsolicited users that keep their hand firm on the mouse in hopes of uncovering a hidden secret must be very curious. Those that have the bright idea to use the Windows key, are true pros. ;)
I hide my taskbar with XNeat Windows manager. Actually the taskbar is not hidden, it’s just transparent and lights up on mouse-over. It’s also a good way to hide open windows. If you want to be super smart, don’t keep the taskbar in its default location or replace it entirely with something else, for example a dock program.
4) Unusual Icons
Personally, I love to use unique icons for most folders on my computer. Before I used transformation packs I discovered that even using some of the not so commonly seen default Windows icons, makes people be wary of using my laptop, since they don’t understand what they see, if they see anything at all.
Right-click any folder, select >properties, switch to the >Customize tab, and click the >Change Icon… button, then pick an icon from the SHELL32.dll list and enjoy.
If you’re tired of the same old Windows icons, try Free Icons Download, CrystalXP.net or the Icon Archive for something fresh. Note that you will need .ico files to replace folder icons, but many icons actually come as .png files. There is an ingenious little tool called AveIconifier which can instantly transform dozens of .png files to .ico and vice versa.
5) Ultimate Protection
You can simply log yourself out when you leave your desk and use a Kensington lock at all times. However, for those times when a lock is not practicable or when you just want to go that one step further to keep obtrusive people away and efficiently protect your computer from theft, get your hands on a free copy of Laptop Alarm [No Longer Available]. It’s a small exe tool, no installation required, just download and run. You can activate up to four different actions that will trigger a very loud alarm. They are loss of AC power, shutdown or log off, unplugging of the USB mouse, and mouse movement. In Options you can set an unlock password and the sensitivity for the mouse movement detection. Unfortunately, the SMS alarm service signup is not working. Once your computer is locked with Laptop Alarm, it’s safe unless the password is hacked or both AC and battery power are removed. The tool also works on desktop computers.
Constant change has been the greatest success factor in keeping my laptop to myself. From the start all desktop shortcuts have been gone, one day the interface looks like Vista, the other like a Mac, then the wallpaper keeps changing, now there’s this funny menu, the other day there was some weird second menu, as of late the taskbar is gone and what’s next, is the damn thing going to speak to me?
In the meantime we have a separate laptop for presentations and the like at work. Mission completed.
Are you in a similar situation? Do you proudly share your computer? If not, how do you preserve your digital privacy? Please share!